Karmic Relations

Rudolf Steiner

Volume III: Lecture IX

Lectures for members of the Anthroposophical Society

Transcribed from stenographic notes not reviewed by the speaker

Dornach, August 3, 1924, GA 237

Translator unknown

The Decisive Character of the Michael Impulses

You will have seen from the previous lectures, how the souls who out of the depths of their subconscious life feel impelled towards the Anthroposophical Movement, bear this impulse within them through their special relationship to the forces of Michael. We have accordingly considered the working of these Michael-forces throughout the centuries, in order to see what influence the impulses of Michael can have upon the lives of those who stand in any kind of connection with them.

Now the Michael impulses — and this is of great importance for the karma of every single anthroposophist — the Michael impulses are of a kind to enter deeply and intensely into the whole being of man. We know from previous descriptions that the rulership of Michael, if so we may call it, beginning for earthly life at the end of the eighteen-seventies, was preceded by the rulership of Gabriel; and I have described how the rulership of Gabriel is connected with forces that go through the line of physical inheritance — forces related to physical reproduction.

The forces of Michael are the very opposite of this. The rulership of Gabriel is characterised by the fact that his impulses enter strongly into the physical bodily nature of man. Michael, on the other hand, works intensely into the spiritual being of man. You can tell this from the very fact that he is the administrator of the Cosmic Intelligence. But Michael's impulses are strong and powerful. Taking their start from the spiritual, they work through and through the human being. They work into the spiritual, thence into the soul-nature, and thence again into the bodily nature of man. Now in the karmic connections of life, these super-earthly forces are constantly at work. Beings of the higher Hierarchies are working with man and upon him. It is thus that the karma of a person takes shape. And so it is with the Michael-forces. Working as they do upon the whole human being, they work also very strongly into his karma. Gabriel-forces work only very little — I do not say not at all — but very little into the essential karma of a human being. Michael-forces on the other hand work very strongly into his karma.

If, therefore, certain human beings — and this in the last resort applies to you all, my dear friends — if certain human beings are especially connected with the stream of Michael, their individual karmas can only be understood when thought of in connection with the stream of Michael.

Now Michael is a Spirit who stands in a special relationship to the Sun and to all Sun-impulses. This being the case, we shall realise what a profound significance his impulses must have for those who are especially exposed to them. In effect, his forces will work right into the physical organisation. For Michael-people therefore (if we may use this term), we must connect the physical phenomena of health and illness with karma in an even greater degree than for Gabriel or Raphael-people. Things in the universe are very complicated; and although Raphael is the Spirit most intimately connected with the art of Healing, nevertheless it is Michael who brings the karma of people nearest of all to health and to disease.

There is another fact in this connection. The Michael-forces not only work in a cosmopolitan sense, but they also work in such a way as to remove a person from out of the narrower earthly connections of his life and carry him up on to a spiritual height, where he feels the earthly connections less strongly than others do. At any rate his karma predestines him for this. This again has a profound influence upon the karma of every single person who belongs to the stream of Michael.

You see, in the last third of the 19th century it did really happen that human beings — I will not say of nervous temperament — but human beings intense in soul and spirit, were able to feel the penetration of the Michael-forces into the world. In those who were essentially men of Michael, this penetration of the Michael-forces into the world came to expression in this way: they felt many things, which other people would have passed by more or less indifferently, entering deeply and incisively into their lives.

Above all their karma was such that they had a strong feeling — though they did not understand it clearly — a strong feeling of the battle I described the day before yesterday, the battle between Michael and Ahriman. In the present age, Ahriman can only have a strong influence upon people when their consciousness is diverted in one way or another. The most radical phenomenon is that of a fainting fit, or a diminution of consciousness lasting for a considerable time. In times like this, when a person is overcome by faintness or diminution of consciousness, the Ahriman forces can most effectively approach him. At such times they work their way into him, he is exposed to them. But it was above all in the last third of the 19th century — and especially in the time when the end of the Kali Yuga was approaching, in the very last years of the 19th century, — it was a shattering experience to see behind the scenes of this external, physical world which is spread out before man's senses.

For directly adjoining this outer world there is a world revealing very, very much of those historic processes in which the higher super-sensible Beings enter and play a part.

