Sunday, September 30, 2012

Courage: the greatest of all virtues

"Courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other." --Samuel Johnson

Frederick Douglass

Rudolf Steiner: "There will have to be a festival in honor of human courage, of the human manifestation of the courage of Michael. For what is it that holds man back today from spirit-knowledge? — Lack of soul courage, not to say soul cowardice. Man wants to receive everything passively, wants to set himself down in front of the world as if it were a movie, and wants to let the microscope and the telescope tell him everything. He does not want to temper the instrument of his own spirit, of his own soul, by activity. He does not care to be a follower of Michael. This requires inner courage. This inner courage must have its festival in Michaelmas. Then from the Festival of Courage, from the festival of the inwardly courageous human soul, there will ray out what will give the other festivals of the year also the right content."

Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Faint not, for the day of the Lord is near at hand." The archangel Michael, speaking through Edgar Cayce, encourages his disciples

"Come ye, my children, in that ye have all been called unto that way which would show forth to thy neighbor, thy brethren, that the Father loveth His children. Who are His children? They that keep His commandments day by day. For unto him that is faithful and true is given the crown of life. The harvest is ripe, the laborers are few. Be not weary because there has been that which has seemed to trouble thee, for the ways are being opened to those that show themselves faithful and true. Faint not, for the day of the Lord is near at hand."

Source: Study Group Readings, volume 7, p. 192
Seemingly related post:


Friday, September 28, 2012

Michaelmas: Piercing the Veil of Materialism

Rudolf Steiner:

If we follow this breathing-process still further we come finally to the stage that makes its entry at the end of September. The out-breathed forces begin their return movement; the Earth begins once more to inhale. The soul of the Earth, which was poured out into the cosmos, now draws back into the interior of the Earth again. Human souls perceive this inbreathing of the Earth-soul element, either in their subconscious or in their clairvoyant impressions, as processes of their own souls. Those men who were inspired by initiation knowledge of these things could say to themselves at the end of September: “What the cosmos has given us and what has united itself with our soul force through the Christ Impulse — this we now allow to flow back into the earthly realm, into that earthly sphere which throughout the summer has served only as a reflection, as a kind of mirror in relation to the extraterrestrial cosmos.”


But a mirror has the property of not permitting anything that is in front of it to pass through it. Because the Earth is a mirror of the cosmos in the summer, it is also opaque in its inner nature, impermeable by cosmic influences and therefore, during the summer time, impermeable by the Christ Impulse. (See drawing). At this time the Christ Impulse has to live in the exhaled breath. The Ahrimanic forces, however, establish themselves firmly in this Earth which has become impervious to the Christ Impulse. And when the human being returns once more with the forces which he has taken up into his own soul through the Earth's outbreathing — including the forces of the Christ — he plunges into an Earth which has been ahrimanized.

However, it is so, that in the present cycle of Earth evolution — since the last third of the nineteenth century — from spiritual heights there comes to the aid of the descending human soul the force of Michael, who, while the Earth's breath is flowing back into the Earth itself, contends with the Dragon, Ahriman.

This was already foreseen prophetically by those in the ancient Mysteries who understood the course of the year spiritually. They knew that for their time the Mystery had not yet approached which would reveal Michael coming to the help of descending human souls. But they knew that when the souls should have been reborn again and again, this Michael force would enter, would come to the aid of earthly human souls. This was the meaning they saw in the cycle of the year.

Hence it is out of ancient wisdom that you will find written in the calendar on September 29, a few days after the fall equinox — Michael's Day, Michaelmas.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

The angel of Gautama Buddha: the successor to Michael in the archangelic realm. Michael and the Dragon of Materialism

Rudolf Steiner, Stuttgart, May 20, 1913:

We have tried to throw some light upon the character of our present age as it shows itself in relation to the working of cosmic law. This is a matter that should not be lightly passed over. For when we speak of the spiritual forces, the spiritual influences, of a particular age, these are likewise the forces and impulses which are working in the soul of each one of us. We cannot understand our own souls unless we are able to place ourselves in right relation to these forces and influences of our age, which are at the same time the spiritual forces and impulses of our own souls. In whatever way individuals among you may account for your belief in something that is given in Spiritual Science, it is absolutely true that in the souls of all those who fairly and honestly come to Spiritual Science there lives, perhaps unconsciously, an urge that comes from the genuine spiritual impulses of our time.
In the last lecture I endeavored to show you that at the present time we are living in what one may call the Michael Age. An understanding for spiritual things is now becoming possible for an increasing number of souls. Whereas during the course of previous centuries it was possible to acquire an understanding above all for the things of external natural science, for physical, chemical, and physiological laws, for everything related to external space and time, whereas during the Gabriel Age understanding was awakened for all that went from triumph to triumph in the natural sciences and inclined men to a scientific conception of the world, we are now entering upon an age in which it will be just as possible to understand the things of the spirit.
At no time in human evolution have two successive epochs been so radically different from one another as that which has just run its course and the epoch upon which we are now entering. And never before have souls been more alien to one another than will be the souls of those who incline to what is spiritual and the souls who still adhere to what past centuries have brought. Nor will it be long before those who believe they stand firmly in materialistic Monism will be quite out of date in comparison with those who are earnestly seeking an understanding of supersensible worlds. For since the last third of the nineteenth century a spiritual ‘tidal wave’ from higher worlds has been flowing into our world, and making it possible for man to understand the way in which human and world evolution are spiritually guided.
My dear friends, nearly two thousand years ago the event took place which you all know under the name of the Mystery of Golgotha. Of this Mystery of Golgotha we have often spoken here. We have approached it from many different sides, and have seen it to be the great center of gravity of all human evolution. It has been possible to show quite clearly that without reference to any religious views or creed, but purely out of spiritual science itself, an understanding of this event is possible, and in such a way that one may expect understanding from every shade of current religious belief. We have also spoken at some length about the reasons why certain people are not prepared to accept the Christ Event as the great center of gravity of human evolution. But now we must turn our minds to something else which was mentioned yesterday in the public lecture. (see Note 1)
It might well be that out of prejudice a person wished to know nothing of what took place in a certain small country at the beginning of our era, did not want to trouble himself about what we call the Mystery of Golgotha. Very well, let us even assume that it would be natural for him to imagine the whole course of history in such a way that what happened on Golgotha could be struck out. Let us make that hypothesis. In the course of his study of the evolution of mankind, such a person will nevertheless discover a special characteristic of that age. We spoke of this yesterday. The epoch immediately preceding the Mystery of Golgotha was a time of transition in the attitude and direction of the human soul. From having been directed more to the surrounding world in an external way, man's soul began to be turned within to its own inner nature — and this, quite apart from the Mystery of Golgotha. At the time into which the Mystery of Golgotha was placed, the great transition was occurring from a life in outward surroundings to a more inward life. And anyone can feel this, even if he ignores the Mystery of Golgotha altogether. Mankind was in that time at a turning-point. It is not necessary even to speak of the Mystery of Golgotha, one can point to quite other events to show that formerly man's life had an outward direction, but that afterwards those who are animated by the impulse of the age, by the true genius of the age, begin to make their life more inward.
When anything of this kind happens, it does not happen without being prepared beforehand. I have no desire to quote the trite saying: "Nature, or history, does not proceed by leaps." The expression holds good only within certain limits. Even the blossom is already prepared in the green leaves — although here we have, have we not, a clear case of a ‘leap’ in development? Similarly there was a preparation beforehand for what appears as a sudden incision in human history at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. When we go deeply into what we can find of the teaching and outlook of the last centuries of ancient Hebraism, we find a spirit — of a Hebrew kind, of course — a spirit of preparation for the Mystery of Golgotha; and not in Hebraism alone, for in other regions of the Earth too we can find such a spirit of preparation.
In Hebraism new features began to show themselves of quite a different order from those that were there formerly. In the sixth century before the Mystery of Golgotha we find an altogether new mode of regarding the world, compared with what we find earlier in the spiritual life of the Hebrews; it marks a new epoch. This reveals itself clearly enough to the careful observer. And if it shows itself here in a different manner — since the old Hebrew people were differently constituted — yet it is the same spirit, expressing itself differently, which prevails in Greek philosophy and even in the Greek art of poetry, in the last centuries before the Mystery of Golgotha. We find it everywhere. One has only to make a serious study of spirits like Plato and Aristotle — yes, and even Socrates — to see that this turning point is everywhere being prepared.
Now, events that happen here on Earth are guided and controlled from the supersensible world. Before the incision entered into the physical life of the Earth which we call the Event of Golgotha, the earlier guidance of evolution sent out a Messenger — at that time still a Messenger of Jehovah — to guide this event. He was the Spirit who prepared the period of civilization up to the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, the same Spirit who is the leader of our own cultural epoch just beginning, the Spirit we have called Michael. Just as Michael gives its character to our age, so did he give its character to the whole civilization which prepared the way for the Mystery of Golgotha. The Power, however, who sent forth Michael from the higher worlds was at that time Jahve or Jehovah.
In those days it was not as it is in our time, when, as soon as one speaks of spiritual things the objection is so easily raised: You often speak of the Folk Spirit or Time Spirit, and of other spiritual facts, but you rarely speak of God. — People do not notice why one does not speak of God — for the reason, namely, that no human concept can embrace that in which we live and move and have our being. Here one also meets with points of view which are, from a certain aspect, very interesting. When I gave a public lecture recently in a certain town, and as the practice often is, questions were sent up to be answered, one man put a very clever question. He asked: “If logically one recognizes an object through the fact that one looks at it as an object and can stand before it, if we cannot have an objective picture of an object which we have in ourselves — like the pupil of the eye, for example — because we cannot look at it, then how does this fit in with the opinion of many mystics that one must remove oneself from God in order to be able to contemplate Him?”
Certainly many mystics have maintained that one must withdraw from God in order to contemplate Him. It was a clever question, but the only answer that can be given is: “You may withdraw from God as much as you please, but you still remain in Him, you cannot get out of God.” Logic may often be very logical but fall short of reality.
In times when men stood nearer to the spiritual they had a feeling of reverence for the Divinity in which we live and move and have our being, the Divinity which it was not even always right to call by name; and for that reason the ancient Hebrews, in order not to pronounce the name, used the expression the ‘Countenance of Jehovah.’ In man, the countenance is what he turns outwards, that by which he reveals himself. It is not the whole of man. One knows a man as he is in his inner being by the features of his countenance, but one does not on that account presume to speak of the whole man when one means his face or countenance.
At that time therefore Michael was called the ‘Countenance of Jehovah’; men preferred to speak of the representative through whom Jahve revealed Himself to mankind as in an external countenance. Even in intimate circles they would rather name the representative than speak of Jahve Himself. Michael was in fact at that time looked upon as the spiritual Regent of the age, as the Messenger of Jahve, as the member of the hierarchies from whom streamed forth the impulse that was to come for the understanding of the Event of Golgotha.
In the intervening centuries other beings from the rank of the archangels have had the guidance of mankind's spiritual evolution, but the being who had the guidance when preparation had to be made for the Mystery of Golgotha is the same being as is now again sending the floods of supersensible life down into the world of the senses. There was a Michael Age then, and a Michael Age is the one that is now beginning. There is, however, a vast difference between that Michael Age and ours which has just begun.
It would take us too far today to describe what kind of understanding men have been able to bring to the Mystery of Golgotha during the period which has elapsed between that Michael Age and ours. There have been deeply fervent souls who out of a more or less intense need for belief have gained a relation to the Mystery of Golgotha and its Bearer; there have been deeply religious natures all through the centuries since the Mystery of Golgotha down to our own time. But the Mystery of Golgotha is a Mystery which, notwithstanding that it took place as a real fact at the beginning of modern times, is yet of such a nature that human souls cannot presume to understand it fully without preparation. New epochs will continually arise which will bring a greater deepening to human souls, and which will have an increasing understanding for what happened in the Mystery of Golgotha. The Event itself stands there as the great turning-point in human evolution; the understanding of the Event will continuously grow and ripen in the spiritual evolution of the Earth. This fact cannot be engraved deeply enough into our minds and hearts.
Let us grasp in a certain metaphysical abstraction what actually took place at that time. We have described it from various points of view; let us now choose a more abstract point of view, but one which, if we allow it to work upon us, can call forth a deep feeling in our souls.
When with ordinary powers of observation and even with scientific observation we study the things around us, we learn to know by means of ordinary thinking and ordinary science the laws of existence in the mineral, plant, animal, and human kingdoms. These laws all culminate in an ideal: to understand life. But life is not to be understood here on Earth. Occultism alone can give knowledge of life; external science can never fathom it. It would be the wildest fantasy to believe that one could ever penetrate the laws of life as one can physical or chemical laws. To do so remains an ideal; it can never be reached. On the physical plane there is never any possibility of giving a knowledge of life. This knowledge of life must remain the preserve of supersensible knowledge.
But now, impossible as is a sense knowledge of life, equally impossible is a supersensible knowledge of death. There are conditions of terrible isolation of consciousness in the spiritual worlds, there is such a thing as a temporary immersion as though into a condition of sleep, but there is no death in the higher worlds. Death is impossible in the higher worlds. All the beings we have learned to know as beings of the higher hierarchies have this distinguishing characteristic: they do not know death, they never pass through death. Just as we are told in the Bible that the angels covered their faces before the secret of birth, the secret of Man's becoming, so must they and all other higher beings cover their faces before death. For death is an event that is only possible in the sense world, not in the supersensible.
Among all the beings of the higher worlds there was One and One alone Who had to go through death — we may also say, Who willed to go through death; that is, the Christ. To that end He had to come down to Earth. In order that a being of the higher worlds might be able to accomplish what was necessary for Earth evolution, the Christ had to descend from a world in which there is no death to the world in which there is death.
If such ideas are at first abstract, it is for us to change them into feeling and experience. The full understanding of what I have now described in an abstract way will become a concern of the evolution of humanity. With a certain reverence, together with humility and delicacy, let us approach today the secret of the Mystery of Golgotha.
For what was it that really happened then? It has often been described. The Christ descended from the supersensible worlds into the world in which He has since lived as a hidden Force — a Force however which will make itself manifest from this century onwards. He descended out of a world in which there is no death, into the world of death, and He — this Force — has united Himself with the Earth; from being a cosmic Force He has become a Force of the Earth. He went through death in order to come to life in Earth existence, in order to be within the Earth world. And all through the centuries there has come to expression in souls which were filled with this Impulse the striving of mankind to understand Him. But the nearer evolution approached the close of the Gabriel Age, the more this understanding receded, until today just where there should be understanding, it is sadly lacking, and materialism prevails not only in modern science but consequently in theology too. The real understanding of the Christ Impulse has grown less and less. Materialism has seized upon men's souls and deeply ensconced itself in them. Materialism became in many respects the fundamental impulse of the epoch which has just elapsed. Countless souls died during that epoch who went through the gate of death with a materialistic outlook. For such numbers of souls to go through the gate of death with a materialistic outlook would have been impossible in earlier ages. These souls then lived in the spiritual world between death and a new birth without knowing anything of the world in which they lived. A being came towards them; they perceived Him in that world. They had to perceive Him because this being had united Himself with the Earth, although for the present He rules invisibly in physical Earth existence. And the exertions of these souls who had gone through the gate of death succeeded — we cannot express it otherwise — in driving the Christ out of the spiritual world. The Christ has had to experience a renewal of the Mystery of Golgotha, although not in the same magnitude as before. At that time He went through death; now He had to undergo banishment from His existence in the spiritual world. And thus there was fulfilled in Him the eternal law of the spiritual world: that what disappears for the higher spiritual world arises anew in the lower world.
If it is possible in the 20th century for souls to evolve to an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha, then it is due to this Event — that Christ, through a conspiracy of materialistic souls, has been driven out of the spiritual worlds, and transferred into the sense world, into the world of man, so that even in this world of the senses a new understanding for the Christ can begin. Hence, too, Christ is still more nearly and intimately united with the destiny of men on Earth. And while in the past man could look up to Jahve or Jehovah and know that He was the being who sent out Michael to prepare the way for the transition from the Jahve Age to the Christ Age — while in earlier ages it was Jehovah who sent Michael, it is now the Christ who sends us Michael.
This is the new and important fact which we must transform into a feeling. As formerly man could speak of Jahve-Michael, the Leader of the age, so now we can speak of Christ-Michael. Michael has been exalted to a higher stage — from Folk Spirit to Time Spirit, inasmuch as from being the Messenger of Jahve he has become the Messenger of Christ. And so when we speak of a right understanding of the Michael Impulse in our age, we are speaking of a right understanding of the Christ Impulse.
An abstract understanding always deals in names, simply in names, and thinks it will arrive somewhere if it asks “What kind of Being is Michael?” and wants to be told that he comes from this or that hierarchy, that he is an archangel, that archangels have such and such qualities. Then it is all defined and people think now they know what such a being is. They do not know it by speaking of Michael in this way. If one wants to understand the evolution of mankind, one must understand that Michael too has evolved: one must understand that it is the same being who paved the way for the preparation of the Mystery of Golgotha, and who now in our day paves the way for the understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. Then, however, he was a Folk Spirit, now he is a Time Spirit; then he was the Messenger of Jahve, now he is the Messenger of Christ. We speak of the Christ in the right way when we speak of Michael and his mission, knowing that Michael, who was formerly the bearer of the Jehovah-mission, is now the bearer of the Mission of the Christ.
My dear friends, we have been able to follow the path of Michael, a Spirit who has, so to say, ascended in order to communicate a new impulse to mankind; who has ascended, or rather is ascending, from the rank of the archangels to the rank of the archai. His place will be filled by another being who succeeds him.
I have spoken here on different occasions of the evolution which Buddha passed through. The puerile objections which are now being made against us (see Note 2) are brought also against our understanding of the Christ Impulse in the world — as though we had ever been one-sided in our representation of the Christ Impulse. We turn our gaze to evolution as a whole and describe what different impulses underlie it, giving to each its due value. Again and again we have spoken of the Bodhisattva who was born as Gautama Buddha and have shown that for us it is truth that he became ‘Buddha’. We have followed his evolution until the time when he received his mission on Mars. And of that mission we have also spoken here.
As long as man dwells on Earth, there is always for each human being, however high he may stand, an individuality who guides him from incarnation to incarnation. The individual guidance of human beings is made subject to the angeloi, the angel beings. When a man from being a Bodhisattva becomes a Buddha, then his angel is, as it were, set free. And it is such angel beings who, after the fulfillment of their mission, ascend into the realm of the archangel beings.
Thus if we really understand how to penetrate ever more deeply into the supersensible evolution which lies behind our sense evolution, we are actually able to perceive at some point how an archangel ascends to the nature of the archai, and an angel being to an archangel being.
My dear friends, what I have said to you about the spiritual background of the world in which we live and in which we wish to take our stand as Anthroposophists — I have not said it in order that you may merely theorize over these things, but that you may transform into feeling and experience what has been expressed in words and ideas. Yes — to be an Anthroposophist in our age means to know the nature of the supersensible world which underlies the sense world of human evolution, to feel oneself in the spiritual world, as physical man feels himself physically in the atmosphere. But we do not feel ourselves in the spiritual world by merely repeating: Spirit, Spirit, Spirit is in us! Just as one has to gauge in a practical concrete way — from the formation of the clouds, from the humidity and other phenomena — the state of the atmosphere of the Earth, so we must ‘feel’ in quite a concrete way the spiritual world into which we are submerged every night when we fall asleep; we must feel and know how there lives in this spiritual world what is now happening as a result of the mission entrusted by Christ to Michael — that is, to the same Spirit of the hierarchy of archangels who in earlier times had been used by the impulse of Jahve for the preparation of the Mystery of Golgotha. That is what is happening behind our physical sense evolution. And to feel ourselves within such happenings in the spiritual world in the same way as we feel ourselves physically within the atmosphere which we breathe in and out means to have the right consciousness today in relation to the spiritual world.
Try to receive into your whole heart and soul these results of occultism which I have now endeavored to lay before you; try to have a sensitive understanding of them, and to consider what it means now in this age to live consciously in the spiritual events that are taking place around us, to live consciously in that world whither our soul goes every night when we fall asleep and whence we come every morning when we awake. Try to lead the soul into the direct and concrete experience of what is so often abstractly called Divine Providence. For it lies in the true character of our age to do this. Try now in this present time to know and experience as individual beings what men in past ages could only feel in an undefined way as a Providence moving through the world.
Place as a picture before your souls that the task of the previous epoch was to find natural science. At that time the laws of nature were good if they were rightly used by man to build up external world conceptions. But there is nothing absolutely good or bad in this external world of maya. In our time the laws of Nature would be bad and evil were they still to be used to build up a world conception at a time when spiritual life is flowing into the sense world. These words are not to be taken as directed against what past ages have done; they are directed against what wants to remain as it was in earlier ages and will not put itself at the service of the new revelation.
Michael did not fight this Dragon in the ages that are past, for then the Dragon which is now meant was not yet a Dragon; it will become a Dragon if those concepts and ideas which belong only to natural science were to be used to construct the world conception of the coming age. For the monster that will then rear its head among mankind will be rightly seen in the picture of the Dragon that must be vanquished by Michael, whose Age begins in our own time.
That is an important Imagination, — Michael overcoming the Dragon. To receive the inflow of spiritual life into the sense world — from now on, that is the service of Michael. We serve Michael by overcoming the Dragon that is trying to grow to his full height and strength in ideas which during the past epoch produced materialism and which now threaten to prolong their life on into the future. To defeat this means to stand in the service of Michael. That is the victory of Michael over the Dragon. It is the old picture over again, which for earlier times had another meaning and which must now acquire the right meaning for our age. When we are conscious of the part we have to play as men of a new age, then our task can stand before us in the picture of Michael conquering the Dragon.
Let us take this picture and make of it an Imagination. Let us try to understand our times through knowing ourselves to be in a spiritual guidance that is the true spiritual guidance of our age, and that can be the spiritual guidance of every human soul who is sincerely and honestly seeking evolution on the path of spiritual life.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Michaelmas: The Counter-pole to Easter

