As the new Age of Consciousness proceeds, it grows less and less possible for Michael to connect himself with the existence of mankind in general. Intellectuality has become human and is now entering humanity. From it the Imaginative conceptions, which could reveal to man the Divine Being and Intelligence in the Cosmos, are vanishing. The possibility for Michael himself to approach man begins only with the last third of the nineteenth century. Before that time it was only possible by those paths which were sought for in the true Rosicrucian sense.
With his own budding intellectuality, man looks out into Nature. He sees there a physical and etheric world, in which he himself is not contained. Through the great ideas of men such as Copernicus and Galileo, he attains a picture of the world external to man. But he loses the picture of himself. When he gazes on himself he has no possibility of reaching any insight as to what he truly is.
In the depths of his being, that which is destined to bear and sustain his intelligence is being awakened in him. With this, his ego becomes united. Thus man now bears a threefold nature within him: first, in his spirit-and-soul being, manifesting as physical-etheric, that which originated once upon a time, in the old Saturn and Sun epochs, and then ever and again placed him within the kingdom of the Divine-Spiritual. It is here that the Human Being and the Michael Being go together. Secondly, man bears within him his later physical and etheric nature, that which evolved in him during the Moon and Earth epochs. All this is the work and active working of the Divine-Spiritual. But the Divine-Spiritual itself is no longer living and present within it. It only becomes fully living and present once more when Christ passes through the Mystery of Golgotha. In that which is at work spiritually in the physical and etheric body of man, Christ can indeed be found.
Thirdly, man has within him that part of his soul and spirit which received new being in the Moon and Earth epochs. Here Michael has remained active (whereas in the part of man that is inclined toward the Moon and Earth, he has become more and more inactive.) In the former Michael has preserved, for man, his picture of Man and the Gods together.
He was able to do this until the dawn of the new age of Consciousness — the age of the Spiritual Soul. Then the spirit and soul of man sank down, as it were, entirely in the physical-etheric nature, in order to draw forth from there the Spiritual Soul.
Radiantly there arose in the consciousness of man what his physical and his etheric body could tell him about the physical and etheric in the world of Nature. And what his astral body and ego had been able to tell him about himself vanished away from his vision.
In the age which now began, there arose in man the feeling that with his own insight he could no longer reach himself. Thus there began a search for knowledge of the human being. Man could no longer find satisfaction for this quest in what the present was able to provide. He went back to earlier ages of history. Humanism arose in the evolution of the spiritual life. Humanism became the object of men's striving, not because they had grasped Man in his essential nature, but because they had lost him. As long as they possessed this knowledge, Erasmus of Rotterdam and others would have worked from a trend of soul quite different from anything that Humanism could give them.
In Faust, Goethe discovered at a later time a figure representative of the man who had completely lost hold of his essential being.
This quest of the human being grows more and more intense as time goes on. For man has now no other alternative: he must either make himself blunt and insensitive as regards his own being, or else the longing for it must come forth as an essential element in his soul's life.
Right into the nineteenth century, the best minds in the spiritual life of Europe evolve ideas in the most varied fields and in the most different ways — ideas historical, scientific, philosophical, mystical, all of which represent the striving to find, in what has now become an intellectualistic world-conception, the human being himself.
Renaissance, spiritual rebirth, humanism, are striving restlessly — even tempestuously — for a spiritual element in a direction in which it is not to be found. And, in the direction in which it should be sought, there is impotence, illusion, bewilderment of consciousness. And yet everywhere — in Art, in Knowledge — the Michael-forces are breaking through into the human being, though not as yet into the newly growing forces of the Spiritual Soul. It is a critical time for the spiritual life. Michael turns all his forces toward the past in cosmic evolution so that he may gain the power to hold the ‘Dragon’ balanced and constrained beneath his feet. It is under these mighty exertions of Michael that the great creations of the Renaissance are born. Yet they still only represent a renewal by Michael of Intellectual or Mind-Soul forces. They are not yet a working of the new soul-forces.
We can behold Michael filled with anxiety. Will he really be able to master the ‘Dragon’ in the long run? He perceives human beings in one region trying to gain a picture of Man out of the newly acquired picture of Nature. He sees how they observe Nature and then seek to form a picture of Man from what they call the ‘Laws of Nature.’ He sees them forming their conceptions: — ‘This animal quality becomes more perfect, that system of organs more harmonious, and man “arises”!’ But before the spirit-gaze of Michael man does not arise. For in effect, what is thus thought of as being harmonized, perfected, is there only in thought. No one can see it evolving in reality, for nowhere does this happen in actual fact.
And so, with these their conceptions about Man, men live in empty pictures, in illusions. They are forever running after a picture of Man which they only imagine that they have, while in real truth there is nothing in their field of vision. ‘The power of the spiritual Sun shines upon their souls. Christ Himself is working; but they are not yet able to perceive His presence. The power of the Spiritual Soul holds sway in the body; but it still will not enter into their souls.’ That is approximately the inspiration one can hear of what Michael says in great anxiety. Is it possible that the forces of illusion in man will give the ‘Dragon’ so much power that it will be impossible for Michael to maintain the balance?
