Anthroposophical Guidelines - VII

What is Revealed when between Death and a New Birth

One Looks Back into Previous Lives


Part 1


By Rudolf Steiner


Translation: Frank Thomas Smith


In the previous contemplation human life in its entirety was followed with emphasis on successive earth lives. The other viewpoint, which can shed more light on what the previous one reveals, is the contemplation of successive lives between death and a new birth.

It also shows that the substance of these lives (as they are now) only goes back to a certain point of time in the earth’s evolution. This substance is determined by the fact that one carries through the portal of death the inner force of self-consciousness acquired during his earth life. It enables him to stand as a complete individuality amidst the divine-spiritual Beings.

During a preceding period this was not the case. At that time man was still not very advanced in the development of his self-consciousness. The forces acquired on earth were not sufficient to disconnect him from the divine-spiritual world and to have an individual existence between death and a new birth. This doesn’t mean that man found himself in the divine-spiritual Beings, rather within their sphere of activity, to the extent that his will was essentially their will, and not his own.

Before that period, another existed in which when looking back at it one does not find man as he is in his contemporary soul-constitution, but in the world of divine-spiritual Beings, in which man existed in a germinal stage. Those Beings are the Primal Forces, (Archai).

Therefore when one traces back the life path of one individual, not one divine-spiritual Being is encountered, but all who belong to that hierarchy.

The will that man shall come into being lives in these divine-spiritual Beings. All of them participate in the will that each human individual shall come into being. The cosmic objective of their choir-like cooperation is the genesis of the human form. For man still lived without form in the divine-spiritual world.

It may seem odd that the whole choir of divine-spiritual Beings should work for one human being. However, even earlier the Exusiai, Dynameis, Kyriotetes, Throne, Cherubim and Seraphim hierarchies worked in this way during the [ancient] Moon, Sun and Saturn stages in order than man could come into being.

What originated earlier on Saturn, Sun and Moon, a kind of pre-human, did not possess a unified form. Pre-humans existed who were organized more according to the limbs system, others more according to the breast system, again others who were organized according to the head system. They were really human beings; they are described here as pre-humans in order to differentiate them from the later stages when the balanced confluence of all the systems appeared in the human form. The differentiation of those pre-humans goes much further. One can speak of heart-people, lung-people, and so on.

The Primal Forces hierarchy considered that its mission was to integrate those pre-humans – whose soul-lives still corresponded to their one-sided forms – into the general human form. They took over humanity from the hands of the Exusiai, who had already in thought created a unity from human multiplicity. However, for the Exusiai this unity was still an ideal form, a cosmic thought form. The Archai shaped the etheric form, but in such a way that it contained the forces for the development of the physical form.

Observation of these occurrences reveals something wonderful – that the human being is the ideal and the objective of the gods. But this observation cannot be the source of vanity and pride. For he can only take credit for what he has made of himself in his earth life with self-consciousness. And this, expressed cosmically, is little compared to what the gods have achieved from the macrocosm–which they are–as the basis for his selfhood as microcosm–which he is.

The divine-spiritual Beings stand facing each other in the cosmos. The visible expression of this stance is the shape of the star-filled sky. They wanted to create as a unity in humanity what they are all together.

In order to correctly understand what the hierarchy of the Archai accomplished in their choir when they created the human form one must realize that there is a great difference between this form and the human physical body. The physical body is composed of physical-chemical processes. These take place in contemporary man within his human form. But the form itself is spiritual through and through. To perceive with our physical senses in the physical world something spiritual as the human form should be a solemn experience. For someone who can see spiritually, this means seeing in the human form a true imagination that has descended to the physical world. If one wishes to see imaginations, he must pass over from the physical word to the next-lying spiritual one. Then he will realize how the human form is related to these imaginations.

When observing life between death and a new birth, human spiritual vision finds the genesis of the human form as the first period. At the same time the deep relationship between man and the hierarchy of the Archai is revealed.

In this period one can have an inkling of the difference between earth life and life between death and a new birth. Namely the hierarchy of the Archai works creating the human form in rhythmical epochs. During one it directs the thoughts which guide the individual wills more towards the outer-earthy cosmos. During another one it looks down upon the earth. And from the concurrence of what comes from the outer-earthly cosmos and what is stimulated from the earth, the human form is structured, which constitutes the expression of the fact that man is simultaneously an earthly and an outer-earthly cosmic being.

The human form, described here as the creation of the hierarchy of the Archai, embraces not merely man’s external outline and the surface formation as determined by the skin, but also the formation of forces in his posture, in his capacity for movement corresponding to earthly conditions and in the capacity to use his body as the expression of his inner self.

