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We’re lucky in the Baha’i Faith – for the first time in religious history, the Teachings of our Faith have a lot to tell us about what comes next . . . after we die.  Let’s have a look!

God loves us so much, He’s promised we’ll never die, and that if we love Him, we’ll find Him in the realm of glory:

Thou art My dominion and My dominion perisheth not; wherefore fearest thou thy perishing? Thou art My light and My light shall never be extinguished; why dost thou dread extinction? Thou art My glory and My glory fadeth not; thou art My robe and My robe shall never be outworn. Abide then in thy love for Me, that thou mayest find Me in the realm of glory.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Hidden Words, Arabic 14)

It’s impossible to describe the nature of the soul after death:

The nature of the soul after death can never be described, nor is it meet and permissible to reveal its whole character to the eyes of men.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 156)

Therefore, know thou that the True One possesseth invisible worlds which human meditation is unable to comprehend and the intellect of man hath no power to imagine. When thou wilt purify and clarify thy spiritual nostrils from every worldly moisture, then thou wilt inhale the holy fragrances diffusing from the merciful gardens of these worlds.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 392)

We can’t begin to imagine what it looks like:

Therefore, know thou that the True One possesseth invisible worlds which human meditation is unable to comprehend and the intellect of man hath no power to imagine. When thou wilt purify and clarify thy spiritual nostrils from every worldly moisture, then thou wilt inhale the holy fragrances diffusing from the merciful gardens of these worlds.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 392)

There’s a lot we don’t know, which is a protection for us:

If any man be told that which hath been ordained for such a soul in the worlds of God, the Lord of the throne on high and of earth below, his whole being will instantly blaze out in his great longing to attain that most exalted, that sanctified and resplendent station. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 156)

The mysteries of man’s physical death and of his return have not been divulged, and still remain unread. By the righteousness of God! Were they to be revealed, they would evoke such fear and sorrow that some would perish, while others would be so filled with gladness as to wish for death, and beseech, with unceasing longing, the one true God—exalted be His glory—to hasten their end … As to those that have tasted of the fruit of man’s earthly existence, which is the recognition of the one true God, exalted be His glory, their life hereafter is such as We are unable to describe.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 344-345)

The next life is as different from this one, as was our lives in our mother’s wombs.

You ask an explanation of what happens to us after we leave this world: This is a question which none of the Prophets have ever answered in detail, for the very simple reason that you cannot convert to a person’s mind something entirely different from everything they have ever experienced. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave the wonderful example of the relation of this life to the next life being like the child in the womb; it develops eyes, ears, hands, feet, a tongue, and yet it has nothing to see or hear, it cannot walk or grasp things or speak; all these faculties it is developing for this world. If you tried to explain to an embryo what this world is like could never understand- but it understands when it is born, and its faculties can be used. So we cannot picture our state in the next world. All we know is that our consciousness, our personality, endures in some new state, and that that world is as much better than this one as this one is better than the dark womb of our mother was.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 208-209)

The world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 19)

When the ladies asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá about immortality, He gave a short talk on the spiritual world, summarizing by saying: “the unborn child would deny the existence of this world for the reason that he knows nothing of it and the best condition to him is the world of the womb, the best food his nourishment, there. He could not visualize this world. But when he is born and arrives at understanding, he sees what a beautiful world this is. So with the spiritual kingdom. The people of this world cannot comprehend the conditions of that immortal world, but, when they reach it, they see that this, in comparison, is just like the world of the womb. The unborn child says: this is the best world. I am quite satisfied with it. I must not leave it.  (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 24)

Just as we discovered our parents when we were born into this world, we’ll discover ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and his role as our heavenly father in the next:

This world is not much of a place for the realization of truth. This world is but the womb of the world of reality. Twins in the matrix may even embrace each other without knowing what they do. They are in darkness and cannot know their relationship to their mother who nourishes them, or their father who cares for them and provides for them. However, when they are born out of the world of darkness and live in this world, they realize each other and become assured that they have a father and a mother. So will you become assured when you enter the world of light and then you will realize how great is my fatherhood for you.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 112-113)

If we truly knew what was in store for us, none of us would want to remain in this world:

If any man be told that which hath been ordained for such a soul in the worlds of God, the Lord of the throne on high and of earth below, his whole being will instantly blaze out in his great longing to attain that most exalted, that sanctified and resplendent station…. The nature of the soul after death can never be described, nor is it meet and permissible to reveal its whole character to the eyes of men.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 19)

When can we go?

