A DIFFERENT KIND OF COURAGE - Thoughts in the season of Michaelmas
We are again in Archangel Michael’s festival season. It began at Michaelmas on September 29, and continues until Advent on December 1. In the human soul, archangels represent the higher self. Michael is the archangel of courage.
The Book of Revelation depicts Michael and the dragon at war in heaven, along with their accompanying angels. Michael is the victor, but the dragon is not slain, ‘… the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth.’ (Rev. 12:9, my italics).
Archangel Michael at Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome
Behind the Revelation story is an esoteric account of the primal dragon entering the earth realm, and into human souls. In us the dragon consists of those powerful negative urges rising unbidden from the unconscious. Smothering these impulses like a dragon spread over its hoard isn’t helpful. The wise dragon of Chinese legend moves along the earth’s lines of power. It shapes the land and has mastery over typhoon, flood and earthquake. We disregard that force to our detriment. Similarly, we need to understand the perverse trickster nature of these uprisings from our lower self. Finding the courage to face our damaging impulses, and in the light of consciousness transform them, this is the inner work symbolised by archangel Michael.
So how is humanity doing? Not too well, it seems.
A Fighting Heroine
Really, it’s up to every one of us. I would like to share an experience I had way back in 1984 that opened my eyes. I had recently come across a spiritual community called The Centre, the Church of the Mystic Christ, led by Reverend Mario Schoenmaker, whose Christianity included the teaching of reincarnation. He was also a clairvoyant with potent insight into human souls. The Centre held monthly candlelit services to celebrate the night of the Full Moon, during which Mario gave people the ’word of the month’, although it was never just a word.
So there I was at my first Full Moon service, going forward for my word with my heart beating like a drum. Mario put his hands on me and said:
You were a follower of the maid, Jeanne d’Arc. With joy you fought, better than a man.
Oh, I liked that. A woman fighting with the Maid of Orleans! Dressed up in armour, swinging my sword, like her! This isn’t in the history books written by men of course, although it’s easy to imagine idealistic women escaping the awful repressions imposed on females.
But I brought something unhelpful from that life. Mario also told me, rather vehemently, to stop fighting. Stop it! he said. Just stop it. Instead know the reality of your soul. I guessed I needed to work hard on finding that reality.
I knew that in the early fifteenth century Joan of arc was instructed to go and save France by the voice of Archangel Michael. I didn’t know until I learned in one of The Centre’s numerous lectures that today the relationship with Michael has to be different. That’s because we are in the age of the individual. What does this mean?
The Scales, the Sword and the Breastplate of the Spirit
Well, it’s helpful to view Archangel Michael as both an aspect of our higher self and a spiritual being known as the ‘face’ of Christ. The mystical and the cosmic levels operate in the Michael story. Meaning emerges when we consider Michael’s symbols – the breastplate, sword and scales.
Rudolf Steiner clarified the role of Archangel Michael in our time*. And I have the image of Michael as a kind of gatekeeper or a soccer goalie with a difference. From this goalie, we can learn the consequences of what we create day by day. For becoming an individual requires us to take responsibility for our choices.
Our thoughts, words and deeds reach Michael / our higher self. They are weighed, and anything that we allow to divide us is rebuffed – when we condemn others based on limiting notions of family, tribe, race, religion or nation. Michael / our higher self shunts these judgements right back on us, and so our negativity increases and the world’s suffering continues and worsens.
Michael does let through what we create out of an openhearted, spiritually focused consciousness that seeks for soul connection. When we look beyond the outer appearances of the physical, spirit remains. Spirit is what unites us. And in this way our inner Christ, the I AM, is strengthened, and it is strengthened in others.
The Michaelic sword then represents the strong backbone of the I AM by which our wilful actions are purified. And through this you and I become a new kind of warrior. The Michaelic warrior for these dark times is one who defends truth by being true, who speaks truth gently and clearly, who honours the struggle in others, who nurtures their creative spark, because of the spirit within.
This kind of courage is held in the heart. And when we love and give in freedom, when we act through empathy and reach out to what unites rather than separates, the breastplate of the spirit is placed on our hearts.
In this work of connectedness and unification the long ignored feminine will re-emerge. How the world, and every soul, needs her wisdom! The wisdom of Gaia and Sophia. The unconditional love of Mother Mary and the Magdalene. This re-emergence is not merely a bonus. The blessing and rebalancing she brings is essential if we are to assist in the world’s transformation.
We are the ones who can find balance, each of us personally. The heavenly radiance and steadfast courage of Archangel Michael will help us to find the answer that heals, as we strive to stand as true individuals in freedom and love.
*Rudolf Steiner: The Archangel Michael – His Mission and Ours, Anthroposophic Press