Elements of Immortality:
A Nexus of Proofs by `Abdu'l-Bahá in Some Answered Questions
First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #88
Bosch Bahá'í School: Santa Cruz, California, USA
May 28 – June 1, 2009
(see list of papers from #88)
This paper will approach this marvelous mystery in four steps that are based on objective reasoning by `Abdu'l-Bahá. [I] The spirit of man is examined;  An investigation of immortality of the spirit is pursued;  The proof with respect to progress after death is corroborated;  Entrance into the Kingdom of God is explicated.
Immortality is one of the great mysteries that have puzzled scientists and religionists alike. With eschatological considerations aside, many wonder what is beyond the veil of physical death if there is indeed anything at all. Among the faithful there can be no doubt that in some form we go on to celebrate life on a different plane. But to a great many others there remain lingering doubts that appear difficult to bridge. In either case, we find that in the human psyche there is a haunting hunger for answers to this question even under the guise of denial.
The Great Exemplar of the Bahá'í Faith, `Abdu'l-Bahá pointed out two aspects of spirit that must be considered when appraising the truth of immortality. First, it is necessary to establish that the spirit of man actually exists and second, proof must be derived as to whether or not that spirit is immortal. This paper will approach this marvelous mystery in four steps that are based on objective reasoning by `Abdu'l-Bahá: [I] The spirit of man is examined;  An investigation of immortality of the spirit is pursued;  The proof with respect to progress after death is corroborated;  Entrance into the Kingdom of God is explicated.
I. THE SPIRIT OF MAN
The Center of Baha'u'llah's Covenant, `Abdu'l-Bahá, noted that the human population is divided into two groups, those who believe that man is just a higher form of animal without spirit and those who believe that man has certain powers that the lower animals do not share. (SAQ 185) As we'll see, this difference in belief so simply stated has profound implications. The first group maintains that men and animals have the same senses and other powers in varying degrees. All are composed of elements in a multitude of combinations among which some possess the spirit of powers and senses. In this respect, man is considered to have the optimum balance of these elemental combinations when compared to other beings, "the closer to perfection the more noble the being." This, according to the first group, does not mean that man has any particular sense or power that animals lack. In fact, certain animals are superior regarding the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell and certain kinds of memory. The one thing that is conceded by this group is that man has superior intellect. So philosopher scientists of the day developed proofs that the descent of man reverts back to an animal state that progressed little by little until the present state of man was attained.
But the Master countermanded the first argument above with thoughts put forth by theologians. They said that man has extraordinary powers to which animals are not privy although they do share certain outer powers and the five senses as mentioned above. It is inferred that these extraordinary powers are essentially spiritual in the sense that they are not material in nature although the outer results of their function may appear to be so. For example it is this inner spiritual power that has enabled man to develop the sciences, to create the arts, to devise inventions and to make discoveries of the reality of hidden mysteries. He expounded on the spiritual power that man possesses:
It even perceives things which do not exist outwardly -- that is to say, intellectual realities which are not sensible, and which have no outward existence because they are invisible; so it comprehends the mind, the spirit, the qualities, the characters, the love and sorrow of man, which are intellectual realities. Moreover, these existing sciences, arts, laws and endless inventions of man at one time were invisible, mysterious and hidden secrets; it is only the all encompassing human power which has discovered and brought them out from the plane of the invisible to the plane of the visible. (SAQ 186)
A number of examples of technological achievement were given such as telegraphy, photography, metallurgy and inventions of practical import that were the result of the creative impulse that only the human spirit could invoke. In the century since the famous interviews of Laura Clifford Barney with `Abdu'l-Bahá, (SAQ xv) the achievements of the human race have exploded almost beyond belief. All this reemphasizes the reality of the human spirit that simply can not be denied. The comparison was drawn again between man and animal describing how animals are evidently superior to man in bodily senses. They may have keener sight, more acute hearing and superior smell by multiple factors as well as taste. Even the power of memory in certain animals is extraordinary when compared to man. Some dogs have found their way home traversing very great distances and pigeons have the uncanny ability to remember the details of long journeys to find paths back to points of departure.
