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The Festivals and Their Meaning
IV
Michaelmas

Michaelmas III: The Michael Inspiration

Schmidt Number: S-5455

On-line since: 30th September, 2000

III
THE MICHAEL INSPIRATION

Spiritual Milestones in the Course of the Year

[Also known as: The Michael Imagination. e.Ed.]

What I have to say to you to-day will be expressed in the form of pictures drawn from the imaginative life, which is the expression, the revelation, of the spiritual world. The human being is woven with his whole existence and activity into the spiritual world. We know from the many and varied descriptions of it that have been given here, that an abstract manner of speaking, such as is applied to external, sense-perceptible nature, cannot be used in speaking of the spiritual world, if actual manifestations of that world are in question. We know too, however, that the manner of speaking we must then adopt is no unreal one, but, on the contrary, one far more realistic than the logical, abstract speech we employ to express merely natural truths. This I wanted to say about the attitude to be adopted in what I shall now put before you.

When man finds, with spiritual vision, the way out beyond the physically sense-perceptible world, there reveals itself to him a world of spirit. In that world he feels led to make use of the phenomena of the physical world as pictures, with which to express what is spiritually revealed to him. So let me now put a picture at the centre of our considerations; a picture which is in truth a deep reality. Mankind, throughout its evolutionary history, has always been guided by impulses from the spiritual world. Those who could see so far found these impulses written as it were in brazen letters in a spiritual light, indicating the direction they should take. What is thus found in the spiritual world might be compared with the signposts of the physical world; not those that have just a pointing hand perhaps, and the name of some place or other, but signposts on which is expressed in powerful words — or at least in powerfully sounding words — what changes are due to take place in human thinking, feeling, willing. I am speaking of spiritual signposts. Such directions in the spiritual world, however, are usually drawn up for human beings in a remarkable manner, and have been so in all epochs — namely, in a kind of riddle-language. One has in a certain way to make an effort to get behind the riddle. In order that one of these signposts in the riddle-language may become a real impulse for life, a great deal of what one knows has to be brought together. And so just at the present time, as something suited to our immediate present and the near future, one finds in the astral light, as I may call it, such directing words as can become impulses for mankind. On the most varied occasions — I might say in the most varied places — there comes before one to-day, if one has the faculties needed to behold it, something that is like a warning, having moreover the quality of a riddle, and it calls forth in man the feeling that he should be guided by it, should take it as a strong impulse into his will, into his whole life of soul. What thus shines out to meet us in the astral light, as one such spiritual milestone, consists approximately of the following words: —

Thou mouldest it to thy service,
Thou revealest it according to the value of its substance
In many of thy works.
Yet it will only bring thee healing
When to thee is revealed
The lofty power of its Spirit.

First of all there is a challenge to discover what is actually meant. Some sort of impulse is referred to, something which is already present, something known to man, since otherwise one could not reckon on his finding an answer:

Thou mouldest it to thy service,
Thou revealest it according to the value of its substance
In many of thy works.
Yet it will only bring thee healing,
When to thee is revealed
The lofty power of its Spirit.

The explanation of these words, which, as has been said, how themselves in the astral light like a directing impulse or human beings, will be the purpose of to-day's lecture.

Let us recall a number of things that I have already explained here. Let us recall how the year's course, in its regular sequence through Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, has a spiritual content; how spiritual occurrences, superensible occurrences, are revealed in what happens in the course of the year just as a man's super-sensible soul and super-sensible spirit are revealed in what happens in his bodily life between birth and death. Let us reflect how, in what appears outwardly during the year's course, in Winter's snow, Spring's sprouting, waxing life, in Summer's life of blossoming and Autumn's life of ripening and fruiting — how in all this which discloses itself physically to men something spiritual is hidden, something spiritual sustains it. And so let us turn our gaze first to what takes place in this yearly course, from spring to summer and on towards the autumn.

