At the time during which the Spiritual Soul was making its way into Man's evolution earth, the beings of the spirit-world nearest to earth-life had difficulty in approaching mankind. Events on earth take place in a form which shows that quite peculiar conditions are needed in order to make the way possible from the spirit into the physical life of Man. The very form they take shows on the other hand still, and often in a most illuminating manner, with what energy — where Powers of the Past are active and Powers of the Future beginning to act — one spiritual force strives against another spiritual force, to find entry into mankind's earthly life.
There begins a war between France and England, which lasts from 1339 to 1453, and for over a hundred years throws everything into confusion. This general confusion, proceeding from a particular spiritual current unfavourable to Man's development, puts hindrances in the way of certain events which would have brought the Spiritual Soul much more rapidly into mankind, had these hindrances not been there. Chaucer (who died 1400 D.C.) founded English literature. If one thinks of all that the founding of this literature has led to, in spiritual consequences for Europe, one cannot but find it significant that such an event could not develop in freedom along its own lines, but must happen amid all the troubles of a war. In addition comes the fact that already before this, namely in 1215 A.D., that tendency of political thought had begun in England, which is to receive its right stamp from the Spiritual Soul. The further developments of this event too lie amid the embarrassment of war.
We have here to do with a time when those spiritual Powers, who aim at developing Man along the lines on which he was first designed by their superiors in the divine spiritual hierarchy, come face to face with their adversaries of the other side. These adversaries are bent upon diverting Man into other lines than those appointed him from the first. We would then be unable to employ the forces of his origin for his later evolution; his cosmic childhood would bear him no fruits; it would be a part of his being that ever more and more withered away. The result would be that Man might fall a prey to the Luciferic or the Ahrimanic Powers, and his own special and peculiar evolution would be taken from him. Had the adversaries of mankind been able not only to put hindrances in the way, but to carry their efforts to complete success, the entrance of the Spiritual Soul might have been precluded.
An event which displays with remarkable brightness the intervention of spiritual agencies in earthly affairs, is the part played by Jeanne d'Arc, the Maid of Orleans, and her fate (1412 to 1431). What she does, has its impulses — for herself — deep down in the subconscious underlying grounds of her soul. She follows the blind promptings of the spiritual world. On earth reigns harassing confusion, with the aim of preventing the Age of Consciousness from coming in. Michael must prepare the way from the spiritual world for his later mission. He can do so where he finds human souls to receive his impulses. The Maid is one such soul. He works too — though it be only possible in a lesser degree and less obviously for external historic life — through many other souls besides. In events such as the war between England and France he is matched against his opponent on the Ahrimanic side.
The opposition that he meets with from the Luciferic adversary during this period, was spoken of in the last contemplation. But this opponent may be seen quite peculiarly at work in the whole course of the events which followed the Maid's appearance on the scene. All that here went on plainly shows that people were at a loss, and no longer knew how to deal with such an intervention of the spiritual world in human affairs — an intervention which could well have been grasped by men's minds and taken up too into their wills during the earlier times when imaginative understanding still existed among them. The earlier attitude towards such interventions had become impossible, since the Intellectual or Mind-Soul had ceased to be active. The attitude befitting the Spiritual Soul had not at that time yet been reached; even to-day it is not yet achieved.
It came to pass, therefore, that the shaping of Europe at that time was carried out by the spiritual world, without men having any understanding of what was taking place, and without anything which they endeavoured to do having any influence worth mentioning in the process.
One only need draw a mental picture of what would have happened in the fifteenth century had there been no Maid of Orleans, to recognize at once the importance of this event, in which the spiritual world was the ruling agent. There are people indeed, who try to explain such a phenomenon materialistically. With such people, what makes it impossible to come to any reasonable understanding is that they willfully twist round what is obviously spiritual and give it a materialistic aspect.
It is plain to see from certain spiritual struggles also, in which men's minds are engaged, that mankind can no longer find their way without much difficulty to the realm of divine spirit, however intently they may seek it. These are difficulties which did not exist in the times when insight could still be procured through Imaginations. Rightly to appreciate what is here meant, one has only to look in a clear light at the persons who stand out as philosophic thinkers. A philosopher cannot be regarded solely with a view to the effect which he has upon his age, and the number of people who have adopted his ideas. He is much rather the expression, the manifestation in person, of his age. What the greater part of mankind carry within them unconsciously as a disposition of soul, as unconscious feelings and life-promptings, the philosopher puts into his ideas. As the thermometer registers the temperature of its surroundings, so he registers the mental condition of his age. The philosophers are as little the cause of the psychology of their age, as the thermometer is of the temperature of its surroundings.