In the said discussions it was concluded that the power in man was clearly of a different nature than that of animals otherwise they would be superior to man in inventions and in comprehension. It was surmised that the animal does not possess all the gifts belonging to man for it does not perceive intellectual realities. The point was made that animals can not perceive things that they can not see. To them the earth appears flat and their exposure to proofs can not be comprehended. Man on the other hand, can abstractly analyze observations in order to confirm new truths. For example, one can observe the curvature of the earth by viewing the horizon from high ground just as birds might do in flight but unlike birds, its actual curvature can be calculated by a man when taking a northern route by taking sightings of the North Star from known positions on earth. The angle of view from the horizon increases proportionally with each degree of distance north. When the reading reaches 90 degrees the observer is standing directly beneath the North Star and is therefore at the North Pole. From the measured data, the radius of the earth can be triangulated, a function that is simply not available to the animal. The conclusion is that the animal is bound and limited by the senses whereas they are unable to control or understand things beyond them. This verifies that man possesses powers of discovery as distinguished from animals. `Abdu'l-Bahá defined this as the spirit of man and then characterized that spirit in a mantle of praise to God. He said that man's aspiration is lofty, that he always turns toward the heights. His desire has always been to reach a world greater than the one in which he finds himself. He was astonished by certain philosophers who seemed to go backward toward the animal world whereas the tendency of man must be toward exaltation.
What a difference between the human world and the world of the animal, between the elevation of man and the abasement of the animal, between the perfections of man and the ignorance of the animal, between the light of man and the darkness of the animal, between the glory of man and the degradation of the animal! An Arab child of ten years can manage two or three hundred camels in the desert, and with his voice can lead them forward or turn them back. A weak Hindu can so control a huge elephant that the elephant becomes the most obedient of servants. All things are subdued by the hand of man; he can resist nature while all other creatures are captives of nature: none can depart from her requirements. (SAQ 188)
The contrast between man and animal was further clarified with examples of how man overcomes nature. Earth's gravity attracts everything toward its center yet man's invention permits him to soar in the air. The oceans present massive barriers yet man designs ships to cross them with relative ease. Specially designed vehicles can conquer the wilderness while electronic devices enable man to gather communications from East and West. What appears to be contrary to the laws of nature is actually a result of man's application of those laws in brilliant ways to achieve his ends. The sea and the sun on the other hand can not deviate one whit from the laws of nature. With this `Abdu'l-Bahá puts two questions: "What, then, is the power in this small body of man which encompasses all this? What is this ruling power by which he subdues all things?"
To arrive at his conclusion he brings up one more point and that is that the spirit of man is not visible thus raising another philosophical question that must be answered. "How can we imagine a power which is not sensible?" He gives the theologian's reply that the spirit of the animal is also not visible but is proven to exist by its effects, that is to say, by its power of the senses, of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell that do not exist in the plant. In the same way the argument is made that there is a human spirit that is inferred by man's accomplishment that does not reside in the animal. It is by these signs that the spirit of any level of life, plant, animal or man are shown to exist. "If we wish to deny everything that is not sensible, then we must deny the realities which unquestionably exist...The power of attraction is not sensible, though it certainly exists. From what do we affirm these existences? From their signs." (SAQ 190) It is thus clear that the spirit of man does indeed exist and that we know this by its signs.