In all that Earth reveals, in stone and plant, in everything that has being, spiritual beings live; not a mere washed-out spirituality, but separate spirit-beings, Nature-spirits. These Nature-spirits hide during the winter in the bosom of the Earth; they are breathed in, as it were, by the Earth; they are within the Earth. When spring comes, Earth breathes out, as it were, her spirituality; these Nature-spirits strive upwards. They aspire upwards with the forces of springing, sprouting life; they are active in the life which is felt in the light-radiant, sun-warmed air; within this they aspire upwards. And as we approach St. John's Day and the time of midsummer, then in the heights above us, if we look up to them, we have a picture revealed there, embodied in the forms of clouds, embodied mightily in lightning, too, and thunder, embodied in all the meteoric element above us, all that lived in the form of Nature-spirits during winter in the Earth's dark bosom. During winter we must look down to the Earth and feel, or behold how, hidden beneath the covering of snow, Nature-spirits are working, so that out of winter shall come spring again, and summer, from the productive Earth. But if in summer we look down to the Earth, then the Earth is as if impoverished by the loss of those Nature-spirits. The Nature-spirits have gone out into the wide universe; they have united themselves with the cloud-structures and everything that human sight encounters in the heights above. In all the ways I have mentioned they have streamed up to the heights, these Nature-spirits, and with them they have taken, in an extremely subtle form, extremely fine dilution, that which manifests outwardly as crude and lifeless sulphur. And in fact these Nature-spirits, as they billow and surge in cloud-forms and the like, during summer's height, weave and live pre-eminently in sulphur, the sulphur that is then present there in an extraordinarily subtle way, in the heights of the earthly realm. If we could speed through these high reaches of our earthly world during the height of summer with a sort of tasting-feeling sense, we should be aware of a sulphurous taste and even of a sulphurous smell, though in an extraordinarily dilute, subtle and intimate form. What develops up there, however, under the influence of the Sun's warmth and light, is akin to the process that goes on in the human organism when cravings, wishes, emotions and so on come welling up. Anyone who has the faculty for beholding and feeling such things knows that the Nature-spirits in the heights during midsummer live in an element which is as much saturated with desire as is the desire-life that is bound up with the animal nature of man — that animal part of man wherein he, too, is sulphurised, is permeated with sulphur in a very diluted form. We see, as it were, man's lower aspect, that which is animalised in him, arched as Nature's formation above us at the height of summer, filled with the life of Nature-spirits. What we thus recognise in its sulphurous quality when it weaves and lives in human nature, we call the Ahrimanic; in it the Ahrimanic actually lives. So we can also say: when in high summer-time we turn spiritual vision towards the heights, then in the cosmic sulphurous desires the Ahrimanic is revealed to us. So if we conceive of man in relation to this whole world nexus, we must say to ourselves: the Earth takes up in winter what exists in man as his lower nature and spreads over it crystalline snow, and in so doing the Earth receives the Ahrimanic from it. When in high summer the Ahrimanic is free, it works as cosmic desires out in the wide spaces of the world and is, indeed, subject to laws which proceed from the planetary neighbours of the Earth and are effective on them. And now we see how against this Ahrimanic desire-element, against this animal desire-nature of man turned inside out, as it were, in the cosmos, an opposing force is present. The force which brings the human being into subjection through his emotions, dragging him down below the human to the animal level, and is revealed in full summer high above us — against this a counter-force is provided in the cosmos. This counter-force is seen in those remarkable products which from time to time fall on to the Earth as products of the cosmos and contain meteoric iron. If you look at a piece of meteoric iron, you have in it a remarkable witness of the iron dispersed in the cosmos. In the shooting stars which come so frequently in August and bring iron into special activity, as it were, in the cosmos, we see revealed this counter-force of Nature acting against the desire-element which by that time is out there in the cosmos. And in this cosmic iron, condensed to meteoric stones, we have the arrows which the cosmos sends out against the animal desire element which, as I have just described, is cosmically manifest.

