Throughout Europe, the incorporation of the Spiritual Soul brought about a disturbance in the experiences of religious faith and ritual. A clear sign of the coming disturbance may be seen about the turn of the eleventh and twelfth centuries in the arising of the ‘Proofs of God’ (especially in the work of Anselm of Canterbury). The existence of God now had to be proved by intellectual reasoning. The desire to do such a thing could only arise when the old way of experiencing ‘God’ with the forces of the inner soul was vanishing. For we never set out to prove by logic what we experience in such a way.
The old way was to perceive with one's inner soul the Beings or Intelligences, up to the Godhead. The new way, arising at this time, was to evolve intellectual thoughts about the Prime Foundations of the Universe. The former way was supported by the forces of Michael in the spiritual realm of Earth. Behind the thought-forces directed to the things of outer sense, the forces of Michael equipped the soul with faculties to perceive divine Being and Intelligence in the Universe. On the other hand, for the second way to find its fulfillment, the inner union of the soul with the forces of Michael must first be developed and accomplished.
In the sphere of religious ritual, even the central doctrine of the Holy Communion began to totter. We find this happening in far-spread regions of the religious experience of man, from Wycliffe in England (fifteenth century) to Huss in Bohemia.
In Holy Communion man was able to find his union with the spiritual world which was opened up to him through Christ. For he was able to unite his being with Christ in such a way that the fact of the outer sense-union was at the same time a spiritual fact.
The consciousness of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul was able to form an idea of this union. For the Mind-Soul still possessed ideas, both of Spirit and of Matter, near to one another — so that it was possible for it to conceive the one (Matter) passing over into the other (Spirit). Ideas of this kind, however, cannot possibly be so intellectualistic as to require at the same time proofs of God's existence. Such ideas must still contain something of the living Imagination which enables man to feel, in Matter, the Spirit that is active in it; and in the Spirit, the striving toward Matter. Ideas of this kind have the cosmic forces of Michael behind them.
Think only how much was beginning to totter for the human soul at that time: how much of what was connected with the innermost and holiest experience of men! Personalities arose — Huss, Wycliffe, and others — in whom the existence of the Spiritual Soul shone out most radiantly. Their inner state of soul was such as to unite them with the Michael forces with an intensity that would not come for others till centuries afterwards. From the voice of Michael in their hearts, they proclaimed the worthiness of the Spiritual Soul to rise to the conception of the deepest religious mysteries. They felt that the Intellectuality which was coming with the Spiritual Soul must be able to include in the realm of its ideas that which had been attainable, in older times, by Imagination.
On the other hand, the historical and traditional attitude of the human soul to these things had in very wide circles lost all its inner force and strength. What history refers to as the evils and abuses of religious life which were dealt with by the great Councils of Reform in the age when the Spiritual Soul was beginning its activity — all this is connected with the life of those human souls who, not yet feeling the Spiritual Soul within them, were on the other hand no longer able to find in the old Intellectual or Mind-Soul a sufficient source of inner strength or certainty.
Historical experiences of men, such as were laid bare at the Councils of Constance and Basle, may be said to reveal: — in the spiritual world above, the downpouring of the Intellectuality seeking to find its way to men, and in the earthly realm below, the working of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul, no longer in accordance with the time. The Michael forces are hovering between, looking back to their own past union with the Divine-Spiritual, and down upon the human realm. The human realm likewise enjoyed the same union in the past, but it must now pass into a sphere in which Michael will help it from the Spirit, though he may not unite his own inner being with this realm. Absolutely necessary as it is in cosmic evolution — yet signifying, to begin with, a disturbance in the balance of the Cosmos — this striving of Michael underlies that which mankind had to experience in that age even with respect to the most sacred truths.
We gaze deeply into the characteristic features of that age when we turn our thoughts to Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa. (One may read what I have said about him in the book ‘Mysticism at the Dawn of Modern Spiritual Life ... *Mysticism and Modern Thought.’) His personality is like an outstanding monument of time. He wants the affairs of the world directed by points of view which — instead of fighting the abuses and evils of the physical world by revolutionary tendencies — meet them with healthy common sense, seeking to restore to the proper channel those things which have become diverted from it. We recognize this tendency in the influence he brought to bear at the Council of Basle, and generally within his ecclesiastical community.
Thus Nicholas of Cusa is fully inclined toward the great change in evolution which comes with the unfolding of the Spiritual Soul. On the other hand he brings forth thoughts and ideas which reveal in a most radiant way the working of Michael's forces within them. Into the midst of his age he places the good old ideas which, in the epoch when Michael still ruled the Cosmic Intellectuality, led the human soul to the unfolding of faculties to perceive the Beings and Intelligences in the Cosmos. The ‘Learned Ignorance’ of which he speaks is a perception over and above that which is directed to the outer world of sense — a perception which leads man's thinking beyond the intellectuality of ordinary knowledge into a region where, in ignorance or emptiness of knowledge, the Spiritual is taken hold of by a pure, inner experience of seership.