Only God is qualified to make that decision, but we know that it’s dependent on 2 things:  When we outgrow our physical form, and when we are ready to reap the fruit of our spiritual development:

Man is destined by God to undergo a spiritual development that extends throughout eternity. His life upon this earth is only the first stage of that development. When we outgrow our physical form, and are considered by God ready to reap the fruit of our spiritual development, we proceed to the other world. We term it death only because of our short sightedness. A more proper term would be ‘a more abundant life.’ it is a forward step we have taken.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 203-204)

Suicide is forbidden in the Baha’i Faith.  If you’re feeling suicidal; please get help!  This article might be of assistance.

What will we look like?

We won’t need our bodies in the next world:

As at the time of death, the real and eternal self of man, his soul, abandons its physical garment to soar in the realms of God, we may compare the body to a vehicle which has been used for the journey through earthly life and no longer needed once the destination has been reached.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 201)

God will give us a form that better suits us:

When the soul attaineth the Presence of God, it will assume the form that best befitteth its immortality and is worthy of its celestial habitation.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 157)

Our souls will take on a heavenly form, made up of elements of that heavenly realm:

The answer to the third question is this, that in the other world the human reality doth not assume a physical form, rather doth it take on a heavenly form, made up of elements of that heavenly realm.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 194)

We will retain our individuality but our soul will be exclusively luminous; a dazzling pencil of light; a celestial orb of brightness.

You will retain your individuality and will not be swallowed up in one vast spirit. Concerning the condition of the human soul after its ascension from the material world: the essence of the human soul is clarified from material substances and purified from the embodiment of physical things. It is exclusively luminous; it has no body; it is a dazzling pencil of light; it is a celestial orb of brightness.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Eternal Quest For God, p 218)

Where is the next world?

Where exactly is the next world?  It’s right here with us, yet we are completely unaware of it:

The souls of the children of the Kingdom, after their separation from the body, ascend unto the realm of everlasting life. But if ye ask as to the place, know ye that the world of existence is a single world, although its stations are various and distinct.

For example, the mineral life occupieth its own plane, but a mineral entity is without any awareness at all of the vegetable kingdom, and indeed, with its inner tongue denieth that there is any such kingdom. In the same way, a vegetable entity knoweth nothing of the animal world, remaining completely heedless and ignorant thereof, for the stage of the animal is higher than that of the vegetable, and the vegetable is veiled from the animal world and inwardly denieth the existence of that world — all this while animal, vegetable and mineral dwell together in the one world.

In the same way the animal remaineth totally unaware of that power of the human mind which graspeth universal ideas and layeth bare the secrets of creation — so that a man who liveth in the east can make plans and arrangements for the west; can unravel mysteries; although located on the continent of Europe can discover America; although sited on the earth can lay hold of the inner realities of the stars of heaven. Of this power of discovery which belongeth to the human mind, this power which can grasp abstract and universal ideas, the animal remaineth totally ignorant, and indeed denieth its existence.

In the same way, the denizens of this earth are completely unaware of the world of the Kingdom and deny the existence thereof. They ask, for example: ‘Where is the Kingdom? Where is the Lord of the Kingdom?’ These people are even as the mineral and the vegetable, who know nothing whatever of the animal and the human realm; they see it not; they find it not. Yet the mineral and vegetable, the animal and man, are all living here together in this world of existence.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 193-194)

God is not “up there somewhere”, but closer to us than our life-vein:

Meditate on what the poet hath written: “Wonder not, if my Best-Beloved be closer to me than mine own self; wonder at this,  that I, despite such nearness, should still be so far from Him.” . . . Considering what God hath revealed, that “We are closer to man than his life-vein,” the poet hath, in allusion to this verse, stated that, though the revelation of my Best-Beloved hath so permeated my being that He is closer to me than my life-vein,” yet, notwithstanding my certitude of its reality and my recognition of my station, I am still so far removed from Him.    (Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i World Faith, p. 97)

Going on to the next world will be like a baby in the womb being born into this world:

It is similar to the condition of a human being in the womb, where his eyes are veiled, and all things are hidden away from him. Once he is born out of the uterine world and entereth this life, he findeth it, with relation to that of the womb, to be a place of perceptions and discoveries, and he observeth all things through his outer eye. In the same way, once he hath departed this life, he will behold, in that world whatsoever was hidden from him here: but there he will look upon and comprehend all things with his inner eye. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 170)

What does the next world look like?

