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The Mission of the Archangel Michael

Schmidt Number: S-3908

On-line since: 23rd November, 2003

The Mission of Michael, the Revelation of the Secrets of Man's Being

Six Lectures of Rudolf Steiner
Delivered at Dornach, November 21-30, 1919

I

The Power and Mission of Michael, Necessity of the Revaluation of Many Values

IN THIS course of lectures I should like to describe the relationship which we, human beings of the present day, may gain to that spiritual power which, as the power of Michael, intervenes in the spiritual and physical events of the earth. It will be necessary to prepare ourselves in today's lecture for this task. We shall need various points of view which will enable human intelligence really to present the various interferences with the just designated power on the background of the symptoms which we may observe in our surroundings. We must keep in mind, if we wish to speak seriously of the spiritual world, that we always may look upon the manifestations of the spiritual powers here in the physical world. We try to penetrate as it were, through the veil of the physical world to that which is active in the spiritual world. What exists in the physical world may be observed by everyone; what is active in the spiritual world serves to solve the riddles posed by the physical world. But we must sense the riddles of physical life in the right way. It is important, in connection with these weighty matters, to comprehend in full seriousness what I have said in recent lectures. {See Rudolf Steiner, Pneumatosophy: The Riddle of the Inner Human Being. Anthroposophic Press, New York.} It is impossible to link personal world views to a real understanding of that which so vitally concerns not only the whole of humanity, but the whole world. We must free ourselves from merely personal interests. Moreover, we will gain an understanding for the purpose and value of personality in the world if we have freed ourselves from the personal element in its narrower sense.

Now you know that our Earth evolution was preceded by another; that we stand within a cosmic evolution. First, you know that this evolution progresses, that it has arrived at a point beyond which it will pass to further, more advanced stages. Secondly, you know that if we consider the world as such, we have to deal not only with the beings which we meet in the earthly sphere, that is, in the mineral, plant, animal, and human kingdoms, but that we have to deal with beings belonging to higher realms which we have designated as the beings of the higher hierarchies. If we speak of evolution in its entirety, we have always to consider these beings of the higher hierarchies.

These beings, on their part, also pass through an evolution which we can understand if we find analogies to our own human evolution and to the one which exists in the various kingdoms of the earth. Consider, for example, the following: You know that we human beings have passed through a Saturn, Sun and Moon evolution, we may say that we as human beings who experience ourselves in earthly surroundings have arrived at the fourth stage of our evolution.

Let us now consider the beings directly above our human stage whom we call the Angeloi, the Angels. If we merely wish to show an analogy we may say: these beings, although their form is entirely different from the human, and although they are invisible to physical human senses, are at the evolutionary stage of Jupiter.

Let us now turn to the Archangeloi, the Archangels. They are at the evolutionary stage which mankind will have reached upon Venus. And if we turn to the Archai, the time spirits, to the beings who especially influence our earthly evolution, we find that they have already attained the evolution of Vulcan.

Now the significant question arises: If we turn to the beings still higher in rank, to the hierarchy of the so-called Spirits of Form, on what stage do we find them? We must answer: They have already passed beyond the stages which we human beings conceive of as our evolutionary stages of the future. They have already passed beyond the Vulcan evolution. If we consider our own evolution as consisting of seven stages, which suffices for our present considerations, we must say that the Spiritsof Form have reached the eighth stage. We human beings are at the fourth stage of evolution; if we consider the eighth stage we find the Form Spirits.

Now we must not conceive of these successive stages of evolution as existing side by side, but we must conceive of them as interpenetrating one another. Just as the atmosphere surrounds and permeates the earth, so this eighth sphere of evolution to which the Form Spirits belong permeates the sphere in which we human beings live. Let us now carefully consider these two stages of evolution.

Let us repeat: We human beings exist in a sphere which has reached the fourth evolutionary stage. Yet we also exist, if we disregard everything else, in the realm which the Form Spirits, around us and through us, have to regard as theirs. Let us now consider human evolution concretely. We have often distinguished the development of the head from that of the human being. The latter we have again divided into two separate parts, the development of the breast and the development of the limbs. Let us disregard this latter differentiation and consider man as having, on the one hand, that which belongs to the development of the head and, on the other, everything that belongs to the rest of the human being.

