The Festivals and Their Meaning IV:
The Michael Impulse and the Mystery of Golgotha I
18 May 1913, Stuttgart
... In order to describe the super-sensible events which are of special importance for the time in which we are living, we must remind ourselves that all life in the universe rests upon an ascending evolution. If we follow the path of man's evolution we find him first as he was endowed in the beginning, in the old Saturn period; then we find him penetrated by a new element in the old Sun period, still further developed in the old Moon period, and in the Earth period endowed with the fourth element, the Ego. And we know moreover that in the Jupiter period his soul forces will take on such a form as will make him comparable with the Beings of the Hierarchy of the Angels.
Now just as man advances and ascends in his evolution, so do the other Beings of the different Hierarchies proceed from lower to higher stages. It is not only the human Hierarchy which is subject to this ascending evolution, but also the Hierarchies who are above mankind.
From among these Hierarchies let us take the one which stands two stages higher than man, the Hierarchy of the Archangels. As I said yesterday many intellectual people are prepared to accept it if one speaks of ‘spirit’ in general; but if one proceeds to classes, orders, individuals, as one does in speaking of plants, animals and other spheres in natural science, then the educated man of to-day feels hostile. But we must do so, if we wish to deal with the spiritual world in a real and concrete way.
If you will look at the lecture cycle I held in Christiania on the evolution of the races of mankind, you will see that the evolution of the races is connected with the Hierarchy of the Archangels. The successive epochs of mankind are subject to the Archai, the Spirits of Personality.
Now if we take the most important Beings in the ranks of the Archangels, we have names which we have met with in other connections and which we can use like other names, — Raphael, Gabriel, Michael and so on.
We can call these Beings by such names, for the name is in no way the essential thing. We give them names in the same way as we give other things names; that plays a certain role in what we find as facts of super-sensible evolution. Our physical evolution is however dependent upon this super-sensible evolution.
As a matter of fact we can distinguish scientifically between the separate Beings of the Hierarchy of the Archangels; not abstractly by mere name-labels, but in such a way that we can see how the principal impulses in civilisation which appear, for instance, in the sense world in a particular part of the earth in the first Christian centuries are governed by a different Being from the one who directed the principal impulse of civilisation, — say in the 12th and 13th centuries, or from the one who directs the cultural evolution of our own day.
Let us for the moment confine ourselves to what relates to our own epoch of civilisation. We have to distinguish quite sharply from other epochs the period which began about the 15th'16th century and which received its character from the rise of the new natural science. This epoch brought natural science to the height it attained in the 19th century, a greatness which cannot be sufficiently admired. When one surveys the work done by humanity as a whole in natural science in these centuries, one sees that it has been accomplished by certain peoples who were guided from the super-sensible world by a Being appointed from among the Hierarchy of the Archangels, and that this Being is quite distinct from the one who is directing from the super-sensible world the spiritual culture of the epoch which is just beginning. If one gives the names which in the West have become customary for these leaders amongst the Hierarchy of the Archangels, then from the Christian era onwards one can point to different Beings who have guided the progress of civilisation. Without wishing to lay stress on the names as such, I will enumerate the names of Beings in the Hierarchy of the Archangels, just as one mentions the names of men who have taken part in something on the physical plane. The order of Beings of the Hierarchy of the Archangels who have in turn controlled the progress of civilisation are Oriphiel, Anael, Zachariel, Raphael, Samael, Gabriel, and Michael.
Gabriel was the guiding Spirit in the cultural epoch which came to an end for the spiritual world with the last third of the 19th century. For with the last third of the 19th century — and this is a fact that will become more and more evident — an epoch begins into which quite different influences and impulses flow from the super-sensible into the sense world. Whereas during the previous period men's souls were bound to what the senses observe and what the mind can grasp, in the coming period the man who is not going to sleep through the march of evolution will above all have to observe how super-sensible wisdom and knowledge will flow increasingly from the super-sensible world into earthly sense-evolution.
Speaking in an external way one might describe it as follows. In the period of evolution that is now passed, the super-sensible Beings were engaged in guiding the forces from the super-sensible worlds, so that as far as possible they should flow into man's earthly physical body; the Hierarchies had to prevent these forces from flowing into man's soul. From now on, however, the super-sensible forces will be so directed and guided from the super-sensible world that as much as possible may be able to flow into the human soul, so that a knowledge of Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition, may lay hold of the human soul. The truly living impulses in the civilisation of the coming epoch will be as charged with Inspiration and Intuition as the preceding epoch has been lacking in all Inspiration and in all knowledge of the spiritual.
