Our study of the Michael Mystery was irradiated by thoughts of the Mystery of Golgotha. For, in effect, Michael is the Power who leads man toward the Christ along the true way of man's salvation.
But the Michael Mission is one of those that are repeated again and again in rhythmical succession in the cosmic evolution of mankind. In its beneficial influence on earthly mankind it was repeated before the Mystery of Golgotha. It was connected in that time with all the active revelations which the Christ-Force — as yet external to the Earth — had to pour down to the Earth for the unfolding of mankind. After the Mystery of Golgotha, the Michael Mission enters the service of what must now be achieved in earthly humanity through Christ Himself. In its repetitions, the Michael Mission now appears in a changed and ever-progressing form. The point is that it appears in repetitions.
The Mystery of Golgotha, on the other hand, is an all embracing World-event, taking place once only in the whole course of the cosmic evolution of mankind.
It was only when humanity had reached the unfolding of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul that the ever-continued danger which was there potentially from the beginning — the danger lest humanity's existence should become severed from the existence of the Divine-Spiritual — made itself fully felt.
And in the same manner in which the soul of man loses the conscious experience in and with the Divine-Spiritual Beings, there emerges around him that which we today call ‘Nature.’ Man no longer sees the essence and being of Humanity in the Divine-Spiritual Cosmos; he sees the accomplished work of the Divine-Spiritual in this earthly realm. To begin with, however, he sees it not in the abstract form in which it is seen today — not as physically sensible events and entities held together by those abstract ideal contents which we call ‘Natural Laws.’ To begin with, he sees it still as Divine-Spiritual Being — Divine-Spiritual Being surging up and down in all that he perceives around him, in the birth and decay of living animals, in the springing and sprouting of the plant-world, in the activity of water-wells and rivers, in cloud and wind and weather. All these processes of being around him represent to him the gestures, deeds, and speech of the Divine Being at the foundation of ‘Nature.’
Once upon a time, man had seen in the constellations and movements of the stars the deeds and gestures of the Divine Beings of the Cosmos, whose words he was thus able to read in the heavens. In like manner, the ‘facts of Nature’ now became for him an expression of the Goddess of the Earth. For the Divinity at work in Nature was conceived as feminine.
Far down into the Middle Ages, the relics of this mode of conception were still at work in the souls of men, filling the Intellectual or Mind-Soul with an Imaginative content.
When men of knowledge wanted to bring the ‘processes of Nature’ to the understanding of their pupils, they spoke of the deeds of the ‘Goddess.’ It was only with the gradual dawn of the Spiritual Soul that this living study of Nature, filled as it was with inner soul, grew unintelligible to mankind.
The way in which men looked in this direction in the age of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul is reminiscent of the Myth of Persephone and of the mystery that underlies it.
Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, is compelled by the God of the Underworld to follow him into his kingdom. Eventually it is achieved that she spends one-half of the year only in the Nether world and dwells for the remainder of the year in the Upper world.
This Myth of Persephone was still a great and wonderful expression of the way in which Man, in an age of immemorial antiquity, had perceived and known the evolutionary process of the Earth in dream-like clairvoyance.
In primeval times all the world-creative activity had proceeded from the surroundings of the Earth. The Earth itself was only in process of becoming, and moulded its existence in cosmic evolution from out of the activities of the surrounding world. The Divine-Spiritual Beings of the Cosmos were the creators and moulders of the Earth's existence. But when the Earth was far enough advanced to become an independent heavenly body, Divine-Spiritual Being descended from the great Cosmos to the Earth and became the Earth-Divinity. This cosmic fact the dream-like clairvoyance of primeval mankind had seen and known; and of such knowledge the Myth of Persephone remained — but not only this. For indeed, far down even into the Middle Ages, the way in which men sought to know and penetrate into ‘Nature’ was still a relic of the same ancient knowledge. It was not yet as in these later times, when men only see according to their sense-impressions, i.e., according to that which appears on the surface of the Earth. They still saw according to the forces that work upward to the surface from the depths of the Earth. And these ‘forces of the depths’ — the ‘forces of the Nether world’ — they saw in mutual interplay with the influences of the stars and elements working from the Earth's environment.