Now imagine the following: You have here the surface of the ocean, the human being wading in it, moving forward with only his head rising about the water. In this image—of course it is only an image—you have the position of the present-day human being. Everything in which the head is rooted we would have to consider as belonging to the fourth stage of evolution, and everything in which man moves forward, wading or swimming in it, as it were, we would have to designate as the eighth stage of evolution. For it is a peculiar fact that the human being has, in a certain way, outgrown as far as his head is concerned, the element in which the Spirits of Form unfold their particular being. In regard to his head, man has become emancipated, so to speak, from the sphere which is interpenetrated by the beings of the Spirits of Form.

Only by thoroughly comprehending this can we arrive at a proper conception of the human being; only then can we understand the special position man has in the world; only then will it become clear to us that when the human being senses the Spirits of Form's creative influence upon him, he does not sense this directly through the faculties of his head, but indirectly through the effect of the rest of his body upon the head. You all know that breathing is connected with our blood-circulation, speaking in the sense of external physiology. But the blood is also driven into the head, creating an organic, vital connection of the head with the rest of the organism. The head is nourished and invigorated by the rest of the body.

We must carefully discriminate between two things. The first is the fact that the head is in direct connection with the external world. If you see an object, you perceive it through your eyes; there is a direct connection between the outer world and your head. If you, however, observe the life of your head as it is sustained by the processes of breathing and blood circulation, you will see the blood shooting up from the rest of the organism into the head and you may say there is not a direct, but only an indirect connection between your head and the surrounding world.

Naturally, you must not say, pedantically: well, the breath is inhaled through the mouth, therefore breathing also belongs to the head. I have stated above that we have here only an image. Organically, what is inhaled through the mouth does not actually belong to the head, but to the rest of the organism.

Focus your attention upon these two fundamental concepts which we have just gained; focus your attention upon the idea that we stand within two spheres: the sphere which we entered by passing through the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolution and being now within the Earth evolution which is the fourth evolutionary stage; then consider the fact that we live within a sphere which belongs to the Form Spirits just as our earth belongs to us, but which, as the eighth sphere, permeates our earth and our organism with the exception of our head and all that is sense activity. If we focus our attention upon these facts we have created a basis for what is to follow.

Yet let me first build a still firmer basis through certain other concepts. If we wish to consider our life under such influences, we must take into account the beings we have often mentioned as cooperating in world events: the Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings. Let us, at the outset, fix our attention upon the most external aspect of these beings. They dwell in the same spheres in which we human beings live. Considering their most external aspect, we may think of all Luciferic beings as possessing those forces which we feel when there arises in us the tendency to become fantastic, when we yield one-sidedly to fancy and over-enthusiasm, when we—if I may express it pictorially—tend to go out with our being beyond our head. If we tend to go out beyond our head, we employ forces which play a certain role in our human organism but which are the universal forces of the beings we call Luciferic. Think of beings formed entirely of those forces within us which strive to pass beyond our head and you have the Luciferic beings which have a certain relation to our human world.

Conversely, think of all that presses us down upon the earth, all that makes us sober philistines, makes us bourgeois, which leads us to develop materialistic attitudes, think of all that exists in us as dry intellect, and you have the Ahrimanic powers.

All that I have described here from the aspect of the soul can also be described from the aspect of the body. One can say, man is always in a midway position between the intentions of his blood and the intentions of his bones. The bones constantly tend to ossify us; in other words, to “ahrimanize” our bodies, to harden us. The blood would like to drive us out beyond ourselves. Expressed in pathological terms, the blood may become feverish. Then the human being is organically driven into phantasms. The bones may spread their nature over the rest of the organism. Then the human being becomes ossified, becomes sclerotic, as nearly everyone does to a certain degree in old age. Then he carries the death-dealing element in his organism, namely, the Ahrimanic element. We may say that everything that lives in the blood tends toward the Luciferic, everything that lives in the bones has the tendency toward the Ahrimanic. The human being is the equilibrium between the two, as he, from the aspect of the soul, has to be the equilibrium between over-enthusiastic and sober philistinism.

