Probably this is not a subject that many people like to deal with. Of course, we are going to die. And thinking about death is not something we like to think about. But thinking about death…..there is no greater mystery than the world beyond.
The original ideas for this section were gleaned from articles written by Christopher Buck, a well-known Baha’i author.
The teachings of all the great Faiths refer to the existence of the human soul and its journey through this world and the worlds to come. The Baha’i writings give us more hints, indications, and insights as to what to expect. In those writings, we glean enough knowledge in this life to help us prepare for the next life. We learn that the hereafter, to a large extent, greatly depends on the here-and-now.
Full disclosure of life in the world beyond is neither possible nor desirable. That life, the Baha’i teachings tell us, is impossible to understand. Even if we were able to understand it, too much information would excite such great longing to experience that realm so as to tempt suicide, as Baha’u’llah states:
If any man be told that which hath been ordained for such a soul in the worlds of God, the Lord of the throne on high and of earth below, his whole being will instantly blaze out in his great longing to attain that most exalted, that sanctified and resplendent station.Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 156.
To really know is to do. Knowledge should serve as a guide for enlightened actions. Without following through on what we know, such knowledge is for naught, if it produces no results. Although true as a general principle, this is especially true when it comes to the necessity for each of us to prepare for the world beyond.
What each of us does in the present, in fact, affects our future – not only in this life, but in the afterlife as well. Although there’s a world of difference, the afterlife, after all, represents a continuation of this life. This is all the more reason to think about the world beyond while we are still living in the present world.
If one of the primary purposes of life is spiritual progress, the same applies in the life to come. The two are related – intimately interrelated, in fact – with the quality of the afterlife depending, in large measure, on the quality of this earthly life.
Material progress has its merits and demerits, but the Baha’i teachings define spiritual progress as the growth of spiritual awareness, including the love and “fear” (in a positive sense of what not to do) of God, but also the acquisition of godly virtues, as expressed in goodly deeds, in the path of service to others – and in the interest of advancing civilization, to the extent that each of us can contribute our part, to the best of each of our God-given abilities.
Progress in the world beyond, according to the Baha’i teachings, depends on: (1) the grace and bounty of God; (2) the intercession and prayers of other human souls; (3) significant contributions and charitable deeds which are offered in its [the soul’s] name; and (4) discoveries experienced by the soul.
1. The grace and bounty of God: Abdu’l-Baha explained, in answer to the question “Through what means can the spirit of man—the rational soul—progress after departing from this mortal world?:
The progress of the human spirit in the divine world, after its connection with the physical body has been severed, is either  purely through the grace and bounty of the Lord,  or through the intercession and prayers of other human souls,  or through the significant contributions and charitable deeds which are offered in its name. – [numbering added].Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 334
Here, the ways in which the soul is assisted in this progress by the grace of God, by the intercession of the Concourse on high and the prayers of the people here on Earth below, and/or philanthropic gifts or deeds done in memory of the departed, is not explained as to how this occurs. In a sense, the “how” is not as important as the “why.” After all, it’s the progress that counts, not how it occurs.
2. The intercession and prayers of other human souls: We can all pray for the spiritual progress of departed souls, and the Baha’i teachings say that prayer helps those souls advance spiritually in the world beyond.
3. Significant contributions and charitable deeds which are offered in its [the soul’s] name: This is the third way in which the spiritual progress of a departed soul may be assisted. In response to a question, Baha’u’llah states the soul rejoices in the present for the good that is done both past and present:
After relinquishing the body, that is to say, after the soul hath been separated from the body, it hasteneth to the abode hereafter … Verily, We say: The soul is gladdened by goodly deeds and profiteth from the contributions made in the path of God.Baha’u’llah, The Tabernacle of Unity, p. 63.
In the hereafter, the soul rejoices in contemplating past deeds and contributions performed here on Earth – but also rejoices in goodly deeds and contributions, also performed here on earth, but in the name and memory of that departed soul. Presumably, that happiness imparted to the soul somehow aids its progress, although we don’t know how.
