The Michael Mystery
XVIII. What is seen on looking back into Man's previous Lives between Death and the new Birth (II)
In a second period, Man passes from the domain of the Archai into that of the Archangels. With these, however, he is not bound up in such a bodily-spiritual manner as he was with the Archai. With the Archangel Hierarchy his connection is a more spiritual one. It is nevertheless so intimate that one still could not speak at this period of Man's being in any way detached from the spiritual world.
From the Archangel Hierarchy Man receives for his ether-body what, in this body, corresponds to the Form in the physical body, which he owes to the Archai. Even as the physical body is adapted by its form to the Earth, to be the vehicle on Earth for Man's Self-consciousness, so is the ether-body adapted to the conditions of extra-earthly, cosmic forces. In the physical body lives the Earth; in the ether-body lives the Star-world. All that Man bears within him of inner forces, so that, while being upon Earth, he yet frees himself from the Earth in posture, movement and gesture — all this he owes to the creation of the Archangels in his ether-body. As the Earth-forces live, by means of its formation, in the physical body, so in the ether-body there live those forces, which from all sides, from the circumference of the cosmos, stream in towards the Earth. The Earth-forces that live in the physically apparent formation of the body are such as make the form a comparatively fixed and final one. The outlines of the man remain — with some subordinate changes — fixed for this entire earth-life; his aptitudes for movement harden into set habits, and so on. With the ether-body, all is in continual motion, reflecting the changes in the constellations of the Stars during human earth-life. Even with such changes in the heavens as day-and-night, the ether-body adapts its form accordingly; but also in accordance with the particular changes which take place between its own birth and death.
The adaptation of the ether-body in this manner to the heavenly forces is in no contradiction to what has been spoken of elsewhere as the gradual detachment of the starry heavens from the divine Spirit-Powers. It is true that in very olden times there dwelt in the stars the living will of Gods, the living intelligence of Gods, whereas in later times all this passed over into the ‘Calculable.’ The gods no longer act directly upon Man through what has now become their finished work. Man however gradually comes through his ether-body into a relation of his own with the stars; just as through his physical body he comes into a relation of his own with the gravity of earth.
What Man collects and fits into himself when he comes down out of the spirit-world to be born upon earth — his ether-body, which gathers into itself the cosmic forces from beyond the earth, was created by the Archangel Hierarchy during this second period.
A very important thing which Man acquires through this hierarchy, is that he belongs to a group of people upon earth. Men are differentiated over the face of the earth. When one looks back into this second period, one does not find the differentiation of to-day, into races and nations, but a somewhat other and more spiritual one, arising from the fact that upon various parts of the earth the star-influences fall in various constellations. In the relative distribution of land and water, in climate, in vegetation, etc., the starry heavens are living and acting upon earth.
In so far as Man has to adopt himself to these relations — which are heavenly relations upon earth — the necessary adaptations belong to his ether-body, and the formation thus given to it is the creation of the choir of Archangeloi.
This however is the very time — during the second period — when the Luciferic and Ahrimanic Powers come into Man's life, and in a special way. It is necessary for them to come into it, although at first sight it appears as though Man would thereby be driven down, below the level of his manhood.
For Man to develop the consciousness of Self in earth-life, he must become much more thoroughly detached from the divine spiritual world which gave him his origin, than can be done by that world of itself. It takes place during the time when the Archangels are at work upon him, because his link with the spiritual world is then no longer such a strong one as it was during the time when the Archai were at work. Lucifer and Ahriman are more of a match for the purely spiritual forces which proceed from the Archangels than for the sturdier forces of the Archai.
The Luciferic Powers give the ether-form, in all its tendencies, a much stronger inclination towards the star-world than it would have if only those divine spirit-Powers were at work, who were connected with Man from his origin. And by the Ahrimanic Powers the form and configuration of the physical body becomes more deeply entangled with the weight of earth than would be the case if these Powers were unable to exert an influence.
Hereby the seed is laid in Man of future full Self-consciousness and free will. For though the Ahrimanic Powers detest free will, yet their effect upon Man, by tearing him away from this proper world of divine spirit, is to implant the first seed of free will in him.
The immediate result, however, is that in this second period all that has been accomplished in Man by the various hierarchies — from the Seraphim to the Archangeloi — is pressed more deeply into the physical and ether-bodies, than could have been done without the influence of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic Powers. But for their influence, the action of the hierarchies would remain more in the astral body and the I.
Thus the grouping of Mankind which arises on earth is not that more spiritual one for which the Archangels are striving.
Impressed into the physical body, the spiritual forces are turned into their opposite. Instead of the more spiritual one, comes the differentiation into races and nations.
