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

by Alan Bryson

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Chapter 6

Knowledge

O God! leave them not to themselves,
but guide their steps by the light of knowledge,
and cheer their hearts by Thy love.
Bahá'u'lláh

In "Reflections on Life After Life" Raymond Moody reports that subsequent to his initial research he encountered several people who had been given a glimpse into a dimension of knowledge which vastly exceeds anything which we know of on earth. All of them had difficulty trying to convey this particular experience. In any case, they describe a realm where all knowledge, past, present and future is instantly and completely accessible. The spoken or written word is unnecessary, one needs only to pose a question mentally or express an interest and the appropriate knowledge is instantaneously supplied. It's described as an automatic process, desired knowledge flows to the conscious mind.

Some might equate heaven with streets lined with gold, but being given access to universal knowledge is certainly a vastly superior gift. Many people have spent their lives penetrating the secrets of creation and posing questions which no earthly agency can adequately answer. What a wonderful and reassuring vision, to know that God will allow us a glimpse behind the mysteries of the universe.

This phenomenon, as you may by now suspect, is also alluded to in the Bahá'í Writings. Exactly how were the great pyramids constructed? What was it like to hear Jesus preach the sermon on the mount? The Bahá'í teachings promise that we will be made aware of life's mysteries. According to 'Abdu'l-Bahá:

"The mysteries of which man is heedless in the earthly world, those will he discover in the heavenly world, and there will he be informed of the secrets of the truth; how much more will he recognize or discover persons with whom he has been associated. Undoubtedly, the holy souls who find a pure eye and are favored with insight will, in the kingdom of lights, be acquainted with all mysteries, and will seek the bounty of witnessing the reality of every great soul. They will even manifestly behold the beauty of God in that world." 1

Further 'Abdu'l-Bahá's explains that intellectual capacity and knowledge progress continuously:

"Divine perfection is infinite; therefore, the progress of the soul is also infinite. From the very birth of a human being the soul progresses, the intellect grows and knowledge increases. When the body dies, the soul lives on. All the differing degrees of created physical beings are limited, but the soul is limitless!..."

"In the world of the spirit there is no retrogression. The world of mortality is a world of contradictions, of opposites; motion being compulsory, everything must either go forward or retreat. In the realm of spirit there is no retreat possible; all movement is bound to be toward a perfect state. Progress is the expression of spirit in the world of matter. The intelligence of man, his reasoning powers, his knowledge, his scientific achievements, all these being manifestations of the spirit, partake of the inevitable law of spiritual progress and are, therefore, of necessity, immortal."

"My hope for you is that you will progress in the world of spirit, as well as in the world of matter, that your intelligence will develop, your knowledge will augment, and your understanding be widened." 2

One point, however, should be clearly made. Although the Bahá'í Writings speak of an eternal progression of the soul and the intellect, one will never fully understand God and His creation.

Bahá'u'lláh wrote:

"As to thy question concerning the worlds of God. Know thou of a truth that the worlds of God are countless in their number, and infinite in their range. None can reckon or comprehend them except God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.... Verily I say, the creation of God embraceth worlds besides this world, and creatures apart from these creatures. In each of these world He hath ordained things which none can search except Himself, the All-Searching, the All-Wise. Do thou meditate on that which We have revealed unto thee, that thou mayest discover the purpose of God, thy Lord, and the Lord of all worlds. In these words the mysteries of divine wisdom have been treasured." 3

'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote:

"Know, then, that the Lord God possesseth invisible realms which the human intellect can never hope to fathom nor the mind of man conceive. When once thou hast cleansed the channel of thy spiritual sense from the pollution of this worldly life, then wilt thou breathe in the sweet scents of holiness that blow from the blissful bowers of that heavenly land." 4

If it is true that we are to be given a wealth of knowledge in the next life, Raymond Moody rightly asked the following question:

"One thing I wonder. I've spent a lot of my life seeking knowledge, learning. If this happens, isn't that sort of thing rather pointless?"

His subject gave an interesting reply, pointing out that knowledge, especially knowledge which can be used to serve mankind, is absolutely worth seeking:

"No! You still want to seek knowledge even after you come back here. I'm still seeking knowledge... It's not silly to try to get the answers here. I sort of felt that it was part of our purpose...but that it wasn't just for one person, but that it was to be used for all mankind. We're always reaching out to help others with what we know." 5

The similarity of the answer above to the following passages from the Bahá'í Writings is nothing short of astounding.

"Knowledge is as wings to man's life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone. The knowledge of such sciences, however, should be acquired as can profit the peoples of the earth, and not those which begin with words and end with words...In truth, knowledge is a veritable treasure for man, and a source of glory, of bounty, of joy, of exaltation, of cheer and gladness unto him." 6

"As to thy question regarding discoveries made by the soul after it hath put off its human form: Certainly, that world is a world of perceptions and discoveries, for the interposed veil will be lifted away...once he hath departed this life, he will behold, in that world, whatever was hidden from him here: But there he will look upon and comprehend all things with his inner eye." 7

Moody's subjects also make the point that knowledge should be tempered with wisdom. One said, "But I pray for wisdom, wisdom more than all."

In the following passage Bahá'u'lláh again emphasizes the importance of using knowledge to serve mankind, in addition, He cautions against a misuse of the intellect.

"Exert your utmost endeavour that ye may develop such crafts and undertakings that everyone, whether young or old, may benefit therefrom. We are quit of those ignorant ones who fondly imagine that Wisdom is to give vent to one's idle imaginings and to repudiate God..."

In a prayer from 'Abdu'l-Bahá we are encouraged to lead spiritual lives, to guide our fellowman, to forcefully pursue knowledge and wisdom, and to live life to the fullest:

"They became through Thy most great favor stars shining on the horizon of guidance, birds singing in the rose-gardens of immortality, lions roaring in the forests of knowledge and wisdom, and whales swimming in the oceans of life."

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    1 Bahá'í World Faith: Selected Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá p.367 and Bahá 'u'llah and the New Era: An Introduction to the Bahá'í Faith p.190
    2 Paris Talks: Addresses Given by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Paris in 1911 p.89-90
    3 Gleaning from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh p.151-153
    4 Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá p. 184-185
    5 "Reflections on Life After Life" by Raymond Moody p.12
    6 Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh p. 52
    7 Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá p.170-171
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