That man can insert himself with upright posture in the earth’s gravity, that he can freely move with equilibrium in this gravity, that he can wrest his arms and hands from gravity and use them freely – this and much more that is surely within him but is nevertheless formative: all this man owes to the creative acts of the hierarchy of the Archai. All this was prepared in the life between death and a new birth, which one can also call this period. Preparations were made so that in the third period, in our present, man himself has the capacity during his life between death and a new birth to work on this formation for his earthly existence.

Goetheanum, at the New Year, 1925                           



147. Life between death and a new birth also indicates three periods. In the first man lives entirely in the hierarchy of the Archai. His future human form for [use in] the physical world is prepared by them.


148. The Archai prepare the human being in order that he can later develop his free self-consciousness; for this [self-consciousness] can only be developed in beings who, through the form thus created, and from an inner impulse of the soul, embody it.


149. This shows how the kernel of human attributes and forces which manifest themselves in our time were predisposed during ages long past, and how the microcosm grows out of the macrocosm.     


What is revealed when between Death and a New Birth

One looks back into Previous Lives

Part II


In a second period man passed out of the Archai realm into that of the Archangeloi, with whom he was not as bodily-spiritually bonded as previously with the Archai. His bonding with the Archangels was more spiritual. But it was still intimate enough that one cannot yet speak of a separation from the divine-spiritual world.

The Archangel hierarchy gave to man’s etheric body the element which corresponds to what the Archai gave to his physical body. Just as the physical body’s form is adapted to the earth in order to become the vehicle of self-consciousness, the etheric body is adapted to the outer-earthly cosmic forces. The earth lives in the physical body and the star-world lives in the etheric body. The inner force that enables the human being to live on the earth and at the same time wrest himself from it through posture, movement and gesture, he owes to the Archangels’ creative activity in his etheric body. Just as the earth-forces can exist in the physical body through the figuration, so do the forces exist in the etheric body that stream to the earth from all sides of the circumference of the cosmos. The living earth forces which appear physically in the body are those that make its form relatively firm and enclosed. The human contours remain fixed for earthly life subject to a subordinate metamorphosis; the capacity for movement solidifies through habit, etc.

In the etheric body there is permanent flexible mobility, which is a mirror image of the ever changing constellations during a person’s life on earth. Even the changing sky by day and night corresponds to the shaping of the etheric body – but also the changes that take place during the time between birth and death

This adaptation of the etheric body to the heavenly forces does not contradict the gradual separation of the stars in the sky from the divine-spiritual powers as described in the previous contemplation. It is correct that in very old times divine will and divine intelligence lived in the stars. In later times the stars became “calculable”. The gods were no longer active in their creation. But through his etheric body man gradually attained his own relationship to the stars, as he did to the earth’s gravity through his physical body.

The etheric body, created during the second period by the Archangeloi hierarchy and inserted in man when he descends from the spiritual world to earth at birth, absorbs the extra-earthly cosmic forces.

An essential aspect which man received through this hierarchy is that of belonging to a group of people on earth. People are differentiated all over the earth. When looking back at this second period, one does not see the present day differentiation of races and peoples, but a somewhat different, more spiritual one. This is attributable to the star forces in the different constellations appearing at different locations on earth. On the earth in the distribution of land and water, in the climate, in plant growth and so on, live the stars. Insofar man must adapt to these conditions on earth, which are conditions of the heavens, this adaptation belongs to the etheric body and is a creation of the Archangeloi choir.

However, it was just during this second period that the Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers entered into human life in a special way. This was necessary, although at first it seems that man was being driven to a lower level of his nature.

If man was to develop self-consciousness in his earthly life, it was necessary that he separate himself from the divine-spiritual world from which he originated to a greater extent that was possible by means of that world itself. It happened during the time when the Archangels acted upon him, for then the spiritual force of the Archangels was less able to keep Lucifer and Ahriman at bay then when the stronger Archai forces acted upon him.

The Luciferic powers caused a stronger inclination in the etheric body towards the stars than it would have had if only the divine-spiritual powers originally bound to man had been active. And the physical organization was made more subject to the earth’s gravity than would have happened had these powers been unable to act.

In this way the seed of complete self-consciousness and free will was planted in man. Even though the Ahrimanic powers hate free will, they brought about the predisposition for free will in man by detaching him from his divine-spiritual world. 

First, however, in that second period what the various hierarchies, from the Seraphim to the Archangels, brought about in man was impressed more into the physical and etheric bodies than would have happened without the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences. Without these influences the activities of the hierarchies would have remained more in the astral body and the I.

By this means the more spiritual groupings of humanity over the earth striven for by the Archangels did not occur.

