Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Karmic Relationships III
GA 237

8. Ahriman's Fight Against the Michael Principle.
The Message of Michael

1 August 1924, Dornach

We shall now have to describe how the individual anthroposophist can come to experience his karma through the simple fact that he has placed himself into the Anthroposophical Society, or at any rate into the Anthroposophical Movement, through all the previous conditions of which we have already spoken. To this end it will be necessary for me to add a few explanations to what I set forth last Monday. I told you of the deeply important super-sensible School at the beginning of the 15th century. To characterise it we can say: Michael himself was the great Teacher in that School. Numbers of souls, human souls who were then in the life between death and a new birth, and numbers too of spiritual beings who do not have to enter earthly incarnation, but spend the aeons, during which we live, in an ethereal or other higher form of higher existence,—all these human, super-human and sub-human beings, belonged at that time to the all-embracing School of the Michael Power. They were, so to speak, disciples of Michael. And you will remember, last Monday I told you a little of the content of the teaching given at that time.

Today we will begin by emphasising this one point: the previous Michael dominion, having lasted three centuries and finding its culmination in the Alexandrian epoch of pre-Christian time, was withdrawn from the earth, and the dominions of the other Archangeloi followed. At the time when on earth, within the earthly realm, the Mystery of Golgotha took place, the Michael community were united in the Spirit, with all the spiritual and human-spiritual beings who belonged to them. How did they feel and perceive the Mystery of Golgotha? Christ at that time was taking His departure from their realm—the realm of the Sun. Such was their experience; while the human beings who were then living upon earth had to experience the Mystery of Golgotha quite differently. For Christ was coming down to them to the earth.

Now this is an immense, far-reaching and gigantic contrast in experience, as between the one kind of human soul and the other,—a contrast which we need to penetrate and understand with all our heart and mind.

Then there began the time when the Cosmic Intelligence, that is to say, the essence of Intelligence that is spread out over the great universe, which had been subject to the unlimited rulership of Michael until the end of the Alexandrian epoch, gradually passed into the possession of man on earth and fell, so to speak, out of the hands of Michael.

You must realise, my dear friends: the evolution of mankind with respect to these things took place as follows. Till the end of the Alexandrian time, nay even afterwards,—and for certain groups of human beings long, long afterwards,—when a man was intelligent there was always the consciousness, not that he had evolved the Intelligence within him, but that he was gifted with it from the spiritual worlds. If a man thought a clever thought, the cleverness of it was ascribed to the inspiration of spiritual Beings. It is indeed of fairly recent date that man ascribes his cleverness, his intelligence, to himself. This is due to the fact that the rulership of Intelligence has passed from the hands of Michael into the hands of men. When Michael at the end of the eighteen-seventies again assumed his regency in the guidance of earthly destinies, he found the Cosmic Intelligence, which had fallen away from him entirely since the 8th or 9th century A.D.,—he found it again in the realm of mankind below.

Thus it was in the last third of the 19th century, when the Gabriel dominion was over and the Michael dominion began to spread. It was as though Michael, coming to the intelligent human beings, arrived at a point where he could say: Here do I find again that which has fallen away from me, which I administered in times long past.

Now in the Middle Ages there was a great conflict between the leading men of the Dominican Order and those who, in a continuation of Asiatic Alexandrianism, had found their way over into Spain,—Averroes, for example. What was the substance of this conflict? Averroes and those on his side—the Mohammedan followers of Aristotelian learning—said: “Intelligence is universal, common to all.” They only spoke of a pan-Intelligence, not of an individual human Intelligence. To Averroes the individual human Intelligence was but a kind of mirrored reflection in the single human head. In its reality it had only a general, universal existence.

I will draw a mirror, thus (drawing on the blackboard). I might equally well have drawn a mirror not with nine parts only, but with hundreds, thousands and millions. Over against it is an object which will be reflected. So it was for Averroes, who was attacked so vigorously by Thomas Aquinas. For Averroes—in the tradition of the old Michael epoch—Intelligence was pan-Intelligence, one Intelligence and one only, which the several human heads reflected. As soon as the human head ceases to work, the individual Intelligence is no more. Now was this really true?

The fact is this. That which Averroes conceived had been true till the end of the Alexandrian age. It was simply a cosmic and human fact until the end of that age. But Averroes held fast to it while the Dominicans received into themselves the evolution of mankind. They said, “It is not so.” They might of course have said, “It was so once, but it is not so today.” But they did not say this. They simply took the actual and true condition at that time (the 13th century) which became even more so in the 14th and 15th centuries. They said: “Now everyone has his own intellect, his own intelligence.”