Rudolf Steiner, Easter Sunday, April 1, 1923:

At first humanity in its evolution had only the one pole, the Easter pole, and this Easter pole became paralyzed. The Easter festival lost its inner vitality. It will regain its inner life only when man can think about this festival in such a way that he can say to himself: “Through what is symbolically expressed in the Descent into Hell — which in reality can be understood as the Resurrection — a counterweight was given against something which had to come: namely, the paralyzing of all spiritual vision, its dying away in the earthly life. Prophetically, Christ Jesus wanted to prepare for what had to come: namely, the circumstance that man during his life on Earth between birth and death would have to forget the super-earthly, the spiritual, that he would in a certain way die to the spiritual. Opposed to this dying away of man in earthly life stands the Easter thought of the victory of super-earthly life over the earthly.”

On the one side is this: Man descends from his pre-earthly life; but in the period that dawned in the first half of the fifteenth century, he will in his earthly life more and more forget his super-earthly origin; as to his soul-being he will die away, as it were, in the earthly life. That stands on the one side.

On the other stands this: There was a spiritual, heavenly Being, Who by His deed, working out of the heavens into the Earth, set forth the counter-image. That spiritual Being descended into a human body, and in the Resurrection has, through His own being, placed the super-earthly spiritual among the men of Earth. In remembrance of this we have the Easter festival, which puts before mankind the picture of the burial of Christ Jesus and the Resurrection of Christ Jesus.

He was laid in the grave and thereafter He arose — this is the Easter thought, as it stands in cosmic records... “Look upon thyself, O Man: thou descendest out of the super-earthly worlds; thou art threatened by the danger that thy soul will die away in the earthly life. Therefore the Christ appears, Who sets before thine eyes how that from which thou also didst arise, how that super-earthly spiritual, conquers death. There stands before thee in mighty images such as could be placed before mankind: the entombment of Christ Jesus, the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. He was laid in the grave. He rose from the grave and appeared to those who could behold Him.”

But with the paralyzed soul forces of man today, this image can no longer become living. Where could it become alive? In a traditional faith man can still look upon what the Easter festival gives him: upon the sublime picture of the burial and the Resurrection. But out of the inner force of his soul he can no longer, of himself, find anything to connect with this Easter thought, with the thought of the entombment and the Resurrection. It is out of spiritual knowledge that he must again unite something with it.

And this something is another thought, to which there can be no alternative. It is, however, possible for a human being to let spiritual knowledge approach him so that he may understand this “other.” Let us place this “other” before ourselves, so as to inscribe it deeply within our souls. Easter thought: He has been laid in the grave; He is risen. Now let us place before ourselves the other thought which must come over mankind: He is risen, and can confidently be laid in the grave. Easter thought: He has been laid in the grave; He is risen. Michaelmas thought: He is risen, and can confidently be laid in the grave.

The first thought, the Easter thought, pertains to the Christ; the second thought pertains to the human being. It pertains to the man who directly comprehends the power of the Easter thought, comprehends how when spiritual knowledge enters into the earthly life of the present, in which his soul-spiritual is dying away, his soul can resurrect, so that he becomes living between birth and death, so that in the earthly life he becomes inwardly alive.

The human being must through spiritual knowledge comprehend this inner resurrection, this inner awakening; then will he confidently be laid in the grave. Then he may be laid in the grave, through which he otherwise would fall prey to those Ahrimanic powers who work within the Earth realm at the time of the winter solstice.

And the festival which contains this thought: “He is risen and can confidently be laid in the grave” — this festival must fall in the time when the leaves are beginning to turn yellow and fall from the trees, when the fruits have ripened, when the Sun has received that power which brings to maturity what in the spring was budding and sprouting, full of the forces of growth, but which also brings withering and the inclination to seek again the inner part of the Earth; when what is developing on the Earth begins to be a symbol of the grave.

If we place the Easter festival at the time when life begins to bud and to sprout, when the forces of growth attain their highest point, then the other festival, which contains: “He is risen, and can confidently be laid in the grave,” we must place at the time when Earth nature begins to wither, when the mood of the grave is spreading abroad in Earth nature, when the symbol of the grave can appear before the soul of man. Then the Michael thought begins to stir in man, that thought which is not, like the Easter thought in the earliest centuries of Christianity, directed toward a kind of inner perceiving (Anschauung).*

* It is assumed that Anschauung here is intended to describe the way man's Gemuet could inwardly experience the Entombment and Resurrection, as was indicated earlier. This would be perceptively, feelingly, rather than through logic.

