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Light after Death:
The Baha'i Faith and the Near-Death Experience

by Alan Bryson

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Chapter 11

Conclusion

And those souls whose inner being is lit by the love of God
are even as spreading rays of light, and they shine out
like stars of holiness in a pure and crystalline sky.
'Abdu'l-Bahá

Obviously we have no way of knowing if all those who claim to have had a NDE are truthful, or if they have embellished their claims. This is especially true now that the NDE has been so widely chronicled. Fortunately, Raymond Moody collected appreciable research prior to the publication of "Life After Life", which introduced most of us to the phenomenon of the NDE. The "core experience", by its pervasive nature, appears to me to be worthy of especially close consideration. When we consider the "core experience" it is noteworthy that it is so uniquely loving--diametrically opposed to many of the common notions such as physically burning in hell, or "heaven" being the limited domain of the members of certain religions or denominations.

To have experienced a NDE is to have witnessed a spiritual dimension outside of our shared reality. Through this experience one's view of God, love, unity, humanity, dogma and death undergoes a purifying transformation. As we have seen, Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá proclaimed a spiritual reality in great detail which is thoroughly analogous to much of what has been reported about the NDE. Bahá'u'lláh proclaimed, as did a long line of Divine Messengers before him, "I am the guiding Light that illumineth the way." 1 Those who immerse themselves in the ocean of His revelation also experience a transformation in their views of God, love, death, unity and humanity.

A true Bahá'í, like those who have experienced a NDE, is a follower of the Light. Those who have experienced a NDE offer us a compelling reason to re-evaluate the way we lead our lives. In a spiritual sense, those who have been truly transformed by the word of God are also capable of meeting the Being of Light. Consider 'Abdul-Bahá 's words:

"Those souls that, in this day, enter the divine Kingdom and attain everlasting life, although materially dwelling on earth, yet in reality soar in the realm of heaven. Their bodies may linger on earth, but their spirits travel in the immensity of space. For as thoughts widen and become illumined, they acquire the power of flight and transport man to the Kingdom of God." 2

"Well is it then with that countenance that reflecteth the splendor of the Light of the Beloved One! The Lord be praised, thou hast been illumined with this Light, hast acquired the pearl of true knowledge, and hast spoken the Word of Truth." 3

It is worth mentioning that the Bahá'í Faith appeared at a time when slavery existed in the United States, prior to compulsory education, 75 years before John T. Scopes was tried for teaching evolution in the public schools of Tennessee, over 70 years before American women's right to vote was anchored in the constitution, and 70 years before the founding of the first League of Nations. Bahá'u'lláh appeared among the fanatical Muslims of Iran in the 19th century and proclaimed the equality of women, forbade slavery, annulled differences of race and nationality, called for universal compulsory education for boys and girls, declared the unity of science and religion, called for the establishment of a world federation of nations, a universal auxiliary language, and for the establishment of the Most Great Peace. The Bahá'í teachings on life after death are not the product of someone from the East riding the coattails of NDE researchers, rather they are the authentic sacred literature of a religion founded over a century ago.

The Bahá'í teachings call for a personal spiritual transformation. Our collective spiritual transformation, reflecting the light of divine guidance, is the basis for establishing God's Kingdom on Earth, that which has been promised in the scriptures of the religions of the world. This is the goal towards which Bahá'ís are expected to work, and for which they pray:

"O Thou kind Lord! Thou hast created all humanity from the same stock... all are illumined through the light of Thy Providence...

O Thou kind Lord! Unite all. Let the religions agree and make the nations one, so that they may see each other as one family and the whole earth as one home. May they all live together in perfect harmony.

O God! Raise aloft the banner of the oneness of mankind.

O God! Establish the Most Great Peace...

Gladden our hearts through the fragrance of Thy love. Brighten our eyes through the Light of Thy Guidance..." — 'Abdu'l-Bahá

HOW SHOULD WE LOOK FORWARD TO DEATH?

"How does one look forward to the goal of any journey? With hope and with expectation. It is even so with the end of this earthly journey. In the next world, man will find himself freed from many of the disabilities under which he now suffers. Those who have passed on through death have a sphere of their own. It is not removed from ours; their work, the work of the Kingdom, is ours; but it is sanctified from what we call 'time and place'. Time with us is measured by the sun. When there is no more sunrise, and no more sunset, that kind of time does not exist for man. Those who have ascended have different attributes from those who are still on earth, yet there is no real separation." 4
'Abdu'l-Bahá

Bahá'u'lláh taught we are spiritual creatures and that our material existence is an opportunity to develop spiritually. Life is full of problems, trials and difficulty in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense life is full of challenges and opportunities. So take heart, and reflect on these words:

"Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain." 5
Bahá'u'lláh

______________________

    1 Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh , p. 169
    2 Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, p.202
    3 ibid. p.204
    4 'Abdu'l-Bahá in London: Addresses and Notes of Conversations p.95-96
    5 Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p.329

APPENDIX I

Land of Light

References in the Bahá'í Writings to the Realm of Light were sufficiently documented in the preceding chapters, yet such references were by no means exhausted. This appendix should allay any remaining doubts concerning the Bahá'í concept of the spiritual world. More than a mere allusion taken out of context, the Realm of Light is an integral aspect of the Bahá'í teachings which is vividly and repeatedly described.

'Abdu'l-Bahá's recollections of the lives of numerous early Bahá'ís were collected and published in a book entitled, "MEMORIALS OF THE FAITHFUL". He tenderly recounted how the lives of these early believers were so galvanized by the Bahá'í teachings that they sacrificed home, health, material comforts and often their lives in order to share their vision with their fellowmen. In the following excerpts 'Abdu'l-Bahá's intention was not to speak of life after death, rather he simply described the spiritual state of departed friends. Nonetheless, his depiction of the realm of light is inarguably clear.

