Third Contemplation: Michael's sorrow over the evolution of mankind, before the time of his earthly regency.
With the further progress of the Age of Consciousness, the possibility more and more ceases of direct connection between Michael and the generality of human kind. Into Man's being enters in triumph the new, humanized power of Intellectuality and out of it vanish those imaginative conceptions of the mind, which shew Man the living forms of the Cosmic Intelligence. For Michael, any possibility of approaching Man does not begin until the last third of the nineteenth century. Before then, approach can only be attempted by such roads as were those of the genuine Rosicrucians.
Man looks with his fresh opening intellect at Nature; and what he sees is a physical world, an ether-world, in which he himself is not. Through the great ideas of Copernicus and Galileo he gains a picture of the external, non-human world; but he loses the picture of himself. He looks at himself, and he has no possibility of arriving at any insight as to what he is.
In the depths of his being is awakened that which is ordained to be the bearer of his human intelligence. With this, his I combines. Man bears accordingly within him now a threefold being. First, in his spirit-soul, he bears within him, manifested in physical-etheric form, that being which at the very first — in the Saturn and Sun times, and repeatedly ever since — has given him a place in the realm of divine spirit. This is where Man's being and Michael's being can join company. Secondly, Man bears within him his later physical and etheric being — namely that which became his during the Moon and Earth times. All this is the work and workings of divine spirit; but divine spirit no longer lives in it with present being. It first becomes present again in living being when the Christ passes through the Mystery of Golgotha. In that which works spiritually in Man's physical and etheric body, may be found the Christ. Thirdly, Man has in him that part of his spirit and soul which during the Moon and Earth times has acquired a new form of being. In this part, Michael has remained active; whereas in the part turned to the Moon and Earth, he has grown ever more inactive. In the former, it is he who has preserved to Man Man's divine images.
This Michael could do until the dawn of the Age of Consciousness. And then the entire spirit-and-soul element in Man sank, so to speak, down into the physical and etheric, in order to fetch forth the Spiritual Soul.
Luminously there arose in Man's consciousness all that his physical body and his ether-body could tell him about the physical and etheric in Nature. There sank from before his vision what astral body and I could tell him about himself.
A time arises, when amongst mankind there begins to stir a feeling that their insight no longer brings them to themselves. There begins a search after the Knowledge of the Human Being. Men fail to satisfy their seeking by anything which the Present can supply. They go back in history to earlier times. ‘Humanism’ makes its appearance in the evolution of the human mind. Humanism becomes men's ideal object, not because they possess the human being but because they have lost him. So long as they still possessed him, their soul which animated the work of Erasmus of Rotterdam and others would have worn a very different colour from anything that their Humanism could give it.
In Faust, later on, as re-discovered by Goethe, is the figure of a man who has utterly lost the human being. Ever intenser becomes this search after Man. For men have only two alternatives: either completely to blunt themselves to the awakening inner sense of their own being; or else to pursue this longing search for Man, so that this search becomes an inherent element of their soul.
Until the nineteenth century, in the spiritual life of Europe the best men in every field are engaged in the pursuit of every variety of idea — historic, scientific, philosophic, mystic — all representing the endeavour in the intellectualized aspect of the World to discover Man.
Renaissance, spiritual New Birth, Humanism — all are rushing, storming indeed, after spirituality in a direction where spirituality is not to be found. In the direction where it is to be sought, impotence, illusion, bemazement. And everywhere, through it all, the Michael Forces breaking through, in art, in learning, into the life of man, only not as yet into the young, rising forces of the Spiritual Soul. A tottering of all spiritual life; Michael, with all his forces reaching back in cosmic evolution, in order to find strength to keep in balance the Dragon under his feet. Under these powerful exertions of Michael there arise the great works of the Renaissance. Yet these are still a revival, by Michael's power, of the old life of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul — not yet a working of the new soul-forces.
One can see Michael, full of anxiety as to whether, after all, he will be in a position to keep the Dragon permanently in check, when he perceives how men are engaged in the one field only, trying to obtain from the picture they have just obtained of Nature a similar picture of Man. Michael sees the way in which men are observing nature and trying, out of what they call Natural Law, to construct an image of Man. He sees how they depict it in their minds: This peculiarity in some animal becomes perfects; that combination of organic functions becomes more nicely adjusted; and so, there ‘arises’ Man. But before the spirit-eye of Michael, what arise is not Man at all. What they think of as growing ever more perfected and more nicely adjusted, is just a thought thing; no one can see it actually growing into fact because the actual facts are otherwise.
And thus men live with such thoughts of Man in unsubstantial pictures, in illusions that have no being. They pursue an image of Man; they think they possess it; but in truth there is nothing within their range of sight. ‘The power of the Spirit-Sun shines upon their souls; Christ is at work; but as yet they cannot heed Him. The power of the spiritual Soul is strong in their bodies, but into their souls it still will not enter.’ So may one hear the Inspiration which Michael utters in his dire anxiety. May not this force of Illusion in men give the Dragon so much power after all, that it will be an impossibility for him — for Michael himself — to maintain the balance?
