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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 When the power of attraction, which holds these atoms together, is withdrawn, the body, as such, ceases to exist.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.