The Festivals and Their Meaning IV:
The Creation of a Michael Festival out of the Spirit (extract)
23 May 1923, Berlin
... In the first period after the great Atlantean catastrophe, the life of man was intimately connected with the spirit; each human being could be told the nature of his Karma, according to the moment of his birth. At that time astrology was not the dilettantism it often is to-day, but signified rather a living participation in the deeds of the stars. And from this living participation, the way in which each human being had to live was revealed to him out of the Mysteries. Astrology had a living significance for the experience of each human life. Then came a time about the sixth, fifth and fourth centuries before Christ, in which men no longer experienced the secrets of the starry heavens, but experienced instead the course of the year. What do I mean by saying that men experienced the “course of the year”? It means that they knew through immediate perception, that the earth is not the coarse lump modern geology sees in it. No plants could grow on the earth, if it were what geology imagines; even less could animals or human beings appear on it — this would be quite impossible; for according to geologists the earth is a mineral, and there can be direct growth out of the mineral only when the whole universe works upon it, when there is a connection with the whole universe. In ancient times men knew what to-day must be learned over again, namely, that the earth is an organism and has a soul.
You see, this earth soul too has its particular destiny. Suppose that it is winter where we are, Christmas-time or the time of the winter solstice, — then that is the time in which the soul of the earth is completely united with the earth. For when the earth is decked with snow, when as it were, a frosty cloak envelops the earth, then the earth-soul is united with the earth, rests in the interior of the earth. We find then, that the soul of the earth, resting within the earth, maintains the life of countless elemental spirits. The modern naturalistic conception which thinks that the seeds sown in autumn simply lie there until next spring is quite false, the elemental spirits of the earth must preserve the seeds throughout the winter. This is all connected with the fact that the soul of the earth is united with the body of the earth throughout the time of winter.
Let us take the opposite season: midsummer time. Just as man draws in the air and exhales it, so that it is alternately within him and outside him, so does the earth inhale its soul during the winter. And during the time of mid-summer in the height of summer, the soul of the earth has been exhaled entirely; breathed out into the wide spaces of the universe. The body of the earth is then, as it were, “empty” and does not contain the earth-soul; the earth shares with its soul in the events of the cosmos, in the course of the stars, etc. For this reason Winter Mysteries existed in ancient times, in which one experienced the union of the earth-soul with the earth. There were Summer Mysteries too, in which it was possible to perceive the secrets of the universe, when the soul of the initiate followed the soul of the earth out into the cosmic spaces and shared in its experiences with the stars.
The old traditional remnants still extant to-day can show that men used to be conscious of such things. Long ago, — it happened to be actually here, in Berlin — I often used to spend some time with an astronomer who was very well known, and who agitated violently against the very disturbing idea that the Easter Festival should fall on the Sunday immediately after the first full moon of spring; he thought it terrible that it did not fall each year, let us say on the first Sunday of April. It was of course useless to bring forward reasons against this idea; for what underlay it was this: If Easter falls each year on a different date, a frightful confusion comes about in the debit and credit of account books! This movement had even assumed quite large proportions. I have mentioned here before that on the first page of account books one generally finds the words “With God”, whereas as a rule, the things contained in such books are not exactly “with God”. In the times in which the Easter Festival was fixed according to the course of the stars, — the first Sunday after the spring full moon was dedicated to the Sun — there was still the consciousness that the soul of the earth is within the earth during the winter, and outside in the cosmic spaces during midsummer time, while in spring it is on its way out towards cosmic space. The Spring Festival, the Easter Festival, cannot therefore be fixed on a particular day, in accordance with earthly things alone, but must take into account the constellations of the stars. A deep wisdom lies in this, coming out of an age in which men were still able to perceive the spiritual nature of the year's course through an ancient instinctive clairvoyance. We must again come to this. And we can come to it again, in a certain sense, if we grasp the tasks of the present time by connecting them with what we have discussed and studied together here.
