"O Son of the Supreme! Death have I ordained even as glad-tidings for thee; wherefore dost thou sorrow? Light have I made to illumine thee, why veil thyself from it?" (From the "Hidden Words" of Baha'u'llah)
There is not a question of this twentieth century which interests people more, perhaps, than the scientific proofs of life after death. It is a great privilege, therefore, to present some of the scientific proofs of immortality from the Baha'i teachings.
Baha’u’llah teaches that the physical body, just as science tells us, is composed of atoms which through attraction cohere, and thus the body is formed. But later these atoms disintegrate and we have what is called destruction or death; but that the spirit within the body is entirely different. It is not composed of atoms which cohere and disintegrate; the spirit is composed of one element, one substance, therefore it can never disintegrate.
The spirit is an effulgence which shines upon the body as the sun shines upon the mirror. One can never point to any part of his body and say, "The spirit is located here." The spirit, in its very essence is immortal, and when the spirit within us is once awakened - and this constitutes what is called in the Bible "being born again" - we become immortal here and now; and when we pass on, this awakened spirit goes with full consciousness into the higher kingdom. It puts off the body as one would a garment, and it will function more powerfully without the limitations of the body. 'Abdu'l-Baha teaches that when the spirit enters the kingdom of light it puts on a spiritual body - a celestial body which will never change, and the spirit continues its progression in the higher realms.
'Abdu'l-Baha also teaches that there are many worlds of God. Everything in the physical world has its counterpart in the spiritual world, For example, the scientists say that there are three hundred million worlds quite as large as this little earth. If there are three hundred million physical worlds then there are also many spiritual worlds, even as Christ indicated when he taught, "In my Father's house are many mansions."
'Abdu'l-Baha said that the spirit, when it enters into the next kingdom, will come into the presence of Christ and Baha'u'llah and Buddha and Moses and all of the Prophets and all its loved ones, and it will speak to them of its spiritual journey through this earth plane.
The whole purpose of being born into this world is not material happiness or these exterior conditions, which we think are so important, but the most scientific truth one can learn is that the real purpose of life here is that the spirit, potential in each soul, may become awakened and evolve the qualities which it will use in the higher kingdom.
The child born into the human kingdom comes potentially prepared with eyes and ears and other senses which it has developed ready to use; in the same way we spiritually are in the womb life of the life eternal and the most scientific knowledge we can ever acquire is to learn how to take on divine qualities, for all that the awakened spirit can carry with it into this higher kingdom are these God-like qualities which it has evolved here. So many times people think of science as referring only to material objects; but divine science, which teaches the reality of the spirit, is as truly scientific as the discovery of electricity and radio.
This reality of the spirit is brought home clearly in a few trenchant sentences which 'Abdu'l-Baha spoke in one of His addresses in America when He visited that country in 1912:
"Change and transformation are peculiarities of composition. There is no change and transformation in the spirit. In proof of this the body may become weakened in its members. It may be dismembered or one of its members may be incapacitated... Dismember a healthy man, the spirit is not dismembered. Amputate his feet, his spirit is there. He may become lame, the spirit is not affected. The spirit is ever the same; no change or transformation can you perceive, and because there is no change or transformation it is everlasting and permanent."
‘Abdu'l-Baha also takes the often vivid experiences of a being in sleep, when the body is inert and powerless, and it might be said to all intents and purposes non-existent, as another and perhaps even stronger illustration of the persistence and independence of the human spirit. He says:
"Consider man while in the state of sleep; it is evident that all his parts and members are at a standstill, are functionless. His eye does not see, his ear does not hear, his feet and hands are motionless, but nevertheless he does see in the world of dreams, he does hear, he speaks, he walks, he may even fly in an aeroplane. Therefore, it becomes evident that though the body be dead, yet the spirit is alive and permanent. Nay, the perceptions may be keener when man's body is asleep, the flight may be higher, the hearing may be more acute; all the functions are there and yet the body is at a standstill.
Hence it is proof that there is a spirit in the man, and in this spirit there is no distinction as to whether the body be asleep or absolutely dead and dependent. The spirit is not incapacitated by these conditions; it is not bereft of its perfections."
Some might say: ‘I cannot believe in the spirit because I cannot see it, I cannot feel it, I cannot know it with my five senses.’ But 'Abdu'-Baha tells us, "If the spirit of man belonged to the elemental existence the eye could see it, the ear hear it, the hand touch it. As long as these five senses cannot perceive it, the proof is unquestioned that it does not belong to the elemental world and therefore is beyond death or mortality which are inseparable from that material realm of existence."
One fact which material scientists may not agree with, but which the Baha'i teachings absolutely prove, is that "the body does not conduct the processes of intellection or thought radiation," and that the power of reason is not shared with the animal but is peculiar to the human spirit. I quote the words of 'Abdu'l-Baha:
"The body does not conduct the processes of intellection or thought radiation. It is only the medium of the grossest sensations. This human body is purely animal in type, and like the animal, is subject only to the grosser sensibilities. It is utterly bereft of ideation or intellection, utterly incapable of the processes of reason. The animal perceives according to its animal senses. It comprehends not beyond its sense perceptions; … but we know that in the human organism there is a center of intellection, a power of intellectual operation which is the discoverer of the realities of things. This power can unravel the mysteries of phenomena. It can comprehend that which is knowable, not alone the sensible. All the inventions are its products, for all these have been the mysteries of nature… all the sciences which we now utilize are the products of that wondrous reality. But the animal is deprived of its operations. The arts we now enjoy are the expressions of this marvelous reality. The animal is bereft of them because these conscious realities are peculiar to the human spirit.
