'Man may rush boldly where angels fear to tread?'


From the brief outline I have given in Occult Science about the
co-operation that took place between particular Beings of the
Hierarchies in order that man should come into existence...What are the
Angels doing in our astral body?...Through the Angels, the Spirits of
Form are already now shaping these pictures in our astral body. The
Angels form pictures in man's astral body...it is clear that they have a
very definite plan for the future configuration of social life on earth;
their aim is to engender in the astral bodies of men such pictures as
will bring about definite conditions in the social life of the future...
in forming these pictures the Angels work on a definite principle,
namely, that in the future no human being is to find peace in the
enjoyment of happiness if others beside him are unhappy. An impulse of
Brotherhood in the absolute sense, unification of the human race in
Brotherhood rightly understood -- this is to be the governing principle
of the social conditions in physical existence. 
That is the one principle in accordance with which the Angels form the
pictures in man's astral body.

But there is a second impulse in the work of the Angels. The Angels have
certain objectives in view, not only in connection with the outer social
life but also with man's life of soul. Through the pictures they
inculcate into the astral body their aim is that in future time every
human being shall see in each and all of his fellow-men a hidden

Quite clearly, then, according to the intention underlying the work of
the Angels, things are to be very different in future. Neither in theory
nor in practice shall we look only at man's physical qualities,
regarding him as a more highly developed animal, but we must confront
every human being with the full realisation that in him something is
revealing itself from the divine foundations of the world, revealing
itself through flesh and blood. To conceive man as a picture revealed
from the spiritual world, to conceive this with all the earnestness, all
the strength and all the insight at our command -- this is the impulse
laid by the Angels into the pictures...

Once this is fulfilled, there will be a very definite consequence. The
basis of all free religious feeling that will unfold in humanity in the
future will be the acknowledgment, not merely in theory but in actual
practice, that every human being is made in the likeness of the Godhead.
When that time comes there will be no need for any religious coercion;
for then every meeting between one man and another will of itself be in
the nature of a religious rite, a sacrament, and nobody will need a
special Church with institutions on the physical plane to sustain the
religious life. If the Church understands itself truly, its one aim must
be to render itself unnecessary on the physical plane, as the whole of
life becomes the expression of the supersensible.

The bestowal on man of complete freedom in the religious life -- this
underlies the impulses, at least, of the work of the Angels. 
And there is a third objective: To make it possible for men to reach the
Spirit through thinking, to cross the abyss and through thinking to
experience the reality of the Spirit.

Spiritual Science for the spirit, freedom of religious life for the
soul, brotherhood for the bodily life -- this resounds like cosmic music
through the work wrought by the Angels in the astral bodies of men. 
All that is necessary is to raise our consciousness to a different level
and we shall feel ourselves transported to this wonderful site of the
work done by the Angels in the human astral body...

After all this, you will understand me when I point out that this epoch
of the Spiritual Soul is heading towards the definite event, and that --
just because it is the Spiritual Soul that is involved -- it will depend
upon men themselves how this event takes effect in the evolution of
humanity. It may come a century earlier or a century later, but it is
bound to form part of the evolutionary process. It can be characterised
by saying: Purely through the Spiritual Soul, purely through their
conscious thinking, men must reach the point of actually perceiving what
the Angels are doing to prepare the future of humanity. The teachings of
Spiritual Science in this domain must become practical wisdom in the
life of humanity -- practical, because men can be convinced that it
belongs to their own wisdom to recognise the aims of the Angels...

But the progress of the human race towards freedom has already gone so
far that it depends upon man himself whether he will sleep through this
event or face it with fully wideawake consciousness. What would this
entail? To face this event with wideawake consciousness would entail the
study of Spiritual Science, which is possible to-day. Indeed nothing
else is really necessary. The practice of meditations of various kinds
and attention to the guidance given in the book Knowledge of the Higher
Worlds and its Attainment, will be an additional help. But the essential
step has already been taken when Spiritual Science is studied and really
consciously understood. Spiritual Science can be studied to-day without
developing clairvoyance faculties. Everyone on do so, who does not bar
his own way with his prejudices. And if people study Spiritual Science
more and more thoroughly, if they assimilate its concepts and ideas,
their consciousness will become so alert that instead of sleeping
through certain events, they will be fully aware of them.

These events can be characterised in greater detail, for to know what
the Angel is doing is only the preparatory stage. The essential point is
that at a definite time -- depending, as I have said, upon the attitude
men themselves adopt it will be earlier or later or at worst not at all
-- a threefold truth will be revealed to mankind by the Angels...