Other persons try with more inward artistic power to feel Nature at one with man. Mighty are the words in which Goethe described Winkelmann's work in a beautiful book: ‘When the healthy nature of man acts as a whole, when he feels himself in the world as in a great, beautiful, majestic and worthy whole, when harmonious ease gives him pure, free delight; then would the Universe, if it were conscious of itself, shout aloud for joy, as having reached its goal, and marvel at the climax of its own development and being.’ That which stimulated Lessing with fiery spirit, and ensouled Herder's wide outlook on the world, rings out in these words of Goethe. And the whole of Goethe's own work is like a many-sided revelation of these his own words. In his ‘Aesthetic Letters’ Schiller has described an ideal human being who, in the sense described in the above words, bears the Universe within himself and realizes it in social intercourse with other human beings. But whence comes this picture of Man? It shines like the morning Sun over the Earth in spring. But it has entered into human feeling from study of the ancient Greeks. It arose in men with a strong inward Michael-impulse; but they could give form to this impulse only by turning the mind's eye to days of yore. When Goethe wished to experience ‘Man,’ he felt himself in the greatest conflict with the Spiritual Soul. He sought for Man in Spinoza's philosophy; but only during his tour in Italy, when he studied the nature of Greek art, did he feel that he had a glimpse of him. He went away finally from the Spiritual Soul, which is striving upward in Spinoza, to the Intellectual Soul or Mind-Soul which was gradually dying out. However, with his far-reaching conception of Nature he was able to carry over an infinite amount from the Intellectual Soul into the Spiritual Soul.
Michael also looks with earnestness upon this search for Man. What is in accordance with his idea is indeed entering here into the spiritual evolution of man: — it is that human being who once beheld the Divine Being and Intelligence when Michael still ruled it from the Cosmos. But if this were not laid hold of by the spiritualized force of the Spiritual Soul it would in the end inevitably slip away from Michael's control and come under the sway of Lucifer. The other great anxiety in Michael's life is, lest in the oscillation of the cosmic spiritual state of balance Lucifer might gain the upper hand.
Michael's preparation of his Mission for the end of the nineteenth century flows on in cosmic tragedy. Below, on the Earth, there is often the greatest satisfaction in the working out of the new picture of Nature; whereas in the region where Michael works there is a tragic feeling regarding the hindrances to the coming of the picture of Man.
Formerly Michael's austere, spiritualized love lived in the Sun's rays, in the shimmering dawn, in the sparkling of the stars; this love had now acquired most strongly the note of looking down at humanity with awakening sorrow.
Michael's situation in the cosmos became tragically difficult, but it also pressed for a solution just at the period of time which preceded his earthly mission. Men were able to keep intellectuality only in the sphere of the body, and there only in the sphere of the senses. On one hand, therefore, they received into their views nothing that the senses did not tell them; Nature became the field of the revelations of the senses, considered quite materially. The forms of Nature were no longer perceived as the work of the Divine-Spiritual but as something devoid of spirit, and yet something of which it is affirmed that it brings forth that spiritual element in which man lives. On the other hand, as regards a Spirit-world, men would now accept only what the historical accounts narrated. Direct vision of the Spirit working in the past was discredited, as was the vision of the Spirit in the present.
In the soul of man there now lived only that which came from the sphere of the present, which Michael does not enter. Man was glad to stand on ‘sure’ ground. He believed he possessed this because in ‘Nature’ he sought no thoughts, in which he might have had to fear the presence of arbitrary fancies. But Michael was not glad. In his own sphere, beyond man, he had to wage war with Lucifer and Ahriman. This resulted in tragic difficulty, because Lucifer is able to approach man the more easily, the more Michael — who indeed also preserves the past — is obliged to keep himself away from man. And thus a severe battle for man took place between Michael and Ahriman and Lucifer in the spiritual world immediately bordering upon the Earth, while on the Earth itself man kept his soul in action against what was beneficial to his evolution.
All this applies of course to the spiritual life of Europe and America. We should have to speak differently with respect to that of Asia.
Further Leading Thoughts issued from the Goetheanum for the Anthroposophical Society (in connection with the above Third Study: Michael's suffering over human evolution before the time of his earthly activity)
134. In the very earliest time of the evolution of the Spiritual Soul, man began to feel that he had lost the picture of Humanity — the picture of his own Being — which had formerly been given to him in Imagination. Powerless as yet to find it in the Spiritual Soul, he sought for it by way of Natural Science or of History. He wanted the ancient picture of Humanity to arise in him again.
135. Man reaches no fulfillment in this way. Far from becoming filled with the true being of Humanity, he is only led into illusions. But he is unaware that they are so; he thinks they have real power to sustain Humanity.
136. Thus, in the time that went before his working upon Earth, Michael had to witness with anxiety and suffering the evolution of mankind. For in this time men eschewed any real contemplation of the Spirit, and thus they severed all the links that connected them with Michael.
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