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Know with true certainty that man was not created for the life of this world as it is mortal and there is no certainty therein. Is it possible that this great creation and glorious being should terminate in mortality? Is it meet that the result of God’s great creation which is unlimited-that is, man-should live in this world a certain number of days with many difficulties, troubles, without repose and rest, and then die and end in mortality? No; verily, by truth, this is not meet! Nay, rather, this glorious being and grand creation was made for the eternal life, spiritual happiness, revelations of the heart, divine inspiration, heavenly perfections and virtues of the kingdom. – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablet to the Baha’is of Ithaca, New York, Star of the West, Volume 9.
During the war in Vietnam, I had many friends who died in firefights. Only one came back.
Our platoon, on patrol in the jungle east of a place called Phu Bai, ran into a large force of North Vietnamese troops, and the shooting started. My friend Colin, a sergeant from San Francisco, got hit almost immediately. With three AK-47 bullet wounds in his torso, he had no vital signs when we got to him, but a Medevac helicopter landed and another soldier named Hamilton and I got Colin’s body on a stretcher and put him on the helicopter anyway. I took off his helmet and said a quick prayer before the helicopter took off.
The next day I expected to hear that our platoon would take up a collection for flowers for his family. Instead, I heard that the medics on the helicopter and the doctors at a field hospital had resuscitated him. Miraculously, he was alive and was expected to recover.
A week or so later I hiked over to the field hospital on our Army base to see if I could pay Colin a visit.
Colin’s Near-Death Experience
“I died,” he said, smiling.
“Yeah, I know,” I told him, shaking my head, amazed. “You were a goner when we got to you.”
I found Colin lying in a hospital bed, patched and sewn up, multiple tubes running into him. His treasured good luck charm, a leather-wrapped peace symbol he always wore around his neck, still lay against his chest. Some of his dried blood had stained the leather.
Obviously still in pain and immobilized, he managed to grin widely when he saw me, his eyes alight.
I stood there and looked at him, dumbfounded.
“How long was I gone?” he asked me.
“Maybe just a few minutes before we put you on the chopper,” I told him.
“I saw you doing that, you and Hamilton.”
“What do you mean?” I asked him, puzzled. “You were dead, man. You weren’t seeing anything.”
“I could see it, I could hear everything. After you and Hamilton put me on the stretcher,” Colin said, looking inward as if he could still see it happening. “He picked up the front, and you lifted the back. You took off my helmet. Hamilton said ‘I’m going to miss this dumb hippie.’”
A cold shiver ran up my back, because those were Hamilton’s exact words.
Proof of Life after Death?
That startling wartime incident, and others like it, sparked my lifelong interest in near-death experiences. Since then I’ve read multiple books and research studies on “NDEs”, and met and talked to several people who had similar experiences after their own clinical deaths.
So in this series of articles, we’ll take a look at near-death experiences and explore what they might mean, whether they’re scientifically credible, and if they actually prove anything about life after death.
Baha’is believe strongly, as do most of the world’s great Faiths, that human life continues after death. As you can see in the quote from Abdu’l-Baha above, the Baha’i teachings say that the entire purpose of this physical existence involves attaining that immortal world.
We live on this plane of existence, in other words, as a preparation for the next.
Of course, no one has discovered any scientific proof of the existence of that next world. For centuries people have made attempts to cross the barriers of death and time, but no one has ever succeeded. That’s understandable, because science, by its very definition, studies and measures the physical universe, not the spiritual, metaphysical one. Baha’is believe that an immortal, non-material, transcendental existence does await us—so it would, by definition, go beyond the boundaries of what scientific inquiry and physical proof can accomplish.
That means the accounts of those who have undergone near-death experiences come probably as close as we’ll ever get to understanding what awaits us when our bodies stop functioning and our souls continue.