The Michael Mystery
IV. Michael's Task in the Sphere of Ahriman
When Man looks back over his own evolution and reviews in spirit the peculiar character which his spiritual life has assumed during the last five centuries, he cannot but recognize — even in his ordinary consciousness, however dimly — that in these five centuries he has come to a critical turning-point in the whole earthly evolution of mankind.
In the last letter I pointed out this critical turn in evolution from one of its aspects. One may look back namely into earlier ages of this evolution; then we observe how a transformation took place in that soul-force in Man which to-day is employed as the force of Intelligence.
Thoughts now appear within the field of human consciousness — dead, abstract Thoughts. These Thoughts are tied to the physical human body. Man must recognize them as his own progeny.
When, in days of yore, Man turned his soul's gaze in the direction where now his own Thoughts appear to him, he then beheld divine Spirit-beings. He saw his whole existence bound up with these Beings, in all that he was, down to his physical body. He must confess himself the product of these Beings, — not only their product in all that he was, but also in all that he did. Man had no Will of his own; all that he did was a manifestation of Divine Will.
Step by step — as described in the last letter — the stage has been reached of a personal Will of Man's own for which the time began about five hundred years ago.
The last stage, however, differs more markedly from all the preceding ones than these do from one another.
As the Thoughts pass over into the physical body, they lose their aliveness; they become dead — spiritual dead constructions. Previously, whilst pertaining to Man, they were yet at the same time organs of the Divine Spirit-beings, to whom Man himself pertained. They willed in Man as living forms of Being. And hence Man felt himself through them livingly bound to the spiritual world.
With his dead Thoughts, he feels himself released from the spiritual world, — he feels himself planted down completely into the physical world.
But hereby he is at the same time brought into the sphere of the Ahrimanic Mind. The Ahrimanic form of mind has no great power in those regions, where the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies keep Man within their own immediate sphere, — either by working within him themselves, as in primeval times, or, as later, by the brightness of their ensouled or living reflection. So long as the workings of super-sensible Beings continue in this way to enter into all the workings of Man, — until, that is, about the fifteenth century A.D. — the powers of Ahriman find within the field of human evolution only a faint echo, one might say, of their strength.
The picture drawn by the Persian world-view of the workings of Ahriman, is in no contradiction to the above statement. For what is meant in the Persian view of Ahriman's workings, is not something going on in the evolution of the human soul, but within the neighbouring world, that borders on Man's soul-world. From this neighbouring world of spirit the web of Ahriman's weaving undoubtedly sent it s threads across into the world of the human soul, but did not directly encroach upon it.
Any such direct encroachment only became possible in the period that began some five hundred years ago.
Thus Man stands at the end of a stream of evolution in which his own human being has been built up by a form of Divine spirit-being which passes finally into the abstract Intelligence-Personality of Man, and there, so far as itself is concerned, died out.
Man has not remained in those spheres where he had his own first source in the Divine Spirit-being.
What was thus accomplished five hundred years ago for Man's consciousness, had already taken place on a broader scale throughout his general being at the time when the Mystery of Golgotha entered upon its earthly manifestation. This was the time when human evolution began — imperceptibly as yet for the consciousness of most people of that period — to slide gradually down, out of a world where Ahriman has but little power, into one where he has very much. It was in the fifteenth century that this downslide, from one world-stratum into another, reached its final completion.
Here, in this world-stratum, it becomes possible for Ahriman to exert his influence upon Man, and with disastrous effects, because in this stratum the divine influences congenial to Man have died out. But there was no other possible way for Man to arrive at the development of his free will, save by withdrawing to a sphere in which those Divine Spirit-beings had no life, who were involved with him from his origin.
In the very essence of this human evolution, cosmically viewed, lies the Mystery of the Sun. With the Sun, and all that Man — down to the important turning-point in his evolution — could see in the Sun, were involved the divine-spiritual Beings of his origin. These Beings have detached themselves from the Sun, and left on it only their extinct remains. So that what Man now receives through the sun, taken up into his bodily system, is the power of dead Thoughts only.
But these Divine Beings have sent Christ from the Sun to Earth. He, for the salvation of mankind, has united His own living Being with the deadness of divine existence in the kingdom of Ahriman. Mankind have thus the twofold possibility, which is the pledge of their freedom: Either to turn to Christ in that mind and spirit which was theirs subconsciously when they came down from the vision of supersensible life in the Spirit until they could use Intelligence, — but to do this now in consciousness. Or else, in their detachment from Spirit-life, to seek to enjoy the sense of themselves — and thereby fall a prey to the Powers of Ahriman and be carried in the Ahrimanic direction of evolution.
Such is the situation of mankind since the beginning of the fifteenth century. It has been preparing — for everything proceeds gradually in evolution — ever since the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, that greatest of all earthly events, which is designed to save Man from the destruction to which he is unavoidably exposed in order to become a free being.
Now it is true to say: what has been done by mankind in this situation hitherto has been achieved half unconsciously. In this half-conscious way it has led to what is good in a view of Nature living in abstract ideas, and also to many equally beneficent principles in the conduct of practical life. But the age has gone by, when Man could afford to pursue his existence unconsciously in the dangerous Ahrimanic sphere.
The scientific observer of the spiritual world is to-day obliged to rouse mankind's attention to the spiritual fact that Michael has now succeeded to the guidance of human affairs. Whatever Michael performs, is performed in such a way as to exert no influence from his part upon man; but they are free to follow him, and so, in freedom, with the Christ-Power to find their way out again from Ahriman's sphere, which they entered of necessity.
Whoever honestly, from the innermost core of his soul, can feel himself one with Anthroposophy, is a true interpreter of this Michael-Phenomenon. Anthroposophy is intended to be the message of this Michael-Mission.
1. Michael travels upwards again over the paths which Mankind traveled downwards through the successive steps of the spirit's evolution to the exercise of Intelligence. Only, by Michael, the Will will be led up the track, which was descended by Wisdom until she came to Intelligence, her final stage.
2. From this point in the world's evolution, Michael merely shows his road, so that Mankind may walk on it in Freedom. And this is what distinguishes this particular regency of Michael's from the previous regencies of all other archangels — indeed from all those of Michael himself until now. These other regencies worked as active forces within Man, and did not merely show him their own workings; so that Man in those times could not be free in his.
3. To recognize this, is the task of Man at this present day, so that with his entire soul he may find his own right spiritual road during the age of Michael.