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The Mission of the Archangel Michael
GA 194

II. The Michael Revelation. The Word Becomes Flesh and the Flesh Becomes Spirit

22 November 1919, Dornach

I have spoken in the previous lecture of the error which has entered our modern spiritual life and which is very little noticed today. You will have realized from our discussions that by pointing to this error we have arrived at a very important point in our spiritual-scientific considerations. It is imperative for a sound development of the spiritual life of mankind that there be clarity in this matter. I have drawn your attention to such products of culture as Milton's Paradise Lost or Klopstock's Messiah, which have sprung from the general popular thinking of the last few centuries. But I have also drawn your attention to the fact that just through such artistically as well as spiritually outstanding products of culture we can see the dangers that are facing man's soul life if he fails to realize that it is impossible to arrive at a true and adequate concept of spirit, a true concept of Christ, as long as he imagines that the structure of the world and the spirit can be grasped through the symbol of the duad. By differentiating only according to the duad—on the one hand the good, on the other the evil—people committed the error of including on the side of evil all that we designate as the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic element. But they did not realize that they had jumbled up two cosmic elements. Thus it has come about that the Luciferic element was shifted to the side of the Good; in other words, people were of the opinion that they revered the Divine, recognized the Divine, spoke by name of the Divine, whereas, in reality, they intermixed the Luciferic with the Divine element. Hence the difficulty in our time of arriving at a pure concept of the Divine and a pure concept of the Christ impulse in human and world evolution. Through the culture of the centuries we have become accustomed, because of the acknowledgment of this duad, to speak, on the one hand, of the soul element, on the other, of the bodily or corporeal element, and we have lost the connection between the thoughts which relate us to the soul-spiritual element and the thoughts which relate us to the bodily element. Thinking, willing, feeling are little more than sounding words to people of the present day; and this is particularly true of modern psychology that is taught in our universities. It does not arrive at real inner conceptions of the soul element, filled with content. On the other hand, people speak of the de-spiritualized material element, devoid of soul, and they hammer, as it were, at this external, rigid, stony-hard, soulless material element and are unable to build a bridge from it to the soul.

The all-pervading spiritual and the corporeal which is at the same time spiritual have fallen apart into two elements. Mere theories will not build a bridge between the bodily and the spiritual. And since this is not possible, all scientific thinking has taken on the character of a schism between the bodily and the spirit or soul element. We might express it thus: on the one hand, the various creeds have resorted to pointing to the spiritual element without being in a position to show how this spiritual element takes hold of the bodily-corporeal element; on the other hand, a soulless knowledge, a soulless observation of the body is unable to look through the bodily processes and perceive the spirit-soul element governing them. Anyone who surveys from this point of view the natural-scientific world conception as it developed in the course of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century will have to say to himself: all that pertains to this world conception is a result of that which has just been characterized. In order to understand fully the illusion which today covers up reality, we must first establish this reality. This we shall be able to do as a result of much that has been discussed here at length. Today the human being is considered a single undivided being, regardless whether we are speaking of soul or of body. From the soul aspect he is considered a uniform being; from the bodily aspect he is considered a uniform being. Yet you will have gathered from our discussions that in man there exists, above everything else, the great contrast between the head formation and the rest of the human organism. This latter part of the human body could be further divided, but for the moment let us consider it as a unity. If we make inquiry into the evolution of man, the inquiry in regard to the head formation must be different from that in regard to the rest of the body.

If we focus our attention upon the head formation, from a purely bodily aspect, in as far as this head formation contains the organism for sense perception or for thinking, we have to look far back into the cosmic evolution of man. What finds its expression today in the human head formation has been gradually developed and transformed. Its development has gone on through ancient Saturn, Sun and Moon and has continued during the Earth evolution. But this is not the case with the rest of the human body. It would be entirely wrong to look for a uniform evolutionary history of the whole human being. We may say (Dr. Steiner draws a diagram): The head formation points back to the previous planetary stages of our Earth: Moon, Sun, Saturn evolution; the development which has found its conclusion in the human head reaches far back. But if we add to this all that belongs to the rest of man, we need not go back as far as the Saturn evolution. The chest formation may be traced back as far the Moon evolution; the limbs have been added to the human being only during the Earth evolution.

We consider the human being in the right way only if we make the following comparative observation. But please, take it only as a comparison.