Fifty years ago it would have been impossible to speak to men of what through the necessary course of world evolution can be said to them to-day; because at that time it would have been impossible for them to receive these things directly out of the spiritual world. The door has only now been opened, and as the times that are past were the most favourable for the development of the intellect, so will the immediate future be the most favourable for the development of Inspiration and Intuition.
Two epochs of time meet sharply at this point; one to which all Inspiration was denied, and one in which, although mighty forces will undoubtedly use every available means to fight against it, it will yet be possible to receive Inspiration, to make it the determining element in the mood and character of the soul.
And if we look further into the question, we discover that the super-sensible forces which did not flow directly into the soul in the past epoch were by no means inactive. What an external physiology cannot prove is nevertheless true; in the Gabriel period the super-sensible world was at work in the world of the senses, influencing man's physical body. During that period delicate structures arose within the front part of the brain, and were gradually implanted into the reproductive system. Thus it came about that the majority of human beings were born with a brain possessing other and more delicate structures than was the case, for example, in the 12th and 13th centuries. That was the special task of the age in which man turned his mind to the physical plane of the senses and was shut off from Inspiration; the impulses of the super-sensible world poured themselves into the body and developed this fine structure in the brain.
And this structure will more and more be present in those who now feel themselves capable of progressing to active thinking and to an understanding of spiritual science. And then in our epoch, in the epoch at the beginning of which we stand, super-sensible forces will not be used to form structures in the brain but to work in the soul through Imagination and Inspiration, to flow directly into the human soul.
This is what the Michael Rulership means.
Two Beings of the Archangels are to be distinguished in this way: One who guided man immediately before our time and worked upon the structure of the brain, and one who now works upon man and has to let stream into the human soul receptiveness for spiritual wisdom. Thus we can divide from one another the Beings who belong to the Hierarchy of the Archangels.
In these two examples I have tried to present to you concrete attributes and characteristics of these Beings. We shall not content ourselves with names; for even as we know nothing of a man when we merely know he is called Miller, so we know very little about Gabriel if we only know his name. But we do know something of a man when we can say of him that he is a man of compassion, or that he has done this or that. And it is the same when we can say of a super-sensible Being that he causes forces to flow into man's physical body, forces which can instil certain structures into the power of propagation, and when we can say of another Being that he helps to stimulate the perception for intuitive truth. Michael does not work so much for the spiritual investigator, the initiate himself, but for those who wish to understand spiritual investigation, for those who are endeavouring to pass on to active thinking; it is for these that Michael will work, as these forces accumulate in mankind in the coming centuries.
This transition is an important one in another respect. Through what happened at that time, a race of men is being formed who, owing to the whole way in which they are organised will in future incarnations be in a position to look back on their earlier earthly lives.
The human race must however first give itself this possibility. One cannot remember something one has not thought about. If at night you take off your cuffs without thinking, and without thinking put away the links, then you cannot find them next morning, because you had not thought about them. If you had taken care to impress upon yourself a picture of the whole surroundings where you put your cuff links down, then next morning you would go straight to the place.
If this is true as regards memory in ordinary life, we must look at the matter in the same way on the wider horizon of different earth-lives. It is the innermost nature of the soul that we must remember, that which really passes over into the being of the soul; but to do so, we must first have comprehended the life of the soul. And that can only be done through occult training. If one has not troubled in the earlier incarnation to have thoughts about the nature of the soul one cannot of course recollect it. Men will be constituted to remember, but they will experience this constitution at first as illness, as a dreadful nervous condition. For they will be constituted to remember the past, and yet they will have nothing which they can remember. When a man has impressions which he cannot turn to account, organs in him which he cannot use, then he falls ill.
This is the state of things we are approaching, Mankind will be organised to remember, but only those who have something to remember will be able to remember, — that is, those who by means of occult training have recognised the human soul in its special character as a member of the spiritual world. In every life that follows after one in which a man has recognised the soul as a spirit-being there will be remembrance of former earth-lives.
We are standing at an important turning-point. To understand Spiritual Science means fundamentally nothing else than to have a true feeling for the turning-point to which we have come in our age.
