The doctrine of pre-Creation is not discussed in mainstream religion, but I believe it is something found in all religions (which further speaks to a universal religion founded in mysticism, or perhaps mysticism is founded in a universal humanism, who knows). One of my favorite traditions on it comes from a Sufi Master:
Four thousand years before God created these bodies, he created the souls and kept them beside Himself and shed a light upon them. He knew what quantity each soul received and he showed favor to each in proportion to its illumination. The souls remain all that time in light until they became fully nourished. Those who in this world live in joy and agreement with one another must have been akin to one another in that place. Here they are called the friends of God and they are brothers who love one another for God’s sake. These souls know one another by smell, like horses.
(Abu Sa’id Ibn Abi-l-Khayr رحمت الله عليه)
Orthodox Judaism maintains that we chose our parents in heaven before we came here. Christianity holds that Jesus (عليه السلام) was the First Creation, Islamic mysticism ascribes the identical honor to Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم). None of this is taught in Sunday school, or your respective equivalent.
I pointed out to my orthodox Jewish friends (projecting my insecurity that pre-Creation is incompatible with monotheism) that pre-Creation is not discussed in the Torah, and hence its validity is questionable. They replied that many legitimate doctrines are not found in Torah.
Islam maintains the Platonic theory of forms– which pre-Creation is obviously a parallel of– mystics cite the following Qur’an verse to tout Platonism, “abundant treasures” here refers to “idealized forms”:
The doctrine of Plato (عليه السلام) is the beginning and end of all mysticism. He was the original Master, Socrates (عليه السلام) rather. The world was form, ideal before it became concrete, matter. (Most people do not even know the difference between a concrete and a form, that is how lost popular culture is.)
The doctrine of pre-Creation supposes all our souls know intimacy with God before this life. Our essence comes to formation.
I was in the Sufi mosque last night, and we read aloud the Irshad, the voluminous guidance of the founder of our order, the noble Sheikh Muzzafer Ashki Efendi (عليه السلام). Inside was a doctrine of pre-Creation that I felt blessed to hear.
The first creation was the light of Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم), and God moulded it into the shape of a peacock. The light was created from God’s own light. God then pours the light into a lamp, which converts it and houses the bodily form of the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم). All souls are made to look upon the prophetic form (his body), and from where they first look, their destinies are written.
Those who looked at his brow became the saints, those who soles became the wanderers. (I fell in love with a wanderer once, his station was greater than any landed or learned saint, he is my hidden and faraway friend.) Those who sight first fell upon his nose became doctors. Those who first looked at his right hand became bankers (!), those his left became butlers. My memory fails me beyond this point, but the point about the wanderers really spoke to me.
At the level of reality that is mysticism, life is more dramatic than any theatrical play or opera. Talking to a woman becomes an inspiring experience, life-changing even. After the dhikr ceremony, I left early only to run into the woman who had read aloud the preceding passage on pre-Creation by Sheikh Muzaffer Efendi (رحمت الله عليه). I told her I loved her reading, it was so clear and illuminating. I didn’t want to tell her for fear she’d think I was exaggerating, but it sounded like a Master giving a sermon or exposition. She told me my intuition was correct, she was a dervish (initiate) of Sheikh Muzaffer Efendi (رحمت الله عليه), and she was channeling him during the reading, mimicking his voice and style of delivery. She had her Master’s fire in her eyes, she was in her 70’s pushing 80 years, but in the cloak and fine embroidery of a spiritual tradition that predates the 1950s. She spoke of her Master as a man who *was love, and when he was with you in the room, despite the presence of all the other people in room, she felt as if she were the only one. (I told her Krishna accomplished the same feat with his cowherd girls — He is said to have danced with a thousand of them and they all felt as though his attention was exclusively on them.)
I was beholden to see a woman entranced by her Master. I told her men like that never die.