II. IMMORTALITY OF THE SPIRIT
Before introducing the logical aspects of His proof regarding immortality, `Abdu'l-Bahá laid the groundwork with reference to the fundamental basis of the divine religions. He enlarged upon the concept of paradise and hell as existing in all the worlds of God for these directly relate to the principle of reward and punishment. He further mentioned that they are of two kinds, that is, one kind applies to this world and the other applies to the next. Gaining eternal life depends upon gaining these rewards. He emphasized this with a quote from Christ, "Act in such a way that you may find eternal life, and that you may be born of water and the spirit, so that you may enter into the Kingdom." (SAQ 223)
The rewards of this life are the virtues and perfections which adorn the reality of man. For example, he was dark and becomes luminous; he was ignorant and becomes wise; he was neglectful and becomes vigilant; he was asleep and becomes awakened; he was dead and becomes living; he was blind and becomes a seer; he was deaf and becomes a hearer; he was earthly and becomes heavenly; he was material and becomes spiritual. Through these rewards he gains spiritual birth and becomes a new creature. He becomes the manifestation of the verse in the Gospel where it is said of the disciples that they "were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (SAQ 223)
The meaning of this second birth according to `Abdu'l-Bahá is that people so blessed were no longer burdened by animal characteristics and qualities that were normally identified as human nature. The differences between those characteristics and those associated with being spiritually reborn are profound. For one thing, the greatest pain that such people may endure is to be veiled from God. Another thing is that they can suffer no greater punishment than sensual desires or dark qualities that are associated with lowness of nature.
This may be difficult to understand for those who have never experienced spiritual rebirth but when they become unburdened through the "light of faith" they become ennobled with virtue and realize this to be the greatest reward. When the darkness of vices is removed they may realize this to be true paradise. Contrarily, spiritual punishment for them is remoteness from God and for one to become brutal, tyrannical, cruel and indulgent in falsehood creates internal conflicts that cause them to suffer the greatest punishment. (SAQ 224)
A number of rewards one receives in the next world were listed: Foremost is eternal life itself followed by "eternal bounties and everlasting felicity." Others are divine perfection and peace obtained after leaving this world. Also, rewards of this life are "luminous perfections which are in fact the cause of eternal life, for they are the very progress of existence...the rewards of the other world are spiritual graces, gifts in the Kingdom of God, the gaining of desires of the heart and soul, and the meeting of God in the world of eternity." Punishments of the other world on the other hand, "consist of being deprived of the special divine blessings and absolute bounties and falling into the lowest degrees of existence. He who is deprived of these divine favors, although he continues after death, is considered as dead by the people of truth." (SAQ 225)
Having described the characteristics of the world to come and its relationship to this world, `Abdu'l-Bahá delved into the subtleties of immortality. He pointed out that signs do not come from non existent things. A sun must exist for sunlight to appear; a sea must exist for waves to propagate; rain must have an existing cloud to fall from; only an existing tree can yield fruit; a man must exist in order to produce anything. Thus, a sign must appear in order for the possessor of the sign to exist. He asked us to consider the fact that Kingdom of Christ exists and questions as to how such a great kingdom could exist if He did not exist. This shows that even though there be no influence or trace of any being remaining after their elements decompose whether it be mineral, plant, or animal. "only the human reality and the spirit of man which, after the disintegration of the members, dispersing of the particles, and the destruction of the composition, persists and continues to act and to have power..." Therefore one proof of the immortality of the spirit is that "no sign can come from a non existing thing...for the signs are the consequence of an existence, and the consequence depends upon the existence of the principle." (SAQ 225)
This is a rational proof which we are giving, so that the wise may weigh it in the balance of reason and justice. But if the human spirit will rejoice and be attracted to the Kingdom of God, if the inner sight becomes opened, and the spiritual hearing strengthened, and the spiritual feelings predominant, he will see the immortality of the spirit as clearly as he sees the sun, and the glad tidings and signs of God will encompass him. (SAQ 226)
Another kind of proof is introduced with the premise that the human spirit perceives in two different modes. One mode functions organically, that is by the use of eyes, ears and tongue the spirit can see, hear and speak. The second mode involves the manifestation of the powers and actions of the spirit without the use of organs. For example when in a state of sleep, one sees without eyes, hears without ears and runs without feet. So in each instance instruments and organs are not employed. Often the answers to perturbing problems may suddenly appear upon awakening. Further the significance of certain dreams may become apparent with the passing of months or even years when corresponding events occur. One's vision when awake is limited to immediate surroundings whereas vision when in the dream state is unrestricted to time and place.
