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.


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