"These evidences prove that man is possessed of two realities, a reality connected with the senses and which is shared in common with the animal, and another reality which is conscious and ideal in character. This latter is the collective reality and the discoverer of mysteries. That which discovers the realities of things undoubtedly is not of the elemental substances. It is distinct from them, for mortality and disintegration are the properties inherent in compositions and are referable to things which are subject to sense perceptions, but the collective reality in man, not being so subject, is the discoverer of things. Therefore it is real, eternal, and does not have to undergo change and transformation."
This proves that the physical brain is not the discoverer, but is only the instrument of the human spirit and that the spirit can carry on its processes of thinking and is not annihilated by the disintegration of the physical body. It will prove also that the highest science which one can attain is to learn how to awaken this human spirit and to teach it to use the power of the Holy Spirit; thus the spirit gradually takes on divine qualities. It develops a brilliant spiritual intuition and it catches glimpses of cosmic consciousness.
When the spirit, through prayer, meditation and service, is turned toward the infinite essence of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit the mysteries of God shine upon the spirit of the individual as upon a photographic plate. It is then that genius is born, that the highest arts and sciences come into being and the brain is only the instrument like the camera.
In all the different kingdoms preparation is made for a kingdom still higher; for example, in the mineral kingdom the mineral prepares itself by disintegration, so that the vegetable may reach down and take it up into this higher kingdom. The vegetable prepares itself by growth and augmentation so that the animal may take it up. The Baha'i Teachings accept completely the evolutionary principle, including the development of the human race through the lower forms of life, but insist that inherently man was man from the beginning of things and that his evolution, now at an end so far as bodily forms are concerned, is to be continued indefinitely, nay, eternally, through the development of his spirit.
The Baha'is believe that evolution was not purposeless. Of what profit to evolve such a being as man, with powers and perceptions, as I think has been clearly shown, so far above the animal, and then let the process suddenly stop and leave the work unfinished? No. Evolution will still continue, but it will be the evolution of the spirit. The process begins with man on this earthly plane of existence, and with his spirit soaring above the limitations of earth after it has been freed from the encumbrance of the body, will continue to undreamed of perfections in the life hereafter.
Convinced as we are of this, we feel that the most important things of today, looked at even from the evolutionary, scientific standpoint, are not the things material, necessary and imperative as it is to develop them to the utmost as the strivings for human comfort and advancement persist. What is really essential is the development of the thing that will last, not the evanescently material, but the permanently spiritual. And it is important that we realize that fact while we are still active and energetic here, and that we strive to fit ourselves as best we possibly can for the swifter advancement that we feel lies within our grasp in the continuation of our perceptive life on another plane.
In conclusion a few more of the illuminating teachings of 'Abdu'l-Baha are quoted which will help us understand this most important subject of "Life After Death"- the evolution of the material side of man, his most important work here and now, and how he can best prepare himself for the greater evolution that is to come when he advances beyond the material bounds and his reality wings its way into the realm of the eternal:
“In the world of existence man has traversed successive degrees until he has attained the human kingdom. In each degree of his progression he has developed capacity for advancement to the next station and condition. While in the kingdom of the mineral he was attaining the capacity for promotion into the degree of the vegetable. In the kingdom of the vegetable he underwent preparation for the world of the animal, and from thence he has come onward to the human degree, or kingdom. Throughout this journey of progression he has ever and always been potentially man.”
“In the beginning of his human life man was embryonic in the world of the matrix. There he received capacity and endowment for the reality of human existence. The forces and powers necessary for this world were bestowed upon him in that limited condition. In this world he needed eyes; he received them potentially in the other. He needed ears; he obtained them there in readiness and preparation for his new existence. The powers requisite in this world were conferred upon him in the world of the matrix so that when he entered this realm of real existence he not only possessed all necessary functions and powers but found provision for his material sustenance awaiting him.”
“Therefore, in this world he must prepare himself for the life beyond. That which he needs in the world of the Kingdom must be obtained here. Just as he prepared himself in the world of the matrix by acquiring forces necessary in this sphere of existence, so, likewise, the indispensable forces of the divine existence must be potentially attained in this world.”
“What is he in need of in the Kingdom which transcends the life and limitation of this mortal sphere? That world beyond is a world of sanctity and radiance; therefore, it is necessary that in this world he should acquire these divine attributes. In that world there is need of spirituality, faith, assurance, the knowledge and love of God. These he must attain in this world so that after his ascension from the earthly to the heavenly Kingdom he shall find all that is needful in that eternal life ready for him.
“That divine world is manifestly a world of lights; therefore, man has need of illumination here. That is a world of love; the love of God is essential. It is a world of perfections; virtues, or perfections, must be acquired. That world is vivified by the breaths of the Holy Spirit; in this world we must seek them. That is the Kingdom of everlasting life; it must be attained during this vanishing existence.”
“By what means can he acquire these things? How shall he obtain these merciful gifts and powers? First, through the knowledge of God. Second, through the love of God. Third, through faith. Fourth, through philanthropic deeds. Fifth, through self-sacrifice. Sixth, through severance from this world. Seventh, through sanctity and holiness. Unless he acquires these forces and attains to these requirements, he will surely be deprived of the life that is eternal. But if he possesses the knowledge of God, becomes ignited through the fire of the love of God, witnesses the great and mighty signs of the Kingdom, becomes the cause of love among mankind and lives in the utmost state of sanctity and holiness, he shall surely attain to second birth, be baptized by the Holy Spirit and enjoy everlasting existence.”
(Star of the West, vol. 19, no. 5, August 1927)