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O SON OF THE SUPREME!
To the eternal I call thee, yet thou dost seek that which perisheth. What hath made thee turn away from Our desire and seek thine own? – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 9.
The conservation of energy – one of the basic foundational laws of science – came to us from the discipline of physics.
The conservation of energy law simply recognizes that the total energy in any closed system can’t change. In other words, energy is conserved because we can’t either destroy or create it. We can change its form – by converting mechanical motion into friction, which produces heat; or by using gravity and the flow of water to generated electricity, for example – but no one has ever made or eradicated energy.
The law of the conservation of energy means no perpetual motion machine exists – and that no living thing can live forever. Every composed life form must eventually decompose, reverting to its elemental atoms.
That universal physical law applies to the world of the spirit, too. In the Baha’i teachings, we learn that only one human element does not eventually die – the soul. Since our individual spirit isn’t made up of composed elements, the Baha’i writings explain, it cannot decompose – it is immortal. Baha’u’llah writes that the life of the spirit “knoweth no death”:
Behold, all the people are imprisoned within the tomb of self, and lie buried beneath the nethermost depths of worldly desire! Wert thou to attain to but a dewdrop of the crystal waters of divine knowledge, thou wouldst readily realize that true life is not the life of the flesh but the life of the spirit. For the life of the flesh is common to both men and animals, whereas the life of the spirit is possessed only by the pure in heart who have quaffed from the ocean of faith and partaken of the fruit of certitude. This life knoweth no death, and this existence is crowned by immortality. – Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 120.
And in this Hidden Word, Baha’u’llah asks each human being to focus on what makes their life eternal. “Thou dost seek that which perisheth” applies to every person who has ever desired something or someone or some earthly goal. Our desires for material things, the Baha’i teachings say, tend to subvert and supplant our desire for the spiritual, the numinous, the eternal.
“True life is not the life of the flesh but the life of the spirit,”
Baha’u’llah writes, calling us all toward a higher, more mystical path, a life course focused on what lasts rather than what decays.
Everything physical dies. Beauty fades, newness turns to decay, riches disappear and the fickle finger of fame soon points elsewhere. Nothing in this material world lasts – composition inevitably becomes decomposition, and the things that belong to us now, sooner or later, will belong to someone else:
Of what avail are the things which are yours today and which tomorrow others shall possess? Choose for thyself that which God hath chosen for His elect, and God shall grant thee a mighty sovereignty in His Kingdom. – Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 103.
So given the fleeting nature of this material reality, the ephemeral mirage of the physical, what can we do?
Baha’u’llah counsels each person to turn inward, to seek out their eternal soul and focus on its growth and development. Only that course of action, the Baha’i teachings tell us, will ultimately profit us; will give us eternal peace and happiness; will make us whole.
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