In these six public lectures, delivered in Berlin in 1911 and 1912, Rudolf Steiner presents key turning points in Mankind's spiritual development. His objective, to show how evolving human consciousness can lead to the experience of the Self as the spiritual essence of the human being, is clearly outlined through the five individuals selected. Each one of them brought into the human condition on Earth an added, different awareness of the relation between the human Spirit-Self and its earthly environment.
Having spent a lifetime presenting these past experiences of the human Spirit-Self on its spiritual journey through its various stages and conditions, Steiner concentrated, in his last years, on the new spiritual turning point of the present. His crystal-clear statements as to the nature of the present-day, different, spiritual condition of the human being places him in the same firmament as the five individuals he speaks of in these lectures. The final lecture on Christ in the Twentieth Century, is essentially his own announcement of the present and future human relation to the Christ, as different from, yet in addition to, what the previous five have brought into mankind with respect to the Christ-Being, the central figure in Human Beingness.
The specific, unique, necessary, new, human experience that Steiner is responsible for presenting is, the spiritual foundation of human destiny and the human laws of reincarnation based on the awakening to self-consciousness of the human Spiritual-Soul. This particular experience of self-consciousness requires that the human soul-force of the Will be trained in freedeeds, so that the truly free, individual Self can now consciously create and determine its own destiny, its own environment, its own physical body even while earthbound.
This is a magnificent possibility that is both necessary and doable. Each human being, because of Steiner's achievements, now has the method outlined and the means made available to achieve this condition of the truly free, independent, self-conscious, human, Spiritual Being; the Tenth Hierarchy; the Entity of Love incarnate on Earth and what this awareness means in the total spectrum of the Universe.
I present the following words, selected from among Steiner's last writings, as an indication to the reader of the basis for the remarks made above as to Steiner's spiritual significance, and for placing him with Zarathustra, Hermes, Buddha, Moses and Elijah, the personalities discussed in this book.
"In the evolution of mankind consciousness descends on the ladder of unfolding Thought. There was an earliest stage in consciousness when man experienced the Thoughts in the Ego -- experienced them as real Beings, imbued with Spirit, soul and life. At a second stage he experienced the Thoughts in the astral body; henceforth they only appeared as the images of Spirit-beings -- images, however, still imbued with soul and life. At a third stage he experienced the Thoughts in the etheric body; here they only manifest an inner quickness, like an echo of the quality of soul. At the fourth, which is the present stage, man experiences the Thoughts in the physical body, where they appear as the dead shadows of the Spiritual.
In like measure as the quality of Spirit, soul and life in human Thought recedes, man's own Will comes to life. True freedom becomes possible.
It is the task of the Archangel Michael, to lead man back again, on paths of Will, whence he came down when with his earthly consciousness he descended on the paths of Thought from the living experience of the Supersensible to the experience of the world of sense.
Michael goes upward again along the paths by which mankind descended, stage by stage in the evolution of the Spirit, down to the exercise of the Intelligence. Michael, however, will lead the Will upward, retracing the paths by which the Wisdom descended to the final stage of Intelligence.
From this moment onward in World-evolution, Michael merely shows His way, so that man may follow it in perfect freedom. This distinguishes the present guidance by Michael from all preceding guidances of the Archangels, including even those of Michael Himself. For the former guidances did not only reveal their working. They worked themselves out in man. Hence in the working of his own life man could not be free.
To see and understand that this is so: this is the present task of man. For then he will find, with all the forces of his soul, his spiritual path within the age of Michael.
To become truly conscious of the working of Michael in the spiritual order of the World, is to solve the riddle of human freedom in relation to the Cosmos, in so far as the solution is necessary for man on Earth.
For 'Freedom' as a fact is directly given to every human being who understands himself in the present period of mankind's evolution. No one can say, `Freedom is not,' unless he wishes to deny a patent fact. But we can find a certain contradiction between this fact of our experience and the processes of the Cosmos. In contemplating the mission of Michael within the Cosmos this contradiction is dissolved.
In my book, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, the 'Freedom' of the human being in the present World-epoch is proved as an essential element of consciousness. In the descriptions here given of the Mission of Michael, the cosmic foundations of the 'coming-into-being' of this Freedom are disclosed."
Bernard J. Garber
[Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts: The Experiences of Michael in the Course of his Cosmic Mission]
Turning Points in Spiritual History