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Karmic Relationships VI
GA 240

Lecture IX

20 July 1924, Arnhem

The rulership of Michael in its cosmic, spiritual aspect shows us, as you will have gathered from what I have already told you, that he occupies a special position among those spiritual Beings whom we call the Archangeloi. And precisely because of its bearing upon the central theme of these lectures, we shall appreciate the significance of the fact that in the centuries preceding the founding of Christianity, Michael sent his impulses—his ‘cosmopolitan’ impulses—from the Sun to the Earth. As time went on, these cosmopolitan impulses disappeared: the Cosmic Intelligence fell away from Michael and by the eighth century A.D. had arrived on Earth. In earthly evolution we then find men whose thoughts were produced out of themselves, who are, as it were, ‘self-made’ thinkers. This personal, self-engendered thinking was then cultivated in preparation for the next reign of Michael. As we have seen, the wise Masters of the School of Chartres worked in unison towards this end with those souls who had been connected with the previous reign of Michael and who were predestined to develop the once cosmic but now earthly Intelligence. They were predestined to carry their work on into the nineteenth century when—at first in the spiritual world—it became possible, through the Imaginative Cult I have described to you, to prepare for what the Anthroposophical Movement was intended to achieve.

Since the last third of the nineteenth century we have been living in the initial stage of the new reign of Michael; throughout this time, and above all in our own day, preparation has to be made for what must come to pass in the twentieth century. For before the end of this present century a considerable number of human beings who have unfolded real understanding of Anthroposophy will have passed through a briefer period between death and rebirth than is usual and will again be united on the Earth under the leadership of those who were the Masters of Chartres and with those who have remained in direct connection with the sovereignty of Michael. This will take place in order that under the spiritual guidance of these two groups of beings the final, hallowed impulse may be given for the development of the spiritual life on Earth.

Anthroposophy can only be of real significance for those who want to ally themselves with it, when with a certain inner, reverent fervour they become conscious that they may indeed have their place within a sphere of happenings like those described yesterday. This realisation will not only kindle inner enthusiasm but also be a source of strength, giving us the knowledge that it is our task to be the continuers of what was once alive in the ancient Mysteries.

But this consciousness must be, and indeed can be, deepened in every direction. For in the light of what was said yesterday, we look back to the time when, united with a host of super-earthly Beings in the spiritual realm of the Sun, Michael sent down upon Earth those impulses and signs which inspired the deeds of Alexander on the one side and the Aristotelian philosophy on the other. Out of these impulses arose the last phase of the inspired Intelligence on Earth. Then, together with human souls who on his behalf carried out this work on Earth, together with his spiritual hosts and the hosts of human souls around these leading spirits, Michael witnessed the Mystery of Golgotha from his abode on the Sun. Truly our souls may be stirred by picturing that moment when Michael, together with a host of Angeloi, Archangeloi and human souls, witnessed the Christ departing from the Sun in order to enter the bodily sheaths of a man and, through what He could experience in a human body on Earth, to unite Himself with the further evolution of humanity. But for Michael himself this was at the same time the sign that henceforward he must allow the heavenly Intelligence, hitherto in his keeping, to stream down like holy rain upon the Earth, to fall away gradually from the Sun. And when the ninth century of the Christian era had come, those around Michael perceived: The content of what had been guarded hitherto under Michael, is now down below, upon the Earth.

What mattered now was that in complete harmony with the sovereignty of Michael there should arise all that came into the world through the Masters of Chartres and also through certain chosen souls in the Order of the Dominicans. In short, there came about the phase of evolution which from the beginning of the fifteenth century inaugurated the epoch of the Consciousness Soul—it is the phase of evolution in which we ourselves are living. Approximately in the first third of the preceding epoch, that is to say during the first third of the epoch of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul, as an outcome of Alexandrianism, the super-earthly Intelligence had spread in Asia, Africa and parts of Europe. Following upon this, came the time when Michael, the foremost Archangel-Spirit of the Sun, knew that the Cosmic Intelligence was passing away from this realm, away from his administration: the conditions were now established for the development of the Intelligence on the Earth. A further phase of development on Earth began in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries of the Christian era, when Gabriel became the administrator—as I explained in my previous lecture—while Michael was free from his earlier obligations in the Cosmos.