You can easily imagine, hypothetically, that through some sort of organic conditions in the cosmos, through some conditions of adaptation connected with conditions of inner growth, the human being might put forth new limbs. You would not then trace back the entire human form to a previous evolution, but you would say: Man, as an evolving being, has to be traced back; but this or that limb has only been added at a certain point of time. The reason for our being tempted not to think in this way in regard to the head and the rest of the human organism is that with respect to the outer spatial size of man the rest of the human organism is larger than the head. The truth, however, is that the head formation reaches furthest back in evolution, while the rest of the human form was added later. If we wish to speak of a connection of man with the animal world in regard to evolution, we can only say: The human head can be traced back to an earlier animal formation. The human head is a transformed animal shape, a greatly transformed animal shape.

At a time when animals did not yet exist, the human being, under completely different physical conditions, had an animal form. Animals have developed only later. That part of the human being, however, that had an animal form has become what is today the human head, and that which has been added to the head as the rest of the human organism has been added at a time when the simultaneous development of the animals occurred. Thus it has nothing to do with an actual descent from the animal. We must really state the following: The seemingly most noble part of the human being, his head, points us back to the animal; in regard to the head the human being himself had formerly a kind of animal form. But the rest of our organism we received as an organic addition to the head at a time of cosmic evolution in which the parallel development of the animals took place.

In a certain respect our head has become our organ of thinking. Our organ of thinking is that part of us which, if we may use the expression, has animal descent; a strange animal descent, to be sure. If you look at a human head today, you will not at once discover anatomically the traits that point back to the animal form. Yet upon closer investigation and with the proper interpretation of the forms of the head organs you will recognize them as transformed animal organs.

In considering all this, we must at the same time mention that the transformation of the head from the animal form to the human form came about through the fact that the human head had already entered a retrogressive evolution. That which in earlier states of evolution was full of vitality and life is, in the human head, already in the process of dying. I once stated the following: If we human beings were only head, we could never live, we would be continuously dying, for the organic processes that take place in the head through the forces of the head itself are not life processes but death processes. The human head is continually quickened to life by the rest of the organism. The head owes to the rest of the organism its participation in the general life of the organism. If the head were simply to rely upon those forces for which it is organized, namely the forces of sense perception and thinking, it would be continually dying. Its continuous tendency is to die; it has to be constantly revitalized. If we think, if we perceive with our senses, there takes place in our head, in our nervous system and its connection with the sense organs, a process that is the opposite of an ascending process of life and growth. For if such a life process took place there, we would fall into deep sleep, we would never be able to think clearly. Only through the fact that death constantly pervades our head, that a continuous retrogressive evolution is going on there and the organic processes are constantly cancelled, do thinking and sense perception take place in our head.

Whoever in a materialistic fashion attempts to explain thinking and sense perception by means of the brain processes does not know at all what processes occur in the head; he believes the processes occurring there may be compared with the processes of organic growth. This is not the case. The processes that run parallel to sense perception and thinking are breaking down processes, processes of destruction. The organic, the material, must first be broken down, must first be destroyed; then above the organic process of destruction the thinking process arises.

You see, these matters are conceived of by humanity today in such a way that the attempt is made to explain their nature externally. The human being thinks, he perceives with his senses; but he knows nothing about that which takes place simultaneously in his organism; this remains completely in the unconscious. Only through the processes which I have described in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment {Anthroposophic Press, New York,) is it possible gradually to rise to a knowledge which does not merely live in what today is called, in a mere word-sense, the soul element, namely sense perception and thinking. If a soul undergoes the development described in my book, it can yield on the one hand to thinking, to sense perception, and simultaneously perceive what happens in the brain; it then does not perceive a growth process but a breaking down process which has continually to be compensated by the rest of the organism.

You see, this is the tragic phenomenon accompanying a real knowledge of the activity of the head: there is no unfolding of organic processes in the head to be enjoyed by the clairvoyant when he thinks, when he perceives with his senses; on the contrary, he has to familiarize himself with a process of destruction. He must also familiarize himself with the fact that the materialistically inclined person supposes such processes to take place in the human head which cannot possibly take place when man thinks or perceives with his senses. Materialism must suppose just the opposite of the truth.

