Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Working Together of the Four Archangels in the Course of the Year

  Diagram 2
The Four Seasons and the Archangels. Lecture 5 of 5.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, October 13, 1923:
During the last few days I have brought before you the four cosmic Imaginations which can be called up through an intimate human experience of the seasons of the year. If we are to arrive at an understanding of the whole place and situation of man in the world, we must seek it through the working together of the beings who appear in conjunction with these imaginative pictures. And here I would like first to say something by way of introduction.

If we open our souls to the impressions which may come to us from the content of these pictures, then at the same time there will come to us much that has been experienced in the course of human evolution as an echo of old, instinctive clairvoyance; today this is sometimes treated historically, but fundamentally it is not understood. Real poets and spiritually inspired persons lay hold of these often wonderful voices which sound from the traditions of the past, and make use of them just when they wish to express their highest and greatest conceptions. But even then they are very little understood. So in the first part of Faust there rings out a wonderful saying which is scarcely at all understood, though it is quoted often enough. It occurs when Faust, having opened the book of Nostradamus, comes upon the sign of the Macrocosm:

Wie alles sich zum Ganzen webt,
Eins in dem andern wirkt und lebt!
Wie Himmelskräfte auf- und niedersteigen
Und sich die goldnen Eimer reichen,
Mit segenduftenden Schwingen
Vom Himmel durch die Erde dringen,
Harmonisch all das All durchklingen

How each the Whole its substance gives,
each in the other works and lives!
See heavenly forces rising and descending,
their golden urns reciprocally lending:
on wings that winnow sweet blessing
from heaven through the Earth they're pressing,
to fill the All with harmonies caressing.

From the translation of Faust: Part One, by Bayard Taylor, revised and edited by Stuart Atkins.

A magnificent picture — but if one knows Goethe one must say that it is real to him only through his feelings. For what Goethe has evidently drawn from his reading of old traditions and his feeling for them — all this stands in its full significance before our souls only if we have in mind the four great cosmic Imaginations, as I described them to you — the Autumn Imagination of Michael, the Christmas Imagination of Gabriel, the Easter Imagination of Raphael, and the Midsummer, St. John's Day, Imagination of Uriel. You must really picture to yourselves how from all these beings — Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Michael — forces stream out through the cosmos and as formative forces stream again into man. In order to understand this, we must see how man stands within the cosmos in — I might almost call it — a purely material way.

In this connection there is very little understanding, unfortunately, for how things really are. For example, medical textbooks always describe how man breathes in oxygen from the air and how the carbon within him takes up the oxygen; this process is then compared with external combustion, in which all sorts of external substances combine with oxygen. The whole process in the human organism, whereby oxygen is taken up by carbon, is then called combustion.

All this is said because one essential fact is not known: the fact that all external substances and processes become different directly they enter into the human organism. Anyone who speaks of this peculiar combination of oxygen with carbon in man and thinks of it as combustion is talking in just the same way as if someone said: “There is no need for a man to have two living lungs; he could equally well have a pair of stones suspended inside him.” That is more or less how these people talk in speaking of the combustion of oxygen and carbon within the human organism.

Everything that takes place externally in nature is different as soon as it enters a human being. No process within the human organism takes place in the same way as in outer nature. A flame that burns externally is dead fire; that which corresponds to it within the human being is flame living and ensouled: Just as a stove stands toward a lung, so does the external flame stand toward the living activity that goes on in the human organism when carbon unites with oxygen there — a process which, viewed externally, is indeed combustion in chemical terms. All spiritual progress at the present day depends on our being able to grasp these things in the right way. Suppose you take salt with your food, or eat some albumen or anything else: people assume that it remains just the same substance within you as it was outside. That is not true. Whatever enters the human being becomes different immediately. And the forces which make it different proceed in a quite definite way from those beings whom I have pictured in the four Imaginations.

Plate V
Plate V

Let us recall the last picture: how at St. John's-tide, Uriel hovers in the heights, weaving his body out of golden light in the golden radiance of the Sun (see Plate V, red.) As I told you, we must picture him with grave, judicial eyes, for his gaze is directed down toward the crystal realm of the Earth, and he sees how little are human errors compatible with the abstract but nonetheless shining beauty of the crystallization process that goes on below the surface of the Earth. That is the reason for his gravely judging gaze, as he looks down and compares human errors with the living activity in the crystals of the Earth.

