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

by Alan Bryson

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Chapter 8

The Soul

Darkness hath been chased away by the dawning light
of the mercy of thy Lord, the Source of all light.
The breeze of the All-Merciful hath wafted,
and the souls have been quickened in the tombs of their bodies.
Bahá'u'lláh

So great is the abundance of material in the Bahá'í Writings relating to the soul that any explanation on my part is completely superfluous. Again in this chapter you will notice that the theme of ineffability is touched upon.

" Man--the true man--is soul, not body; though physically man belongs to the animal kingdom, yet his soul lifts him above the rest of creation. Behold how the light of the sun illuminates the world of matter: Even so doth the divine light shed its rays in the kingdom of the soul. The soul it is which makes the human creature a celestial entity!" 'Abdu'l-Bahá 1

"All praise and glory be to God Who, through the power of His might, hath delivered His creation from the nakedness of nonexistence, and clothed it with the mantle of life. From among all created things He hath singled out for His special favor the pure, the gem-like reality of man, and invested it with a unique capacity of knowing Him and of reflecting the greatness of His glory. This twofold distinction conferred upon him hath cleansed away from his heart the rust of every vain desire, and made him worthy of the vesture with which his Creator hath deigned to clothe him. It hath served to rescue his soul from the wretchedness of ignorance."

" This robe with which the body and soul of man hath been adorned is the very foundation of his well-being and development. Oh, how blessed the day when, aided by the grace and might of the one true God, man will have freed himself from the bondage and corruption of the world and all that is therein, and will have attained unto true and abiding rest beneath the shadow of the Tree of Knowledge!" Bahá'u'lláh 2

" Thou hast asked Me concerning the nature of the soul. Know, verily, that the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel. It is the first among all created things to declare the excellence of its Creator, the first to recognize His glory, to cleave to his truth, and to bow down in adoration before Him. If it be faithful to God, it will reflect His light, and will, eventually, return unto Him... "

"Thou hast, moreover, asked Me concerning the state of the soul after its separation from the body. Know thou, of a truth, that if the soul of man hath walked in the ways of God, it will, assuredly, return and be gathered to the glory of the Beloved. By the righteousness of God! It shall attain a station such as no pen can depict, or tongue describe. The soul that hath remained faithful to the Cause of God, and stood unwaveringly firm in His Path, shall, after his ascension, be possessed of such power that all the worlds which the Almighty hath created can benefit through him..." Bahá'u'lláh 3

"As to those that have tasted of the fruits of man's earthly existence, which is the recognition of the one true God, exalted be His glory, their life hereafter is such as We are unable to describe. The knowledge thereof is with God, alone, the Lord of all worlds." Bahá'u'lláh 4

In order to avoid a possible misunderstanding, the Bahá'í teaching don't relegate believers and non-believers to the realms of "heaven" or "hell" in ,for example, the fundamentalist Christian sense. All souls will move on to a common spiritual world, however, their spiritual development on this earthly plane will determine the degree of their spiritual reality in the next world. "Hell" is not so much a "place" as it is a state of mind, or more precisely, a state of spiritual deprivation. One needn't die in order to be in "hell" or "paradise"; as spiritual beings we can occupy these states while in our bodies.

"In the same way, the souls who are veiled from God, although they exist in this world and in the world after death, are in comparison with the holy existence of the children of the Kingdom of God, nonexisting and separated from God." 'Abdu'l-Bahá 5

"The rewards of the other world are peace, the spiritual graces, the various spiritual gifts in the Kingdom of God, the gaining of the desires of the heart and the soul, and the meeting of God in the world of eternity. In the same way the punishment of the other world--that is to say, the torments of the other world--consist in being deprived of the special, divine blessings and the absolute bounties, and falling into the lowest degree of existence. He who is deprived of these divine favors, although he continues after death, is considered as dead by the people of truth." 'Abdu'l-Bahá 6

"As to the soul of man after death, it remains in the degree of purity to which it has evolved during life in the physical body, and after it is freed from the body, it remains plunged in the ocean of God's mercy.!

"From the moment the soul leaves the body and arrives in the heavenly world, its evolution is spiritual, and that evolution is: The approaching unto God."

