Tuesday, February 23, 2021
The Second Crucifixion and the Second Resurrection of Christ. The Archangel Michael: Christ's Ambassador
Rudolf Steiner, London, May 2, 1913:
The Mystery of Golgotha is the most difficult of all Mysteries to understand, even for those who have already reached an advanced stage of occult knowledge. And of all the truths within the range of the human mind it is the one that can most easily be misunderstood. This is because the Mystery of Golgotha was a unique event in the whole evolution of the Earth; in the evolution of mankind on the Earth it was a mighty impulse which had never before been given in the same way and will never be repeated in a similar form. The human mind always looks for a standard of comparison by means of which things can be understood, but what is incomparable defies all comparison and because it is unique will be very difficult to comprehend.
In the Anthroposophical Movement we have endeavored to describe the Mystery of Golgotha from many different points of view, but new aspects and new features of this momentous event in the evolution of humanity may continually be presented.
One aspect will be presented today and attention directed particularly to what may in a certain sense be called the renewal of the Mystery of Golgotha in our own age.
The Mystery of Golgotha should not be regarded as an event quite separate from the evolution of humanity, as coming into consideration only during its duration of three or thirty-three years; we must remember that it occurred in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch, in the Greco-Latin civilization-epoch, and remind ourselves that preparation was made for it during the whole period of the development of the ancient Hebrew people. What happened in humanity during the fourth post-Atlantean epoch was of the utmost importance in connection with the Mystery of Golgotha; so too was the worship of Jehovah which was practiced among the ancient Hebrews. It is therefore essential to consider the nature of the being who revealed himself in those times under the name of Jahve or Jehovah.
The man of the modern age brings his intellect to bear upon everything; he wants to comprehend things from the standpoint of the intellect. But the moment a man crosses the threshold leading from the world of the senses into the supersensible worlds, at that moment the possibility ceases of grasping reality by means of the intellect alone. The intellect can render good service on the Earth, but directly a man enters the supersensible worlds, although the intellect can still be considered a useful instrument, it is no longer in itself a means of acquiring knowledge.
The intellect likes, above all, to make distinctions, and requires definitions in order to understand things. Those of you who have often followed my lectures will have noticed the almost complete absence of definitions — because realities cannot be grasped by their means. There are, of course, good and bad definitions — some are comprehensive, others less satisfactory. In order to understand the things of the Earth, definitions may be helpful; but when it is a matter of understanding realities — above all, supersensible realities — one cannot define, one must ‘characterize’; for then it is necessary to contemplate the facts and the beings from every possible vantage-point. Definitions are always one-sided and remind one who has studied logic of the old Greek school of philosophy where endeavors were once made to define a man. The following definition was given: ‘A man is a two-legged creature without feathers.’ The next day someone brought in a plucked fowl and said: ‘This is a two-legged creature and has no feathers; it is therefore a man.’ We may often be reminded of this when definitions are demanded for something that is so many-sided and profoundly philosophical that definitions are inadequate and all that can be done is to characterize. In order to be able to distinguish the different beings in the supersensible worlds, people would like above all to have definitions. They ask: ‘What exactly is this or that being?’ But the more deeply one penetrates into the supersensible worlds, the more do the beings there merge into one another; there is no longer any demarcation, and consequently it is very difficult to distinguish the one from the other.
Above all, the factor of evolution must not be left out of account when thinking of the name of Jahve or Jehovah, especially in connection with the name of Christ. Even in the New Testament you will find — and in my books I have often referred to it — that in Jehovah the Christ revealed Himself, to the extent that was possible in times before the Mystery of Golgotha.
If it is desired to make a comparison between Jehovah and Christ it is well to take sunlight and moonlight as an illustration. What is sunlight, what is moonlight? They are one and the same, and yet very different. Sunlight streams out from the sun but in moonlight is reflected back by the moon. In the same sense Christ and Jehovah are one and the same. Christ is like the sunlight, Jehovah is like the reflected Christ-light in so far as it could reveal itself to the Earth under the name of Jehovah, before the Mystery of Golgotha had come to pass. When contemplating a being as sublime as Jehovah-Christ we must seek in the very heights of the supersensible world for His true significance. In reality it is presumption to approach such a being with everyday concepts.