So we can look with understanding and reverence upon the wisdom-filled guidance of the cosmos. We know, of course, that man needs this animal desire nature, precisely because in overcoming it, and not otherwise, he can develop the forces that first make him fully human. And man could not have this desire nature, this animalising element, if the same animal desire element were not a part also of the cosmos. The sulphur, then, the sulphurous Ahrimanic element is, as it were, one pole out in the cosmos, and the arrows discharged by the Cosmos through space to combat this sulphurous element are concentrated in meteoric iron — in the meteoric projectiles, so to say, of the universe.

Now man is a true microcosm, really a little world. Everything that manifests in the great world outside in gigantic and majestic phenomena such as the phenomena of meteors, manifests also within, in the inward nature of what he is himself as physical being. For this physical being is only an expression, a manifestation, of his spiritual being. And so in a certain way we bear within ourselves, starting from the animal lower nature, the sulphurous element. We must say to ourselves: this sulphurous Ahrimanic element storms through the human organism, stirs up his desire-nature, stirs up his emotions. We feel it within us; we behold it at high summer-time in the cosmic desire-covering above our heads. But we also behold how into this over-arching cosmic desire-covering there shoot the iron arrows of the meteoric phenomena, cleansing and clarifying it, acting as an opposite pole to the animal-like desire-nature. For through this shooting in of the meteoric iron arrows from the cosmos, the animal desire-covering of high summer time above us is purified. And what takes place in majesty and grandeur out there in the great cosmos, goes on continually also in us. We produce tiny iron particles in our blood, in combination with other substances, and while, on the one hand, there pulses through our blood the sulphurising process, there works against it inwardly, meteorically, as the other pole, the iron inside us, bringing about the same process as is effected outside in the cosmos by the meteoric iron. We can then so picture man's relationship to the cosmos that in the flashing meteoric element we find the cosmic counterpart of what within us is a million upon million-fold flashing forth of the meteoric element that sets us free by means of the iron in our blood, cleansing and clarifying us from the sulphurising process which is also active in the blood itself.

Thus we are inwardly a copy of the cosmos. In the cosmos this process is accomplished during the height of summer; man, because he stands within Nature as one emancipated from her in regard to time, has continually midsummer as well as the other seasons in himself, just as he has within him in the continuity of memory his former experiences. Outwardly they have vanished, but inwardly they remain. So is it too with what is present in Man as Microcosm in relation to the Macrocosm. What he thus carries in his physical body, however, he must grasp in soul and spirit, must become able to experience it within himself; he must learn to experience this meteoric shag of the blood-iron into the blood-sulphur as freedom, or initiative, as the strength of his will. Otherwise it remains an animal or vegetative process in him at the best. What precisely constitutes our becoming [a] human being in soul and spirit is that we grasp the processes which go on in us, such as this iron-sulphur process, with our soul and spirit, that we send the soul and spirit into them as an impulse. Just as when we have made an instrument and know how to handle it properly, we are able to perform something by means of it, so can we turn to the service of our will what works and lives in us as does this process of iron and sulphur, when once we know how to handle it; when, as human beings, we can handle and make use of what goes on as living processes within our body.

Let us now turn again to the cosmos and away from man. You can realise that what takes place out there in the cosmos is an earnest admonition to men. For this meteoric iron-process in the cosmos truly brings to mind our inner physical nature; this nature, however, can be placed at the service of our spiritual inner being. So now we come to the meaning which has to be ascribed to that brazen writing in the astral light: —

Thou mouldest it to thy service,
Thou revealest it according to the value of its substance
In many of thy works.

If we look round us at modern life, as it has developed in the course of recent centuries, we can see that the chief feature of this materialistic culture is the use of iron in the realm of earthly life. Look in any direction where our form of civilisation has flowered in recent times; it is iron that has planted in the physical world everything which has led to the culmination of this materialistic culture. We look for what it was that in so unparalleled a way has brought people together, and has laid down the paths for the various branches of materialistic culture and made them smooth; and everywhere we see it was iron and what can be developed out of it. When we speak of materialism in the life of thought it is true that the essence of materialism consists in the idea that everything is matter, and Spirit is a kind of vaporous result of the activities of matter. But the materialism of mankind in the last four centuries is shown not merely in the fact that people think materialistically; materialism is manifest also in the way we handle outer things. Out of the cultural impulses of recent times man has applied iron to this material culture, while the meteoric iron which falls from heaven is treated merely as a rarity, or as something one seeks to explain by means of a science that cannot grasp much about it. This meteoric iron, however, which falls to earth from out of the cosmos, which purifies and clarifies the animal-like life, is actually an admonition to us that we should look up from using iron materially for earthly purposes, and see what heavenly service iron performs in its meteoric aspect up above us, and, more especially, within us. For these meteoric processes within us go on all the time.

