Tag Archives: Archangels

The Evolution of the Michael Impulse

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.”

Michael St Michael's Church Hamburg

Michael’s victory over the Devil – from St Michael’s Church, Hamburg

16 Comments

Filed under Angels, Archangel Michael, Atheism, Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner and Angels – The Potential Fall of Humans and their Angels

Part 3 of 3

Ahriman and Lucifer, the fallen angels
Interestingly, Steiner does not make a straight distinction between Good on the one hand and Evil on the other. Instead he has two poles of Evil, which he calls Lucifer and Ahriman.

Steiner saw Lucifer and Ahriman as not only forces or tendencies which affect humankind and draw us towards evil but also as actual beings. Unlike the Christ, these forces can take up their abode in our astral bodies, the seat of our desires and emotions and thus exercise a strong influence on us from within.

The head of Lucifer - a carving by Rudolf Steiner

The head of Lucifer – a carving by Rudolf Steiner

Lucifer encourages the tendency in human beings towards expansiveness, inflation, egotism, sensuality, passion, and ungrounded spirituality; Lucifer is the being who tells us that we are like the gods, knowing both good and evil, whereas Ahriman tells us that there is no God and that material reality is the only reality. Ahriman represents tendencies towards contraction, reduction, splitting, materialism, over-intellectualisation, lying, and a denial of spiritual realities; this leads to the idea that we are physical beings only. Both of these beings also play a helpful role and are in fact indispensable for human life, as the first awakens us to our freedom, while the second helps provide us with the capacity for speech and thinking. The two forces work in harmony at the present time, even though they appeal to different instincts in us. The way to deal with these two poles of Evil is to seek the balance in the middle, which is represented by Christ. However, because Ahriman can work through the seat of our desires but Christ can only work through our I or individuality, this means that the struggle is not an equal one. Our individuality has to so develop itself that it can in time learn to recognise and resist the many temptations offered by Lucifer and Ahriman. Steiner and the English sculptor Edith Maryon produced a monumental wooden carving called “Representative of Man”, which you can see in the Goetheanum at Dornach. It depicts the Christ providing the active place of balance between the opposing forces of Lucifer above and Ahriman below.

The monumental wooden statue, "Representative of Man", carved by Rudolf Steiner and Edith Maryon.

The monumental wooden statue, “Representative of Man”, carved by Rudolf Steiner and Edith Maryon.

Lucifer appeals above all to our pride and ambition, making us think that we have no limitations. Yet he is also the being who set us out on our evolutionary path to freedom. But Lucifer does not want us to be truly conscious, nor to acquire an egohood independent of himself.

In our present age, Ahriman is a greater threat to us than Lucifer. He is infinitely clever and is helping us to develop our technological civilisation. He wishes us to advance at breakneck speed, long before our individuality and moral nature are ready for such advances. He wishes to foreshorten our development so that we can never reach our true goal but only a false goal of enjoyment and endless material possessions. The scientist, the technologist and the inventor are Ahriman’s natural prey but all of us can fall victim to his temptations. Wherever there is egoism and love of power, entry is made easy for him.

While we may know of Ahriman from Persian mythology, Rudolf Steiner spoke of him as an actual, living spiritual entity. He is a being who fell behind during the Ancient Sun planetary stage. This being, he said, works to embed people firmly into physicality, encouraging dull, materialistic attitudes and a philistine, dry intellect. Steiner, in rare prophetic mode, talked about an actual incarnation of Ahriman on the earth and the potential consequences. Just as Christ incarnated in a physical body, so would Ahriman incarnate in the Western world – before ‘a part’ of the third millennium had passed. Steiner places this incarnation in the context of a ‘cosmic triad’ – Lucifer, Christ and Ahriman. Lucifer had his incarnation as the Yellow Emperor who reigned in China in the third millennium BC. Ahriman will incarnate as a counterpoint to the physical incarnation of Lucifer in the East, with the incarnation of Jesus Christ in Palestine two thousand years ago as the balancing point between the two.

The Head of Ahriman, carved in wood by Rudolf Steiner.

The Head of Ahriman, carved in wood by Rudolf Steiner.

It seems possible to me that today we are living in the time of Ahriman’s incarnation. Ahriman is the Lord of Death and his will is to materialise human thinking into dead thinking to such an extent that the soul becomes fettered to the physical body and to an ever materialised earth, effectively cutting human beings off from their spiritual home – as an Ahrimanic form of immortality. This is nothing less than a spiritual death.

His incarnation on the physical plane will intensify his influence and many of us will fall into his clutches unknowingly, because his effects work in the unconscious aspect of the human being. It will work in the human thinking through the etheric body, where the human being is not conscious.