For the spirit travels in two different ways: without means, which is spiritual traveling; and with means, which is material traveling: as birds which fly, and those which are carried. In the time of sleep this body is as though dead; it does not see nor hear; it does not feel; it has no consciousness, no perception -- that is to say, the powers of man have become inactive, but the spirit lives and subsists. Nay, its penetration is increased, its flight is higher, and its intelligence is greater. (SAQ 228)
The human spirit was compared to a bird in a cage and the cage was compared to the material body. If the cage be broken, the bird flies free unharmed like the spirit in the dream world. In like manner, after physical death the spirit actually becomes more perceptive with more powerful feelings than those held in the material world. If the body and spirit were the same then one's inner sight would be the same as well, but this is not so because the physical eye has limited sight to immediate surroundings whereas the inner sight can encompass conditions on the far side of the earth. Thus the body and spirit are different just as the bird and the cage are different.
Now, if the instrument is abandoned, the possessor of the instrument continues to act. For example, if the pen is abandoned or broken, the writer remains living and present; if a house is ruined, the owner is alive and existing. This is one of the logical evidences for the immortality of the soul. (SAQ 228-229)
There is another cognitive way of perceiving the relationship of soul to body: The body may become ill or it may find wellness; amputation of a limb may occur or physical power may be generally diminished; the body may develop any number of pathologies. On the other hand, the spirit remains perpetually in its original state free of any crippling imperfections. However, when the body is overwhelmed by injury and disease it is deprived of the copious gifts of the spirit much as the reflections of a dusty mirror is unable to reflect the effulgence of sunlight. The spirit is not restricted by the body because it is not part of bodily functions.
Therefore, it is evident and certain that the spirit is different from the body, and that its duration is independent of that of the body; on the contrary, the spirit with the utmost greatness rules in the world of the body; and its power and influence, like the bounty of the sun in the mirror, are apparent and visible. But when the mirror becomes dusty or breaks, it will cease to reflect the rays of the sun. (SAQ 229)
III. PROGRESS AFTER DEATH
`Abdu'l-Bahá expressed a clear scientific statement "Know that nothing which exists remains in a state of repose -- that is to say, all things are in motion. Everything is either growing or declining; all things are either coming from nonexistence into being, or going from existence into nonexistence." Indeed, upon examination we may note that everything is in a state of motion not only among the living but in the very molecules of the stones we walk on. Even continents imperceptibly migrate but the example that He gave was of a typical flower that blooms for a period after growing from a different form of the seed until it wilts into a state no longer resembling the flower in bloom. He declared this activity of change to be a natural or essential condition of existence.
Having established the immortality of the spirit in the previous section, it can now be said that it does not remain static, that it continues to progress, however, it can never leave its own condition of reality. The example of the Apostle Peter's spirit is given to illustrate that regardless of the degree to which his spirit may progress, it can never reach the Reality of Christ. It remains and progresses in its own condition, its own environment. The reflective moon can not become a luminous sun nor can a crystal attain sight. And, although a lump of coal can become a diamond under great pressure, they are both composed of the same element, carbon. (SAQ 233-2340
We may observe beings to be of three kinds, mineral, plant or animal with each containing their own genera or sub groups having common attributes. Man is at the pinnacle of all these classes and species because he possesses the highest material attributes of each. In addition he has something that the others do not and that is his intellectual capacity. Based on these qualities,
Man is considered to be the noblest of beings.
At this point `Abdu'l-Bahá describes the state of man in a way that clears up any confusion one may have regarding the relationship of one's spiritual and material natures. He puts him in the proper context of man's role in this world with respect to his potential in the next.
