Know, verily, that the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 158-159.
Socrates and his student Plato thought the human soul had three parts: logos, thymos and eros. They also thought each part of the soul had a particular place in the body. Logos—mind or reason—existed in the head; thymos—emotion—existed in the chest; eros—desire or appetite—existed in the stomach.
Their philosophy, called the Platonic soul, started a flurry of speculation about location.
For centuries, people have wondered about the exact position of the soul among the human organs. Is it in one of the parts of the brain? Does it reside in the heart? Is it wedged somewhere in there between the liver and the spleen? Atheists deny the existence of a soul because we can’t physically find or measure it anywhere in the body.
Early physicians and anatomists looked for the soul in cadavers—but of course, they never found one. At the beginning of the 20th century, an American physician named Duncan MacDougall conducted experiments in which he weighed dying patients, to see if he could determine the exact weight of the departing soul at death. He determined that the soul “weighed three-fourths of an ounce,” or 21 grams. His findings were later proven completely unscientific, but the idea itself stuck, and now many artists, writers and musicians use the phrase “21 grams” to designate the human spirit.
Baha’is believe that the soul has no physical existence—no mass or weight. Instead, the Baha’i teachings say, the soul is a single, unseen reality, not composed of various elements and therefore not subject to decomposition:
The soul is eternal, immortal.
Materialists say, “Where is the soul? What is it? We cannot see it, neither can we touch it.”
This is how we must answer them: However much the mineral may progress, it cannot comprehend the vegetable world. Now, that lack of comprehension does not prove the non-existence of the plant!
To however great a degree the plant may have evolved, it is unable to understand the animal world; this ignorance is no proof that the animal does not exist!
The animal, be he never so highly developed, cannot imagine the intelligence of man, neither can he realize the nature of his soul. But, again, this does not prove that man is without intellect, or without soul. It only demonstrates this, that one form of existence is incapable of comprehending a form superior to itself.
This flower may be unconscious of such a being as man, but the fact of its ignorance does not prevent the existence of humanity.
In the same way, if materialists do not believe in the existence of the soul, their unbelief does not prove that there is no such realm as the world of spirit. The very existence of man’s intelligence proves his immortality; moreover, darkness proves the presence of light, for without light there would be no shadow. Poverty proves the existence of riches, for, without riches, how could we measure poverty? Ignorance proves that knowledge exists, for without knowledge how could there be ignorance?
Therefore the idea of mortality presupposes the existence of immortality – for if there were no Life Eternal, there would be no way of measuring the life of this world!
If the spirit were not immortal, how could the Manifestations of God endure such terrible trials?
Why did Christ Jesus suffer the fearful death on the cross?
Why did Muhammad bear persecutions?
Why did the Bab make the supreme sacrifice and why did Baha’u’llah pass the years of his life in prison?
Why should all this suffering have been, if not to prove the everlasting life of the spirit?
Christ suffered, He accepted all His trials because of the immortality of His spirit. If a man reflects he will understand the spiritual significance of the law of progress; how all moves from the inferior to the superior degree.
It is only a man without intelligence who, after considering these things, can imagine that the great scheme of creation should suddenly cease to progress, that evolution should come to such an inadequate end!
Materialists who reason in this way, and contend that we are unable to see the world of spirit, or to perceive the blessings of God, are surely like the animals who have no understanding; having eyes they see not, ears they have, but do not hear. And this lack of sight and hearing is a proof of nothing but their own inferiority; of whom we read in the Qur’an, “They are men who are blind and deaf to the Spirit.” They do not use that great gift of God, the power of the understanding, by which they might see with the eyes of the spirit, hear with spiritual ears and also comprehend with a Divinely enlightened heart.
The inability of the materialistic mind to grasp the idea of the Life Eternal is no proof of the non-existence of that life.
The comprehension of that other life depends on our spiritual birth!
My prayer for you is that your spiritual faculties and aspirations may daily increase, and that you will never allow the material senses to veil from your eyes the glories of the Heavenly Illumination. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 93-95.
Next: What Happens to My Soul When I Die?