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The Michael Mystery
GA 26

XXII. Men's Freedom and the Michael Age

In the human faculty of Remembrance, there lives the reproduction in personal form of a cosmic power which once worked at the formation of Man's being, as was described in the last few letters. The same cosmic power continues however to be active at the present time. It works as the force of growth, as life-giving impulse, behind the scenes of human life. Here it expends the greater part of its force. Only one little part is separated off, to become a function of the Spiritual Soul. There it works as the power of Memory or Remembrance.

One must look at this power of Remembrance in the proper light. When Man to-day, in the present age of cosmic evolution, perceives through his senses, this ‘perceiving’ is a momentary lighting-up in consciousness of world-images. The lighting-up comes when the sense is directed upon the outer world; it illumines the field of consciousness, and disappears when the sense ceases to be turned upon the outer world. But what here lights up in the human soul, can have no duration. For unless Man could dismiss it promptly from his consciousness, he would become merged in this content of his consciousness, and lose himself. He would no longer be himself. Only for a brief time — in the so-called after-images, which so much interested Goethe — may this lighting-up from a sense-perception have life in the consciousness. Neither must this content of consciousness become set, or harden into real existence; it must remain image. It must no more become real than the image in the looking-glass can become real.

With anything that ended by making itself a reality in his consciousness, Man would no less lose himself, than with something that of itself was permanent. Here again, he could no more be himself.

Sense-perception of the outer world is, then, an inward painting of the human soul. A painting without paints; a painting in spirit-waxing and spirit-waning. As in Nature the rainbow comes and goes again and leaves no trace behind, so too all sense-perception comes and passes away, without itself — of its own nature — leaving any memory behind.

But with every perception, there is at the same time another process transacted between the human soul and the world outside. It is a process that goes on in the background, in remoter parts of the soul's life — there, where the forces of growth, the life-impulses are at work. And in this part of the soul's life, not a transitory image merely, but a real and lasting reproduction is imprinted with each act of perception. This Man can bear, for it is a real World-content, playing in part in Man's existence. It can take place without his losing himself, any more than he loses himself when without his own full consciousness he grows, or is nourished by his food.

When Man now calls up his memories from the inner depths, it is an internal perception of what was permanently left by this second process that accompanies the external perception. Again the soul paints; but now she paints the Past that is living in her own human inner being. And again with this painting, no lasting reality must be formed within the consciousness, but only an image that comes and goes.

Such is the connection, in the human soul, between the forming of mental conceptions — mental images — in the moment of perception, and remembrance.

For these forces of remembrance are remnants of the Past in Man's evolution, and as such they fall under the dominion of Lucifer. It is Lucifer's endeavor to give substance in Man to the impressions of the outer world and to condense them, so that they may continue to shine on as lasting mental conceptions in his conscious life.

This endeavor of Lucifer's would be crowned with success, were it not released by the Michael-forces. These will not let what is painted in the mind's inner light harden into real existence, but keep it coming and going as a fleeting picture.

The excess of power which thus streams up — but through Lucifer — out of the inner man, will be changed in the Michael Age into Imagining power. For, little by little, the power of spiritual Imagination will make its way into the general intellectual consciousness of mankind. That ‘present instant’ consciousness however, which Man now possesses, will not be thereby burdened with any weight of lasting reality. It will continue to live in pictures that come and go. But with his Imaginations Man rears himself aloft into a higher spirit-world; even as with his Remembrances he reaches inward, into this own human being. Man does not retain the Imaginations within himself; they are engraved in permanent cosmic-existence; and thence he can reproduce them ever afresh in the passing pictures of his mental life.

That which is saved by Michael from becoming fixed and hardened in the inner life of Man, is in this way received by the spiritual world. All that Man realizes of the power of conscious Imagining is converted at the same time into World-content. That this is possible, is a result of the Mystery of Golgotha. The Christ-Power imprints Man's Imagination upon the Cosmos — the Christ-Power which is united to the Earth. So long as this power was not united to the Earth, but worked from without upon the Earth as a Sun-Power, all impulses of growth and life went into the inner man. Man was built up and maintained by them out of the Cosmos. Since the Christ-Impulse has entered into the life of Earth, Man is given back once more to the Cosmos in his self-conscious being.

Man, from being a World-being, has become an Earth-being. It lies in him to become a World-being once more after having as Earth-being become himself.

In this fact — namely that Man, in his momentary acts of mental conception (in the forming of mental images) is living not in real existence, but only in a reflection of real existence. In a picture-existence, lies the possibility of evolving Freedom. All real existence in the consciousness has compelling power. Only pictures cannot compel. Anything that may take place through the impression made by a mere picture, will be quite independent of the picture itself. Man becomes free, when with his Spiritual Soul he lifts himself out of the realm of real Existence and emerges in a non-existent Picture-realm.

The momentous question then arises: Does not Man lose real existence when with one part of his being he lets go of it and hurls himself into a realm of non-existence?

Here again is a point where we are faced by one of the great problems in the contemplation of the world.

What is experienced in consciousness in the act of mental conception — in the forming of mental images — originated in the Cosmos. As regards the Cosmos, Man plunges into non-existence. He frees himself in the act of mental conception from all forces of the Cosmos. He paints the Cosmos, being himself outside of it.

If this were all, then for one cosmic instant a flash of freedom would light up in the human being; but at the same instant human being itself would be dissolved. Whilst however in his mental conceptions Man finds freedom from the Cosmos, he is nevertheless, in his non-conscious soul-life, grafted into the whole of his previous earth-lives and lives between death and new birth. As conscious man he is in Picture-existence, while he maintains himself in spiritual Reality with his unconscious part. Whilst in the I of the present moment he awakens to freedom, his I of the past holds him firm in real existence.

In respect of real existence, Man, when forming a mental conception, is wholly reliant upon what he has become in the course of his cosmic and earthly past.

In human evolution, the path here points to that Abyss of Nothing over which Man leaps in the moment of becoming a free being. Michael's action and the Christ-Impulse make the leap possible.

Leading Thoughts

In mental conception, Man is living with his Spiritual soul not in Real Existence, but in Picture-Existence — in Non-Existence. Thereby he is freed from experiencing a common life with the Cosmos. Pictures do not compel. Only real existence compels. And if Man nevertheless suits his actions to the pictures, it is done quite independently of the pictures, that is to say, in freedom from the world.

At the instant of any such act of mental conception, the only thing that links Man to the real existence of the world, is what he himself has grown to be from the Past, through his previous earth-lives and lives between death and new birth.

This is a leap, as regards the Cosmos, over Non-Existence — a leap which Man is only enabled to achieve through the action of Michael and through the Christ-Impulse.