The Michael Age in which we stand today, which replaced the previous Gabriel Age (1510 - 1879 A.D.), began, according to Rudolf Steiner's spiritual research, in November 1879 after the Fall of the Spirits of Darkness caused by the Archangel Michael. Michael thereby conquered the power by which men, if they follow him, can transform the materialistic intellectual power into spritual intellectual power. The paths, the "Michael paths", which lead to a contemporary spiritual knowledge, can be followed through anthroposophical spiritual science.
„The objective fact is simply that in November 1879, beyond the sphere of the sensuous world, in the supersensuous, that which can be expressed thus took place: Michael has conquered the power, when men come to meet him with all that lives in their souls, to penetrate them with his power in such a way that they can transform the old materialistic intellectual power, which had grown up in humanity up to that time, into spiritual intellectual power, into spiritual intellectual power. That is the objective fact; it has taken place. We can speak of it: Michael has entered into a different relation to humanity from that in which he stood before, since November 1879. But it is necessary that one should serve Michael.“ (Lit.:GA 195, p. 35)
This fact was already pointed out in earlier centuries in occult literature. Trithemus von Sponheim, for astronomical considerations based on the synodic lunar rhythm, had calculated September/October 1879 as the beginning of the Michael Age (for more on this see → Archangel regencies). Shortly before Rudolf Steiner, C.G. Harrison spoke very emphatically about the coming Michael Age and its significance:
„I have said that all great movements in the external world have their origin in the spiritual world, and that the conflict of opinions which marks the transition from one historical epoch to another is, so to speak, the after-image of a battle already fought and won in the spiritual region. We have just entered such a transitional period. The reader may take the following facts for what he believes they are worth. The year 1879 marked the end of an epoch in the intellectual life of Europe and America. In that year the hosts of light under the Archangel St. Michael won a decisive victory over the hosts of darkness, led by Beizebub and Mammon*), in a series of battles which extended over a period of 30 to 40 years.
*)Belzebub has been called the god of flies; of germs would be more correct. The life of these microscopic creatures, which are the cause of zymotic disease, and indeed all forms of vegetable and animal parasitic life, are caused by influences of the moon and are therefore under the power of the Lord of the eighth sphere. This is well known to those who practise higher kinds of evil magic or sorcery. Mammon, whose name is derived from the Syriac word for wealth, is one of the "leaders of the darkness of this world" (Eph. VI 12). He is the god of "obstacles" and presides over all those bad influences which are produced by ignorance, prejudice and fear. For this reason he is thought to have a special connection with material wealth, which is a false measure of worth and dignity.“ (Lit.: Harrison, p. 79)
Rudolf Steiner has described this spiritual struggle and its consequences in detail:
„I have often pointed out how the middle of the 19th century, especially the forties, was a significant turning point in the spiritual development of European and American humanity. I have pointed out how that time was, as it were, the climax of the materialistic development of the intellect on earth, the climax for the formation of what one might call an understanding of the outer dead facts, which does not want to approach the living.
Such events - and today we are certainly under the outer after-effects of these events and will continue to be under these after-effects for a long time to come - such events have their deeper basis in processes of the spiritual world. And if we investigate the processes of the spiritual world which found their outer earthly expression in what has just been said, we must refer to a struggle, almost to a kind of war in the spiritual world, which began at that time and which, in a certain sense, found a kind of conclusion for the spiritual world at the time of which I have already spoken several times, which falls in the autumn of the year 1879. You will get a correct idea of these things if you imagine a struggle in the spiritual worlds that lasted for decades, from the forties to the autumn of 1879.
The struggle that took place can be described as a struggle of the spiritual beings who belong to the following of that being from the Hierarchy of the Archangeloi who can be called Michael, as a struggle of Michael and his following against certain Ahrimanic powers. So please, first of all, imagine this struggle as a struggle in the spiritual world. And everything that I mean at first refers to this struggle between Michael and his followers and certain ahrimanic powers. If you wish to make fruitful use of this idea for life in the present, you will strengthen it if you bear in mind that those human souls who were born in the decade of the forties of the nineteenth century took part in the first phases of this struggle between Michael's followers and the ahrimanic powers in the spiritual world. So those people who were born in the forties of the 19th century have, as souls, witnessed the beginning of this spiritual struggle before they were born. If one considers this, one will have a great deal of understanding for the outer and inner experiences of fate of such people, especially for the condition of their souls. This struggle took place in the forties, fifties, sixties and seventies and was concluded in the autumn of 1879 with the victory of Michael and his followers over certain Ahrimanic powers.
