Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts
16. What is Revealed When One Looks Back into Repeated Lives on Earth
When we are able to look back with spiritual knowledge into the former Earth-lives of a human being, we find that there are a number of such lives in which man was already a ‘person.’ His outward form was similar to what it is today, and he had an inner life of individual stamp and character. Earthly lives emerge, revealing that the Intellectual or Mind-Soul was present in them, but not as yet the Spiritual Soul; others appear, in which only the Sentient Soul was developed — and so forth.
We find it so in the epochs of Earthly History, and indeed it was so long before these epochs.
But as we look back still farther, we come into ages of time when it was not yet so — ages in which we find Man interwoven still, both in his inner life and in his outer formation, with the world of Divine-Spiritual Beings. Man is already there as earthly man, but he is not yet detached from Divine Spiritual Being, Thinking and Willing.
And in yet earlier epochs man as a separate being disappears altogether; there are present only the Divine Spiritual Beings, bearing man within them.
Man has undergone these three stages of evolution during his earthly time. The transition from the first to the second took place in the latest epoch of Lemuria; that from the second to the third in Atlantean times.
Now just as in his present earthly life man bears his experiences within him in the shape of memory, so does he bear within him as a cosmic memory all that he has undergone in the way above described.
What is the earthly life of the soul? It is the world of our memories, ready at every moment to have fresh perceptions. In this interplay of memory and fresh experience, man lives, his inner life on Earth.
But this inner life on Earth could not unfold at all if there were not present still in man, as a cosmic memory, what we see when we look back with spiritual vision into the first stage of his becoming Earthly Man — the stage in which he was not yet detached from Divine-Spiritual Being.
Of all that took place in the world at that time, there is livingly present on the Earth today, that alone which is unfolded within the human system of nerves and senses. In outer Nature, all the forces that were then at work have died and can now only be seen in their dead forms.
Thus in the human world of Thought there lives as a present manifestation something which, in order to have earthly existence, requires as its basis the very thing that was already evolved in man before he attained individual, earthly being.
Every time he passes through the life between death and a new birth, man experiences this stage anew. But into the world of Divine-Spiritual Beings, which receives him again even as it once entirely contained him — into this world he now carries his full individual existence which has taken shape during his lives on Earth. Between death and a new birth, man is indeed in the present, but he is living also in all the time that he has undergone through repeated lives on Earth and lives between death and a new birth.
It is different with that which lives in the Feeling-world of man. This is related to those experiences of the past which came immediately after the ones in which man was yet unmanifest as such. It is related, that is to say, to experiences which man already underwent as man but when he was not yet separated from Divine-Spiritual Being, Thinking and Willing. Man in the present could not unfold the world of Feeling if it did not arise on the foundation of his rhythmic system. And in his rhythmic system we have the cosmic memory of the above-described second stage of his evolution.
Thus in the world of Feeling the ‘present’ in the human soul is working together with that which works on in him from an ancient time.
In the life between death and a new birth, man experiences the contents of the epoch of which we are here speaking as the boundary of his Cosmos. What the starry heavens are to man in the physical life on Earth, his existence between his full union with the Divine-Spiritual world and his severance from it, is to him spiritually in the life between death and a new birth. In that life, there appear to him at the ‘world-boundary’, not the physical heavenly bodies, but in the place of each star the sum-total of Divine-Spiritual Beings, who, as we know, are in reality the star.
Connected with the Will alone and not with Feeling or with Thought, there lives in man that which is manifested by those earthly lives which, when we look back on them, reveal already the personal, individual character. That which from cosmic sources gives to man his outer form, is preserved in this outer form as a cosmic memory. This cosmic memory lives in the human form as a totality of forces. But these are not the immediate forces of the Will; they represent that in the human organism which is the foundation of the forces of the Will.
In the life between death and a new birth, this region of the human being lies beyond the ‘world-boundary.’ Man there conceives of it as of something that will belong to him once more in his new life on Earth.
In his system of nerves and senses, man is today still united with the Cosmos in the way he was when he was manifest only germinally within the Divine-Spiritual womb.
In his rhythmic system, man is today still living in the Cosmos in the way he lived when he was already there as man, but not yet detached from the Divine-Spiritual.
In his system of metabolism and limbs — the foundation for the unfolding of his Will — man lives in such a way that all that he has undergone in his personal individual lives on Earth, ever since these began, and in his lives between death and a new birth, works on within this system.
From the forces of the Earth, man receives that alone which gives him consciousness of self. The physical bodily foundation of self-consciousness is due also to what the Earth brings about. But everything else in the human being has a cosmic origin, external to the Earth.
The sentient and thought-bearing astral body with its etheric-physical foundation, all the moving life in the etheric body, and even that which works physico-chemically in the physical body, is of extra-earthly origin. Strange as this may seem, the physico-chemical which is at work within the human being is not derived from the Earth.
The fact that man evolves this extra-earthly, cosmic life within him, is due to the working of the planets and other stars. All that he thus unfolds, the Sun with its forces carries to the Earth. By the Sun, the human-cosmic element is transplanted into the earthly realms. By the Sun, man lives as a heavenly being on the Earth. And that alone, whereby he transcends his own human formation — namely, his power to bring forth his kind — is a gift of the Moon.
Needless to say these are not the only influences of Sun and Moon. Lofty spiritual influences also proceed from them.
When about Christmas-time the Sun increases more and more in power for the Earth, it is the yearly influence — manifesting rhythmically in the physical-earthly realm — which is an expression of the Spirit in Nature. The evolution of mankind is a single member in what we may describe as a gigantic cosmic year, as will be evident from our preceding studies. And in this cosmic year the cosmic Christmas is at the point where the Sun not only works towards the Earth out of the Spirit of Nature, but where the Christ-Spirit, the Soul of the Sun, descends on to the Earth.
As in the single human being what he experiences individually is connected with the cosmic memory, so will the human soul have a right feeling of the yearly Christmas when he conceives the heavenly and cosmic Christ-Event as working on and on, comprehending it as a memory not only human but cosmic. For at Christmas-time not only man remembers in celebration the descent of Christ, but the Cosmos does so too.
(about New Year, 1925)
Further Leading Thoughts issued from the Goetheanum for the Anthroposophical Society (with respect to the preceding study: ‘What is revealed when one looks back into repeated Lives on Earth’)
144. Looking back into a human being's repeated lives on Earth, we find three distinct stages. In a remote past, man did not exist with individuality of being, but as a germ in the Divine and Spiritual. As we look back into this stage we find not yet a human being but Divine-Spiritual Beings: the Primal Forces, Principalities or Archai.
145. This was followed by an intermediate stage. Man existed already with individuality of being, but he was not yet detached from the Thinking and Willing and Being of the Divine-Spiritual World. At this stage he had not yet his present personality, with which he appears on Earth as a being completely self-possessed, detached from the Divine Spiritual World.
146. The present condition is the third and latest. Here man experiences himself in human form and figure, detached from the Divine-Spiritual World; and he experiences the world as an environment with which he stands face to face, individually and personally. This stage began in Atlantean time.