In the first centuries of Christianity, this feeling perception was directed to the Christ laid in the grave and risen. In this perception the soul was made strong, was filled with its strongest forces. In the festival-thought at the time of the fall equinox, the soul must feel its strength when appeal is made not to its perceiving, but to its will. “Take into thyself the Michael thought which confers the Ahrimanic powers, that thought which makes thee strong to gain here on Earth knowledge of the spirit, so that thou canst overcome the powers of Death.” — As the Easter thought is directed to the perception, this thought is directed to the will-powers: to take up the Michael force, which means to take the force of spiritual knowledge into the will-forces. And so the Easter thought can become living, can be brought directly to the human soul and spirit, when now the Michael thought, the thought of the Michael festival in the autumn, is felt to be the counter-pole of the Easter thought.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Archangel Michael: His Mission and Ours

A lecture given by Rudolf Steiner October 15, 1923

What I have to say to you today will be expressed in the form of pictures drawn from the imaginative life, which is the expression, the revelation, of the spiritual world. The human being is woven with his whole existence and activity into the spiritual world. We know from the many and varied descriptions of it that have been given here, that an abstract manner of speaking, such as is applied to external, sense-perceptible nature, cannot be used in speaking of the spiritual world, if actual manifestations of that world are in question. We know too, however, that the manner of speaking we must then adopt is no unreal one, but, on the contrary, one far more realistic than the logical, abstract speech we employ to express merely natural truths. This I wanted to say about the attitude to be adopted in what I shall now put before you.

When man finds, with spiritual vision, the way out beyond the physically sense-perceptible world, there reveals itself to him a world of spirit. In that world he feels led to make use of the phenomena of the physical world as pictures, with which to express what is spiritually revealed to him. So let me now put a picture at the centre of our considerations; a picture which is in truth a deep reality. Mankind, throughout its evolutionary history, has always been guided by impulses from the spiritual world. Those who could see so far found these impulses written as it were in brazen letters in a spiritual light, indicating the direction they should take. What is thus found in the spiritual world might be compared with the signposts of the physical world; not those that have just a pointing hand perhaps, and the name of some place or other, but signposts on which is expressed in powerful words — or at least in powerfully sounding words — what changes are due to take place in human thinking, feeling, willing. I am speaking of spiritual signposts. Such directions in the spiritual world, however, are usually drawn up for human beings in a remarkable manner, and have been so in all epochs — namely, in a kind of riddle-language. One has in a certain way to make an effort to get behind the riddle. In order that one of these signposts in the riddle-language may become a real impulse for life, a great deal of what one knows has to be brought together. And so just at the present time, as something suited to our immediate present and the near future, one finds in the astral light, as I may call it, such directing words as can become impulses for mankind. On the most varied occasions — I might say in the most varied places — there comes before one to-day, if one has the faculties needed to behold it, something that is like a warning, having moreover the quality of a riddle, and it calls forth in man the feeling that he should be guided by it, should take it as a strong impulse into his will, into his whole life of soul. What thus shines out to meet us in the astral light, as one such spiritual milestone, consists approximately of the following words: —

Thou mouldest it to thy service,
Thou revealest it according to the value of its substance
In many of thy works.
Yet it will only bring thee healing
When to thee is revealed
The lofty power of its Spirit.

First of all there is a challenge to discover what is actually meant. Some sort of impulse is referred to, something which is already present, something known to man, since otherwise one could not reckon on his finding an answer:

Thou mouldest it to thy service,
Thou revealest it according to the value of its substance
In many of thy works.
Yet it will only bring thee healing,
When to thee is revealed
The lofty power of its Spirit.

The explanation of these words, which, as has been said, show themselves in the astral light like a directing impulse for human beings, will be the purpose of to-day's lecture.

Let us recall a number of things that I have already explained here. Let us recall how the year's course, in its regular sequence through Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, has a spiritual content; how spiritual occurrences, supersensible occurrences, are revealed in what happens in the course of the year just as a man's supersensible soul and supersensible spirit are revealed in what happens in his bodily life between birth and death. Let us reflect how, in what appears outwardly during the year's course, in Winter's snow, Spring's sprouting, waxing life, in Summer's life of blossoming and Autumn's life of ripening and fruiting — how in all this which discloses itself physically to men something spiritual is hidden, something spiritual sustains it. And so let us turn our gaze first to what takes place in this yearly course, from spring to summer and on towards the autumn.

In all that Earth reveals, in stone and plant, in everything that has being, spiritual beings live; not a mere washed-out spirituality, but separate spirit-beings, Nature-spirits. These Nature-spirits hide during the winter in the bosom of the Earth; they are breathed in, as it were, by the Earth; they are within the Earth. When spring comes, Earth breathes out, as it were, her spirituality; these Nature-spirits strive upwards. They aspire upwards with the forces of springing, sprouting life; they are active in the life which is felt in the light-radiant, sun-warmed air; within this they aspire upwards. And as we approach St. John's Day and the time of midsummer, then in the heights above us, if we look up to them, we have a picture revealed there, embodied in the forms of clouds, embodied mightily in lightning, too, and thunder, embodied in all the meteoric element above us, all that lived in the form of Nature-spirits during winter in the Earth's dark bosom. During winter we must look down to the Earth and feel, or behold how, hidden beneath the covering of snow, Nature-spirits are working, so that out of winter shall come spring again, and summer, from the productive Earth.

But if in summer we look down to the Earth, then the Earth is as if impoverished by the loss of those Nature-spirits. The Nature-spirits have gone out into the wide universe; they have united themselves with the cloud-structures and everything that human sight encounters in the heights above. In all the ways I have mentioned they have streamed up to the heights, these Nature-spirits, and with them they have taken, in an extremely subtle form, extremely fine dilution, that which manifests outwardly as crude and lifeless sulphur. And in fact these Nature-spirits, as they billow and surge in cloud-forms and the like, during summer's height, weave and live pre-eminently in sulphur, the sulphur that is then present there in an extraordinarily subtle way, in the heights of the earthly realm. If we could speed through these high reaches of our earthly world during the height of summer with a sort of tasting-feeling sense, we should be aware of a sulphurous taste and even of a sulphurous smell, though in an extraordinarily dilute, subtle and intimate form. What develops up there, however, under the influence of the Sun's warmth and light, is akin to the process that goes on in the human organism when cravings, wishes, emotions and so on come welling up. Anyone who has the faculty for beholding and feeling such things knows that the Nature-spirits in the heights during midsummer live in an element which is as much saturated with desire as is the desire-life that is bound up with the animal nature of man — that animal part of man wherein he, too, is sulphurised, is permeated with sulphur in a very diluted form. We see, as it were, man's lower aspect, that which is animalised in him, arched as Nature's formation above us at the height of summer, filled with the life of Nature-spirits. What we thus recognise in its sulphurous quality when it weaves and lives in human nature, we call the Ahrimanic; in it the Ahrimanic actually lives. So we can also say: when in high summer-time we turn spiritual vision towards the heights, then in the cosmic sulphurous desires the Ahrimanic is revealed to us. So if we conceive of man in relation to this whole world nexus, we must say to ourselves: the Earth takes up in winter what exists in man as his lower nature and spreads over it crystalline snow, and in so doing the Earth receives the Ahrimanic from it. When in high summer the Ahrimanic is free, it works as cosmic desires out in the wide spaces of the world and is, indeed, subject to laws which proceed from the planetary neighbours of the Earth and are effective on them.

And now we see how against this Ahrimanic desire-element, against this animal desire-nature of man turned inside out, as it were, in the cosmos, an opposing force is present. The force which brings the human being into subjection through his emotions, dragging him down below the human to the animal level, and is revealed in full summer high above us — against this a counter-force is provided in the cosmos. This counter-force is seen in those remarkable products which from time to time fall on to the Earth as products of the cosmos and contain meteoric iron. If you look at a piece of meteoric iron, you have in it a remarkable witness of the iron dispersed in the cosmos. In the shooting stars which come so frequently in August and bring iron into special activity, as it were, in the cosmos, we see revealed this counter-force of Nature acting against the desire-element which by that time is out there in the cosmos. And in this cosmic iron, condensed to meteoric stones, we have the arrows which the cosmos sends out against the animal desire element which, as I have just described, is cosmically manifest.

So we can look with understanding and reverence upon the wisdom-filled guidance of the cosmos. We know, of course, that man needs this animal desire nature, precisely because in overcoming it, and not otherwise, he can develop the forces that first make him fully human. And man could not have this desire nature, this animalising element, if the same animal desire element were not a part also of the cosmos. The sulphur, then, the sulphurous Ahrimanic element is, as it were, one pole out in the cosmos, and the arrows discharged by the Cosmos through space to combat this sulphurous element are concentrated in meteoric iron — in the meteoric projectiles, so to say, of the universe.

Now man is a true microcosm, really a little world. Everything that manifests in the great world outside in gigantic and majestic phenomena such as the phenomena of meteors, manifests also within, in the inward nature of what he is himself as physical being. For this physical being is only an expression, a manifestation, of his spiritual being. And so in a certain way we bear within ourselves, starting from the animal lower nature, the sulphurous element. We must say to ourselves: this sulphurous Ahrimanic element storms through the human organism, stirs up his desire-nature, stirs up his emotions. We feel it within us; we behold it at high summer-time in the cosmic desire-covering above our heads. But we also behold how into this over-arching cosmic desire-covering there shoot the iron arrows of the meteoric phenomena, cleansing and clarifying it, acting as an opposite pole to the animal-like desire-nature. For through this shooting in of the meteoric iron arrows from the cosmos, the animal desire-covering of high summer time above us is purified. And what takes place in majesty and grandeur out there in the great cosmos, goes on continually also in us. We produce tiny iron particles in our blood, in combination with other substances, and while, on the one hand, there pulses through our blood the sulphurising process, there works against it inwardly, meteorically, as the other pole, the iron inside us, bringing about the same process as is effected outside in the cosmos by the meteoric iron. We can then so picture man's relationship to the cosmos that in the flashing meteoric element we find the cosmic counterpart of what within us is a million upon million-fold flashing forth of the meteoric element that sets us free by means of the iron in our blood, cleansing and clarifying us from the sulphurising process which is also active in the blood itself.