Now all the Beings who belong to the Hierarchy of the Archangels are not of the same nature nor of the same rank. When we speak of the Hierarchy of the Archangels we can say that they ‘relieve’ one another in the way I have described to you, but the highest in rank, as it were the chief, is the one who takes over the leadership in our age — Michael. Michael is one of the order of Archangels, but he is from a certain aspect the most advanced. Now there is, as you know, evolution; and evolution embraces all Beings. Beings are in an ascending evolution, and we live in the era when Michael, the chief of those of the nature of the Archangels, passes over into the nature of the Archai. He will gradually pass over into a Guiding Being, he will become the Spirit of the Time, the Being who leads and guides the whole of humanity. It is of the utmost importance that we should understand this. It means that something which in all previous epochs has not been there for the whole of mankind, now can and must become a possession of all mankind. What formerly appeared among certain peoples here and there — spiritual deepening — can now be something for the whole of humanity.
And when in this way we point to what happens behind the world of the senses, we can also point to what takes place here in the sense-world as an imprint or copy of the event that has just been described, — that a promotion, so to say, of this Archangel, takes place behind the world of the senses. Hitherto man has been able to possess personality. In the future he will also possess personality, but in a different way. Man has always participated to some extent in the super-sensible worlds — at any rate he always could do so with his life of soul; but the personal note, the personal colouring which he then showed in his life in the sense world did not come down from above, it came up from below, it came from Lucifer. It was Lucifer who gave man personality. One could therefore say: Man cannot enter the super-sensible world with his personality, he cannot bring it into the spiritual world, he must blot out his personality — otherwise he will pollute the spiritual world.
In future it will be required of man to allow his personality to be inspired from above, so that it can receive what will then flow out of the spiritual world. A personality will receive its stamp from what it has been able to absorb of spiritual knowledge; personality will become something quite different. In a sense man was formerly a personality through what separated him from the spiritual, through what was impressed into him from the body. In future he must be a personality through what he is able to receive from the spiritual world and work upon in himself.
In the past, blood and temperament determined personalities, and into these personalities impersonal elements streamed from the super-sensible world. Less and less will man be a personality on account of his blood and temperament. In future he will be able to become a personality through the character that he acquires from his participation in the super-sensible world. The Michael impulse which brings into the human soul an understanding for the spiritual life, will achieve this. Men with a pronounced character and personality will in the future have this character and personality through what they bring to expression from their understanding of the super-sensible worlds. The Alexanders, the Caesars, the Napoleons belong to the past. Certainly the super-sensible element flowed into them too, but their highly personal colouring they received from what came to them from below. Men who are personalities from the way in which they carry the spiritual world into the sensible, men who carry personality into mankind from the soul, will take the place of the Alexanders, the Caesars, the Napoleons. The strength of human deeds will in future come from the strength of the spiritual influence working into these human deeds.
All this belongs to what is important in the transition from one epoch into another. The transition, however, from the Gabriel epoch into the Michael epoch in our time has all the characteristics of a transition of the utmost significance.
It is possible, even with ordinary sound human reason, to come to an understanding of what has been said to-day, if one is only unprejudiced enough to observe our times and see how two possibilities come right up against one another in the last third of the 19th century.
The first possibility is to form a world-conception based upon natural science. To-day that is out of date; it has become antiquated, it no longer lies in the character of the age. People still do so because they simply carry forward what comes from the past. It lies in the character of the age, however, to construct a world-conception from the inspirations coming from the spiritual world and an understanding of them. We must receive this into our souls as a feeling, as an experience; then we shall learn to know what the anthroposophical world-conception means for individual souls, we shall learn to perceive what evolution is for mankind. It is given to us to be partakers in things of great significance.
And now I will remind you of something that I mentioned in the lectures I held here last time, the lectures where I spoke of the change in the function of the Buddha. 1Occult Research into the Life between Death and Rebirth, 17th, 20th February, 1913. And here too is the point where the next lecture will join on to to-day's.
To-day's lecture may close with a question — a question that can arise in every soul and that will lead us from the important considerations which have occupied us to-day to considerations of still greater importance. When a promotion of Michael has been accomplished, when he has become the guiding Spirit of Western civilisation, who will take his place? The place must be filled. Everyone must say to himself: “Then some Angel must also have been promoted, and must enter the ranks of the Archangels. Who is it?”
I will close with this question, a question, as I said, that leads to still more important considerations which must occupy us in the next lecture.
To-day I wished to place before your souls the important character of this transition: the fact, namely, that those souls who can rouse themselves to activity will now be able to find an understanding for inspired truth. For that is the will of those who stand behind mankind, the guiding World-Powers of man's evolution. And the expression of this in the sense world is, that whereas during past ages temperament and heredity gave personality its individual colouring, in the future spiritual understanding will be the determining element. Spiritual understanding will determine the tone and character of a man's personality.
It is important to understand this, — still more important to carry it out. From this point we will pass on in our next lecture to a consideration which will find a response in every one of our souls.