Given the current conditions in the world, we can only attempt to imagine how heavenly it would be to live one’s life in the context of a spiritualized environment.
The ongoing task of spiritualizing and refining material reality as it relates to both individual human beings and to human society as a whole is not merely some arbitrary test for us as we await entrance into the next stage of existence. From the Baha’i teachings about our labor and service in the life to come, we can assume that at least part of our job in the continuation of our lives will be to assist the ongoing efforts of this planet in promulgating an “ever-advancing civilization:”
All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. The Almighty beareth Me witness: To act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 214.
In this context, Baha’u’llah assured his followers that after his ascent, he would watch and assist all who arise to serve God:
Verily, We behold you from Our realm of glory, and shall aid whosoever will arise for the triumph of Our Cause with the hosts of the Concourse on high and a company of Our favored angels. – Ibid., p. 139.
Just who are these “angels”? In other passages Baha’u’llah made it clear that these souls who assist the progress of humankind on this and every other planet where an “ever-advancing” civilization is underway are those who have passed on to the next realm in such a condition of refinement (or who achieve such a condition in the next world) that they render service from that ethereal realm to those of us struggling here and now to refine this world:
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. Through them the clouds rain their bounty upon men, and the earth bringeth forth its fruits. All things must needs have a cause, a motive power, an animating principle. These souls and symbols of detachment have provided, and will continue to provide, the supreme moving impulse in the world of being. – Ibid., pp. 156-157.
Naturally, this passage does not imply that assisting the progress of material existence is the single mode of service in the world beyond. No doubt many of those who have passed on to that reality will also need assistance in their own progress.
The point is that physical reality is not limited quantitatively or qualitatively in its capacity to mirror forth the spiritual world. Therefore, unlike virtually every religion of the past, the Baha’i teachings assert that physical reality is not inherently evil or distracting from our spiritual purposes, neither should it be disdained or ignored.
Rather, physical reality is to be employed properly as a meticulously fashioned and infinitely complex outer garment of the spiritual realm, a classroom for the heart, mind and soul, and an inherently spiritual exercise capable of instructing us in even the most refined concepts relating to the unseen metaphysical reality that it manifests:
Know thou that he is truly learned who hath acknowledged My Revelation, and drunk from the Ocean of My knowledge, and soared in the atmosphere of My love, and cast away all else besides Me, and taken firm hold on that which hath been sent down from the Kingdom of My wondrous utterance. He, verily, is even as an eye unto mankind, and as the spirit of life unto the body of all creation. Glorified be the All-Merciful Who hath enlightened him, and caused him to arise and serve His great and mighty Cause. Verily, such a man is blessed by the Concourse on high, and by them who dwell within the Tabernacle of Grandeur, who have quaffed My sealed Wine in My Name, the Omnipotent, the All-Powerful. – Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 83.
Until the generality of scholars have discerned this truth, we will as a society under the sway of largely materialistic visions of the microcosm, the macrocosm, human nature, be like those who privately knew that Copernicus was correct in his simple disentanglement of the Ptolemaic system, but who were afraid to act on his description of reality until it was publicly safe and acceptable for them to do so.
Until now, the Baha’i vision of the interplay between the dual aspects of reality—the physical and the metaphysical—has been rather systematically ignored or disdained. But as with all perplexing questions about reality, the truth will ultimately emerge because it will in time, like Copernicus’ model of the solar system, become the simplest, the most useful, the most accurate description of reality, and, therefore, the most scientific explanation for all that we study, whether in the vast reaches of outer space or in the most refined particles of matter.