Though it is the wish of the “good” angels that we should reach our goal, it is not pre-destined that Ahriman will be defeated, because the goal can only be reached in freedom, by us choosing to get there out of our own free will. It’s therefore clear that the possibility cannot be ruled out that humankind will succumb finally to Ahriman and other opposing forces who are gaining in strength all the time, as we see around us every day in the news and in our daily lives.

There is one even more malign aspect of Evil spoken about by Steiner and that is Sorath, the Sun Demon, who is served by both Lucifer and Ahriman. I will say nothing more about Sorath here.

Rudolf Steiner in his studio, working on the statue "Representative of Man".

Rudolf Steiner in his studio, working on the statue “Representative of Man”.

Michael
Rudolf Steiner often spoke about the great battle that occurred in the spiritual world between the spirits who are followers of Michael the Guardian of the Cosmic Intelligence, and certain ahrimanic powers. According to him the latest battle commenced around 1840 and was lost by the ahrimanic powers in the autumn of 1879. I referred in Part 1 to the Archangel Michael but strictly speaking since 1879 he should be considered as one of the archai.

We know that in 1879 these ahrimanic powers, or spirits of darkness were cast down into the physical world and a picture of this can be found in the Revelation of St John – the Angel holding the key to the bottomless pit in which he is said to imprison the dragon. Perhaps the tragic history of the 20th century is not so much the result of human folly but rather of these powers being shut out of the spiritual world and thus rampaging through the physical world, influencing the likes of Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot and their many other human agents. On present form, the 21st century is shaping up to be even worse than the previous one.

The foremost of the archai is known to us as Michael. It was his task to go on to become the guardian or administrator, one might say, of the Cosmic Intelligence. He is known in anthroposophy as the son of the Divine Sophia who is the foremost being of the hierarchy of the Spirits of Wisdom, the Kyriotetes, and whose task it is to gather up, regulate and harmonise the Cosmic
Intelligence.

What is this Cosmic Intelligence? There are many ways of describing the Cosmic Intelligence. One such way is that it is a gathering up of all the ‘conversations’ had by the hierarchies amongst themselves; their interrelationships regarding their knowledge and understanding pertaining to the being of Christ, the second logos who descended to earth and died at Golgotha. One could also call it the essence of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is the mediating substance.

Rudolf Steiner tells us that at around the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, Michael began sacrificing his ‘rulership’ of the Cosmic Intelligence to human beings. And it is the third hierarchy, which is the closest to humanity insofar as it shares various soul and bodily sheaths with human beings, that has the task of helping us to take up the Cosmic Intelligence in the way intended by Michael.

But we humans have the unique privilege of freewill, so we have a choice. To quote Steiner: “Two things are possible for humankind and through this possibility our freedom is guaranteed: to turn to Christ consciously … or to wish to feel our severance from spirit existence and thus fall in the direction taken by the ahrimanic powers. Humanity has been in this situation since the beginning of the fifteenth century.”

Since 1879 Michael has taken over the spiritual guidance of human affairs. He does what he has to do in such a way that he does not thereby wield an influence over human beings; but humans may follow him in freedom, in order with the Christ-power to find the way out of that sphere of Ahriman which they were obliged to enter.

The classical image of Michael depicts him in battle with a dragon and shows him standing on the dragon and spearing it in the mouth. One way of interpreting this might be to say that what Michael is doing is showing us how to penetrate the dragon of materialism with spiritual vision and insight, so that the spirit coiled up in matter can be released.

Sir Jacob Epstein's bronze statue for Coventry Cathedral of Michael.

Sir Jacob Epstein’s bronze statue for Coventry Cathedral of Michael.

But Michael also sees how the danger of humanity succumbing to the ahrimanic powers grows greater and greater. He knows that as regards himself he will always have Ahriman under his feet; but will that always be the case with human beings?

Michael sees the greatest event in the Earth’s history taking place. He sees Christ’s descent to the Earth, so as to be here with us when the Cosmic Intelligence is handed over to human beings. Through Christ’s great sacrifice, He is now living in the same sphere in which Ahriman also lives. Humans are now able to choose between Christ and Ahriman. Should humans wish to, we will be able to find the Christ-way in the evolution of humanity. But Michael cannot force humans to do anything – it is because the Cosmic intelligence has come entirely into the sphere of the human individuality that compulsion from the spiritual world has ceased.