On several occasions I have stated here that amongst the spiritual Beings with whom man is united every night in the way I have described — for instance, with the Archangels through speech — there are some Beings who are the ruling spiritual powers for a particular period of time. During the last third of the nineteenth century, the Michael period began, that period in which the spirit otherwise designated in writings as Michael, has become the most important one for the concerns of human civilisation. Such things repeat themselves periodically. In ancient times, something was known about all these spiritual processes. The old Hebrew period spoke of Jahve. But it always spoke of the “countenance of Jahve or Jehovah” and by “countenance” it meant the Archangels, who were actually the mediators between Jahve and the earth. And when the Jews were awaiting the Messiah on earth, they knew: the Michael period, in which Michael is the mediator for Christ's activity on earth, is here; only the Jews misunderstood this in its deeper connection. Since the seventies of the nineteenth century the time has once more come on earth in which the Michael force is the ruling spiritual power in the world, and in which we must understand how to introduce the spiritual element into our actions, and how to arrange our life out of the spirit. “Serving Michael” means that we should not organise our life merely out of the material, but that we should be conscious that Michael, whose mission it is to overcome the base Ahrimanic forces, must, as it were, be our genius in the development of our civilisation.
Now he can achieve this if we remember how we can link again in a spiritual sense to the course of the seasons. There is really a deep wisdom in the whole world process, manifested in our being able to unite the Festival of the Resurrection of Christ Jesus with the Spring Festival. The historical connection (I have often stated this) is absolutely correct: the Spring Festival, i.e. the Easter Festival, can only fall on a different day each year, because it is something that is seen from the other world. It is only we on earth who have the narrow-minded conception that “time” is continuous, that every hour is just as long as another. We determine time mathematically, by our earthly means alone, whereas for the real spiritual world, the cosmic hour is endowed with life. One cosmic hour is not like another, but shorter or longer than another. Hence we are always likely to err when we try to determine from the earth what should be determined from a heavenly standpoint. The Easter Festival is rightfully determined in accordance with the heavens.
What is the nature of this festival? It is the festival that should remind us, and once did remind people in the most living manner, that a Divine Being descended to the earth, took His dwelling in the human being, Jesus of Nazareth, in order that during the time in which mankind was approaching the Ego evolution, human beings might find their way back, in the right way, through death into spiritual life. This I have often described. Thus, the Easter Festival is the festival in which man contemplates death and the immortality which follows it, through the Mystery of Golgotha. We look at this springtime festival aright when we say: The Christ has strengthened man's immortality through His own victory over death; but we human beings understand the immortality of Christ Jesus in the right way only when we acquire this understanding during our life on earth, i.e. if we awaken to life within our souls our connection with the Mystery of Golgotha, and are able to free ourselves from the materialistic conception which takes away from the Mystery of Golgotha all its spiritual nature. To-day the “Christ” is hardly taken into consideration, but only “Jesus”, “the simple man of Nazareth.” One would almost blush before one's own scientific knowledge if one were to admit that the Mystery of Golgotha contains a spiritual mystery in the midst of earth-existence, namely, the Death and Resurrection of the God.
But when we experience this in a spiritual manner, we prepare ourselves to experience other things also in a spiritual manner. It is for this reason so important for modern man to gain the possibility of experiencing the Mystery of Golgotha above all as something entirely spiritual. He will then be able to experience other spiritual things, and will find through the Mystery of Golgotha the paths leading into the spiritual worlds. At the same time, man must understand the Resurrection in connection with the Mystery of Golgotha, while he is still alive; and if he is able to understand the Resurrection in his feelings while he is alive, this will also enable him to pass through death in the right way. This means that death and resurrection, contained in the Mystery of Golgotha, should teach man to invert the relationship: to experience resurrection inwardly, within the soul, during life, so that after having experienced this inner resurrection in his soul, he may go through death in the right way. This experience is the exact opposite of the Easter experience. At Easter we should submerge ourselves in Christ's Death and Resurrection. But as human beings we must be able to submerge in what is given to us as the resurrection of the soul, in order that the risen human soul may go through death in the right way. Just as in the spring we acquire the real Easter feeling in seeing how the plants spring up and bud, how Nature reawakens to life and overcomes winter's death, so we are able to acquire another feeling when we have lived through the summer in the right spirit and know that the soul has ascended into cosmic spaces; that we are approaching autumn, that September and the Autumn Equinox are drawing near; that the leaves which were shooting so green and fresh in the spring, are now turning yellow and brown, are withering away; that the trees stand there almost bare of their leaves; Nature is dying. Yet we understand this dying Nature when we look into the fading process, when the snow begins to cover the earth: and say: the soul of the earth is withdrawing again into the earth and will be fully within the earth when the winter solstice has come.