There is no time or space in the next world:

For the Kingdom of God is sanctified (or free) from time and place; it is another world and another universe. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 205-206)

We’ll be free from trouble:

Herein there is no death, no trouble nor burden.  (Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 174)

We’ll be free from tests and trials:

As to the second question: the tests and trials of God take place in this world, not in the world of the Kingdom.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 194)

We’ll be independent of all infirmities and bodily ailments:

Know thou that the soul of man is exalted above, and is independent of all infirmities of body or mind. That a sick person showeth signs of weakness is due to the hindrances that interpose themselves between his soul and his body, for the soul itself remaineth unaffected by any bodily ailments.   (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 153)

We’ll remember our past:

Man can certainly recall past experiences in his evolution, and even when his soul leaves this world it will still remember its past.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

We’ll have our intelligence, our reasoning power, our knowledge and scientific achievements:

The intelligence of man, his reasoning powers, his knowledge, his scientific achievements, all these being manifestations of the spirit, partake of the inevitable law of spiritual progress and are, therefore, of necessity, immortal.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 89)

We’ll be endowed with tremendous power and influence and will rejoice with exceeding gladness:

Consider the light of the lamp. Though an external object may interfere with its radiance, the light itself continueth to shine with undiminished power. In like manner, every malady afflicting the body of man is an impediment that preventeth the soul from manifesting its inherent might and power. When it leaveth the body, however, it will evince such ascendancy, and reveal such influence as no force on earth can equal. Every pure, every refined and sanctified soul will be endowed with tremendous power, and shall rejoice with exceeding gladness.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 153-155)

We’ll be able to ask God to intercede on behalf of others:

It is certain that those who are near the Divine Court are allowed to intercede, and this intercession is approved by God. But intercession in the other world is not like intercession in this world. It is another thing, another reality, which cannot be expressed in words.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 231)

We’ll be free:

Now is she free; delivered from her chains of care and sorrow; safe from all the suffering and pain, released from the ills of this nether world. She rolled up and packed away the years of longing for her mighty Father, and for Him, her loving and well-favoured Brother, and departed to her abode in the midmost heart of the Heavens.  (Bahiyyih Khanum, p. 25)

We’ll be like a bird, freed from a small and gloomy cage; soaring in a world which is spacious, illumined, and ever gay and jubilant:

That beloved child addresseth thee from the hidden world: “O thou kind Mother, thank divine Providence that I have been freed from a small and gloomy cage and, like the birds of the meadows, have soared to the divine world—a world which is spacious, illumined, and ever gay and jubilant. Therefore, lament not, O Mother, and be not grieved; I am not of the lost, nor have I been obliterated and destroyed. I have shaken off the mortal form and have raised my banner in this spiritual world. Following this separation is everlasting companionship. Thou shalt find me in the heaven of the Lord, immersed in an ocean of light.”  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 201)

The Maids of Heaven will circle around us; the Prophets of God and His chosen ones will seek our companionship and we will be able to tell them everything we’ve been made to endure in the path of God:

The Maids of Heaven, inmates of the loftiest mansions, will circle around it, and the Prophets of God and His chosen ones will seek its companionship. With them that soul will freely converse, and will recount unto them that which it hath been made to endure in the path of God, the Lord of all worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 155)

Who you’ll meet in the afterlife

Will we meet our loved ones in the next world?  Most definitely!

And know thou for a certainty, that in the divine worlds, the spiritual beloved ones (believers) will recognize each other, and will seek union (with each other), but a spiritual union. Likewise, a love that one may have entertained for any one will not be forgotten in the world of the Kingdom. Likewise, thou wilt not forget (there) the life that thou hast had in the material world.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 205-206)

We’ll be able to see souls that are above, below and on par with ourselves:

The interposed veil will be lifted away and the human spirit will gaze upon souls that are above, below, and on a par with itself.   (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 170)

How soon after we die depends on their respective stations:

She wished to know whether one would be re-united with those who had gone before immediately after death.  Abdu’l-Bahá answered that this would depend upon the respective stations of the two. If both had the same degree of development, they would be re-united immediately after death. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 73)

How will we recognize each other without a body?  By their individualities and characteristics:

The question was then asked as to how it would be possible with no material bodies or environment to recognize different entities and characters, when all would be in the same conditions and on the same plane of existence.   ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said if several people look into a mirror at the same moment, they behold all the different personalities, their characteristics and movements; the glass of the mirror into which they look is one. In your mind you have a variety of thoughts, but all these thoughts are separate and distinct. Also you may perhaps have hundreds of friends; but when you call them before your memory you do not confuse them one with another: each one is separate and distinct, having their own individualities and characteristics.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 74-75)

And this time, our reunion will be for all of eternity:

O thou beloved maid-servant of God, although the loss of a son is indeed heart-breaking and beyond the limits of human endurance, yet one who knoweth and understandeth is assured that the son hath not been lost but, rather, hast stepped from this world into another, and she will find him in the divine realm. That reunion shall be for eternity.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 201)

But concerning the spirit, know that thy pure son shall be with thee in the Kingdom of God and thou shalt witness his smiling face, illumined brow, handsome spirit and real happiness. Accordingly, thou wilt then be comforted and thank God for His favor upon thee.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 85-86)

When two people, husband and wife for instance, have been completely united in this life their souls being as one soul, then after one of them has passed away, this union of heart and soul would remain unbroken.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 75)

What will we do there?