And herein lies our great danger. Ahrimanic spirits seek to smother human beings’ awareness of their own spirituality. They want to teach people that they are really only a perfectly developed animal. Ahriman, says Steiner, is in truth the great teacher of materialistic Darwinism. He also teaches all the technological and practical activity in Earth evolution where nothing is considered valid unless it can be perceived by the senses. His desire for us is that we should have widespread technology, plenty of material goods, entertainment media, all sorts of toys and gadgets, the aim being to kill and obscure any awareness we may have that we are an image of the godhead. This is the aim ahrimanic spirits are seeking to achieve by sophisticated scientific means in our age.

What if Ahriman succeeds? You may recall from Part 2 that Steiner said that the angels had particular work to do in inserting three impulses into our astral bodies. You remember these three impulses:

1. That no human being should be able to enjoy the peace of happiness himself if others around him were unhappy
2. That human beings should be able to perceive the divine principle operating in every other human being
3. That human beings should be able to gain irrefutable insight into the reality of the spiritual world.

The angels do this by working within our astral bodies when we are asleep at night. Steiner was speaking in 1918, but he said that if human beings are not willing to turn to life in the spirit before the beginning of the third millennium, ie in our present time, then the angels would need to work in a different way; that is by withdrawing all their work from the astral body and taking it into the etheric body. But then, Steiner says, the human being would have no part in it, as it would have to be done when humans are asleep, as of course when we are asleep we leave behind our physical and etheric bodies in the bed and take our astral body and individuality into the spiritual world.

And he says that, if this happens, the inevitable effect on human evolution would be threefold:
First, something would be engendered in human bodies which human beings could not discover in freedom.
Second, danger would threaten from certain instinctive perceptions connected with the mystery of birth and conception and with sexual life as a whole.
Third, humanity will get to know specific powers which enable them to unleash some degree of mental control over machines, a development that will take the whole of technology along disastrous channels, a state of affairs, however, that will serve human egotism extremely well and please many people.

Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds to me like things that are already happening. Let’s take the second point, about the effect on our sexuality. It’s unusual for Steiner to say very much about sex but here he is clear. He says that the effect on human evolution would be that certain instincts belonging to the sexual life and to sexual nature would not come to conscious awareness in a useful way but instead would become harmful. These instincts would not be mere aberrations but would enter into the social life, configuring it. Something would enter into people’s blood as a consequence of sexual life that would above all make people go against brotherliness on Earth rather than develop brotherliness and this would be a matter of instinct.

And Steiner hints at something even worse – he says that danger will come from certain angels who themselves would undergo a change, which he says “is something I cannot speak about, for it belongs to the higher secrets of initiation which may not yet be disclosed.”

But nearly one hundred years later, I think we can say something about this, and to me what may be happening now is very frightening.

Let us go back to the War in Heaven, which started in about 1840 and was completed in 1879 with the victory of Michael over the ahrimanic beings, who were cleared out of heaven and thrust into the abyss. Now what does that mean, to be cast out of heaven and into the abyss? Where have they gone?

There is a link between our blood and the etheric body and our angels usually work in our blood and in our heart. By 1840 a number of abnormal backward angels, (these are angels with the ‘potential’ to be archangels but who have not yet reached that stage) wanted to leave the blood in order to enter into the nerves, the brain, where the normal archangels were taking up their domain. This created an obstruction, a hindrance to the flow of spiritual wisdom that was seeking to enter into the astral body. Now a battle ensued between Michael and these retarded angels, the angels of darkness. To cut a long story short, these ahrimanic angels were cast out of the nervous system into the realm of the blood again – into the abyss – by 1879. They were thrust down into the etheric body by way of the blood, which is closely connected to intellectuality and human thought. Here, in the realm of intellectual thinking, they found relief for their pain.

These beings connected to Ahriman have inspired more and more intellectualism and materialism than there has ever been before, because they thrive on it; and by way of the intellect’s relationship to the realm of Ahriman they have connected the intellect with the sub-earthly ethers, ie the realm of electricity, magnetism and atomic forces. Whether we know it or not, our etheric bodies interpenetrate these ethers all the time.

Let us recall that Michael had to surrender the Cosmic Intelligence so
that the human ego could remember it again, but this time in a free and personal way and through inner work to reconnect this intelligence with Christ.

But these spirits of darkness living in the human being and in the earth do not want this to happen: as followers of Ahriman, the antagonist of Christ, they are doing their level best to prevent us from rising up. They want to drag us down to the level of the electrical, the mechanical and atomistic – the realm of Sorath the Sun Demon – and they are making great strides forward.

As already mentioned, the angels have the task in our times of shaping images in our astral bodies at night. Our angels can only create those pictures at night, if by day we have thought, lived and spoken with integrity and morality. Only then can our angels connect us with the archangels and archai.

