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The Michael Mystery
GA 26

I. At the Dawn of the Michael Age

Until the ninth century after the Mystery of Golgotha, Man's attitude towards his Thoughts was different from later. He did not have the feeling that he himself was producing the thoughts that lived within his soul. He looked upon them as promptings, instilled into him from a spiritual world. Even when he had thoughts about what he perceived with his senses, these thoughts were to him revelations of the Divinity, speaking to him out of the things of sense.

Anyone who has spiritual vision understands this feeling. For when a spiritual reality imparts itself to the soul, one never has the feeling: There stands the spiritual perception, and oneself must construct the thoughts with which to comprehend this perception; but one sees the thought along with the perception, given with and contained in it, as objective as the perception itself.

With the ninth century,…all such dates must of course be taken as giving about the middle of the time: the transition takes place quite gradually,…there awoke in men's souls the light of personal, individual intelligence. Man began to have the feeling: ‘I construct my thoughts.’ And this construction of thoughts became so pre-eminent a feature of the soul's life, that thinkers regarded the essence of the human soul as residing in this, its intelligent behaviour. Until then, people had an imaginative conception of the soul. They looked on her essential being as residing, not in the construction of thoughts, but in her participation in the intelligent, spiritual substance of the world. People thought of the supersensible Spirit-Beings as thinking; and they work into Man; they think into him too. And what thus lives in Man as his part in the supersensible, spiritual world, — this they felt as “Soul.”

Directly one's views are carried higher, into the spiritual world, one meets with concrete Spiritual Powers in the form of living Beings. To that Power, from whom proceed the Thoughts of things, they gave, in old teachings, the name of Michael. Keeping the name, one may say that it was Michael from whom men once received their thoughts. Michael was regent of the Cosmic Intelligence. — From the time of the ninth century on, men ceased to have a sense that their thoughts were inspired by Michael. Thoughts had fallen from Michael's dominion, and sunk from the spiritual world into the individual souls of men.

The development of Thought-life was carried on now by men in the human sphere. At first, people were uncertain what these Thoughts were, which they had. This uncertainty runs through the teachings of the Scholastics. They were divided into two schools: Realists and Nominalists. The Realists — with Thomas Aquinas and his circle at their head — still felt the old connection between Thought and Thing, as both belonging together. Accordingly they looked on the thoughts as actual realities, existing in the Things. The thoughts of a man they viewed as a real something flowing from the Things into his soul. The Nominalists had a strong feeling of the fact that the soul makes her own thoughts. They felt thoughts as something purely subjective, which exists in the soul and has nothing whatever to do with the things. In their opinion, thoughts were only the names men made for things. (The Scholastics spoke of ‘Universals,’ not of ‘Thoughts,’ but this does not affect the general principle of their outlook, since thoughts always bear a universal character in regard to the single things.)

The Realists wanted, one might say, to remain loyal to Michael. Even though the thoughts had fallen from his domain and into that of men, they yet wanted as thinkers to go on serving Michael as Prince of Intelligence in the Cosmos. The Nominalists, in the unconscious part of their souls, completed the falling-away from Michael. They regarded, not Michael, but Man as the owner of thoughts.

Nominalism spread, and gained increasing hold. And so it went on, until the last third of the nineteenth century. Then came the age, when those who can read the spiritual events taking place in the universe, became aware that Michael had rejoined the stream of intellectual life. He is pursuing a new metamorphosis of his cosmic office. Before, he sent the stream of thoughts from the outer spiritual world into the souls of men. Now, since the last third of the nineteenth century, he seeks to dwell within the human souls, where thoughts are being formed. Before, the human beings who were spiritually akin to Michael watched him perform his works in spirit-regions. Now, they know that they must give him his home in their hearts; now, they dedicate to Michael their own Thought-informed, Thought-sustained spiritual life; now, in free, individual Thought-life, they seek counsel from Michael as to their soul's right path.

People who in their previous earth-lives were familiar with thought in its inspired form — who were servants, that is, of Michael — felt themselves drawn to this voluntary communion with Michael when they returned to earth-life at the close of the nineteenth century. They looked upon him, who had been their old Thought-Inspirer, as their guide henceforth in the higher form of thinking.

Those who have eyes for such things could not but be aware of the revolution that took place in respect to men's Thought-life during the last third of the nineteenth century. Before this, Man could only feel the Thoughts arising and taking shape out of his own being. Ever since then, he can rise above his own individual being, he can guide his mind into the realm of the Spirit; and there Michael meets him — Michael who from of old is past master in all Thought-weaving. He frees the thoughts from the region of the head; he opens a free way for them to the heart; he sets free the springs of spiritual fervour from the hearts of men, so that Man may live in full soul's devotion to all that he may learn in the light of Thought.

The Age of Michael has dawned. Hearts are beginning to have Thoughts. The springs of spiritual fervour no longer flow from the darkness only of mystical feeling, but from clear soul-brightness — Thought-informed and Thought-sustained. To understand this, is to receive Michael into the heart. Thoughts which seek today to grasp the Spirit must spring from hearts that throb for Michael, the fiery Thought-King of the Universe.