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Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts
GA 26

11. Second Study: How the Michael Forces Work in the Earliest Unfolding of the Spiritual Soul

At the time when the Spiritual Soul was entering the evolution of mankind on Earth, it was difficult for the Beings of the spiritual world next to this earthly existence to approach mankind. The form assumed by earthly events at that time proves that very peculiar conditions were necessary in order to enable the Spirit to find its way into the physical life of mankind. But it shows another thing as well, and in a way that is often most illuminating. It shows how, at a point when the Powers of the past are still at work and those of the future already beginning their activity, one spiritual influence tries to find its way into the earthly life of mankind in vigorous opposition to another.

Between 1339 and 1453 a chaotic, devastating war begins between France and England. It lasts for more than a hundred years. In the chaos of this war, which was due to a certain spiritual current unfavourable to the evolution of mankind, events which would otherwise have brought the Spiritual Soul into humanity more quickly were definitely hindered. Chaucer, who died in 1400, laid the foundations of English literature. We need only remember the great spiritual consequences which took their start in Europe from the founding of this literature, and we shall see the importance of the fact that such an event was not able to work itself out freely, but fell into the midst of the confusions of a prolonged war. Moreover, already in 1215 that way of political thought which can receive its true stamp and character through the Spiritual Soul had begun in England. The further evolution of this fact, too, fell into all the hindrances of war.

This was a time when the spiritual forces, seeking to evolve man according to the potentialities laid in him from the very beginning by yet loftier Divine-Spiritual Powers, encountered their strong adversaries. These adversaries wish to divert man into channels other than those appointed for him from the beginning. If they were to succeed, man would not be able to apply the forces of his origin to his further evolution. His cosmic childhood would remain unfruitful for him. It would become a dying, withering part within his being. The consequence would be that man could then fall a prey to the Luciferic or Ahrimanic Powers and lose his own true and proper development. If the adversaries of mankind had succeeded in their efforts—if they had not only put hindrances in the way, but achieved complete success—the entry of the Spiritual Soul could have been prevented.

An event which reveals the inpouring of the Spiritual into the earthly events in a most clear and radiant way is the appearance and subsequent history of Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans (1412 - 1431). The impulses for what she does lie in the deep, subconscious foundations of her soul. She follows dim inspirations from the spiritual world. On the Earth there is confusion and disorder, through which the age of the Spiritual Soul is to be hindered. Michael has to prepare from the spiritual world his later mission; this he is able to do where his impulses are received into human souls. Such a soul lives in the Maid of Orleans. And Michael also worked through many other souls, although this was possible only in a minor degree and is less apparent in outer historical life. In events such as the war between England and France he met with opposition from his Ahrimanic adversary.

In our last number we spoke of the Luciferic adversary Michael found at the same time. And indeed, this adversary is particularly apparent in the course of events following upon the appearance of the Maid of Orleans. From these events it may be seen that mankind no longer knew how to deal with an intervention of the spiritual world in the destiny of humanity, which could be understood and also received by men into the will as long as Imaginative understanding existed. The earlier attitude towards such intervention became impossible when the Intellectual Soul ceased to act; the attitude corresponding to the Spiritual Soul had not at that time been discovered; nor has it yet been achieved.

Thus it came about that Europe was moulded from the spiritual world without men understanding what was happening, and without that which they were able to do having any appreciable influence on this process.

The significance of this event, the determining causes of which lay in the spiritual world, will be perceived if one tries to imagine what would have happened in the fifteenth century had there been no Maid of Orleans. There are some who wish to explain this phenomenon materialistically. It is impossible to come to an understanding with such people because they arbitrarily interpret in the materialistic sense something that is obviously spiritual.

In certain directions of spiritual striving, too, it may now be clearly seen that humanity can no longer find the way to the Divine-Spiritual without difficulty, even though men search with resolution. There are difficulties which did not exist in the age when insight could still be gained with the aid of Imaginations. In order to judge correctly what is here meant, all that is necessary is to see in a clear light those individuals who come forward as philosophical thinkers. A philosopher cannot be judged by his effect on his age alone, nor by observing how many people have accepted his ideas. He is rather the expression, the manifestation in person for his age. The philosopher presents in his ideas that which the greater part of humanity bears within it as its frame of mind, unconscious feelings and impulses of life. Like a thermometer which registers the degree of the surrounding warmth, he registers the mental condition of his age. The philosophers are no more the causes of the psychology of their age than the thermometer is the cause of the surrounding temperature.

