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the Michael & the Dragon Imagination Rudolf Steiner

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Then, out of all I have described, the majestic image of Michael and the Dragon will arise once more. But this picture of Michael and the Dragon paints itself out of the cosmos. The Dragon paints himself for us, forming his body out of bluish-yellow sulphur streams. We see the Dragon shaping himself in shimmering clouds of radiance out of the sulphur-vapours; and over the Dragon rises the figure of Michael, Michael with his sword. RS

When the events of autumn and winter draw on, when Michaelmas comes, he certainly must enter sensitively into the processes of fading and dying; but he must not, as he does in summer, give himself over to a nature-consciousness. On the contrary, he must then devote himself to self-consciousness. In the time when external nature is dying, he must oppose nature-consciousness with the force of self-consciousness.

And then the form of Michael stands before us again. If, under the impulse of Anthroposophy, a man enters thus into the enjoyment of nature, the consciousness of nature, but then also awakes in himself an autumnal self-consciousness, then the picture of Michael with the dragon will stand majestically before him, revealing in picture-form the overcoming of nature-consciousness by self-consciousness when autumn draws near. This will come about if man can experience not only an inward spring and summer, but also a dying, death-bringing autumn and winter. Then it will be possible for the picture of Michael with the dragon to appear again as a forcible Imagination, summoning man to inner activity.

For a man who out of present-day spiritual knowledge wrestles his way through to an experience of this picture, it expresses something very powerful. For when, after St. John's tide, July, August and September draw on, he will come to realise how he has been living through a waking-sleep of inner planetary experience in company with the earth's elemental beings, and he will become aware of what this really signifies.

It signifies an inner process of combustion, but we must not picture it as being like external combustion. All the processes which take a definite form in the outer world go on also within the human organism, but in a different guise. And so it is a fact that these inner processes reflect the changing course of the year.

The inner process which occurs during high summer is a permeation of the organism by that which is represented crudely in the material world as sulphur. When a man lives with the summer sun and its effects, he experiences a sulphurising process in his physical-etheric being. The sulphur that he carries within him as a useful substance has a special importance for him in high summer, quite different from its importance at other seasons. It becomes a kind of combustion process. It is natural for man that the sulphur within him should thus rise at midsummer to a specially enhanced condition. Material substances in different beings have secrets not dreamt of by materialistic science.

Everything physical-etheric in man is thus glowed through at midsummer with inward sulphur-fire, to use Jacob Boehm's expression. It is a gentle, intimate process, not perceptible by ordinary consciousness, but — as is generally true of other such processes — it has a tremendous, decisive significance for events in the cosmos.

This sulphurising process in human bodies at midsummer, although it is so mild and gentle and imperceptible to man himself, has very great importance for the evolution of the cosmos. A great deal happens out there in the cosmos when in summer human beings shine inwardly with the sulphur-process. It is not only the physically visible glow-worms (Johannis Käferchen) which shine out around St. John's Day. Seen from other planets, the inner being of man then begins to shine, becoming visible as a being of light to the etheric eyes of other planetary beings. That is the sulphurising process. At the height of summer human beings begin to shine out into cosmic space as brightly for other planetary beings as glow-worms shine with their own light in the meadows at St. John's time.

From the standpoint of the cosmos this is a majestically beautiful sight, for it is in glorious astral light that human beings shine out into the cosmos during high summer, but at the same time it gives occasion for the Ahrimanic power to draw near to man. For this power is very closely related to the sulphurising process in the human organism. We can see how, on the one hand, man shines out into the cosmos in the St. John's light, and on the other how the dragon-like serpent-form of Ahriman winds its way among the human beings shining in the astral light and tries to ensnare and embrace them, to draw them down into the realm of half-conscious sleep and dreams. Then, caught in this web of illusion, they would become world-dreamers, and in this condition they would be a prey to the Ahrimanic powers. All this has significance for the cosmos also.

And when in high summer, from a particular constellation, meteors fall in great showers of cosmic iron, then this cosmic iron, which carries an enormously powerful healing force, is the weapon which the gods bring to bear against Ahriman, as dragon-like he tries to coil round the shining forms of men. The force which falls on the earth in the meteoric iron is indeed a cosmic force whereby the higher gods endeavour to gain a victory over the Ahrimanic powers, when autumn comes on. And this majestic display in cosmic space, when the August meteor showers stream down into the human shining in the astral light, has its counterpart — so gentle and apparently so small — in a change that occurs in the human blood. This human blood, which is in truth not such a material thing as present-day science imagines, but is permeated throughout by impulses from soul and spirit, is rayed through by the force which is carried as iron into the blood and wages war there on anxiety, fear and hate. The processes which are set going in every blood-corpuscle when the force of iron shoots into it are the same, on a minute human scale, as those which take place when meteors fall in a shining stream through the air. This permeation of human blood by the anxiety-dispelling force of iron is a meteoric activity. The effect of the raying in of the iron is to drive fear and anxiety out of the blood.

And so, as the gods with their meteors wage war on the spirit who would like to radiate fear over all the earth through his coiling serpent-form, and while they cause iron to stream radiantly into this fear-tainted atmosphere, which reaches its peak when autumn approaches or when summer wanes — so the same process occurs inwardly in man, when his blood is permeated with iron. We can understand these things only if we understand their inner spiritual significance on the one hand, and if on the other we recognise how the sulphur-process and the iron-process in man are connected with corresponding events in the cosmos.

