The Michael Mystery
XII. Before the Door of the Spiritual Soul
Continuation of the Second Contemplation: Hindrances and helps to the Michael Forces in the dawning age of the Spiritual Soul.
The incorporation of the Spiritual Soul also brought about a disturbance throughout the whole of Europe in men's inner relation towards the articles of religious faith and the ritual of worship. This disturbance announces itself unmistakably, at the turn of the eleventh to the twelfth centuries, by the sudden appearance on the scene of Proofs of the Existence of god (in particular with Anselm of Canterbury). The existence of god was to be proved by arguments of reason. Such a desire could only arise when the old method of knowing God — by direct realization through the soul's inherent forces — was already passing away. What one knows by direct living experience, one does not prove by logic.
The earlier method had been a direct perception by the soul of the life-forms of the individual Intelligences, up to the highest Godhead. The new method now became, to work out intellectually a system of thoughts about the ‘First Causes’ of the universe. For the first method, there had been the powers of Michael in the spiritual region immediately adjoining the earthly one — powers which, behind the thinking-forces directed to the externals of sense, equipped the soul with other faculties, that could behold within the universe the life-forms of Intelligent Being. The second method required that the soul's link with the Michael Powers should be first fully developed.
What happens in the field of religious worship is that, far and wide, from Wycliffe in England (15th century) to Huss in Bohemia, over broad ranges of religious life amongst men, a doctrine so central as that of the Sacrament of the Communion begins to waver. In the Sacrament of the Communion, Man could find individual human union with the spirit-world which Christ had opened to him; for therein he could so unite himself with the being of the Christ, that the fact of sensible union was at the same time a spiritual one.
The consciousness of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul was able to picture such a communion for this Soul still possessed ideas, both of Spirit and of Matter, which were closely akin to each other, so that the one could be conceived passing over into the other — Matter into Spirit. But such ideas must not be intellectual ones, of the kind that demand proofs for the existence of god. They must be such as still have something of Imagination in them; for here can be felt in Matter the active Spirit at work within it, and in the Spirit, the striving after Matter. Ideas of such a kind have the cosmic force of Michael behind them.
If we only consider how much it was, of which the foundations were shaken in men's minds at that time, how much of all that was involved in their most sacred, innermost life! There were persons, in whom the very essence of the spiritual Soul shot forth its brightest rays, who, by the constitution of their souls, were united to the Michael Forces with a strength which for others would only come centuries later. Individualities such as Huss, Wycliffe and others came on the scenes. Following Michael's voice in their hearts, they used the ripeness of their Spiritual Soul to soar to a comprehension of the profoundest mysteries of religion. The intellectual power, now coming in with the Spiritual soul, must — they felt — be able to bring within the range of their ideas what in ancient times had been sought and reached through Imagination.
In contrast to all this was the old historic position of the human soul, as traditionally handed down, which throughout large circles of mankind had lost all inner staying power. What is historically known as the Disorder of the Faith, which occupied the great reforming councils in the age when the Spiritual soul first began to be active, is all involved with the life of those human souls who neither as yet felt the Spiritual Soul within them, nor could any longer draw from the traditional life of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul anything to give them inner strength and security.
Such historic currents of inner human life and feeling as come to light in the Councils of Constance and Bâle, may really be said to shew: above, in the spirit-world, the down-pouring of the cosmic Intellectuality, trying to find its way into Man, and below, in the earthly region, an Intellectual of Mind-Soul which is no longer suited to the times. Between the two hover the Michael Forces, looking back to their past union with the divine spirit-world, and looking down upon the world of Man, once united by the same bond, but which now has passed unavoidably into a sphere where Michael must send his aid from the spirit, but with which he himself must enter into no inner union. In this struggle of Michael's — necessary in the cosmic evolution, yet signifying in the first instance a disturbance of the cosmic balance — are to be found the grounds of all that mankind had to go through at this period, even in respect of their most cherished and sacred truths.
We look deep into the peculiar characteristics of this age, if we fix our eyes on Cardinal Nicholas Cusanus. (See what is said about him in my ‘Mysticism and Modern Thought.’) The personality of Cusanus is like a monument of his age. Everywhere he seeks to give effect to such views as would rectify the abuses of the physical world, not be combating them in a high-flown spirit of fanaticism, but rather by endeavouring, through sound human sense, to guide what has gone wrong, into the right track again. This is directly observable, if one watches the way in which his influence was exerted at the Council of Bâle, and in general amongst his ecclesiastical community.
If in this respect Cusanus shows himself all inclined towards the change coming into evolution with the development of the Spiritual Soul, one sees him, on the other hand, displaying views which bear shining witness to the forces of Michael. He translates into his own times the good old Ideas, which once had guided the soul and mind of Man to the evolution of faculties by which he could perceive the living forms of the Intelligences in the Cosmos — in that age, when Michael still was regent of cosmic Intellectuality. The ‘Learned Ignorance’ of which Cusanus speaks, is an active comprehension, which lies above the passive perceptions directed to the world of Sense — a comprehension which carries Thought above and beyond Intellectuality, the common form of ‘Knowing,’ into a region where in Unknowingness or ‘Ignorance,’ but with the vision of living realization, the Spiritual is actually grasped.
