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  The Angels' Morning and Evening Perceptions

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By: Wolf-Ulrich Kluenker, Ph.D.
(Original title: Morgen- und Abenderkenntnis der Engel.Mitteilungen der Anthroposoph-ischen Gesellschaft in Deutschland. English by A. R. Meuss, FIL, MTA.)

In an ordinary day, morning is the origin of day and evening its conclusion. In this sense, perception of the original entity of things is known as "morning perception." This prevails insofar as things are in the (divine) Word. Perception of the entity of the created thing, insofar as it exists in its own essential nature, is called "evening perception." For the entity of things flows from the (divine) Word as from a source and origin; and this flowing out comes to an end in the entity of things which they have in their own essential nature.(1) This is how St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) describes the angels' two ways of perception. He had taken up the concept of the angels' morning and evening perceptions which St. Augustine (354-130) published in his Close Exegesis of Genesis. It is worth noting that this refers to the origin of things, that is, a developmental process (as we would call it today).
Below an attempt will be made to relate medieval views of the angels' twofold perception to Rudolf Steiner's references to morning and evening processes. Armin Scheffler's thoughts on the subject (v.s.) may be taken as study for this. The questions arising in this area of research are many, for we have to see how a perceptive faculty of the third hierarchy gradually makes the transition to the human sphere. It may be assumed that Rudolf Steiner's work in this respect does not stand in isolation in cultural history and clearly relates to the evolution of the human mind, even if Steiner himself did not specifically refer to this.

Transitional phenomena and movement of perception
Interestingly enough, Thomas Aquinas' first explanatory note gives a fuller definition of morning and evening perceptions (cognitio matutina et versper-tina): these, he says, do not mean a particular "admixture of darkness," but images representing beginning and end.(2) This shows (a) that he is speaking of a reality in the non-physical realm and (b) that he is referring to transitional situations, not completely dark nor full light, as is evident from the phrase "admixture of darkness."

The mode of perception is also transitional, a process. This becomes evident where Thomas Aquinas says that the "good," i.e. not fallen, angels must not stop at evening perception: "That would mean to darken and turn to night,"(3) clearly saying that perception of things in their essential nature must be taken forward into morning perception, that is, perception of things in the divine Word. In other words, night has to be left aside or bridged in some way. Perception of the genuine condition of things must be linked again with perception of the seed of their becoming. In this sense, Thomas Aquinas was able to say elsewhere:

Evening is connected with darkness but still has some light. Once the light has fully gone, it is night. Perception of things, by its very nature, also has... something of the divine light and may, thus, be said to have evening nature. Yet if it is not related to God - as in the case of demons - it is called not evening light but night-like.(4)

Thus, is it necessary to avoid total bias, which may also be called "staring into the night.
Thomas Aquinas emphasized that midday, too, should not be taken as a time of day but the "center between two opposite extremes." It is not a question, therefore, of specific points in perception but of the process as a whole, a movement of perception. He related this processual nature, in complex fashion, to the kind of perception. What holds true for the object sphere must also hold true for the subject of perception: object and subject must be of one accord in movement character. This is extraordinarily interesting, but space does not permit us to go into it.(5) At this point, we come close to Armin Scheffler's view when he relates Rudolf Steiner's statements concerning morning and evening processes directly to the scientist's attitude. The movement character in perceiver and perceived may be seen as the mediator of perception; or in Thomas Aquinas' words: "The angels' evening perception relates to that gained in the morning.. ."(6)

Subject and object
Thomas Aquinas' reference to the "threefold entity of things" is particularly remarkable in the context: in the divine Word in our own nature and in the angelic spirit.(7) Here, the relationship between object of perception and perceiver emerges clearly - the entity of things lies not only within them as both seed and end but also in the perceptive spirit.

Logically, this leads to a further thought, which is that the sequence of morning and evening processes must be seen as not only a sequence in time but also a sequence of inner activity in the perceiver. Morning and evening perception is, thus, not necessarily connected with specific times of day but with the perceptive movement and attitude of the perceiver. The reason Thomas Aquinas gave for this was that an angel was not subject to heavenly motion but capable of independent perceptive activity.(8) This would, of course, also apply to the human mind emancipated from the hierarchies. In his lectures on Thomas Aquinas, Rudolf Steiner spoke of the need "for a science of the spirit to bring the realistic elements of high scholasticism into our scientific age." It was a matter of "making the life of perception a real factor in world evolution."(9) It is hoped the above will encourage further research in this field.

1 Aquinas, Thomas. Summa theologiae 1,58,6.
2 Ibid, 1,58,6 ad 1.
3 Ibid, 1,58,6 ad 2.
4 Ibid, 164,1 ad 3.
5 See also Ibid, 1,58,7.
6 Ibid, 1,58,7 ad 2.
7 Ibid, 158,6,3.
8 Ibid, 1,63,6 ad 4.
9 Steiner R. Die Philosophic des Thomas mn Alfuino (GA 74). Lecture of 24 May 1920.

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