"...The soul does not evolve from degree to degree as a law--it only evolves nearer to God, by the mercy and bounty of God." 'Abdu'l-Bahá 7

Bahá'u'lláh assures us that all souls:

" ...are, one and all, well aware of one another's state and condition, and are united in the bonds of intimacy and fellowship. Such a state, however, must depend upon their faith and their conduct. They that are of the same grade and station are fully aware of one another's capacity, character, accomplishments and merits. They that are of a lower grade, however, are incapable of comprehending adequately the station, or of estimating the merits, of those that rank above them. Each shall receive his share from thy Lord. Blessed is the man that hath turned his face towards God, and walked steadfastly in His love, until his soul hath winged its flight unto God, the Sovereign Lord of all, the Most Powerful, the ever-Forgiving, the All-Merciful."
Bahá'u'lláh 8

" The differences and distinction between men will naturally become realized after their departure from this mortal world. But this distinction is not in respect to place 9 , but in respect to the soul and conscience. For the Kingdom of God is sanctified (or free) from time and place; it is another world and another universe."
'Abdu'l-Bahá 10

"Thou hast asked Me whether man, as apart from the Prophets of God and His chosen ones, will retain, after his physical death, the selfsame individuality, personality, consciousness, and understanding that characterize his life in this world. If this should be the case, how is it, thou hast observed, that whereas such slight injuries to his mental faculties as fainting and severe illness deprive him of his understanding and consciousness, his death, which must involve the decomposition of his body and the dissolution of its elements, is powerless to destroy that understanding and extinguish that consciousness? How can anyone imagine that man's consciousness and personality will be maintained, when the very instruments necessary to their existence and function will have completely disintegrated?"

" Know thou that the soul of man is exalted above and is independent of all infirmities of body or mind. That a sick person showeth signs of weakness is due to the hindrances that interpose themselves between his soul and his body, for the soul itself remaineth unaffected by any bodily ailments. Consider the light of the lamp. Though an external object may interfere with its radiance, the light itself continueth to shine with undiminished power. In like manner, every malady afflicting the body of man is an impediment that preventeth the soul from manifesting its inherent might and power. When it leaveth the body, however, it will evince such ascendancy, and reveal such influence as no force on earth can equal. Every pure, every refined and sanctified soul will be endowed with tremendous power, and shall rejoice with exceeding gladness."

"Consider the lamp which is hidden under a bushel. Though its light be shining, yet, its radiance is concealed from men. Likewise, consider the sun which hath been obscured by the clouds. Observe how its splendor appeareth to have diminished, when in reality the source of that light hath remained unchanged. The soul of man should be likened unto this sun, and all things on earth should be regarded as his body. So long as no external impediment interveneth between them, the body will, in its entirety, continue to reflect the light of the soul, and to be sustained by its power. As soon as, however, a veil interposeth itself between them, the brightness of that light seemeth to lessen."

" ...The soul of man is the sun by which his body is illumined, and from which it draweth its sustenance, and should be so regarded." Bahá'u'lláh 11

"Souls are like unto mirrors, and the bounty of God is like unto the sun. When the mirrors pass beyond all coloring and attain purity and polish, and are confronted with the sun, they will reflect in full perfection its light and glory. In this condition one should not consider the mirror, but the power of the light of the sun, which hath penetrated the mirror, making it a reflector of the heavenly glory." 'Abdu'l-Bahá 12

_________________________________

    1 Paris Talks: Addresses Given by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Paris in 1911 p.85
    2 Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p.77-78
    3 ibid. p.158-162
    4 ibid. p.345-346
    5 'Abdu'l-Bahá , Some Answered Questions, p.243
    6 ibid. 224-225
    7 Paris Talks: Addresses Given by 'Abdul-Baha in Paris in 1911, p.66-67
    8 Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pp.169-171
    9 i.e. Heaven above, hell below
    10 'Abdul-Baha as quoted in, "Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era: An Introduction to the Bahá'í Faith, p.190
    11 Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh p.153-155
    12 Bahá'í World Faith: Selected Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, p.357
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