Anthroposophical Guidelines (Continued)


Rudolf Steiner


The Cosmic Thoughts in Michael’s Activity and in Ahriman’s


The observer of the relationship between Michael and Ahriman may well feel impelled to ask the question: How do these two spiritual powers behave in the cosmic context in as far as they are both concerned with the development of intellectual forces?

In the past Michael developed intellectuality throughout the cosmos. He did this as a servant of the divine-spiritual powers, which had given him, as well as human beings, their genesis. And he intends to maintain this relationship to intellectuality. When it was released from the divine-spiritual powers in order to find its way within human beings, Michael decided that from then on he would be in contact with humanity in the right way in order to find his own relationship to intellectuality. But he only wanted to do this by continuing as the servant of the divine-spiritual powers, the powers to whom he and man had been united since their origins. Therefore his intention is that in the future intellectuality will stream through the hearts of men, but as the same force which streamed out of the divine-spiritual powers at the beginning.

It is a completely different situation with Ahriman. He has long since separated himself from the evolutionary stream to which the aforementioned divine-spiritual powers belong. In the primeval past he placed himself alongside them as an independent cosmic power. Although he exists spatially in the world to which man belongs at present, he develops no relationship of forces with the beings who rightfully belong to this world. Only because intellectuality has been separated from the divine-spiritual essence and approaches this world does Ahriman finds himself so related to this intellectuality that he is able, in his own way, to connect through it to humanity. For what humanity receives at present as a gift, he absorbed in the primordial past. If he is able, Ahriman will make humanity’s received intellect similar to his own; that is his intention.      

Ahriman appropriated intellectuality at a time when he could not interiorize it. It has remained a force within his being that has nothing to do with heart and soul. Intellectuality streams out of Ahriman as a frost-bitten, soulless cosmic impulse. And those people who are seized by this impulse develop a logic devoid of compassion and love, which seems to speak for itself – in truth it is Ahriman speaking in it – in which there is no sign of the true, inner, loving relationship between what man is and what he thinks, speaks, does.

But Michael never appropriated intellectuality to himself. He manages it as a divine-spiritual force in that he feels himself united with the divine-spiritual powers. By thus permeating intellectuality, he indicates the potentiality in it to be just as valid an expression of the heart, the soul, as of the head, the spirit. For Michael carries within him all the primal forces of his gods and those of man. Thereby he does not transfuse intellectuality with wintry frost devoid of soul, but he stands by it in soul-filled inner warmth.

This is also the reason why Michael wanders through the cosmos with earnest mien and gesture. Inwardly so united with intelligent content as he is means that he must also fulfill the condition not to introduce anything of subjective arbitrariness, wishes or desire into this content. Otherwise logic would be the arbitrariness of one being instead of an expression of the cosmos. To maintain his being as an expression of the cosmic essence; to leave everything in his inner self which reflects his own being – Michael considers this to be his virtue. His significance is directed towards the great context of the cosmos – his mien expresses this; his will, which approaches man, is meant to reflect what he perceives in the cosmos. His bearing and his gestures express this. Michael is earnest in everything, for earnestness as the revelation of a being is the cosmic mirror of that being. A beaming smile is the expression of what streams into the world from such a being.

One of the Michaelic imaginations is the following: He moves with the flow of time, borne by cosmic light as his essence; framing cosmic warmth as the revealer of his own being; A being akin to a world, he wanders in waves affirming himself in that he affirms the world, leading forces from all corners of the universe down to earth.

In contrast an Ahrimanic one: In his progress he would conquer space from time, he is surrounded by darkness in which he send the rays of his own light; the more he achieves his goal, stronger is the frost around him; he moves as a world which is completely concentrated in one being, his own, in which he only affirms himself by denying the world; he moves as though he carried with him the sinister forces of earth’s dark caves.

If man seeks freedom without detouring into egotism, when freedom becomes the pure love of action, then it is possible for him to approach Michael; if he wishes to act in freedom by developing egotism, if freedom is the prideful desire to reveal himself in his acts, then he is in danger of falling into Ahriman’s realm.

The imaginations described above beam forth man’s love for action (Michael) or his self-love when he acts (Ahriman).

In that man feels himself as a free being to be near to Michael, he is on the way to carry the force of intellectuality into his “whole humanity”; although he thinks with his head, his heart fills his thinking with either light or darkness; his will streams from his humanity in that his thoughts stream into him as intentions. The human being becomes more human when he is an expression of the world; he finds himself, not by seeking himself, but by willingly uniting himself with the world.

If man succumbs to Ahriman’s temptations while developing his freedom, he will be dragged into intellectuality like a spiritual automaton, in which he is a piece, but no longer himself. All his thinking is a function of the head; this alone separates it from the experiences of the heart and his own will and snuffs out his individuality. Man loses more and more of his inner humanity by becoming the expression of his own individuality; he loses himself by seeking himself. He withdraws from the world to which he denies love; but man only truly experiences himself if he loves the world.