Now we may characterize these two kinds of beings from a more profound point of view. Let us observe the Luciferic beings and see what interests they have in cosmic existence. We shall find that their chief interest is to make the world, and above all the human world, desert the spiritual beings whom man must regard as his true creators. The Luciferic beings wish nothing more than to make the world desert the divine beings. Do not misunderstand me: it is not the prime intention of the Luciferic beings to appropriate the world to themselves. From various things I have said about them you can gather that this is not their chief intention; their chief aim is to make the human being forsake his own divine creator-beings, to liberate the world from these beings.

The Ahrimanic beings have a different aim. They have the decided intention to make the kingdom of man and the rest of the earth, subject to their sphere of power, to make mankind dependent upon them, to get control over human beings. While it always has been—and is now—the endeavor of the Luciferic beings to make human beings desert what they can feel as the Divine in themselves, the Ahrimanic beings have the tendency gradually to include mankind and everything connected with it in their sphere of power.

Thus, within our cosmos, into which we human beings are interwoven, there exists a battle between the Luciferic beings, constantly striving for freedom, universal freedom, and the Ahrimanic beings, constantly striving for everlasting power and might. This battle permeates everything in which we live. Please hold this fact in mind as the second idea, important to our further considerations. The world in which we live is permeated by Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings, and there exists this tremendous contrast between the liberating tendency of the Luciferic beings and the power tendency of the Ahrimanic beings.

If you consider this whole matter you will have to say to yourselves: I am only able to understand the world if I conceive of it in connection with the number three, the triad. For we have on the one hand the Luciferic, and on the other the Ahrimanic element, and in the middle the human being who, as the third element, in the state of equilibrium between the two, must feel his divine essence. We shall only arrive at an understanding of the world if we base it on this triad and become clear about the fact that human life is the scale-beam. Here the fulcrum; on the one side the scale pan with the Luciferic element, pulling upward; on the other side the scale pan with the Ahrimanic element, pulling downward. To keep the scales in perfect balance signifies the essential being of man. Those who were initiated into such secrets of the spiritual evolution of mankind have always emphasized the fact that it is only possible to understand cosmic existence into which man is placed if it is conceived of in the sense of the triad; that it cannot be understood if it is considered on the basis of any other number. Thus we may say, employing our own terminology: we have to deal with three main factors in cosmic existence, namely: the Luciferic element, representing the one scale of the balance, the Ahrimanic element, representing the other scale of the balance, and the state of equilibrium which represents the Christ Impulse.

Now you may well imagine that it is entirely in the interest of the Ahrimanic and Luciferic powers to conceal this secret of the triad. For the proper comprehension of this secret enables mankind to bring about the state of equilibrium between the Ahrimanic and Luciferic powers; that means, on the one hand, to use the Luciferic tendency toward freedom for the achievement of a wholesome cosmic aim, and on the other hand, to strive to achieve the same with the Ahrimanic element. The human being's normal spiritual condition consists in relating himself in the proper way to this trinity, this triune structure of the world.

For, the influences upon human spiritual and cultural life do have a strong tendency to confuse man in regard to the significance of the triad. We can observe very clearly in modern culture that the conception of this structure according to the triad is almost completely eclipsed by the conception of a structure according to the duad. If we wish to understand Goethe's Faust, we must realize, as I have often pointed out, that this confusion in regard to the triad influences even this great cosmic poem. If Goethe, in his day, had had a clear view of these matters, he would not have presented the Mephistophelean power as the only opponent of Faust who drags Faust down, but he would have contrasted this Mephistophelean power—of whom we know that it is identical with the Ahrimanic power—with the Luciferic power, and Lucifer and Mephistopheles would appear in Faust as two opposing forces. I have spoken of this here repeatedly. If we study the figure of Goethe's Mephistopheles, we can see clearly that Goethe in his characterization of Mephistopheles constantly confused the Luciferic and Ahrimanic elements. Goethe's Mephistopheles is a figure mixed as it were, of two elements. There is no uniformity in it. The Luciferic and Ahrimanic elements are intermingled at random. I have dealt with this more explicitly in my brochure, Goethe's Standard of the Soul.

This confusion which thus plays even into Goethe's Faust is based upon the misconception which has arisen in the evolution of modern mankind—in former times it was different—of putting the duad in the place of the triad when considering the structure of the world; that is, one sees the good principle on the one side, the bad principle on the other: God and the Devil.

