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The Archangel Michael weighing a soul (Palazzo Carrara, Padua, 1350)

Archangels (GreekΑρχάγγελοι Archangeloi; Latinarchangeli; also called Spirits of Fire, Sons of Fire, Fire spirits or Sanskritअग्निष्वात्त Agnishvatta[1] and, according to Indian theosophical designation, Dhyan-Chohans) stand two levels above humans in the hierarchy of spiritual entities (see also → Hierarchy of angels) and belong to the third hierarchy. They have already completed their ego development, i.e. their humanity level, on the Old Sun and are therefore also called Solar Pitris. On the Old Moon they formed their spirit self. At present they are working on their life spirit. The Mercury sphere is their cosmic domain. In the Book of Tobit, Raphael gives their number as 7 (Tob 12:15). This refers to the seven leading archangels.

The nature and work of the archangels

There is a multitude of archangels. Due to their high degree of development, they are able to guide whole peoples through their inspiration. In many cases they act as folk spirits and form the characteristic folk soul that is specific to each people. In addition, as inspiring time spirits, they guide certain smaller periods in the development of human culture. These periods last about 354 years, but are not subsections of the cultural epochs, but follow an independent rhythm, in the succession of which the seven most outstanding archangels take over from one another in their regency (see → Archangel Regencies).

The seven leading archangels, each belonging to a particular planetary sphere, are:

Oriphiel (Saturn)
Zachariel (Jupiter)
Samael (Mars)
Michael (Sun)
Anael (Venus)
Raphael (Mercury)
Gabriel (Moon)

The following four leading archangels are the regents of the seasons:

Raphael Spring, Easter
Uriel Summer, St. John's Day
Michael Autum, Michaelmas
Gabriel Winter, Christmas

The archangel Phanuel has a very special task, acting as the guardian spirit of the initiate and accompanying the spiritual disciple on the path of training. He is mentioned in the apocryphal Book of Enoch and is usually equated with Uriel; Rudolf Steiner, however, sees them as different spiritual entities (Lit.:GA 102, p. 144).

When the archangels or fire spirits went through their stage of humanity on the Old Sun, they formed their inner being out of light, their outer body out of air; through the fire brought over from Old Saturn they lived a life in their own inner being. By distinguishing themselves from the rest of the solar substance through their gas body, a kind of self-awareness matured in them. When the archangels breathed in the flowing gas of the Sun, there was a stillness and darkness in the Old Solar life (Sun-Night); when they breathed out, the Old Sun was filled with flowing smoke (→ Ruach), which shone outwards in light (Sun-Day).

The time-delayed work of the Archangeloi

The time-delayed work of the Archangeloi, the "messengers of the beginning".

The archangels are the creators of light. They radiate back that which at an earlier time the Spirits of Wisdom, the Lords of the ancient solar evolution, gave to the world through their bestowing virtue, and the reflection of this gift of wisdom is the light. But the archangels do not radiate it back immediately, but with a time lag. Thus they are messengers of what was before, messengers of the beginning they are - Archangeloi (Lit.:GA 132, p. 24ff). One will not find a certain archangel, for example, if one looks for him directly in the present. One must rather go back in time, e.g. to the 15th century, for his consciousness is concentrated in a very definite time, which is not the present.

„They are called "angels of the beginning", that is to say, they are always present at the beginnings of periods of time, let us say, where peoples come into being, where peoples enter world history for the first time, there they are present with their full consciousness, with their own selves. This remains present in the effects during the rest of time. The effects flow into time. And if one wants to find them, one must not remain merely in simultaneity, but must go out of time, seek the beginnings of time.“ (Lit.:GA 156, p. 68f)

The world of the archangels

The archangels experience a completely different environment than man. Humans experience around them minerals, plants, animals and other humans. Archangels cannot experience minerals and plants. Their consciousness only reaches down to the animal kingdom, which, however, they do not experience outwardly sensually, but soulfully.

„Now you will easily understand that the archangels have a consciousness which no longer reaches down to the plant kingdom, but only to the animal kingdom. The plants, so to speak, are no longer there for them; these are too subordinate, too insignificant a kingdom for them. In the animal kingdom they still have points of attack; they perceive the animal kingdom. They have no etheric body, but as the lowest member of their being they have their astral body. The animal also has an astral body; therefore the archangels definitely work into the astral bodies of the animals. Then they perceive the human kingdom, the kingdom of the angels and their own kingdom. That to which they say "I", which is like the human ego for man, that is the archangel kingdom. These beings also have an essential mission, and you can already understand, since they have a consciousness two levels higher than man, that this mission can be a very high one. For the consciousness of the archangels is so high that they have fully developed the Buddhi, the life-spirit, and can therefore guide and direct earth evolution out of an insight which corresponds to the life-spirit, the Buddhi. This is expressed in the fact that these archangels are at first the guides and leaders of whole tribes. What is called the people's spirit, what is therefore the common spirit of the peoples, is in concrete terms one of the archangels. Now you will also find it understandable that those peoples who still had an awareness of such a spiritual connection did not immediately look up to the highest entity, but that they, so to speak, set their sights on the nearest entities which guided and directed them.“ (Lit.:GA 102, p. 142)

In the early days of the earthly development of mankind, namely on ancient Atlantis, but partly also still in post-Atlantean time (→ Bodhisattva), they embodied themselves in human bodies in order to become sublime teachers of the still young mankind. As no longer earthly incarnated beings themselves, they inspired the Urpersian culture in particular. The truly advanced archangels, who have meanwhile absorbed the Christ impulse, will be the spiritual leaders of humanity in the 6th post-Atlantean cultural epoch.

The members of the archangels

The members of the archangels

The archangels have in principle the same seven members as man, but they are of a somewhat different nature and are arranged differently from those of man. The archangels have their physical body, which does not reach down into the dense materiality, woven only from the elements air and fire and the bodies are, as with all beings of the third hierarchy, neither coherent in themselves nor delimited from each other, but can penetrate each other. Only the physical body and the etheric body of the archangels are on the physical plan; all the higher members of the being, i.e. astral body, ego, spirit self, life spirit and spirit man, are to be found on the astral plan.

„The archangels have not at all connected that which we have drawn here as the astral body with the physical body and etheric body; and what we can look for from them as their lowest member we must draw thus: physical body, etheric body, 1, 2, they have separated, and all the higher principles are now in a higher world above. So that we have the complete picture of the archangels only if we search in two places, if we say to ourselves: there is not, as in man, everything united in a single entity; there is, as it were, the spiritual above and the spiritual reflected below. - A physical body and an etheric body can only unite for themselves if this physical body is only in air and fire. So you could not, for example, feel the archangels roaring along in some mass of water according to their physical body, but you could only perceive them in wind and fire, and to this roaring wind and to this fire you must therefore seek clairvoyantly in the spiritual world the spiritual counterpart. This is not united with his physical body nor even with his etheric body.“ (Lit.:GA 110, p. 114)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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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.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - 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.