The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast
23 - Cain and Abel: The Hostile Brothers
Lecture 5 in my Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories lecture series
The account of Cain and Abel is remarkable for its unique combination of brevity and depth. In a few short sentences, it outlines two diametrically opposed modes of being -- both responses to the emergence of self-consciousness and the knowledge of good and evil detailed in story of Adam and Eve.
Cain's mode of being -- resentful, arrogant and murderous -- arises because his sacrifices are rejected by God. This means that his attempts to give up something valuable in the present to ensure prosperity in the future are insufficient. He fails, in consequence, to thrive, as he believes he should, and becomes bitter, resentful and murderous.
Abel's mode of being is characterized, by contrast, by proper sacrifice -- by the establishment of balance between present action and future benefit. This ensures his personal and social success, accruing over time. Unfortunately, it also makes him the target of Cain's malevolence.
This great short story is relevant personally, on the level of the family, and politically, all with equal force, all simultaneously.