I spoke also of Uriel's gesture as a warning gesture, indicating to humans what they ought to do. It calls upon them, if they understand it rightly, to transform their faults into virtues. For up above in the clouds appear the shining pictures of beauty, woven out of the Sun-gold, and they are pictures of all that by dint of virtue humanity has achieved.

Now, from the being who has to be described in this way — and can be described in no other way — there proceed forces which work directly in humans, but have also a characteristic further effect. All that I am depicting goes on in high summer. The Uriel being, however, is not at rest, but in majestic movement. This must be so, for when it is summer with us, it is winter in the opposite hemisphere, and Uriel is there in the heights. We must picture this clearly, so that if we have the Earth here (see sketch), Uriel appears to us in summer, and then follows a course which brings him after six months to the other side. Then it is winter with us. While Uriel descends (yellow arrow) and while his forces are thus coming to us from a descending line, summer with us passes over into winter, and then Uriel is over the other hemisphere. But the Earth does not hinder his forces from coming to us; they penetrate through the forces which come to us directly from above (red arrows), seeking to permeate us with the Sun-gold of summer, penetrate right through the Earth in winter and permeate us as an ascending stream (red) from the other side.

Diagram 1

If we bring before our souls the midsummer working of Uriel through nature into humans— for his activity works into the forces of nature — we must picture the forces of Uriel streaming out in the cosmos, raying into the clouds, the rain, the thunder and lightning, and raying also into the growth of plants. In winter, after Uriel has made his way around the Earth, his forces stream up through the Earth and come to rest in our heads. And then these forces, which at other times are outside in nature, have the effect of making us citizens of the cosmos. For they actually cause an image of the cosmos to arise in our heads, illuminating us so that we become possessors of human wisdom.

We speak rightly if we say: Uriel makes his descent as summer passes through autumn into winter. Then in winter he begins to re-ascend, and from this descending and ascending power of Uriel we get the inner forces of our heads. Thus Uriel works in nature at midsummer, and during the winter season he works in the human head, so that in this connection man is truly a microcosm over against the macrocosm.

We understand the human being only if we place him in the world not merely as a being of nature, but as a spiritual being. And just as we can follow the forces of Uriel and see how they stream into man through the course of the year, so must we do with Raphael, who pours his forces into the forces of nature in spring, as I have described. I had to show you how the Easter Imagination is completed through the teaching that Raphael, the great cosmic physician, can give to humankind. For precisely when we allow all that Raphael brings about, working in the springtime forces of nature as Uriel does in summer — when we allow all this to work on us at Easter through the spiritual hearing of Inspiration, then we have the crowning of all the truths of healing for mankind.

But the springtime activity of Raphael travels around the Earth, as Uriel does. In terms of the cosmos Uriel is the spirit of summer; he moves around the Earth and in winter creates the inner forces of the human head. Raphael is the spirit of spring, and in autumn, as he travels around the Earth, he engenders the forces of human breathing. Hence we can say: While during autumn Michael is the cosmic spirit up above, the cosmic Archangel, at Michaelmas Raphael works in human beings — Raphael who is active in the whole human breathing-system, regulating it and giving it his blessing. And we shall form a true picture of autumn only if on the one hand, up above, we have the powerful Michael-Imagination, with the sword forged from meteoric iron, his garment woven out of Sun-gold and shot through with the Earth's silver-sparkling radiance, while Raphael below is working in us, aware of every breath that is drawn, of everything that flows from the lungs into the heart and from the heart through the whole circulation of the blood. Thus we learn to recognize in ourself the healing forces which play through the cosmos in the Raphael-time of spring, if in autumn, when the rays of Raphael pass through the Earth, we come to know how Raphael is active in human breathing.

For this is a great secret: all the healing forces reside originally in the human breathing system. And anyone who understands truly the circuit of the breath knows the healing forces from the human side. They do not reside in the other systems of the human organism; these other systems have themselves to be healed.

Look back and see what I have said about education: the breathing system comes specially into activity between the ages of seven and fourteen. There are great possibilities of illness during the first seven years of life, and again after fourteen; they are relatively least during the period when the breath pulses through the body with the help of the etheric body. A secret activity of healing resides in the breathing system, and all the secrets of healing are at the same time secrets of breathing. And this is connected with the fact that the workings of Raphael, which are cosmic in spring, permeate the whole mystery of human breathing in autumn.