This was what really happened, and to bring these matters to full clearness of understanding was the very task of the super-sensible School of which I spoke last Monday. It was repeated in that School again and again in many metamorphoses, inasmuch as the character of the ancient Mysteries was again and again described. Wonderfully clearly and visibly, not in super-sensible Imaginations, (these only came at the beginning of the 19th century) but in super-sensible Inspirations, there was described what I have often been able to give here in a reflected radiance—the essence of the ancient Mysteries.

Then too they pointed to the future, to what was to become the new life of the Mysteries. They pointed to all that was to come, though not in the way of the old Mysteries which had come to human beings who did not yet possess Intelligence on earth, and who, accordingly, still had a dream-like experience of super-sensible worlds. They pointed to that new life of the Mysteries which we must now begin to understand in the realm of Anthroposophy, and which is absolutely compatible with the full Intelligence of man—the clear, light-filled Intelligence.

Let us now enter a little into the more intimate details of the teachings of that super-sensible School. For they led to a knowledge of something, of which only a kind of shadowy reflection has existed in the world-conceptions of men upon the earth since the old Hebrew time and in the Christian era. It exists, to this day (when a far deeper insight ought already to prevail) in the large majority of men only as a dim reflection out of old traditions. I mean the teaching about Sin, about the sinful human being, the teaching about man, who at the beginning of human evolution was predestined not to descend so deeply into the material realm as he has actually descended.

We can still find a good version of this teaching in St. Martin, the ‘Unknown Philosopher.’ He still did teach his pupils that originally, before human evolution on the earth began, man stood upon a certain height from which he then sank down through a primeval Sin which St. Martin describes as the Cosmic Adultery. By a primeval Sin man descended to that estate in which he finds himself today.

St. Martin here points to something that was inherently contained in the doctrine of Sin during the whole of human evolution, I mean, the idea that man does not stand at that high level at which he could be standing. All teachings about inherited Sin were justly connected with this idea, that man has descended from the height which originally was his.

Now by following this idea to its conclusion, a world-conception of a very definite shade or colouring had gradually been evolved. This kind of world-conception said in effect: Man has become sinful (and to become sinful means to fall from one's original height). And since man has in fact become sinful, he cannot see the world as he would have been able to see it in his sinless condition before the Fall. Man, therefore, sees the world darkly and dimly. He sees it not in its true form. He sees it with many illusions and false fantasies. Above all, he sees what he sees in outer Nature, not as it really is or with its true spiritual background. He sees it in a material form which is not there in reality at all. Such was the meaning of the saying: Man is sinful. Such was its meaning in ancient time and—in the traditions—frequently even to this day. Thus upon earth too, those who had kept the tradition of the Mysteries continued to teach: Man cannot perceive the world, he cannot feel in the world, he cannot act in the world as he would think and feel and act if he had not become sinful,—if he had not descended from the height for which his Gods originally predestined him.

Now we may turn our gaze to all the leading Spirits in the kingdom of Archangeloi who follow one another in earthly rule, so that this earthly dominion is exercised by the several Archangeloi in turn through successive periods of three to three-and-a-half centuries. In the last three or four centuries it has been the dominion of Gabriel. Now it will be that of Michael, for three hundred years to come. Let us turn our gaze therefore to the whole series of these Archangel Beings: Gabriel, Raphael, Zachariel, Anael, Oriphiel, Samael, Michael. As we look to all these Beings, we can characterise the relation that exists between them and the loftier Spirits of the Hierarchies, somewhat as follows.

I beg you not to take these words lightly or easily. We have but human words to express these sublime realities. Simple as the words may sound, they are not lightly meant. Of all these Angels, the number of whom is seven, six have to a very considerable extent (not entirely—Gabriel most of all—but even he not altogether)—six, as I said, have to a very considerable extent resigned themselves to the fact that man is faced with Maya, with the great illusion, because, in his quality which no longer accords with his original pre-destination, he has in fact descended from his first stature. Michael alone, Michael is the only one (I say again, I am forced to use banal expressions) Michael is the only one who would not give in. Michael, and with him those who are the Michael spirits even among men, continues to take this stand: I am the Ruler of the Intelligence. And the Intelligence must be so ruled that there shall not enter into it any illusion nor false fantasy, nor anything that would restrict the human being to a dark and vague and cloudy vision of the world.

