A Signature of Recent Events

26By Bernhard Steiner
Winter 2001: Tension and Relaxation - Issue #26

“Now the twenty-first century has truly begun” was a statement voiced after the brutal terrorist attacks in September. As the events have sunk into our consciousness our feeling of life has changed. How are we to react appropriately? How can we prepare for what is yet to come?

Anthroposophy takes as a given the supersensible world with spiritual beings who inspire and impulsate happenings on the physical plane. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Prince Francis Ferdinand was murdered in Sarajevo; an event that was to cause the conflagration of the First World War. Rudolf Steiner described a struggle on the spiritual plane between the Gabrielic and Michaelic forces that reflected the events happening on earth. The Crown Prince’s murderer—a member of the terrorist organization “Black Hand”—was significantly named Gavrile Princip (“Gabriel Principle”). According to Steiner this was no chance, but a sign; a spiritual signature.

According to representations of the medieval philosopher Agrippa of Nettesheim certain archangels give their stamp to certain epochs. The archangel Gabriel “ruled” from 1510 to 1879, then the archangel Michael took over this task.

“Gabriel” connotes a being whose forces act through inheritance, through the blood. In Christian tradition, Gabriel is the angel of birth; it is he who accompanies us into incarnation. Centuries of exploration and development of materialistic natural science and technology stand under his star. The Gabrielic impulses and inspirations, according to Hans Werner Schroeder in his book Man and Angel, 1 still work on into the present time, just as a stone continues to roll even when no longer pushed. But today, clearly different impulses are working on human development.
With September 11 the idea of progress, the unhindered material development of humanity on earth, have been brought into question. The focus on wealth and personal happiness, and the basic satisfied mood of Gabrielic times have been shattered and must make room for other basic views and moods.

Michael is the archangel who would awaken our true “I.” He has the task, says Schroeder, “to lift people out again who have become too one-sidely earthly.” Humanity is to discover the world of the spirit and learn to conquer it, just as, at the beginning of our modern age we discovered and conquered the physical world. With all his might Michael supports this turn towards the spirit but he is confronted by a humanity well- established in the earthly, who experience the material world as only reality. This is the inner tension that causes the critical situations of our time.

The recent attacks are somewhat of an awakening call to survive this tension between the ingrained urge toward materialism and the impulse to overcome it. Here we must try to imagine that the hierarchies, to which Gabriel and Michael belong, form human destiny out of the very material we ourselves furnish them with. All the thoughts, sensations and deeds of humanity which rise up form the raw material which these beings, with their sights on far future human goals, reflect back down to us as destiny. If we can learn from the tragedy then it is this: that we are all called upon to re-examine our thinking, feeling and actions in the light of this destiny.

1. Hans-Werner Schroeder Mensch und Engel, Stuttgart 1979 Bernhard Steiner: spent his youth in Buenos Aires where he studied architecture. Since 1980 he has been on a biodynamic farm and in wholesale trade near Stuttgart, Germany.

Translated and reprinted permission of Das Goetheanum Weekly Journal, Nr. 40/2001, Dornach Switzerland