We have learnt to know Gabriel as the Christmas Archangel. He is then the cosmic Spirit; we have to look up above to find him. During the summer Gabriel carries into humans all that is effected by the plastic, formative forces of nourishment. At midsummer they are carried into man by the Gabriel forces, after Gabriel has descended from his cosmic activity during the winter to his human activity in summer, when his forces stream through the Earth and it is winter on the other side.

And when at last we come to Michael, we have him as the cosmic Spirit in autumn. He is then at his highest; he has reached his cosmic culmination. Then he begins his descent; in spring his forces penetrate up through the Earth and live in all that comes to expression in man as movement and the power of will, enabling him to walk and work and take hold of things.

Now bring before you the complete picture. First, the summer picture at the time of St. John: up above, the grave countenance of Uriel, with his judicial look, his warning mien and gesture — and, drawing near to humans and permeating them, the mild and loving gaze of Gabriel, Gabriel with his gesture of blessing. So during summer we have the working together of Uriel in the cosmos, Gabriel on the human side.

If we pass on to autumn, we have the — I will not say commanding, but rather the guiding — look of Michael. For if we see it in the right light, Michael's gaze is like a pointing finger, as though wishing not to look into itself, but to look outward into the world. Michael's gaze is positive, active. And his sword forged out of cosmic iron is held so that at the same time his hand points out to us our way. That is the picture up above.

Below, in autumn, is Raphael, with deeply thoughtful gaze, who brings to mankind the healing forces which he has first — one might say — kindled in the cosmos. Raphael, with deep wisdom in his gaze, leaning on the staff of Mercury, supported by the inner forces of the Earth. Thus we have the working together of Michael in the cosmos, Raphael on Earth.

Now we go on to winter. Gabriel is then the cosmic Angel; Gabriel up above, with his mild and loving look and his gesture of benediction, weaving his garment of snow in the clouds of winter. And below, Uriel, with his grave judgment and warning, at the side of humans: the positions are reversed.

And as we come around again to spring, up above we find Raphael, with his deeply thoughtful gaze; with the staff of Mercury which now in the airy heights has become something like a fiery serpent, a serpent of shining fire, no longer resting on the Earth, but as though held forth, using the forces of the air, mingling and combining fire, water, and earth, so as to transmute them into healing forces, working and weaving in the cosmos.

And below, quite specially visible, is Michael, coming to meet mankind, with his positive gaze; a gaze that shows the way, as it were, into the world and would gladly draw the eyes of human beings in the same direction, as he stands close to mankind, the complement of Raphael, in spring.

So there, you see, are the pictures:

Winter: Gabriel above, Uriel below
Spring: Raphael above, Michael below
Summer: Uriel above, Gabriel below
Autumn: Michael above, Raphael below

Now let us take the words which have come down through the ages like an old magical saying and were used again by Goethe:

Wie alles sich zum Ganzen webt,
Eins in dem andren wirkt und lebt!

Yes, indeed, Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael work together, one working in the other, living in the other, and when the human being is placed in the universe as a being of spirit, soul, and body, these forces work magically in us. And how far-reaching is the truth in these words, how far they go! Think what they mean:

Wie alles sich zum Ganzen webt,
Eins in dem andern wirkt und lebt!
Wie Himmelskräfte auf- und niedersteigen

— rising and descending! And then the lines that follow:

Und sich die goldnen Eimer reichen,
Mit segenduftenden Schwingen
Vom Himmel durch die Erde dringen,
Harmonisch all das All durchlingen!

Remember how in yesterday's lecture I spoke of it all passing over from plastic form into musical sound, universally resounding harmony.

I cannot tell you what I felt when this stood before my soul and I read again these lines by Goethe: vom Himmel durch die Erde dringen! This durch — it can shake one profoundly, for that is just how it is — it is true! It is staggering to realize that these words ring through the world like a peal of bells and are regarded as poetic licence or something of the sort — or as words that anyone might write in letters or articles. It is not so. These are words which correspond to a cosmic fact. It is really shattering to read these words in the context of Goethe's Faust and to know how true they are.

Now we will go further. We have seen how the heavenly Powers with golden pinions — the Archangels — permeate the universe in harmony, working and living in one another. But that is not all.

Let us look at Gabriel, who draws nutritive forces out of the cosmos and carries them into human beings at midsummer. These forces are active in the human metabolic system.

