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The Michael Mystery
GA 26

III. The Pre-Michaelite Way, and the Way of Michael

We shall fail to find the right light upon the new Michael-impulse now making its way into human evolution, if we form that conception of the relation between the modern world of Ideas and the world of Nature, which is common at the present day.

The usual notion is this: Outside, is the natural world with its things and processes; inside, are the Ideas. The ideas represent concepts of the things of Nature, or else of the so-called laws of Nature. The primary concern of thinkers is then to shew how to construct those particular ideas which bear the requisite relation to the things of Nature, or from which the true laws of Nature may be deduced.

In all this, they attach very little importance to the connection between these ideas and the man who has them. And yet the real gist of the matter remains unrecognized, unless the question first be raised: What is Man going through with the natural-science ideas of modern times?

An answer may be arrived at as follows:

Man's feeling to-day is that ideas are evolved within him by the special activity of his soul. He has the feeling that he himself is the evolver of his ideas, whereas his perceptions intrude upon him from without.

This feeling is not one which Man always had. In older times, the contents of his ideas seemed to him not something manufactured by himself, but received by way of suggestion from the supersensible world.

It is a feeling that has passed through different stages; and the stages depended upon the particular part of his being, with which Man realized what he to-day calls his ‘ideas.’ To-day is the age of the Spiritual Soul's evolution, when the statement holds good without reservation, which was made in the recent Leading Thoughts {Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts, XXXIV, page 80}: “The Thoughts of man have their true seat in the etheric body. There, however, they are forces of real life and being. They imprint themselves upon the physical body, and as such ‘imprinted thoughts’ they have the shadowy character in which the every-day consciousness knows them.”

One may go back into times when thoughts were realized directly with the I. Then however they were not, as now, shadowy; they were not even merely living; they were endowed with soul and permeated with spirit. Which means, that Man did not think thoughts; he realized a direct perception of concrete spiritual Beings.

A form of consciousness such as this, which looks above to a world of spiritual Beings, is everywhere to be found amongst the different peoples in their early ages. What remains of it, preserved in history, is termed to-day the ‘myth-creating’ consciousness. Man is in the midst of his own true world, the world of his origin. Whereas, with the present-day consciousness, he withdraws himself from his own world.

Man is Spirit; and Man's world is the world of spiritual Beings.

Then there comes a next stage, where Thought is no longer realized by the I, but by the astral body. There, the direct spirituality is lost to the soul's perception. Thought appears as living and endowed with soul.

In the first stage — the vision of concrete forms of spiritual being — Man feels no impellent need to bring what his vision shows him into any nearer relation with the world perceived by his senses. The world's sensible phenomena reveal themselves, it is true, as being the deeds of that which is beheld by supersensible vision; but to construct a special science of what is directly, spiritually visible to the ‘mind's eye,’ is not a matter of urgent necessity. Moreover the world of Spirit-Beings, shewn by vision, presents such a wealth that the attention is arrested by this above everything else.

A change comes with the second stage of consciousness. The concrete Spirit-Beings conceal themselves. Their reflected glory becomes apparent as ensouled life. Men begin to bring the ‘life of Nature’ into relation with this ‘life of Souls.’ They search the things of Nature and the processes of Nature for the Spirit-Beings at work there, and for their spiritual deeds. In what later appeared as Alchemy and the pursuits of the alchemists, can be seen historically the residue of this stage of consciousness.

And as, when ‘thinking’ Spirit-Beings in the first stage of consciousness, Man was living completely in his own world of being, so even at this second stage, he is still quite close to himself and to his own first source.

This however means that at both stages all possibility is excluded of Man's coming in the true sense to any inner, personal impulse for his actions.

Spiritual being, of a kind akin to himself, acts in him. What he seems to be doing, is the open manifestation of events enacted between Spirit-Beings. What Man does, is the sensibily physical appearance of an actual divine-spiritual process taking place behind it.

A third epoch in the evolution of consciousness brings thoughts to consciousness in the etheric body, but still as living thoughts.

The Greek of civilization, in the days of its greatness, lived in this form of consciousness. The ancient Greek, when thinking, did not construct a thought, with which he viewed the world as through a construction of his own; but he felt aroused within himself the stir of that same life, which, outside too, pulsed through the things and processes around him.

Then for the first time, there arose the longing for Freedom of personal action — not as yet actual Freedom, but the longing for it.

In the human being who felt the stir of Nature stirring within himself, there grew up a longing to separate his own life-stir from the life-stir that he saw going on in the outer world, foreign to himself. But, nevertheless, this life-stir in the outer world was still felt as a last outcome of that real and active Spirit-world which is of the same kind with Man.

Not until Thoughts took their print in the physical body, and consciousness extended only to this physical imprint, did the possibility of Freedom first begin. This is the state of things, as it was in the fifteenth century after Christ.

In the world's evolution, the bearing which the Ideas of the modern conception of Nature may have upon nature herself, is a matter of no moment; for these Ideas did not assume their present form in order to supply a particular picture of the natural world, but in order to bring Man to a particular stage of his evolution.

When thoughts laid hold on the physical body, they lost from their immediate contents Spirit, Soul and Life. These were blotted out; and the abstract Shadow, that haunts the physical body, alone remains. Physical, material things alone can be the objects of knowledge for such thoughts as these; for such thoughts themselves are only actual in Man's physical, material body.

The reason why Materialism arose, is not that only material things and processes are to be seen in the outer world of Nature; it is because Man, in his evolution, had to go through a stage which brought him to a form of consciousness that is at first only capable of seeing material revelations. The one-sided development of this requirement in human evolution has resulted in the modern view of the natural world.

Michael's mission is to convey to men's ether-bodies those forces by which the Thought-Shadows may again acquire life. To these new-enlivened Shadows, souls and Spirits from the supersensible worlds above will incline themselves. And with these, Man, unbounded and free, will be able to dwell with them of old, when he was merely the physical image of their workings.

Leading Thoughts

In the evolution of mankind, Consciousness comes down, step by step, along the ladder of Thought-development. There is a first stage of consciousness: here Man realizes thoughts in his I, as Being imbued with Spirit, Soul and Life. Then comes a second stage, where Man realizes Thoughts in his astral body. Here they appear rather as living and soul-endowed Images of the spirit-Beings. At a third stage, the Thoughts are realized in Man's ether-body; here they are only an inner life-stir, like the after-echo of a life of soul. At the fourth stage, the present one, Thoughts are realized by Man in his physical body, and represent dead Shadows of the Spirit.

In proportion as Spirit, Soul and Life recede from human Thinking. Man's own Will comes to life. Freedom grows possible.

It is Michael's task to lead Man back by the paths of Will, thither whence first he came, when on the paths of Thought he descended from the realization of the supersensible world to the realization of the sensible world in his earthly consciousness.