And so the first part of this warning speech, shining forth to meet us in the astral light, takes on the likeness of a word written in brazen letters, saying: O Man, thou hast put iron to thine earthly service.

Thou mouldest it to thy service,
Thou revealest it according to the value of its substance
In many of thy works.
Yet it will only bring thee healing,
When to thee is revealed
The lofty power of its Spirit.

It is not merely that we should look up in our thoughts from the materialistic world-conception to a spiritual world-conception, but that we should also look up from what we use in the service of material culture to the spiritual and cosmic aspects of what serves us in material form. And so precisely through these words, which have first to be unravelled like a riddle, we are directed to that Spiritual Being who lives in the universe in the revelation of meteoric phenomena, especially in what is revealed by meteoric phenomena at the height of summer. For at that time the Ahrimanic sulphurising process, which is otherwise present only within man, is there as a cosmic process, and the meteoric process is a counter-process to it; we have here the arrows which the cosmos discharges into the animalised cravings in the heights.

If one lets all this work upon the soul, one feels how truly man is connected with all that surrounds him in the world, and, within, one feels how one's very blood is permeated with soul, saturated with spirit. One feels in it this opposition between the Ahrimanic and that which purifies the Ahrimanic element, the iron in the blood; one feels the inner meteoric process. One looks up with comprehension to what is accomplished outside when the cosmic spirit-forces send the iron arrows into the animalised desire-world of the cosmos; one feels oneself entirely bound up with the cosmos and surrendered to it. Precisely in these particular phenomena, one feels entirely surrendered to the cosmos.

When one feels all this in full earnestness, then from this feeling there takes form a cosmic Imagination; one can indeed do no other than form and picture this cosmic Imagination. Just as animals have a different attitude towards outer Nature, being unable to form concepts or ideas of it, but only general impressions, whereas man forms pictures and ideas, so, when the soul has risen to exact clairvoyance, it is not possible for it to do otherwise, when it experiences such things as this — when its feeling turns inwardly towards its own meteoric process, and when looking outward it beholds in the cosmic meteor-process that rich fullness of life which is thus revealed — than to bring it all together in a comprehensive, inwardly saturated picture form, an Imagination in which is displayed how the human being, the Microcosm, and the Macrocosm are grown together. This does not mean that such an Imagination is merely built up out of fantasy; rather is it a real and true expression of a living process permeating the world and the human being; in this case, of a process that lives in the phenomena of the yearly course.