Raphael rules in the breathing system. And now Gabriel and Raphael, as they ascend and descend, work together in such a way that Gabriel passes up into the breathing system those forces of his which are otherwise active in human nutrition, and there they become healing forces. Gabriel hands on the nourishment to Raphael, and it then becomes a means of healing. When that which is otherwise only a nutritive process in the human organism is interwoven with the secret of breathing, it becomes a healing force.

We must indeed observe carefully the transformation which external substances undergo in the nutritive system itself; then we come to recognize the significance of the Gabriel forces, the nutritive forces, in the human being. But these forces are led over into the breathing system. And in working on further there, they become not only a means of quenching hunger and thirst, and not only restorative forces: they turn into forces for the inward correction of illness. The transmuted nutritive forces become healing forces. Anyone who understands nutrition correctly, understands the first stage of healing. If he knows what salt should do in a healthy person, then, if he allows the metamorphosis from the Gabriel-way to the Raphael-way to work on him, he will know how salt can act as a means of healing, in this or that case. The healing forces within us are metamorphoses of the nutritive forces. Raphael receives the golden vessel of nutrition from Gabriel; it is passed on to him.

Diagram 2
And now we come to a secret, familiar in early times but entirely lost today. Anyone who can read Hippocrates, or, if he cannot read Galen, can still gather something from him, will notice that, in Hippocrates, and even in Galen, those old physicians, there survived something of what is really a great human secret. The forces that prevail in our breathing system are healing forces; they are healing us continually. But when these breathing forces rise into the head, the healing forces become spiritual forces, active in sense-perception and in thinking. Here is the secret that was known at one time; the secret that is almost explicit in Hippocrates and can at least be drawn out of Galen. Thought, perception, the inner spiritual life of man, are a higher metamorphosis of therapy, the healing process; and when the healing element in the breathing system, which lies between the head and the digestive system, is driven further up, as it were, it becomes the material foundation for the spiritual life of man.

So we can say: The thought which flashes through the human head is really a transmutation of the healing impulses that reside in the various substances. Hence if a man sees truly into the heart of this, and has some healing salt-substance, let us say, in his hand, or some remedial plant-substance, he can look at it and say: Here is a beneficent healing force which I can give to someone in accordance with their need. But if this substance penetrates into the person and passes beyond the realm of breathing, so that it works in their head, it becomes the material bearer of the power of thought: Raphael then hands on his vessel to Uriel.

Why does a remedy heal? Because it is on the way to the spirit. And if one knows how far on the way to the spirit a remedy is, one knows its healing power. The spirit cannot of itself lay hold directly on the earthly in the human being; but the lower stage of the spirit is a therapeutic force.

And just as Gabriel passes on to Raphael the nutritive forces, to be transmuted into forces of healing — in other words, he passes on his golden vessel — and just as Raphael passes on his golden vessel to Uriel, whereby the healing forces are made into the forces of thought, so it is Michael who receives from Uriel the thought-forces, and through the power of cosmic iron, out of which his sword is forged, transforms these thought-forces into forces of will, so that in the human being they become the forces of movement.

Hence we have this second picture: Uriel, Raphael, Gabriel, Michael, ascending and descending; Uriel and Gabriel, let us say, working in one another, but also working with one another, one giving his possession to the other, so that it can work on further in him. We see how the heavenly Powers rise and descend, passing to one another golden vessels — the golden vessels of nourishment, of healing, of the forces of thought and of movement. So these golden vessels move on from one Archangel to another, while at the same time each Archangel works with the other in cosmic harmony.

And again in Faust we find:

Wie Himmelskräfte auf- und niedersteigen
Und sich die goldnen Eimer reichen!

True indeed, down to the very word “golden,” for these things are woven out of the Sun-gold radiating from Uriel, as I described yesterday.

Goethe had of course read the old saying to which he then gave poetic expression, and it made a tremendous impression on him. But the meaning I have been able to picture for you here — that he did not know. It is just this which staggers one — to find that when out of a certain poetic feeling a spirit such as Goethe's takes hold of something handed down from old traditions, it so incredibly reflects the truth! This is the splendid thing that unites us, if we are cultivating spiritual science today and these things are revealed to us: when we truly see how Uriel and Raphael and Michael and Gabriel are working together, and how they really do pass on to one another their own particular forces. If we first see this for ourselves and then, having perhaps come across indirectly an ancient saying, through Goethe in this case, we let it work upon us, we see how an old instinctive truth — no matter whether mythical or legendary — was at one time widely current in the world. And then times change, and in our own time we see how the ancient truth has to be raised to a higher level.