Steiner says: “In fact it actually depends on human beings themselves – on their attitude, on the whole way their world of feeling is disposed to the spiritual world – whether their angels accompany them when they leave their physical and etheric bodies in sleep or not…. If a person leaves his physical and etheric body in a materialistic mood, his angel would be denying his realm, his affiliation to the archangels, the archai and the exusiai if he were to accompany the human being. “

This distances us from our normal angels and draws us closer and closer to the ahrimanic angels and their offspring – the ahrimanic elemental beings. Our reproductive and sexual life is administered by the normal angels working in our blood. But for those human beings who cannot rise above materialism, not only will the dark angels take over the task of the spirits of light, but their angels, instead of rising to other tasks may, due to the influence of these dark spirits, fall even deeper than the etheric body.

What does this mean? Rudolf Steiner warns us: “We should not allow the ahrimanic powers to gain the upper hand, as it were, and we should not fall in love with them…” If this were to happen human beings would thereby, “unite spiritual progress with material progress.” This is what Rudolf Steiner called “Prostitution with Matter.”

The union of angel and man in the etheric nature of the human being, where live not only the forces of life and death, dying and becoming, but also all the unconscious desires associated with the sexual life, the life of the sensual, results in the angel ‘falling in love with matter’ through the human being, which leads to an angel’s downfall which one could call, a supra-human fall. The result
is that something thereby enters the material world that does not belong there.

Just as those human beings who today bind their egos to their physical bodies and the sub-earthly ethers, will in future times not be able to exist in a spiritualised world that has no ‘physicality’, so too do the angels of such people fall into the temptation of binding their spirit self (which sets into motion their etheric bodies), to the physical body of human beings, and not to their own etheric bodies creating not only an estrangement from spiritual worlds but also a unification of their spirit, the angel’s consciousness, with the physical world – an unlawful binding of spirit to matter by way of the human being which ultimately will prevent their future development from taking place.

When the human being falls, the right conditions are created for the human being’s angel also to fall. This corresponds to the Second Fall in the Book of Revelation, where angels fall into the realm of the physical body and ‘possess’ their human beings so that together these and the backward angels and elemental spirits that belong to them, become the hosts of Ahriman and ultimately the followers of the Sun Demon, Sorath.

So is it possible that right now the ahrimanic beings are seeking not only to reverse human evolution but also to reverse angelic evolution? If this is indeed happening, it will have huge ramifications on the future of humanity and the world.

What might this lead to? First, Rudolf Steiner warned us that, instead of a greater sense of brotherhood, the most evil sexual instincts would enter into the blood. This is surely what we are seeing today. This disconnection from the moral life signifies a separation from the angelic hierarchies and a binding to the ahrimanic mineral realm, causing an animalisation of the human being. This in turn leads to a form of unconsciousness of the feelings of others and a kind of anti-brotherhood sentiment, because the karmic ties that bind human beings are, in such cases, completely severed. Isil or the Islamic State seems to me to be a direct manifestation of this phenomenon.

Second, instead of humans having a vision of the Christ in other human beings, there will be an unconsciousness of Christ. In our time, the goal of many human beings is a sensual form of happiness without morality, and material welfare unconnected with goodness. To this end certain drugs (antidepressants, prescription drugs, alcohol, recreational drugs) have been created to dull the mind and numb the feelings and to prevent any discomfort at immoral behavior. Other drugs create the right conditions in the etheric body that will lead to an animalisation of the physical body, eg steroids, sports vitamins, food additives, mercury-based vaccines, GM foods etc. Selflessness in the etheric body is turned to its opposite – a heightened form of egoism. This estrangement from the moral world order leads us away from the Cosmic Christ and draws us closer to Sorath, his antagonist.

Is there anything we can do about this? Well, first of all, we can pray. Prayer is the most important deterrent against the forces of evil in the world today. One person working within the light is able to offset a thousand working against it. Each one of us is asked daily to send our light to the spiritual hierarchies. Due to the escalating attacks, the angelic world needs more of our light energy to help alleviate the mounting stress and to assist in the affairs of humankind. Our prayer, whether directed or in general, is the essential ingredient for the angels working on our behalf – but we have to ask for their help first. Owing to our free will, they cannot intervene until we ask. So let us determine to ask, remembering for example that Rudolf Steiner said the Lord’s Prayer every day at 3.00pm.