The Imagination which comes before man out of this experience is one that springs out of a living together with the natural processes of the year's course from midsummer on towards autumn, as far as the end of summer, the beginning of the autumn; And from this experience there arises, coming before the soul in living actuality, the figure of Michael. Out of what I have described to you is revealed the figure of Michael in his fight with the Dragon, with the animal nature of Man, the sulphurising process. And when one understands what is actually going on there, then the soul, which takes its own form and origin from the interweaving life forces of the cosmos, cannot but bring forth the fight of Michael with the Dragon. There appears as the outward expression of what is working out there in the cosmos in battle with the animalised desire nature, Michael himself. But he appears with a pointing sword, pointing it towards the higher nature of man. He shines forth with this pointing sword, and we picture Michael rightly when we find in his sword the iron that has been cosmically smelted and forged for this purpose. Thus there comes forth, one might say, out of the spiritual cloud-formations the figure of Michael with positive, searching and directing gaze, his eye like a guiding sign, its gaze sent outwards, never drawn back into himself; and the arm of Michael appears to us in the midst of a sparkling shower of meteor-iron, as though this were molten in cosmic desire forces and fused together again to form the flaming sword of Michael. Rightly do we picture Michael then, quite in accord with reality, when we think of his countenance as woven from the golden light of summer, with a positive gaze which is like a sign, as it were pointing outwards; like a ray of light from within which is sent actively out. We picture Michael rightly when his outstretched arm is flaming with flashing sprays of meteor iron, molten and fused together into the sword wherewith he shows humanity the way from the animal-like to man's higher nature, pointing the way from the summer season, when man most makes himself one with outer Nature, most nearly comes to a Nature-consciousness, to that other season, the time of autumn, when man, were he to continue to live united with Nature, could share only in her dying in the death she brings on herself. But it would be terrible for man, if he could only share with Nature, as autumn comes, this natural path to death, this self-destruction. When we experience Spring, then if we are really fully man, we yield ourselves to Nature in her sprouting, waxing, flourishing. If we are fully man, we blossom with each blossom, sprout with every leaf: with every seed we grow ripe ourselves. It is then that we give ourselves over to Nature's mounting, springing, sprouting life. For it is then her will to live, and we feel this impulse of life in experiencing hers. And we do well to devote ourselves to Nature at this season. But in autumn we cannot unfold this nature-consciousness in ourselves, for if we did that onesidedly we should have to share in the experience of the paralysis and death which she makes her own. Man dare not go with her in that direction; in the face of that he must rather increase his strength. Just as he must accompany living Nature in his own life, so must he set against dying Nature, against death, the Self. Nature-consciousness must be transformed into self-consciousness.

This is the great and powerful picture given us in the approach of autumn, so that from out of what happens in the cosmos we read the admonition: Nature consciousness must change in man into consciousness of self. But for this he needs the strength to overcome with his qualities of soul and spirit the inwardly death-bringing quality of animal-like Nature. For this he is given guidance when he looks out into the phenomena of the cosmos; to this he is guided by what is revealed in the figure of Michael, with his positive gaze and the flaming meteor-sword in his right hand. And Michael appears to us in that fight with the animalised desire-nature of which, also, a picture emerges from the loom of life. If we wish to paint this whole Imagination, we cannot paint it in any humanly arbitrary way; it can be painted only out of what is given by the cosmos. And the only way to picture the sulphurous element in it, rising into the heights with the elemental spirits in yellowish reddish shades, is in the figure of the Dragon, which takes shape from out of the sulphur. So that above the sulphurous Dragon, in whose burning head, as I might call it, is exhibited the desire-like process, above this Ahrimanised and sulphurised Dragon, we have Michael in the form I have described to you.

He who understands the world can describe it in Imaginations. And whosoever believes that one can paint the fight of Michael with the Dragon in any way one chooses, sins against the inner reality of the world. For the interplay of forces in the world has a definite ordering in relation to human beings. And all the great paintings and other works of art in the world have not come into existence out of arbitrary human choice. If that were so, they would scarcely have continued to appeal to man for centuries, even thousands of years. They have sprung from a real understanding of what weaves and lives out there in the cosmos, and also within the human being. And when out of the living and weaving in Nature and in man, in their mutual connection, there is created the substance of Imaginations, with all that is revealed from the mysteries of Nature, even to the colours and the way the colours gleam and shine, and the details of the forms — when all this is given artistic form, then it is that the great, genuine works of art arise, the great works that were created by the seers, that are imitated by the imitators and are decked out by the bunglers with all kinds of frippery till the real greatness that should go forth from these works, born out of the creative weaving of the cosmos, is no longer recognised. This is what gives these works of art the power to influence humanity through long periods of time. The great artistic motifs of painting and sculpture never would have become what they are had they not been created out of impulses seen to arise from the life of Nature and the life of man.