Michael was now in an unusual position. In other circumstances, when an Archangelos is not himself the ruling Spirit in the affairs of Earth, he lets his impulses pour, nevertheless, into what the other Archangeloi are bringing to pass. The impulses from all the seven consecutive Archangelic rulerships flow in continually—it is simply that one rulership predominates in a particular age. When, for example, in earlier epochs of evolution, Gabriel was the leading Spirit, it was paramountly those impulses of which he was the actual ruler that flowed into earthly evolution; but the other Archangeloi were also at work. Now, however, when Gabriel was exercising his dominion, Michael was in the unusual position of being unable to participate from the Sun in the affairs of the Earth. Truly it is a strange position for a ruling Archangelos to perceive that the activity he has been wielding through long ages has, for the time being, come to an end. And so it was that Michael said to those who belonged to him: For the time during which we cannot send impulses to the Earth (it is the period which ended about the year 1879) we must set about a special task, a task within the realm of the Sun. It was to be possible for those souls who have been led by their karma into the Anthroposophical Movement, to behold in the realm of the Sun the deeds performed by Michael and his hosts while Gabriel was holding sway upon the Earth.

This was detached from the otherwise regular sequence of deeds taking place between gods and men. The souls connected with Michael—the leading souls of Alexander's time, the leading Dominicans with those of less eminence who had gathered around them, and a large number of aspiring human souls in association with the leading spirits—these souls felt torn away from the age-long connection with the spiritual world. There, in super-sensible worlds, those human souls predestined to become Anthroposophists experienced something never previously experienced by human souls between death and rebirth in the super-earthly realm. In earlier times during the period between death and a new birth, the karma for the future earthly existence had been elaborated by human souls in connection with leading spiritual Beings. But no karma had ever previously been elaborated in the same way as was the karma of those predestined to become Anthroposophists. Never before in the realm of the Sun between death and rebirth had there been accomplished such work as was possible under the leadership of Michael when, as was now the case, he was free of the concerns of the Earth.

Something came to pass in the super-sensible worlds. It was something that lies implanted deep down in the hearts of the majority of Anthroposophists to-day, although in the unconscious, wrapt in sleep or dream. And the Anthroposophist speaks truly when he says to himself: Within my heart there lies a secret although I am yet unconscious of it. It is a secret mystery wherein are reflected the deeds of Michael in realms beyond the Earth when, before my present incarnation, I was serving him. In the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Michael, being free of his wonted tasks, was enabled to work in a special way, and I was working under him.

Michael gathered his hosts, he gathered from the realms of the Angeloi and the Archangeloi the super-sensible Beings who belonged to him, but he gathered, too, human souls who in one way or another had been connected with him. And thus there arose a kind of School—a great and ever-widening super-sensible School. In the same way that a kind of heavenly Conference had taken place at the beginning of the thirteenth century between those who worked together as Platonists and Aristotelians, a super-sensible tuition now took place, from the fifteenth into the eighteenth centuries, under the direct leadership of Michael—a super-sensible schooling in which the great Teacher, ordained by cosmic decree, was Michael himself. Thus, before the super-sensible cult that took its course during the first half of the nineteenth century in mighty Imaginations, as I have told you, numbers of human souls had already received a super-sensible schooling whose results they now carry subconsciously within them. These results come to expression in the urge felt by such people to come to Anthroposophy. The urge that brings them to Anthroposophy is indeed the outcome of this schooling. And it can truly be said: At the end of the fifteenth century, Michael gathered his hosts of gods and of human souls in the realm of the Sun and gave them teaching which extended over long periods of time. This teaching was to somewhat the following effect.—

