In Christian esotericism there are nine ranks of spiritual beings who are older in cosmic evolution than human beings: they are traditionally referred to as the ‘Spiritual Hierarchies’. We Human Beings are the group of younger spirits currently undergoing spiritual initiation and awakening on the Earth, to join the ranks of the Spiritual hierarchies below, listed from the highest (most evolved) beings downward:
- SERAPHIM – Spirits of Love
- CHERUBIM – Spirits of Harmony
- THRONES – Spirits of Will
- KYRIOTETES – Spirits of Wisdom
- DYNAMIS – Spirits of Motion
- ELOHIM – Spirits of Form
- ARCHAI – Spirits of Time, Spirits of Personality
- ARCHANGELS – Spirits of Fire
- ANGELS – Spirits of Life
- HUMANS – Spirits of Love and Freedom
For our present topic we are most concerned with the Hierarchy of the Archangels. Within the Western esoteric tradition there are many different Archangels described; the four most important of these are Michael, Raphael, Uriel, and Gabriel. ‘El’ is the common suffix of all their names, indicating a Divine Being in the Hebrew language.
Archangel Michael’s name is pronounced by Rosicrucians as Mi-cha-el (MEE-ka-el) which means ‘Who is as God’; Michael is also known to the Rosicrucians as the ‘Lord of the Cosmic Intelligence’ and the ‘Countenance of Christ’. He is the most advanced of the Archangels, who is in direct Resonance with the Sun forces of the Christ being.
Archangel Raphael’s name (RA-Fa-El) means “The Healing Power of God.”
Archangel Gabriel’s name (GAH-Bree-El) in Hebrew means “The Strong One of God” or the “Hero of God.” Many of Gabriel’s aspects are Feminine, such as being the Archangel of Birth and the Moon forces in general (it was Gabriel at the Annunciation to Mary that announced she would bear Jesus.)
Archangel Uriel’s name (OO-ra-el or OO-ree-el) in Hebrew means “Sun of God.” Uriel is often associated with a silvery-white radiance, and is the most mysterious of the Four Archangels.
The four primary Archangels are not metaphors, or symbols, as we tend to think of spiritual beings in our present materialistic culture. They are powerful living beings, who strongly affect the Earth and all human beings. These influences from the Archangels (and other spiritual beings known to the Christian Initiation tradition, as well as other great world traditions) affect people of average spiritual development primarily through their SUB-CONSCIOUS, below the level of their conscious awareness, because most of us have not developed our spiritual organs of perception enough to clearly perceive these immaterial beings and their activities. Initiates develop the capacity to directly perceive the Angelic and Archangelic Beings and their activities (and even higher Spiritual Hierarchies as well, depending on the level of Initiation a person has attained.)
These four Archangels are prominent in much of the traditional literature. As a four-fold group, they are mentioned in texts such as the Sibylline Oracles (where they are termed “the servants of eternal god”) and the Ethiopian text Epistula Apostolorum (in which the risen Christ notes that they accompanied him in the spiritual world).
The four archangels have a particular relationship regarding their place in the cycle of the seasons. When the Archangel is in the season of their rulership, they take the role of the ‘Cosmic Spirit’: they permeate nature and the Cosmos with their activity from ‘above’. As their season ends, they begin their ‘descent’, culminating in the season opposite to their rulership when they permeate humanity with their activity.
For instance, Archangel Uriel is the ruler of the Summer, at which time he can be perceived above with his serious and penetrating discernment of the spiritual qualities in all living beings; in the opposite season, Winter, Uriel is most deeply present by the side of human beings. Uriel is connected to forces of thought, and it is in the winter that mankind unites with the Earth as a thinking being in the Universe. Uriel’s intelligence arises from the interactions of planetary forces in our solar system in association with the zodiacal forces. In the Earth in summer the crystalline geometries shine with silver light, which rises upward on the ether streams to meet the sunlight; this initiates a process of cosmic alchemy in which the Earth-Silver is transmuted into Cosmic Gold above. This Sun-Gold descends with the Ether streams back into the Earth in Winter, where it nurtures within the Earth the elements of life which will emerge in Nature in the Spring.
Uriel’s appearance – a somber, keenly discerning look – arises from his inner experience comparing the beautiful regular geometries of the living crystals in the Earth with the distorted forms taken by human misdeeds in the ether. He has a gesture of warning, of awakening, to call humans to see their faults and transform them into virtues. He can also perceive within his garment of Sun-Gold the essence of human loving virtuous action, as a living vibrational force in the world.
Summer (St. John’s Tide) – Uriel above, Gabriel below permeating humanity with formative forces of nourishment.
Fall (Michaelmas) – Michael above, Raphael below permeates human breathing (all healing has an original connection to breath). Michael’s sword cleanses the Earth’s astral forces to prepare for the Holy Nights, this is the battle with the Dragon with a maiden threatened in the background (the maiden is the Divine Sophia, the true living soul of the Earth and its emanation into the soul forces of every human being, threatened by the spiritual beings which encourage materialism and greed within the human soul.)
Winter (Christ-Mass) – Gabriel radiates from above with her mild, loving, and nurturing nature, Uriel below permeates human thinking.
Spring (Easter) – Raphael radiates from above with healing forces in the cosmos, Michael below permeates human will and movement.
(Note that these polarity pairs [Raphael – Michael, Gabriel – Uriel] can be used as a foundation for an effective variation on the octahedral ‘Grail Temple’ meditative practice taught in the Vesica Institute Rosicrucian courses. Bearing in mind that the archangels can be varied in their positions from their traditional orientation, in this case we would place Raphael in the direction opposite Michael, and Gabriel in the direction opposite Uriel.)
There is a further relationship in which the Four Archangels bring forces of healing to human beings. Gabriel brings the cosmic forces of nutrition and nourishment into humans in Midsummer; these nutrition forces are handed over to Raphael in Fall as he penetrates into human breathing, so that these nutrition forces alchemically combine with the breathing process to become forces of healing. (The combination of nourishing vibrational forces with our breathing process is a secret of many classical spiritual traditions.)
These healing forces are then handed over to Uriel in the Winter as he penetrates humanity; the breathing forces rise into the human head, where the healing forces become the spiritual forces behind thinking and sensory perception (this was known to Hippocrates and Galen, and is suggested in their writings). So the passing of these forces from one Archangel to another is like passing a Golden Chalice, a Grail, in which nutritive forces in the metabolism transmute to healing forces in the breathing, which transmute again to thinking forces in the head. Michael then receives these forces from Uriel; through the power of cosmic Iron (Michael’s sword) the thinking forces transmute into forces of movement.
When the Rosicrucian student / Initiate meditates upon this reality, we then know which Archangel to resonate with in order to strengthen our
* Nourishment (Gabriel)
* Healing through the Breath (Raphael)
* Clear Thinking and Discernment (Uriel)
* Movement (Michael)
In reality, these qualities are not static, just as the Four Archangels are not completely separate: these essential powers flow dynamically one into another, in an act of beautiful cosmic alchemy, behind the scenes of the changing seasons on the Earth.
How rich are the seasons when, as conscious Initiates, we learn to directly perceive these Divine Forces in their dance of life. The Archangels become our conscious companions, and we manifest their power in service to others on the Earth.
These teachings are taken further, including into practical exercises, in the Vesica Institute Rosicrucian series of courses.
In addition to our upcoming live and online courses, see our sample Rosicrucian videos (from a live 2002 training) on YouTube under ROSICRUCIAN INITIATION.
Also see Rudolf Steiner’s important text THE FOUR SEASONS AND THE ARCHANGELS.