Thus we are inwardly a copy of the cosmos. In the cosmos this process is accomplished during the height of summer; man, because he stands within Nature as one emancipated from her in regard to time, has continually midsummer as well as the other seasons in himself, just as he has within him in the continuity of memory his former experiences. Outwardly they have vanished, but inwardly they remain. So is it too with what is present in Man as Microcosm in relation to the Macrocosm. What he thus carries in his physical body, however, he must grasp in soul and spirit, must become able to experience it within himself; he must learn to experience this meteoric shag of the blood-iron into the blood-sulphur as freedom, or initiative, as the strength of his will. Otherwise it remains an animal or vegetative process in him at the best. What precisely constitutes our becoming a human being in soul and spirit is that we grasp the processes which go on in us, such as this iron-sulphur process, with our soul and spirit, that we send the soul and spirit into them as an impulse. Just as when we have made an instrument and know how to handle it properly, we are able to perform something by means of it, so can we turn to the service of our will what works and lives in us as does this process of iron and sulphur, when once we know how to handle it; when, as human beings, we can handle and make use of what goes on as living processes within our body.

Let us now turn again to the cosmos and away from man. You can realise that what takes place out there in the cosmos is an earnest admonition to men. For this meteoric iron-process in the cosmos truly brings to mind our inner physical nature; this nature, however, can be placed at the service of our spiritual inner being. So now we come to the meaning which has to be ascribed to that brazen writing in the astral light: —

Thou mouldest it to thy service,
Thou revealest it according to the value of its substance
In many of thy works.

If we look round us at modern life, as it has developed in the course of recent centuries, we can see that the chief feature of this materialistic culture is the use of iron in the realm of earthly life. Look in any direction where our form of civilisation has flowered in recent times; it is iron that has planted in the physical world everything which has led to the culmination of this materialistic culture. We look for what it was that in so unparalleled a way has brought people together, and has laid down the paths for the various branches of materialistic culture and made them smooth; and everywhere we see it was iron and what can be developed out of it. When we speak of materialism in the life of thought it is true that the essence of materialism consists in the idea that everything is matter, and Spirit is a kind of vaporous result of the activities of matter. But the materialism of mankind in the last four centuries is shown not merely in the fact that people think materialistically; materialism is manifest also in the way we handle outer things. Out of the cultural impulses of recent times man has applied iron to this material culture, while the meteoric iron which falls from heaven is treated merely as a rarity, or as something one seeks to explain by means of a science that cannot grasp much about it. This meteoric iron, however, which falls to earth from out of the cosmos, which purifies and clarifies the animal-like life, is actually an admonition to us that we should look up from using iron materially for earthly purposes, and see what heavenly service iron performs in its meteoric aspect up above us, and, more especially, within us. For these meteoric processes within us go on all the time.

And so the first part of this warning speech, shining forth to meet us in the astral light, takes on the likeness of a word written in brazen letters, saying: O Man, thou hast put iron to thine earthly service.

Thou mouldest it to thy service,
Thou revealest it according to the value of its substance
In many of thy works.
Yet it will only bring thee healing,
When to thee is revealed
The lofty power of its Spirit.

It is not merely that we should look up in our thoughts from the materialistic world-conception to a spiritual world-conception, but that we should also look up from what we use in the service of material culture to the spiritual and cosmic aspects of what serves us in material form. And so precisely through these words, which have first to be unravelled like a riddle, we are directed to that Spiritual Being who lives in the universe in the revelation of meteoric phenomena, especially in what is revealed by meteoric phenomena at the height of summer. For at that time the Ahrimanic sulphurising process, which is otherwise present only within man, is there as a cosmic process, and the meteoric process is a counter-process to it; we have here the arrows which the cosmos discharges into the animalised cravings in the heights.

If one lets all this work upon the soul, one feels how truly man is connected with all that surrounds him in the world, and, within, one feels how one's very blood is permeated with soul, saturated with spirit. One feels in it this opposition between the Ahrimanic and that which purifies the Ahrimanic element, the iron in the blood; one feels the inner meteoric process. One looks up with comprehension to what is accomplished outside when the cosmic spirit-forces send the iron arrows into the animalised desire-world of the cosmos; one feels oneself entirely bound up with the cosmos and surrendered to it. Precisely in these particular phenomena, one feels entirely surrendered to the cosmos.

When one feels all this in full earnestness, then from this feeling there takes form a cosmic Imagination; one can indeed do no other than form and picture this cosmic Imagination. Just as animals have a different attitude towards outer Nature, being unable to form concepts or ideas of it, but only general impressions, whereas man forms pictures and ideas, so, when the soul has risen to exact clairvoyance, it is not possible for it to do otherwise, when it experiences such things as this — when its feeling turns inwardly towards its own meteoric process, and when looking outward it beholds in the cosmic meteor-process that rich fullness of life which is thus revealed — than to bring it all together in a comprehensive, inwardly saturated picture form, an Imagination in which is displayed how the human being, the Microcosm, and the Macrocosm are grown together. This does not mean that such an Imagination is merely built up out of fantasy; rather is it a real and true expression of a living process permeating the world and the human being; in this case, of a process that lives in the phenomena of the yearly course.

The Imagination which comes before man out of this experience is one that springs out of a living together with the natural processes of the year's course from midsummer on towards autumn, as far as the end of summer, the beginning of the autumn; And from this experience there arises, coming before the soul in living actuality, the figure of Michael. Out of what I have described to you is revealed the figure of Michael in his fight with the Dragon, with the animal nature of Man, the sulphurising process. And when one understands what is actually going on there, then the soul, which takes its own form and origin from the interweaving life forces of the cosmos, cannot but bring forth the fight of Michael with the Dragon. There appears as the outward expression of what is working out there in the cosmos in battle with the animalised desire nature, Michael himself. But he appears with a pointing sword, pointing it towards the higher nature of man. He shines forth with this pointing sword, and we picture Michael rightly when we find in his sword the iron that has been cosmically smelted and forged for this purpose. Thus there comes forth, one might say, out of the spiritual cloud-formations the figure of Michael with positive, searching and directing gaze, his eye like a guiding sign, its gaze sent outwards, never drawn back into himself; and the arm of Michael appears to us in the midst of a sparkling shower of meteor-iron, as though this were molten in cosmic desire forces and fused together again to form the flaming sword of Michael. Rightly do we picture Michael then, quite in accord with reality, when we think of his countenance as woven from the golden light of summer, with a positive gaze which is like a sign, as it were pointing outwards; like a ray of light from within which is sent actively out. We picture Michael rightly when his outstretched arm is flaming with flashing sprays of meteor iron, molten and fused together into the sword wherewith he shows humanity the way from the animal-like to man's higher nature, pointing the way from the summer season, when man most makes himself one with outer Nature, most nearly comes to a Nature-consciousness, to that other season, the time of autumn, when man, were he to continue to live united with Nature, could share only in her dying in the death she brings on herself. But it would be terrible for man, if he could only share with Nature, as autumn comes, this natural path to death, this self-destruction. When we experience Spring, then if we are really fully man, we yield ourselves to Nature in her sprouting, waxing, flourishing. If we are fully man, we blossom with each blossom, sprout with every leaf: with every seed we grow ripe ourselves. It is then that we give ourselves over to Nature's mounting, springing, sprouting life. For it is then her will to live, and we feel this impulse of life in experiencing hers. And we do well to devote ourselves to Nature at this season. But in autumn we cannot unfold this nature-consciousness in ourselves, for if we did that onesidedly we should have to share in the experience of the paralysis and death which she makes her own. Man dare not go with her in that direction; in the face of that he must rather increase his strength. Just as he must accompany living Nature in his own life, so must he set against dying Nature, against death, the Self. Nature-consciousness must be transformed into self-consciousness.

This is the great and powerful picture given us in the approach of autumn, so that from out of what happens in the cosmos we read the admonition: Nature consciousness must change in man into consciousness of self. But for this he needs the strength to overcome with his qualities of soul and spirit the inwardly death-bringing quality of animal-like Nature. For this he is given guidance when he looks out into the phenomena of the cosmos; to this he is guided by what is revealed in the figure of Michael, with his positive gaze and the flaming meteor-sword in his right hand. And Michael appears to us in that fight with the animalised desire-nature of which, also, a picture emerges from the loom of life. If we wish to paint this whole Imagination, we cannot paint it in any humanly arbitrary way; it can be painted only out of what is given by the cosmos. And the only way to picture the sulphurous element in it, rising into the heights with the elemental spirits in yellowish reddish shades, is in the figure of the Dragon, which takes shape from out of the sulphur. So that above the sulphurous Dragon, in whose burning head, as I might call it, is exhibited the desire-like process, above this Ahrimanised and sulphurised Dragon, we have Michael in the form I have described to you.

