The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
The Baha’i teachings view the human soul as the best proof of the superiority of spirit over matter.
In Paris, the second half of Abdu’l-Baha’s remarkable 1911 talk at the Alliance Spiritualiste conference began by envisioning the unity of East and West, of spiritual thought and action:
Those alone who are baptized by the Divine Spirit will be enabled to bring all peoples into the bond of unity. It is by the power of the Spirit that the Eastern World of spiritual thought can intermingle with the Western realm of action, so that the world of matter may become Divine.
It follows that all who work for the Supreme Design are soldiers in the army of the Spirit.
The light of the celestial world makes war against the world of shadow and illusion. The rays of the Sun of Truth dispel the darkness of superstition and misunderstanding.
You are of the Spirit! To you who seek the truth, the Revelation of Baha’u’llah will come as a great joy! This teaching is of the Spirit, in it is no precept which is not of the Divine Spirit.
Spirit cannot be perceived by the material senses of the physical body, excepting as it is expressed in outward signs and works. The human body is visible, the soul is invisible. It is the soul nevertheless that directs a man’s faculties, that governs his humanity. – Paris Talks, pp. 85-86.
Then, Abdu’l-Baha gave his attentive Parisian audience a detailed explanation of the Baha’i concept of the soul, as the very essence and center of human life:
The soul has two main faculties. (a) As outer circumstances are communicated to the soul by the eyes, ears, and brain of a man, so does the soul communicate its desires and purposes through the brain to the hands and tongue of the physical body, thereby expressing itself. The spirit in the soul is the very essence of life. (b) The second faculty of the soul expresses itself in the world of vision, where the soul inhabited by the spirit has its being, and functions without the help of the material bodily senses. There, in the realm of vision, the soul sees without the help of the physical eye, hears without the aid of the physical ear, and travels without dependence upon physical motion. It is, therefore, clear that the spirit in the soul of man can function through the physical body by using the organs of the ordinary senses, and that it is able also to live and act without their aid in the world of vision. This proves without a doubt the superiority of the soul of man over his body, the superiority of spirit over matter.
For example, look at this lamp: is not the light within it superior to the lamp which holds it? However beautiful the form of the lamp may be, if the light is not there its purpose is unfulfilled, it is without life — a dead thing. The lamp needs the light, but the light does not need the lamp.
The spirit does not need a body, but the body needs spirit, or it cannot live. The soul can live without a body, but the body without a soul dies.
If a man lose his sight, his hearing, his hand or his foot, should his soul still inhabit the body he lives, and is able to manifest divine virtues. On the other hand, without the spirit it would be impossible for a perfect body to exist. – Ibid., pp. 86-87.
At this point, Abdu’l-Baha came to the core message of his talk, attributing the life of the individual, personal spirit to the penetrating power of the prophets of God:
The greatest power of the Holy Spirit exists in the Divine Manifestations of the Truth. Through the power of the Spirit the Heavenly Teaching has been brought into the World of Humanity. Through the power of the Spirit life everlasting has come to the children of men. Through the power of the Spirit the Divine Glory has shone from East to West, and through the power of the same Spirit will the divine virtues of humanity become manifest. – Ibid, p. 87.
Finally, he delivered his conclusion, asking that everyone with a sense of spirituality put it wholeheartedly into the accomplishment of active deeds in the world. He said that the purpose, “the end,” of striving to be more spiritual is unity. He characterized that human unity as the most important prerequisite for the peaceful future of humanity. He quoted from the Bible again, calling each of us to actually implement the phrase “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven:”
Our greatest efforts must be directed towards detachment from the things of the world; we must strive to become more spiritual, more luminous, to follow the counsel of the Divine Teaching, to serve the cause of unity and true equality, to be merciful, to reflect the love of the Highest on all men, so that the light of the Spirit shall be apparent in all our deeds, to the end that all humanity shall be united, the stormy sea thereof calmed, and all rough waves disappear from off the surface of life’s ocean henceforth unruffled and peaceful. Then will the New Jerusalem be seen by mankind, who will enter through its gates and receive the Divine Bounty.
I thank God that I have been present amongst you this afternoon, and I thank you for your spiritual feeling.
I pray that you may grow in Divine fervour, and that the power of unity in the Spirit will augment, so that the prophecies may be fulfilled, and that in this great century of the Light of God all the glad tidings written in the Sacred Books may come to pass. This is the glorious time of which the Lord Jesus Christ spoke when He told us to pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” I hope that this is also your expectation and great desire.
We are united in the one aim and hope that all shall be as one and every heart illumined by the Love of our Divine Father, God!
May all our actions be spiritual, and all our interests and affections be centred in the Kingdom of Glory! – Ibid., pp. 87-88.
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