The ancient Hebrews endeavored to find a way out of this difficulty. In spite of inadequacy, human thinking made efforts to form an idea of this sublime being. Attention was not turned directly to Jehovah (a name that in itself was held to be inexpressible), but to the being to whom our Western literature refers by the name of Michael. Naturally, a great deal of misunderstanding may arise from this statement, but that is unavoidable. One person may say, ‘This will evoke the prejudices of Christians’; another will have nothing to do with such matters. Nevertheless the being whom we may call Michael, and who belongs to the hierarchy of the Archangels — whatever name we may give him — this being does exist. There are many beings of the same hierarchical rank, but this particular being who is known esoterically by the name of Michael is as superior to his companions as the Sun is to the planets — Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Saturn, and so on.
He — Michael — is the most eminent, the most significant being in the hierarchy of the Archangels. The ancients called him the ‘Countenance of God’. As a man reveals himself by his gestures and the expression of his countenance, so in ancient mythology Jehovah was understood through Michael.
Jehovah made himself known to the Hebrew initiates in such a way that they realizaed something they had never, with their ordinary powers of comprehension, previously been able to grasp, namely, that Michael was verily the countenance of Jehovah. Hence the ancient Hebrews spoke of Jehovah-Michael: Jehovah the unapproachable, unattainable by man, just as a person's thoughts, his sorrows and cares, lie hidden behind his outward physiognomy. Michael was the outer manifestation of Jahve or Jehovah, just as in a human being the manifestation of his ego is to be recognized in his brow and countenance.
We can therefore say that Jehovah revealed himself through Michael, one of the Archangels. Knowledge of the being described above as Jahve was not confined to the ancient Hebrews, but was far more widespread. And if we investigate the last five hundred years before the Christian era, we find that throughout this whole period revelation was given through Michael. This revelation can be discovered in another form in Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, in Greek philosophy, even in the ancient Greek tragedies, during the five centuries before the event of Golgotha.
When with the help of occult knowledge we endeavor to shed light upon what actually took place, we can say that Christ-Jehovah is the being who has accompanied mankind through the whole course of evolution. But during the successive epochs Christ-Jehovah always reveals Himself through different beings of the same rank as Michael. He chooses a different countenance, as it were, to turn toward mankind. And according as one or the other being from the hierarchy of the Archangels is chosen to be the mediator between Christ-Jehovah and humanity, widely different ideas and conceptions, impulses of feeling, impulses of will, are revealed to men. The whole period which surrounded the Mystery of Golgotha can be described as the Age of Michael, and Michael may be regarded as the messenger of Jehovah.
During the period which preceded the Mystery of Golgotha by almost five hundred years and continued for several decades afterwards, the leading form of culture bore the stamp of Michael. Through his power he poured into mankind what was destined to be imparted at that time. And then came other beings who equally were the inspirers of mankind from the spiritual worlds — other beings of the rank of the Archangels. As has been said, Michael was the greatest, the mightiest, among them. Therefore an Age of Michael is always the most significant, or one of the most significant, that can occur in the evolution of humanity. For the Ages of the different Archangels are repeated; and a fact of supreme importance is that every such Archangel gives to the Age its fundamental character. These Archangels are the leaders of the different nations and peoples, but because they become leaders of particular epochs, and because they were also leaders in bygone Ages, they have become in a certain sense also the leaders of mankind as a whole. [See Karmic Relationships: Esoteric Studies, Vol. III, Lecture VII: The New Age of Michael.]
As regards Michael, a change has taken place; for Michael himself has attained a further stage of development. This is of great importance, for according to occult knowledge we have again, within the last few decades, entered an epoch inspired by the same being who inspired the Age during which the Mystery of Golgotha took place. Since the end of the nineteenth century, Michael may again be regarded as the leader.