Since the human race has peopled the Earth in human form, Mysteries have existed upon the Earth: Sun Mysteries, Mercury Mysteries, Venus Mysteries, Mars Mysteries, Jupiter Mysteries, Saturn Mysteries. Into these Mysteries the gods poured their secrets; in these Mysteries men were initiated when they were fit for Initiation. Thus it has been possible for the human being on the Earth to know what proceeds on Saturn, on Jupiter, on Mars and so forth, to know, too, how happenings in these spheres work into the evolution of mankind on Earth. Always there have been Initiates who, in the Mysteries, communed with the Gods. With an old, instinctive clairvoyance, these Initiates received the impulses coming to them in the Mysteries. But even meagre traditions (thus spoke Michael to those who belonged to him) even meagre traditions of this have almost vanished from the Earth. The impulses can no longer stream into the Earth. It is only in the lowest-lying region—that of physical procreation—it is there and there alone that Gabriel still has the power to let the Moon-influences flow into the evolution of humanity. The ancient traditions have almost disappeared from the Earth and therewith the possibility to nurture and cultivate the impulses streaming into the subconscious life and into the differently constituted bodily natures of men. We, however, turn our gaze back to all that once was brought in the Mysteries as a gift of the Heavens to men; we survey this wonderful tableau. And also we look downwards across the flow of the ages. And there we find the places of the Mysteries, we see how the heavenly wisdom streamed into these Mysteries, how men were initiated, how from our hallowed realm in the Sun the Cosmic Intelligence poured down to men in such a way that the great Teachers of humanity received truly spiritual ideas, thoughts, concepts. These ideas and thoughts were inspired into them from our hallowed realm in the Sun. These inspirations have vanished from the Earth. We see them only when we look back into epochs of antiquity ... stage by stage we see them disappearing from earthly evolution during the time of Alexander and its aftermath—and down there below we see the Intelligence that has now become earthly, spreading gradually among men. But the vista has remained with us. We yet behold the secrets that were once divulged to the Initiates of the Mysteries. Let us bring this fully into our consciousness! Let us bring it to the consciousness of those spiritual Beings who are around me, those Beings who never appear in earthly bodies but have their existence only in an etheric form. But let us bring it, too, to those souls who have often lived on Earth in physical bodies, those who are actually there now, and who belong to the Michael community—let us bring it to the consciousness of these human souls. We will image forth the great Initiation-teaching which once streamed down in the ancient fashion, through the Mysteries, to the Earth. We will present this to the souls of those who in their life of Intelligence were linked with Michael.—

And then—if I may use an earthly, and in such a context an almost trivial expression—then the ancient Initiation-Wisdom was “worked through.” In a great and comprehensive heavenly School, Michael taught the contents of what he was now no longer able to administer himself. It was an overwhelming deed—something that in the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth centuries and on into the eighteenth, caused such profound disquiet and alarm to the Ahrimanic demons on Earth that a remarkable thing happened. Between heavenly deeds and earthly deeds at this time polaric contrast was established. In the heights, in the spiritual world, there was this sublime School, gathering together the old Initiate-Wisdom in a new form, calling up into the Intelligence-filled consciousness, into the Consciousness Soul of predestined human beings between death and rebirth, what in earlier times had been man's treasury of wisdom in the Intellectual Soul, the Sentient Soul, and so forth. In inner words, seeming stern in many respects when they were uttered, Michael placed before those who belonged to him the picture of cosmic relationships, the anthroposophical relationships. These souls received teaching which unveiled the secrets of worlds. Below, on the Earth, the Ahrimanic spirits were at work.—And here it is necessary to point without reserve to a secret. Outwardly regarded it will seem unacceptable in face of modern culture, but it is nevertheless a divine secret and one of which Anthroposophists must be cognisant in order to be able to lead civilisation in the right way to the end of the twentieth century.

While Michael above was teaching his hosts, there was founded in the realm lying immediately below the surface of the Earth, a kind of sub-earthly, Ahrimanic school. The Michael School was in the super-earthly world; in the region beneath our feet—for the spiritual is actively at work in the sub-earthly region also—the opposing Ahrimanic school was founded. And in that particular period, when no impulses were streaming down from Michael bringing heavenly inspiration to the Intelligence, when the Intelligence on the Earth was, for the time being, left to itself, the Ahrimanic hosts strove all the harder to send their impulses up from below into the development of the Intelligence in mankind. It is a truly overwhelming picture. The Earth's surface—Michael above, teaching his hosts, revealing to them in mighty, cosmic language the ancient Initiate-Wisdom, and below, the Ahrimanic school in the sub-strata of the Earth. Upon the Earth, the Intelligence that has fallen from the Heavens is unfolding. For the time being, Michael holds his School in heavenly isolation from the earthly world—no impulses stream down from above—and there below are the Ahrimanic powers, sending up their impulses with all the greater strength.