With this as a premise, let us look at the philosopher René Descartes, whose work lay in the time when the Age of Consciousness was already well begun. (He lived from 1596 to 1650.) The one slender support on which he rests his connection with the spiritual world, is the inner realization: I think: therefore, I am. In the consciousness of Self, the central I, he tries to find Reality — and only so much of it as the Consciousness-Soul (the Spiritual Soul) can tell him. And on all the other problems of the spirit, he seeks to gain light by the intellectual method, by examining what guarantee the certainty of his own Self-consciousness affords of the certainty of other things. He enquires in every case, in respect of the truths historically transmitted to him: Are they as evident as this ‘I think: therefore, I am.’ If he can affirm this, then he accepts them.
With such a form of thinking in the human mind, is not the spirit expelled from every kind of view that bears any actual relation to the things of the world? The revelation of the spirit has retired to the one pin-point of support in the consciousness of Self. No other thing, in the immediate form of its appearance, reveals the spirit. Upon what lies outside the consciousness of Self, no light of spirit-revelation can be thrown, save mediately, by the intellect working in the Spiritual Soul.
The man of this age pours forth, as it were, the still almost empty contents of his Spiritual Soul in intense longing towards the spiritual world: one thin ray of light travels thither.
The beings of the spirit-world on the immediate borders of the earthly one, and the souls of men upon earth, find it hard to come together. Michael's supersensible preparations for his coming mission are only communicated under the greatest difficulties to the soul of Man.
We shall better comprehend the peculiar character of the tone of soul that finds its expression in Descartes, if we compare this philosopher with Augustine, who, so far as external formulation, employs the same point of support for his realization of the spiritual world as Descartes does. Only, with Augustine, it is done out of the full imaginative force of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul. (He lived from 354 to 430 A.D.) People find, and rightly, an affinity between Augustine and Descartes. Only the intellect of Augustine is the last remains of the cosmic one, whilst that of Descartes is the intellect that has already begun to make its entry into the individual human soul. Precisely by the road which the human mind has traveled in its searchings from Augustine to Descartes, it may be seen how the cosmic character of the Thought-forces disappears, and how the same thing reappears anew in the soul of Man. Yet at the same time it can be seen, under what difficulties Michael and the soul of Man are able so to meet together that Michael can direct in Man what he once directed in the Cosmos.
The Luciferic and the Ahrimanic forces are both busily at work to prevent their meeting. The Luciferic forces would only allow those things to come to expansion in Man, which were his in his cosmic childhood. The Ahrimanic forces — as their opponents, but yet in cooperation with them — want to develop those powers only, which are acquired in the later ages of the world, and to let the cosmic childhood wither away.
Under such circumstances of aggravated difficulty, the souls of men in Europe continued to digest those spiritual impulses which had made their way through the Crusades in the form of old ideas and world-conceptions, from the East into the West. In these ideas the forces of Michael lived with peculiar strength. These world-conceptions were dominated by the cosmic Intelligence, of which Michael was by old spiritual heritage the regent.
How could these ideas and world-conceptions be taken up by human souls, since between these souls and the forces of the spiritual world there lay a gulf? They fell amidst the first faint beginnings of the Spiritual Soul. On the one hand, they met with the hindrance presented by the still feeble development of the Spiritual Soul; they drowned the voice of the Spiritual Soul — lamed its force. And on the other hand, they no longer met with a consciousness that drew strength from Imagination. The human soul could no longer unite with them in full insight. People took them either quite superficially, or else superstitiously.
This state of men's minds must be clearly perceived, in order to understand those movements in thought which are associated on the one hand with the names of Wycliffe, Huss etc. and with the designation ‘Rosicrucian’ on the other.
At the beginning of the Age of Consciousness, the human soul develops her intellectual forces only as yet to a very small extent. There arises a lack of connection between what the soul yearns for in her unconscious, underlying depths, and what can be given her by the forces from the region where Michael is.
This lack of connection affords the Luciferic Powers an enhanced possibility of detaining Man within the forces of his cosmic childhood, so as to cause his further evolution to take place, not along the paths of those divine, spiritual Powers with whom he was united from the first, but along the paths of Lucifer.
It further affords an enhanced possibility for the Ahrimanic Powers to cut Man off from the forces of his cosmic childhood, and draw him over into their own realm, for further evolution there.
Both of these things failed to take place, because the Michael-Forces were nevertheless at work; but the spiritual evolution of mankind had to go on amidst the obstacles arising from these two possibilities, and it thereby became what it has hitherto become.