It is perhaps obvious from the forgoing that Michael is the guide to Christ. Michael travels with love through the world with all the earnestness of his being, his posture and  his acts. Whoever adheres to him cultivates love in relation to the outer world. And love in relation to the outer world must first be developed, otherwise it is self-love.

If this love in the Michaelic sense exists, then love for the other can also stream back to one’s own self. One will be able to love without loving one’s self. And on the path of such love Christ is to be found by the human soul.

Whoever adheres to Michael cultivates love in relation to the outer world, and thereby he finds the relation to his soul’s inner world, which leads him to Christ.

The age now dawning requires that humanity view a spiritual world in closest proximity to the perceived physical one, and in which can be found what has been described here as the Michael-Being and the Michael-Mission. For that world which man envisions when perceiving this physical world as nature is not the one in which he directly lives, but one which is as far beneath the truly human one as the Michaelic one is above it. But he doesn’t realize that when he makes an image of his world, another one unconsciously arises. When he paints this picture he is already in the process of alienating himself and becoming a spiritual automaton. Man can only preserve his humanity if he confronts the image of himself immersed in nature with the one in which Michael reigns, in which Michael leads the way to Christ.



(In relation to the foregoing description of the cosmic thoughts in Michael’s activity and in Ahriman’s.)


121. One has not yet comprehended what is active in the world and the meaning for the world of these activities, for example cosmic thoughts, if one goes no farther than these activities themselves. For one must perceive the being from whom these activities originate. For example whether the cosmic thoughts are brought into and through the world by Michael or Ahriman.


122. What can have a wholesome and creative effect coming from one being because of his relation to the world can be proven perverse and destructive when it comes from another being. Cosmic thoughts carry man into the future if he receives them from Michael; they lead him away from his wholesome future if Ahriman can give them to him. 


123. Through such considerations one is ever more able to overcome the viewpoint of a vague spirituality, that pantheism which is thought to be the foundation of things; and one is then led to a definite, concrete viewpoint which enables him to form representations [mental pictures] of the spiritual beings of the higher hierarchies. For reality is present everywhere in existential being*; and what is not existential being in this reality is the activity which is acted out in the relation from being to being. This can only be understood by directing one’s gaze to the active spiritual beings.  

* im Wesenhaften




First Contemplation:


How Michael prepares his earthly mission in the spiritual world by conquering Lucifer at the Gates of the Consciousness Soul


Michael’s intervention in the evolution of the world and man during the end of the nineteenth century appears in a special light when one considers the spiritual history of the previous centuries.

The beginning of the fifteenth century is the age in which the consciousness soul epoch began.

Before this time a complete change is evident in human spiritual life. One can follow how previously everywhere imaginations still played a significant role in human perceptions. Individual personalities had, however, already found their way to mere mental “comprehension”; but the great majority lived absorbing imaginations involving mental pictures derived exclusively from the physical world. It was so in respect to ideas about natural events as well as to historical developments.

What spiritual observation finds is completely confirmed by external evidences. We will now indicate some of these.

What was thought and said about historical events in the previous centuries was often recorded just before the dawn of the consciousness soul age. Thus we still have the “sagas” and similar writings preserved, which give a true picture of what was then considered to be “history”.

A beautiful example is the story of “Gerhard the Good”, which is preserved in a poem by Rudolf von Ems, who lived in the first half of the thirteenth century. Gerhard the Good is a rich merchant in Cologne. He goes on a business trip to Russia, Livonia and Prussia to buy sable. Then he travels to Damascus and Nineveh for silk and similar things.

Homeward bound, he is thrown off course by a storm. In the strange land where he finds himself he comes to know a man who holds captive some English knights and the English king’s betrothed. Gerhard gives up all he has gained on the trip in return for the captives. He takes them with him on his ship and begins the journey home. When the ship comes to the place where the routes to Gerhard’s home and England separate, he lets the male prisoners leave for England, but he keeps the king’s betrothed with him in the hope that King William will come to get her as soon as he learns of her liberation and where she is. The king’s bride and the maidens who accompany her are kept in the very best accommodations. She lives in her liberator’s house like a well-loved daughter. A long time passes without the English king coming to get her. So Gerhard decides to marry her to his son in order to ensure her future, for he thinks that William could be dead. The marriage feast is already in progress when an unknown pilgrim appears – William. He had wandered a long time on false paths seeking his betrothed. She is returned to him after Gerhard’s son’s selfless renunciation. They remain with Gerhard a while, who then equips a ship to take them back to England.