Thus, in the human head we are concerned with an evolution out of the animal, but with an evolution already retrogressive; with a breaking down process. The rest of our human organism is in a progressive evolution, and we must not believe that it has no part in the soul-spiritual element and its experience in man. Not only is our blood constantly sent up from the rest of the organism into the head, but also there continually rise into the head those soul-spiritual thought forms from which the world and our organism are woven. These soul-spiritual thought forms are not yet perceived by the human being in his normal state, but the time has come when man has to begin to perceive what arises out of his own being as thought forms. As you know, we do not sleep only from the moment of falling asleep to the moment of waking up; with a part of our being we sleep the whole day through. We are awake only in regard to our thinking and sense perceiving, we dream in regard to our life of feeling; we are sound asleep in regard to our life of willing. For we know only of the thoughts and ideas of our volition; we know nothing of the process of willing. The activity of our will takes place just as unconsciously as our sleep life from the moment of falling asleep to the moment of waking up. But if we ask: By what path alone can knowledge of the Divine reach the human being? we cannot point to the path through the head, through sense perception and thinking, but only to the path that leads through the rest of our organism. We have to deal here with the great and mighty mystery that man's head has developed through long stages of evolution and that gradually the rest of his organism was added; that the head has already started on a retrogressive evolution and that man can only experience the Divine through the rest of his organism, not through the head. For you see, it is important to realize that through the head only the Luciferic beings spoke to man.

We may say that man received the rest of his organism in addition to the head in order that the Gods might speak to him. At the beginning of the Bible we do not read: God sent a ray of light to man and he became a living soul, but we read: God breathed the living breath into man and he became a living soul. Here it is recognized that the divine impulse reached the human being through an activity that is not of the head.

From this it will become clear to you that this divine impulse could at first come to man only in a kind of unconscious clairvoyance or, rather, through the comprehension of what was given through unconscious clairvoyance. If you consider the Old Testament you will find that it is the result of unconscious clairvoyance (we know this from former discussion). Those who helped in bringing about the Old Testament were conscious of this fact. I cannot describe to you today how the Old Testament came into existence, but I should like to point out to you that we have repeatedly dealt with these matters, and that the teachers of the ancient Hebrew people were conscious of the fact that their God had spoken to them not through direct sense perceptions, not through ordinary thinking, not through that of which the head is the mediator, but that their God had spoken to them through dreams, not ordinary dreams, but dreams permeated by reality. God spoke to them in moments of clairvoyance, as when he spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. And when the initiates of this ancient time were asked about the way in which they received the divine calls they answered: the Lord whose name is ineffable speaks to us; but he speaks to us through his countenance. And the countenance of their God they called Michael, that spiritual power who belongs to the hierarchy of the Archangeloi. They felt their God as remaining unknown even behind the experiences of the clairvoyant; but when the clairvoyant, through the inner strength of his soul, raised himself to his God, then Michael spoke to him. But this Michael spoke only to men if they were able to transport themselves into a state of consciousness different from the ordinary, if they were able to transport themselves into the state of a certain clairvoyance in which they became conscious of that which works and lives in the human being during the period between going to sleep and awaking, or through the will which remains subconscious and is in the sleep state even during waking day consciousness.

Thus in ancient Hebrew occultism, the Yahve-revelation was called the revelation of the night; the Yahve-revelation, through the Michael-revelation, was felt as the revelation of the night. Thus, on the one hand, man looked into the world and saw what he could receive through sense perception and through human intelligent thinking, and he said to himself: the knowledge that comes to the human being on this path does not contain the Divine. If man, however, develops another state of consciousness, then the countenance of God, Michael, speaks to him and reveals the secrets that relate to the human being; his revelation builds a bridge between the human being and those powers which cannot be perceived in the external sense world, which cannot be thought out by the brain-bound intellect.

Thus we must say: The human beings of the pre-Christian age directed their gaze, on the one hand, toward sense knowledge which was their guide in their earthly undertakings and, on the other hand, toward that knowledge which the human being would only possess in ordinary consciousness—he did not possess it—if this consciousness were to remain awake also during the period of sleep. During these ancient times of the Old Testament people knew that the human being is in the environment of spiritual beings during his waking hours, but that these spiritual beings are not his creator beings, but the Luciferic beings. The beings which mankind felt to be the divine creator beings were active in man from the moment of falling asleep to awakening and also in that part of his nature which sleeps during the day. In the time in which the Old Testament originated Yahve was called the Ruler of the Night, and Michael, the countenance of Yahve, was called the Servant of the Ruler of the Night. And the people of that time referred to Michael when they referred to the prophetic inspirations through which they received knowledge which was greater than that of the sense world.

Which consciousness is concealed behind all this? That consciousness which has grown out of the sphere of existence in which those powers which include Yahve have their being, whereas the human head formation is surrounded by Luciferic beings. The fact that the human being through his head, as it reaches above the organism, has turned to the Luciferic beings was a secret known in all ancient temples and it was a secret with which man came very close to the truth. It was known that, as the head rises above the human organism, Lucifer also rises above it. The power which brought the human head out of the animal form into its present shape is a Luciferic power; and the power which man must feel as Divine must stream up into his head from the night condition of the rest of his organism. This was the situation in regard to man's knowledge in pre-Christian times.