Other individuals again endeavour with more inwardly artistic power to find the union between Nature and Man. Grandly ring the words of Goethe, when describing in a noble book the work of Winkelmann: “When the powers of Man's nature are at work in whole and healthful unison; when he feels himself in the World as in one grand, fair, worshipful and worthy whole; when the well-being of harmonious attunement fills him with a pure and free delight — then would the Universe, were it conscious of itself, shout with joy at the attainment of its goal, and marvellingly acclaim the crown of its own life and being.” The same impulse which inspired the mind of Lessing with flame of fire, which ensouled the world-wide vision of Herder, rings through these words of Goethe. And the whole of Goethe's own creative work is like a universal demonstration on all sides of this saying of his. Schiller in his “letters on Aesthetics' has drawn the picture of an Ideal Man — one (as it rings in the words of Goethe) who bears the whole Universe within himself, and realizes it actually in social co-operation with other men. But where is this Picture of a Man drawn from? It shines like the morning sun over the Spring earth. But it has entered into men's feelings from contemplation of ancient Greek Man. Men cherished the picture with all the strong inner impulse of Michael; but they could find no form to give to this impulse, except by turning their soul's gaze back towards a bygone age. Goethe went, as we know, through the severest conflicts with the Spiritual Soul when he tried inwardly to realize Man. He thought that for the first time he really had a glimpse of him, when on his Italian tour he had his first sight into Greek life and being. He hastened away from the Spiritual Soul, striving forward in Spinoza, to what, in the end, was but the dying embers of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul; only that Goethe succeeds in bringing an endless amount of this latter into the Spiritual Soul, in his all-embracing view of Nature.
Gravely Michael watches these endeavours too to find Man. He sees something, it is true, that is to his own mind, entering here into the evolution of the human spirit. It is that same Man, who once beheld the life-forms of Intelligent Being, in the times when Michael ruled from the Cosmos without. Yet eventually, if it be not grasped by the spiritualized power of the Spiritual Soul, this too must end by falling from Michael's range of action into the dominion of Lucifer. That Lucifer might gain the ascendancy in the rocking of the cosmic balance — this is the other dire anxiety in Michael's life.
The preparation for Michael's mission at the end of the nineteenth century roll on in cosmic tragedy. Beneath upon earth, there often reigns the profoundest satisfaction over Man's picture of Nature and its effective working; whilst in the region where Michael is at work there is nothing but tragedy over the obstacles which prevent the true picture of Man from finding its way into life.
There was a time when in the beams of the sun, in the flush of morning skies, in the sparkling of the stars, there lived the keen, clear spirit-love of Michael. The dominant note this love had now taken, was one of sorrow, aroused on gazing on mankind.
Michael's position in the Cosmos became one of tragic difficulty, but one that was also urging towards a solution, just at the period preceding his mission upon earth. Men could maintain their power of intellect only in the domain of the body, and there only in the domain of the senses. They accordingly admitted nothing into their range of mental vision, except what their senses told them. Nature became a field of sense-revelation — a revelation quite materially conceived. In Nature and all her forms, men no longer saw the work of divine spirit, but something which has come into existence without spirit, and of which they nevertheless assert that the spiritual life which Man leads is born of it. Of the spirit-world, on the other hand, men would only accept so much as was still told of in the historic records. Any real seeing of the creative spirit in the past was as severely taboo'd, as was the seeing of the spirit in the present.
All that now remained living in men's souls came from that region of the external present world into which Michael does not enter. Man was glad to be standing upon ‘secure’ ground. He fancied the ground secure because he abstained from looking for any Thoughts in Nature, in which he would at once have suspected the unreliability of a spontaneous fancy. But Michael was not glad. He was obliged to remain on the far side, aloof from men, and carry on the war in his own region against Lucifer and Ahriman. Hence came the great and tragic difficulty; for Lucifer can approach Man all the more easily, the more Michael — who is also the preserver of his past — is obliged to keep away from him. And so a stormy contest was being waged on Man's behalf, in the spiritual world next to earth, by Michael against Lucifer and Ahriman: whilst Man himself on earthly territory was busying his soul in opposition to the healing forces of his own evolution.
All this applies of course to the spiritual life of Europe and America. For Asia it would be necessary to speak differently.
In the very first period of the spiritual Soul's evolution Man began to feel that the picture of Mankind, of his own Human Being, which had hitherto come of itself, imaginatively, was now lost to him. Powerless to find it as yet in his Spiritual Soul, he seeks for it along the paths of Natural Science of History. He would like to revive once more within him the old picture of Humanity.
By this road, men do not come to the real fullness of the human being; they come only to empty illusions. But they do not see this; they look on these as things that give mankind substantiation and support.
And so Michael, in the time preceding his earthly regency, can only look with anxiety and sorrow upon mankind's evolution. For men condemn spiritual contemplation in any direction, and thereby cut themselves off from everything that makes a bond with Michael.