He who understands the world can describe it in Imaginations. And whosoever believes that one can paint the fight of Michael with the Dragon in any way one chooses, sins against the inner reality of the world. For the interplay of forces in the world has a definite ordering in relation to human beings. And all the great paintings and other works of art in the world have not come into existence out of arbitrary human choice. If that were so, they would scarcely have continued to appeal to man for centuries, even thousands of years. They have sprung from a real understanding of what weaves and lives out there in the cosmos, and also within the human being. And when out of the living and weaving in Nature and in man, in their mutual connection, there is created the substance of Imaginations, with all that is revealed from the mysteries of Nature, even to the colours and the way the colours gleam and shine, and the details of the forms — when all this is given artistic form, then it is that the great, genuine works of art arise, the great works that were created by the seers, that are imitated by the imitators and are decked out by the bunglers with all kinds of frippery till the real greatness that should go forth from these works, born out of the creative weaving of the cosmos, is no longer recognised. This is what gives these works of art the power to influence humanity through long periods of time. The great artistic motifs of painting and sculpture never would have become what they are had they not been created out of impulses seen to arise from the life of Nature and the life of man.

So we are able to direct our vision to what appears if Michael and the Dragon are painted in the spiritual sense of to-day (for older ways of apprehending it had to paint it according to their own knowledge); the countenance pictured in golden sun-gleam, the gaze positive, outward-looking, the sword of flame, molten and shaped anew out of the meteor-iron of the cosmos; and below, the Dragon, tormentor of human nature, the Dragon who manifests at high summertime, the sulphurous Dragon revealed in the weaving of flames rising up and at once fading again. This Dragon moving below in his own sulphurous element, taking form as the tormentor of humanity and the opponent of the higher hierarchies — this gives the necessary contrast over against the war-waging Michael, who compels the meteoric iron to his spiritual service.

Here you have an example of how the true iron passes over into art, must always pass over into art, since with abstract concepts one cannot compass the whole of reality. And this is the admonition to our times — that we should grasp just such a picture as this, for the awakening of strength, for the awakening of mankind. Therefore one would like to inscribe this picture in particular, this modernised picture of the fight of Michael with the Dragon, deep, deep into the human soul, the human heart, so that it may exert its influence in human forces of will and thought in the present time and in the future. And one can know that if a part of mankind were to take this picture in earnest, if a part of mankind were to understand how this picture takes shape from Nature's very self, and from the directive admonitions in the astral light, then to the material use of iron in the last few centuries, especially the 19th century, there would be added a spiritual element penetrated with the meaning and sense of iron. Then this picturing would kindle in man the force of soul and spirit which makes him able to take hold of the purpose of the meteoric iron within him, the iron that shoots into his blood, warring against sulphur. We must learn not to let this process go on in the subconsciousness, merely shaping the lower nature of Man; we must learn to place this process, this iron process in human blood, in the service of the soul-and-spiritual. That it is, that Michael wills in us.

This is what calls on us from the astral light — to celebrate worthily once more the Michael Festival when autumn is beginning. When now we speak of this Michael Festival which should take its place with the Easter and Christmas festivals and that of St. John, it must truly not be understood as meaning that here or there one celebrates a festival in an external way; the point is that we can celebrate such a festival only when we know how to link it with something really significant. The festival of Christmas has not arisen through any arbitrary convenient resolve, but because it is linked with the birth of Christ Jesus; the Easter Festival is linked with the Mystery of Golgotha; and these are very important events in the historical life of mankind. The Michael Festival must be linked with a great and sustaining inner experience of man, with that inner force which summons him to develop self-consciousness out of Nature-consciousness through the strength of his thoughts, the strength of his will, so that he may be able to master the meteoric iron process in his blood, the opponent of the sulphurising process.

To be sure, sulphur and iron have flowed in human blood ever since there was a human race. What takes its course there between sulphur and iron determines the unconscious nature of man. It must be lifted into consciousness. We must learn to know this process as the expression of the inner conflict of Michael with the Dragon; we must learn to raise this process into consciousness. Something has then come about to which the Michael Festival may be linked. But it must first be there, be fully understood, inwardly, deeply understood. Then it will be possible to celebrate the Michael Festival in the way a festival drawn from the cosmos can be celebrated by men. Then we shall have the knowledge which is really able to see something in iron other than what the chemist of to-day or the mechanic sees in it. Then we shall have what teaches us how to take in hand the iron in our own organism, in the inner part of our human nature. Then we shall have the majestic picture of Michael in battle with the sulphurous Dragon, of Michael with the flaming sword of iron, as an inspiring impulse to what man must become, if he is to develop the forces of his evolution for progress and not for decline.

This it is, which shows itself to us as an admonition from the spiritual world in the brazen letters that grow into enigmatic words but that can be understood precisely out of the conditions of our present time: —

O Man,
Thou mouldest it to thy service,
Thou revealest it according to the value of its substance
In many of thy works.
Yet it will only bring thee healing,
When to thee is revealed
The lofty power of its Spirit.

That is Iron. Let us learn to know iron, and equally all other substances, not merely in terms of material value; let us learn to know them in their majestic spirit power! Then there will be human progress once again, progress for the Earth; and that is what we must will, if we want to be man in the true sense of the word.