Thus we must emphasize the fact that if a person wishes to conceive of the structure of the world in a factual manner, he must acknowledge the triad, the two opposing elements of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic and the Divine element which holds the balance between the two. This has to be contrasted with the illusion which has arisen in mankind's spiritual evolution through the erroneous concept of the duad, of God and the Devil, of the divine-spiritual forces above and the diabolical forces below. It is as though we were to force man out of his position of equilibrium if we conceal from him the fact that a sound comprehension of the world can only result from the proper conception of the triad and if one makes him believe that the world structure is in some way determined by the duad. Yet, the highest human endeavors have fallen prey to this error.

If we wish to deal with this question, we must do it without prejudice, we must enter an unbiased sphere of thinking. We must carefully distinguish between object and name. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking that by giving a certain name to a being we have at any time experienced and felt this being in the right way.

If we think of those beings which man regards as his own divine beings, we must say: we can feel and sense them in the right way only if we conceive of them as effecting the equilibrium between the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic principles. We can never feel in the right way what we should feel as the Divine if we do not enter upon this threefold order. Consider from this point of view Milton's Paradise Lost, or Klopstock's Messiah which came into existence under the influence of Paradise Lost. Here you have nothing of a real comprehension of a threefold world structure, you have instead a battle between the supposedly good and the supposedly evil, the battle between heaven and hell. You have the mistaken idea of the duad brought into man's spiritual evolution; you have what is rooted in popular consciousness as the illusory contrast between heaven and hell, introduced into two cosmic poems of modern times.

It is of no avail that Milton and Klopstock call the heavenly entities divine beings. They would only be so for man if they were conceived of on the basis of the threefold structure of world existence. Then it would be possible to say that a battle takes place between the good and the evil principles. But as the matter stands, a duad is assumed, the one member of which has the attributes of the good and receives a name derived from the divine, while the other member represents the diabolical, the anti-divine element. What does this really signify? Nothing less than the removal of the divine from consciousness and the usurping of the divine name by the Luciferic principle; so that in reality we have a battle between Lucifer and Ahriman; only, Ahriman is endowed with Luciferic attributes, and the realm of Lucifer is endowed with divine attributes.

You see the far-reaching consequences revealed by such a consideration. While human beings believe they are dealing with the divine and the diabolical elements when contemplating the contrasts described in Milton's Paradise Lost or Klopstock's Messiah, they are, in reality, dealing with the Luciferic and Ahrimanic elements. There is no consciousness present of the truly divine element; instead, the Luciferic element is endowed with divine names.

Milton's Paradise Lost and Klopstock's Messiah are spiritual creations which rise out of modern man's consciousness. That which manifests in them lives in the general consciousness of mankind; for the delusion of the duad has entered this modern consciousness, and the truth of the triad has been withheld. The most profound productions of the modern age which are, from a certain point of view, considered among the greatest creations of mankind, and rightly so, are a cultural maya and have sprung from the great delusion of modern mankind. Everything that is active in this illusory conception is the creation of the Ahrimanic influence, of that influence which in the future will concentrate in the incarnation of Ahriman of which I have already spoken. For this illusory conception in which we live today is nothing but the result of the false world view which springs up everywhere in modern civilization when human beings contrast heaven and hell. Heaven is considered to be the divine element, and hell the diabolical element, while, in truth, we have to do with the Luciferic element called heavenly and the Ahrimanic element called infernal.

You must realize what interests rule in modern spiritual history. Even the concept of the threefold nature of the human organism or the human being in its entirety has in a certain respect been abolished for occidental civilization by the eighth Œcumenical Council of Constantinople in the year 869. I have often mentioned this. The dogma was then established that the Christian does not have to believe in the threefold human being but only in a twofold human being. The belief in body, soul and spirit was tabooed, and medieval theologians and philosophers who still knew a great deal about the true facts had a hard time to circumvent this truth, for the so-called trichotomy, the “membering” of the human being into body, soul, and spirit had been declared a heresy. They were compelled to teach the duality, namely, that man consists of body and soul, and not of body, soul and spirit. And certain beings, certain men know very well that it is of tremendous significance for human spiritual life if the threefoldness is replaced by twofoldness.