Man is in the highest degree of materiality, and at the beginning of spirituality -- that is to say, he is the end of imperfection and the beginning of perfection. He is at the last degree of darkness, and at the beginning of light; that is why it has been said that the condition of man is the end of the night and the beginning of day, meaning that he is the sum of all the degrees of imperfection, and that he possesses the degrees of perfection. He has the animal side as well as the angelic side, and the aim of an educator is to so train human souls that their angelic aspect may overcome their animal side. Then if the divine power in man, which is his essential perfection, overcomes the satanic power, which is absolute imperfection, he becomes the most excellent among the creatures; but if the satanic power overcomes the divine power, he becomes the lowest of the creatures. (SAQ 235)
So if man has reached the highest level of material attributes he is still subject to decay and dissolution and therefore is at the culmination of imperfection but by virtue of his intellectual capacity he is able to reflect the Divine Light and thus is at the beginning stage of spirituality that is ultimate perfection. Yet at another time he may be seen worshiping inanimate objects of clay or stone. In no other species does the degree of contradiction, contrast and opposition exist as in that of man. "In the same way, knowledge is a quality of man, and so is ignorance; truthfulness is a quality of man; so is falsehood; trustworthiness and treachery, justice and injustice, are qualities of man, and so forth. Briefly, all the perfections and virtues, and all the vices, are qualities of man." (SAQ 236) Examples were given comparing individual men, Christ to Caiaphas, Moses to Pharaoh and Abel to Cain.
The greatest representative of God's creation is said to be man inasmuch as all the mysteries of other beings reside in him. And if he follows the teachings of a Divine Educator he will become the light of lights and the receiver of divine inspiration. On the other hand, if this education is denied he will manifest satanic qualities and will become the source of darkness. To overcome this is the goal of Divine Messengers of God. Their mission is to educate man so that he may reach the noblest state in the world of humankind. When he does he can then make further progress on his spiritual path knowing that "divine perfections are endless." (SAQ 236)
The term 'perfection' generally infers the highest quality of excellence attainable in effort or attributes and would apply in both material and spiritual conditions, the ultimate perfection being of a spiritual nature. However, the spiritual state of man has limits and can not be perfected to a higher state meaning that he can progress only within the state of being human. Yet within that state the possibilities for progress are limitless and this process continues after giving up the physical form.
It is important to understand more fully just what the human spirit is when discussing the life of the spirit once the physical body returns to dust. First the spirit of life is categorized according to five classes or levels, plant, animal, human, faith and Holy. The first is the power of growth, the second is the power of the senses, the third, by virtue of the mind, is the power of the human spirit, the fourth is the power of the spirit of faith and the fifth is the power of the Holy Spirit. But the human spirit comprises the rational soul which, without the spirit of faith "does not become acquainted with the divine secrets and heavenly realities."
With respect to this, a question was put to `Abdu'l-Bahá about what way the rational soul will exist after it attains freedom. He first referred to those souls who were assisted by the Holy Spirit in attaining true existence and eternal life. Then he posed a question of his own: "But what becomes of the rational souls -- that is to say, the veiled spirits?" Veiled spirits were defined as souls not possessing the spirit of faith.
Answer. -- Some think that the body is the substance and exists by itself, and that the spirit is accidental and depends upon the substance of the body, although, on the contrary, the rational soul is the substance, and the body depends upon it. If the accident -- that is to say, the body -- be destroyed, the substance, the spirit, remains. (SAQ 239)
He affirmed that the rational soul does not enter the human body for that is not characteristic of the spirit, thus it will not be in need of a place to abide. It is related to the body in a manner similar to the relationship of light to a mirror by reflection. He explained further:
The rational soul -- that is to say, the human spirit -- has neither entered this body nor existed through it; so after the disintegration of the composition of the body, how should it be in need of a substance through which it may exist? On the contrary, the rational soul is the substance through which the body exists. The personality of the rational soul is from its beginning; it is not due to the instrumentality of the body, but the state and the personality of the rational soul may be strengthened in this world; it will make progress and will attain to the degrees of perfection, or it will remain in the lowest abyss of ignorance, veiled and deprived from beholding the signs of God. (SAQ 239-240)
Another question was asked: "Through what means will the spirit of man -- that is to say, the rational soul -- after departing from this mortal world, make progress?" The answer was in three parts each of which demands deep reflection.