Monday, September 24, 2012

The Mystery of Golgotha

The Gospel of John. Lecture 7 of 12.
Rudolf Steiner, Hamburg, May 26, 1908:
The whole of the Gospel of St. John culminates in that event in human history which we call the “Mystery of Golgotha.” To comprehend this Mystery of Golgotha esoterically predicates also the ability to decipher the deep significance of this Gospel. If we turn our attention to what exists at the very central point of this Mystery and wish to express it in occult terms, we must contemplate the moment of the Crucifixion when the blood flowed from the wounds of the Savior, and at the same time we must remember something which has often been said in the course of these lectures, that for one who knows the spiritual worlds, all material, substantial, physical objectivity is only the outer expression, the external manifestation, of something spiritual. Now let us permit the physical event to arise before our souls: Christ Jesus upon the Cross, the blood flowing from His wounds. What does this picture, the content of which is a physical event, express for those who are able to understand the Gospel of St. John?
This physical event — the occurrence on Golgotha — is the expression, the manifestation, of a spiritual event which stands at the central point of all earthly happenings. Anyone interpreting these words according to the present materialistic world concept will not be able to make much out of them, for he will not be able to imagine that at that time something occurred in this unique Event of Golgotha which differs from some other like event, or from one perhaps physically similar. There is a very great difference between all the earthly occurrences which preceded this Event of Golgotha and those that succeed it.
If we wish to picture this in the soul in all its detail, we must say that not only has the individual human being, or for that matter any other individual creature, a physical, ether, and astral body as we have described it from many aspects in the foregoing lectures, but that cosmic bodies likewise do not consist only of physical substance as they appear to the astronomer and to other physical researchers. A cosmic body has also an ether and an astral body. Our Earth has its ether and astral vehicles. If our Earth did not possess its own ether body, it would not be able to harbor the plants; if it did not possess its own individual astral body, it would not be able to shelter the animals. If we wish to visualize the Earth's ether body, we must imagine its central point exactly at the center of the Earth where the physical Earth body also has its central point. This entire physical Earth body is embedded in its own ether body and these two are again embedded in an astral body. If someone had observed clairvoyantly the astral body of the Earth during the course of the Earth's evolution, during the course of long epochs of time, he would have seen that, as a matter of fact, this astral body and ether body of the Earth have not always remained the same, that they have changed. In order to represent the matter quite pictorially, let us in spirit transplant ourselves outside beyond the Earth to some other star, and let us imagine a person with clairvoyant vision looking down upon the Earth from this star. He would not only see the Earth suspended there as a physical planet, but he would see an aura about it, he would see the Earth surrounded by an aura of light, for he would be perceiving the Earth's ether and astral bodies. If this clairvoyant person were to remain a long time on this distant star, long enough to have observed the pre-Christian periods of the Earth pass by and the Event of Golgotha approaching, the following spectacle would have presented itself to him. Before the Event of Golgotha the aura of the Earth — the astral and ether bodies — offered a certain aspect of color and form, but following a particular, definite moment of time he would have seen the color of the entire aura changing. What was this particular moment of time? It was the very moment when the blood flowed from the wounds of Christ Jesus upon Golgotha. All spiritual earthly relationships, as such, changed from this moment.
It has been previously stated that what is called the Logos is the sum total of the six Elohim who, united with the Sun, present the Earth with their spiritual gifts, while externally the physical sunlight is falling upon the Earth. Therefore the light of the Sun appears to us like the outer physical body of the spirit and soul of the Elohim or of the Logos. At the moment of the Event of Golgotha, that force, that impulse, which formerly could only stream down upon the Earth as light began to unite with the Earth itself. And because the Logos began to unite with the Earth, the Earth's aura became changed.
We shall now consider the Event of Golgotha from still another point of view. We have already reviewed the evolution of the human being and of the Earth from various standpoints. We know that our Earth, before it became the Earth, passed through the three embodiments of Saturn, Sun, and Moon. Therefore the embodiment just preceding that of our Earth was that of the ancient Moon. When a planet has attained the goal of its evolution, something happens to it similar to what happens to a human being who, in a certain incarnation, has attained his life's goal. The planet passes over into a different invisible existence, a state called a “pralaya,” and then after a time it embodies itself anew. Thus between the previous embodiment of our Earth — the Moon Evolution — and the Earth's present embodiment there existed an intermediate state. Out of a sort of spiritual, self-animated, externally invisible existence, the Earth gleamed forth in its earliest state, and out of this state developed those states which we described yesterday. At that time, in that early age when our Earth gleamed forth, it was still united with all that now belongs to our solar system. It was then so large that it reached to the furthest planets of this solar system. All was unity, for only later individual planets became segregated. The present Earth up to a certain point of time was united with our present Sun and Moon. Thus we see there was a time when Sun, Moon, and Earth were a single body. It was as though you were to take the present Moon and Sun and stir them together with the Earth and thus make one large cosmic body. This was our Earth once upon a time when your astral body and your ego were floating about in a vapor-like form. Even earlier than this the Sun, Moon, and Earth were joined together. At that time the forces which are now in the Sun — the spiritual and physical forces — were bound up with the Earth. Then came a time when the Sun separated from the Earth; but not only did the physical Sun with its physical light which can be seen with physical eyes depart, but with it all its spiritual and soul beings, at whose head stood the Elohim, the real Spirits of Light, the denizens of the Sun. What was left was a mixture of the present Moon and Earth. Then for a time the Earth, though separated from the Sun, was still united with the Moon. It was not until the Lemurian period that the Moon separated from the Earth, when, as a result, there arose that relationship between these three bodies — Sun, Moon, and Earth — that exists today. This relationship had to occur. The Elohim had to act from without. It was necessary for one of them to become Lord of the Moon and from there reflect the powerful force of the other Elohim. We live at present upon our Earth as though dwelling upon an island in cosmic space which has separated from the Sun and Moon. But the time will come when our Earth will once more unite with the Sun and again form one body with it. Then human beings will be so spiritualized that they will again be able to bear the stronger forces of the Sun, able to receive them and unite them with themselves. They, together with the Elohim, will then occupy the same field of action.
You will ask, what is the force that will bring this about? Had the Event of Golgotha not occurred, the Earth and the Sun would never be able to reunite. For through the Event of Golgotha, which bound the force of the Elohim in the Sun to the Earth — in other words, the force of the Logos — the impulse was given which will again eventually impel one Logos-force toward the other, and finally once more unite them — Sun and Earth — in one body. Since the Event of Golgotha, the Earth, spiritually observed, is possessed of the force to draw the Sun again into a unity with it. Therefore it can be said that through this great Event, the force of the Logos, which formerly radiated down upon the Earth from without, was now taken up into its spiritual being. The question may be asked, what existed previously within the body of the Earth? It was that force which streamed down upon it from the Sun. But since that time, what exists there within the Earth? The Logos itself, which through Golgotha has become the Spirit of the Earth.
As truly as your soul and spirit dwell within your physical body, do also the soul and spirit of the Earth dwell within the body of the Earth — that earthly body which consists of stones, plants, and animals and upon which you tread. This soul and spirit, this Earth Spirit, is the Christ. Christ is the Spirit of the Earth. When the Christ spoke to His most trusted disciples on an occasion which can be numbered among the most intimate of such occasions, what did He say to them? With what mystery had He occasion to entrust them? He was able to say to them: “It is as though you can gaze into your own soul from your physical body. Your soul is within. It is the same when you observe the whole Earth-sphere. That spirit which for a time now stands here before you in the flesh is also the spirit of the Earth, and will always continue as such.” He had occasion to point to the Earth as to His real body and ask: “When you behold the cornfield and then eat the bread that nourishes you, what in reality is this bread which you are eating? You are eating My body. And when you drink of the plant sap, it is like the blood in your own body; it is the blood of the Earth — My blood!” — These were the very words that Christ Jesus spoke to His most intimate disciples, and we must take them very literally. Then when He called them together and expounded to them symbolically what we shall call the Christian initiation, He uttered those extraordinary words which we find in the 18th verse of the 13th Chapter of the Gospel of St. John, where He announced that one among them would betray Him:
“He who eats My bread treads me under foot.”
These words must be taken literally. Men eat the bread of the Earth and tread upon the Earth with their feet. If the Earth is the body of the Earth Spirit, that is, of the Christ, then men tread with their feet the Earth's body, the body whose bread they eat. An immense deepening of the idea of the Last Supper as presented in the Gospel of St. John is granted us when we learn about the Christ, the Earth Spirit, and about the bread which is taken from the body of the Earth. Christ points to the Earth and says: “This is My body!” Just as the muscular human flesh belongs to the human soul, so does bread belong to the body of the Earth — that is, to the body of the Christ. And the sap that flows through the plants, which pulsates through the vine stalk, is like the blood pulsating through the human body. Pointing to this, the Christ says: “This is my blood!” That this truthful explanation of the Last Supper can cause some of the sanctity to be lost which has always been associated with it can only be imagined by someone possessing no understanding of it or who has neither desire nor capacity for such an understanding. But anyone who wishes to understand will acknowledge that this does not cause it to lose in holiness, but that through it the whole of the Earth planet becomes sanctified. What powerful feelings can be engendered in our souls if we can behold in the Last Supper the greatest mystery of the Earth, the connection between the Event of Golgotha and the entire evolution of the Earth; if we can learn to feel that in the Last Supper the flowing of the blood from the wounds of the Savior had not only a human but a cosmic significance — that is, it gave to the Earth the force to carry forward its evolution.
Anyone who understands the profound meaning of the Gospel of St. John will feel not only united through his physical body with the physical body of the Earth, but as a psycho-spiritual being will feel united with the psycho-spiritual being of the Earth, which is the Christ Himself, and then he will feel how the Christ, as the Spirit of the Earth, flows through his body. When we have this experience we are able to ask: what illuminated the writer of the Gospel of St. John at that moment when he was able to behold the profound mysteries which have to do with Christ Jesus? He beheld the forces, the impulses, which are present in Christ Jesus, and he perceived how these impulses must be active in mankind, if only mankind will receive them.
In order to understand this quite clearly, we must once more bring before our souls the way in which human evolution actually takes place. The human being consists of physical, ether, and astral bodies, and an ego. How does this evolution occur? By the ego gradually working through the other three members, purifying and strengthening them. The ego is called upon gradually to purify the astral body, to cleanse it and to raise it to a higher level. When the entire astral body has been purified and strengthened by the special forces of the ego, it becomes Manas or Spirit-Self. When the ether or life-body has been thoroughly worked over and strengthened by the force of the ego, it becomes Buddhi, or Life-Spirit. When the physical body has been fully overcome and conquered by the ego, it becomes Atman or Spirit-Man. Then will the human being have reached the goal which above all lies in store for him. That, however, will be attained only in the far-distant future. Moreover, we wish it to be quite clear that the ego acts in full consciousness in what has just been described; namely, that the human being consisting of the four members — physical, ether, and astral bodies, and ego — works by means of the ego upon the other three members, transforming them into Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, and Spirit-Man. For the most part this is not yet the case with present humanity, which as a matter of fact is just beginning, fully conscious, to work a little of Manas into its astral body. The human being is doing this now. Through the help of higher beings he has already, although unconsciously, worked upon his three lower members during this Earth evolution. In ancient times he unconsciously worked over the astral body, and this then became permeated by the Sentient Soul. The ego unconsciously worked into the ether body and this unconsciously re-formed ether body is what you will find described in regular sequence in my book Theosophy as the Intellectual Soul, and that part of the physical body unconsciously worked upon by the ego you will find described there as the Consciousness Soul. The Consciousness Soul only came into being toward the end of the Atlantean period, when the ether body — previously outside the physical body in the head region — gradually drew wholly within it. Through this the human being learned to utter the word “I.” Thus variously membered, he gradually passed over into the post-Atlantean period. It is the task of our age to work Manas or Spirit-Self by degrees into what had previously been received unconsciously. The human being must, as it were, develop Manas within himself by means of all the forces he has acquired by virtue of possessing a physical, an ether, and an astral body, a sentient, an intellectual, and a consciousness soul; by means of all the forces which these various members can give him, he must develop Manas and also, although in a very small degree, the germ of a Life-Spirit or Buddhi. Therefore our post-Atlantean age has the important task of helping the human being to develop consciously these higher members of his being (Manas or Spirit-Self, Buddhi or Life-Spirit, and Atman or Spirit-Man) in the distant future when he will at last have reached his goal. He must from now on, by degrees, develop within himself the force to evolve his higher members out of his lower.