In the last third of the 19th century, and especially in the last decade, only a thin veil concealed that which we recognise as the dominion of Michael, the great battle of Michael and all the facts connected with him. Since then, Michael himself has been taking part in the battle even in the outer world, and we need a far stronger power to behold what is present super-sensibly than was needed before the end of the Kali Yuga, when, as I said, the next adjoining world, where Michael was battling as yet behind the scenes, was severed from our own by a thin veil only.

But Michael insists, as I have told you, that his dominion shall prevail and penetrate at any cost. Michael is a Spirit filled with strength, and he can only make use of thoroughly brave people, people full of inner courage.

Now in the whole nexus that I have described, in the super-sensible School of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, and in the great super-sensible ritual of the beginning of the 19th century, among all the spirits who partake in these things, great numbers of Luciferic figures are all the time playing their part. The Luciferic figures are necessary, necessary in the whole connection of these things. Michael needs the Luciferic spirits, he needs their co-operation to overcome the polar antithesis of Ahriman. Thus the people of Michael are placed into the very midst of the battle — the surging waves of the interplay, of Luciferic and Ahrimanic impulses.

Just at the end of the 19th century these things showed themselves with great clarity and definition. In those years it was by no means rare for one to catch a glimpse through the veil. Then one saw how intensely Michael was having to battle against Ahriman, and how easy it was for the consciousness of men to be diverted by all manner of Luciferic influences.

You may say: Disturbances of consciousness, attacks of faintness and the like, are nothing out of the ordinary. Outwardly they are not, of course; but they can become most significant through that which happens as a consequence, — through what ensues when the diversion or diminution of consciousness takes place. I will give you an example.

It was once a question of someone being made more intimately acquainted with a certain historic personality. He was to study an historic personality who had lived in the time of the Renaissance and Reformation. I want you to understand me precisely. All the preparations had been made for this man (it was at the end of the eighteen-nineties) to become historically acquainted with a personality who had lived at the time of the Renaissance and Reformation. Indeed, with all the conditions that had gone before, it seemed scarcely possible for anything else to happen, than that he would become familiar with that historic personality in the perfectly ordinary, and if I may call it so, pedantic way of scholarship. But look what happened. Through the refined workings of karma he became incapable of using his consciousness just at the very time when he was to have had this experience. He fell into a kind of sleep from which he could not awaken, and was thus prevented.

Of course in ordinary life one pays little heed to such a thing. Yet it is through happenings like these that we look directly from the earthly into the spiritual world. And if you want an explanation of this fact, then we must say: This man, who was to have become historically acquainted with a certain personality of the time of the Renaissance and Reformation, would undoubtedly have received a very strong impression if he had had this experience. He did not have it; he missed it, he was prevented. But in that very time, the impression which he would have received was transformed. He received it in another form; it was transformed into a peculiar impressionability for the Michael element. He actually received, though unconsciously, a real power of understanding for the Michael element.

I give this somewhat strange example in order to show you by what paths the Michael element was approaching human beings at that time. We could give many examples of this kind. Indeed, human beings today would be quite different if such things had not occurred to many individuals. Such things may happen in hundreds of different ways. In the case I have just related the man actually fell into a kind of sleep. In other cases it happened thus: — Some event that would have led a person away from Michael was prevented by a friend or someone else coming and taking him away to a different place, and his consciousness was veiled in a most natural and matter-of-fact way. He was prevented from partaking in what was karmically set before him. It was just in those years that the strongest interferences took place with the ordinarily smooth course of karma.

And as a rule in such cases it became evident how deeply these Michael influences work. In many instances one saw that such human beings had been affected not only in soul but even down into the body when their karma had received a jolt of this kind, because Michael needed to enter through the portals of a human consciousness into the earthly world of sense.

It is interesting in the highest degree to see how in the eighteen-nineties people were led into events which were none other than the paths of Michael from the spiritual into the physical world. For you must remember, the entry of Michael into the physical world was taking place in the last third of the 19th century. But it had been prepared for, in the spiritual world, for a long time before — already since the beginning of the eighteen-forties. If I may put it so, Michael and his hosts were drawing ever nearer and nearer, and it became more and more evident that those human beings would now descend, who in their earthly destiny were connected with the task of Michael, — the task of receiving the Intelligence here upon earth again after it had fallen away from the hosts of Michael in the super-sensible world.