Answer. -- The progress of man's spirit in the divine world, after the severance of its connection with the body of dust, is through the bounty and grace of the Lord alone, or through the intercession and the sincere prayers of other human souls, or through the charities and important good works which are performed in its name. (SAQ 240)
First, without grace the bulk of humanity would be in abject despair for no one is free of mistakes or accidents or misfortune. The Grace of God is a divine gift and is by nature not earned. To acquire it in any degree is the greatest kindness one can receive. Second, the intercession and prayers of other human beings on one's behalf creates an extraordinary attraction to God in this world and the next because it opens the heart and that is the place reserved for God alone. (HW59p25) Third, It is an honor to have charities and good works dedicated to one that has passed on especially those who's spirit of faith remained steadfast but more importantly it helps the progress of the soul.
Finally a question was raised regarding the immortality of children:
Answer. -- These infants are under the shadow of the favor of God; and as they have not committed any sin and are not soiled with the impurities of the world of nature, they are the centers of the manifestation of bounty, and the Eye of Compassion will be turned upon them. (SAQ 240)
IV. ENTRANCE INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Having determined the existence of the spirit, its immortality and its progress in the next world we now come to what is possibly the most important aspect of human life. It is something that is concerned with what we may expect when we give up the physical garment for we do not know empirically what lies beyond our place in the material world.
`Abdu'l-Bahá referred to the common use of the word `heaven' as being an outer expression of the Kingdom in terms of a simile. He emphasized that such a comparison of the Kingdom of God to an imaginary or known location is not a reality or place since the Kingdom is not a material 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. (SAQ 241)
The human body is limited by space and controlled by time but these do not apply to the mind or spirit. Because the conscious mind and its associated spirit can explore anywhere on earth or even the vast expanse of the universe for both are in the scope of empirical investigation. In dramatic contrast, human inquiry also makes discoveries in the unfamiliar micro-world of sub atomic nuclear mystery. A man or woman may peer through the eye of a great telescope and witness cosmic processes that may have occurred billions of years ago while others bombard nuclei with powerful accelerators to analyze fragments of exceedingly small dimension. "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." (SAQ 241)
Again, `Abdu'l-Bahá evinces another evidence of spiritual existence with regard to the Kingdom by drawing distinction between the two kinds of life, that is, the material body and the spirit. The latter receives the Spirit of God and becomes enkindled by the breath of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, material life does exist on its own terms but represents death to holy beings and thus is non existent in spiritual terms. In a similar way one may compare the existence of stone to that of man to realize the stone is non existent to that of man even in a physical sense because each exists in its own world so to speak. That is, the internal rules of function for the stone are completely unfamiliar to the daily life of man.
But what about eternal life? How do we acquire it? How does it work? First we must acknowledge that answers to such questions are derived strictly within the domain of spiritual parameters as suggested in the examples above. `Abdu'l-Bahá gives a beautiful metaphor to help us get a conceptual handle on the full process. We are asked to consider how a flower has life that begins in a state of the seed that is dormant much like that of a mineral. But when spring comes with its showers and the warmth of the sun, it bursts forth from the seed to become a second form characterized by fragrance, delicacy, freshness and beauty. The first life of the flower in the form of a seed when compared to the second life in the form of a blossom, is death.
The meaning behind this discussion is that within the context of the Kingdom of God the life of the spirit is eternal and is not contaminated by place. This is true on the scale of the human being whose spirit has no place inasmuch as it is immaterial. The human body has no specific location within it where the spirit might reside. Recent research did find a node on the brain that has evolved to process mystic thoughts but it does not contain the spirit itself. The relationship between the spirit and the body may be compared to that of the sun to a mirror. The sun is separate from the mirror but its reflection emanates from the mirror just as the reflection of the human spirit emanates from the person.
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. (SAQ 242)
To truly understand what entrance into the Kingdom really means we must embrace a deeper and more profound aspect of human life that is concerned with spiritual attributes. There are many but `Abdu'l-Bahá emphasized nine in particular. Love is foremost, particularly the love of God followed by truthfulness the king of virtues. Another is detachment from satanic fancies. Also a sense of holiness and chastity with purity of character are considered to be essential to spiritual progress. He also included steadfastness, faithfulness and the sacrifice of life through service. It is through the application of these attributes that entrance into the Kingdom is attained.