Being impressed into the physical and etheric bodies, the spiritual forces were transformed into their opposite. A differentiation according to races and peoples instead of the more spiritual one took place.

Without the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences the people on earth would see themselves as having been differentiated from heaven. The groups would have comported themselves in their lives as beings who willingly and lovingly give to and take the spiritual from each other. In races and ethnic groups the earth’s gravity appears through the human body; in the spiritual groupings a mirror image of the spiritual world would have appeared.

Because of all this, the later complete self-consciousness in human evolution had to be predisposed beforehand. This also required, although in a diminished form, that the primeval human differentiation which existed when man first passed from the hierarchy of the Exusiai to that of the Archai be preserved.

Man experienced – through feeling and envisioning –  this stage of evolution in a kind of cosmic school, although he had not yet developed the knowledge that this was an essential preparation for his later self-consciousness. But the felt envisioning of his evolution forces was nevertheless important then for the integration of self-consciousness in his astral body and I.

In respect to thinking, what happened was that man was equipped by the Luciferic powers with a tendency to immerse himself further in the old spiritual forms and not to adapt to the new forms. For Lucifer always strives to retain the previous forms of life for man.

And thereby man’s thinking was organized in such a way that in life between death and a new birth he gradually developed the capacities which formed thoughts in him in primeval times. At that time these faculties could visualize the spiritual, despite being akin to present-day mere sense perception. For the physical bore the spiritual in its surface. At present however, the capacities for thought preserved from those times can only function as sense perception. Gradually the ability to elevate one’s self to the spiritual world diminished. And this is fully the case now when in the Consciousness Soul age the spiritual world has become veiled in darkness for man. Thus in the nineteenth century the best natural scientists, who could not become materialists, said: we have no choice but to merely investigate the world that can be investigated with the senses through measurement, number and weight; but we have no right to deny a spiritual world which is hidden behind the senses. That is, an indication that a light-filled world, unknown to man, could exist where he only stares into the dark.

As thinking was dislocated by Lucifer, willing was by Ahriman. Man’s will was endowed with a tendency to a kind of freedom, which should have happened only later. This freedom was not real, but an illusion of freedom. Humanity lived for a long time with this illusion of freedom. It provided humanity with no possibility of spiritually developing the idea of freedom. It swung back and forth between the opinion that man is free or that he is trapped in a rigid necessity. And when true freedom arrived with the emerging Consciousness Soul age, man could not recognize it, because he had been trapped much too long in the illusion of freedom.

Everything that had been instilled in man in this second stage of evolution of his lives between death and a new birth he carried as cosmic remembrance into the third stage, the one in which he presently lives. During this stage he stands in a similar relationship to the hierarchy of the Angeloi as he did during the second stage to that of the Archangeloi. Only the relationship to the Angeloi is one in which full independent individuality is realized. For the Angeloi – now not the choir, but one for each person – concentrate on achieving the correct relation between the lives between death and a new birth and earth lives.

What at first appears to be a remarkable fact is that for the individual during the second stage of his evolution of lives between death and a new birth the entire hierarchy of archangeloi was active. Later this hierarchy assumed the guidance of ethnic groups, in which one archangel acted as ethnic spirit for a people. The Primal Forces [Archai] remained active in the races. And a Being from the hierarchy of the Primal Forces acted as race-spirit for one race.

Thus contemporary humanity retains – also in life between death and a new birth – the cosmic remembrance of previous stages of evolution. And also where in the physical world spiritual guidance appears, as in races and ethnic groups, this comic remembrance is distinctly present.

Goetheanum, New Year, 1925         


 150. In a second period of evolution of lives between death and a new birth, man entered the realm of the Archangeloi. During this period, after it had been predisposed in the creation of the human form during the first period, the seed was implanted in the soul for his later self-consciousness.


151. During this second period man was pushed deeper into the physical world due to the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences than he would have been without these influences.


152. During the third period man entered the realm of the Angeloi, who, however, only made their influence felt in the astral body and the I. This period is the present one. What happened in the two previous periods lives on in human evolution and explains the fact that in the age of the Consciousness Soul (in the nineteenth century) man stared into the spiritual world as into complete darkness.                               



What is the Reality of the Earth within the Macrocosm?


In these contemplations we have viewed the evolution of the cosmos and of the earth from the most varied viewpoints. We have shown how the forces of man’s being come from the outer-earthly cosmos, except for those which give him his self-consciousness. These come to him from the earth.

This indicates the meaning of the earth for humanity. But it brings up another question: What is the meaning of the earth for the macrocosm?

In order to approach the answer to this question it is necessary to review what has already been said.