There have always been souls incarnated on the Earth who were aware of this sinister situation. Anyone conversant with the spiritual history of this epoch, especially the spiritual history of Europe, will everywhere find evidence of the fact that there were individuals here and there—often quite simple men—who had an inkling of this sinister situation: abandonment of humanity by the Michael rulership, and impulses rising from below like demonic vapours, striving to conquer the Intelligence.

It is remarkable how closely the revelations of wisdom are bound up with the human being, if all that springs from such revelations is to be beneficial. This is the secret which must here be touched upon.—A human being whose task it is to proclaim the Michael wisdom feels that in a certain respect he is following the right course when he tries to put into words, when he wrestles to find the terminology to express, what is, in very truth, the wisdom of Michael. Such a one feels, too, that he is further justified when with his own hand he writes down this wisdom; for then the flow of the spiritual is directly connected with him and streams, as it were, into the forms of what he is writing, into what he is doing. Thus he willingly communicates this wisdom to others in the form of reading material when it is written down by him in his own hand. But when through mechanical means, through the medium of the printed book, he sees his work duplicated, he has a feeling of uneasiness. This has to be endured, for the method is in keeping with our age. Nevertheless, the feeling of uneasiness is never absent from one who stands within the life of the Spirit together with what he has to proclaim.

In connection with the lecture yesterday, somebody has asked me whether, as Swedenborg has hinted, the letter (Buchstabe) is not, after all, the ‘last outflow’ of the spiritual life. That indeed is so! It is the last outflow of the spiritual life so long as it flows through a man in a continuous stream from the Spirit. But when it is fixed by mechanical means as it were from the other pole, when it comes before the eyes of men as printed letters, it becomes an Ahrimanic spiritual power. For, strange to say, it is that Ahrimanic school which worked in opposition to the School of Michael in the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—it is that Ahrimanic school which brought the art of printing, with all its consequences, to Europe. Printing can be the soil from which demonic powers, well adapted to combat the rulership of Michael, may spring.

An Anthroposophist must be able to perceive the significance and meaning of realities in life; he must recognise that printing is a spiritual power but precisely that spiritual power which Ahriman has placed in opposition to Michael. Therefore to those who in his School at that time were being taught by him, Michael constantly gave this warning: When you descend again to the Earth in order to give effect to what has here been prepared, gather men around you, make known the essentials by word of mouth, and do not regard the ‘literary’ effects produced in the world through the printed book as of foremost importance.—Hence the more intimate method of working from man to man is more truly in accord with Michael's way. If, instead of working merely through books, we meet together with one another, letting the impulses flow into us in the sphere of the human and the personal, and only then using the books as aids to memory, shall we be able to inaugurate the stream that—imponderably at first—is destined to flow through the Anthroposophical Society. It is inevitable that we should make use of books for we must also become masters of this art of Ahriman's—otherwise we should be delivered into his hands. We must be able to reckon truly with the Ahrimanic spirit of the times, otherwise tremendous power would be given to him. Thus it is not a matter of merely ousting the printed book but of bringing it into relationship with what works in a directly human way. So it would not be right, as a result of what I have just put before you, to say: ‘Away with all the anthroposophical books!’ Thereby we should be delivering up the art of printing to the most powerful enemies of the Michael wisdom; we should be making it impossible for our anthroposophical work to thrive, as thrive it must, until the end of the century is reached. What we must do is to ennoble the art of printing through our reverence for the Michael wisdom. For what is it that by way of the art of printing Ahriman is intent upon achieving in opposition to Michael? Ahriman is intent upon conquest of the Intelligence. There is evidence of it everywhere to-day. Conquest of the Intelligence, which asserts itself wherever conditions are favourable. And when do we find the Ahrimanic spirits most potent in their attacks against the coming age of Michael? We find them at those times when a diminution or lowering of the consciousness takes place in human beings. These Ahrimanic spirits then take possession of human consciousness, they entrench themselves within it. For instance, in the year 1914, many individuals in a lowered state of consciousness became entangled in events which led to the outbreak of the terrible World War. And within the lowered consciousness of such men the hosts of Ahriman promoted the World War—promoted it by way of human beings. The real causes of that War will never be brought to light by documents contained in archives. No, one must rather look deeply into history and perceive that there, at some particular point, stood an influential personality, at this point another, and there again another—and these men were in a lowered state of consciousness. That was the opportunity for Ahriman to take possession of them. And if you want to realise how easy it is in our age for men to be possessed by Ahriman, you need think only of this example.

