September 20, 2012

This Earthly Life and the Journey of the Soul after Death -- some reflections by John S. Hatcher, 1994

However knowledgeable we may become about the divine origins or our cosmos, however confident we may be about the destiny of humankind on this small planet, we never escape one abiding concern - that each of us will soon pass from this earthly existence. Therefore, whatever guidance and meaning religion can provide to help us conquer the challenges of our daily lives, possibly the greatest comfort it can offer is the assurance that our physical existence has a purpose, that somehow our earthly life, so fleeting and so fragile, is preparing us for something more enduring.

The Baha'i Faith has a vast amount of information to impart about the reality that awaits us after death. It is a vision that offers consolation, but it also has the power to investigate our lives here and now because it explains the relevance of our performance in this life to what we will experience in the continuation of our lives beyond physical reality.

For example, the Baha'i writings explain that our physical experience is unique. We get no second chance, no reincarnation, because we do not need it. Our brief lives, however chaotic and unjust they may sometimes seem to us, are quite adequate to provide us with the spiritual tools we will need to continue our progress in the next world. In fact, this life is important precisely because it does prepare us for the next stage of our existence in the same way that the gestation of the child in the womb prepares it for participation in this life. Yet our spiritual development is not completed in this physical life any more than the birth of an infant signals the completion of its growth. From the Baha'i view the journey of the soul is a process of endless growth and infinite possibilities. In this respect the Baha'i belief about the afterlife differs significantly from some other views, which assert that the afterlife is but a reflection of this life, a judgment: we spend eternity in some sort of heaven if we have done well, in a hell if we have not. In contrast, the Baha'i writings tell us that our lives are never static, even in the next world we will continue changing and developing. For while the human soul will never change its essence - will never become something other than a human soul - it is infinitely perfectible. We are, by nature, always in the process of becoming, and we always will be.