My dear friends: to see how Michael stands there as the greatest opponent in the ranks of the Archangels, is an unspeakably uplifting sight,—overpowering, magnificent. And every time a Michael Age returned, it happened upon earth too that Intelligence as a means to knowledge became not only cosmopolitan as I have already said, but became such that men were filled through and through with the consciousness: We can after all ascend to the Divinity.

This consciousness: “We can after all ascend to the Divine,” played an immense part at the end of the last Michael Age, the Michael Age before our own. Starting from ancient Greece, the places of the ancient Mysteries everywhere were in a state of discouragement; an atmosphere of discouragement had come over them all. Discouraged were those who lived on in Southern Italy and Sicily. The successors of the ancient Pythagorean School of the sixth pre-Christian century had been well-nigh extinguished. They were filled with discouragement.

Once again, those who were initiated in the Pythagorean Mysteries saw how much illusion, illusion of materialism, was spreading over the whole world.

Discouraged too were those who were the daughters and sons of ancient Egyptian Mysteries. Oh, these Egyptian Mysteries! It was only like the slag from wonderful old veins of precious metal, when they still handed down the deep old teachings, such as were expressed in the legend of Osiris, or in the worship of Serapis. And where were those mighty and courageous ascents to the spiritual world that had taken their start, for example, from the Mysteries of Diana at Ephesus? Even the Samothracian Mysteries, the wisdom of the Kabiri, could now only be deciphered by individuals who bore deep within them the impulse of greatness to soar upward with might and main. By such souls alone could the clouds of smoke that ascended from Axieros, etc., from the Kabiri, be deciphered.

Discouragement everywhere! Everywhere a feeling of what they sought to overcome in the ancient Mysteries as they turned to the secret of the Sun Mystery, which is in truth the secret of Michael. Everywhere a feeling: Man cannot, he is unable.

This Michael Age was an age of great trial and probation. Plato, after all, was but a kind of watery extract of the ancient Mysteries. The most intellectual element of this extract was then extracted again in Aristotelianism, and Alexander took it on his shoulders.

This was the word of Michael at that time: Man must reach the Pan-Intelligence, he must take hold of the Divine upon earth in sinless form. From the centre of Alexandria the best that has been achieved must be spread far and wide in all directions, through all the places of the Mysteries, discouraged as they are. This was the impulse of Michael. This is indeed the relation of Michael to the other Archangeloi. He has protested most strongly against the Fall of man.

This too was the most important content of his teaching, the teaching with which he instructed his own in the super-sensible School of which I spoke last Monday. It was as follows: Now that the Intelligence will be down among men upon the earth, having fallen from the lap of Michael and from his hosts,—now in this new Age of Michael, men will have to become aware of the way of their salvation. They must not allow their Intelligence to be overcome by sinfulness; rather must they use this age of Intelligence to ascend to the spiritual life in purity of Intelligence, free from all illusion.

Such is the mood and feeling on the side of Michael as against the side of Ahriman. On Monday last I characterised this great contrast. Already the very strongest efforts are being made by Ahriman, and more still will be made in the future—the strongest efforts to acquire the Intelligence that has come into the hands of men. For if men once became possessed by Ahriman, Ahriman himself, in human heads, would be possessing the Intelligence.

My dear friends, we must learn to know this Ahriman, these hosts of Ahriman. It is not enough to find the name of Ahriman contemptible or to give the name of Ahriman to so many beings whom one despises. That is of no avail. The point is that in Ahriman there stands before us a cosmic Being of the highest imaginable Intelligence, a cosmic Being who has already taken the Intelligence entirely into the individual, personal element. In every conceivable direction Ahriman is in the highest degree intelligent, over-intelligent. He has at his command a dazzling Intelligence, proceeding from the whole human being, with the single exception of the part of the human being which in the human forehead takes on a human form.

To reproduce Ahriman in human Imaginations we should have to give him a receding forehead, a frivolously cynical expression, for in him everything comes out of the lower forces, and yet from these lower forces the highest Intelligence proceeds. If ever we let ourselves in for a discussion with Ahriman, we should inevitably be shattered by the logical conclusiveness, the magnificent certainty of aim with which he manipulates his arguments. The really decisive question for the world of men, in the opinion of Ahriman, is this: Will cleverness or stupidity prevail? And Ahriman calls stupidity everything that does not contain Intelligence within it in full personal individuality. Every Ahriman-being is over-endowed with personal Intelligence in the way I have now described; critical to a degree in the repudiation of all things unlogical; scornful and contemptuous in thought.