So we are able to direct our vision to what appears if Michael and the Dragon are painted in the spiritual sense of to-day (for older ways of apprehending it had to paint it according to their own knowledge); the countenance pictured in golden sun-gleam, the gaze positive, outward-looking, the sword of flame, molten and shaped anew out of the meteor-iron of the cosmos; and below, the Dragon, tormentor of human nature, the Dragon who manifests at high summertime, the sulphurous Dragon revealed in the weaving of flames rising up and at once fading again. This Dragon moving below in his own sulphurous element, taking form as the tormentor of humanity and the opponent of the higher hierarchies — this gives the necessary contrast over against the war-waging Michael, who compels the meteoric iron to his spiritual service.

Here you have an example of how the true iron passes over into art, must always pass over into art, since with abstract concepts one cannot compass the whole of reality. And this is the admonition to our times — that we should grasp just such a picture as this, for the awakening of strength, for the awakening of mankind. Therefore one would like to inscribe this picture in particular, this modernised picture of the fight of Michael with the Dragon, deep, deep into the human soul, the human heart, so that it may exert its influence in human forces of will and thought in the present time and in the future. And one can know that if a part of mankind were to take this picture in earnest, if a part of mankind were to understand how this picture takes shape from Nature's very self, and from the directive admonitions in the astral light, then to the material use of iron in the last few centuries, especially the 19th century, there would be added a spiritual element penetrated with the meaning and sense of iron. Then this picturing would kindle in man the force of soul and spirit which makes him able to take hold of the purpose of the meteoric iron within him, the iron that shoots into his blood, warring against sulphur. We must learn not to let this process go on in the subconsciousness, merely shaping the lower nature of Man; we must learn to place this process, this iron process in human blood, in the service of the soul-and-spiritual. That it is, that Michael wills in us.

This is what calls on us from the astral light — to celebrate worthily once more the Michael Festival when autumn is beginning. When now we speak of this Michael Festival which should take its place with the Easter and Christmas festivals and that of St. John, it must truly not be understood as meaning that here or there one celebrates a festival in an external way; the point is that we can celebrate such a festival only when we know how to link it with something really significant. The festival of Christmas has not arisen through any arbitrary convenient resolve, but because it is linked with the birth of Christ Jesus; the Easter Festival is linked with the Mystery of Golgotha; and these are very important events in the historical life of mankind. The Michael Festival must be linked with a great and sustaining inner experience of man, with that inner force which summons him to develop self-consciousness out of Nature-consciousness through the strength of his thoughts, the strength of his will, so that he may be able to master the meteoric iron process in his blood, the opponent of the sulphurising process.

To be sure, sulphur and iron have flowed in human blood ever since there was a human race. What takes its course there between sulphur and iron determines the unconscious nature of man. It must be lifted into consciousness. We must learn to know this process as the expression of the inner conflict of Michael with the Dragon; we must learn to raise this process into consciousness. Something has then come about to which the Michael Festival may be linked. But it must first be there, be fully understood, inwardly, deeply understood. Then it will be possible to celebrate the Michael Festival in the way a festival drawn from the cosmos can be celebrated by men. Then we shall have the knowledge which is really able to see something in iron other than what the chemist of to-day or the mechanic sees in it. Then we shall have what teaches us how to take in hand the iron in our own organism, in the inner part of our human nature. Then we shall have the majestic picture of Michael in battle with the sulphurous Dragon, of Michael with the flaming sword of iron, as an inspiring impulse to what man must become, if he is to develop the forces of his evolution for progress and not for decline.

This it is, which shows itself to us as an admonition from the spiritual world in the brazen letters that grow into enigmatic words but that can be understood precisely out of the conditions of our present time: —

O Man,
Thou mouldest it to thy service,
Thou revealest it according to the value of its substance
In many of thy works.
Yet it will only bring thee healing,
When to thee is revealed
The lofty power of its Spirit.

That is Iron. Let us learn to know iron, and equally all other substances, not merely in terms of material value; let us learn to know them in their majestic spirit power! Then there will be human progress once again, progress for the Earth; and that is what we must will, if we want to be man in the true sense of the word.

 



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