Let us now ask: what has been the condition of the human being that has kept him from already developing these higher members, and what will be the difference in the future? How will the humanity of the future differ from that of the present?
When at last the whole of the higher man has been developed, the entire astral body will be so completely purified that it will simultaneously become Manas or Spirit-Self; the ether body so thoroughly purged that it will simultaneously become Life-Spirit or Buddhi, and the physical body will be so greatly metamorphosed that it will, at the same time, be as actually a Spirit-Man, Atman, as it is now a physical body. The greatest force will be needed to conquer this lowest body, hence the conquest and transformation of the physical means the greatest victory for the human being. When mankind has fully perfected the physical body, this physical man will then become Spirit-Man or Atman. All this is at present only in germ within the human being, but a time will come when it will live in him in its fullness. And by lifting his gaze to the Christ Personality, to the Christ Impulse, by energizing and strengthening himself through this Christ Impulse, he draws into himself the force that can accomplish this transformation.
Since humanity of the present has not yet perfected this metamorphosis, what is the result? Spiritual Science makes this very clear. Because this katharsis of the astral body has not yet been accomplished — that is, the astral body has not yet transformed itself into Spirit-Self — selfishness or egotism is possible. Because the ether body has not yet been strengthened by the ego, lying and error are possible; and because the physical body has not yet been fortified by the ego, sickness and death are possible. In a once fully developed Spirit-Self, there will be no more selfishness; no sickness and death, but just health and salvation in the fully developed Spirit-Man — that is, in the fully evolved physical body. What does it mean for the human being to take the Christ into himself? It means that he has learned to understand the forces that are in the Christ, which if taken into himself make it possible for him to become master even of his physical body.
Imagine for example that someone could receive the Christ Impulse fully into himself, that it could completely pass over upon him. The Christ Himself might stand directly in the presence of this person and the Christ Impulse be transmitted to him. What does that signify? If the person were blind, he would yet be able to see by means of the direct influence of this Christ Impulse, for the final goal of evolution is the conquest of the forces of sickness and death. When the writer of the Gospel of St. John speaks of the healing of the man born blind, he is then speaking out of the depths of the Mysteries, he is demonstrating, by means of an example, that the force of the Christ is a healing force when it appears in full power. It may be asked: Where is this force? It is in the body of the Christ, in the Earth! But this Earth must, in truth, be fully permeated by the being of the Christ Spirit or of the Logos. Let us see if the writer of the Gospel recounts the story with this meaning. How does he relate it?
Standing there is the blind man. The Christ takes some earth, insalivates it and lays it upon the blind man's eyes. He lays His body, the Earth, permeated with His spirit upon the blind man. In this description the writer of the Gospel indicates a mystery which he very well understands. Now laying aside all prejudice, let us talk a little more in detail of this sign — one of the greatest performed by the Christ — in order that we may learn to know more exactly the nature of such a thing and not be disturbed because our very clever contemporaries will consider what has just been said to be sheer madness or folly. There are, however, in the world great and mighty mysteries which mankind is not yet entitled to know. Human beings of the present day, even though they may be sufficiently developed, are not yet strong enough to go through the great Mysteries. They can know of them, they can understand them, when they are able to experience them spiritually; but our present humanity, so deeply immersed in matter, is not yet capable of converting them into their physical expression.
All life is, in fact, made up of antitheses and extremes. Life and death are just such extremes. For the thought and feelings of the occultist, there is something very extraordinary in seeing, for example, a corpse and a living human being side by side. When we have a living, waking human being before us, we know that a soul and spirit dwell within him. But as far as consciousness is concerned, this soul and spirit are, as it were, cut off from any connection with the spiritual world; they cannot look into it. If we have a corpse before us, we have the feeling that the spirit and soul which once belonged to it are passing over into the spiritual worlds where consciousness, or the light of those worlds, is flashing up within them. Thus the corpse becomes a symbol of what is taking place in the spiritual world. But in the physical world also, there are reflections of what is happening in the spiritual world, but they are of an extraordinary character. When a human being descends again into physical birth, his bodily part must be reconstructed; material substance must, so to say, rush together in order that a body be created for him. For the clairvoyant, this rushing together of physical substance represents the death of consciousness in the spirit world. There it dies — here it becomes alive. In the rushing together of substance to form a physical human body can be seen, in a certain sense, the dying of a spiritual consciousness; while on the other hand, at the moment of decomposition or of the burning of the physical body, when the parts disintegrate and dissolve, the opposite actually becomes manifest in the spiritual world, that is, the awakening of a spiritual consciousness occurs. Physical dissolution is spiritual birth. Therefore all processes of decay and dissolution mean something more than just decay and dissolution to the occultist. A churchyard, spiritually observed, where physical bodies are in the process of dissolution, is the scene of remarkable processes, the continuous flashing up and glistening of spiritual birth; (I am now speaking of what is taking place spiritually in the churchyard itself apart from the human beings there).
Let us imagine for example that a person were to give himself up physically to a certain training — naturally no one would recommend this, for the present physical body could not possibly endure it — to a schooling in which he would train his body to breathe in putrified air for a certain prescribed length of time with the conscious intent of taking in the spiritual processes which have just been described. If he does this in the proper way, then in his following incarnations — it cannot be done in one — he can be incarnated with that force which offers restorative and health-giving impulses. Breathing putrid air belongs to a schooling which gradually gives strength to the spittle, when mixed with the ordinary earth, to become the healing substance which the Christ rubbed upon the eyes of the blind man. This mystery through which a person consumes, eats, or inhales death, by which he acquires the power to heal, is the mystery to which the writer of the Gospel refers when he describes such signs as the healing of the man born blind. Instead of declaring without cessation that such and such a thing should be interpreted to mean thus and so, it would be much better were people to learn that such a thing as is described in the healing of the blind man is literally true, that it exists, and that it is possible to have respect for such a personality as the writer of the Gospel and be able to say: “There was such a person who was thoroughly initiated into this mystery about which we must try to acquire an understanding.”
It was, moreover, necessary to call attention beforehand to the fact that we are here in an anthroposophical group in which many prejudices have been eliminated, thus making it possible to speak of such real mysteries as the insalivation of the Earth's soil for healing purposes, and to say that such an incident has a literal significance.
However, let us now try to comprehend how, by knowing these facts, we unite with the idea that occupies us today, namely, that the Christ is the Spirit of the Earth and that the Earth is His Body. We have seen the Christ spiritualizing the etheric element in one instance and have seen Him giving up something of Himself in order to perform the miracle we arc considering. Now let us consider something else. Besides what has been said today, let us take what the Christ Himself said: “The most profound mystery of My being is the I AM, and the true and eternal might of the I AM or of the ego which has the force to permeate other bodies must flow into human beings. It dwells within the Earth Spirit.” Let us hold this clearly in mind and take very earnestly, quite seriously, the fact that, because the Christ wishes to bestow the true ego upon every human soul, He will awaken the God in it and gradually enkindle the Spirit of the Lord and King in everyone. What does this signify? We have here nothing more nor less than the fact that the Christ brings to expression, in the highest sense, the idea of karma, the karmic law. For when anyone fully understands the idea of karma, he will understand it in this Christian sense. It means that no man should set himself up as a judge of the inner soul of another human being. Unless the idea of karma has been understood in this way, it has not been grasped in its deepest significance. When one man judges another, the one is always placing the other under the compulsion of his own ego. However, if a person really believes in the “I AM” in the Christian sense, he will not judge. He will say: “I know that karma is the great adjuster. Whatever you may have done, I do not judge it!”
Let us suppose that a transgressor is brought before a person who really understands the Christ-Word. What will be his attitude toward the transgressor? Let us suppose that all those who would like to be Christians were to accuse him of a terrible sin. The real Christian would say to them: “Whether what you maintain has been done by him or not makes no difference: the I AM must be respected; it must be left to karma, to the great law which is the law of the Christ-Spirit Himself. Karma is fulfilled in the course of earthly evolution. We can leave it to this earthly evolution to determine what punishment karma shall inflict upon a human being.” He would perhaps turn to the Earth and say to the accusers: — “Pay heed to yourselves; it is the duty of the Earth to inflict the punishment. Let us inscribe it then upon the Earth, where it has, moreover, been registered as karma.”
Jesus went up to the Mount of Olives.
And early in the morning He came again into the temple and all the people came unto Him and He sat down and taught them.
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery; and they placed her in their midst.
They said unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned; but what sayest Thou?
This they said, tempting Him, that they might accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.
So when they continued asking Him, He lifted Himself up and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
But when they heard this, being convicted by their own conscience, they went out one by one, beginning at the eldest even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
When Jesus had lifted Himself up and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?
This He said in order to turn her thoughts away from all idea of outer judgment and point to an inner karma.
She said, No man, Lord.
She was left to her karma. Thus the only thing for her was to think no more about “punishment” which karma fulfills, but to change her life.
And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Thus we see that the idea of karma is bound up with the idea of the Christ in its deepest sense, is connected with the very significance of His Being for the Earth. “If you have understood my Being, then you have comprehended also Him whose Being I express and know that the I AM brings compensation.” The impulse to independence and an inner completion is what the Christ has given to mankind.
Humanity has not even today attained a very great understanding of true, esoteric Christianity. However, when men learn to understand what is to be found in such a writing as the Gospel of St. John they will by degrees take into themselves the Impulse present in it. Then in a far distant future, the Christian ideal will be accomplished.
Thus we see that in the post-Atlantean period the first impulse for developing the higher man flows into the Earth. Tomorrow we shall become acquainted with the evolution of the human being in his relation to the Christ Impulse here in this post-Atlantean period and then, proceeding further, we shall show what the Christ of the future will be.