But let it be emphasised that this impending event confronts the will of
man. Many things that should lead to conscious awareness of this event
may be and indeed are being left undone.

But as you know, there are other beings working in world-evolution,
beings who are interested in deflecting man from his proper course:
these are the Ahrimanic and the Luciferic beings. What I have just said
belongs to the divinely-willed evolution of mankind. If man were to
follow the dictates of his own proper nature, he could not very well
fail to perceive what the Angel is unfolding in his astral body; but the
aim of the Luciferic beings is to tear men away from insight into the
work of the Angels. And they set about doing this by curbing man's free
will. They try to cloud his understanding of the exercise of his free
will. True, they desire to make him good -- for from the aspect of which
I am now speaking, Lucifer desires that there shall be goodness,
spirituality, in man -- but automatic goodness, automatic spirituality
-- without free will. Lucifer desires that man shall be led
automatically, in accordance with perfectly good principles, to
clairvoyance -- but he wants to deprive him of his free will, to remove
from him the possibility of evil-doing. Lucifer wants to make man into a
being who, it is true, acts out of the spirit, but acts as a reflection,
as an automaton, without free will.

This is connected with certain specific secrets of evolution. As you
know, the Luciferic beings have remained stationary at other stages of
evolution and they introduce an element that is foreign to the normal
evolutionary process. They are deeply interested in so seizing hold of
man that he does not unfold free will, because they themselves have not
acquired free will. Free will can be acquired only on the Earth but the
Luciferic beings want to have nothing to do with the Earth; they want
only Saturn-, Sun-, Moon-evolution, and to remain at those stages. In a
sense they hate the free will of man. Their manner of acting is highly
spiritual, but it is automatic -- that is a point of great significance
-- and they want to lift man to their own spiritual heights, to make him
an automaton -- a spiritual, but an automatically spiritual, being.
Thereby on the one side the danger would arise that prematurely, before
his Spiritual Soul is in full function, man would become a being whose
actions are those of a spiritual puppet and he would sleep through the
impending revelation.

But the Ahrimanic beings too are working to obscure this revelation.
They are not at pains to make man particularly spiritual, but rather to
kill out in him the consciousness of his own spirituality. They
endeavour to instill into him the conviction that he is nothing but a
completely developed animal. Ahriman is in truth the teacher par
excellence of materialistic Darwinism. He is also the great teacher of
all those technical and practical pursuits in Earth-evolution where
there is refusal to acknowledge the validity of anything except the
external life of the senses, where the only desire is for a widespread
technology, so that with somewhat greater refinement, men shall satisfy
their hunger, thirst and other needs in the same way as the animal. To
kill, to darken in man the consciousness that he is an image of the
Godhead -- this is what the Ahrimanic beings are endeavouring by subtle
scientific means of every kind to achieve in our age of the Spiritual

From this mention of the streams which run counter to the normal,
god-willed evolution of man it can be gathered how he must conduct his
life, lest the impending revelation finds him in a state of sleep. A
great danger may arise and men must be alert to it. If they are not,
instead of the event that should play a momentous part in shaping the
future evolution of the Earth, a great danger to this evolution will

And what if this should happen after all? What if humanity on earth
should persist in sleeping through the momentous spiritual revelation of
the future?...Here lies the great danger for the age of the Spiritual
Soul. This is what might still happen if, before the beginning of the
third millennium, men were to refuse to turn to the spiritual life. The
third millennium begins with the year 2000, so it is only a short time
ahead of us. It might still happen that the aim of the Angels in their
work would have to be achieved by means of the sleeping bodies of men --
instead of through men wideawake. The Angels might still be compelled to
withdraw their whole work from the astral body and to submerge it in the
etheric body in order to bring it to fulfillment. But then, in his real
being, man would have no part in it. It would have to be performed in
the etheric body while man himself was not there, just because if he
were there in the waking state, he would obstruct it. 

I have now given you a general picture of these things. But what would
be the outcome if the Angels were obliged to perform this work without
man himself participating, to carry it out in his etheric and physical
bodies during sleep?