4. Discoveries experienced by the soul: This is the fourth way in which the spiritual progress of a departed soul may be assisted, according to the following statement by Abdu’l-Baha:
As to thy question regarding discoveries made by the soul after it hath put off its human form: certainly, that world is a world of perceptions and discoveries, for the interposed veil will be lifted away and the human spirit will gaze upon souls that are above, below, and on a par with itself. It is similar to the condition of a human being in the womb, where his eyes are veiled, and all things are hidden away from him. Once he is born out of the uterine world and entereth this life, he findeth it, with relation to that of the womb, to be a place of perceptions and discoveries, and he observeth all things through his outer eye. In the same way, once he hath departed this life, he will behold, in that world whatsoever was hidden from him here: but there he will look upon and comprehend all things with his inner eye. There will he gaze on his fellows and his peers, and those in the ranks above him, and those below. —Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 170–171.
The soul’s “perceptions and discoveries” presumably assist in the spiritual progress of that soul.
Further to the previous article (“What Will We Do In the World Beyond?” Part 3 in Series: The World Beyond), note also that the world beyond is also part of this world, but is hidden from our purview and perception:
Those souls who are pure and unsullied, upon the dissolution of their elemental frames, hasten away to the world of God, and that world is within this world. The people of this world, however, are unaware of that world, and are even as the mineral and the vegetable that know nothing of the world of the animal and the world of man.Ibid., pp. 194–195.
I am not a religious fanatic that sees death as a better life for the simplest of reasons. I cannot conceive of another world, beyond the physical world of the senses, an image of the physical world without restraints when I dream at night, and my inner subjective world.
Is this odd? No. In my understanding of this life our purpose is to use this life’s possibilities, and then move on. As soon as we “know” about the afterlife definitively, then the structure and purpose of this life are lost. We know more about it from the Bahá’í Writings than any other religion prior to this period. But, in accordance with Bahá’u’lláh: “The mysteries of man’s physical death and of his return have not been divulged, and still remain unread.”
So my ability to comprehend do not expose to me a world where I will meet again people that I have known in this reality, or people that I have never directly met, but had a major impact on my life. One example of this is ’Abdu’l-Bahá followed closely by Shoghi Effendi and Rúhíyyih Khánum but do I know this will happen– no.
Will I meet my mother and father, sister, brothers? I feel a high probability that this happens.
I need to look for some of the words of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh to focus a meditation on this. The world beyond, writes Bahá’u’lláh, “is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother.” This analogy has various nuances and quotations that suggest that the boarder between this world and “the world beyond” is similar to the border of the womb. When I prayed for my children when they were still in the womb, did the prayers have an effect? In the Bahá’í writings, we read: “Also important to the progress of our souls in the next world are the good deeds carried out in our names here on earth, and the sincere prayers of our families and friends.”
I often say that I used the inheritance of my father to build “the Virtues Project in Guta”, and I also contributed part of this to the World Centre. I always pray for those that I have known in this world, but are no longer here. Somehow, we are explained, there is a connection between the two worlds. The only thing I want from my children after I die is that they remember me, pray for me. That’s it.
Bahá’í “Seven Valleys” says that one mystic station “findeth in death the secrets of everlasting life.” This resonates with my subjective world (perhaps I need to describe what I mean by this). I do not see death as dying. It is unknown, and I fear only the transition, and if I have made good choices in my life. This does not include my choice to try to be a Bahá’i. Only that I used the opportunities given to me for maximum good. Or did I waste them? With regards to others, I worry a lot about those that I love finding out that they wasted the opportunities in this life, and face this in the world to come.
“As to the question whether the souls will recognize each other in the spiritual world: This (fact) is certain; for the Kingdom is the world of vision (i. e., things are visible in it), where all concealed realities will become disclosed … Likewise will they find all the friends of God, both those of the former and recent times, present in the heavenly assemblage … Likewise, a love that one may have entertained for any one will not be forgotten in the world of the Kingdom. Likewise, thou wilt not forget (there) the life that thou hast had in the material world.”
Actually, I just want to list things that I would like to do, understand, discover, or realize after I die. Svitlana always thinks I’m being morose when I talk about death. I don’t feel like it’s a taboo subject.
A few quotes seem relevant here:
People I would like to meet in the next world:
- Svitlana of course, but to my mind, I’ll be waiting for her and not the other way around. She feels part of me, like two souls in one body, and this relationship is promised to last— as long as we achieve unity and a spiritual connection
- My brother Scott, and my sister Sandy.