What happened, when, with the printed volumes they had brought with them, the Europeans arrived in North America in times when Indians were still to be found in the eastern part of the land? When the Indians saw these volumes with their strange characters of script they took the letters to be little demons. They had the right perception for these things. They were terribly frightened when they looked at all these little demonic entities—a, b, and the rest, as they appear in print. For these letters, reproduced in such a different way, do contain something that fascinates, something that casts a spell over the modern mind; and only the good outlook of Michael, with eyes open to the human element in the proclamation of wisdom, can lead men beyond the danger of this lure. But evil things may happen in this domain.

At this point let me say the following.—There are certain secrets connected with the vision of world-existence which cannot be penetrated before a somewhat advanced age in life. Each particular period of life enables one who possesses Initiation-science to behold the individual secrets of existence. Thus between the twenty-first and forty-second years of life—not before—such a man is able to gaze into the Sun-existence; between the forty-second and forty-ninth years into the Mars secrets; between the forty-ninth and fifty-sixth years into the Jupiter secrets. But to behold the secrets of worlds in their interconnections, one must have passed the age of sixty-three.1See True and False Paths in Spiritual Investigations. Lecture 6. (Rudolf Steiner Press.) Therefore before I myself was in this position, I should not have been able to speak of certain things of which I now speak without any reserve. Before the vision can penetrate into anything related to the Michael Mysteries, to the influences working from the spiritual realm of the Sun, one must look upwards from the Earth through the Saturn existence into the secrets of worlds. One must be able to experience, to live within that twilight of the spiritual world which proceeds from the ruler of Saturn, from Oriphiel, who was the leading Archangelos at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha and who will again assume the leadership when the Michael Age has run its course.

To such vision, however, shattering, overwhelming truths connected with the present age are revealed. As we have seen, the art of printing spread over the Earth through the Ahrimanic school working in opposition to the School of Michael, and because of this, ‘authorship’ on a wide scale has arisen on the Earth. Who, then, were ‘authors’ in earlier times, before printing was in existence? They were men whose writings could be known only in the narrowest circles, in circles, moreover, that were properly prepared. Into how many hands did a book find its way before printing was in use? Think of the following, and you will be able to judge how things were. A kind of substitute for the later art of printing was already in existence in ancient Chinese civilisation and had reached a high level of perfection. A kind of printing art had been established there—also in an Age when Michael was ruling above; and when below there was an Ahrimanic anti-rulership. But nothing very much came of it. In those times the power of Ahriman was not yet so powerful and he was still unable to make really effective attempts to wrest from Michael the rulership of the Intelligence. The attempt was renewed in the time of Alexander but then again was unsuccessful.

Ahriman's influence in the printing art of the modern age, however, has assumed deep significance. Authorship has, so to speak, been popularised. And something has become possible, something that is as great in a wonderful, brilliant, dazzling way as, on the other hand, the necessity is great to receive it in absolute equableness of soul and to estimate it according to its true significance. First attempts have been made, attempts which from Michael's realm may be characterised by saying: Ahriman has appeared as an author. For Michael and his circle, this is a deeply significant happening to-day. Ahriman as an author! Not only have men been possessed by him as I indicated in the case of the outbreak of the War, but in that he manifested on Earth through human souls, he himself appeared as an author. That he is a most brilliant author need be no cause for astonishment; for Ahriman is a mighty, all-embracing spirit. True, he is not by nature fitted to promote the evolution of mankind on the Earth according to the intentions of the good gods; he opposes it. Nevertheless in his own sphere he is not only a thoroughly useful but a beneficent power—for beings who on one level of world-happenings are benefactors are exceedingly harmful on another. It need not be assumed, therefore, that in characterising the works of Ahriman they must come in for unqualified rebuke. Provided one is conscious of what they are, one can even admire them. But the Ahrimanic character must be recognised!