Once the ex-prisoners have been restored to their proper honorable station and Gerhard visits England, the English want to make him king. But he objects that he had delivered their rightful royal pair to them. They had also thought William dead and wanted to elect another king for the country in which conditions had become chaotic during Williams wanderings. The merchant of Cologne rejects all the honors and riches offered to him and returns to Cologne in order to be the simple merchant he was before.

The story is enhanced so that the Saxon emperor, Otto the First, travels to Cologne in order to meet “Gerhard the Good”. For the powerful emperor is tempted to consider much of what he has done to be worthy of “earthly compensation”. In coming to know Gerhard however, he encounters a palpable example of how a simple man does inexpressible good – giving up all the goods he has acquired to free the prisoners; returning the son’s bride to William; then doing everything he can to bring the king back to England and so forth – without desiring any earthly compensation, but relying entirely on the expectation of compensation from the gods. The man is called “Gerhard the Good” by all. The emperor feels that he has received a powerful religious-moral impulse through acquaintance with Gerhard’s convictions.

The story, which I have outlined here in order not to merely mention by name something less known, clearly shows one aspect of the mentality of the age preceding the birth of the consciousness soul in human evolution.

Whoever feels the spirit of this story as related by Rudolf von Ems can also sense how experience of the earthly world has changed since when Emperor Otto lived (in the tenth century).

One sees how in the consciousness soul age the world has become in a certain sense “clear” to the human mind as far as understanding physical being and becoming is concerned. Gerhard navigates with his ship in a virtual fog. He only knows a small piece of the world with which he wants to come into contact. In Cologne one has no knowledge of what is happening in England and it takes years to find a man who lives in Cologne. One comes to know the life and property of a man such as the one Gerhard encountered on his trip home only when he is directly brought by destiny to the corresponding location. Comparing the conditions of today with those times is like viewing the world in a wide, sun-filled landscape and groping in dense fog.

What is considered “historical” today has nothing to do with the story of “Gerhard the Good”, although the latter has much to do with the mood and spiritual conditions of that age. These, and not specific physical events, are portrayed in imaginations.

In this portrayal is shown how man does not only feel himself to be a being who lives and acts as a link in the physical chain of events, but also how in his physical existence spiritual, supersensible beings intercede and accompany his will.

The story of “Gerhard the Good” shows how man’s view of the physical world through a glass darkly, which preceded the consciousness soul age, oriented his gaze towards the spiritual world. One did not see in the distance of the physical world, but one saw that much deeper into the spiritual one.

But although a dim (dream-like) clairvoyance once showed humanity the spiritual world, it was no longer the case in that age. The imaginations were there, but they appeared in minds already strongly tending towards the theoretical. The effect was that one no longer knew how the world which manifested itself in imaginations was related to physical existence. Therefore the imaginations now appeared to more intellectual types who considered them to be arbitrary “fictions” devoid of reality.

It was no longer realized that through imaginations one saw a world in which one stands with a completely different part of his humanity than the physical one. Thus in this story both worlds stand side by side; and due to the way it is told, both worlds are characterized as if the spiritual events could have been as perceptible as the physical ones.

Furthermore, in many such stories physical events were jumbled together. Persons who lived centuries apart appear as contemporaries; events are displaced to incorrect places or at incorrect times.

Facts of the physical world are described in a way only appropriate for the spiritual world, for which time and space have a different meaning; the physical world is described in imaginations instead of thoughts. Therewith the spiritual world is interwoven into the story as though it did not relate to a different state of being, but to a continuation of physical facts.

Sticking to only the physical version of history, one thinks that the old imaginations of the east, Greece and so forth, had been adopted and then poetically interwoven with the physical things which people occupied themselves with at that time. They had, after all, in Isidor de Sevilla’s writings from the seventh century, a proper collection of old saga motifs.

But this is an external way of understanding. It is only meaningful to those who have no idea of a human mentality which knows that its existence is still directly bound to the spiritual world and feels compelled to express this knowledge in imaginations. If instead of one’s own imagination a historically documented one is used is not the essential point. This is because the soul is oriented towards the spiritual world, so that it sees both its own acts and natural events integrated in that world.

Nevertheless, confusion may be noted in story-telling at the time before the dawn of the consciousness soul age.

Spiritual observation sees the work of luciferic forces in this confusion.

What impelled the soul to assimilate imaginations into the content of its experiences corresponded less to the capacities which it possessed in antiquity though dreamlike clairvoyance than to those that existed in the eighth to fourteenth centuries. These capacities impelled more to a thoughtful understanding of sense perceptions. Both capacities were present during the transitional stage. The soul was placed between the old orientation which was absorbed in the spiritual world together with the physical one which saw things as in a fog – and the new one which was absorbed in physical events and in which spiritual perceptions faded away.