Consider, from this point of view, the philosopher René Descartes, who worked when the age of the Spiritual Soul had already commenced. (He lived from 1596 to 1650.) The slender support for his connection with the spirit-world (the world of true being) is the experience ‘I think, therefore I am.’ In the centre of self-consciousness, in the ‘I,’ he tries to feel reality; and indeed, only so much as the Spiritual Soul can tell him.

And he endeavours intellectually to understand the rest of the Spiritual by inquiring what guarantee the certainty of his own self-consciousness gives for the certainty of anything else. Regarding the truths handed on to him historically he always inquires: Are they as clear as the ‘I think, therefore I am’? And if he can answer this in the affirmative he accepts them.

In this kind of human thought is not the Spirit eliminated from all observation that is directed towards the things in the world? The manifestation of the Spirit has withdrawn to the pin-point support in self-consciousness; all else, as it shows itself directly, is void of any revelation of the Spirit. Only indirectly, by the intellect in the Spiritual Soul, can the light of this spirit-revelation be thrown on that which lies outside self-consciousness. The man of this age allows the content of his Spiritual Soul, which is as yet almost empty, to stream towards the spiritual world with intense longing. A tiny ray goes thither.

The beings in the Spirit-world immediately bordering upon the Earth-world, and the human souls on Earth, come to one another with difficulty. Michael's supersensible preparation for his later Mission is also experienced by the human soul only under the greatest hindrances.

In order to grasp the essential nature of the frame of mind expressed in Descartes, compare this philosopher with St. Augustine, who, in the outer formulation of it, sets up for the experience of the spiritual world the same support as Descartes. But in St. Augustine it takes place out of the full force of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul. St. Augustine (354 - 430) is justly found to be related to Descartes, but his intellect is still the remnant of what is cosmic, whereas that of Descartes is the intellect that is already entering the individual human soul. In the progress of spiritual striving from St. Augustine to Descartes it may be seen how the cosmic character of the power of thought is lost and how it then reappears in the human soul. But it can also be seen at the same time with what difficulty Michael and the human soul come together so that Michael may lead in man what he once led in the Cosmos.

The Luciferic and Ahrimanic forces are at work to prevent this union. The Luciferic forces want man to unfold only that which was proper to him during his cosmic childhood; the Ahrimanic forces, which are opposed to the Luciferic and yet co-operate with them, would like to develop only those forces which were gained in later ages of the world, and so let the cosmic childhood of man wither away.

Under increased resistances such as these, the human souls in Europe digested the spiritual impulses contained in old world-conceptions which had streamed from the East to the West through the Crusades. The Michael-forces lived very strongly in these conceptions. The Cosmic Intelligence, the rulership of which was the ancient spiritual heritage of Michael, was dominant in these old world-conceptions.

How could they be received, seeing that there was a chasm between the forces of the spirit-world and the human souls? These forces came to the Spiritual Soul which was only just beginning to evolve. On one side they met with the hindrance given in the Spiritual Soul itself which was still but little developed. And on the other they no longer found a consciousness supported by Imagination. The human soul could not with full insight unite them with itself. They were accepted either quite superficially or superstitiously.

We have to pay attention to this frame of mind if we wish to understand the movements of thought connected on the one hand with the names of Wycliffe, Huss and others, and on the other with the name of ‘Rosicrucianism.’

Further Leading Thoughts issued from the Goetheanum for the Anthroposophical Society (in connection with the foregoing Second Study of the Michael Forces in the earliest Unfolding of the Spiritual Soul)

127. At the beginning of the Age of Consciousness, man evolved the intellectual forces of his soul only to a small extent as yet. Hence there arose a gap between what the soul of man in unconscious depths was longing for, and what the forces from the region of Michael's abode could give him.

128. Owing to this gap, there was a greater possibility for the Luciferic powers to hold man back in the forces of cosmic childhood, thus bringing about his further evolution, not on the paths of the Divine-Spiritual Powers with whom he was united from the beginning, but on the paths of Lucifer.

129. Moreover there was a greater possibility for the powers of Ahriman to wrest man away from the forces of his cosmic childhood, thus dragging him down, for his further evolution, into their own domain.

130. Neither of these dangers was realised, for the forces of Michael were after all at work. But the spiritual evolution of mankind had to take place under the resulting hindrances, and it was thus that it became what it has, in fact, hitherto become.