The plants in their varied forms grow forth, revealing themselves in many-colored glory. Therein are at work the forces of Sun and Moon and stars, together with the forces of the Earth's depths. The ground and foundation for this is given in the minerals, whose existence is entirely conditioned by that part of the cosmic Beings which has become earthly. Through those heavenly forces alone, which have become earthly, rock and stone shoot forth out of the Nether world. The animal kingdom, on the other hand, has not assumed the forces of the earthly depths. It comes into being through those world-forces alone which are at work from the surroundings of the Earth. It owes its growth, development, and surging life, its powers of nutrition, its possibilities of movement, to the Sun-forces streaming down to the Earth. And under the influence of the Moon-forces streaming down to the Earth it has the power to reproduce itself. It appears in manifold forms and species because the starry constellations are working in manifold ways from the Cosmos, shaping and moulding this animal life. The animals are, as it were, only placed down here on Earth from out the Cosmos. It is only with their dim life of consciousness that they partake in the earthly realm; with their origin, development, and growth, with all that they are in order to be able to perceive and move about, they are no earthly creatures.
This mightily conceived idea of the evolution of the Earth lived once upon a time in mankind. The greatness of the conception is scarcely recognizable any longer in the relics of it which came down to the Middle Ages. To attain this knowledge one must go back, with the true vision of the seer, into very ancient times. For even the physical documents that are extant do not reveal what was really present there in the souls of men, save to those who are able to penetrate to it by a spiritual path.
Now, man is not in a position to hold himself so much aloof from the Earth as do the animals. In saying this, we are approaching the Mystery of Humanity as well as the Mystery of the Animal Kingdom. These Mysteries were reflected in the animal cults of the ancient peoples, and above all in that of the Egyptians. They saw the animals as beings who are but guests upon the Earth, and in whom one may perceive the nature and activity of the spiritual world immediately adjoining this earthly realm. And when in pictures they portrayed the human figure in connection with the animal, they were representing to themselves the forms of those elementary, intermediate beings who, though they are indeed in cosmic evolution on the way to humanity, yet purposely refrain from entering the earthly realm, in order not to become human. For there are such elementary, intermediate beings and in picturing them the Egyptians were but reproducing what they saw. Such beings, however, have not the full self-consciousness of man, to attain to which man had to enter this earthly world so completely as to receive something of this earthly nature into his very own.
Man had to be exposed to the fact that in this earthly world, though the work of the Divine-Spiritual Beings with whom he is connected is indeed present here, yet it is only their accomplished work. And just because only the accomplished work, severed from its Divine origin, is present here, therefore the Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings have access to it. Thus it becomes necessary for man to make this realm of the Divine-accomplished work, permeated as it is by Lucifer and Ahriman, the field of action for one part — namely, the earthly part — of his life's development.
So long as man had not progressed to the unfolding of his Intellectual or Mind-Soul, this was possible without man's nature becoming permanently severed from its original Divine-Spiritual foundation. But when this point was reached, a corruption took place in man — a corruption of the physical, the etheric, and the astral bodies. To an ancient science, this corruption was known as something that was living in man's nature. It was known as a thing that was necessary in order that consciousness might advance to self-consciousness in man. In the stream of knowledge that was cultivated in the centers of learning founded by Alexander the Great, there lived an Aristotelianism which, rightly understood, contained this ‘corruption’ as an essential element in its psychology. It was only in a later time that these ideas were no longer penetrated in their inward essence.
In the ages before the evolution of his Intellectual or Mind Soul, man was, however, interwoven still with the forces of his Divine-Spiritual origin, so much so that from their cosmic field of action these forces were able to balance and hold in check the Luciferic and Ahrimanic Powers that reach out to man on Earth. And from the human side enough was done by way of cooperation to maintain the balance, in those actions of Ritual and of the Mysteries, wherein the picture was unfolded of the Divine-Spiritual Being diving down into the realm of Lucifer and Ahriman and coming forth again triumphant. Hence in times prior to the Mystery of Golgotha we find in the religious rites of different peoples pictorial representations of that which afterwards, in the Mystery of Golgotha, became reality.
When the Intellectual or Mind-Soul was unfolded, it was through the reality alone that man could continue to be preserved from being severed from the Divine-Spiritual Beings who belonged to him. The Divine had to enter inwardly as Being, even in the earthly life, into the Organization of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul which, during earthly existence, has its life from what is earthly. This took place through the Divine-Spiritual Logos, Christ, uniting His cosmic destiny with the Earth for the sake of mankind.
