Michael Imagination

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Margarita Woloschin: Archangel Michael
Paolo Uccello: Saint George Fighting the Dragon (c. 1470 )

The Michael Imagination given by Rudolf Steiner describes how the image of Michael, who casts down the Ahrimanic dragon, forms before the imaginative gaze from the cosmos.

At the time of St. John, the sulphur process in man is particularly strong. Man becomes inwardly luminous, especially the nervous organisation. While the sulphur phantom thus shines, the ahrimanic powers, closely related to the sulphurising substances, approach.

The iron forces in the blood, which show themselves macrocosmically in the meteorite swarms that rain down at the end of August, act as a remedy against the fear-spreading ahrimanic powers. The iron phantom of the blood causes a de-scaring. The imagination of Michael lights up, who with the power flowing from his heart melts the meteorite swarms into an iron sword and thus defeats the ahrimanic sulphur dragon:

„Whoever can experience this course of the year feels that his whole human life is tremendously enriched by such experience. The human being of the present and also the human being of a longer past actually only experiences, and that too more dully, unconsciously, the physical-etheric processes of his own body, of that which is within the skin. He experiences his breathing, he experiences his blood circulation. But that which takes place outside in the wind and weather of the year, that which lives in the outpouring of the seed forces, in the fructifying of the earth forces, in the shining of the sun forces, all this is for the total life of the human being, even if the human being is not conscious of it today, no less significant, no less incisive than that which for my sake takes place as breathing and blood circulation within his skin. How the sun strikes any part of the earth, what it causes by its warmth, by its radiation, the human being lives with it. And if the human being absorbs Anthroposophy in the right sense, does not read Anthroposophy like a sensational novel, but reads it in such a way that what is communicated to him in Anthroposophy becomes the content of his mind, then he gradually educates his heart and soul to experience what is happening out there in the course of the year. And just as one experiences the course of the day in being fresh in the morning, in being ready for work in the forenoon, in the appearance of hunger, in the appearance of fatigue in the evening, as one feels the inner processes, the inner weaving and life of the forces and matter within the skin, so one can, by taking to heart the anthroposophical ideas which are quite different from the description of sensuous events, prepare this mind so that it really becomes receptive, sensitive to that which weaves and lives in the course of the year. And then one can deepen and enrich this experience of the course of the year more and more, then one can really bring it about that one does not live so sourly, I would say, as a human being within one's skin and lets the outer things pass by, but then one can experience it in such a way that one blossoms in one's mind with every flower, that one experiences the blossoming of the flower, that one experiences the opening of the buds, that one experiences in the dewdrop from which the rays of the sun shine, in the shining light, this wonderful mystery of the day which can meet us in the shining dewdrop in the morning. In this way, then, one can get beyond the philistine-prosaic co-experience of the outer world, which expresses itself by putting on one's winter coat in winter, by putting on lighter clothes in summer, by taking an umbrella when it rains. Only when one goes beyond the prosaic into this experience of the weaving and hustle and bustle of natural things and natural facts does one really understand the course of the year.

Then, too, when spring passes through the world, when summer approaches, one is present with one's heart, with one's soul, as the sprouting, sprouting life unfolds, as the elementary spirits buzz and fly outside in the lines imposed upon them by the course of the planets. Then one lives oneself out during the midsummer period into a cosmic life which, however, dampens the immediate inner life of the human being, but at the same time leads the human being out in his own experience, one might say in a cosmic waking sleep, which leads him out in the midsummer period into a co-experience of the planetary processes.

Now it is the case today that man actually only believes that he is living in nature when he experiences the sprouting, the sprouting, the growing and germinating, the fructifying. It is just so that man in the present, even if he cannot enter into it, even if he cannot experience the germinating, the fructifying, nevertheless has more heart and sense for this germinating, fructifying, than for the dying, paralysing, killing itself, which approaches in autumn.

But actually we only deserve to experience the fructifying, growing, sprouting, germinating, if we can also experience, when summer is running out and autumn is approaching, the paralysing, the killing, the sinking, the withering life that comes with autumn. And if we ascend in a cosmic waking sleep in midsummer with the elemental beings into the region where planetary activity unfolds externally and then also in our inner soul, then we must actually also descend under the frost of winter, under the snow cover of winter to the mysteries in the earth's womb during the height of winter, and we must go along with the dying, the withering of nature when autumn begins.

