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If you want to live, you have to move. Our cells and the atoms that build them already know this wisdom—because they’re constantly in motion.
Movement means life: it’s the law. The laws of thermodynamics say that all particles of matter have constant, random motion—they vibrate, shift, collide and dance, all the time. Quantum mechanics tells us that sub-atomic particles are always on the move, too. In the human body, even when you’re sitting absolutely still or sleeping, your heart contracts to pump blood, which speeds through your arteries and veins at about a third of a meter per second. Every one of your internal organs constantly moves, too, the smooth muscles doing their various jobs without respite. The lymphatic system continually transports fluids and lipids through your body. Your lungs expand and contract. Every cell transports molecular substances through your cytoplasm, every minute, day or night. Life means movement.
The Baha’i teachings say movement is essential to all existence:
Absolute repose does not exist in nature. All things either make progress or lose ground. Everything moves forward or backward, nothing is without motion. From his birth, a man progresses physically until he reaches maturity, then, having arrived at the prime of his life, he begins to decline, the strength and powers of his body decrease, and he gradually arrives at the hour of death. Likewise a plant progresses from the seed to maturity, then its life begins to lessen until it fades and dies. A bird soars to a certain height and having reached the highest possible point in its flight, begins its descent to earth.
Thus it is evident that movement is essential to all existence. All material things progress to a certain point, then begin to decline. This is the law which governs the whole physical creation. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 89.
So we have proof that the body itself never rests—what about our inner human consciousness, what we might call the mind, the intellect, the spirit or the soul?
Now let us consider the soul. We have seen that movement is essential to existence; nothing that has life is without motion. All creation, whether of the mineral, vegetable or animal kingdom, is compelled to obey the law of motion; it must either ascend or descend. But with the human soul, there is no decline. Its only movement is towards perfection; growth and progress alone constitute the motion of the soul.
Divine perfection is infinite, therefore the progress of the soul is also infinite. From the very birth of a human being the soul progresses, the intellect grows and knowledge increases. When the body dies the soul lives on. All the differing degrees of created physical beings are limited, but the soul is limitless! – Ibid.
The mind is circumscribed, the soul limitless. It is by the aid of such senses as those of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch, that the mind comprehendeth, whereas the soul is free from all agencies. The soul as thou observest, whether it be in sleep or waking, is in motion and ever active. – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablet to August Forel, p. 8.
Our ever-active souls contain us, enfolding our ineffable existence forever—and our souls grow and mature, too. But that spiritual maturation, unlike its physical counterpart, has no end. Souls move constantly, reaching for the light in a spiritual way, just as plants and animals do in a physical way. Souls all take a journey, a path of development that mirrors the physical development we all go through.
That human growth and development, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, always progresses through a series of stages.
From a physical perspective, our sequential maturation begins within the embryo, continues after birth and then fits a pattern of normative development, progressing from infancy to childhood to adolescence to adulthood. But just as we grow up physically, we also mature intellectually, psychologically, morally and spiritually.
So our spiritual growth—its stages revealed to us by the mystical traditions of the world’s great Faiths—also unfolds in stages as we mature. We move through those stages at our own pace and as a result of our own initiative, but the sequence itself usually progresses along a consistent path, in the same way physical maturation does. Identifying and comprehending those stages allows us to better understand and direct our own spiritual journey.
Of course, our physical growth happens unconsciously, while our spiritual growth occurs because we consciously try to make it happen. If we want to grow, mature and evolve spiritually, we can follow the seeker’s path, laid out for us in the teachings of the world’s great Faiths and by all of the messengers, teachers and prophets who had access to the numinous.
Let’s see, in the next essay in this series, if we can explore and discover those various paths and figure out what they have in common.