To understand this we must consider the Mystery of Golgotha from another point of view and ask ourselves: What, in this Mystery, is of chief importance? The fact of supreme importance is that the being who bears the name of Christ passed through the Mystery of Golgotha and through the gate of death at that time. Never, throughout the evolution of the Earth, could one speak of the Mystery of Golgotha without considering the fact that the Christ passed through death — that is the very core of the Mystery.
And now think of the laws of Nature. A great deal can be understood by studying them, and in future time much more will be learnt, but we must be mere dreamers if we do not realize that the understanding of life as such is an ideal attainable only through actual development, never through the mere study of these laws. True, there are dreamers today who believe that through scientific knowledge a fundamental understanding of the principle of life will eventually be achieved, but this will never be the case. In the course of the Earth's evolution many more laws will be discovered through the use of the senses, but the principle of life as such can never be revealed to the world in this way.
Hence life appears to us to be something which here on the earth is inaccessible to science, and just as life is inaccessible to human knowledge so is death to the true knowledge that is attained in the supersensible worlds. In the supersensible worlds there is no death — we can die only on the Earth, in the physical world — and none of the beings of a hierarchical rank higher than that of man have any knowledge of death; they know only different states of consciousness. Their consciousness can for a time be so diminished that it resembles our earthly condition of sleep, but it can wake out of this sleep. There is no death in the spiritual worlds, there is only change of consciousness; and the greatest fear by which man is possessed — the fear of death — cannot be felt by one who has risen into the supersensible worlds after death. The moment he passes through the gates of death his condition is one of intense sensibility, but he can only exist in either a clear or a dimmed state of consciousness. That a human being in the supersensible world could be dead would be inconceivable.
There is no death for any of the beings belonging to the higher Hierarchies, with the one exception of Christ. But in order that a supersensible being such as Christ should be able to pass through death, He must first have descended to the Earth. And the fact of immeasurable significance in the Mystery of Golgotha is that a being who in the realm of His own will could never have experienced death, should have descended to the Earth in order to undergo an experience connected inherently with man. Thereby that inner bond was created between earthly mankind and Christ, in that this being passed through death in order to share this destiny with man. As I have already emphasized, that death was of the greatest possible importance, above all for the present evolutionary period of the Earth. A being of unique nature, who until then was only cosmic, was united with the Earth's evolution through the Mystery of Golgotha, through Christ's death. At the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, He entered into the very process of the Earth's evolution. This had not been the case before that event, for He then belonged to the cosmos alone; but through the Mystery of Golgotha, He descended out of the cosmos and was incorporated on Earth. Since then, He lives on the Earth, is united with the Earth in such a way that He lives within the souls of men and with them experiences life on the Earth.
Thus the whole period before the Mystery of Golgotha was only a time of preparation in the evolution of the Earth. The Mystery of Golgotha imparted to the Earth its meaning and purpose.
When the Mystery of Golgotha took place the earthly body of Jesus of Nazareth was given over to the elements of the Earth, and from that time onward Christ has been united with the spiritual sphere of the Earth and lives within it.
As already said, it is extremely difficult to characterize the Mystery of Golgotha because there is no standard with which it can be compared. Nevertheless we will endeavor to approach it from still another point of view.
For three years after the Baptism in the Jordan, Christ lived in the body of Jesus of Nazareth as a man among men of the Earth. This may be called the earthly manifestation of Christ in a physical, human body. How, then, does Christ manifest Himself since the time when, in the Mystery of Golgotha, He laid aside the physical body?
We must naturally think of the Christ Being as a stupendously lofty being, but although He is so sublime, He was nevertheless able, during the three years after the Baptism, to express Himself in a human body. But in what form does He reveal Himself since that time? No longer in the physical body, for that was given over to the physical Earth and is now part of it. To those who through the study of occult science have developed the power to see into these things, it will be revealed that this being can be recognized in one belonging to the hierarchy of the Angels. Just as the Saviour of the world manifested Himself during the three years after the Baptism in a human body — in spite of His sublimity — so, since that time, He manifests Himself directly as an Angel, as a spiritual being belonging to the hierarchical rank immediately above that of mankind. As such, He could always be found by those who were clairvoyant; as such, He has always been united with evolution. Just as truly as Christ, when incarnated in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, was more than man, so is the Christ Being more than an angel — that is His outer form only.
