The Michael Mystery

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.


What is seen on looking back into Man's previous Lives between Death and the new Birth (I)

In the last contemplation we followed the course of human life as a whole by directing the soul's observation to the series of successive earth-lives. The other point of view, putting what the first reveals into a still clearer light, will be to study the successive lives between death and the new birth.

Here again it will be observed that the content of these lives, as it is in the present age, only goes back to a certain point of time in the earth's evolution. The content of life between death and new birth in the present age is conditioned — as we know — by the fact that Man carries that inward power of Self-consciousness, which he has acquired in earth-life, on with him through the gates of death. Man thereby holds his ground as an individuality, even amongst those divine spiritual beings into whose midst he comes.

It was not so in a period that preceded this one. There, Man was not yet far advanced in the development of his Self-consciousness. The power then acquired upon earth was not yet sufficient to carry his detachment from the divine spiritual world to the extent of an individual existence between death and new birth. Although Man was no longer within the divine spiritual beings themselves, he was still so much within their sphere of action that his willing was essentially their willing, not his.

Before this period is another, in which, on looking back, we do not meet with Man at all, such as he is in his present constitution of spirit and soul, but with the world of divine spirit-beings within whom is Man, still in an embryonic state. These beings are the Primeval Powers (the Archai.)

Moreover, when we trace back the life of one man, we meet not with one divine spirit-being, but with all the beings belonging to that hierarchy.

In these divine spirit-beings lives the will that Man should be; and in the coming into being of every single man, the will of them all has a part. Through the conjoined labours of the whole Choir of these beings runs a world-aim and object: the naissance of the human form. For Man lives unformed as yet in the spirit-world.

It seems strange perhaps, that even for one man alone the whole choir of divine spiritual beings should be working together. But so, before them, has worked the Hierarchies of the Exusiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes, Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim — throughout the Moon, Sun and Saturn evolutions to bring Man into being.

What had before resulted — a kind of Pre-Man, on Saturn, Sun and Moon — had no uniform shape. There were some pre-men of this kind with whom the organization tended more towards a limb-system — with others again, more towards a breast system — with others again, more towards the head. These were real men, nevertheless; they are only called pre-men here, to distinguish them from the alter stage, in which all the systems are seen blended together in the human form. The differentiation in these pre-men goes even further; one might speak of ‘heart-men,’ ‘lung-men,’ and so one.

The Hierarchy of Primeval Powers regard it as their especial task to lead over into one common human form all these pre-men, whose soul-life corresponded also to their one-sided formation. They take Man over from the hands of the Exusiai. In Thought, the Exusiai had already made out of the multifariousness of Man a unity. But with them this unity was still an Ideal form, a World-Thought-form. From this, the Archai shaped the ether-form, but in such a way that in this ethereal form were ready-contained the forces for the future development of the physical form.

A tremendous prospect opens up in contemplation of these facts: Man is of Gods the ideal, of Gods the end and aim. But the contemplation of this can be for Man no source of arrogance or pride. For Man can only count his own, as coming from himself, what he has made of himself self-consciously during his earth-lives; and this, expressed in cosmic proportions, is but little, compared with that substructure upon which his personal being rests — which the Gods have created, out of the Macrocosm that they are, to be the Microcosm that he is. The divine spirit-Beings hold the balance, one with another, in the Cosmos. The visible expression of their mutual balance is the form of the starry Heavens. What they are there, all together, they willed to create as a single unity.

Rightly to understand what it was that the Hierarchy of Archai accomplished when in choir they created the human form, it must be remembered that a very great difference exists between this Form and Man's physical body. ‘Physical body’ is all that goes on by way of physical and chemical processes in the human being. With the man of the present age, all this goes on within the lines of the human Form. But this human Form itself is through and through a thing of Spirit. Strange indeed, and solemn! With physical senses in the physical world to behold a Spirit-thing in Man's Form! To anyone who possesses spiritual sight, this human Form appears in fact as a real Imagination, come down into the physical world. To see Imaginations, one must go out of the physical into the neighbouring spiritual world; and then one sees how similar the human Form is to these Imaginations.

The emergence of this Human Form marks the first period in the retrospect, when the human soul looks back over its lives between death and new birth. At the same time is revealed the depth of the relation which exists between Man and the Hierarchy of the Archai.

Even at this period, one can already speak of at least the intimation of a difference between earth-life and life between death and new birth. The Hierarchy of Archai work rhythmically, in alternating epochs, at the making of Man's Form. In doing so, they at one time direct the thoughts by which the will of each of them is directed, more towards the Cosmos outside of the Earth. Another time they gaze down upon the Earth. And the combined influence of what comes from the Earth, and what comes from the Cosmos outside the Earth, gives shape to the human Form, which is thus an actual expression of Man's being at the same time a terrestrial and an extra-terrestrial cosmic being.

The human Form here described, as created by the Hierarchy of the Archai, includes however not merely the exterior contours of the figure and the surface-modeling as marked by the boundary of the skin, but also all the lines of force involved in the man's carriage, in the adjustment of his powers of movement to the conditions of earth, and in his ability to make his body an organ of expression for the life within.

That Man can assume an upright posture under earthly conditions of gravitation; that he can preserve his balance amidst them, whilst moving freely; that he can release his arms and hands from the weight of gravitation, and use them in freedom — all this and much else, which lies inside, but yet is Form, Man owes to the creation of the Archai Hierarchy. It was all prepared by them beforehand in the life which, even for this early period, may be called life between death and new birth. All was there being prepared in such a way that in the third period — namely our present age — Man himself has the ability, during this life between death and new birth, to take part in working out this Form for his coming life on Earth.

Leading Thoughts

  1. The lives between Death and new Birth also shew three periods. In the first period Man lives entirely within the Hierarchy of the Archai. By them the preparations are laid for his future human Form in the physical world.

  2. The Archai thereby prepare the human being at the same time for the development, later on, of free Self-consciousness. For free Self-consciousness can only grow up in beings whose Form, thus created, gives them the means to bring this Self-consciousness from an inward impulse of the soul to outward expression.

  3. Thus it is seen how the first seeds of those properties and powers in Man which come to light in our present age were predisposed long ago, in past ages of the world, and how the Microcosm grows out of the Macrocosm.

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Last Modified: 24-Apr-2021
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