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
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.