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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Michael Mystery
GA 26

II. The Human Soul before the Dawn of the Michael Age

The rise of the Michael-Age has succeeded in mankind's evolution to the predominance, on the one hand of the intellectual form of Thought-construction, and on the other, of an external view of the world, paramountly directed to the physical world in its outer, sensible aspect.

Thought-construction is not in itself, of its own character, a development in the direction of materialism. What in earlier ages had come to Man as though be inspiration—the world of Ideas—became, in the time that preceded the Michael Age, a property of the human soul. The soul no longer receives her Ideas given to her ‘from above’ out of the spiritual fullness of the Cosmos; she fetches them forth actively, out of the inner spiritual life of Man himself. With this, Man becomes ripe for the first time to reflect upon his own individual spirit-being. Previously, he never penetrated to this depth in his own being; he saw in himself, so to speak, a drop, separated out for the span of his earth-life from the sea of cosmic spirit, to re-unite with it again after this earth-life is over.

This Thought-construction that takes place in Man is a forward step in Man's self-knowledge. Viewed in its supersensible aspect, the matter lies as follows: The spiritual powers whom we may call by the name of ‘Michael,’ ruled Ideas in the spiritual Cosmos. Man realized these Ideas within him, inasmuch as his own soul participated in the life of the Michael-world. This realization of the life of Ideas has now become his own personal concern; and this has brought about a temporary separation of Man from the Michael-world. Along with the inspired thoughts of earlier ages, Man had received at the same time the spiritual substance of the world. Now that this inspiration has ceased, and Man begins of his own action to construct his thoughts, he is thrown back upon the perceptions of his senses to give these thoughts a substance. So that Man at first could not do otherwise than fill his newly acquired inner spiritual life with a material substance. He acquired inner spiritual life with a material substance. He ‘fell’ into the materialist view of things in that same age which carried his own inner spiritual being to a stage higher than those preceding it.

This is a fact which may easily be misinterpreted. One may look only at the ‘fall’ into Materialism and deplore it accordingly. But whilst the views of this age were thus limited in outlook to the external physical world, there arose within the soul, as a realization of the inner being, a purified, unalloyed and self-sustaining spirit-life of the human mind that must remain no longer an unconscious realization; it must become knowingly aware of its own peculiar character. This means that Michael in Being must enter into the human soul. For a period, Man has taken the matter of the natural world as a filling for his own spirit. He must once again fill it with the spirit-substance of the Cosmos out of his own creative mind.

Thought-construction lost itself for a while in the material of the Cosmos. It must come to itself once more in the cosmic Spirit. Into the cold and abstract world of Thought may enter warmth and the living fullness of spirit's reality. This announces the dawn of the Michael-Age.

Only in separation from the living Thought-Reality of the world could there grow up in the human soul the consciousness of Freedom. What came from the heights, had again to be recovered from the depths. Therefore the development of this consciousness of Freedom is involved in its first beginnings with that science of the natural world which is directed solely to the world's external aspect. Whilst inwardly Man was unconsciously developing his spirit to pure clarity of Ideas, outwardly his senses were directed solely to the world of Matter, that left undisturbed the first tender shoots of what was dawning in his soul.

But into these views of external materiality, there may enter anew a living, inner realization of the spirit in the world, and therewith once more a spiritual view of it. The science of Nature, that has been acquired under the sign of Materialism, may receive a spiritual form of conception in the inner life of the soul. Michael, who once spoke ‘from above,’ may be heard ‘from within,’ where he will make his new abode. In more imaginative language, it may be thus expressed: That Sun-life, which through long ages Man drew from without, from the Cosmos only, will begin to shine within, in the soul. Man will learn to speak of an ‘inner Sun.’ He will know none the less well on this account, that he is a being of the Earth in his life between birth and death; but he will be conscious that his own being is Sun-guided on its earthly travels. He will learn to be aware in truth of a being that lives within him and that sheds a light which lights the life of Earth, but is not lit there. In the first dawn of the Michael Age, it may still seem as though mankind were very far from all this. But ‘in the spirit’ it is not far; it is close at hand; it only needs to be ‘seen.’ That Man's Ideas do not remain merely ‘thinking’ only, but turn in thought to ‘seeing,’ is a fact on which immeasurably much depends.