Then, however, if man alone were to experience this withering away, just as he experiences the growing, the sprouting, he would, as it were, only be able to die along with it in his inner being. For it is precisely when one becomes sensitive to that which mysteriously weaves in nature, and thus vividly experiences the sprouting, fructifying, germinating, that one also vividly experiences that which takes place in the outer world when autumn arrives. But it would be dreary for man if he could only experience this in the form of nature, if he could only attain a natural consciousness of the secrets of autumn and winter, just as he naturally attains a natural consciousness of the secrets of spring and summer. But when the autumn and winter events approach, when Michaelmas comes, then man must indeed sensitively experience the withering, the dying, the paralysing, the killing, but he must not surrender himself to the consciousness of nature as he does when midsummer approaches. On the contrary, he must give himself up to self-consciousness. At the times when outer nature dies, he must oppose the power of self-consciousness to the consciousness of nature.

And then the Michael figure is there again. And when man, stimulated by Anthroposophy, comes into such enjoyment of nature, into such consciousness of nature, but through it also into such self-consciousness of autumn, then again the image of Michael with the dragon will stand there in all its majestic form; then there will stand that which man feels, when autumn approaches, for the defeat of nature-consciousness by self-consciousness. And this will happen when man can not only experience an inner spring and summer, but when he can also experience the dying, dying inner autumn and winter. And in the experience of the dying autumn and winter, the image of Michael with the dragon will again be able to present itself as a powerful imagination, as a call to man to inner action.

But then, for the human being who, out of today's spiritual knowledge, wrestles his way through to this image, this image, by feeling it, will express something quite powerful. Then, when the midsummer period begins to draw nearer and nearer, when, after St. John's, July, August and September approach, man will become aware of how he has lived out his waking sleep of inner planetary experience with the elemental beings of the earth, and he will become aware of what this, when he experiences it, actually means in him. It means an inner process of combustion, which we must not imagine as an outer process of combustion, for all those processes, the procedures, which have a certain form on the outside, also live on in the human organism, but they become different there.

And so it is indeed the case that, as the human being passes through the year, other processes always take place in his organism. That which takes place in the course of midsummer is an inner interweaving with that which, I would like to say externally, grossly materially, is indicated in the sulphur. This is an inner sulphurisation which man experiences in his physical-etheric being when he witnesses the summer sun and its effects. That which man carries in himself of material sulphur, sulphur which is useful to him, has a quite different significance for him during the height of summer than during the cold winter time or during the budding spring time. The sulphur in the human being is like a fiery process during midsummer. And this belongs to the development of human nature in the course of the year, that this sulphuric process in the inner man comes, as it were, into a kind of particularly heightened state during midsummer. Matter in the various beings has truly other secrets than materialistic science can dream of.

In man, for example, everything physical and ethereal is suffused with inner sulphurous fire, to use Jakob Böhme's expression, during the height of summer. This can also remain in the subconscious, because it is a gentle, intimate process. But even if this process is gentle and intimate and therefore imperceptible to the ordinary consciousness, this process, as is the case with such processes everywhere, is of tremendous incisive importance for the events in the cosmos.

This process of sulphurisation which takes place in the human body at the height of summer, even if it is mild and gentle and imperceptible to man himself, means something tremendous for the evolution of the cosmos. A lot happens in the cosmos when people glow inwardly sulphurically in summer. Not only the little St. John's beetles become luminous for the physical eye of man at St. John's Day. Looking down from the other planets, the interior of man becomes luminous for the etheric eye of other planetary beings at St. John's time, a luminous being. This is the process of sulphurisation. At the height of summer, human beings begin to shine out into the space of the world for the other planetary beings, just as the little St. John's beetles shine in their light in the meadow at St. John's Day.