We must consider such profound aspects if we wish to understand correctly why in the August number of Stimmen der Zeit (Voices of the Age) the Jesuit priest Zimmermann draws attention to the fact that one of the recent decrees of the Holy Office in Rome prohibits Roman Catholics from obtaining absolution if they read or possess theosophical writings or participate in anything theosophical. The Jesuit priest Zimmermann interprets this decree in his article in Die Stimmen der Zeit by stating that it applies, above everything else, to my Anthroposophy, and that those who wish to be considered true Roman Catholics must not occupy themselves with anthroposophical literature. He quotes one of the main reasons for this, namely, that Anthroposophy differentiates between body, soul and spirit, and thus teaches a heresy opposed to the orthodox belief that man consists of body and soul.

I have mentioned to you before that modern philosophers have adopted this differentiation of body and soul without being aware of it. They believe that they carry on unbiased, objective science; they believe they practice real observation which leads them to the conviction that man consists of body and soul. In truth, however, they are following in the footsteps of this dogma which has found its way into modern spiritual development. What is considered science today is actually completely dependent on such things as have been put into the world in the course of modern human evolution. Do not believe that you will be able with kind words to convert such people who from these quarters slander Anthroposophy; do not believe that you will prevail upon them and call forth their good will toward Anthroposophy. Anthroposophy must make its way in the world through its own force, and not through the protection of any power, be it ever so Christian in appearance. Through inner strength alone can Anthroposophy achieve what it must achieve in the world.

You must realize that the Christ impulse can only be comprehended if one sees in it the impulse of equilibrium between the Ahrimanic and the Luciferic principles, if one gives it the right place within the trinity. We may ask: What must one do if one tries to deceive people in regard to the true Christ impulse? One must divert their attention from the true threefold ordering of the world and direct it toward the delusion of the duad which is justified only when we are concerned with the manifest and not when we are concerned with what lies behind the manifest in the sphere of truth.

In such matters we must go beyond mere names. Calling some being or other Christ does not mean that it is the Christ. If one wishes to prevent another human being from acquiring a true concept of Christ, one need only put the duad in the place of the triad; but if one wishes to point to the Christ impulse in its true meaning, it is necessary that the duad be supplanted by the triad. We need not join the group of people who declare others to be heretics; we need not declare Milton's Paradise Lost or Klopstock's Messiah to be damnable works of the devil; we may continue to enjoy their beauty and grandeur. But we must realize that such works, in as much as they are the blossoms of popular modern civilization, do not speak of Christ at all but originate from the delusion that everything that is not part of human evolution may be considered as belonging, on the one hand, to the realm of the devil and, on the other, to the realm of the Divine. But in reality, instead of dealing with the realm of the Divine we are dealing with the realm of Lucifer. Paradise Lost describes the expulsion of man from Lucifer's realm into the realm of Ahriman; it describes the longing of man not for the realm of the Divine, but for the paradise that has been lost, that means, the longing for the realm of Lucifer. You may regard Milton's Paradise Lost and Klopstock's Messiah as beautiful descriptions of human longing for the realm of Lucifer; this is what you should consider them to be, for this is what they are.

You see how necessary it is to revise certain conceptions which prevail today. If we are serious in our anthroposophical thinking and feeling we are faced, not with insignificant, but with important decisions. We are faced with the necessity of taking very seriously an expression which Nietzsche has often employed, namely the expression: “the revaluation of values.” We have to take this very seriously. The achievements of modern man are in great need of revaluation.

This does not mean that we ourselves have to become denouncers of heresy. We constantly perform here scenes from Goethe's Faust, and I have, as you know, devoted decades of my life to the study of Goethe. But from my little book, Goethe's Standard of the Soul, you can see that this has not blinded me to the false characterization drawn by Goethe in his Mephistopheles. It would be a philistine standpoint, were we to say: Goethe's Mephistopheles is a false conception; let's get rid of him. We should then be behaving like inquisitors. As modern men we must not place ourselves in such a position. On the other hand, we must not be indolently satisfied with the ideas that have entered, as it were, into the flesh and bones of the great masses of people today. Mankind will have to learn a great deal. It will have to transvalue many values.

All this is connected with the mission of Michael in relation to those beings of the higher hierarchies with whom he is connected. In the subsequent lectures we shall show how we may arrive at an understanding of those impulses which radiate from the Michael being into our earthly human existence.




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