Anthroposophical Guidelines IX
Human Freedom and the Age of Michael
Translation: Frank Thomas Smith
In the human capacity for remembering lives the personal image of a cosmic force which has affected humanity in the way described in the previous contemplation. This cosmic force is still active however. It acts as a force for growth, as a vivifying impulse in the background of human life. It is mostly active there. Only a smaller portion is set aside to act on the Consciousness Soul. There it acts as a force for remembrance.
It is necessary to see this remembrance force in the right light. When in the present epoch of cosmic evolution man perceives with the senses, this perception is a momentary illumination of world-pictures in his consciousness. The illumination comes when the senses are directed towards the outer world; it illumines consciousness; it disappears when the senses are no longer directed towards the outer world. This illumination in the human mind must not have duration. For if it did man could not remove it from his consciousness quickly enough; he would lose himself in [the quantity of] his consciousness-contents. He would no longer be himself. Only for a short time, in the so-called after-images, which so interested Goethe, may the illumination by perception last in consciousness. Nor may this consciousness content solidify into Being; it must remain pictorial. It may become as little real as the image in a mirror can become real. Man would lose himself in something that lived fully in his consciousness as reality, as much as he would in something that had duration of its own. He could not be himself in that case either.
The perception by the senses of the outer world is an inner painting by the human soul. A painting without material substance. A painting in spiritual becoming and spiritual elapsing. Just as a rainbow comes into being, then disappears without leaving a trace, a perception comes into being and disappears without it leaving, by its own nature, a memory behind.
But at the same time, with every perception something else happens between the human soul and the outer world – one which lies in a more concealed part of the soul, where the forces of growth, where the life impulses act. In this part of the soul not only a fleeting image is engraved by perception, but an enduring, real one. Man can endure this for it is coherent with his Being as content of the world. When this happens he can no more lose himself as when he grows and nourishes himself without full consciousness.
When man retrieves his memories from within, it is an inner perception of what remained in this second process of perception of the outer world. Once again the soul paints a picture, but now he paints the living events contained in his own inner being. Again no lasting reality may remain in his consciousness, but only the forming and vanishing of a picture. In this way the thoughts formed through perception and remembering them are connected in the human soul.
But the remembrance forces continually strive to be more than can they can be if man is not to lose himself as a self-conscious being. For the remembrance forces are the remains of past human evolution and as such come into the sphere of Lucifer’s power. Lucifer strives to solidify the outer world’s impressions in the human being to the extent that they continually illumine as thoughts in his consciousness.
This Luciferic striving would be crowned with success if the Michael-Force did not counteract it. This latter force does not allow what has been painted with inner light to solidify into Being, but maintains it as emerging and disappearing pictures.
However, the excessive force which is pressured out of the human being by Lucifer will be transformed into imaginative force during the Michael Age. For the force of imagination will gradually enter into the general intellectual human consciousness. But this will not burden humanity with enduring realities in its present consciousness, which will continue to act with emerging and disappearing images. With his imaginations he will tower above in a higher spiritual world, just as he delves down into his true humanity through his memories. Man does not retain the imaginations within him; they are recorded in the cosmos, from whence he is always able to copy them into his picture-thinking.
In this way what Michael safeguards from solidifying in man’s inner life is absorbed by the spiritual world. What humanity experiences through the forces of conscious imagining becomes, at the same time, a content of that world. That this can happen is a result of the Mystery of Golgotha. The Christ-Force impregnates human imagination into the cosmos. The Christ-Force that is conjoined with the earth. As long as it was not conjoined with the earth, but acted on the earth from without as solar force, the growth and life impulses entered into humanity’s inner being. Man was formed and preserved from out the cosmos. Since the Christ impulse lives in the earth, man is being returned to the cosmos in his self-consciousness.
Humanity, originally a cosmic being, became an earthly being. He is therefore disposed to become a cosmic being once again, once he has become himself as an earthly being.
In this fact, that man in his momentary conceptions [or mental pictures] does not live in being, but only in a reflection of being, in a picture-being, lies the possibility of achieving freedom. All being in consciousness is coercive. Only the image cannot coerce. If something happens due to [the influence of] its impression, it must happen independently of it. Man becomes free by elevating himself by his Consciousness Soul out of being and emerging in the non-being of picture consciousness.
Thereby an important question arises: Does man lose his own being by leaving a part of his essence and plunging into non-being? This is again a point where one stands before a great riddle when contemplating the world.
What is experienced in the consciousness as a representation [or mental picture] arises out of the cosmos. In respect to this cosmos, man plunges into non-being. He frees himself in his representations from all cosmic forces. He “paints” the cosmos while outside it.
If it were only so, freedom would flash up for a cosmic instant in the human being; but in the same instant he would melt away as a human essence. However, because he becomes free of the cosmos in his representations [mental pictures], in his unconscious mind he is connected to his previous earth lives and the lives between death and a new birth. As a conscious individual he is in a picture-being, and he remains in his unconscious mind in spiritual reality. While he experiences freedom in his present I, his past I keeps his being intact.
In respect to Being, in his representations man is completely devoted to what he has become through the cosmic and earthly past.
This indicates the abyss of the nothing over which man leaps in human evolution when he becomes a free being. Michael’s activity and the Christ impulse make the leap possible.
Goetheanum, January 1925
162. In his representations [mental pictures] man does not live with his consciousness in being, but in pictorial being, in non-being. He is thereby freed from mutual experience with the cosmos. Pictures do not coerce. Only being coerces. If he does act according to the pictures however, he is completely independent of them, which means freedom from the world.
163. In the moment of such a representation [mental picture], man is connected with the world’s being only by what he has become from the past: his previous earth lives and his lives between death and new birth.
164. This leap over non-being in relation to the cosmos can only be accomplished through Michael’s activity and the Christ impulse.
When the translation is finished, the complete Guidelines will be made available as an ebook.