Into the midst of all these things, as you will recognise from my presentation of the Mysteries, the Anthroposophical Movement is placed. For the Anthroposophical Movement is connected, as you will see from former lectures, with this whole stream of Michael.

Now I want you to consider in this light the karmic conditions of individual human beings who are led by an inner urge to approach the Anthroposophical Movement. They come, to begin with, from the world. They stand in many connections in the world. There have indeed been many communities in the world's history in which human beings have become united. But there was never a cohesive power of that peculiar quality which the Michael forces engender. Hence a particular situation is brought about for those who find their way, from other connections in the world, into the Anthroposophical Society. One can find one's way into other societies too, and could always do so, but one's destiny did not need to be very deeply affected. Into the Anthroposophical Society one cannot come — not at least in a thoroughly sincere way that really moves the soul — without being deeply and fundamentally influenced in one's destiny. This becomes especially clear when we consider these things along a right line of approach.

Take a human being who is just coming into the Anthroposophical Society, and who until then had certain connections with non-anthroposophists, which he may perhaps still continue to have. The difference between the one who stands within and the one who stands or remains outside, is of far greater significance than in the case of any other communities. There are two kinds of relationships.

Through the fulfillment of all the things I have described, we are living, once and for all, in a time of great, immense decisions. Thus the standing side-by-side today of anthroposophists and non-anthroposophists is fraught with great decisions. Either it is a question of the dissolving of old karma for the one who is in the Anthroposophical Society, or it is a question of the weaving of new karma for the one who is outside it. And these are great differences.

Let us assume an anthroposophist stands very near in life to a non-anthroposophist. It may be to begin with that the anthroposophist has old karmic connections to settle with the non-anthroposophist. On the other hand it may be that the non-anthroposophist has to enter into karmic connections with the anthroposophist, for the future. At any rate these are the only two cases I have hitherto been able to observe, though of course they are of many different kinds. There are no intermediates, there are no others beside these two. From this you will see that this is really a time of great decisions, for, if we may describe it so, either non-anthroposophists are being influenced in such a way that they come to the Michael community, or else the influences work in such a way that those who do not belong to the Michael community will be avoided by it. This indeed is the time of great decisions — the great crisis to which the sacred books of all time have referred — for in reality the present age is meant. Such indeed is the peculiar nature of the Michael impulses: they are fraught with great decisions, and they become decisive especially in this our age.

Human beings who in the present incarnation receive the Michael impulses through Anthroposophy, are thereby preparing their whole being in such a way that these Michael impulses enter even into the forces that are otherwise determined merely by the connections of race and nation.

Think how much this means: — Here is a man who stands within some national group. We can see at once, he is a Russian, he is a Frenchman, he is an Englishman, he is a German. We recognise it by his appearance, and we locate him by thinking, as we see him, where can this man belong? We think it a matter of some importance if we can recognise: he is a Turk, he is a Russian, or the like. Now with those who today receive Anthroposophy with inner force of soul, with deep impulse and strength of heart — who receive it, therefore, as the deepest force of their life — such distinctions will have no more meaning when next they return to earth. People will say: Where does he come from? He is not of any nation, he is not of any race, he is as though he had grown away from all races and nations.

When the last Michael dominion took place, in the age of Alexander, the point was to spread Grecian culture in a cosmopolitan way, carrying it out in all directions. The campaigns of Alexander were an immense achievement in the equalising of men on earth, I mean in the spreading among them of a common element. But the thing was not yet able to strike so deep, for at that time Michael still administered the Cosmic Intelligence. Now Intelligence is on the earth, now it strikes far deeper, it strikes down even into the earthly element of man. For the first time, the Spiritual is preparing to become a race-creating force. The time will come when one will no longer be able to say: the man looks as if he belonged to this or that country, — he is a Turk, or an Arabian, an Englishman, a Russian or a German, — but one will have to say what will amount to this: ‘In a former life on earth this man felt impelled to turn towards the Spirit in the sense of Michael.’ Thus, that which is influenced by Michael will appear as an immediate, physically creative, physically formative power.

Now this is a thing that takes root deeply, very deeply in the karma of the individual. Hence the strange destiny of those who are sincere anthroposophists, the strange destiny that they are not able to come to terms with the world: they cannot quite master it, and yet at the same time they have to approach the world and enter into it with full earnestness.

