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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Festivals and Their Meaning IV:


In the lectures here printed will be found the principal substance of thought with which Rudolf Steiner approached the theme of Michaël and his Festival at Michaëlmas. (For as one supremely sensitive to the value of sound, he wished to restore to the Archangel's name the triple vowels which properly belong to it). It is a substance formed out of many elements. Here is the great time theme of the successive rulership of the Archangels, by which Michael comes always as the inheritor of the reign of Gabriel. So it was in the days of Alexander and Aristotle, when Michael appeared as the countenance of Jehovah: so it has been again since the ending of the last century when he approaches mankind as the countenance of Christ. It is because of this new rulership of Michael that a growing number of men are now able to think spiritually in a manner impossible a hundred years ago, even if that spirituality has not been able to fashion contemporary life. For Gabriel is the herald of birth, and works upon man through his physical form and substance: Michael opens the path to the spirit.

Here is also the lesser time theme of the succession of the seasons and their festivals. We see the traditional picture of Michael overcoming the dragon taking on a new and universal dimension and becoming an imagination written in the stars no less than in the human heart. We learn too of the mystery of the substance which has given modern civilisation its form—the omnipresent substance of iron. The splendid meteor showers of the early Autumn become to the imaginative eye the flashing sword of Michael, with which he cleanses from the cosmos the sulphurous heat of Summer, the macrocosmic counterpart of the iron in the blood of man.

Above all we learn in these lectures how to think of Michael as the champion of the individual—not the strong personality—the Caesar or Napoleon for whom most of the world is still looking, created out of passion and temperament and elemental force—but the Christ-like man formed and kindled by the Spirit which Michael has again made accessible to humanity.

The lectures contain, therefore, a passionate plea for the establishing of a Michael Festival, the Festival most neglected by traditional Christianity precisely because it is the Festival of the individual which has yet to come into its own. Such a Festival could be world-wide: it could overcome the Gabriel consciousness which still thinks in terms of peoples and races and the ‘freedom of nations,’ and awaken in mankind instead an awareness of true freedom—the freedom of the individual.

A. C. H.