Persephone came down to the Earth in order to save the plant kingdom from being obliged to form itself from what belongs only to Earth. That is the descent of a Divine Spiritual Being into the Nature of the Earth. Persephone, too, has a kind of ‘resurrection.’ but this takes place annually, in rhythmical succession.
Over against this event — which is also a cosmic event occurring on the Earth — we have for Humanity the descent of the Logos. Persephone descends to bring Nature into its original direction. In this case there must be rhythm at the foundation; for the events in Nature take place rhythmically. The Logos descends into humanity. This occurs once during human evolution. For the evolution of humanity is but one part in a gigantic cosmic rhythm, in which, before the stage of man's existence, humanity was something altogether different, and in which, after this stage is passed, it will be something altogether different again; whereas the plant life repeats itself as such in shorter rhythms.
From the age of the Spiritual Soul onwards it is necessary for humanity to see the Mystery of Golgotha in this light. For already in the age of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul there would have been a danger of man being separated, if the Mystery of Golgotha had not taken place. In the age of the Spiritual Soul a complete darkening of the Spirit-world would needs come about for human consciousness if the Spiritual Soul could not strengthen itself sufficiently to look back in inward vision to its Divine-Spiritual origin. If, however, it is able to do this, it finds the cosmic Logos as the Being Who can lead it back. It fills itself with the mighty picture which reveals what took place on Golgotha.
The beginning of this understanding is the loving comprehension of the cosmic Christmas, the cosmic Initiation-Night, the festive remembrance of which is celebrated each year. For the Spiritual Soul, which first receives the element of Intellectuality, is strengthened by allowing true love to enter into this, the coldest element of soul. And the warmth of true love is there in its highest form when it goes out to the Jesus child who appears on Earth during the cosmic Initiation-Night. In this way man has allowed the highest earthly Spirit-fact, which was at the same time a physical event, to work upon his soul; he has entered upon the path by which he receives Christ into himself.
Nature must be recognized in such a way that in Persephone — or the Being who was still seen in the early Middle Ages when they spoke of ‘Nature’ — it reveals the Divine Spiritual, original and eternal Force out of which it originated and continually originates, as the foundation of earthly human existence.
The world of Man must be so recognized that in Christ it reveals the original and eternal Logos who works for the unfolding of the Spirit-being of man in the sphere of the Divine Spiritual Being bound up with man from the Beginning.
To turn the human heart in love to these great cosmic facts: this is the true content of the festival of remembrance which approaches man each year when he contemplates the cosmic Initiation-Night of Christmas. If love such as this lives in human hearts, it permeates the cold light-element of the Spiritual Soul with warmth. Were the Spiritual Soul obliged to remain without such permeation, man would never become filled with the Spirit. He would die in the cold of the intellectual consciousness; or he would have to remain in a mental life that did not progress to the unfolding of the conscious Spiritual Soul. He would then come to a stop with the unfolding of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul.
But in its essential nature the Spiritual Soul is not cold. It seems to be so only at the commencement of its unfolding, because at that stage it can only reveal the light-element in its nature, and not as yet the cosmic warmth in which it has indeed its origin.
To feel and experience Christmas in this way will enable the soul to realize how the glory of the Divine-Spiritual Beings, whose images are revealed in the stars, announces itself to man, and how man's liberation takes place, within the precincts of the Earth, from the Powers which wish to alienate him from his origin.
Further Leading Thoughts issued from the Goetheanum for the Anthroposophical Society (in connection with the foregoing Christmas Study)
137. The activity in the evolution of the World and Mankind which comes about through the forces of Michael repeats itself rhythmically, though in ever-changing and progressing forms, before the Mystery of Golgotha and after.
138. The Mystery of Golgotha is the greatest event, occurring once and for all in the evolution of mankind. Here there can be no question of a rhythmic repetition. For while the evolution of mankind also stands within a mighty cosmic rhythm, still it is one — one vast member in a cosmic rhythm. Before it became this One, mankind was something altogether different from mankind; afterwards it will again be altogether different. Thus there are many Michael events in the evolution of mankind, but there is only one event of Golgotha.
139. In the quick rhythmic repetition of the seasons of the year the Divine-Spiritual Being which descended into the depths of Earth to permeate Nature's process with the Spirit accomplishes this process. It is the ensouling of Nature with the Forces of the Beginning and of Eternity which must remain at work; even as Christ's descent is the ensouling of Mankind with the Logos of the Beginning and of Eternity, whose working for the salvation of mankind shall never cease.