I have said that those who stand with full intensity within the Anthroposophical Movement will return at the end of the century, and others will then unite with them, for by this means the salvation of the earth and earthly civilisation from destruction must eventually be settled. This is the mission of the Anthroposophical Movement, which weighs on the one hand so heavily upon one's heart, while on the other hand it moves the heart, uplifts it with enthusiasm. This mission we must understand and see.

It is most necessary for the anthroposophist to know that in this situation as an anthroposophist his karma will be harder to experience than it is for other people. From the very outset those who come into the Anthroposophical Society are predestined to a harder, more difficult experience of karma than others. And if we try to pass this harder experience by — if we want to experience our karma in a comfortable way — it will surely take vengeance on us in one direction or another. We must be anthroposophists in our experience of karma too. To be true anthroposophists we must be able to observe our own experience of karma with constant wide-awake attention. If we do not, then our comfortable, easy-going experiencing of our karma — or rather our desire to experience it so — will find expression and take vengeance in physical illnesses, physical accidents and the like.

These finer, more intimate connections of life must indeed be seen and observed, for then we shall see many another thing besides. It is the best preparation for true and real spiritual sight, to observe these more intimate connections of life attentively. It is a wrong principle to want to evolve all manner of nebulous, abnormal, visionary states. On the other hand it is immensely right to occupy oneself with all that goes on more finely and intimately in the connections of destiny which we can recognise.

Do we not see how this becomes our karma, my dear friends: we live, or have lived, alongside human beings who are absolutely prevented, inwardly prevented, from coming near to things anthroposophical. They are prevented, in spite of all that we — I will not say have brought to them of Anthroposophy — but that we might have brought to them if they would only take it. We see this happen, surely. Now this also is among the great decisions of present-day life. For the things that take place in this way will have great karmic significance, both for the one who comes into the Anthroposophical Movement and for the one who remains outside it. It will have extraordinary significance.

Let us imagine that these human beings meet one another again in a future incarnation. We know that what happens to us in future incarnations is already being prepared for in this present. The meeting-again with human beings to whom we are related in the way I have just described, will be such that the usual strangeness between person and person will be enhanced. For Michael works right down into the physical sympathies and antipathies. Now all this is taking place already now in a preparatory way, for every single anthroposophist. It is immensely important for an anthroposophist to study just those karmic relationships which unfold between him and non-anthroposophists. For in this connection things are taking place which reach up into the next kingdom of the Hierarchies. For you must see, there is a counterpart to what I have just described, when I said that the Michael impulses appear as a race-creating force. There is a counterpart to it.

Let us take the following karmic instance. Someone is grasped in the very highest degree by the impulses of Anthroposophy. He is taken hold of in heart and mind, in soul and spirit. In such a case something will necessarily happen, which, expressed in words, sounds very strange indeed; and yet it is necessary. In such a case the Angel of the person must learn something. This is a thing of untold significance. The destiny of anthroposophists, — the destiny that works itself out between anthroposophists and non-anthroposophists, — casts its waves even into the worlds of the Angeloi. It leads to a parting of the Spirits, even in the world of the Angeloi. The Angel who accompanies the anthroposophist to his next incarnations learns to find his way still more deeply into the spiritual kingdoms than he could do before, while the Angel who belongs to the other person — to the one who cannot enter, — descends. It is in the destiny of the Angeloi that we first perceive how this great separation is taking place. To this, my dear friends, I would now direct your hearts. It is happening now, that the comparatively single and uniform kingdom of the Angeloi is being turned into a twofold kingdom of Angeloi, a kingdom of Angeloi with an upward tendency into the higher worlds, and with a downward tendency into lower worlds.

While the Michael community is being formed here upon earth, we can behold above it the ascending and the descending Angeloi. Looking more deeply into the world today, one can perpetually observe these streams, which are such as to stir the heart to its foundations.

Now I have told you that those who come into the anthroposophical life fall into two main groups. There are the ones who still carry into it a knowledge from the old heathen times, and have had little experience of that Christian development which took its course during the Kali Yuga. They have gone on evolving out of the old Pagan sources, and they now grow into the Christianity which is to be a cosmic Christianity once more. They are souls with a Pagan predestination, who in reality are only now growing into Christianity. The others are souls who are a little weary of Paganism, though they do not confess this to themselves. From the outset they grow into the Anthroposophical Movement on account of its Christian character, but they do not enter so deeply into the anthroposophical Cosmology, the anthroposophical Anthropology, and so forth. They enter, rather, into the more abstractly religious side. These two groups are clearly to be distinguished.

