Baha'i teachings on the soul

All research or scholarship questions
Jonah
Site Admin
Posts: 412
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2003 1:25 pm
Location: St Catharines, Ontario (near Niagara Falls)
Contact:

Baha'i teachings on the soul

Postby Jonah » Sun Oct 31, 2004 1:41 am

A dear friend asked me if I could dig up some Baha'i teachings on the following two topics, to answer questions asked of her by a seeker: (1) Man's soul starts to associate with conception, but (2) the Manifestation's soul was always existing. Below is the answer I gave her. If anyone has more feedback, please share it here!

<h3>1- Man's soul starts to associate with conception</h3>At http://bahai-library.com/uhj/reproduction.html I found this:
... the Bahá'í Writings affirm that the human soul comes into being at the time of conception. However, they do not clearly define the exact biological moment and nature of the event described as conception and this may, indeed, be a question that is insoluble by human thought or investigation, since it relates to mysteries of the spiritual world and the nature of the soul itself. (6 February 1997, to a National Spiritual Assembly) [12


This is the only other thing I found, from <i>Lights of Guidance:</i>
1155. Surgical Operation and Abortion--The Soul Appears at Conception

"Abortion and surgical operations for the purpose of preventing the birth of unwanted children are forbidden in the Cause unless there are circumstances which justify such actions on medical grounds, in which case the decision, at present, is left to the consciences of those concerned who must carefully weigh the medical advice in the light of the general guidance given in the Teachings. Beyond this nothing has been found in the Writings concerning specific methods or procedures to be used in family planning. It should be pointed out, however, that the Teachings state that the soul appears at conception, and that therefore it would be improper to use such a method, the effect of which would be to produce an abortion after conception has taken place."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 23, 1975


<h3>2- Manifestation's soul was always existing.</h3>I know I've seen this in a number of places, but offhand can't find them. There is a lot of material at http://bahai-library.com/articles/manifestation.html . Probably the best place is Abdu'l-Baha's overview of the theology of the Manifestations, from Some Answered Questions: http://bahai-library.com/writings/abdulbaha/saq/38.html .

The best overview of Baha'i theology that I've ever read is from the Journal of Baha'i Studies, http://bahai-library.com/?file=mclean_p ... ology.html . But I just skimmed it and didn't see a discussion of the Manifestation's pre-existence.

From <i>Lights of Guidance:</i>
1699. The Souls of the Prophets Are Pre-Existent

"The soul or spirit of the individual comes into being with the conception of his physical body.

"The Prophets, unlike us, are pre-existent. The Soul of Christ existed in the spiritual world before His birth in this world. We cannot imagine what that world is like, so words are inadequate to picture His state of being.

"We cannot know God directly, but only through His Prophets. We can pray to Him, realizing that through His Prophets we know Him, or we can address our prayer in thought to Bahá'u'lláh, not as God, but as the Door to our knowing God.

"We find God only through the Intermediary of His Prophet. We see the Perfection of God in His Prophets. Time and space are physical things; God the Creator is not in a 'place' as we conceive of place in physical terms. God is the Infinite Essence, the Creator. We cannot picture Him or His state; if we did, we would be His equals, not His Creatures. God is never flesh, but mirrored in the attributes of His Prophets, we see His Divine characteristics and perfections.

"Shoghi Effendi advises you to study 'Some Answered Questions' and the 'Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh' which help you to grasp these questions."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 9, 1947)

"Regarding your question concerning the passage in 'Seven Valleys' referring to pre-existence. This in no way presupposes the existence of the individual soul before conception. The term has not been absolutely accurately translated, and what is meant is that man's soul is the repository of the ancient, Divine mysteries of God."


-Jonah

Guest

Postby Guest » Sun Oct 31, 2004 6:36 am

That's an interesting question. Is it the same word (for "soul") in the original languages?

As I understand it, God's "names and attributes" (= energies, divine virtues) are co-eternal (and premortal) with him. Somehow they become manifest within (non-premortal) human souls--related how? As the vine to the grape, or the magnet to the iron filing?

In 12-er Shi'ism the prophets and imams are are archetypal, and are not eternal (past) as God is, but are the first lights of the world of creation. Presumably Baha'i manifestations would be similarly conceived.

MWaldie
Posts: 19
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2004 11:18 am

Postby MWaldie » Sun Oct 31, 2004 11:49 am

Thanks a lot I have learned a lot from that post and it spark some interest. My understanding of pre-existance was that this was the same spirit as all the manifestations have com down with. meaning the same reflection of God was in each manifestation since there is only one God.

So then the souls are different? Is that more a correct way to teach that?

Thanks for all your help and this site is a wealth of information:)

Mat

Pilosofia
Posts: 75
Joined: Tue Jun 08, 2004 10:08 am
Contact:

Spirit and Soul

Postby Pilosofia » Sat Nov 27, 2004 9:41 pm

Thank you Jonah for the references.

brettz9
Posts: 1363
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 12:12 pm
Contact:

Postby brettz9 » Sat Nov 27, 2004 11:59 pm

Greetings all,

Thanks to Jonah for a very helpful (and well-formatted) collection of quotations. If we can get the wiki going again, this would be a nice addition, I think.

For your reference, if you'd like to find further resources on a particular theological topic (as covered in Some Answered Questions), the outline here has a "Further References" section for each chapter of the book which links to some of the other quotations and chapters (in and out of the book) where the discussion has been elaborated. It's not as convenient perhaps as a cross-reference organized by subject (rather than chapter), but using Jonah's Some Answered Questions reference, I used that to find the additional quotation below (in case you want to know additional ways of finding these on your own)...

"...The Divine Manifestations are so many different mirrors because They have a special individuality, but that which is reflected in the mirrors is one sun. It is clear that the reality of Christ is different from that of Moses.

"Verily, from the beginning that Holy Reality {The Manifestation} is conscious of the secret of existence, and from the age of childhood signs of greatness appear and are visible in Him. Therefore, how can it be that with all these bounties and perfections He should have no consciousness?

"We have mentioned that the Holy Manifestations have three planes. The physical condition, the individual reality, and the center of the appearance of perfection: it is like the sun, its heat and its light. Other individuals have the physical plane, the plane of the rational soul--the spirit and mind.

(Some Answered Questions, p. 155)


Return to “Discussion”