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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.

11 Comments

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  • Moji Joon
    Apr 14, 2018
    As someone who loves animals and has had ‘fur babies’ almost all of my adult life, this occupies my mind a lot. I truly hope the connection we feel to them is longer lasting than just this life and don’t like to imagine a plane of existence devoid of their loving presence.
  • John Hatcher
    Apr 14, 2018
    I agree. Let's make that one of the first questions we get to ask when we are born into the next phase of our eternal lives. If you find out before I do, please let me know.
  • John Hatcher
    Apr 13, 2018
    Post Six -- In conclusion, everything in creation reflects some attributes of the Creator to the degree for which it is intended. The higher up the chain of being, the more complex and complete is that reflection. Man has the potential to manifest all the attributes of God and has the inherent purpose to manifest those attributes ever more completely and perfectly. The Manifestation not only has that capacity, but actually fulfills that potential and may, thus, be said to be a “perfect man” or a perfect reflection (manifestation) of God. In short, the animal is not deprived of fulfilling ...its noble purpose because it does not continue in a realm it could not understand. I hope this helps.
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  • John Hatcher
    Apr 13, 2018
    Post Five --Finally, we realize that the more advanced the animal—the more like unto us—the more they can mimic our capacities, whether that be signing to communicate basic feelings or completing complex challenges. And yet we do well to acknowledge that without the higher species (ourselves) to interact with and teach them, they do not normally acquire such skills, even as the Bahá’í Writings assert clearly that without the guidance and instruction of the Manifestations, humankind itself would have remained no better off than the beasts of the field.
  • John Hatcher
    Apr 13, 2018
    Post Four--What the animal has to teach us and what we gain from our relationship with them is infinitely refinable. Therefore, we are constantly increasing our appreciation of the spiritual principles they can demonstrate for us, whether it be the love and persistence of the female for its young, the courage and loyalty it possesses for its own kind and even for us, or the grief it feels at the loss of its young or the deprivation of relationships with its human companions.
    Perhaps what we are now learning from various remarkable videos online is how creatures that in the ...wild might be natural enemies, can not only get along under certain circumstances, but become life-long companions, something we ourselves have yet to master.
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  • John Hatcher
    Apr 13, 2018
    Post Three- However, even as a fish cannot understand or navigate on land, so such an experience would be utterly meaningless to them—imperceptible and inconsequential, even as a human born into this realm without any physical sensibilities (sight, hearing, tactility, etc.) would not be able to participate or advance much in this realm unless and until the soul dissociates from the physical body.
    Similarly, an animal in the realm of the spirit would not be able to have any meaningful relationship with that reality because its essential reality is not endowed with the powers of abstract thought or other ...faculties necessary for navigating the realm of the spirit. This does not in any way diminish the importance of the animal in creation!
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  • John Hatcher
    Apr 13, 2018
    Post Two. The Manifestations pre-exist in the spiritual realm prior to becoming associated with a physical temple, whereas we do not. Likewise, the knowledge the Manifestations possess is inherently infallible, but ours is not. Thus, as I understand it, the animal is animated by a spirit and has a distinct personality from birth, even as do we. They can learn and have amazing sensibilities even as do we. The primary reason that their spirit does not continue to exist beyond this life is that were it to do so, it would need to be capable of being sufficiently refined to ...possess those metaphysical powers and faculties necessary to participate in and advance in the context of an entirely metaphysical realm.
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  • John Hatcher
    Apr 13, 2018
    I am going to attempt to answer this question in a numbered series of posts, though it is a subject that requires more space than I can give it here. (Post One) It is hard to accept the fact that animal don’t have a soul or eternal existence when (1) we evolved from animal life (2) they share so many of our powers and attributes (3) we can establish such an intimate and loving relationship with them and they with us, and so on.
    Let's begin by noting that we don’t have the same "essence" or spiritual reality as ...the Manifestations. They are a higher order of being. Therefore, we might say that we are to the Manifestation as the animal is to us. The Manifestations and Their powers and reality are beyond our complete comprehension.
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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.