When man looks back on his evolution, and calls up before his inner eye the special characteristics which his spiritual life has assumed for the last five hundred years, he cannot help recognising, even within the ordinary consciousness and if but faintly, that since this period the whole earthly evolution of man stands at a significant and critical point.
In the last study I referred from one point of view to this significant turning-point. One looks up from this point into the distant past of evolution; one sees how the soul-force in man which today is active as the force of intelligence, has changed in the course of time.
In the present period, thoughts — dead abstract thoughts — make their appearance in the field of human consciousness. These thoughts are bound up with the physical body of man; man is obliged to recognise that they are of his own generating.
In primitive times, when man turned his soul in the direction in which today his thoughts are revealed to him, he saw Divine-Spiritual Beings. He knew himself bound to these Beings in his whole nature, even down to the physical body; he was obliged to recognise himself as their offspring. But he not only owed his being to them, he also owed them what he accomplished. Man had no will of his own. What he did was a manifestation of Divine Will.
By degrees, as described in the last study, man attained to a will of his own, at a period which dawned about five hundred years ago.
But this stage was far more different from all those which preceded it than any of them from one another.
When the thoughts pass over into the physical body, they lose their livingness. They are dead forms, spiritually dead. Previously, though belonging to man, they were at the same time organs of the Divine-Spiritual Beings to whom man belonged. They were actual will in man. And through them the man felt himself in living union with the spiritual world.
With his dead thoughts he felt himself cut off from the spiritual world. He felt himself entirely removed to the physical world.
But this means also that he is now in the sphere of the Ahrimanic spirituality. The Ahrimanic spirituality had no great power in the regions in which the Beings of the higher Hierarchies retained man as in their own sphere — when as in primitive ages the higher Beings themselves acted directly in man, or when, as in later times, they worked in him through their ensouled or living reflection. As long as this working of supersensible Beings within the doings of man continued — that is until about the fifteenth century — the Ahrimanic powers had, within the evolution of mankind, only a faintly echoing power, if one may express it so.
The description of Ahriman's activity given in the Persian religion is not in contradiction with this statement. For that religion refers to Ahriman's activity, not within the human soul, but in a world bordering directly upon the world of the human soul. Ahriman's action, as there described, does indeed affect the world of the human soul from a neighbouring spirit-world, but it does not directly interfere.
This direct interference has only become possible in the space of time which began about five hundred years ago.
Thus man is at the close of a stream of evolution within which his nature has developed out of a divine spirituality which finally dies to itself in the abstract intelligence of man.
Man has not remained in the divine-spiritual spheres in which he originated.
What began five hundred years ago for the consciousness of man had already taken place for a wider sphere of his whole being at the time when the Mystery of Golgotha took place on the Earth. It was then that, imperceptibly to the consciousness of the majority of human beings at that time, human evolution gradually glided out of a world in which Ahriman has little power, into one in which his power is great. This gliding into a different stratum of the world was completed in the fifteenth century.
Ahriman's influence upon man in this stratum of the world is possible and can act so destructively because the activity of the Gods related to man has died in this sphere. But man could not develop free-will in any other way than by entering a sphere in which the Divine-Spiritual Beings connected with him from the very beginning were not alive.
Considered cosmically, the Mystery of the Sun is contained in the nature of this evolution of humanity. The Divine-Spiritual Beings connected with his origin were united with that which — up to that important turning-point in his evolution — man was able to perceive in the Sun. These Divine-Spiritual Beings have separated from the Sun and have left there only the part of them that has died, so that the bodily nature of man can now receive through the Sun only the power of dead thoughts.
But these Beings have sent Christ from the Sun to the Earth, For the welfare of humanity Christ has united His being with the dead part of divine-spiritual existence in Ahriman's kingdom. Thus two things are possible for man, and through this possibility his freedom is guaranteed: — to turn to Christ consciously in the spiritual frame of mind which he possessed subconsciously during the descent from the vision of supersensible spirit-existence to the use of intellect; or to wish to feel his severance from spirit-existence and thus fall in the direction taken by the Ahrimanic powers.
Humanity has been in this situation since the beginning of the fifteenth century. It was prepared — for everything takes place gradually in evolution — after the Mystery of Golgotha, which, as it is the greatest event that has happened on the Earth, is destined to rescue man from the destruction to which he must be exposed because he is to become a free being.
Now we may say that what has hitherto been done by humanity itself within this situation has taken place half unconsciously. It has led to what is good in the modern Nature-conception which lives in abstract thought, and it has led to many practical principles of life, equally good.
But the age in which man could unfold his life thus unconsciously in the dangerous sphere of Ahriman has come to an end.
It is the duty of the investigator into the spiritual world to draw the attention of humanity to the spiritual fact that Michael has taken over the spiritual guidance of human affairs. Michael does what he has to do in such a way that he does not thereby wield an influence over human beings; but they may follow him in freedom, in order with the Christ power to find the way out of that sphere of Ahriman which they were obliged to enter.
One who honestly, out of the deepest being of his soul, can feel himself one with Anthroposophy, understands this phenomenon of Michael truly. And Anthroposophy would like to be the message of this mission of Michael.
106. Michael goes upward again along the paths by which mankind descended, stage by stage in the evolution of the Spirit, down to the exercise of the Intelligence. Michael, however, will lead the Will upward, retracing the paths by which the Wisdom descended to the final stage of Intelligence.
107. From this moment onward in world-evolution, Michael merely shows his way, so that man may follow it in perfect freedom. This distinguishes the present guidance by Michael from all preceding guidances of the Archangels, including even those of Michael himself. For the former guidances did not only reveal their working. They worked themselves out in man. Hence in the working of his own life man could not be free.
108. To see and understand that this is so: this is the present task of man. For then he will find, with all the forces of his soul, his spiritual path within the Age of Michael.