In the first part of the near-death experience, those who have died and come back to life describe the dissociation of the mind or conscious self from the body.

Many speak of how detached they felt in viewing their own lifeless body from some objective perspective:

I was out of my body looking at it from about ten yards away, but I was still thinking, just like in physical life. And where I was thinking was about my normal bodily height. I wasn’t in a body, as such. – Raymond Moody, Life After Life, p. 50.

I kept bobbling up and down, and all of a sudden, it felt as though I were away from my body, away from everybody, in space by myself. Although I was stable, staying at the same level, I saw my body in the water about three or four feet away, bobbling up and down. – Ibid., p. 35.

While nothing in the Baha’i writings specifically describes the sensation of dissociating from the body, several passages describe a similar relationship between the conscious mind (which is a property of the soul and, therefore, continuous) and the physical body. These passages indicate that, since the soul is not attached to or dependent on the physical body, one does not cease to have self-consciousness after death:

That a sick person showeth signs of weakness is due to the hindrances that interpose themselves between his soul and his body, for the soul itself remaineth unaffected by any bodily ailments. Consider the light of the lamp. Though an external object may interfere with its radiance, the light itself continueth to shine with undiminished power. In like manner, every malady afflicting the body of man is an impediment that preventeth the soul from manifesting its inherent might and power. When it leaveth the body, however, it will evince such ascendancy, and reveal such influence as no force on earth can equal. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 154.

As for the mind, it is the power of the human spirit. The spirit is as the lamp, and the mind is the light that shines from it. The spirit is as the tree, and the mind as the fruit. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 242.

The rational soul—the human spirit—did not descend into this body or subsist through it to begin with, that it would require some substance to depend upon after the constituent parts of the body have decomposed. On the contrary, the rational soul is the substance upon which the body depends. The rational soul is endowed from the beginning with individuality; it does not acquire it through the intermediary of the body. – Ibid., p. 277.

These descriptions of the relationship of the body to the soul and of the continuity of consciousness after the death of the body do not allude to viewing one’s body as an inevitable part of the dissociation of the soul from the body; but, given the nature of the relationship as it is here depicted, we can readily accept the feasibility of such an experience:

It is quite apparent to the seeing mind that a man’s spirit is something very different from his physical body.

The spirit is changeless, indestructible. The progress and development of the soul, the joy and sorrow of the soul, are independent of the physical body.

If we are caused joy or pain by a friend, if a love prove true or false, it is the soul that is affected. If our dear ones are far from us — it is the soul that grieves, and the grief or trouble of the soul may react on the body.

Thus, when the spirit is fed with holy virtues, then is the body joyous; if the soul falls into sin, the body is in torment!

When we find truth, constancy, fidelity, and love, we are happy; but if we meet with lying, faithlessness, and deceit, we are miserable.

These are all things pertaining to the soul, and are not bodily ills. Thus, it is apparent that the soul, even as the body, has its own individuality. But if the body undergoes a change, the spirit need not be touched. When you break a glass on which the sun shines, the glass is broken, but the sun still shines! If a cage containing a bird is destroyed, the bird is unharmed! If a lamp is broken, the flame can still burn bright! – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 65-66.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

11 Comments

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  • Moji Joon
    Apr 13, 2018
    I've enjoyed reading these series immensely. Thank you for sharing.
  • Nico Butcher
    Apr 13, 2018
    Thank you so much Mr Hatcher for your articles. Your writings are always very inspiring. I’ve translated your last publication in French to share with some friends.
    • John Hatcher
      Apr 13, 2018
      You are most kind. Thank you.