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Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts
GA 26

17. What is Revealed When One Looks Back into Former Lives Between Death and a New Birth

A study in two parts: Part one.

In our last study we followed human life as a whole by turning our attention to the successive lives on Earth. The second point of view, which can throw still more light upon what was revealed by the first, is yielded when we consider the successive lives between death and new birth.

Here also we see that the content of these lives, such as they are at the present time, goes back only to a certain point of time in earthly evolution. Their content is determined by the circumstance that man carries with him through the gate of death the inward power of self-consciousness gained in earthly life. This also enables him to confront as an individual the Divine-Spiritual Beings into whose presence he comes.

This was not the case in a preceding period. At that time man had not yet progressed very far in the unfolding of his self-consciousness. The power gained on Earth was insufficient to detach him from the Divine-Spiritual Beings and so give him individual existence between death and new birth. Not that man was then within the Divine-Spiritual Beings, but he was within their sphere of influence, so that his will was essentially their will, not his own.

Before this period there lies another in which, as we look back, we do not meet with man in his present constitution of soul and spirit at all, but we find a world of Divine Spiritual Beings within whom man only exists germinally. These Beings are the Primal Forces, the Archai.

And indeed, if we trace back the life of one human being, we find not one Divine-Spiritual Being but all the Beings that belong to this Hierarchy.

In these Divine-Spiritual Beings lives the will that man shall be. The will of all these Beings plays a part in the ‘becoming’ of each single human being. The cosmic aim of their harmonious co-operation is the production of the human form; for man is still without form in the Divine-Spiritual World.

It may seem strange that the whole choir of Divine Spiritual Beings should work for a single human being. But the Hierarchies of the Exusiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes, Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim also worked in this way at a still earlier stage throughout the Moon, Sun and Saturn evolutions, in order that man might come into being.

What had previously originated as a kind of pre-human being on Saturn, Sun and Moon, had no uniform shape. Some of these pre-human beings were chiefly organised with respect to the limbs-system, others with respect to the breast system, others again with respect to the head-system. These were actual human beings; we describe them here as pre-human only in order to distinguish them from the later stage, when the union of all these systems appears in the human form. The differentiation among them goes even further, for we may speak of heart-men, lung-men, etc.

The Hierarchy of the Primal Forces considered it their task to lead into the general human form all these pre-human beings, whose soul-life also corresponded to their one-sided formation. They took over Man from the hands of the Exusiai. The latter had already in thought created unity out of the human multiplicity; but among the Exusiai this unity was still an ideal form, a World-thought-form. Out of this the Archai moulded the etheric form, and this form already contained the forces which made it possible for the physical shape to originate.

When we observe these things a stupendous fact is revealed, viz., that man is the ideal and aim of Gods. But this vision cannot be for man the source of vanity and pride; for he may only reckon, as coming from himself, what he has with full self-consciousness made out of himself during earthly life. And, expressed in cosmic proportions, this is little as compared with that foundation for his individual being which the Gods have created out of the macrocosm which they themselves are, as the microcosm, which he is. The Divine Spiritual Beings confront one another in the Cosmos. The visible expression of this fact is the form of the starry heavens. They wished to create in a unity as Man all that they themselves are as a choir.

In order really to understand what the whole choir of the Hierarchy of the Archai accomplished when they created the human form, we must remember that there is a very great difference between this form and the physical body of man. The physical body is made up of the physical and chemical processes in man. These processes take place in the present human being within the human form. But this form itself is something that is altogether spiritual. It ought to fill us with solemn feelings when, on looking at the human form, we realise that with physical senses we are perceiving in the physical world something that is spiritual. For one who is able to see spiritually it is really the case that in the human form he sees a true Imagination which has descended into the physical world. If we wish to see Imaginations we must pass from the physical world to the neighbouring spiritual world, and then we realise how the human form is related to these Imaginations.

When with the inner vision of the soul man looks back over the lives between death and a new birth he finds a first period during which this human form originated. And at the same time the deeper relation that exists between man and the Hierarchy of the Archai is revealed.

During this period there is just an indication of the difference between earthly life and the life between death and new birth. For the Hierarchy of the Archai works in rhythmical epochs at the development of the human form. In one period of their work the Archai direct the thoughts which guide their several wills more towards the Cosmos beyond the Earth; at another time they look down to the Earth. And out of the co-operation of what is aroused from the Cosmos and from the Earth the human form is developed, which is thus the expression of the fact that man is an Earth-being and at the same time an extra-earthly, cosmic being.

But the human form, here described as the creation of the Hierarchy of the Archai, comprises not merely the external outline of man and the formation of the surface as it is determined by the limit of the skin, but also the formation of the forces contained in his carriage, in his power of movement, which is adapted to the conditions on the Earth, and in the capacity to use his body as a means whereby to express his inner being.

It is owing to this creative work of the Hierarchy of the Archai that man is able to assume his upright position within the earthly conditions of gravity, that within these conditions he can maintain his balance while moving freely, that he can liberate his arms and hands from the force of gravity and use them freely—all this he owes to the Archai, in addition to much more that lies within him and yet has form. All this is prepared during the life which may also for this period be called the life between death and a new birth. It is here prepared in such a manner that, in the third period, at the present time, man is himself able, during his life between death and a new birth, to work at this form for his earthly existence.

(New Year, 1925)

Further Leading Thoughts issued from the Goetheanum for the Anthroposophical Society (in connection with the foregoing study: What is revealed when one looks back into former lives between death and a new birth?)

147. Man's lives between death and a new birth also show three distinct periods. In the first of these, he lived entirely within the Hierarchy of the Archai, who prepared, for the physical world, the human form and figure which he was afterwards to bear.

148. Thus the Archai prepared the human being subsequently to unfold the free Self-consciousness. For this Self-consciousness can only evolve in beings who can show it forth, in the form and figure which was here created, out of an inner impulse of the soul.

149. In this we see how qualities and powers of Mankind, becoming manifest in the present cosmic age, were laid down in germ in ages long gone by. We see how the Microcosm grows out of the Macrocosm.