In the process between death and a new birth, mahadevas assist the human being in getting the right etheric body during the descent into incarnation, just as the lipikas assist the human being towards the suitable physical body in the stream of heredity (1906-07-03-GA094)
Devas is the generic sanskrit word for deity, a general term for spiritual beings or gods that stand above Man in the three worlds above, the astral world, the lower spirit and higher spirit world.
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Lecture coverage and references
On the side, in an esoteric lesson in 1903 or 1904 in GA266, the term mahadeva is described as the 'sea of wisdom'
Mankind moves toward this goal, it's guided towards it by its teachers, leaders and great initiates, whose symbol is the snake. It's an education towards spiritual activity, and therefore it's a long and difficult one. Great initiates could make the task easier for themselves and men if they would elaborate the astral body when it's free at night, so that they imprinted astral organs into them, worked on them from outside. But that would be a working within the dream consciousness of a man, an intervention into his sphere of freedom. Man's highest principle, the will, would never develop. Man is led step by step. There was an initiation in wisdom, one in feeling, and one in willing. Real Christianity is the integration of all initiation stages. The initiation of antiquity was the annunciation, the preparation. Man slowly and gradually emancipated himself from gurus. Initiation at first took place in a complete trance consciousness, but there was a way to imprint a memory of what had happened outside the physical body, into the latter. That's why it was necessary to separate the etheric body, the carrier of memory, and also the astral body. Both of them dived down into the sea of wisdom, into mahadeva, into the light of Osiris. This initiation took place in the deepest secrecy and seclusion. No breath of the outer world was permitted to push in between. The man was as if dead to the outer world, the delicate seeds were cultivated away from blinding daylight.
1905-10-08-GA093A describes the devas in general
The present lecture ... will deal with the activity and the nature of the Devas.
When one considers that in the super-sensible regions man is developing certain forces, although while there he has not as yet his full consciousness, one understands that these forces are guided by higher beings, by the devas. We distinguish different stages of devas: astral, rupa-mental (lower spirit world) and arupa-mental (higher spirit world).
- Astral devas have as their lowest member the astral body, just as we have the physical body. Like man, the astral deva consists of seven members. He possesses therefore, as the seventh, yet another member which is higher than atma.
The devas are all constituted according to the same principles as man. As development progresses to higher planes a being gains conscious mastery over the corresponding lower planes. On the physical plane today man is only master of the mineral kingdom. There he himself can construct something, but he cannot yet construct a plant or an animal. In the mineral kingdom he has the component parts clearly before him. On the next stage he consciously brings forth the plants (fifth CoL) and then the animals (sixth CoL) and finally he consciously brings forth himself (seventh CoL).
The beings whom we call devas can do much more than human beings of the seventh CoL (or round). They can make use of regions that lie below their own world. They can, for a particular purpose, form for a short time the body that they need. Thus an astral deva, if he so wish, can incarnate physically at a definite time.
When everything stored up in the causal body has been transformed into capacities, man begins to tread the path that leads him back to the Earth. It is very interesting to observe clairvoyantly these souls that return to the Earth. The clairvoyant can see in them shapes, which resemble bells shooting with incredible speed through the astral plane in every direction. These forms arise through the fact that a returning human being must surround himself with new astral substance. It is new astral substance that gathers round man's nucleus and this may be compared with the following process: There are iron filings in a box a magnet underneath it. The filings arranged themselves in accordance with the direction of the forces streaming out of the magnet. The human being returning from the spirit world, gathers astral substance from the astral plane from many different directions, and the substance arranges itself in a way which corresponds to his individual nature. This condition of shooting about before entering a new incarnation only last a short time, generally a few hours. The bell-shaped is a general one containing every shade of color. In this condition the human being consists of the I and of the causal body, and he must now form himself a new astral body exactly corresponding to what he developed in spirit world; xx form and out of astral substance. His whole disposition thus obtains a coloring which corresponds to his transformed experiences.
- The new etheric body must then be added. The astral substance seems to come shooting along of its own accord in order to be incorporated with man's structure, but is not the same in the case of the etheric substance. There are beings who, to begin with, have nothing to do with man's individuality. They are called mahadevas. Also outside the spirit world they have a certain significance in human life. Man does not master his own body to the extent he thinks. Other beings dwell in his three bodies and are active within them. Man is completely at home and soul master only in the fourth part of his being, in his I. The mahadevas are among those Beings that live within Man; they influence his etheric body and are able to give man the right kind of etheric body.
- Other beings then lead him to his parents and in accordance with hereditary conditions to that family and human germ which are most suited to the capacities and qualities of the reincarnated human being. Very rarely indeed the new incarnated human being completely fits into his physical body. Many disharmonies are due to the fact that he does not entirely fit into it, many inner disharmonies. In the present time it is only possible to find a physical body which fits approximately. When the suitable place for the incarnation has been found, the lipikas, elemental Beings, lead the human being towards a suitable family and only at the moment of conception the astral body becomes enveloped with the etheric body.
- the mahadevas are connected with the etheric body, so
- the lipikas are connected with the physical body.
All these processes generally last only a few moments.
During the first months after conception, only the causal body is active; around the seventh week the ether body begins to be active and beginning with the seventh month the forces of the astral body begin to approach the human being.
When the human being has thus transformed his whole life in an alchemistic way, his causal body and his I return to the earthly sphere. The human germs arise, described as bell-like shapes, which arise through the fact that the astral substance comes flying towards them in accordance with the inner force-streams of the capacities acquired by each human germ. None of these forms resembles the others in regard to color and shape; this expresses the different individualities. Their whole character is contained in these forms and colors and is expressed in them.
The new etheric body arises, as we have seen, not through the attraction of etheric substance, but only through the activity of the so-called Mahadevas. The attraction of the new etheric body takes place when the bell-like shape has already found a path leading to the embryo.
A complete connection of the etheric body with physical germ of man only takes place in the seventh month after conception. Until then the bodies are connected, but this connection does not reach as far as the germ. Beings called the Lipikas lead the human being to the parents and into the family-conditions in which he can best live according to his karma.
Rudolf Steiner used the terms mahadevas and lipikas in the early days of his lecturing in a theosophical setting where sanskrit terms were the language used in the lectures.
From the description in 1906-07-03-GA094, we can interpret the devas that are mentioned as the spirits of the elementary kingdoms (EK), see eg Schema FMC00.142 and its variants on Overview Golden Chain.
See furthermore also FMC00.285 on Blood is a special fluid, and Schema FMC00.155 on Man and the spiritual hierarchies, to learn about the beings that live in Man, and 'are making up' Man's constitution, without having anything to do with its Individuality as such.