Second, we can try to wake up to what is going on, and to keep ourselves informed. Some of what I have been writing above has been inspired by a book called Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts or as it is sometimes known, the Michael Letters or the Michael Mystery. These leading thoughts were written by Steiner and started to appear in 1924 and continued up until his death in March 1925. I find it incredibly moving that Steiner as he was dying continued to the last to get down on paper these thoughts, which are both very profound and very clear, much clearer than he sometimes comes across in the transcripts of his lectures. It is as though he was burning himself up to the very last ounce of his physical substance, in his efforts to help us to understand the seriousness of the times we live in. And for anyone who is a member of the School of Spiritual Science, you will recall that it was Steiner’s intention that there should be three classes of the school, but he was only able to complete the lessons of the First Class before he became too ill to continue. It is my belief that the contents of the Second Class and possibly the Third Class, too, are in these Michael letters.

And third, we need to ask the angels for the gifts mentioned in the College Imagination, that is: Unity, Courage, Wisdom and the Light which is Love for one another.

23 Comments

Filed under Angels, Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner, School of Spiritual Science

Rudolf Steiner & Angels – The Current Work of the Angels within Human Beings

Part 2 of 3

In Part 1 of this posting, I wrote about the College Imagination and Steiner’s views on the nine orders of angels. In Part 2, we are going to look at the angelic orders that Steiner refers to in the College Imagination, that is to say the 3rd Hierarchy consisting of the Archai, Archangels and Angels of the 7th, 8th and 9th orders, who are the ones closest to us as human beings. We shall also look at some of the ways in which the angels are currently seeking to advance our evolution.

As we work together with colleagues, or in any community for that matter, it is helpful to acknowledge the presence of the angels, who are always ready to support our common work. Without their help, much that we set out to do would be too difficult, painful or disheartening to carry through to completion, or too misguided to be beneficial. With their help, true social innovation is possible. The angels support the creation of social initiatives that benefit individual societies and the continuing development of humankind.

By way of context, I hope it will be helpful here to say something as briefly as possible about Steiner’s teachings on the evolution of our solar system, and how the evolution of angels and humans has developed during this process. According to Steiner, our solar system has so far had four planetary stages, which he calls, somewhat confusingly, Ancient Saturn, Ancient Sun, Ancient Moon and Earth, this last being of course our present stage. This current stage of Earth will in time develop into three further stages or planetary embodiments, which Steiner calls Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. In the meantime, our present Earth stage is due to continue until about the year 8000AD, when we shall start moving into the Jupiter planetary stage – so you can see that this is quite a long process! You can read more about Steiner’s views on these matters in his book, An Outline of Esoteric Science.

From Rudolf Steiner’s descriptions, it appears that humankind, in a variety of different forms, has participated in this evolution from the beginning. From the outset through to the very last stage, humans will have experienced a huge transformative process – from a human germ on Ancient Saturn to an angelic being, called the 10th order, in a future incarnation of the Earth.

Steiner also taught that each of the angelic orders has had the equivalent of a human stage in their own evolution, though of course their human stages were not like ours. Their evolutionary path is ahead of ours, with the angels of the 9th order being closest to us.

Angels (9th order)
Each of us – you, me, every one – has a guardian angel. Our very own dedicated guide in the spiritual world, it envelops us in unconditional love. Our angel gives us the safe space in which our higher selves can develop and eventually come into independent maturity. Impulses from our angel allow true ideas to stream into our consciousness. These guide us in our earthly tasks and relationships and give us strength to overcome the inevitable challenges we all meet along the way. Eventually, in the very distant future after a number of incarnations, we will take over this responsibility from the angels, rather like the way in which as we grow up we gradually find our independence from our parents. Until then, the angels’ unconditional love remains steadfast, guiding us along our way and helping to strengthen us.

Oriphiel

Oriphiel

Anael

Anael


Archangels (8th order)
Archangels unite groups of people, who have a common purpose or mission, by flowing in rhythmic motion amongst group members and their angels. They weave together mutual intentions and striving to help us form a sense of group identity, be it a community, family or nation. While angels give strength to each individual human, archangels inspire and give courage to each member of the group to work together to fulfill their common tasks. Whether forming a school, a team, a theatre company or a political movement etc., the work of the archangels helps form the group into a dynamic and viable whole. This group may well become able to receive higher spiritual intentions in order to meet challenges particular to its historical setting and time.

Zachariel

Zachariel

Raphael

Raphael


Steiner says that the archangels do not occupy themselves with the single individual, but have a wider task, which is to bring single lives into harmonious order with the life of larger human groups, as for instance with inhabitants of a particular nation.

Samael

Samael

Gabriel

Gabriel


Archai (7th order)
Archai, sometimes called Time Spirits, shine the light of intuition into the dynamic relationships or vessels that have been built with the aid of the archangels. The archai help us attune our efforts so as to be most fruitful at a particular time and place. We can see the results of their work in the rise and fall of various peoples and impulses over the course of human history.