But that which is actually of majestic beauty in relation to cosmic observation, for it is glorious astral light in which men shine out into the cosmos at the height of summer, that which is of majestic beauty there, gives at the same time the occasion for the ahrimanic power to approach man. For the ahrimanic power is tremendously related to these substances which sulphurise in man. On the one hand we see how, in a certain sense, men shine out into the cosmos in the light of St John, but how the dragon-like serpentine formations of Ahriman worm their way through these men shining out into the cosmos in the astral light and strive to ensnare them, to entwine themselves around them, to draw them down into the dream-like, sleep-like, subconscious. So that through this game of illusion which Ahriman plays with the luminous, with the cosmically luminous people, people are to become world-dreamers, so that through this world-dreaming they can become a prey to the Ahrimanic powers. All this also has a meaning in the cosmos.

And when, at the height of summer, the meteor stones fall from a certain constellation in the mighty meteor swarms, when the cosmic iron falls upon the earth, then in this cosmic meteor iron, in which lies such a tremendously strong healing power, is contained the weapon of the gods against Ahriman, who wants to entwine the luminous human beings like dragons. And the power that descends upon the earth in the meteoric stones, in the meteoric iron, is that world power with which the upper gods strive to defeat the Ahrimanic powers when autumn approaches. And that which takes place spatially in majestic grandeur out there in the universe, when the August swarms of meteors radiate into the human radiations in the astral light, that which takes place grandly out there, has its gentle, apparently small, just spatially small counterpart in that which takes place in the human blood. This human blood is truly not shot through in such a material way as present-day science imagines, but is shot through everywhere by stimuli of the spiritual-soul, is shot through by that which radiates as iron into the blood, that which fights fear, anxiety, hatred, and integrates itself as iron into the blood. The processes which take place in every corpuscle of the blood when the iron compound shoots into it are humanly, in a very small way, minutely the same as those which take place when the meteor stone rushes down through the air, shining, radiant. Meteoric effects within the human being are the irradiations with iron that happen for the blood and its de-scaring. For it is a disfrightenment, a fear, that radiates into it with the iron.

And just as the gods with their meteor stones fight the spirit that wants to radiate fear over the whole earth through its serpentine form by letting the iron radiate into this atmosphere of fear, which is most intense when autumn approaches or when midsummer comes to an end, so the same thing that the gods do happens inside the human being by infusing the blood with iron. All these things can only be understood when, on the one hand, their inner spiritual significance is understood, and when, on the other hand, the connection between what is sulphur formation in man, what is iron formation in man, and what is present in the cosmos is recognised.

The human being who can look at a shooting star passing through space may say to himself, with reverence for the Gods, that what is happening out there in the vastness of space is happening continually in you on an atomistic scale; these shooting stars are falling as iron is formed in each blood corpuscle: your life is full of shooting stars, full of little shooting stars. - And this inner falling of shooting stars, which actually means the life of the blood from another side, this inner falling of shooting stars, it becomes particularly significant when autumn approaches, when the sulphur process is at its peak. Then, when this shining, which I have described, this Johannine worming of the human being is there, then the counterforce is there, in that blood meteors swarming millions of times within.

This is the connection of the inner man with the universe. And then we see how, especially at this time of year, when autumn is approaching, a powerful radiation of sulphur, of sulphur, takes place from the nerve organisation which permeates the human body. One can, so to speak, see the whole human being shining like a phantom of sulphur when autumn approaches.

But into this bluish-yellow sulphur atmosphere radiate the meteoric swarms that are present in the blood life. This is the other phantom. While the phantom of sulphur passes like drifting clouds from the lower part of the human being up to the head, the iron formation radiates straight out from the head, like swarms of meteors pouring over into the living existence of the blood.

This is how man is when Michaelmas approaches. And he must learn to use the meteoric power of his blood in his consciousness. He must learn to celebrate the Michaelmas festival by making it a festival of fearlessness, a festival of fearlessness, a festival of inner initiative and inner strength, by making the Michaelmas festival a festival of remembrance of selfless self-awareness.

Just as one celebrates the birth of the Redeemer at Christmas, the death and resurrection of the Redeemer at Easter, the cosmic outpouring of human souls into the world at St. John's, so one should celebrate at Michaelmas, if the Feast of St. Michael is to be truly understood, that which lives spiritually in the process of sulphurisation and meteorisation of the human being, which in particular should stand before the human consciousness in all its spiritual significance at St. Michael's time. So that the human being says to himself: You will become master of this process, which otherwise unfolds out of the realm of nature without your consciousness, if you, as you gratefully incline to the birth of the Redeemer at Christmas, as you live through the Easter time with deep, inner soul movement, experience on this autumn Michaelmas festival how all that is to grow in you which is to develop against comfort, against timidity, but towards inner initiative, towards the free, strong, brave will in the human being. The festival of the strong will should be presented in the Michael Festival. If this is so, if this is how knowledge of nature unites with true spiritual self-awareness of the human being, then the Michael Festival will attain its right colouring.