When we have Ahriman before us in this way, then too we shall feel the great contrast between Ahriman and Michael. For Michael is not in the least concerned with the personal quality of Intelligence. It is only for man that the temptation is ever-present to make his Intelligence personal after the pattern of Ahriman. Truth to tell, Ahriman has a most contemptuous judgment of Michael. He thinks Michael foolish and stupid,—stupid, needless to say, in relation to himself. For Michael does not wish to seize the Intelligence and make it personally his own. Michael only wills, and has willed through the thousands of years, nay through the aeons, to administer the Pan-Intelligence. And now once more, now that men have the Intelligence, it should again be administered by Michael as something belonging to all mankind—as the common and universal Intelligence that benefits all men alike.

We human beings shall indeed do rightly, my dear friends, if we say to ourselves: the idea that we can have cleverness for ourselves alone is foolish. Certainly we cannot be clever for ourselves alone. For if we want to prove anything to another person logically, the first thing we must presume is that the same logic holds good for him as for ourselves. And for a third party again it is the same logic. If anyone were able to have a logic of his own it would be absurd for us to want to prove anything to him by our logic. This after all is easy to realise; but it is essential in the present age of Michael for this realisation also to enter into our deepest feelings.

Thus behind the scenes of existence is raging the battle of Michael against all that is of Ahriman. And this, as I said last Monday, is among the tasks of the anthroposophist. ... He must have a feeling for the fact that these things are so at the present time. He must feel that the cosmos is as it were in the very midst of the battle.

You see, this battle was already there in the cosmos, but it became significant above all since the 8th or 9th century, when the Cosmic Intelligence gradually fell away from Michael and his hosts and came down to men on earth. It only became acute when the Spiritual Soul began to unfold in humanity, at the point of time which I have so often indicated, at the beginning of the 15th century. In individual spirits who lived on earth at that time, we see, even upon earth, some sort of reflection of what was taking place in the great super-sensible School of which I spoke last Monday. We see something of it reflected in individual men on the earth.

In recent lectures we have said much of heavenly reflections in earthly schools and institutions. We have spoken of the great School of Chartres, and others. But we can speak of this in relation to individual human beings too. Thus at the very time when the Spiritual Soul began to evolve in civilised mankind—when Rosicrucianism, genuine Rosicrucianism, was nurturing the early beginnings of the impulse to the Spiritual Soul,—something of the impulse which was at work above the earth struck down like lightning upon a spirit living in that age. I mean Raymond of Sabunda. What he taught at the beginning of the 15th century is almost like an earthly reflection of the great super-sensible doctrine of Michael which I have characterised.

He said: men have fallen from the vantage-point that was given to them originally by their Gods. If they had remained upon that point, they would have seen around them all that lives in the wondrous crystal shapes of the mineral kingdom, in the amorphous mineral kingdom, in the hundred-and-thousand fold forms of the plant kingdom, in the forms of the animal, all that lives and moves in water and air, in warmth and in the earthly realm. All this they would have seen as it really is, in its true nature.

Raymond of Sabunda called to mind, how the Tree of Sephiroth, or the Aristotelian categories (those generalised concepts that look so strange to one who cannot understand them) contain what is meant to guide us through Intelligence, up into the universe. How dry, how appallingly dry do these categories seem as they are taught in the textbooks of Logic. Being, having, becoming, here, there—ten of these categories, ten abstract concepts, and people say: it is too dreadful, it is appalling to have to learn such abstractions. Why should anyone grow warm with enthusiasm for ten generalised concepts—being, having, becoming and so forth?

But it is just as though someone were to say: here is Goethe's Faust. Why do people make so much fuss of it? It only consists of A, B, C, D, E, F, ... to Z. Nothing else is there in the book, only A, B, C, D ... Z in various combinations and permutations. Certainly one who cannot read, and takes Goethe's Faust in hand, will not perceive the greatness that is contained in it. He will only see A, B, C, D ... to Z. One who does not know how the A, B, C, D, are to be combined, who does not know how they are related to one another, cannot read Goethe's Faust.