Luciferic forces intruded in this oscillating equilibrium of the human soul. They wished to hinder man’s finding full orientation in the physical world. They wished to keep his consciousness in the spiritual regions which were appropriate in older times. They wished to prevent pure thinking to enter into his dreamlike imaginative world-vision. They may have been able to prevent his ability to perceive the physical world correctly. They could not, however, correctly sustain the experience of the old imaginations. So they let him muse on old imaginations without being able to mindfully make the transition into the world in which imaginations are fully valid.

At the dawn of the consciousness soul age Lucifer acted so that through him man was transposed to the supersensible region, which was, at first, bordering on the physical one, in a way which was inappropriate.

This can be clearly seen in the “saga” of “Herzog [Duke] Ernst”, which was one of the most popular tales during the middle ages and was told everywhere.

Herzog Ernst comes into conflict with the emperor, who unjustly wants to ruin him by means of war. In order to avoid this impossible situation he takes part in the crusade towards the orient. In the adventures which he experiences on the journey to his goal the physical is interwoven with the spiritual “saga-like” in the already mentioned manner. For example, on the way the Duke encounters a people whose heads are shaped like cranes; he is shipwrecked on the “magnet mountain”, the ship being attracted by its magnetic power, so that people who come close to the mountain can never get away and die a wretched death. Herzog Ernst and his people escape by sewing themselves into skins, then letting themselves be carried to another mountain by griffins, which are accustomed to scavenge for people wrecked on the magnet mountain. They then cut themselves out of the skins when the griffins aren’t around and escape. Then their journey takes them to a land of people whose ears are so long that they can cover their entire bodies with them like clothing; to another people whose feet are so large that they can lie on their backs when it rains and use them as umbrellas. They come to a country of dwarfs, of giants, and so on. Such things were told about Herzog Ernst’s crusade journey. Sagas do not allow a correct feeling of how wherever imaginations enter the scene an orientation towards the spiritual world occurs, where things are described through pictures which take place in the astral world and relate to human will and destiny.

And it is also the case with the beautiful “Roland-saga” in which Charlemagne’s great march against the heathen in Spain is glamorized, to the extent that in order for Charlemagne to attain his goal the sun’s course is delayed so that one day becomes as long as two, therewith evoking the Bible.

And in the Nibelungen saga one sees how the forms were retained in the northern lands so that spiritual perception was purer, whereas in Central Europe the imaginations were brought closer to physical life. In the northern form the story is expressed in a way that relates to an “astral world”; in the Central European form the Nibelungen song tends toward a view of the physical world.

Also the imaginations in the Herzog Ernst saga relate in reality to what is experienced between the happenings in the physical sphere – experienced in an “astral world”, to which man belongs as well as he does to the physical one.

Observing all this with spiritual vision, one sees how entering into the consciousness soul age entails emerging from an evolutionary phase in which the luciferic forces would have prevailed over humanity if the consciousness soul with its strength of intellectuality had not introduced a new evolutionary impulse in humanity. The orientation towards the spiritual world along the path of aberration is avoided through the consciousness soul. The vision of humanity is withdrawn [from aberration] and guided towards the physical world. Everything that happens in this direction shields humanity from the aberrations of the luciferic forces.

From the spiritual world Michael is already actively present for humanity. From the supersensible regions he prepares his later work. He gives humanity impulses which retain the previous relation to the divine-spiritual world, without this retention taking on a luciferic character.

For in the last third of the nineteenth century Michael pressed forward in the physical world itself with the activity that he had prepared in supersensible regions from the fifteenth up until the nineteenth centuries.

Humanity had to undergo for a while a spiritual development freeing it from that relationship with the spiritual world which threatened to become an impossible one. Thereupon this development was guided, through the Michael mission, along paths which brought the progress of earthly humanity back to a relationship with the spiritual world which is beneficial to it.

Thus in his activity Michael stands between the luciferic world-view and the Ahrimanic world-intelligence. With Michael this world-view becomes a wisdom filled world-revelation which reveals world-intelligence as divine world-action. In this world-action lives Christ’s wish for humanity that thus Michael’s world-revelation may be unveiled to the human heart.

(The second and third contemplations follow.)

Goetheanum, November 23, 1924                              



Further Guidelines with reference to the previous First Contemplation about Michael’s supersensible preparations for his earth mission.       


124. The dawn of the age of consciousness (fifteenth century), in the twilight of the comprehension-or sensible soul age, was preceded by intense Luciferic activity, which still continues for a time in the new epoch.


125. The intent of this Luciferic activity is to wrongfully retain the old forms of image-thinking of the world and thus prevent man from understanding and integrating himself into its physical nature.


126. Michael associates with human activity in order that independent intellectuality remain correctly connected to the divine spirituality from which it descended.


Continued in the next issue of SCR