In my last post and elsewhere in this blog, I’ve written about what Steiner called the “War in Heaven” which took place between 1841 and 1879. This battle was waged between angels of the higher hierarchies and some of the spirits of darkness, and it ended with these spirits of darkness being cast down from the spiritual world to the earth. This made the heavens free of these beings but had the unfortunate effect of making the earth full of them. This has led on to what I have called the most terrible century in the whole of human history in terms of war and multiple other causes of human misery.
Why did this happen? According to Steiner, these spirits of darkness wanted to be able to prevent the spiritual wisdom, which was due to be revealed from the 20th century onwards, from flowing into human souls. Only by the removal of these hindering beings from the spiritual realm could our human hearts and minds begin to open to receive from the angels the spiritual knowledge for which we are destined – but the corollary of this was that the opposing spirits of darkness are now here on earth and in fact living within our blood and nervous systems, where they make it their business to spread confusion and to prevent human understanding of spiritual truths.
One of the consequences of this is that clear thinking by human beings is now an absolute necessity – in fact, Steiner says that with regard to what he calls “the inner necessities of evolution”, clarity of thinking is now as essential as eating and drinking are to the maintenance of physical life. Since 1879, we must actively strive for spirituality – if we desire it.
Another consequence is that human beings in their souls more and more come to resemble their thought – to resemble what they regard as knowledge. So if, for example, you are a Darwinian and believe the only possible truth to be that human beings have descended from the animals, then Steiner suggests that you will fashion a kind of consciousness for yourself in which you will perceive your own likeness to animal nature and will therefore be unable to understand the shortcomings of your conception of what it is to be a human being. Since 1879, what we think ourselves to be, that we are obliged to become.
The spirits of darkness attach particular value to the breeding of confusion among us humans, in the hope that we will fail to form correctly the thoughts and ideas into which, after death, we will be transformed. The Gods were bound to make it possible for us to become what we make of ourselves, so that we may attain full and free consciousness of the Self, and find the way that leads from the animal to the Divine – but this freedom, at a time when it was evolutionarily necessary for us to begin to realise that the soul is what it thinks itself to be, has also allowed the spirits of darkness to counter really effective thinking with untruths, eg the idea that all that remains of one who has died is what is decaying in the earth or is ashes in the urn. It really matters to our individual futures whether we, on the one hand, cherish in our souls the thought of those who have died living on in the spiritual world, or on the other hand, succumb to the atheistical notion that on death there is an extinction of consciousness and all that is left of us is something rotting in the grave.
It was the Archangel Michael who won the War in Heaven and who since 1879 has been the time spirit of our age. I have sometimes felt that Michael has placed a terrible burden on humanity by casting down the spirits of darkness to find their new dwelling-place within human beings; but in my wiser moments, I can see that this has in fact been a necessary but very difficult chapter in the evolution of human freedom. Michael himself is evolving and Steiner has spoken of this in a lecture he gave in 1913:
“At no time in human evolution have two successive epochs been so radically different from one another as that which has just run its course and the epoch upon which we are now entering (ie before and after 1879). And never before have souls been more alien to one another than will be the souls of those who incline to what is spiritual and the souls who still adhere to what past centuries have brought. Nor will it be long before those who believe they stand firmly in materialistic monism will be quite out of date in comparison with those who are earnestly seeking an understanding of super-sensible worlds. For since the last third of the nineteenth century a spiritual ‘tidal wave’ from higher worlds has been flowing into our world, and making it possible for man to understand the way in which human and world evolution are spiritually guided.
If one wants to understand the evolution of mankind, one must understand that Michael too has evolved: one must understand that it is the same Being who paved the way for the preparation of the Mystery of Golgotha, and who now in our day paves the way for the understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. Then, however, he was a Folk Spirit, now he is a Time Spirit; then he was the Messenger of Jahve, now he is the Messenger of Christ. We speak of the Christ in the right way when we speak of Michael and his mission, knowing that Michael, who was formerly the bearer of the Jehovah-mission, is now the bearer of the Mission of the Christ.
That is an important Imagination, — Michael overcoming the Dragon. To receive the inflow of spiritual life into the sense world, — from now on, that is the service of Michael. We serve Michael by overcoming the Dragon that is trying to grow to his full height and strength in ideas which during the past epoch produced materialism and which now threaten to prolong their life on into the future. To defeat this means to stand in the service of Michael. That is the victory of Michael over the Dragon. It is the old picture over again, which for earlier times had another meaning and which must now acquire the right meaning for our age. When we are conscious of the part we have to play as men of a new age, then our task can stand before us in the picture of Michael conquering the Dragon.
Let us take this picture and make of it an Imagination. Let us try to understand our times through knowing ourselves to be in a spiritual guidance that is the true spiritual guidance of our age, and that can be the spiritual guidance of every human soul who is sincerely and honestly seeking evolution on the path of spiritual life.
The Adversary has found his abode in man. Michael has remained true to his nature. When man turns to Michael with that part of his life which has its origin in the higher spirituality, then there arises in the soul of man the inward fight of Michael and the Dragon.”