Now for the group of a more Pagan predestination it is particularly necessary to grasp the sustaining forces of Anthroposophy with full intensity of inner life. For this group, it is most necessary to avoid all side-tracks and other considerations, and steer straight forward in the direction of the anthroposophical sustaining forces.

We can only grasp these things when we receive them in our hearts; but they must enter into the hearts of anthroposophists. For only then will a real living-together within the Anthroposophical Society be possible, on a true anthroposophical foundation. When the more Pagan kind of souls, if I may call them so, bring forth their forces, which are in many cases already there in this incarnation deep within their souls, though they will often only come forth with difficulty, — when as I say they do bring forth the forces that are there in them, then there will spread over the whole Anthroposophical Society an atmosphere of steady and courageous progress in the good sense of Michael.

If this is to be so, we must have the courage to look straight into the intense conflict that is taking place, as between the things that Michael must undertake to achieve his great task, and the things that Ahriman is perpetually placing in his way.

Ahriman has already taken hold of certain tendencies in civilisation and placed them in his service. Consider this one fact: — Only since the 15th century has it become most thoroughly possible for man to grasp the Intelligence. For since that time the Consciousness Soul is present in man, and the Consciousness Soul is man's very own; therefore it can make the Intelligence its very own. Moreover it is only since that time that those things have come to men, which have made them so exceedingly keen — if I may say so — on their own personal Intelligence.

Make this little calculation; it embraces huge dimensions, though the greatness of it be only in a spatial sense. Try to make this little calculation, my dear friends. Add up in thought all that is being thought today within a single day by all the writers in newspapers over the whole earth, so that newspapers may be produced. Try to imagine the tremendous sum-total of Intelligence that is being spewed out from their pens, put on to paper, printed, and so on. See what an enormous amount of personal Intelligence is flooding through the world. And now go back a few centuries, go back into the 13th century, and see whether such a thing is there at all. It is simply not there, there can be no question of its being there.

But I will give you another task. Imagine in your thought (today is Sunday, it is a good opportunity) just imagine how many meetings are being held on political questions from West to East, — we need not go beyond Europe for the moment. Here again, how much personal Intelligence is flooding through the atmosphere of the earth! And now imagine yourself in the 13th century. They managed without the newspapers and without the meetings. None of these things existed. Compare the 13th century with the present time. We may put it thus: — When you transplant yourself into the 13th century you can look out over the world, your vision is clear and unobstructed. There are no editorial offices, no political meetings, none of these. You look through, clear and free. But today, as you look over the world, everywhere the waves of personal Intelligence are surging forth. They are everywhere. You simply cannot penetrate. It is a spiritual air that you could cut with a knife, as in some meeting-rooms where everyone is smoking his pipe or his cigar like a chimney-pot, and you say ‘it is an air that you could cut with a knife.’ So is the spiritual atmosphere today.

Such differences must be considered if we would judge at all truly of the succession of historic epochs. When you read historians like Ranke you see nothing of these things, yet these are the real facts of history.

And all this that has come about since the 13th century, what is it? It is spiritual nourishment for the Ahrimanic Powers. Here in this region, they are first able to make their attacks. Hence the possibilities for Ahriman to take a hand in civilisation have become ever greater and greater. Needless to say, Spirits like Ahriman are not there to incarnate in physical bodies on the earth. Nevertheless, they can work on the earth, not indeed by incarnating but by incorporating themselves for certain spaces of time; when in one person or another there happens what I mentioned before: a diminution or diversion of consciousness. At such moments the human being provides a vehicle, and Ahriman is able — not indeed to incarnate, — but to incorporate himself and to work out of that human being with that human being's faculties.

It will be my further task to tell you of this kind of working of the Ahrimanic Powers. I shall have to show, for example, how Ahriman has appeared in the course of modern time even as an author. This will show you what things must be observed today by those who would fain observe realities.

Thanks to the Rudolf Steiner Archive

Continued in the next issue of SCR