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Through his ignorance, man fears death; but the death he shrinks from is imaginary and absolutely unreal; it is only human imagination.
The bestowal and grace of God have quickened the realm of existence with life and being. For existence there is neither change nor transformation; existence is ever existence; it can never be translated into non-existence. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, pp. 264-265.
OK, let’s give our imaginations a serious workout, shall we? Try to imagine this: in the future, someone invents a machine that instantly diagnoses illness, erases pain, cures all diseases, heals every injury, and reverses the aging process. The mythical Fountain of Youth becomes real!
We’ve actually started moving in that direction: a few years ago the X Prize Foundation announced the Tricorder X Prize, a $10 million incentive to develop a mobile instant medical diagnostic device like the one Star Trek’s creators imagined. No one has won the prize yet, but several inventors and companies are trying. Of course, diagnosis and treatment are two very different things—but conceivably, a universal healing device could be developed someday in the distant future, in our wildest dreams.
With this highly unlikely but fun-to-fantasize-about scenario in mind, see if you can answer this important next question: would we still be afraid?
After all, if there were no serious consequences to worry about—physical suffering, decline or death—what would we have to fear? With nothing to worry us, we could devote our energies to the more productive and positive parts of life. We’d still have the more minor fears to contend with—a social slight, a financial setback, a bad hair day—but we would have erased the major cause of human dread.
What an incredible advance that would make in human history, right?
Well, Baha’is believe that you can actually rid yourself of that dread of injury, illness and death right now, by accepting the faith of Baha’u’llah and believing in its principles. True Baha’is do not fear death or its predecessors—instead, they look forward to a second life, with death only a birth into an eternal existence. When the Baha’i teachings say that death “is imaginary and absolutely unreal; it is only human imagination,” they ask us to recognize our immortality and lose our fears.
There’s your fountain of youth and your tricorder, all contained in the human mind and soul. You exist now, the Baha’i teachings say, which means you will exist eternally:
Therefore, you must thank God that He has bestowed upon you the blessing of life and existence in the human kingdom. Strive diligently to acquire virtues befitting your degree and station. Be as lights of the world which cannot be hid and which have no setting in horizons of darkness. Ascend to the zenith of an existence which is never beclouded by the fears and forebodings of nonexistence. When man is not endowed with inner perception, he is not informed of these important mysteries. The retina of outer vision, though sensitive and delicate, may, nevertheless, be a hindrance to the inner eye which alone can perceive. The bestowals of God which are manifest in all phenomenal life are sometimes hidden by intervening veils of mental and mortal vision which render man spiritually blind and incapable, but when those scales are removed and the veils rent asunder, then the great signs of God will become visible, and he will witness the eternal light filling the world. The bestowals of God are all and always manifest. The promises of heaven are ever present. The favors of God are all-surrounding, but should the conscious eye of the soul of man remain veiled and darkened, he will be led to deny these universal signs and remain deprived of these manifestations of divine bounty. Therefore, we must endeavor with heart and soul in order that the veil covering the eye of inner vision may be removed, that we may behold the manifestations of the signs of God, discern His mysterious graces and realize that material blessings as compared with spiritual bounties are as nothing. The spiritual blessings of God are greatest. When we were in the mineral kingdom, although we were endowed with certain gifts and powers, they were not to be compared with the blessings of the human kingdom. In the matrix of the mother we were the recipients of endowments and blessings of God, yet these were as nothing compared to the powers and graces bestowed upon us after birth into this human world. Likewise, if we are born from the matrix of this physical and phenomenal environment into the freedom and loftiness of the spiritual life and vision, we shall consider this mortal existence and its blessings as worthless by comparison. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 89-90.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands of passages in the Baha’i writings convey this same message—that the human soul never dies.
So now, let’s try that faculty of imagination once more: imagine how that could affect you, if you truly believed it:
Know thou that every hearing ear, if kept pure and undefiled, must, at all times and from every direction, hearken to the voice that uttereth these holy words: “Verily, we are God’s, and to Him shall we return.” The mysteries of man’s physical death and of his return have not been divulged, and still remain unread. By the righteousness of God! Were they to be revealed, they would evoke such fear and sorrow that some would perish, while others would be so filled with gladness as to wish for death, and beseech, with unceasing longing, the one true God — exalted be His glory — to hasten their end.
Death proffereth unto every confident believer the cup that is life indeed. It bestoweth joy, and is the bearer of gladness. It conferreth the gift of everlasting life.
As to those that have tasted of the fruit of man’s earthly existence, which is the recognition of the one true God, exalted be His glory, their life hereafter is such as We are unable to describe. The knowledge thereof is with God, alone, the Lord of all worlds. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 345-346.
Next: Finding Freedom from Fear in the Baha’i Faith