It is possible to experience this autumn season just as intensely as we experience springtide. Just as we can experience the Death and Resurrection of the God in the Easter season in spring, so can we experience in the autumn the death and resurrection of the human soul, i.e. we experience resurrection during our life on earth in order to go through death in the right way. Moreover, we must understand what it means for us and for our age that the soul of the earth is exhaled at midsummer into the world's far spaces, is there united with the stars and then returns. He who fathoms the secrets of the earth's circuit during the course of the year will know that the Michael force is now descending again through the Nature-forces — the Michael force which did not descend in former centuries. Thus we can face the leafless autumn, inasmuch as we look towards the approach of the Michael force out of the clouds. The calendars show on this day the name of “Michael”, and Michaelmas is a country festival: yet we shall not experience the present spiritually, linking human events on earth with Nature's events, until we understand again the year's course and establish festivals of the year as they were established in the past by the ancients, who were still endowed with their dreamy clairvoyance. Men of old understood the year, and out of such mysteries, which I could to-day outline only briefly, they founded the Christmas, Easter and Midsummer (St. John) festivals. At Christmas time we give each other presents and do certain other things as well; but I have often explained in the Christmas and Easter lectures I have given here, how very little people still receive to-day from these festivals, how everything has taken on a traditional, external form. When, however, the festivals which we celebrate without understanding them, will again be understood, then we shall have the strength to establish out of a spiritual understanding of the year's course, a festival which only now for present-day humanity, has real significance: this will be the Michael Festival. It will be a festival in the last days of September, when autumn approaches, the leaves wither, the trees grow bare and Nature faces death, — just as it faces a new budding life at Easter time, — and when we experience in Nature's fading life, how the soul of the earth is then united with the earth and brings with it Michael out of the clouds. When we acquire the strength to establish such a festival out of the spirit, — a festival that brings with it once more a feeling of fellowship into our social life, — then we shall have established it spiritually: for we shall then have founded something in our midst which has the spirit at its source. Far more important than other reflections on social conditions — which can lead to no results in our present chaotic conditions, unless they contain the spirit — would be this: that a number of open-minded people should come together for the purpose of instituting again on earth something proceeding out of the universe, as, for instance, a Michael Festival. This would be the worthy counterpart of the Easter Festival, but a festival taking place in autumn, an Autumn Festival. If people could determine upon something, the motive to which can be found only in the spiritual world, something which can kindle feelings of fellowship amongst those who assemble at such a festival — arising out of the fullness and freshness of the human heart through immediate contact — then something would exist which could bind men together again socially.
For in the past, festivals used to bind human beings strongly together. Just think, for instance, of all that has been done and said and thought in connection with festivals for the whole of civilisation.
This is what entered physical life through the establishment of festivals directly out of the spirit. If men could determine in a dignified worthy way to establish a Michael Festival during the last days of September, this would be a most significant deed. But the courage would have to be found amongst them not merely to discuss external social reforms, etc., but to do something that connects the earth with the heavens, that reconnects physical with spiritual conditions.
Thus something would again take place amongst men, constituting a mighty impulse for the continuation of our civilisation and our whole human life; because the Spirit would once more be introduced into earthly conditions.
There is naturally no time to describe to you the scientific, religious and artistic experiences which could arise, just as in the ancient festivals — through such a new festival, established in a great and worthy way out of the spirit. How much more important than all that is going on to-day in the shape of social tirades would be such a creating out of the spiritual world. For what would that imply? It implies a great deal for an insight into man's inner nature if I can fathom his way of thinking, if I can really understand his words aright. If to-day one could see the working of the whole universe when autumn approaches, if one could decipher the whole face of the universe, and acquire creative force out of it, then the establishment of such a festival would reveal, not only the will of human beings, but also the will of Gods and Spirits. Then the Spirit would again be among mankind!