Then the Mystery of Golgotha entered Earth evolution, and we know that it signifies the union of a super-earthly Being with the Earth evolution of man through the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Through the Death on Golgotha the Being Whom we call the Christ has united Himself with the human earth being. What did this signify for Earth evolution? Through this event, Earth evolution first received its real meaning. The earth would not have its meaning if man were to develop on this earth with his senses and the intellect bound to the head which are of Luciferic origin, if he were to perceive the world of light streaming down from sun and stars upon the earth, but if he were obliged to remain in the sleep state in order to perceive the Divine. Under these conditions the earth would never have attained its meaning, for the waking human being and the earth belong together. The sleeping human being is not conscious of his connection with earthly existence. Through the fact that the Christ Being has lived in a human body which has passed through death, Earth evolution has taken a forward bound. The whole Earth evolution has acquired a new meaning. The possibility has arisen for the human being gradually to be able to know his divine creator powers also during the day, during ordinary waking life, that is, in his ordinary state of consciousness. That people are still in error today concerning this matter is caused by the fact that the time that has elapsed since the Mystery of Golgotha has not yet sufficed to lead man to a perception, during waking life, of that world which the prophets of the Old Testament were able to behold in those times which they experienced as permeated by revelations of Yahve, their Ruler of the Night, and of his countenance, Michael. A period of transition was needed. But with the close of the nineteenth century—all oriental wisdom points to the importance of this close of the nineteenth century, although from a completely different point of view—with the end of the nineteenth century the time has come when human beings must recognize that within them the latent faculty is ready to be awakened which is able to behold, through day-revelation, that which in earlier times was transmitted in night-revelation through Michael.

A time of great error, however, had to precede this, a night of cognition, as it were. I have often said that I do not agree with those who constantly maintain that our time is a period of transition. I know quite well that every time is a period of transition, but I do not want to stop short at such formal, abstract definitions, for the point is that one should indicate clearly of what the transition of a particular time consists. The transition in our time lies in man's need to recognize that what formerly was obtained in night-knowledge we must now obtain through day-knowledge. In other words: Michael was the revealer through the night and in our age he must become the revealer during the day. From being a spirit of night Michael must become a spirit of day. For him the Mystery of Golgotha signifies the transformation from a spirit of night into a spirit of day.

This knowledge which should make its way among human beings much faster than we believe today had to be preceded by a great error, in fact, by the greatest error imaginable in mankind's evolution, in spite of its being still considered an important and essential truth by many people today. The origin of the human head has become completely hidden from modern mankind; the Luciferic spirituality connected with the human head has become completely veiled. The human being, as I said, was considered a unity, also in a bodily respect. The question of his descent was raised, and the reply was given that man descended from the animal; while, in truth, only that which is Luciferic in man stems from the animal. That part of man, however, through which his divine creators spoke to him in earlier ages during his sleep state only came into existence as an appendage to the human head, while the animal came into existence side by side with it.

Everything was mixed together, as it were, and man was said to have descended from the animal. This is something like a “penalty” of knowledge which arose for mankind. One must give the word “penalty” a somewhat changed interpretation, to be sure.

Whence comes the notion of man's descent from the animals, whereas the truth consists of the facts we have stated in regard to the descent of the head and the rest of the human organism? Who inspired the human being with the fictitious belief that the whole of man descended from the animal?

The theory of man's descent from the animal is an Ahrimanic inspiration; it is of purely Ahrimanic character. To the obscuring of the wisdom which points to the human head as a Luciferic formation, we owe the delusion that man descends from the animal. In failing to comprehend the descent of the human head in the right way man also failed to grasp the other facts in the right manner. Thus the opinion crept into human thinking that man, as a totality, is related to the animal. The world conception of our modern civilization became permeated by the erroneous idea that the human head is the noblest part of man, and it was contrasted by the rest of his organism, just as the good in the world is contrasted by evil—heaven by hell—a duad instead of a triad. The truth is that what man accomplishes in the world by means of his head he owes to the wisdom of the universe, but to the Luciferic wisdom, and that this Luciferic wisdom must gradually be permeated by other elements.

After mankind's evolution had passed through the Saturn, Sun and Moon states and the Earth evolution had begun, that spiritual power which we call the Michael power organized the Luciferic nature into the human head formation. “And he cast his opposing spirits down upon the earth,” that is, through this casting down of the Luciferic spirits, opposing Michael, man became permeated by this reason, by that which springs from his head.

