by Michael Warden
The Age of the Consciousness Soul (1414 – 3574) is the time more than any other in human evolution when we are cut off from our spiritual origins, from wholeness, from connectedness. There is a reason of course: so that self-consciousness and the potential for authentic freedom can arise. It is the time for overcoming the physical world, learning about it and mastering it, at both outer and inner levels. The former is the driver for science, sporting endeavor, the arts and other noble human activities, and the latter an opportunity to overcome materiality´s darkness and its potential for evil, which exists specifically as the foil against which such authentic freedom can be developed.
The light and the enabling power of that authentic freedom develops through the ongoing process of the second coming of Christ (the etheric coming) which began in 1899, and deepens continuously until the year 4399.
Yet we cannot escape the reality of the reaction against that unfolding light in the activities of Ahriman whose physical incarnation is anticipated in the near future. The world is everywhere torn by Ahriman´s activity: oppression, surveillance, savage conflicts, political corruption, financial obsession, drug addiction, technology worship, and disasters of which Haiti, Deepwater Horizon and Fukushima are only some of the most recent. The horror and suffering is overwhelming. It can hardly be overstated. At the same time, it must be recognized as the shadow side of the ongoing second coming: as we are confronted with the darkest and direst of trials, the power to overcome them is also increasingly available to us at the individual level.
Taking a cosmic perspective can clarify not only the reasons for our situation, but also specific milestones of hope. Robert Powell for instance, in his wonderful essay ´Subnature and the Second Coming´, (featured in The Inner Life of the Earth, Steiner Books) develops a detailed astrological and symbolical correspondence between the phases of the second coming in which the etheric Christ successively penetrates each of ten layers of the Earth´s interior, and the Ahrimanic forces released from each of those subterranean layers by way of reaction. In doing so he , gives us an understanding of both the cyclically released forces of darkness, and the new powers of light against which they arise.
Another ´milestone of hope´ with very imminent relevance is one marked by the movements of Venus: Venus passes between the Earth and the Sun five times every eight years, each time against a different point of the zodiac. Those five points mark out a pentagram or five pointed star around the earth, which rotates its position slowly, coming back to its starting point every twelve hundred years. Rudolf Steiner indicated that this period of twelve hundred years has a direct correspondence to shifting cultural rhythms: while astrological ages begin every 2160 years (Age of Pisces in the year 215 and Age of Aquarius in 2375 etc), the cultural ages which correspond to them do not begin until one complete cycle of the ´Venus pentagram´ has been completed. Thus while the Age of Pisces began in 215 the cultural age corresponding to it did not begin until 1414. This is the Age of the Consciousness Soul, with its beginning marked by the scientific enlightenment, and its progress marked by the widespread rise of self awareness and analytical ability, and equally by the attendant challenges of egotism. Further however, the half rhythm of the Venus pentagram also marks great cultural shift. Thus 2014, marking 600 years since the beginning of the Age of the Consciousness Soul, also marks the biggest cultural shift since the Enlightenment. We cannot know exactly what that will bring, for much of that lies in our own hands, but both culture and the Christ impulse will be, as Rudolf Steiner said, “enriched by something new”. Perhaps some seeds of that are already visible. We see movements developing for ethical banking, inspired minorities in the scientific community pioneering more inclusive visions of science, and a growing trend for protest movements to embrace the principles of non-violence; the movements against the second Iraq war, the ´15th May´ movement in Spain, and the ´Occupy´ movements in the USA, Britain and many other countries have all been more specifically aligned to the principles of non-violence for instance than protest against the Vietnam war, Seattle in 1999, and the ´May Day´ protests which followed that in London. Clearly these are only seeds: the Ahrimanic onslaught has not yet peaked and the struggle between light and darkness continues far into the future. Yet with a cosmic perspective the turning point, as well as the meaning, of our times can be seen as clearly as its challenges. The influx of light increases for those who would engage in the individual struggle for understanding and transcendence.