What does this mean? If one wants to understand something like this in the right way, one can always help oneself with the image that has been maintained throughout the development of humanity: with the image of Michael's struggle with the dragon. Of course, the battle of Michael with the dragon occurs at the most diverse points in evolution. Often in evolution we have to do with a battle between Michael and the dragon. One can characterise it in such a way that every time such a struggle between Michael and the Dragon occurs, it takes place in a similar way as in the forties of the last century, but for other goods and un-goods, damages, disadvantages; that certain Ahrimanic hosts always want to annex this and that to the evolution of the world, and that they are always defeated again. Thus they were defeated - but, as I said, within the spiritual world - in the autumn of 1879.
But what does it mean that now the powers of the dragon, these ahrimanic hordes, have pushed into the realms of men, as it were from heaven to earth? The loss of this battle means that they are no longer to be found, biblically speaking, in the heavens. Instead they are to be found in the realms of men, and that means: the end of the seventies was preferably that time in which the human souls were seized by ahrimanic impulses with regard to certain powers of knowledge. Because these ahrimanic impulses were formerly able to work in the spiritual realms, they left men more in peace; because they were thrust down from the spiritual realms, they came upon men. And when we ask ourselves: What is it that has come from the spiritual realms into mankind as ahrimanic powers? - It is precisely the personally coloured, mind you, the personally coloured, Ahrimanic, materialistic conception of the world.
Certainly, the high point of materialism was in the forties. But at that time it had sent its impulses more instinctively into the people. The Ahrimanic hosts sent their impulses from the spiritual world into the human instincts. Since the autumn of 1879 these Ahrimanic impulses, especially the powers of knowledge and will, have become the personal property of man. What was previously more common property was thus transplanted into the property of man. And so we can say that since 1879, through the presence of these ahrimanic powers in the human kingdom, there has been a personal ambition, a personal tendency to interpret the world materialistically. And if you follow many things that have happened since that time out of the personal tendencies of men, you will understand it from the casting down of the dragon, that is, of the Ahrimanic hosts, by the Archangel Michael from the realms of the spirit, from the heavens to the earth.
This is a process of immense importance, of very profound significance. The nineteenth century, and even our own time, did not have the inclination to pay attention to such processes in the spiritual world and their connection with the physical world. But the final reasons, the final impulses for the events on earth can only be found if one knows these spiritual backgrounds. It must be said that it takes a good deal of materialism, albeit idealistic, to say: What does it mean in relation to eternity if so and so many tons of organic matter are destroyed by the prolongation of the war! - One must feel how strongly such a conception is rooted in Ahrimanism, for it is rooted in the worlds of feeling. This philosophy of the "tons of organic substance", this philosophy of the philosopher Lichtenberger is essentially one of the numerous examples that can be given of special manifestations of ahrimanic thinking.
So that which lives as the deepest impulse in the souls of many people since the year 1879, that has been thrown down into the realms of men, that lived before as an ahrimanic power in the spiritual world. It is advantageous to seek other ideas which can strengthen these ideas, and here it is good to call to one's aid - but more than imaginative-symbolic ideas - ideas from the material world. For what happens today in a more spiritual way, in a spiritual way, has all had a colouring in primeval times, which lived itself out more in material areas. The material is also spiritual, it is just another form of the spiritual.
If you were to go back to very, very ancient times of development, you would find that a similar struggle took place between Michael and the dragon as the one I have now described to you for the 19th century. I have already indicated how such battles have been repeated again and again, only they have always been about different things. In ancient times the Ahrimanic hosts also lost such a battle, and at that time they were also thrown down from the spiritual worlds into the earthly realm. They always made their onslaughts anew. There was, for example, such a struggle by which these Ahrimanic hosts, after they had been thrown down to earth, brought into the earthly sphere all that population of the earth which is now called bacilli in medical life. All that which is known as the bacilli forces, in which bacilli have a share, is just as much a consequence of the fact that ahrimanic hosts were once thrown down from heaven to earth, that the dragon was defeated, as it is a consequence of such a victory that the ahrimanic-mephistophelian way of thinking has taken hold since the end of the seventies. So that one can say: in the material sphere the tubercular and bacillary diseases have a similar origin as the just now existing mind-materialism in the spiritual-soul sphere. - The two things are quite similar in a higher sense.
