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Question: Do Baha’is have an idea of an afterlife? If so what does it consist of?
The answer to this question – a very definite and emphatic yes – flows throughout the Baha’i writings.
Baha’u’llah taught the existence of myriad “worlds of God”, including one we enter when we shed the physical form. But Baha’is also believe that the next life isn’t something we’re supposed to concern ourselves about in such a way that it reduces our life here to the status of a waiting room.
First of all, Baha’u’llah says that we can no more comprehend what that next existence will be like than the child in the womb can conceive of life in this world, and for the same reason – we have no possible frame of reference. Baha’is believe that “afterlife” isn’t just a static place, but rather a progression toward God.
People always asked Baha’u’llah questions about the afterlife. Here’s his answer to an individual that asked a similar question to this one:
And now concerning thy question regarding the soul of man and its survival after death. Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 155.
In another passage from the same tablet, Baha’u’llah writes a bit about the spiritual power of pure souls that have passed on:
The nature of the soul after death can never be described, nor is it meet and permissible to reveal its whole character to the eyes of men. The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying Their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High. The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples. They are like unto leaven which leaveneth the world of being, and constitute the animating force through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 155.
The human soul, the Baha’i teachings affirm, lasts forever. We each have an eternal inner being, a spiritual reality that retains our individuality, our character and our level of human maturation and development when our body dies:
…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! The same thing applies to the spirit of man. Though death destroy his body, it has no power over his spirit — this is eternal, everlasting, both birthless and deathless. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 65-66.
Baha’is look forward joyously to the transition from this world to the next, to our inevitable birth into what Abdu’l-Baha called “the second life.”