May God welcome him into the Paradise of reunion, and shelter him forever in the realm of the righteous, submerged in an ocean of lights. p. 5

...his soul gave up this life and fled to the eternal one; passed into the Heaven of abiding reunion and was immersed beneath an ocean of light. Upon him be most great mercy, plenteous bounty, and every blessing, as the ages and cycles roll on. p. 23

He escaped from the prison of this world, and pitched his tent in a wide and spacious land. May God ever keep him close and bless him in that mystic realm with perpetual reunion and the beatific vision; may he be wrapped in tiers of light. p. 38

May they be immersed in tiers of light, close beside their Lord, the Mighty, the All-Powerful. p. 41

Today, under the shadowing mercy of God, he dwells in the bright Heavens. He communes with the birds of holiness, and in the assemblage of splendors he is immersed in light. p. 47

And at a time when they were offering thanks with all their heart, they hurried away from this world and entered the other; they escaped from this cage and were released into the garden of immortality. Upon them be the mercy of God, and may He be well pleased with them. Unto them be salutations and praise. May God bring them into the Realm that abides forever, to delight in the reunion with Him; to bask in the Kingdom of Splendors. p. 63-64

With his heart on fire, his eyes raining tears, he struggled weakly to move about; so his days went by, and always, he longed to make his exit from this rubbish heap, the world. At last he broke away from the torment of his loss, and hurried on to the Realm of God, and came to the assemblage of Divine splendor in the Kingdom of Lights. p. 66

What a holy being he was, how great a man! He could not bear the separation very long, but died, and hastened onward to the world of lights, to the assemblage where the beauty of God is unveiled. p. 75

... at the end he stripped off the garment of flesh and with his unclothed spirit took flight to the realm of the All-Merciful. He was transported out of this dark life into the shining air, and was plunged in a sea of lights. p. 79

He walked the ways of love; he was known to all for steadfast loyalty and pure intent. May God fill up reunion's cup for him in a fair country, make him to enter the everlasting Kingdom, and console his eyes with beholding the lights of that mysterious Realm. p. 84

... he gambled away his life in his yearning after the Light of the World. May God give him to drink of a brimming cup in the everlasting gardens; in the Supreme Assemblage, may God shed upon his face rays of light. p. 86

Finally, when I was absent, he left this darksome, narrow world and hastened away to the land of lights. There, in the haven of God's boundless mercy, he found infinite rewards. p. 101

And then, severed from all save God, irresistibly drawn by the gentle gales of the Lord, he rose out of this dark world to the land of light. p. 116

Later, in Sidon, he fell ill. Unable to make the journey to 'Akká , in perfect acquiescence and contentment he ascended to the Abhá Kingdom (Kingdom of Paradise), and was plunged in the ocean of lights. p. 118

Praise be to God, at the last, close by the Shrine of the B b, he hastened away in light to the Abhá realm... p. 129

And thus it came about that he offered up his life for his tender Companion, and hastened away, out of this dark world to the country of light. p. 131

May God lift him up to the highest Heaven, to the fellowship of glory. May God bring him into the land of lights, the mysterious Kingdom, the assemblage of the splendors of the mighty, all powerful Lord. p. 134

He turned his back on this heap of dust, the world, and hurried away to the country of light. He broke out of this cage of contingent being and soared into the endless, placeless Realm. p. 138

But his body had become enfeebled from the earlier hardships, and all the suffering, and his faculties had deteriorated; so that ultimately he fell ill, beyond hope of remedy; and hot far from Bahá 'u'lláh, and shadowed by His protection, he hastened away from this least of worlds to the high heavens, from this dark place to the land of lights. p. 143

At last, serene and happy, rejoicing in the tidings of the Kingdom, he soared away to that mysterious land. There he was loosed from every sorrow, and in the gathering-place of splendors he was immersed in light. p. 153

She rose up into the shadowing mercy of God and was plunged in an ocean of light. p. 175

She hastened away from this dust gulf of perdition to an unsullied country; packed her gear and journeyed to the land of lights. p. 185

APPENDIX II

EXCERPTS FROM THE TABLET OF THE HOLY MARINER

In one of His more mystical writings, Bahá'u'lláh penned, "The Tablet of the Holy Mariner". The Mariner has seen behind the mystic veil to the spiritual realm and his ark is the covenant of God. The "angelic spirits" are invited to enter and sail on the "Seas of Light".

O Holy Mariner!

Bid thine ark of eternity appear before the Celestial Concourse,

Launch it upon the ancient sea, in His Name, the Most Wondrous,

And let the angelic spirits enter, in the Name of God, the Most High,

Unmoor it, then, that it may sail upon the ocean of glory,

Haply the dwellers therein may attain the retreats of nearness in the everlasting realm.

Having reached the sacred strand, the shore of the crimson seas,

Bid them issue forth and attain this ethereal invisible station,

A station wherein the Lord hath in the Flame of His Beauty appeared with the deathless tree;

Wherein the embodiments of His Cause cleansed themselves of self and passion;

Around which the Glory of Moses doth circle with the everlasting hosts;

Wherein the Hand of God was drawn forth from His bosom of Grandeur;

Wherein the ark of the Cause remaineth motionless even though to its dwellers be declared all divine attributes,

O Mariner! Teach them that are within the ark that which we have taught thee behind the mystic veil,

Perchance they may not tarry in the sacred snow-white spot,

But may soar upon the wings of the spirit unto that station which the Lord hath exalted above all mention in the worlds below,

May wing through space even as the favoured birds in the realm of eternal reunion;

May know the mysteries hidden in the Seas of Light.

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