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

by Alan Bryson

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Chapter 9

Immortality

"From the sweet-scented streams of Thine eternity give me to drink, O my God,
and of the fruits of the tree of Thy being enable me to taste, O my Hope!
From the crystal springs of Thy love suffer me to quaff, O my Glory,
and beneath the shadow of Thine everlasting providence let me abide,
O my Light!"
Bahá'u'lláh

"Drape thyself in whatever manner pleaseth Thee
in the silken Vesture of Immortality, and put on,
in the name of the All-Glorious, the broidered Robe of Light...
suffer not the servants of God to be deprived
of the light of Thy shinning countenance."
Bahá'u'lláh

Once the soul comes into existence it is eternal, no longer bound by the restrictions which apply to the material world. As we have already shown, both NDEers and the Bahá'í teachings maintain that the soul retains an identifiable individuality. Those who have had a NDE cherish life, but, because they have the assurance of the immortality of their soul, they are no longer fearful of physical death. Indeed, they learn that the spiritual dimension is nothing to fear, on the contrary, the realm of light is a paradise sanctified from material concerns and concepts such as time and space. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, speaking of the immortality of the soul, once said:

"The whole physical creation is perishable. These material bodies are composed of atoms; when these atoms begin to separate, decomposition sets in; then comes what we call death. This composition of atoms, which constitutes the body or mortal element of any created being, is temporary. When the power of attraction, which holds these atoms together, is withdrawn, the body, as such, ceases to exist."

"With the soul it is differest. The soul is not a combination of elements; it is not composed of many atoms, it is of one indivisible substance and, therefore, eternal. It is entirely out of the order of the physical creation; it is immortal! "

"Scientific philosophy has demonstrated that a simple element is indestructible, eternal. The soul, not being a composition of elements, is, in character, as a simple element, and, therefore, cannot cease to exist."

"The soul, being of that one indivisible substance, can suffer neither disintegration nor destruction; therefore, there is no reason for its coming to an end. All things living show signs of their existence, and it follows that these signs could not of themselves exist if that which they express or to which they testify had no being. A thing which does not exist can, of course, give no sign of its existence. The manifold signs of the existence of the spirit are forever before us."

"The traces of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the influence of His divine teaching, is present with us today, and is everlasting."

" ...Consider the aim of creation: Is it possible that all is created to evolve and develop through countless ages with this small goal in view--a few years of a man's life on earth? Is it not unthinkable that this should be the final aim of existence?"

"The mineral evolves till it is absorbed in the life of the plant; the plant progresses till finally it loses its life in that of the animal; the animal, in its turn, forming part of the food of man, is absorbed into human life."

" Thus, man is shown to be the sum of all creation, the superior of all created beings, the goal to which countless ages of existence have progressed."

"At the best, man spends fourscore years and ten in this world--a short time indeed!"

"Does a man cease to exist when he leaves the body? If his life comes to an end, then all the previous evolution is useless; all has been for nothing! Can one imagine that creation has no greater aim than this?"

"The soul is eternal, immortal."

"Materialists say, 'Where is the soul? What is it? We cannot see it, neither can we touch it.' "

"This is how we must answer them: However much the mineral may progress, it cannot comprehend the vegetable world. Now, the lack of comprehension does not prove the nonexistence of the plant!"

"To however great a degree the plant may have evolved, it is unable to understand the animal world; this ignorance is no proof that the animal does not exist! "

"The animal, be he ever so highly developed, cannot imagine the intelligence of man; neither can he realize the nature of his soul. But, again, this does not prove that man is without intellect, or without soul. It only demonstrates this, that one form of existence is incapable of comprehending a form superior to itself."

"...Why did Christ Jesus suffer the fearful death on the cross?"

"Why did Muhammad bear persecutions? "

"Why did the Bab make the supreme sacrifice, and why did Bahá'u'lláh pass the years of His life in prison? "

"Why should all this suffering have been, if not to prove the everlasting life of the spirit? "

" ...The inability of the materialistic mind to grasp the idea of the life eternal is no proof of the nonexistence of that life."

"The comprehension of that other life depends on our spiritual birth! "

"My prayer for you is that your spiritual faculties and aspirations may daily increase, and that you will never allow the material senses to veil from your eves the glories of the heavenly illumination." 1 — 'Abdu'l-Bahá

"Know that, although the human soul has existed on the earth for prolonged times and ages, yet it is phenomenal. As it is a divine sign, when once it has come into existence, it is eternal. The spirit of man has a beginning, but it has no end; it continues eternally. In the same way the species existing on this earth are phenomenal, for it is established that there was a time when these species did not exist on the surface of the earth. Moreover, the earth has not always existed, but the world of existence has always been, for the universe is not limited to this terrestrial globe. The meaning of this is that, although human souls are phenomenal, they are nevertheless immortal, everlasting and perpetual; for the world of things is the world of imperfection in comparison with that of man, and the world of man is the world of perfection in comparison with that of things. When imperfections reach the station of perfection, they become eternal. This is an example of which you must comprehend the meaning." 2 — 'Abdu'l-Bahá

"You question about eternal life and the entrance into the Kingdom. The outer expression used for the Kingdom is heaven; but this is a comparison and similitude, not a reality or fact, for the Kingdom is not a material place; it is sanctified from time and place. It is a spiritual world, a divine world, and the center of the Sovereignty of God; it is freed from body and that which is corporeal, and it is purified and sanctified from the imaginations of the human world. To be limited to place is a property of bodies and not of spirits. Place and time surround the body, not the mind and spirit. Observe that the body of man is confined to a small place; it covers only two spans of earth. But the spirit and mind of man travel to all countries and regions--even through the limitless space of the heavens--surround all that exists, and make discoveries in the exalted spheres and infinite distances. This is because the spirit has no place; it is placeless; and for the spirit the earth and the heaven are as one since it makes discoveries in both. But the body is limited to a place and does not know that which is beyond it."

" ...The meaning of eternal life is the gift of the Holy Spirit, as the flower receives the gift of the season, the air, and the breezes of spring. Consider: This flower had life in the beginning like the life of the mineral; but by the coming of the season of spring, of the bounty of the clouds of the springtime, and of the heat of the glowing sun, it attained to another life of the utmost freshness, delicacy and fragrance. The first life of the flower, in comparison to the second life, is death. "

"The meaning is that the life of the Kingdom is the life of the spirit, the eternal life, and that it is purified from place, like the spirit of man which has no place. For if you examine the human body, you will not find a special spot or locality for the spirit, for it has never had a place; it is immaterial. It has a connection with the body like that of the sun with this mirror. The sun is not within the mirror, but it has a connection with the mirror. "

" In the same way the world of the Kingdom is sanctified from everything that can be perceived by the eye or by the other senses--hearing, smell, taste or touch. The mind which is in man, the existence of which is recognized--where is it in him? If you examine the body with the eye, the ear or the other senses, you will not find it; nevertheless, it exists. Therefore, the mind has no place, but it is connected with the brain. The Kingdom is also like this. In the same way love has no place, but it is connected with the heart; so the kingdom has no place, but is connected with man."

"These explanations show that man is immortal and lives eternally. For those who believe in God, who have love of God, and faith, life is excellent--that is, it is eternal; but to those souls who are veiled from God, although they have life, it is dark, and in comparison with the life of believers it is nonexistence. "

"...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." 3 — 'Abdu'l-Bahá

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    1 Paris Talks: Addresses Given by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Paris in 1911, p.90-94
    2 'Abdul-Bahá, "Some Answered Questions", p.151-152
    3 ibid. 241-243
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