A man who looks out into space and sees a shooting-star should say to himself, with reverence for the gods: “That occurrence in the great expanse of space has its minute counterpart continuously in myself. There are the shooting-stars, while in every one of my blood-corpuscles iron is taking form: my life is full of shooting-stars, miniature shooting-stars.” And this inner fall of shooting-stars, pointing to the life of the blood, is especially important when autumn approaches, when the sulphur-process is at its peak. For when men are shining like glow-worms in the way I have described, then the counter-force is present also, for millions of tiny meteors are scintillating inwardly in their blood.

This is the connection between the inner man and the universe. And then we can see how, especially when autumn is approaching, there is a great raying-out of sulphur from the nerve-system towards the brain. The whole man can then be seen as a sulphur-illuminated phantom, so to speak.

But raying into this bluish-yellow sulphur atmosphere come the meteor swarms from the blood. That is the other phantom. While the sulphur-phantom rises in clouds from the lower part of man towards his head, the iron-forming process rays out from his head and pours itself like a stream of meteors into the life of the blood.

Such is man, when Michaelmas draws near. And he must learn to make conscious use of the meteoric-force in his blood. He must learn to keep the Michael Festival by making it a festival for the conquest of anxiety and fear; a festival of inner strength and initiative; a festival for the commemoration of selfless self-consciousness.

Just as at Christmas we celebrate the birth of the Redeemer, and at Easter the death and resurrection of the Redeemer, and as at St. John's Tide we celebrate the outpouring of human souls into cosmic space, so at Michaelmas — if the Michael Festival is to be rightly understood — we must celebrate that which lives spiritually in the sulphurising and meteorising process in man, and should stand before human consciousness in its whole soul-spiritual significance especially at Michaelmas. Then a man can say to himself: “You will become lord of this process, which otherwise takes its natural course outside your consciousness, if — just as you bow thankfully before the birth of the Redeemer at Christmas and experience Easter with deep inner response — you learn to experience how at this autumn festival of Michael there should grow in you everything that goes against love of ease, against anxiety, and makes for the unfolding of inner initiative and free, strong, courageous will.” The Festival of strong will — that is how we should conceive of the Michael Festival. If that is done, if nature-knowledge is true, spiritual human self-consciousness, then the Michael Festival will shine out in its true colours.

But before mankind can think of celebrating the Michael Festival, there will have to be a renewal in human souls. It is the renewal of the whole soul-disposition of men that should be celebrated at the Michael Festival — not as an outward or conventional ceremony, but as a festival which renews the whole inner man.

Then, out of all I have described, the majestic image of Michael and the Dragon will arise once more. But this picture of Michael and the Dragon paints itself out of the cosmos. The Dragon paints himself for us, forming his body out of bluish-yellow sulphur streams. We see the Dragon shaping himself in shimmering clouds of radiance out of the sulphur-vapours; and over the Dragon rises the figure of Michael, Michael with his sword.

But we shall picture this rightly only if we see the space where Michael displays his power and his lordship over the dragon as filled not with indifferent clouds but with showers of meteoric iron. These showers take form from the power that streams out from Michael's heart; they are welded together into the sword of Michael, who overcomes the Dragon with his sword of meteoric iron.

If we understand what is going on in the universe and in man, then the cosmos itself will paint from out of its own forces. Then one does not lay on this or that colour according to human ideas, but one paints, in harmony with divine powers, the world which expresses their being, the whole being of Michael and the Dragon, as it can hover before one. A renewal of the old pictures comes about if one can paint out of direct contemplation of the cosmos. Then the pictures will show what is really there, and not what fanciful individuals may somehow portray in pictures of Michael and the Dragon.

Then men will come to understand these things, and to reflect on them with understanding, and they will bring mind and feeling and will to meet the autumn in the course of the year. Then at the beginning of autumn, at the Michael Festival, the picture of Michael with the Dragon will stand there to act as a powerful summons, a powerful spur to action, which must work on men in the midst of the events of our times. And then we shall understand how this impulse points symbolically to something in which the whole destiny — perhaps indeed the tragedy — of our epoch is being played out.

 O Man,
You mould it (iron) to your service,
You reveal it (iron) according to the value of its substance
    In many of your works.
Yet it will bring you healing
Only when it reveals to you
    The lofty power of its spirit.

This is the great and powerful picture given us in the approach of autumn, so that from out of what happens in the cosmos we read the admonition: Nature consciousness must change in man into consciousness of self. But for this he needs the strength to overcome with his qualities of soul and spirit the inwardly death-bringing quality of animal-like Nature. For this he is given guidance when he looks out into the phenomena of the cosmos; to this he is guided by what is revealed in the figure of Michael, with his positive gaze and the flaming meteor-sword in his right hand. And Michael appears to us in that fight with the animalised desire-nature of which, also, a picture emerges from the loom of life. If we wish to paint this whole Imagination, we cannot paint it in any humanly arbitrary way; it can be painted only out of what is given by the cosmos. And the only way to picture the sulphurous element in it, rising into the heights with the elemental spirits in yellowish reddish shades, is in the figure of the Dragon, which takes shape from out of the sulphur. So that above the sulphurous Dragon, in whose burning head, as I might call it, is exhibited the desire-like process, above this Ahrimanised and sulphurised Dragon, we have Michael in the form I have described to you. (The Festivals and Their Meaning IV) 

“Michael wishes in future times to take his seat in the hearts, in the souls of earthly human beings, and this is to begin in the present age. It is about guidance of Christendom into more profound truths, inasmuch as Christ is meant to find more understanding among human beings; to live His way into humanity as a Sun-being through the Sun-spirit—Michael—who has always ruled over the intelligence, and who now can no longer administer it in the cosmos, but in the future wishes to administer it through the hearts of human beings.” —Rudolf Steiner (August 21, 1924)

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