Were it not for the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences, men would see themselves and one-another upon earth differentiated from the heavens above. The various groups would live, one with another, in the relation of beings who share in love a spiritual treasure, freely giving and freely taking, each from each. In races and nations is seen the down-drag of earth, manifested in Man's body. In that other spiritual grouping there would have been seen a reflected image of the divine spiritual world.
Yet along with all this the first dispositions had to be laid in human evolution for the future, full consciousness of Self. This again meant that — mitigated, it is true, but still with a certain distinctness of form — those original, primeval differentiations of mankind were retained, which had existed when in ancient days Man passed over from the Hierarchy of the Exusiai to that of the Archai.
Man went through this stage of his evolution as through a cosmic school, alive to it all in a state between feeling and seeing. He had not as yet evolved any conscious knowledge that this was all an essential preparation for his own future Self-consciousness; but the ‘feeling vision,’ at that period, of the forces engaged in his evolution was nevertheless important for the engrafting of Self-consciousness in the astral body and the I.
In respect to Man's Thinking, what happened at that time was that the Luciferic Powers gave him a bent which inclined him still to remain immersed in the old forms of spiritual life, and not to adapt himself to its new forms. For Lucifer's endeavour is always to preserve for Man the earlier forms of life.
And so it came about in the development of Man's Thinking. Little by little, in his life between death and new birth Man evolved and elaborated the faculty which in primeval times had endowed his inner life with Thoughts. In those primeval times, this faculty had been able to behold the Spiritual in things, though it was very like the way man now takes hold of the world in mere sense-perception. For in those days the Physical wore the Spiritual on its surface. To-day, however, this Thinking faculty conserved from the earlier age can only act like sense-perception. The faculty to rise in the act of thought to the spirit gradually declined and died away. And this became fully manifest when in the age of the Spiritual Soul the spiritual world became veiled for Man in complete obscurity. So then it came about that in the nineteenth century the best of the natural scientists, who could not become mere materialists, said to themselves: ‘Nothing remains for us, but to explore that world alone which admits of being explored by the senses and in terms of measure, number and weight. We have however no right to deny the existence of a spiritual world behind this sensible one.’ They were thus indicating that there may be a world of light, unknown to Man, where he is staring into darkness only.
As Man's Thought was put out of time and place by Lucifer, so by Ahriman his Will. This latter became endowed with a tendency to a kind of freedom to which it should only have attained later. Freedom of this sort is no real freedom, but only the illusion of it. Mankind lived for a long while in this illusion of freedom. It gave men no possibility of evolving the true spiritual idea of freedom in their minds. They wavered to-and-fro between the various opinions, that Man is free or that he is caught in the meshes of hard and fast necessity. And when with the dawning Age of Consciousness the real freedom came, men failed to understand it, because their understanding had been too long engaged with the illusion of freedom.
Everything which had implanted itself in Man's inner being during the evolution of his lives between death and new birth in this second stage, was carried on by him as a cosmic memory into the third stage, in which he is still living in this present time. In this stage he holds a relation to the Hierarchy of Angeloi, similar to that which he held in the second to the Archangeloi. Only, the relation to the Angeloi is one which enables him to attain to complete, self-dependent individuality. For the Angeloi — not now the whole choir, but one Angelos for one man — confine themselves to effecting a right connection between his lives between death and new birth and his earth-lives.
A fact here worthy of notice is that in the second stage of Man's evolution during the lives between death and new birth, the whole hierarchy of Archangeloi are at work for each single man. Later on, the guidance of the various nations and tribes devolves upon this hierarchy; and here, for one nation there is one Archangel, as Spirit of the Nation. In the races of men, the Primeval Powers (the Archai) remain active. Here again, for one race, there is one being at work out of the hierarchy of the Archai, as Spirit of that Race.
Thus the man of the present age retains within him, during the life also between death and new birth, a cosmic memory of what he has learnt from this life in its previous stages. And even where, in the physical world, spiritual guidance manifests itself in such a form as in races and nationalities, there too this cosmic memory is plainly present.
In a second period of evolution in the lives between death and new birth, Man passes into the domain of the Archangeloi. During his period the seed of later Self-consciousness is planted in the human soul, the predisposition for it having already been created in the first period, in the shaping of the human Form.
Man, during the second period, is driven by the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences deeper into the physical world than would have happened without their influence.
In the third period, Man comes into the domain of the Angeloi, whose influence however is only exerted in the astral body and the I. This period is the present. What took place in the first two periods lives on in human evolution, and explains the fact that in the age of the Spiritual Soul — during the nineteenth century — Man is left staring into the spiritual world as into total darkness.