A Deeper Look into the Days of Michaél September 29 2016
The season gives the signs now of the turning of summer to autumn. In the air, before the green of the leaves begin to blush, the air gives an occasional whisper of fresh chill to herald the changes that will come. Even in places in which there is not a dramatic change between seasons, reports of subtle changes as the earth turns and the parade of the seasons rolls onward come from those sensitive to expressions from the Earth.
The Perseid outburst or meteor shower in mid to late August each year marks the change in the stars. Each shooting star offers a picture to us of one of Michaél’s spears hurled to Earth to fill human hearts with strength, hope, and iron. Starting with this rain of light, human souls begin to awaken. The sleepy summertime when thinking is difficult diminishes and a different consciousness enters. Drifting in the warmth while the Earth pours out its abundance in growth, flowers, vegetables, fruits, and a luxury of light and colors ends. Children begin to wonder when school will start and plans for the coming cycle are begun.
This “waking up” in human thinking with the coming of the autumn, as the days grow shorter and the darkness encroaches, is the inverse of the activity of the Earth. She exuberantly produces every year and exhausts herself in each year’s harvest. The stirring in human understanding of the end of things in parallel to the Earth shows itself in the celebration at the end of October of All Hallows’ Eve or Hallowe’en in North America. Immediately, at the beginning of November, comes All Souls Day, or The Day of the Dead in Latin American cultures. Those who are sensitive to the elemental life of the Earth can perceive that these days, in which we confront death, are reflections of the Earth expelling her last breath of life after her extreme efforts of producing nourishment for all of us who inhabit her. The Earth then begins again to close in upon herself and regenerate life forces inwardly, awake to her plans for the next growing season while on the surface she lays barren and quiet, asleep as if dead.
This time from the meteor showers to the last breath of life after the harvest is the time of the year under the guidance of Michaél. Rudolf Steiner instructed us to pronounce the name of this mighty spiritual being with three syllables: “My-kay-el.” This represents his bringing of the consciousness of the threefoldness of the human structure—heads, hands, and hearts; body, soul, and spirit; minds, hearts, and limbs; thinking, feeling, and willing.
Every epoch of human development has spiritual leaders to guide it. These leaders through the millennia are all high beings from the cosmos who sacrifice their exalted status to incarnate on Earth to enhance human capacities and lead humanity to a new level of growth and consciousness. Moses, Krishna, Odin, Osiris-Isis, Zarathustra, Lao-Tsu, Rama, Buddha, Christ. All of these spiritual leaders collaborate to bring human consciousness further and further along toward freedom, independence, and self-mastery. Each has a time to lead. One cannot perform the necessary sacrifice without the efforts and offerings of the previous spiritual leader.
During the course of a lower school cycle all these leaders and these epochs of mankind are taught with the mythology, legends and recorded history from each.
In each epoch, these leaders have assistance from regents, or additional leaders who aid in the necessary work to accomplish the introduction of new capacities in human beings. Then, we have thousands of years to practice and develop these new capacities, making way for the next leader from the cosmos to be able to come.
For example, the Buddha came and brought much needed compassion to human souls. His efforts, as legends tell us, were extreme on our behalf. Without his accomplishments, the Christ, our current spiritual leader, would not have been able to bestow the gifts of love and forgiveness on humankind. These capacities are what we practice now (imperfectly though we might sometimes do this). Steiner explains that the Buddha and the Christ work intimately together still, inspiring human beings as they incarnate on the Earth to open themselves to compassion, love, and forgiveness.
In each epoch of human development, not everyone is conscious of these spiritual leaders, but the gifts they bring are received by all of us. In his seminal book, The Philosophy of Freedom, Rudolf Steiner gives the hint that love is the portal to clairvoyance. When we love we can see things in another or in a situation that those who do not love cannot see.
Each epoch transcends religions, which inevitably spring up in devoted recognition of the high nature of these leaders as they walk the Earth for a time. Very often these religions give the spiritual avatar a bad reputation, with proselytizing, punishing, killing and warring over who believes in which spiritual guide!
Michaél is the current regent of this Christ epoch. His task, we are told, is to imbue human hearts with the capacity of clear thinking, and to infuse human thoughts with heart forces. He strengthens human beings to be strong and courageous, to face evil with equilibrium, to choose good over evil and thereby to strengthen human freedom by choosing between good and evil with thinking hearts and warm-hearted minds.
The work of Michaél will be more evident going into the future. For now, it remains much like the meteor showers each summer—visible in ways that are not so obvious, inspiring to the soul and invisible in the power they have in us to bring courage, iron, and strength of empathy and forgiveness. This high being does not act on behalf of humanity but instead waits for human initiative so that he can then step behind. “He has our backs”— to put this in modern parlance!
Rudolf Steiner lavished great care on instructing as to the importance of developing a festival at the time of the day of Michaél, September 29th. The significance of this celebration will only show itself in the future. Precisely because this celebration is new, it holds deep promise for the future and is not burdened by old traditions. Just about every Waldorf school in the world celebrates Michaélmas, as it is called. The picture is of overcoming fear and lower instincts, and rising to meet challenges with courage. St. George slaying the dragon, or Michaél himself taming the dragon and harnessing the dragon to help in plowing or other tasks of the harvest are the pictures made most often in Waldorf schools at these festival celebrations in Michaél’s honor.
As the days grow dark and as we as modern folk tackle the inner darkness we all have, these pictures inspire us to rise higher than we think we can, to gather courage to help each other through the frightening messages of Hallowe’en and the facing of death, and the darkening days, and to remember that the Earth lives in cycles and that light will return. Courage and steadfastness and inner strength, friendship and community, are all gifts that are made whole through the help of Michaél. The pictures we give in Waldorf schools offer these gifts to them in pictorial digestible ways to the young. All the celebrations we practice with children connect them to the cycles of the Earth, the seasons of the year. None gives the message of hope, inner light, and the power of individual courage like Michaélmas. This may just make it the most important celebration of the year—a fine way to begin a school year!