But the fact that a mighty, sublime being descended from the spiritual worlds and dwelt for three years in a human body also includes the fact that during that time this being Himself progressed a stage further in His development.
When such a being takes on a human or an angelic form, He Himself progresses. And it is this that we have indicated in speaking of the evolution of Christ-Jehovah. Christ has reached the stage where He reveals Himself henceforth not as a human being, not through His reflection only, not through the name of Jehovah, but directly. And the great difference in all the teachings and all the wisdom that have streamed into the evolution of the Earth since the Mystery of Golgotha is that through the coming of Michael — the Spirit Michael — to the Earth, through his inspiration, man could gradually begin to understand all that the Christ Impulse, all that the Mystery of Golgotha, signifies. But in that earlier time Michael was the messenger of Jehovah, the reflection of the light of Christ; he was not yet the messenger of Christ Himself.
Michael inspired mankind for several centuries, for almost five hundred years before the Mystery of Golgotha, as was indicated in the old Mysteries, by Plato and so forth. Soon, however, after the Mystery of Golgotha had taken place and Christ had united Himself with the evolution of the Earth, the direct impulse of Michael ceased. At the time when the old documents we possess in the form of the Gospels were written — as I have said in my book Christianity as Mystical Fact — Michael himself could no longer inspire mankind; but through his companions among the Archangels men were inspired in such a way that much soul-force was received unconsciously through inspiration.
The writers of the Gospel had no clear occult knowledge themselves, for the inspiration of Michael came to an end shortly after the Mystery of Golgotha. The other Archangels, the companions of Michael, could not inspire mankind in such a way as to make the Mystery of Golgotha comprehensible. This accounts for the divergent inspirations of the various Christian teachings. Much in these teachings was inspired by the companions of Michael; the teachings were not inspired by Michael himself but bear the same relation to his inspirations as do the planets to the mighty Sun.
Only now, in our own age, is there again such an influence, a direct inspiration from Michael. Preparation for this direct inspiration from Michael has been going on since the sixteenth century. At that time it was the Archangel nearest to Michael who gave mankind the inspiration that has led to the great achievements of natural science in modern times. This natural science is not attributable to the inspiration of Michael but to that of one of his companions, Gabriel. The tendency of this scientific inspiration is to create a science, a world-picture, that promotes understanding of the material world alone, and is connected with the physical brain.
Within the last few decades Michael has taken the place of this inspirer of science, and in the next few centuries will give to the world something that in a spiritual sense will be equally important — indeed more important, because it is more spiritual — immeasurably more important than the physical science which has advanced from stage to stage since the sixteenth century. Just as his companion Archangel endowed the world with science, so will Michael in the future endow mankind with spiritual knowledge, of which we are now only at the very beginning. Just as Michael was sent as the messenger of Jehovah, as the reflection of Christ, five hundred years before the Mystery of Golgotha in order to give that era its keynote, just as then he was still the messenger of Jehovah, so now, for our own epoch, Michael has become the messenger of Christ Himself. Just as in the times of the ancient Hebrews, times which were a direct preparation for the Mystery of Golgotha, the initiates among the Hebrews could turn to Michael as the outer revelation of Jahve or Jehovah, so we now are able to turn to Michael — who from being the messenger of Jehovah has become the messenger of Christ — in order to receive from him during the next few centuries increasing spiritual revelations that will shed more and more light upon the Mystery of Golgotha. What happened two thousand years ago could only be made known to the world through the various Christian sects, and its profundities can only be unveiled in the twentieth century when, instead of science, spiritual knowledge — our gift from Michael — will come into its own. This should fill our hearts with deep feelings for spiritual reality in our present time. We shall be able to realize that within the last few decades a door has opened through which understanding can come.