The seer’s consciousness finds the macrocosm increasingly alive as it penetrates further into the past. In the distant past all calculability of its nature ceases. Man was separated from this nature. The macrocosm entered ever further into the sphere of the calculable.

In the process, however, it gradually died. In the measure in which man – the microcosm – emerged from the macrocosm as an independent being, the former gradually died.

In the cosmic present a dead macrocosm exists. But in this evolutionary process not only man arose. The earth also arose from the macrocosm.

Man, who derives the forces for his self-consciousness from the earth, is much too close to it to clearly understand its nature. In the full enfolding of self-consciousness during the Consciousness Soul age, man has become accustomed to direct his attention to the spatial magnitude of the universe and to consider the earth as being a kind of dust-particle, inconsequential when compared to the physical space of the universe.

It will therefore seem strange at first when spiritual observation reveals the true cosmic meaning of this so-called “dust-particle”.

The vegetable and animal kingdoms are embedded in the earth’s mineral foundation. In all of them live the forces which appear in their various forms during the seasons. Look at the plant world. In autumn and winter it displays dying forces. The seer’s consciousness perceives in these forms the essence of the forces which have brought about the macrocosm’s process of dying. In spring and summer the forces of growth and sprouting are evident in plant life. The seer’s consciousness does not only see in this growth and sprouting what is blessed by plant life during the year, but a surplus –  a surplus of germinating forces. The plants receive more germination force than they expend for the growth of leaves, flowers and fruit. This surplus of germinating forces streams out into the outer-earthly cosmos before the seer’s vision.

In the same way, surplus force from the mineral kingdom streams out into the outer-earthly cosmos. This force has the task of bringing the forces that come from the plants to the correct regions of the cosmos. Under the influence of the mineral forces a newly formed image of a cosmos is created by the plant forces.

There are also forces that come from the animals. These do not act as the mineral and plant forces do, streaming out from the earth, but they gather what the mineral and plant forces have carried to the universe and combine them into a sphere (globe) and create therewith the image of an enclosed macrocosm.

This is how spiritually cognitional consciousness perceives the essence of the earthly domain. It exists within the dead macrocosm giving new life.

Just as from a seed, which is so insignificantly small, a very large plant emerges when the old one dies and disintegrates, a new macrocosm will come into being from the “dust particle” earth when the old one disintegrates.

That is a true vision of the earth’s essence, that in all its parts a universe is germinating. One obtains an understanding of the kingdoms of nature only by sensing this germinating element in it.

Within this germinating life man undertakes his earthly existence. He participates in the germinating as well as in the dying processes. He derives his thinking forces from the dying element. As long as these thinking forces came in the past from the still living macrocosm, they were not the foundation of the self-conscious human being. The acted as growth forces in human beings who still had no self-consciousness. The thinking forces, in themselves, may not have a life of their own if they are to form the foundation for free human self-consciousness. Together with the dead macrocosm, they must, in themselves, be the dead shadows of the cosmic past.

On the other hand, man participates in the earth’s germinating processes. His will forces come from them. They are life itself, but man does not participate in their essence with his self-consciousness. They radiate into the shadows of thought within the human being. The shadows of thought stream through them and in this streaming of free thought in the germinating earth full, free human self-consciousness enters humanity in the Consciousness Soul age.

The past casting shadows and the future containing the seeds of reality meet each other in the human being. And this meeting is human life in the present.

That this is so is immediately evident to the seer’s consciousness when it finds itself in the spirit-region which borders directly on the physical one, and in which one also finds Michael’s field of activity.

All earthly life becomes transparent when one senses the seed of the universe in its foundation. Every plant form, every stone - they appear to the human soul in a new light when it realizes that every one of these things contributes by its life, by its form, to the earth being the embryonic seed of a new revivifying macrocosm.

If one only tries to bring to life his thinking about these facts, he will realize what it can mean for humanity’s sensibility.                                

Goetheanum, January 1925    


153. During the beginning of the Consciousness Soul age, people had become accustomed to concentrate on the spatial-physical grandeur of the universe, and above all to be sensible only of this. Therefore one called the earth a “dust particle” within the physically immense universe.


154. This “dust particle” reveals itself to clairvoyant consciousness as the seed of a newly developing macrocosm, while the old one dies out. It had to die in order that man could separate himself from it in full self-consciousness.


155. In the cosmic present, man participates with his liberating thinking forces in what has died [the macrocosm], and with his will forces – concealed from him in their essence – in the earth’s germinating, revivifying new macrocosm.      


Continued in the next issue of SCR: When the translation is finished, the entire “Anthroposophical Guidlines” will be available as an e-book.