Thus Nicholas of Cusa is a personality who, feeling in his own soul-life the disturbance of the cosmic balance by Michael, would like intuitively to contribute as much as possible toward the turning of this disturbance to the welfare of humanity.
Between the things of the spiritual life that came to light in this way there lived something else which remained hidden. Certain individuals who perceived and understood the position of the Michael-forces in the Universe wished to prepare the forces of their own souls in such a way that they might consciously enter the spirit-realm bordering upon the earthly sphere — the realm in which Michael makes his efforts on behalf of humanity.
They sought justification for this spiritual enterprise by conducting themselves outwardly in life, in their calling and in other circumstances, in such a way that their life could not be distinguished from that of other men. By lovingly performing their earthly duties in the ordinary sense they were able to turn their inner manhood freely toward the Spiritual which we have described. What they did in this direction was something between themselves and that with which they united themselves ‘in secret.’ As regards what took place in the physical realm, the world was at first apparently quite unaffected by this spiritual striving. And yet all this was needed in order to bring souls into the necessary union with the Michael-world. It was not a question of ‘Secret Societies’ in any bad sense, nor of anything that tried to hide because it feared the light of day, but rather of persons coming together, and in so doing convincing themselves that each one in their circle possessed the true consciousness of the Michael Mission. Those who thus worked together did not speak of their work before others who through lack of understanding could only have disturbed the aims they had set themselves. These aims consisted primarily in working in spiritual streams which flow not within earthly life but in the spirit-world next to it, but which nevertheless cast their impulses into earthly life.
This gives an indication of the spirit-work of human beings who indeed live in the physical world but cooperate with Beings who belong to the spirit-world — Beings who do not themselves enter the physical world or incarnate in it. We are here speaking of those who, with very little reference to the real facts, are named in the world as the ‘Rosicrucians.’ True Rosicrucianism lies absolutely in the line of activity of the Michael Mission. It helped Michael to prepare on Earth the spirit-work which he wished to prepare for a later age.
We shall be able to estimate what could be achieved thereby if we consider the following.
The above-described difficulties, nay, impossibilities, for Michael to work into human souls are connected with the fact that Michael himself, in his essential being, does not wish to come in contact in any way with the physical present of earthly life. He wishes to remain in the nexus of forces which existed for Spirits of his kind, and for human beings, in the past. Any contact with that with which, in present earthly life, man is obliged to come in contact — this Michael could only consider as a pollution of his being. Now, in ordinary human life the spiritual experience of the soul works into the physical earthly life, and conversely the latter reacts upon the former. It is a reaction which expresses itself especially in man's frame of mind and in the direction of his soul toward some earthly thing. An interaction of this kind is as a rule the case — though not invariably — especially in persons engaged in public life. Hence the hindrances to Michael's work in many of the Reformers were very great.
The Rosicrucians overcame the difficulty in this direction by keeping their external life — which consisted in their earthly duties — quite apart from their work with Michael. When Michael, together with his impulses, came in contact with what a Rosicrucian prepared in his soul for him, he found himself in no way exposed to the danger of meeting what was earthly. For, through the state of soul which he purposely cultivated, anything earthly was kept away from that which united the Rosicrucian with Michael.
In this way the true Rosicrucian striving formed for Michael the path here on the Earth toward his coming earthly Mission.
Further Leading Thoughts issued from the Goetheanum for the Anthroposophical Society (in connection with the above Study of the Hindrances and Helps to the Michael Forces in the Dawn of the Age of the Spiritual Soul)
131. In the beginning of the Age of the Spiritual Soul, the Intellectuality now emancipated in man wanted to occupy itself with the truths of religious faith and ritual. The life of the human soul was thereby brought into uncertainty and doubt. Men tried to prove by logic spiritual realities that were formerly a direct experience within the soul. They tried to understand, nay even to determine by logical deduction, the contents of sacred ritual which can only be taken hold of in spiritual Imaginations.
132. All this is connected with the fact that while Michael is determined to avoid any kind of contact with the present earthly world, which man must enter; yet at the same time it is still his task to guide in man the cosmic Intellectuality which he administered in ages past. Thus there arises through the Michael-forces a disturbance in the cosmic balance, albeit a disturbance necessary for the further progress of world-evolution.
133. Michael's mission was made easier for him by certain personalities — the genuine Rosicrucians — who arranged their outward life on Earth so that it in no way interfered with their inner life of soul. They could thus develop forces within them whereby they worked together in spiritual realms with Michael, without the danger of entangling him in present earthly happenings, which would have been impossible for him.