Michael teaches how recognition can be made to-day if men are willing to listen to him. For the Michael schooling has worked on and still to-day it is possible for men to draw near it. Then it teaches how Ahriman himself as an author has made attempts—first attempts of a deeply shattering, deeply tragic character—working, of course, through a human being. Nietzsche's Anti-Christ, his Ecce Homo, his autobiography, and the annotations in The Will to Power—those most brilliant chapters of modern authorship with their often devilish content—Ahriman was their writer, exercising his sovereignty over that which in letters on the Earth can be made subject to his dominion through the art of printing! Ahriman has already begun to appear as an author and his work will continue. On Earth in the future alertness will be necessary in order that not all the productions of authorship shall be deemed of the same calibre. Works written by men will appear, but some individuals at least must be aware that a Being is training himself to become one of the most brilliant authors in the immediate future: that Being is Ahriman! Human hands will write the works, but Ahriman will be the author. As once the Evangelists of old were inspired by super-sensible Beings and wrote down their works through this inspiration, so will the works of Ahriman be penned by men.

The further history of the evolution of humanity will present itself in two aspects. Endeavours must be made to propagate in the earthly realm—to the greatest extent possible—what was once taught by Michael in super-sensible Schools to souls predestined to receive it; endeavours must be made in the Anthroposophical Society to be reverently mindful of this knowledge and to impart it to those who will be incarnated in the coming times, until the end of the century has arrived. And then, many of those who for the first time are learning of these things to-day will come down to the Earth again. The time will be short. But meanwhile on Earth much that has been written by Ahriman will appear.

One task of Anthroposophists is this: steadfastly to cultivate the Michael Wisdom, to bring courageous hearts to this Michael Wisdom, and to realise that the first penetration of the earthly Intelligence by the spiritual sword of Michael consists in this sword being wielded by those into whose hearts the Michael wisdom has found its way. And so the picture of Michael in a new form may inspire each single Anthroposophist—Michael standing there within the hearts of men, beneath his feet the production of Ahrimanic authorship. Such a picture need not be painted in that external form in which during the time of the Dominicans the image was often fixed—above, the Dominican Schoolmen with their books, below, crushed under their feet, the heathen wisdom as represented by Averröes, Avicenna and the rest. Wherever it was a matter of portraying the battle waged by Christian Scholasticism against heathendom, these pictures are to be found. But in the spirit there must be this other picture: Devotion to Michael as he enters into the world, laying hold of the Intelligence upon Earth; and—in order that one may not be bedazzled—alertness with regard to the brilliant work of Ahriman as an author through the whole of the twentieth century. Ahriman will write his works in the strangest places—but they will be there indeed—and he is preparing pupils for his purposes. Even in our day, much in the subconscious is being schooled in such a way that souls will be able to incarnate again quickly and become instruments for Ahriman as an author. He will write in all domains: in philosophy, in poetry, in the sphere of the drama and the epic; in medicine, law, sociology. Ahriman will write in all these domains!

This will be the situation into which mankind will be led when the end of the century is reached. And those who are still young to-day will witness many samples of how Ahriman appears as an author. In every sphere watchfulness will be needed—and reverent enthusiasm for the Michael Wisdom.

If we can permeate ourselves with these things, if we can feel ourselves standing within the spiritual life in the sense of the indications here given, then, my dear friends, we shall place ourselves as true Anthroposophists into the civilisation of the present time. Then, maybe, we shall realise more and more deeply that a new Impulse is going out from the Christmas Foundation at the Goetheanum, that in truth only now are there being presented to the Anthroposophical Society things whereby this Society can see itself as it were in a great cosmic mirror—in which the individual, too, together with the karma which leads him into the Anthroposophical Society, can see himself reflected.

That is what I wanted to lay on your hearts in these lectures. For it is to hearts that the words are chiefly spoken. The hearts of men must become the helpers of Michael in the conquering of the Intelligence that has fallen to the Earth. Just as once the old Serpent was destined to be crushed by Michael, so must the Intelligence that has now become the Serpent be conquered by Michael, be spiritualised by Michael. And whenever the Serpent appears in its unspiritualised state, made Ahrimanic, it must be recognised through the vigilance, the alertness which belongs to the anthroposophical spirit and is developed through the Michael-like tenor of soul.