Michael can give us new spiritual light, which may be regarded as a transformation of the light that was given through him at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha; and the men of our day can receive that light. If we can realize this we can grasp the significance of the new age that is now issuing from our own; we can be aware of the dawn of a spiritual revelation that is to come in the next few centuries into the life of humanity on the Earth. Indeed, because men have become freer than in former times, we shall be able, through our own wills, to progress to the stage where this revelation may be received.
Reference shall now be made to the event in the higher worlds which has led to this altered state of affairs, to this time of a renewal of the Mystery of Golgotha. When we look back we remember what came to pass at the Baptism by John in the Jordan, when Christ revealed Himself in a human form, visible on the Earth among mankind. Further, we will fill our souls with the thought of how, as regards His outer form, Christ then united Himself with the hierarchy of the Angels and has since that time lived invisibly in the sphere of the Earth.
Let us remember what has been said — that in the invisible worlds there is no death. Christ Himself, because He descended to our world, passed through a death similar to that of human beings. When He again became a spiritual being, He still retained the remembrance of His death; but as a being of the rank of the Angels in which He continued to manifest Himself outwardly, He could experience only a diminution of consciousness.
Through that which since the 16th century had become necessary for the evolution of the Earth, namely the triumph of science at higher and higher levels, something which has significance also for the invisible worlds entered into the whole evolution of mankind. With the triumph of science, materialistic and agnostic sentiments of greater intensity than hitherto arose in mankind. In earlier times too there had been materialistic tendencies, but not the intense materialism that has prevailed since the sixteenth century. More and more, as men passed into the spiritual worlds through the gate of death, they bore with them the outcome of their materialistic ideas on the Earth. After the sixteenth century more and more seeds of earthly materialism were carried over, and these seeds developed in a particular way.
Christ came into the old Hebrew race and was led to His death within it. The angelic being who since then has been the outer form assumed by Christ suffered an extinction of consciousness in the course of the intervening nineteen centuries as a result of the opposing materialistic forces that had been brought into the spiritual worlds by materialistic human souls who had passed through the gate of death. This onset of unconsciousness in the spiritual worlds will lead to the resurrection of the Christ-consciousness in the souls of men on Earth between birth and death in the twentieth century. In a certain sense it may therefore be said that from the twentieth century onwards what has been lost by mankind in the way of consciousness will arise again for clairvoyant vision. At first only a few, and then an ever-increasing number of human beings in the twentieth century will be capable of perceiving the manifestation of the Etheric Christ — that is to say, Christ in the form of an Angel. It was for the sake of humanity that there was what may be called an extinction of consciousness in the worlds immediately above our earthly world, in which Christ has been visible in the period between the Mystery of Golgotha and the present day.
At the time of the Mystery of Golgotha something took place in a little-known corner of Palestine, something that was the greatest event in the whole evolution of humanity, but of which little notice was taken by the people of that day. If such a thing could be, need we be astonished when we hear what conditions were like during the nineteenth century when those who since the sixteenth century had passed through death confronted Christ?
The ‘seeds of earthly materialism’ which were increasingly carried into the spiritual world by the souls who went through the portal of death since the sixteenth century, and which caused more and more darkness, built the ‘black sphere of materialism.’ Christ took this black sphere into His being in the sense of the Manichean principle for the purpose of transforming it. For the Angel being, in which the Christ had manifested himself since the Mystery of Golgotha, the black sphere caused a ‘death by suffocation.’ This sacrifice by Christ in the nineteenth century is comparable to the sacrifice on the physical plane through the Mystery of Golgotha and can be called the second crucifixion of Christ, this time on the etheric plane. This spiritual death by suffocation, which brought about the extinction of the consciousness of the angelic being, is a repetition of the Mystery of Golgotha in those worlds that lie immediately behind our world. It took place to make possible a revival of the Christ consciousness which was earlier hidden in human souls on Earth. The revival becomes clairvoyant vision of humanity in the twentieth century.
