"The Historical Journey from the time of St John to the time of the Archangel Michael: The Development of the Consciousness Soul"; a talk by Rev. Michaël Merle on 20th September 2020
by John-Peter Gernaat
This journey from St John’s Tide to Michaelmas must be seen in the context of the Christian festivals.
The Christian year begins with three festivals that flow directly into one another: Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Their respective durations are the span of the four Sundays before the 25th of December, 12 Holy Nights, and the span of the four Sundays from 6th January. They complete the great birthing and arrival of Jesus and the Christ.
We then have a period to reflect on these events while preparing for the next great festivals that also flow one into another: Passion Tide (a four Sunday span), Easter (40 days), Ascension (9 days) and Whitsun (3 days).
By the end of these festivals we have lived through the full chronological path of the Christ’s journey on the earth – we complete the full Gospel story of Christ. From earliest times the important events at the beginning of this cycle were the arrival of the Magi, the Baptism in the Jordan and the Wedding at Cana. These were the celebrated events, as they held the mystery of Christ revealed (made manifest) in Jesus of Nazareth.
St John’s Tide coming after Whitsun seems somehow out of chronological sequence, as the birth and work of John the Baptist predates the ministry of Jesus. St John’s Tide is also an unusual festival in that over the centuries the Christian church has usually celebrated the death-day of saints – their entry into the spiritual world – with rare exceptions, like for St John, whose birth day is celebrated.
Between St John’s Tide and Michaelmas is a pause of ten Sundays (occasionally reduced to nine when St John’s day falls on a Monday, placing Michaelmas on the last Sunday of this pause period). And between Michaelmas and Advent is another, shorter pause (reflective time).
The festivals of St John’s Tide and Michaelmas represent a much more expansive chronology: a preparing the full way of Christ over the centuries, as a consequence of the Baptism in the Jordan. This chronology represents the time from the Baptism, represented by John the Baptist to the time of Michael as the great Time Spirit guiding humanity at the time of the appearance of the Etheric Christ.
Rudolf Steiner was not the first person to speak of the great Time Spirits. There are seven great Time Spirits from whose circle one of them steps forward to guide the evolution of humanity according to what is needed, every 350 years or so, while the others hold themselves back, so to say. Michael stepped forward as the Time Spirit in 1879, the first time since before the time of the Baptism in the Jordan. When John the Baptist called to humanity to prepare the way, he referred to this entire period of time.
In the period between St John’s Tide and Michaelmas there are ten fixed Gospel readings. (Look through old newsletter for a report on these ten readings given in a previous talk). The first five Gospel readings take us out of St John’s Tide and next five mirror the first five as they lead us into Michaelmas.
The 5th Sunday’s Gospel reading (the last echo of the St John’s period so to say) is about the man with impaired vision. He knew what he needed, and when asked by Jesus what he willed Him (Jesus) to do for him (the man), he asks Jesus for his higher sight. Upon receiving his higher sight, he is able to follow the Christ. John the Baptist is closely connected to the higher sight. He speaks words such as “look”, “see” and “behold”. For example: “I saw the Spirit descend upon him …” and “Behold the Lamb of God …” When he speaks these words to his disciples, two of his disciples leave him to follow Jesus until Jesus becomes aware that he is being followed. When Jesus asks these disciples “What are you seeking?”, they reply that they want to know where he lives, where his home – place on earth – is. This is the culmination of the work of John the Baptist.
On the 6th Sunday, the Gospel reading (mirroring the 5th and taking a first step towards Michaelmas, so to say) is about the man who cannot hear well and as a result he cannot speak clearly of what he knows – he cannot hear the spiritual world. The word Jesus speaks: “Ephphata!”, be fully opened, provides the man with a new way of hearing and he is able to proclaim the Word made flesh.
Michael steps forward as the great Time Spirit to care for humanity’s development at the time of the coming of the Etheric Christ. Since John the Baptist, humanity has fully developed the Intellectual Soul and seen the early development of the Consciousness Soul.
We know of the development of three stages of our soul: the Sentient Soul, the Intellectual Soul and the Consciousness Soul. Plato spoke often in recognition of the Intellectual Soul. The Intellectual Soul is also known as the Mind Soul or the Rational Soul. Intellectual is derived from two Latin words that mean: to understand. Hence, the Mind Soul is that development of soul that makes it possible for us to hold an understanding in our thinking, feeling and willing.
The Consciousness Soul began to develop in the early 1400’s and the first evidence of this new development is a painting by Jan van Eyck (although often ascribed to 1433, it was originally begun as a concept earlier and some believe may have been completed by 1422) formerly known as the “Man with a red turban” but later recognised from the artist’s notes as a self-portrait. This is the first self-portrait to have been painted; the first time an artist (or a human being) was fully aware of himself as the worthy subject of a portrait.
Consciousness means aware. The Consciousness Soul refers to an awareness of our higher consciousness. At this stage of the development of the Consciousness Soul we all have the capacity to be aware of ourselves in connection to the Spirit. “I can reflect on myself – my own development”.
When we look at the Gospel of Luke which relates the birth of John the Baptist and the Annunciation to Mary, we encounter the Archangel Gabriel who is “sent from God”. Gabriel was not the great Time Spirit of that time but has a particular mission connected to the birth of John and Jesus.
The artist Francesco Botticini painted the healing life journey of Tobias. (Michaël has told the story of Tobit and Tobias – see older newsletters – and he will again in the future). Tobias goes on a journey to collect a debt that will help his father. His dog journeys with him. In the marketplace – the business of life – he meets a friend who offers to accompany him on the journey. This friend is later revealed to be the Archangel Raphael. On the journey Tobias catches a fish (which he is seen carrying in the painting) that is a source of healing in the story, and he meets and marries his wife, who is a distant relative and through this marriage Tobias finds a connection to who he is. Botticini paints the young Tobias carrying his fish, with his dog, hand in hand with his companion, Archangel Raphael. But he also paints two other companions (who not mentioned in the story at all) who although walking alongside Tobias and Raphael give the appearance of one walking behind and the other leading the way. The companion walking behind is the Archangel Gabriel – who we recognise as connected with the birth of John and Jesus – and the companion leading the way, dressed very differently, in armour and holding a sword pointing upwards, is the Archangel Michael. This painting may be viewed as representing the journey from Gabriel to Michael, from St John’s Tide to Michaelmas. Gabriel represents the family into which we are born, from whom we inherit our traits. Michael goes ahead of us and turns to beacon us to keep on the way. Here is a picture of our journey from birth to a fuller development of Consciousness on the healing path of life on earth.
In the Act of Consecration of Man we can hear what the journey of our life is in the words “create”, “heal”, “ensoul”.
The journey from Gabriel (St John’s Tide) to Michael (Michaelmas) is a journey of coming to know. Anthroposophy is a great help to us but only, truly, when it is no longer a body of knowledge but becomes a way of living. This journey is one of knowing that we are bearers of the Christ. This is a part of the development of the Consciousness Soul, that we know who we are as bearers of the Christ. Our focus on this journey is towards Michael who leads with the upright sword (it is not a fighting sword). Our journey from understanding to knowing ourselves as Christians had changed over the 2000 years since the Baptism in the Jordan. This journey will be the focus of the Michaelmas conference from 9th to 11th October. There is more on the conference in this newsletter above.
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