The outcome in the evolution of humanity would unquestionably be
threefold. Firstly, something would be engendered in the sleeping human
bodies -- while the Ego and astral body were not within them -- and man
would meet with it on waking in the morning ... but then it would become
instinct instead of conscious spiritual activity and therefore baleful.
It is so indeed: certain instinctive knowledge that will arise in human
nature, instinctive knowledge connected with the mystery of birth and
conception, with sexual life as a whole, threatens to become baleful if
the danger of which I have spoken takes effect. Certain Angels would
then themselves undergo a change -- a change of which I cannot speak,
because this is a subject belonging to the higher secrets of
Initiation-Science which may not yet be disclosed. But this much can
certainly be said: The effect in the evolution of humanity would be that
certain instincts connected with the sexual life would arise in a
pernicious form instead of wholesomely, in clear waking consciousness.
These instincts would not be mere aberrations but would pass over into
and configure the social life, would above all prevent men -- through
what would then enter their blood as the effect of the sexual life --
from unfolding brotherhood in any form whatever on the earth, and would
rather induce them to rebel against it. This would be a matter of

So the crucial point lies ahead when either the path to the right can be
taken -- but that demands wakefulness -- or the path to the left, which
permits of sleep. But in that case instincts come on the scene --
instincts of a fearful kind.

And what do you suppose the scientific experts will say when such
instincts come into evidence? They will say that it is a natural and
inevitable development in the evolution of humanity. Light cannot be
shed on such matters by natural science, for whether men become angels
or devils would be equally capable of explanation by scientific
reasoning. Science will say the same in both cases: the later is the
outcome of the earlier ... so grand and wise is the interpretation of
nature in terms of causality! Natural science will be totally blind to
the event of which I have told you, for if men become half devils
through their sexual instincts, science will as a matter of course
regard this as a natural necessity. Scientifically, then, the matter is
simply not capable of explanation, for whatever happens, everything can
be explained by science. The fact is that such things can be understood
only by spiritual, supersensible cognition. That is the one aspect. 
The second aspect is that from this work which involves changes
affecting the Angels themselves, still another result accrues for
humanity: instinctive knowledge of certain medicaments -- but knowledge
of a baleful kind!

Everything connected with medicine will make a great advance in the
materialistic sense. Men will acquire instinctive insights into the
medicinal properties of certain substances and certain treatments -- and
thereby do terrible harm. But the harm will be called useful. A sick man
will be called healthy, for it will be perceived that the particular
treatment applied leads to something pleasing. People will actually like
things that make the human being -- in a certain direction -- unhealthy. 
Knowledge of the medicinal effects of certain processes and treatments
will be enhanced, but this will lead into very baleful channels. For man
will come to know through certain instincts, what kind of illnesses can
be induced by particular substances and treatments. And it will then be
possible for him either to bring about or not to bring about illnesses,
entirely as suits his egotistical purposes.

The third result will be this. Man will get to know of definite forces
which, simply by means of quite easy manipulations -- by bringing into
accord certain vibrations -- will enable him to unleash tremendous
mechanical forces in the world. Instinctively he will come to realise in
this way the possibility of exercising a certain spiritual guidance and
control of the mechanistic principle -- and the whole of technical
science will sail into desolate waters. But human egoism will find these
desolate waters of tremendous use and benefit.

This, my friends, is a fragment of concrete knowledge of the evolution
of existence, a fragment of a conception of life which can be truly
assessed only by those who realise that an unspiritual view of life can
never grow clear about these things. If a form of medicine injurious to
humanity were ever to take root, if a terrible aberration of the sexual
instincts were to arise, if there were baleful doings in the sphere of
the purely mechanistic forces of the world, in the application of the
forces of nature by means of spiritual powers, an unspiritual conception
of life would see through none of these things, would not perceive how
they deviate from the true path ... The sleeper, as long as sleep lasts,
does not see the approach of a thief who is about to rob him; he is
unaware of it and at most he finds out later on, when he wakes, what has
been done to him. But it would be a bad awakening for humanity! Man
would pride himself upon the growth of his instinctive knowledge of
certain processes and substances and would experience such satisfaction
in obeying certain aberrations of the sexual impulses that he would
regard them as evidence of a particularly high development of
superhumanity, of freedom from convention, of broad-mindedness! In a
certain respect, ugliness would be beauty and beauty, ugliness. Nothing
of this would be perceived because it would all be regarded as natural
necessity. But it would denote an aberration from the path which, in the
nature of humanity itself, is prescribed for man's essential being.

Source: http://www.elib.com/Steiner/Lectures/WorkAngel.phtml
Exerpts from a lecture By: Rudolf Steiner
Zurich, 9th October, 1918 -- (GA 182).

Translated by D. S. Osmond with the help of Owen Barfield.



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