THE WAY OF MICHAEL, AND WHAT PRECEDED IT
It is not possible to perceive in the right light how the Michael
Impulse breaks into human evolution, if one shares the conception
which is universally accepted today, as to the relation of the new
world of ideas to Nature.
It is thought: There outside us is Nature with all that she
accomplishes and is; within us are the ideas. These ideas are thoughts
about the things of Nature, or about the so-called Laws of Nature. The
thinkers of today are concerned first of all to show how to form such
ideas as shall stand in a true relation to Nature, or in which the
true Natural Laws shall be contained.
It is of little importance to them how these ideas are related to the
man himself, who has them. But in truth there can be no real insight
until this question is raised: What does Man experience through the
natural-scientific ideas of modern times?
The answer can be arrived at in the following way.
Man feels today that the ideas are formed within him through the
activity of his soul. He has the feeling that he himself forms his
ideas, while only the sense-perceptions come to him from without.
Man did not always feel in this way. In times past he did not realise
the content of his ideas as something he had made himself, but as
something received through inspiration from the supersensible world.
There were various stages of this feeling. And these stages depended
on that part of a man's being in which he experienced what today he
calls his ideas. Today, in the period of the development of the
Spiritual Soul or Consciousness Soul, what is contained in the
Leading Thoughts of the last number is wholly true:
Thoughts have their true seat in the human etheric body. There,
however, they are real, living forces. They imprint themselves in the
physical body, as such imprinted thoughts they possess the
shadowy character known to ordinary consciousness.
Now one can go back to times in which the thoughts were directly
experienced in the Ego. But in those times they were not
shadowy as they are today, nor were they merely living; they were full
of soul and spirit. But this means that the man did not only
think his thoughts; he had as an experience the perception of
concrete spiritual beings.
Everywhere amongst the peoples of antiquity one finds the
consciousness that looked up to a world of spiritual beings. The
historical remains of this are described today as a consciousness that
expressed itself in myths and mythologies, which are not considered of
much importance for an understanding of the real world. And yet with
this consciousness man stands in his own world in the world of
his true origin whereas with his present consciousness he is
lifted out of his own world. Man is a spirit; and his world is
the world of spiritual beings.
The next stage was one in which the element of thought was no longer
experienced by the Ego but by the astral body. The soul here loses the
direct vision of the Spiritual. Thought appears as an element which is
ensouled and alive.
At the first stage, that of the vision of concrete spiritual beings,
man does not feel at all strongly the necessity of connecting what he
sees with that which he perceives through his senses. The phenomena
perceptible to the senses are seen to be the deeds of what he observes
supersensibly, but he does not feel impelled to develop a special
science of that which is directly seen by spiritual vision. Moreover,
the world of spirit-beings which he sees is so rich that his attention
is directed to it above all things.
It is different at the second stage of consciousness. Here the
concrete spiritual beings are hidden; their reflection appears in the
form of an ensouled life. Man begins to relate the life of
Nature to this life of souls. In the beings and
processes of Nature he seeks the active spirit-beings and their deeds.
The result of this stage of consciousness may be seen historically in
that which appeared later as the quest of the alchemists.
When at the first stage of consciousness man thought the
spirit-beings, he lived entirely in his own being; and at the second
stage, too, he is still quite near to his origin. But at both stages
it is quite impossible for man to develop, in the true sense of the
word, his own inner impulses of action.
A spirituality which is of like nature with himself acts in him. What
he seems to do is the manifestation of processes which come about
through spirit-beings. What man does is the sensibly physical
manifestation of a real spiritual and divine event which stands
A third epoch in the development of consciousness brings thought to
consciousness in the etheric body, but as living thought.
The Greeks lived in this consciousness when Greek civilisation was at
its prime. The ancient Greek did not form thoughts for himself and
then look out upon the world with them as with his own creations, but
when he thought he felt that a life was being kindled within him
a life which also pulsated in the objects and events outside
Then for the first time there arose in man the longing for the freedom
of his own actions not yet true freedom, but the longing for
Man, who felt the life and activity of Nature asserting itself in him,
could develop the longing to detach his own activity from the activity
which he perceived outside him and around him. But after all, this
outer activity was still perceived as the final result of the active
spirit-world, which is of like nature with man himself.
Only when the thoughts were imprinted in the physical body and when
the consciousness extended only to this imprint then only did
the possibility of freedom arise. This condition came with the
fifteenth century AD.
For the evolution of the world the important point is not, What
is the significance of the ideas of modern natural science with regard
to Nature? For in effect these ideas have assumed their forms,
not in order to provide man with a certain picture of Nature, but in
order to bring him forward to a certain stage in his evolution.
When thoughts laid hold of the physical body, spirit, soul and life
had been excluded from their immediate contents, and the abstract
shadow attaching to the physical body alone remained. Thoughts such as
these can make only what is physical and material into the
object of their knowledge, for they themselves are only real in
the physical and material body of man. Materialism did not originate
because material beings and processes alone can be perceived in
external Nature, but because man had to pass through a stage in his
development which led him to a consciousness at first only capable of
seeing material manifestations. The one-sided development of this
necessity in human evolution resulted in the modern view of Nature.
It is Michael's mission to bring into human etheric bodies the forces
through which the thought-shadows may regain life; then the
souls and spirits in the supersensible worlds will incline towards the
enlivened thoughts, and the liberated human being will be able to live
with them, just as formerly the human being who was only the physical
image of their activity lived with them.
Further Leading Thoughts issued from the Goetheanum for the Anthroposophical Society
103. In the evolution of mankind consciousness descends on the ladder
of unfolding Thought. There was an earliest stage in consciousness
when man experienced the Thoughts in the Ego experienced them as real
Beings, imbued with Spirit, soul and life. At a second stage he
experienced the Thoughts in the astral body; henceforth they appeared
only as the images of Spirit-beings images, however, still
imbued with soul and life. At a third stage he experienced the
Thoughts in the etheric body; here they manifest only an inner
stirring, like an echo of the quality of soul. At the fourth, which is
the present stage, man experiences the Thoughts in the physical body,
where they appear as the dead shadows of the Spiritual.
104. In like measure as the quality of Spirit, soul and life in human
Thought recedes, man's own Will comes to life. True freedom becomes
105. It is the task of Michael to lead man back again, on paths of
Will, whence he came down when with his earthly consciousness he
descended on the paths of Thought from the living experience of the
Supersensible to the experience of the world of sense.