Obviously we are somewhat limited in what we can conclude from the anecdotal evidence collected from near-death experiences.
We may observe in these accounts some valid similarities with what we find set forth in the Baha’i writings about the initial stages of our entrance into the next world. But because NDE subjects all re-enter this life before they spend too much time in the afterlife, we cannot infer with certainty a great deal about what happens beyond that initial experience—assuming we accept these accounts as accurate portrayals of the afterlife and not merely illusions that the dying brain devises to console itself, a somewhat ludicrous conclusion if we accept the materialist view that the “self” and “consciousness” are but products of a three-pound organ containing approximately a hundred billion neurons.
Nevertheless, Raymond Moody’s additional categories of near-death experiences do support some important principles in the Baha’i writings that serve to allay our fears and to show us that spiritual progress beyond the physical world not only is possible, but the primary function of the continuation of our lives.
An Infinity of Possibilities in the Next Life
Perhaps the major Baha’i principle supported by Moody’s assertion of the possibility of an infinite variety of experiences is that divine justice operates in the afterlife even as it does in physical reality.
In other words, heaven begins right here on Earth:
… it is clear that the honour and exaltation of man cannot reside solely in material delights and earthly benefits. This material felicity is wholly secondary, while the exaltation of man resides primarily in such virtues and attainments as are the adornments of the human reality. These consist in divine blessings, heavenly bounties, heartfelt emotions, the love and knowledge of God, the education of the people, the perceptions of the mind, and the discoveries of science. They consist in justice and equity, truthfulness and benevolence, inner courage and innate humanity, safeguarding the rights of others and preserving the sanctity of covenants and agreements. They consist in rectitude of conduct under all circumstances, love of truth under all conditions, self-abnegation for the good of all people, kindness and compassion for all nations, obedience to the teachings of God, service to the heavenly Kingdom, guidance for all mankind, and education for all races and nations. This is the felicity of the human world! This is the exaltation of man in the contingent realm! This is eternal life and heavenly honour!
These gifts, however, do not manifest themselves in the reality of man save through a celestial and divine power and through the heavenly teachings, for they require a supernatural power. … As the compassionate Lord has crowned the head of man with such a refulgent diadem, we must strive that its luminous gems may cast their light upon the whole world. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 89-90.
Stated axiomatically, if we can acknowledge that there are an infinite variety of experiences in the physical part of our lives, we can certainly accept that there are also an infinite variety of experiences possible in the afterlife, all fashioned to assist the educational needs of each individual soul.
In short, we can certainly assume that an omnipotent, loving Creator is capable of enabling us to experience precisely what is appropriate to our individual spiritual condition, and to provide us with what we most need in terms of our spiritual growth and development, whether in this life or the next.
God is hardly limited by our imaginations, or by some predetermined categories of response when He assists us in reviewing and evaluating our successes and failures in preparing ourselves for further awareness and maturation.
Indeed, if the objective of our continued life is spiritual progress, we can be certain that our personal experience in the afterlife will be constructed so as to ensure that we are assisted in every way possible, even as we have been assisted in this life, little as we may be consciously aware of that sometimes concealed guidance. In fact, if we are to assert that God is infinitely just and infinitely loving and infinitely forgiving, no other response would be just or appropriate on His part:
As the divine entity is eternal, the divine attributes are coexistent, coeternal. The divine bestowals are, therefore, without beginning, without end. God is infinite; the works of God are infinite; the bestowals of God are infinite. As His divinity is eternal, His lordship and perfections are without end. As the bounty of the Holy Spirit is eternal, we can never say that His bestowals terminate, else He terminates. If we think of the sun and then try to conceive of the cessation of the solar flame and heat, we have predicated the nonexistence of the sun. For separation of the sun from its rays and heat is inconceivable. Therefore, if we limit the bestowals of God, we limit the attributes of God and limit God.
Let us then trust in the bounty and bestowal of God. Let us be exhilarated with the divine breath, illumined and exalted by the heavenly glad tidings. God has ever dealt with man in mercy and kindness. He Who conferred the divine spirit in former times is abundantly able and capable at all times and periods to grant the same bestowals. Therefore, let us be hopeful. The God Who gave to the world formerly will do so now and in the future. God Who breathed the breath of the Holy Spirit upon His servants will breathe it upon them now and hereafter. There is no cessation to His bounty. The Divine Spirit is penetrating from eternity to eternity, for it is the bounty of God, and the bounty of God is eternal. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 159.