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Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts
GA 26

2. The Condition of the Human Soul Before the Dawn of the Michael Age

Today I will take the opportunity of giving some further thoughts in line with my article ‘At the Dawn of the Michael Age’.

The Michael Age has taken its rise in the evolution of mankind at a time that follows on the one hand the predominance of the intellectual ‘forming of thoughts,’ and on the other hand the turning of human perception and vision to the outer world of the senses, to the physical world.

Thought-forming is in its nature not essentially an evolution in the direction of materialism. That which in bygone times came to the human being as something inspired into him, namely, the world of ideas, became, in the time that preceded the Michael epoch, the property of the human soul. The soul no longer receives the ideas ‘from above’ out of the spiritual content of the Cosmos: it draws them itself actively forth out of the human being's own spiritual nature. Man has thereby become ripe for reflection upon his own spiritual being. Hitherto he did not penetrate to these depths of his own nature. He saw in himself as it were a drop out of the sea of cosmic spirituality, a drop that has separated itself off for the time of this earthly life, only to unite itself again when the earthly life is over.

The thought-forming that goes on in the human being marks an advance in human self-knowledge. Viewed from the supersensible, it appears thus. The spiritual Powers that we may designate with the Michael-name held rule over the ideas in the spiritual Cosmos. The human being experienced these ideas by partaking with his soul in the life of the Michael-world. This experience has now become his own, and a temporary separation of the human being from the Michael-world has therewith come about. With the inspired thoughts of earlier times man received at the same time the content of the spiritual world. Since this inspiration has ceased and man now forms his thoughts from his own activity, he is referred to the perception of the senses to find a content for these thoughts. Thus was man obliged to fill with material content the spirituality that he had won. He fell into the materialistic outlook in the very epoch of time that brought his own spiritual being a stage higher in development.

This is easily liable to misunderstanding. We may observe only the ‘fall’ into materialism and lament over it. Whilst, however, the perception and vision of this age had to be limited to the external physical world, there was unfolding within the soul, as actual experience, a purified and self-subsisting spiritually of the human being. And now in the Michael Age this spirituality must no longer remain as unconscious experience, it must become conscious of its own proper nature. This signifies the entry of the Michael Being into the human soul. For a certain length of time man has filled his own spirit with the material side of Nature; he is to fill it again with cosmic content consisting of a spirituality that is his very own.

Thought-forming was lost for a time in the Matter of the Cosmos; it must be found again in the cosmic Spirit. Into the cold, abstract world of thought can enter warmth, can enter a spirit-reality that is filled with being. That represents the dawn of the Michael Age.

The consciousness of freedom could develop only in the depths of the human soul through this separation from the thought-being of the world. What came from the heights had to be found again in the depths. For this reason the development of the consciousness of freedom was connected first of all with a knowledge of Nature that was directed only to the external. While man was unconsciously developing his mind in the formation of clear ideas, his senses were directed outward solely to what is material, but this did not in any way disturb the tender seed that was beginning to germinate in the soul.

But the experience of the Spiritual, and together with it the vision of the Spiritual, can re-enter the vision of the outward material world in a new way. The knowledge of Nature acquired during the age of materialism can be comprehended in the soul's inner life in a spiritual way. Michael, who has spoken ‘from above,’ can be heard ‘from within,’ where he will begin to dwell. Speaking more imaginatively this may be expressed as follows: The Sun-nature which for long periods man received only from the Cosmos, will begin to shine within his soul. He will learn to speak of an ‘inner Sun.’ This will not prevent him from knowing himself to be an earthly being during his life between birth and death; but he will recognise that this his earthly being is led by the Sun. He will learn to feel as a truth, that a being places him, in his inner nature, into a light which shines indeed upon earthly existence but which is not enkindled within it. In the dawn of the Michael Age it may still seem as if all this were very far remote from humanity; but ‘in the spirit’ it is near; it only needs to be ‘seen.’ A very great deal depends upon this fact, that the ideas of man do not merely remain ‘thinking,’ but in thought develop sight.

Further Leading Thoughts issued from the Goetheanum for the Anthroposophical Society

85. It is in the waking day-consciousness that man experiences himself to begin with, during the present cosmic age. This experience conceals from him the fact that in this waking state the Third Hierarchy is present in his experience.

86. In the dream-consciousness man experiences, in a chaotic way, his own being unharmoniously united with the Spirit-being of the world. When the Imaginative Consciousness is realised as the other pole of the dream-consciousness, man becomes aware that the Second Hierarchy is present in his experience.

87. In dreamless sleep-consciousness man experiences, all unconsciously, his own being united with the Spirit-being of the World. When the Inspired Consciousness is realised as the other pole of the sleep-consciousness, man becomes aware that the First Hierarchy is present in his experience.