So in this Cardinal of Cusa we have a person who in his own soul-life experiences the disturbance brought by Michael into the cosmic balance, and intuitively tries to do his utmost towards directing this disturbance to the welfare of mankind.
In between all which thus came, spiritually, to the open surface, there was something else which led a hidden life. There were, here and there, persons who had a sense and understanding for the position held by the Michael Powers in the universe, and who devoted themselves to so training the powers of their own souls, that they could find conscious access to that spiritual region bordering on the earthly one, in which Michael carries on his labours on Man's behalf.
They sought to quality themselves for this spiritual enterprise by behaving externally, in their daily calling and the general affairs of life, in such a way that their ordinary existence was not distinguishable from that of other people. In this manner-by fulfilling their duties in the normal way, in all love towards the things of earth — they were enabled to apply their inner man freely to the spiritual task above mentioned. What they did in this direction was their own concern and that of those with whom they associated ‘in secret.’ In respect of what occurred on the physical plane, the world was not, to immediate appearance, in any way affected by these spiritual pursuits. And yet it all was necessary, in order to bring human souls into the needful connection with Michael's world. There was no question here of ‘secret societies’ in any bad sense — nothing that haunts the dark because it shuns the light of day. It was a case of people coming together, who in the actual coming together would convince themselves that every one of them had a fitting consciousness of the Michael Mission. Those who are working together in this way, do not then talk of their work before persons who from lack of understanding might only spoil the tasks on which they are engaged. These tasks, as we have seen, belonged to spiritual streams which do not run within the borders of earthly life, but in the neighbouring spirit-world — although they send their impulses across into this earthly life.
The spiritual work to which allusion is here made is that of men who stand within the physical world, but work in union with beings of the spirit-world — with beings who themselves do not enter the physical world, do not incarnate in it. We here allude to what is referred to in the world at large — in very little accordance with the facts — as the ‘Rosicrucians.’ True Rosicrucianism lies along the same line of actions as that pursued by the Michael Mission. It assisted on earth to prepare the spirit-work of Michael, which it was his will to prepare for a later age.
What this made possible, we can best estimate from the following considerations.
The difficulties — impossibilities indeed — which Michael meets with, as already described, in conveying his impulses to the souls of men, are connected with the fact that he himself will not bring his own being into any sort of contact with the physical Present of earth-life. His will is to abide by the same interconnection of forces which existed for spirits of his kind — and also for men — in the Past. Any contact with that element with which Man, being situated in present physical earth-life, of necessity comes in contact could only be felt by Michael as a defilement of his being. Now in ordinary human life, as we know, what the soul realizes in her spiritual life, works on from thence into her physical earth-life; conversely, the physical earth-life reacts upon the other: a reaction which, in particular, finds its expression in a man's tone of mind, and in his inclination towards some particular feature of earthly life. Some such interaction of the two things is more especially the case — as a rule, though not always — with persons in public life. That is why, with many of the reformers, the obstacles to Michael's work were really very great.
The Rosicrucians overcame this side of the difficulty by carrying on their external life with its earthly duties quite apart from whatever they did in Michael's work. When Michael came with his impulses to the soul of a Rosicrucian and met with what was there prepared for him, he in no way found himself exposed to the danger of coming upon earthly matter. For this was kept at a distance by the very thing which brought the Rosicrucian into union with Michael — the specially prepared constitution of his soul.
In this manner, Rosicrucian will and purpose made for Michael a road upon earth, by which he could find the way to his own approaching earthly mission.
At the beginning of the Age of the Spiritual Soul, the emancipated intellectual power in Man begins to busy itself in examining the truths of religious faith and worship. Man's soul-life is thereby inevitably thrown into uncertainty. Essential realities which men had formerly realized in the inner life of the soul, they now seek to prove logically. Contents of religious ritual, which should be grasped in Imaginations, they now try to grasp by logical deduction — and even to determine the forms accordingly.
This is all connected with the fact, that Michael under all circumstances is resolved to avoid every contact with the present earth-world, on which Man is obliged to set foot; but that nevertheless Michael has to remain with the stream of Cosmic Intellectuality, of which he was regent in the past, and to conduct it further within Man. Hereby there arises through the Michael Forces — necessarily for the progress of human evolution — a disturbance of the cosmic equilibrium.
The difficulty of Michael's mission is lightened by certain persons — the genuine Rosicrucians — who so arrange their external way of life on earth that it exerts no sort of influence upon the inner life of their souls. By this means they are able, in their inner-life, to develop forces by which they can work with Michael in the spiritual field, without Michael's incurring the danger of becoming involved with the present doings of earth-life — which, for him, would be impossible.