- My paternal grandfather. I can’t remember him. And his second wife, my step-grandmother, Rhea.
- My Japanese nanny.
“Does the world beyond have any influence in this world?”
The answer, from a Baha’i perspective, is “Yes!”
If it is true that thoughts are pure energy and there is no physical “distance” between thoughts, then there may be more interaction between the world beyond and this world than we might have previously thought. This interaction could take the form of subtle influences, or moments of sudden inspiration or insight or realization or discovery, that flow from the world above to this world below. The Baha’i teachings call this dynamic interplay “the conversation of the spirit,” although the conversation does not resemble a normal vocal one and may, in fact, be rather one-sided:
Question: “Can a departed soul converse with someone still on earth?”
Abdu’l-Baha – A conversation can be held, but not as our conversation. There is no doubt that the forces of the higher worlds interplay with the forces of this plane. The heart of man is open to inspiration; this is spiritual communication. As in a dream one talks with a friend while the mouth is silent, so is it in the conversation of the spirit.Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 179.
In this kind of conversation, a departed soul imparts an idea into the heart of someone here on Earth. The sum total of such occurrences can be summed up in the idea that the souls in the hereafter can influence souls in the here-and-now. In this celebrated passage from the Baha’i writings, Baha’u’llah wrote:
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. Such a soul provideth, at the bidding of the Ideal King and Divine Educator, the pure leaven that leaveneth the world of being, and furnisheth the power through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest. Consider how meal needeth leaven to be leavened with. Those souls that are the symbols of detachment are the leaven of the world. Meditate on this, and be of the thankful. –Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 161.
You get the picture. To put it rather crudely, this world is a lump of dough – and the influence of souls from the world beyond is the leaven! Abdu’l-Baha elaborated on this theme of spiritual influences and inspiration from the next world when he answered the question: “How should one look forward to death?”
How does one look forward to the goal of any journey? With hope and with expectation. It is even so with the end of this earthly journey. In the next world, man will find himself freed from many of the disabilities under which he now suffers. Those who have passed on through death, have a sphere of their own. It is not removed from ours; their work, the work of the Kingdom, is ours; but it is sanctified from what we call time and place. Time with us is measured by the sun. When there is no more sunrise, and no more sunset, that kind of time does not exist for man. Those who have ascended have different attributes from those who are still on earth, yet there is no real separation.
In prayer there is a mingling of station, a mingling of condition. Pray for them as they pray for you! When you do not know it, and are in a receptive attitude, they are able to make suggestions to you, if you are in difficulty. This sometimes happens in sleep.Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, pp. 95–96.
This highly significant idea – that “there is no real separation” between this world and the world beyond means that existence in the next world has a dimension independent of time and space. So the interaction between the two worlds must be a kind of synchronicity, sympathetic in nature and modality, in which communication is mediated through inspired dreams (as distinguished from dreams that are purely the product of our imagination) or through pure thought. Such subtle inspiration and sudden insights can come in many forms – such as solutions to personal problems, useful insights, artistic ideas, and scientific discoveries.
However – receptivity on the part of the person here on Earth is required in order to benefit from such influence from the next world. Without such receptivity, the message cannot be delivered. Earnest prayers can help cultivate that subtle, spiritual susceptibility of heart and soul.
These Baha’i teachings about the spiritual influence of the next world in this world can be summed up like this: “Heaven is leaven.” In this sense, heaven and Earth are interconnected, interrelated, and interactive. The influences from the world beyond are subtle, yet potentially significant in every aspect of our lives.
In closing, here is a Baha’i prayer, to be recited at midnight, that may increase your own receptivity to inspired ideas from the world beyond:
O seeker of Truth! If thou desirest that God may open thine eye, thou must supplicate unto God, pray to and commune with Him at midnight, saying:
O Lord, I have turned my face unto Thy kingdom of oneness and am immersed in the sea of Thy mercy. O Lord, enlighten my sight by beholding Thy lights in this dark night, and make me happy by the wine of Thy love in this wonderful age. O Lord, make me hear Thy call, and open before my face the doors of Thy heaven, so that I may see the light of Thy glory and become attracted to Thy beauty.
Verily, Thou art the Giver, the Generous, the Merciful, the Forgiving. –Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Prayers, pp. 61–62.