Therefore, before humanity can think of celebrating Michael festivals, a renewal of the whole soul condition is necessary, for it is precisely this renewal of the whole soul condition that is to be celebrated in the Michael festival. Not an outward festival or one similar to the conventional festivals, but a festival which renews the whole inner human being, that is what the Michael Festival must become if it is to be worthily used. Then, out of all that I have described, the once so majestic image of Michael with the dragon will emerge. But then this image of Michael with the dragon is painted out of the cosmos. Then the dragon paints itself for us, forming its body in bluish-yellow sulphur currents. We see the cloud-like figure of the dragon shimmering and radiating out of the sulphur vapours, above which Michael rises, above which Michael shows his sword.

But we only depict correctly, we only paint correctly, if we let the atmosphere in which Michael unfolds his glory, his power, in relation to the dragon, if we let the space be filled not with indifferent clouds, but with passing swarms of meteorites consisting of iron, which, through the force that flows out from the heart of Michael, form themselves, melt together into the iron sword of Michael, who defeats the dragon with this meteor-shaped iron sword.

If one understands what happens in the universe and in human beings, then the cosmos also paints out of its forces. Then one does not smear this or that colour from human arbitrariness, then one paints in harmony with the divine forces the world that unfolds its essence, the whole essence of Michael with the dragon, as one can have in mind. As a renewal of the old pictures, it can be painted out of the direct contemplation of the cosmos. Then what is is depicted, and not what individual imaginative people today imagine under the image of Michael with the dragon. Then, however, man will understand, reflect with understanding, but also live towards autumn in the course of the year according to mind and feeling and will. Then, at the beginning of autumn, on the Feast of Michaelmas, the image of Michael with the dragon will stand there as that which is to act as a mighty summons, as a mighty motivating force in man in the events of our time. And then one will understand how this points to something in which the whole fate, perhaps even the tragedy of our age, is symptomatically played out.

In the course of the last three or four centuries we have found a great natural science which works in the material, which has brought forth a great comprehensive technology. We have seen this technique unfold especially in the last three or four centuries in what has been possible to do with the most spread out material we find on earth. We have learned to form from the iron of the earth almost the most essential and the most significant thing that mankind has formed and produced in the materialistic age. We look at our locomotives, we look into our industrial plants, we see everywhere how we have formed this whole material culture with iron, with steel, which is only transformed iron, which has built itself up everywhere on iron. And in what iron has been used for, it is symptomatically expressed how we have built up our whole world view, our whole life from matter, how we still want to continue to build it up from matter.

But this leads man down. He can only be saved from what is coming if he begins to spiritualise here in this very field, if he penetrates through the atmosphere to spiritualisation, if he is turned from the iron which is processed into locomotives in the steelworks to the meteoric iron which shoots down from the cosmos to the earth and is the outer material for the same from which the Michael force is formed. Man must succeed in perceiving this mighty significance: Here on earth, in the age of materialism, you have used iron, as the conception of matter itself gave it to you. Just as you have to transform the conception of matter into spiritual science through the further development of natural science, so you must also advance from what was iron to the insight of the meteoric iron, the Michael sword iron. Then salvation will come to you from what you can do there. This, my dear friends, is contained in the saying:

O man,
Thou formest it for thy service,
You reveal it according to its material value
In many of thy works.
But it will only be salvation for you,
When to thee is revealed
His spirit's high power -

the Michael-high power - is revealed to you with the sword which of its own accord gathers itself out of the meteoric iron in the space of the world, when in material culture man is able to spiritualise the power of iron into the power of Michael-iron, which gives him his self-awareness in relation to the mere consciousness of nature.“ (Lit.:GA 229, p. 12ff)


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: verlag@steinerverlag.com 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.
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.