Thus the Christ-consciousness may be united with the earthly consciousness of men from our time on into the future; for the dying of the Christ-consciousness in the sphere of the Angels in the nineteenth century signifies the resurrection of the direct consciousness of Christ — that is to say, Christ's life will be felt in the souls of men more and more as a direct personal experience from the twentieth century onwards.
Just as the few who once were able to read the signs of the times and in contemplating the Mystery of Golgotha were able to realize that Christ had descended from the spiritual worlds to live on the Earth and undergo death in order that through His death the substances incorporated into Him might pass into the Earth, so are we able to perceive that in certain worlds lying immediately behind our own a sort of spiritual death, a suspension of consciousness, took place. This was a renewal of the Mystery of Golgotha, in order to bring about an awakening of the previously hidden Christ-consciousness within the souls of men on the Earth.
Since the Mystery of Golgotha many human beings have been able to proclaim the Name of Christ, and from this twentieth century onwards an ever-increasing number will be able to make known the knowledge of the Christ that is given in Anthroposophy. Out of their own experience they will be able to proclaim Him.
Twice already Christ has been crucified: once physically, in the physical world at the beginning of our era, and a second time spiritually, in the nineteenth century, in the way described above. It could be said that mankind experienced the resurrection of His body in that former time and will experience the resurrection of His consciousness from the twentieth century onwards.
The brief indications I have been able to give you will gradually make their way into the souls of men, and the mediator, the messenger, will be Michael, who is now the ambassador of Christ. Just as he once led human souls toward an understanding of Christ's life descending from heaven to the Earth, so he is now preparing mankind to experience emergence of the Christ-consciousness from the realm of the unknown into the realm of the known. And just as at the time of the earthly life of Christ the greater number of His contemporaries were incapable of believing what a stupendous event had taken place in the evolution of the Earth, so, in our own day, the outer world is striving to increase the power of materialism, and will continue for a long time to regard what has been spoken of today as so much fantasy, dreaming, perhaps even downright folly. This too will be the verdict on the truth concerning Michael, who at the present time is beginning to reveal Christ anew. Nevertheless many human beings will recognize the new dawn that is rising and during the coming centuries will pour its forces into the souls of men like a sun — for Michael can always be likened to a sun. And even if many people fail to recognize this new Michael revelation, it will spread through humanity nevertheless.
That is what may be said today about the relation of the Mystery of Golgotha which took place at the beginning of our era and the Mystery of Golgotha as it can now be understood. From time to time other revelations will be given and for these our minds must be kept open. Should we not be aware that it would be selfish to keep these feelings exclusively for our own inner satisfaction? Let us rather feel that the solemn duty we have recognized through Anthroposophy is to make ourselves into willing instruments for such revelations; and although we are only a small community in mankind which is endeavoring to comprehend this new truth about the Mystery of Golgotha, to grasp this new revelation of Michael, we are nevertheless building up a new power that does not in the least depend upon our belief in this revelation but simply and solely upon the truth itself. Then we shall realize that only a few of us are adequately prepared to declare the following to the world, in so far as the world is willing to listen.
From now onwards there is a new revelation of Christ; we will be ready to acknowledge it; we will belong to the few who will help it to become more powerful, to become lasting; we will base ourselves upon the inner strength of such a revelation, so that it may spread among mankind, for this knowledge will gradually be shared by all.
This is what we call wisdom and some may call folly. To stand firm we need only remind ourselves that this is the time of the second Michael revelation, and remember what was said by one of the early initiates at the time of the former Michael revelation: What often seems folly to man, is wisdom in the eyes of God.
Let us try to draw strength from feelings and spiritual knowledge which must in many respects seem folly to the outer world. Let us have the courage to realize that what appears to be folly to those who depend upon the senses for knowledge, to us may be wisdom, light, and clearer understanding of the supersensible worlds toward which we will strive with all the power of our souls and of our conviction.