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. (SAQ 242-243)
He further stated that such souls, "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, non existing and separated from God." And there is no fate more foreboding than remoteness from God.
In Section I, certain proofs offered by `Abdu'l-Bahá are considered that are unique to the spiritual context of human life. To clarify this, it is noteworthy that proofs generally must be given in terms of generic reality. That is, parameters for proof are defined according to the laws and principals of the realm in which they operate. For example, in the material world proofs must be confirmed with empirical evidence in order to be confirmed as law such as the laws of gravity, momentum and energy. On the other hand, mathematical proofs are entirely based on pure logic yet these two fields of science are inextricably connected. One can not express a physical process or law without a mathematical equation. Yet mathematical expressions stand alone without the aid of physics, chemistry or astronomy. Occasionally though, mathematical discoveries in the past have been inspired by meticulous observation of nature. Perhaps the most famous example is the discovery of infinitesimal calculus by Isaac Newton in his efforts to establish laws of gravity and motion after careful observation. Concurrently however, the famous philosopher-mathematician, Leibniz discovered differential and integral calculus using a purely logical approach. The point is that in daily life we constantly see evidence of mysterious configurations regarding physical processes such as the acceleration of an automobile or the lifting of a large aircraft overcoming the force of gravity while we remain stuck to the ground. That defining mystery is the mathematical law that seems to describe the limits of activity and of its associated energy. At the same time, one's appreciation of mathematical processes is molded by observation of activity of all kinds such as the arc of a well hit baseball or the movement of waves on the open sea or the uncanny magic of micro processors.
In a similar manner the spiritual influence on our material life is far more profound than most might fully appreciate. Just as math underlies physics so does spiritual principles underlie human moral life. And just as physical phenomena cause one to be aware of mathematical laws, so does the trial and errors of material life make us aware of the need for spiritual principles to live by. Even atheists can not avoid the use of terms such as good, love and the like while apparently not realizing that their essential meanings were long ago introduced by the Prophet Founders of the world's great religions. On the other hand, our words and deeds may have positive or negative consequences that make us aware of moral issues that are irrevocably influenced by spiritual principles of divine origin. It is through these processes that `Abdu'l-Bahá makes such powerful proofs regarding the existence of the spirit of man.
He points out the extraordinary capacity of the rational soul of man and of the power of the mind in comparison to lower animals that distinguish the nature of spirit in each. Further, it is these qualities that characterize man as the noblest of beings. What's more, it is through the applications of these qualities that the spirit of man is made apparent. He emphasizes that the presence of spirit, though invisible, is known by the signs it leaves. A parallel in the material world is gravity that we know by its effects. Another is the invisible air that we know by its life giving presence. So the spirit is known by its accomplishments in the arts, the mastery of nature and its life giving presence on the pathway of the soul in this world and the world to come.
What is so binding, as shown in section II, is that the spirit of man is proven to be immortal and that, illumined or dark, it will either be forever progressing on a spiritual pathway back toward the Creator or drifting darkly away devoid of progress. The proof is clear when one awakens to the fact that one's inner sight is not the same as sight through the physical eye. The organic eye may become impaired but the inner sight remains intact and whole. A comparison was made by `Abdu'l-Bahá regarding a house that may be ruined but will still have an owner who is alive and existing. In such manner the spirit remains free of crippling imperfections even though the body may be terminally ill or even deceased. It is simply not part of bodily function and remains therefore unrestricted.
Finally, the entrance to the Kingdom in section III is utterly dependant upon the decisions that man makes while on this earthly plane. And while the spirit does not have concern for space or time, relationships do parallel those in the material world. That is, we depend upon our material experience to learn about spiritual attributes such as those mentioned by 'Abdu'l-Bahá: Love, Truthfulness, Detachment, Holiness, Chastity, Purity of Character, Steadfastness, Faithfulness and the Sacrifice of Life through Service among many others. These are the things that characterize one's eternal pathway on the journey toward God.
`Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1984.
Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words of Baha'u'llah, Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1975.