Thus it is Michael who sent his opponents to man in order that, by receiving this opposing Luciferic element, man might receive his reason. Then the Mystery of Golgotha entered human evolution. The Christ Being passed through the death of Jesus of Nazareth and united Himself with the evolution of mankind.

The time of preparation has passed. Michael himself, in the super-sensible worlds, has participated in the results of the Mystery of Golgotha. Since the last third of the nineteenth century Michael occupies a unique position in the evolution of humanity. The first thing that must occur through the right understanding of man's relation to Michael is the fathoming of such secrets as the one we have endeavored to present today concerning the human head and the rest of the human organism.

The essential thing is for human beings to see that since they did not recognize the true origin of the head they were certain to fall into delusion about the origin of the whole human being. Because they refused to conceive of the Luciferic formative activity that took place in the human head, they fell a prey to the delusion that the human head had the same origin as the rest of the human being. Mankind must penetrate these mysteries. It must, boldly and courageously, face the knowledge that through taking hold of new divine mysteries it must in its inner life improve all that is given to it through mere insight of the head, through mere human, earthly wisdom or cleverness. And first of all, the great error must be corrected which has preceded the turning point, the error which lies in the materialistic interpretation of the evolutionary theory of the descent of the whole human being from the animal.

This will be the only way of arriving at a perception of man which does not see, on the one hand, merely the spirit-soul element, living in a body, as it were, and a soulless body, on the other hand; but which beholds the concrete-spiritual which works, although in a Luciferic manner, in the human head, the concrete-spiritual which works in the whole human being, opposed, however, by the Ahrimanic nature in the organism apart from the head.

Speaking in imaginations, we may point back to the fact that the Luciferic element was incorporated in man through the Michael impulse. Through that which Michael has become, the Ahrimanic element must now, in turn, be taken from man. Seen from the aspect of outer science, the truth about man appears to consist of anatomical and physiological knowledge, or that which confronts us as outer sense observation. We must become capable of looking at the human being in such a way that we can see in his every fiber the concrete-spiritual being together with the bodily element. We must become aware that the blood which flows in the living human being is not the same as the blood we draw off, but that the blood flowing in the living human being is permeated by spirit in a special way. We must learn to know the spirit that pulses through the blood. We must learn to know the spirit that pulses through the nervous system just when the latter passes through a phase of breaking down, and so forth. We must become able to see the spiritual element in every single expression of life.

Michael is the spirit of strength. As he enters human evolution he must bring it about that we do not consider on the one hand abstract spirituality and on the other materiality which we listen to with the stethoscope, which we cut up, and of which we have not the slightest inkling that it is only an externally manifesting form of the spiritual; Michael must permeate us as the strong power which can look through the material and see the spiritual in matter. The Evangelist pointed to an ancient stage of human consciousness and he said: In this ancient time the Word lived in a spiritual way; but the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word united with the flesh and the Michael revelation preceded this event. It is processes in human consciousness that are indicated here. The reverse process must now begin which consists in adding another word to the word of the evangelist. We must acquire the power in our consciousness to see how the human being receives that which out of the spiritual worlds has united itself with the earth through the Christ impulse and which must unite itself with mankind in order that mankind shall not perish with the earth. We must make sure that man takes the spiritual not only into his head but into his whole being, that he permeates himself with the spiritual. Only the Christ impulse can help us with this, the Christ impulse in the interpretation of the Michael impulse. Then to the Evangelist's words these may be added: “And the time must come when the flesh will again become the Word and learn to dwell in the realm of the Word.”

It is not an invention by a later writer when, added at the conclusion of the Gospel, we read that much has been left unsaid. By this means attention is drawn to that which can only gradually be revealed to mankind. Those who maintain that the Gospels must remain as they are and must not be touched understand them very little. They must be interpreted according to the words of the Christ Jesus—I have mentioned this repeatedly—: “I am with you every day even to the end of the earth cycles.” That means: “I have revealed Myself to you not only during the days in which the Gospels were written, I will speak to you always through My day spirit, Michael, if you seek the way to Me. Through the continuous Christ revelation you may add to the Gospels that which was not known in the Gospel of the first millennium but which can be known in the Gospel of the second; and new things may be added during the millennia to come.” What is written in the Gospel is true: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” It is, however, just as true that we must add the revelation: “And the flesh of man must again become spiritualized that it may be able to dwell in the kingdom of the Word in order to behold the divine mysteries.” The Word becoming flesh is the first Michael revelation; the flesh becoming Spirit must be the second Michael revelation.