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The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
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What’s the Difference Between Humans and Animals?

Rodney Richards | Dec 14, 2018

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Rodney Richards | Dec 14, 2018

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

To live only for the body, striving only to fulfill only our physical needs and wants, would be a dull existence indeed.

In that existence we would only truly care about food and shelter, perhaps not even clothing. We would only express our relationships with others in physical ways. It would be like living as an animal, only concerned with where our next meal was coming from, finding shelter in a thicket of brambles, simply struggling to survive. The animal concerns—food, water, shelter and the instinctual need to reproduce—means that it devotes all its energies to simply getting through another day intact.

The Baha’i teachings explain that our animal natures will inevitably perish:

The whole physical creation is perishable. These material bodies are composed of atoms; when these atoms begin to separate decomposition sets in, then comes what we call death. This composition of atoms, which constitutes the body or mortal element of any created being, is temporary. When the power of attraction, which holds these atoms together, is withdrawn, the body, as such, ceases to exist. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 90-91.

Shall we believe, then, that only our physical existence has any importance?

The Difference Between Humans and Animals

Humans are different than animals. We have superior powers and abilities. Although our bodies are subject to the limitations of the physical world like the animal, humans have found ways to circumvent those limitations. Man travels in airplanes and flies vast distances like a bird, and sails through bodies of water in undersea ships like the fish. He builds skyscrapers to house himself and his family like nests, and produces food that does not perish. Man can, through his intelligence, his or her power to discover the realities of things living or not, mold reality to his or her will.

Abdu’l-Baha has made this clear, knowledge we all know:

The animal creation is captive to matter, God has given freedom to man. The animal cannot escape the law of nature, whereas man may control it, for he, containing nature, can rise above it

The power of the Holy Spirit, enlightening man’s intelligence, has enabled him to discover means of bending many natural laws to his will. He flies through the air, floats on the sea, and even moves under the waters.

All this proves how man’s intelligence has been enabled to free him from the limitations of nature, and to solve many of her mysteries. Man, to a certain extent, has broken the chains of matter. – Ibid., pp. 37-38.

According to the Baha’i teachings, this innate intelligence in humans is a direct result of the Holy Spirit:

Likewise the Holy Spirit is the very cause of the life of man; without the Holy Spirit he would have no intellect, he would be unable to acquire his scientific knowledge by which his great influence over the rest of creation is gained. The illumination of the Holy Spirit gives to man the power of thought, and enables him to make discoveries by which he bends the laws of nature to his will.

The Holy Spirit it is which, through the mediation of the Prophets of God, teaches spiritual virtues to man and enables him to attain Eternal Life.

All these blessings are brought to man by the Holy Spirit; therefore we can understand that the Holy Spirit is the Intermediary between the Creator and the created. The light and heat of the sun cause the earth to be fruitful, and create life in all things that grow; and the Holy Spirit quickens the souls of men. – Ibid., p. 59.

Further, Abdul-Baha calls this intelligence, generated by the Holy Spirit in humans, the rational soul. Our rational souls make us unique, because they can hear the word of God and acknowledge its potency—and that allows humans to change from their animalistic nature to their truly human, spiritual nature.

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  • Hilton McConnell
    Dec 15, 2018
    man is superior to the animal but the animal is a lot more that you seem to think by what you stated. They care for each other I have 2 dogs and 2 cats the one dog is 120 lb. and when I got the kittens he took care of them and when some thing scared them they ran to him even if they are in his bed he will lay down beside the bed. And when I got the second dog ( he was 8 weeks old.) the cats and older dog took care of him there definitely more there than just the want for food. To see a 120 lb Kuvasz and a 9 lb westie playing you see that the kuvasz is very careful not to hurt him or the cats when they are playing. Great article but take a closer look at Animals. God created them and all God created has mysteries.
  • Rosslyn and Steven Osborne
    Dec 15, 2018
    Thank you Rodney as I felt this was well explained. Mark David Vinzens I truly like those words.
  • Mark David Vinzens
    Dec 14, 2018
    “I died as mineral and became a plant,
    I died as plant and rose to animal,
    I died as animal and I was human,
    Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
    Yet once more I shall die human,
    To soar with angels blessed above.
    And when I sacrifice my angel soul
    I shall become what no mind ever conceived.
    As a human, I will die once more,
    Reborn, I will with the angels soar.
    And when I let my angel body go,
    I shall be more than mortal mind can know.”
    ― Rumi
    • rodney Richards
      Dec 15, 2018
      Ah, Rumi's thoughts, feelings and words -- priceless, almost matchless. Thank you Mark for taking us from the realm of Man to the next realm also.
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