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On its surface the act of human procreation is solely due to the physical actions of humans – yet the results of this physical act are still somehow attributed to the Creator of the soul.
So, the concept of the operation of the Divine creative hand cannot preclude the actions of humans in the process. As the Baha’i teachings point out, what creation itself does require is following a “natural order” and allowing God to make the combination, and this to me seems to be the important question. So what did Abdu’l-Baha mean when he used the term “natural order?” How do we allow God to make the combination?
We can project further light on this subject from Abdu’l-Baha’s discussion in Some Answered Questions:
In sum, the completeness of each and every thing — that is, the completeness which you now see in man, or in other beings, with regard to their parts, members, and powers — arises from their component elements, their quantities and measures, the manner of their combination, and their mutual action, interaction, and influence. When all these are brought together, then man comes into existence.
As the completeness of man stems entirely from the component elements, their measure, their manner of combination, and the mutual action and interaction of other beings — and since man was produced ten or a hundred thousand years ago from the same earthly elements, with the same measures and quantities, the same manner of composition and combination, and the same interactions with other beings — it follows that man was exactly the same then as exists now. This is a self-evident truth and cannot be doubted. And if a thousand million years hence, the component elements of man are brought together, measured out in the same proportion, combined in the same manner, and subjected to the same interaction with other beings, exactly the same man will come into existence.
Here we see that the appearance of man is connected to the “manner of composition and combination,” thus it seems physically definable and suggests that whenever this composition is realized a being we call “man” will appear. In another passage Abdu’l-Baha explained how spirit becomes associated with the human body in the context of the origin of man:
… the members, constituent parts, and composition that are found within man attract and act as a magnet for the spirit: The spirit is bound to appear in it. Thus, when a mirror is polished, it is bound to attract the rays of the sun, to be illumined, and to reflect splendid images. That is, when these physical elements are gathered and combined together, according to the natural order and with the utmost perfection, they become a magnet for the spirit, and the spirit will manifest itself therein with all its perfections.
From this, the association of a spirit with a body, some property of its physical composition acts as a magnet for the spirit. While this property is achieved by following the “natural order” it appears logical to conclude that it remains a “physical” order which for some reason attracts the non-physical spirit.
So if we follow this natural order, can humans help bring new life or consciousness into existence?
So far, the answer is no – but to me it remains an open question. Whether in our pursuit of generating Artificial Intelligence we might in fact create an appropriate “magnet” for appearance of the spirit – that we might somehow make a channel for the “natural order,” assuming of course that the appearance of the soul in the human body is due to how the human biological brain functions and what collectively occurs in its synapses.
There doesn’t seem to be a fundamental limitation which preferences synapses made of organic material over silicon or some other material, unless our biological synapses were summoning some quantum mechanical aspect of physics which our existing “switches” are not yet able to replicate. Yet even that limit could eventually fall away against the march of technology. Indeed, the appearance of the soul, across a variety of different chemical and physical substrates, might be implied by the statements of Abdu’l-Baha about the appearance of life on other worlds.
If we did somehow help bring such a being into existence, how would we recognize it? To this end Abdu’l-Baha explained in many places how “man” is different from other organisms:
The human spirit, which distinguishes man from the animal, is the rational soul, and these two terms — the human spirit and the rational soul — designate one and the same thing. This spirit, which in the terminology of the philosophers is called the rational soul, encompasses all things and as far as human capacity permits, discovers their realities and becomes aware of the properties and effects, the characteristics and conditions of earthly things. …. As for the mind, it is the power of the human spirit. The spirit is as the lamp, and the mind as the light that shines from it. The spirit is as the tree, and the mind as the fruit. The mind is the perfection of the spirit and a necessary attribute thereof, even as the rays of the sun are an essential requirement of the sun itself.
So we see that the rational soul, which generates the mind, is distinguished by its capacity to encompass and discover the realities. It is this capacity that makes “man” different.
In this same passage from Some Answered Questions Abdu’l-Baha explained that the rational soul is also capable of harboring yet another level of existence – the “spirit of faith:”
But the human spirit, unless it be assisted by the spirit of faith, cannot become acquainted with the divine mysteries and the heavenly realities. It is like a mirror which, although clear, bright, and polished, is still in need of light. Not until a sunbeam falls upon it can it discover the divine mysteries.
This echoes Baha’u’llah’s discussion of the purpose of creation and the human soul:
These energies with which the Daystar of Divine bounty and Source of heavenly guidance hath endowed the reality of man lie, however, latent within him, even as the flame is hidden within the candle and the rays of light are potentially present in the lamp. The radiance of these energies may be obscured by worldly desires even as the light of the sun can be concealed beneath the dust and dross which cover the mirror. Neither the candle nor the lamp can be lighted through their own unaided efforts, nor can it ever be possible for the mirror to free itself from its dross. It is clear and evident that until a fire is kindled the lamp will never be ignited, and unless the dross is blotted out from the face of the mirror it can never represent the image of the sun nor reflect its light and glory.
Baha’is understand this “spirit of faith” as the realization of the latent capacity to know and love God. It is this spirit which true religion, as brought by the prophets of God, enables. Ultimately the litmus test for existence of a human soul is the potential appearance of this “spirit of faith” which permits the reflection of the light and glory of the Creator.