O Hippocrates — it is all the same whether we now give the name of Raphael, or Mercury, or Hermes to the one who stood at his side — this Hippocrates lived at a time when twilight was falling over the knowledge of this working together of Gabriel, Raphae,l and Uriel, and of how the healing forces in the human organism lie between the thoughts and the nutritive forces. This was the source from which an ancient instinctive wisdom drew those wonderful old remedies which in fact are always being renewed. Today they are found among so-called primitive folk, and people cannot imagine how they have been come by. All this is connected with the fact that a primeval wisdom was once possessed by humankind.

But now there must really be a problem left in your minds. It is this: If you take everything I have put before you — how for example the Raphael forces are active in spring, and in autumn are carried over by Raphael into the inwardness of the breathing system — you must have been led to suppose that man is entirely bound up with the working of the forces of the cosmos through the course of the year. Originally, indeed, that is how it was. But because man is a being who remembers, so that an outer experience is preserved in memory and after days or years can be relived as an inner experience, so these truths remain entirely valid for the cosmos — but a man does not inwardly experience the Raphael force in his breathing system only in the autumn, but on through the winter, summer and spring. A kind of memory of it, more substantial than ordinary memory, remains.

So while things are arranged in the way I have described, their effects are active in human beings throughout the year. As an experience remains fixed in the memory, so these effects continue all through the year; otherwise man could not be a uniformly developing being all the year 'round. In physical life, one person forgets more readily, or less readily, than another. But the influence Raphael has implanted in our breathing system during the autumn would disappear by the following autumn when Raphael came again. Until then this nature-memory in the breathing organ remains active, but then it has to be renewed.

So is man placed in the course of nature; he is not excluded from the way the world goes, but planted in the midst of it. But he is placed there in yet another way. It is true that man, standing here on Earth, enclosed within his skin, with his organs embedded in his body, feels himself somewhat isolated in the cosmos, for the connections I have described are indeed full of mystery. But this is not so when man is a being only of spirit and soul — in his pre-earthly existence, for example. Between death and a new birth he lives in a realm of spirit; his soul gazes down not at an individual human body — it chooses this in the course of time — but at the whole Earth, and indeed at the Earth in connection with the whole planetary system, and with all the interwoven activities of Raphael, Uriel, Gabriel, Michael. In that realm, one is looking at oneself from outside.

It is there that the door opens for the entry of souls who are returning from pre-earthly to earthly life. It opens only during the period from the end of December to the beginning of spring, when Gabriel hovers above as cosmic Archangel, while below at man's side is Uriel, carrying cosmic forces into the human head. In the course of these three months the souls who are to be embodied during the whole year come down from the cosmos toward the Earth. They remain waiting there until an opportunity occurs in the Earth's planetary sphere: even the souls who will be born in October, let us say, are already within the Earth sphere, awaiting their birth. Much, very much, depends on whether a soul, after it has entered the Earth sphere and is already in touch with it, has to wait for its earthly embodiment. One soul has a longer wait; another, a shorter one.

The particular secret here is that — just as, for example, the fructifying seed enters the ovum at only one spot — the heavenly seeds enters into the whole yearly being of the Earth only when Gabriel rules above as the cosmic Angel, with his mild, loving look and gesture of benediction, while below is Uriel, with judicial gaze and warning gesture. That is the time when the Earth is impregnated with souls. It is the time when the Earth has its mantle of snow and surrenders to its crystallizing forces; then man can be united with the Earth as the thinking earth-body in the cosmos. Then the souls pass out of the cosmos and assemble, as it were, in the Earth sphere. That is the annual impregnation of the Earth's seasonal being.

To all these things we come, if we have insight not only into the physical aspect of the cosmos, but into the activities of those cosmic beings I have described for you in the four pictures. And if we have arrived at that, we can find in many a poem some indications of the cosmic creative activity, for it is there in the world:

Wie alles sich zum Ganzen webt
Eins in dem andem wirkt und lebt!
Wie Himmelskräfte auf- und niedersteigen
Und sich die goldnen Eimer reichen,
Mit segenduftenden Schwingen
Von Himmel durch die Erde dringen,
Harmonisch all das All durchklingen!

In these very words we can discern something of that wonderful working together of the four Archangel beings who, in conjunction with the forces of nature, permeate and animate the bodily nature, the soul and the spirit in human beings — working in one another, working with one another.

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