Steiner says that the archai are even loftier beings than the archangels and they have a still higher task in the continuity of human existence. They regulate the earthly relations of whole human generations on earth. That which is called the Zeitgeist is the spiritual body of the archai. And Steiner gives an oddly intriguing idea here – he says that a strange muddle would come into the evolution of the earth if it were all left to chance, and pivotal figures such as Luther or Charlemagne were placed within any epoch, no matter which. This connection with the whole evolution of humanity over the whole earth, has to be thought out first; the right soul has to appear in harmony with the meaning of the whole earth’s development, and this process is regulated by the archai.

Michael's victory over the Devil - from St Michael's Church, Hamburg

Michael’s victory over the Devil – from St Michael’s Church, Hamburg


In the College Imagination, Steiner also refers to “the ruling spirit of our age”, by which he means Michael (whose name, Steiner insisted, is to be pronounced “Mi-cha-el” in three syllables, rather than the usual English pronunciation of that name), who from 1879 until around the year 2300, is acting as the spirit of the present age. Of the archai, Steiner mentions seven in particular who alternate as the serving spirits of the age. These seven archai are: Oriphiel (200BC – 150AD), Anael (150 – 500AD), Zachariel (500 – 850), Raphael (850 – 1190), Samael (1190 – 1510), Gabriel (1510 – 1879), Michael (1879 – 2300). This sequence should be understood as a repeating cycle, so for example Michael will be succeeded by Oriphiel in 2300.

In a lecture given in Zurich in 1918, Steiner asked the question: what are the angels doing in the astral bodies of human beings right now? A strange and rather obscure question you might think, but of course you have to bear in mind that Steiner’s view of the human being includes the idea that each of us has four bodies (the physical, etheric, and astral plus a fourth one, variously called the ego, I, self, entelechy or as I shall call it here, the individuality) which have evolved in us over aeons of time. We also have another three bodies in potential – the spirit self, the life spirit and spirit man – which are to come to full development in each of the succeeding planetary stages – the spirit self in the Jupiter stage, the life spirit in the Venus stage and finally the spirit man in the Vulcan stage, after which we shall no longer be in physical bodies.

At our present Earth stage and by comparison, the mineral kingdom has just one body, the physical; the plant kingdom has two bodies, the physical and the etheric; the animal kingdom has three bodies – physical, etheric and astral; while we humans have the same three bodies as the animals, plus the individuality.

We know about the work of the physical body but what is the role of these other bodies? The etheric body is essentially an energy body that contains and forms the physical. It is this etheric body which maintains the physical body’s form until death. The astral body provides us with awareness and self-awareness, our emotions and our feelings and intentions. The individuality is the immortal and inalienable core of a human being, which goes with us from one incarnation to the next.

When we go to sleep at night, the physical and etheric bodies remain in our bed, while the astral body and individuality go into the spiritual world for rest and inspiration and remain there until we wake up, when they re-enter the physical and etheric bodies. Have you ever experienced that sudden sensation of being jerked awake with a startle, just as you were dropping off to sleep? That is what happens when your astral body and individuality suddenly snap back into your physical body, because something has interrupted your process of falling asleep.

Anyway, Steiner asked the question – what are the angels doing in our astral bodies right now? And he answered that the angels of the 9th order are doing work on behalf of the angels of the 6th Order (Exusiai or Spirits of Form) by shaping images in us relating to the future evolution of humanity. And he says that:

“People may shy away from the notion that angels want to call forth ideals for the future in (us), but that is how it is. The process follows a specific principle, which is that in time to come no human being shall find peace in the enjoyment of happiness if others around him are unhappy. An impulse of absolute brotherliness, making all of humanity one, will govern social life…”

“There is also another impulse. The angels have specific objectives not only with regard to outer social life but also for the inner life. Here the aim they pursue with the images imprinted in the astral body is that in future every human being shall see a hidden divine principle in every other human being.”

“Mark you well, the intention underlying the work of the angels is that things shall change. In future we shall not consider human beings to be higher animals, considering their physical qualities in both theory and practice. Instead we are to meet every other human being with the full realisation that something of the divine foundations of the world is revealing itself in flesh and blood. To conceive humankind as an image revealed out of the world of the spirit, and to do so in profound seriousness, with all our strength – that is the impulse the angels lay into the images.”