We will make discoveries:

As to thy question regarding discoveries made by the soul after it hath put off its human form: certainly, that world is a world of perceptions and discoveries.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 170)

We will be of service:

Learn well this Tablet, O Ahmad. Chant it during thy days and withhold not thyself therefrom. For verily, God hath ordained for the one who chants it, the reward of a hundred martyrs and a service in both worlds. These favors have We bestowed upon thee as a bounty on Our part and a mercy from Our presence, that thou mayest be of those who are grateful.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i Prayers, p. 211)

We will provide the leaven for this world, furnishing the power through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest:

Such a soul provideth, at the bidding of the Ideal King and Divine Educator, the pure leaven that leaveneth the world of being, and furnisheth the power through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 161)

We will be able to teach those who’ve departed from this life without hearing of the Faith:

Asked whether it was possible through faith and love to bring the New Revelation to the knowledge of those who have departed from this life without hearing of it, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá replied: — “Yes, surely! since sincere prayer always has its effect, and it has a great influence in the other world. We are never cut off from those who are there. The real and genuine influence is not in this world but in that other.”  (Notes of Mary Hanford Ford: Paris, 1911 found in Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 194)

How do we make progress in the next world?

There are three ways to progress in the next world:

  • through the bounty and grace of God
  • through the prayers of others
  • through charitable works performed in our names.

The progress of man’s spirit in the divine world, after the severance of its connection with the body of dust, is through the bounty and grace of the Lord alone, or through the intercession and the sincere prayers of other human souls, or through the charities and important good works which are performed in its name.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 239)

Those who’ve died in sin and those who don’t believe, can still  make progress in the next world:

It is even possible that the condition of those who have died in sin and unbelief may become changed — that is to say, they may become the object of pardon through the bounty of God, not through His justice — for bounty is giving without desert, and justice is giving what is deserved. As we have power to pray for these souls here, so likewise we shall possess the same power in the other world, which is the Kingdom of God. Are not all the people in that world the creatures of God? Therefore, in that world also they can make progress. As here they can receive light by their supplications, there also they can plead for forgiveness and receive light through entreaties and supplications. Thus as souls in this world, through the help of the supplications, the entreaties and the prayers of the holy ones, can acquire development, so is it the same after death. Through their own prayers and supplications they can also progress, more especially when they are the object of the intercession of the Holy Manifestations.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 232)

Children can pray for their parent’s progress:

Also a father and mother endure the greatest troubles and hardships for their children; and often when the children have reached the age of maturity, the parents pass on to the other world. Rarely does it happen that a father and mother in this world see the reward of the care and trouble they have undergone for their children. Therefore, children, in return for this care and trouble, must show forth charity and beneficence, and must implore pardon and forgiveness for their parents. So you ought, in return for the love and kindness shown you by your father, to give to the poor for his sake, with greatest submission and humility implore pardon and remission of sins, and ask for the supreme mercy.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 231-232)

Angels and Holy Souls

Who are the “holy souls” and how do I know if I’ll be one?  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gives us some characteristics and effects:

. . . with sincere intentions, good designs, useful advices, divine moralities, beautiful actions, spiritual qualities, educating the public, guiding the souls of mankind, diffusing spiritual fragrances, explaining divine illustrations, showing convincing proofs and doing charitable deeds. When the holy souls, through the angelic power, will arise to show forth these celestial characteristics, establishing a band of harmony, each of these souls shall be regarded as one thousand persons and the waves of this greatest ocean shall be considered as the army of the hosts of the Supreme Concourse.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 401)

We seldom think of ourselves as angels, but we are all potential angels when we sever ourselves from the things of this world and attach our hearts to God:

Angels are also those holy souls who have severed attachment to the earthly world, who are free from the fetters of self and passion and who have attached their hearts to the divine realm and the merciful kingdom.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 409)

We’re promised that holy souls are promised the gift of intercession.  This means that they will be able to intervene or negotiate on behalf of others:

But the holy souls are promised the gift of intercession. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 205-206)

What else has helped you understand the nature of the next world?  Post your comments below!