We can compare these processes of the last century with something else. We can refer to something that you know from the "Secret Science in Outline": the withdrawal of the moon from the sphere of earthly development. The moon belonged to the earth, it was once thrown out of the earth. This ejection of the moon from the earth's sphere means that certain lunar influences have taken their place. These also came over the earth as a result of such a victory of Michael over the dragon. So that one can again say: All that which is connected with certain effects which go parallel with the phases of the moon, and in general with the impulses which go out from the moon to the earth, all this has its origin in a similar struggle of Michael with the dragon.
In a way, these things really do belong together, and it is extraordinarily good to bear this togetherness in mind, for it has a very deep significance. Certain people develop an irresistible inclination towards rational materialism precisely because this inclination emanates from their personal alliance with the overthrown Ahriman. They gradually begin to love the impulses which Ahriman sets up in their souls, even to call them something especially sublime, especially high in thought. One must again have a completely clear consciousness about these things. For without consciousness one cannot find one's way in events. Only by looking clearly into these circumstances can one find one's way with these things, with these events.
The danger that arises from all this must, so to speak, be looked at with cold eyes and cold hearts. One must look the matter calmly in the face. But we can only do this if we realise that people are threatened by a very specific kind of danger from that side. And this danger consists in the preservation of that which should not be preserved. Everything that happens in the world order also has its good side. By the fact that the ahrimanic powers have been driven into us through the victory of Michael, we again conquer a piece of human freedom. Everything is connected with this, for these hosts of Ahriman have entered us all. We conquer a piece of human freedom, but we must be aware of it. In a way, we must not allow the ahrimanic powers to have the upper hand over us, we must not fall in love with these ahrimanic powers.
That is very important. For there is certainly a danger that people will hold on to this persistence in materialism, in the materialistic-Ahrimanic way of thinking, and carry it out into times when it is actually destined to be overcome. Then those people who did not want to turn away from the ahrimanic-materialistic way of thinking, but to remain with it, would enter into an alliance on earth with all that has similarly come into being through the victory of Michael over the dragon. That is to say, they would not unite with the spiritual progress of earth evolution, but with material progress. They would, in a certain period of the sixth post-Atlantean time, find exclusive pleasure in living in what will then come through bacilli, through the little microscopic enemies of men [...]
The earth will long since have become a corpse when the time comes in which we must have so far transformed the materialistic conceptions that we can ascend into a more spiritual existence. On an earth that no longer supports us, no such fleshly incarnations will be sought as we are seeking today. But those people who have so attached themselves to the materialistic mind that they do not want to let go of it, will still crawl down to this earth in the form of the future and procure their occupation in that which then develops especially on this earth in the deeds of the bacilli, the tubercles and so on, for these entities will then just rummage through the corpse of the earth properly. They are now only, one might say, prophets of what will happen to the whole earth in the future. And then a time will come when those who hold to the materialistic mind in this way will unite with the lunar powers and surround the earth, when it has become cinders, corpses, together with the moon. For these beings, these human beings, who absolutely want to connect themselves with the materialistic understanding, want nothing else than to hold on to the life of the earth, to remain connected with the life of the earth, not to ascend in the right way from the corpse of the earth to that which then becomes the soul-spiritual of the earth.“ (Lit.:GA 177, p. 148ff)
- C. G. Harrison: Das Transcendentale Weltenall, photomechanischer Nachdruck der Ausgabe um 1897, Verlag Engel&Seefels, Stuttgart (1990), S 79
- Rudolf Steiner: Die spirituellen Hintergründe der äußeren Welt. Der Sturz der Geister in die Finsternis., GA 177 (1985), Neunter Vortrag, Dornach, 14. Oktober 1917 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Weltsilvester und Neujahrsgedanken, GA 195 (1986), ISBN 3-7274-1950-4 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: www.steinerverlag.com.
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English (by Steiner Online Library).
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold
steinerbooks.org - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.