“Once this is brought to realisation there will be a definite consequence. All independent religious feeling developing in humanity in time to come will depend on the individual being recognised in the image of God in real, practical terms and not mere theory. There will then be no need for religious compulsion, for every encounter between individuals will be a religious act, a sacrament, and there will be no more need for a church with physical buildings and institutions to maintain religious life. The church, if it understands itself rightly, must consider it to be its sole aim to render itself superfluous on the physical plane as the whole of life becomes an expression of the realm that lies beyond the senses. Such, at least, is the reason behind the work of the angels – to bestow complete religious freedom on humanity.”

And Steiner says there is a third objective the angels have, which is to enable human beings to reach the spirit through thinking, experiencing the reality of the spirit in their thinking.

The results of these three impulses will be, first: that each of us shall have a far deeper interest in every other human being than we are inclined to have today; second, that the Christ impulse means complete religious freedom for humanity and that the only true Christianity is one that makes absolute religious freedom possible; and third, that we shall gain irrefutable insight into the spiritual nature of the world.

Steiner emphasises, however, that these three results are subject to humankind’s free will, as well as the intervention of other spirits involved in world evolution, who have an interest in deflecting humankind from its proper course. These spirits are what Steiner calls the ahrimanic and luciferic spirits, who bring evil into the world. I shall be writing more about these “adversely commanded” angels and Steiner’s concept of evil in Part 3 of this posting.

6 Comments

Filed under Angels, Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner and Angels – Angels and Human Destiny

Part 1 of 3

A smiling Angel Gabriel from Reims Cathedral

A smiling Angel Gabriel from Reims Cathedral

Before the opening of the first Steiner Waldorf school in Stuttgart in 1919, Rudolf Steiner had less than three weeks to prepare the first twelve Waldorf teachers, who were dedicated to incorporating a living, spirit-filled view of the human being into their teaching. Steiner knew that the teachers’ continuing development into engaged, enthusiastic and open-minded human beings was central to the healthy functioning of the school and to the education they hoped to bring to the children. Therefore, from the beginning, he urged them to develop capacities within themselves to learn how to ask for and receive spiritual guidance and assistance in their work, and he warned them that were it not for this spiritual help, it was likely that they would find the task of founding the school overwhelming and be tempted to give up. On the first day of training, he offered this imaginative picture, now often called the College Imagination, of how beings of the spiritual world support our daily work, even if this collaboration is often unseen and unacknowledged by us.

“We wish to form our thoughts in such a way that we may be conscious that:

Behind each of us stands his Angel, gently laying his hands on the heads of each. This Angel gives you the strength which you need.

Above your heads there sweep the circling Archangels. They carry from one to the other what each has to give the other. They unite your souls. Thereby you are given the courage of which you stand in need.

Out of this courage the Archangels form a chalice.

The light of wisdom is given to us by the exalted beings of the Archai, who are not limited to the circling movements, but who, coming forth from primal beginnings, manifest themselves and disappear into primal distances. They reveal themselves only in the form of a drop of light in this place. Into the chalice of courage there falls a drop of light, enlightening our times, bestowed by the ruling Spirit of our Age.”

Steiner was referring to angels, archangels and archai and the one whom he considers as the ruling spirit of our age, the Archangel Michael. In this 3-part posting we’ll be looking at each of these in turn. We’ll also look at Ahriman and Lucifer, those beings called by Steiner the “adversely commanded” angels.

In the College Imagination, Steiner is saying that the angelic realm seeks to bring us unity, courage, wisdom and light (which for Steiner means the divine impulse of love). How very much we need those qualities at this time!

But today, in the age of the consciousness soul, how many of us believe in angels? Has anyone reading this ever experienced the presence of an angel? I am not clairvoyant, but once in my life, at a time of deepest despair and hopelessness, I was visited by three angels, whom I perceived not as forms but as three columns of energy (I’m sorry not to be able to be more descriptive). They were with me for about a quarter of an hour and the atmosphere in the room was extraordinary. After this experience I was able to carry on with the very difficult next stages of my life. I had been given courage, hope and reassurance and I knew with absolute certainty that I was not alone.

Fra Angelico's Angel of the Annunciation

Fra Angelico’s Angel of the Annunciation

In mediaeval times and up until the Renaissance, belief in the reality of angels was an absolute. You only have to look at the wonderful timber roofs of mediaeval churches, thronged with angels with their wings outspread around the roof bosses and the hammer beams; think of mediaeval art and Fra Angelico’s Angel of the Annunciation; go to a gallery of mediaeval or renaissance paintings and see how many angels are depicted there. The realm of the angels was clearly accepted as an absolute certainty and a factor of supreme importance in life, not only because angels were seen as the intermediaries between Heaven and Earth, but also because, as Steiner has described, in those times there were remnants of a kind of atavistic clairvoyance which allowed many people to have their own perceptions of the spiritual world and to report on this to others.