So it is, in relation to the reading of words, with the Aristotelian categories. There are ten of them, not so many as the letters of the alphabet, but they are indeed the spiritual letters. And anyone who knows how to manipulate ‘being,’ ‘having,’ ‘becoming,’ etc., in the right way,—just as we must know how to treat the several letters so that they produce the Faust of Goethe,—anyone who knows how to do this, may still be able to divine what Aristotle for example said of these things in his instruction of Alexander.

Raymond of Sabunda was one who still drew attention to such things. He had knowledge of them. He said: Look for instance at what is still contained in Aristotelianism. There we find something that has still remained of that old standpoint from which man fell at the beginning of human evolution on earth. Originally, men still preserved some memory of it. It was the reading in the Book of Nature. But men have fallen; they can no longer truly read in the Book of Nature. Hence God in His Compassion has given them in the Bible, the Book of Revelation, in order that they may not entirely depart from the Divine and Spiritual. Thus Raymond of Sabunda still taught, even in the 15th century, that the Book of Revelation exists for sinful man because he is no longer able to read in the Book of Nature. And in the way he taught these things, we can already perceive his idea that man must find once more the power to read in the great Book of Nature.

This is the impulse of Michael. Now that the Intelligence administered by him has come down to men, it is his impulse to lead men again to the point where they will read once more in the Book of Nature. The great Book of Nature will be opened again. Men will read once more in the Book of Nature.

In reality, everyone who is in the Anthroposophical Movement should feel that he can only understand his karma when he knows that he personally is called to read once more, spiritually, in the Book of Nature—to find the spiritual background of Nature, God having given His Revelation for the intervening time.

Read the inner meaning that is contained in my book Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Spiritual Life (Modern Mysticism).1Mysticism and Modern Thought. Anthroposophical Publishing Co. On the last page you will see (in the form, of course, in which I could and had to write it at that time), you will see that the whole point was to guide the Anthroposophical Movement in this direction—to awaken once more the faculty to read not only in the Book of Revelation, in which I said that Jacob Boehme was still reading, but in the Book of Nature. The blundering, inadequate, and frequently repulsive attempts of modern natural science must be transmuted by a spiritual world-conception, till there arise from them a true reading of the Book of Nature. I think even this expression, ‘the Book of Nature,’ is to be found at the end of my book Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Spiritual Life. From the very beginning, the Anthroposophical Movement had this ‘Shibboleth.’ From the very beginning it was an appeal to those who should now listen to the voice of their own karma, and hear more or less dimly and subconsciously the call: ‘Behold, my karma is somehow moved and taken hold of by this Michael message which is sounding forth into the world. I, through my own karma, have to do with this.’

There are the human beings after all, who have been always there. They are always there. They have come, and they will come ever and again. There are those who are prepared in some sense to depart from the world and come together in this which is now called the Anthroposophical Society. As to the sense in which this ‘departure from the world’ is to be conceived—whether it be more or less real, or outwardly formal or the like—that is another matter. For the individual souls it is a kind of departure—a going away from the world and into something different from the world in which they have grown up. All manner of karmic experiences come to the individual, each in his own way. The one will have this or that to undergo through the fact that he must tear himself loose from old connections and unite with those who are seeking to cultivate the message of Michael. There are some who feel this union with the mission of Michael as a kind of salvation. There are others who feel it in a different way, finding themselves in this position: ‘I am drawn to Michael on the one hand and to Ahrimanism on the other. I cannot choose. Through my life I stand in the midst of these things.’ There are some whose inner courage tears them away, albeit they still preserve the outward connections. There are some who still find the outer connections easily. And this perhaps is best for the present condition of the Anthroposophical Society. But in every case, those human beings who are within the Anthroposophical Movement stand face to face with others who are not in it, including some with whom they are deeply, karmically connected from former earthly lives. Here we can look into the strangest of karmic threads.

My dear friends, we shall only be able to understand these karmic threads if we remember all the preceding conditions that we have now set forth. We shall only understand them when we have really seen how the souls who today, out of their unconscious Being, feel impelled to the Anthroposophical Movement, have undergone experiences together. For they have undergone much together in former lives on earth. Moreover the great majority of them belonged to the hosts who heard the Michael message in the super-sensible in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, and who took part at the beginning of the 19th century in the great Imaginative ceremony of which I have here spoken. Thus we behold a mighty Cosmic and Tellurian call, addressed to the deep karmic relationship of the members of the Anthroposophical Society. We heard last Monday, how this call will continue throughout the 20th century, and how the culmination will come at the end of this century. Of these things, my dear friends, I will speak again next Sunday.