An angel on a hammer beam at the Church of St Agnes, Cawson, Norfolk. (Photo by Michael Rimmer)

An angel on a hammer beam at the Church of St Agnes, Cawson, Norfolk. (Photo by Michael Rimmer)

Then, in Steiner’s account of how humanity is evolving, we began to lose that ancient sense of clairvoyance and thus our awareness of the spiritual world. This was a necessary but very dangerous step in the evolution of humankind. It was necessary because as humans we have the unique privilege of developing freewill, which could only happen by entering an age in which our connection with the divine-spiritual beings and their will for our future appeared to be severed. And it was dangerous because this apparent severance from spirit existence has given the adverserial powers an opportunity they didn’t have before, which is to convince human beings through our science and technology that physical, material reality is the only reality; and thus to thwart our true destiny, which is to evolve into what Steiner called the Tenth Hierarchy. (I find Steiner’s terminology here confusing and for reasons which I go into below, will from now on refer to “order” rather than “hierarchy” for particular types of angel.) Steiner tells us that aeons from now, in a future incarnation of the Earth, humankind is destined to become the tenth order of angels – the order of Love and Freedom.

It is only humans, rather than angels, who have the potential to develop this highest form of freedom, because it is only humans who have descended this deeply into matter, where the divine and spiritual powers are no longer active. This is also why only human beings are capable of becoming atheists and denying the spirit – the angels cannot do this because they know the true reality, whereas through materialism and living in the realm of maya (illusion), we humans are free to decide what we choose to believe – and of course we will often make “wrong” choices. It is all part and parcel of our journey towards wisdom.

I’ll be writing a little bit more about this in Part 3 but for now I’ll just mention that for all of its downsides, Steiner tells us that materialism remains the vehicle for the initial development of human freedom. It was the task of materialistic science to lead us away from the overwhelming dominance of theology and theocracy in human affairs, and from the unfreedom that had for so long been associated with them. And, as Steiner repeatedly asserts, it is in our relationship as spiritual beings to the physical world that the possibility for human freedom first manifests itself. Put differently, materialism for all its faults and limitations had a very important task to perform, and it needed time to complete it – and if Steiner is correct, it’s still got another 250 years or so to run its course.

But what of the first nine orders of angels? I’ve prepared a table below to set out the thoughts of Steiner on the celestial order. Steiner seems to have adopted the scheme devised by a 6th century theological writer known rather mysteriously as pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. This same scheme was taken up by Thomas Aquinas, the great Dominican teacher (whom some claim to have been a previous incarnation of Steiner) and subsequently endorsed by the Catholic Church.

Now, I’m someone who finds the concept of “orders” and “hierarchy” very off-putting. It conjures up images of some kind of 19th century aristocratic or militaristic order of society, with everyone knowing their place:

“The rich man in his castle,

The poor man at his gate,

God made them high and lowly,

And ordered their estate.”

(These words come from a verse – usually omitted today – of the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful.) Steiner encourages us not to see the orders of angels as a hierarchical, military-style ranking but more as a metaphor for some very profound truths about the unfolding of evolution. I think we should also bear in mind that these orders and hierarchies are working and co-operating together, rather than maintaining some kind of caste-like rigidity of separation.

I have to say that it is very confusing to try to follow all the different names and groupings that are given to the angels, not least by Steiner himself, who seems to use the words “order” and “hierarchy” interchangeably; plus there does seem to be some confusion among other writers about this topic. In this posting and in the table below I’m using the term “order” for one specific type of angel (eg the archangels are the 8th order); and “hierarchy” for a group of angels whose work goes together (eg the 1st Hierarchy consists of Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones). Anyway, I hope that this table will at least give you a place to start in assembling your own thoughts on the matter.

In Part 2 of this 3-part posting, I will write about the angelic orders that Steiner mentions in the College Imagination, that is to say the angels of the 7th, 8th and 9th orders, who are the ones closest to us as human beings; and what these angels are seeking to achieve for humankind at the present time. In Part 3, I will write about Steiner’s concept of evil and the “adversely commanded” angels Lucifer and Ahriman, as well as the role of Michael, the great angel who is the spirit of our age. I will also be touching upon some huge dangers with which the adversarial powers are currently confronting humanity – and towards which we seem to be sleepwalking, ignorant and unaware of what is facing us.

 

THE CELESTIAL ORDER

The Holy Trinity
(Father, Son & Holy Spirit)

The Nine Orders of Angels and the Three Hierarchies

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 20.37.50

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

September 10, 2015 · 9:17 pm