Talk on Immortality of the Spirit

Apr 2017
196
Mexico
As far as I have understood from my readings, Abdul'Baha discriminates between "soul" and "spirit".
A soul being able to do rational thinking and so confined to rational beings like man, while the spirit is more like an essence not limited by time, space or the nature of specific entities it inhabits (minerals, plants, animals, humans).

It may help to consdier how the Master treats matter in this regard. He explains that atoms in a mineral can go to a plant, an animal and a human, manifesting different features (according to the way they combine with other atoms). (see this compilation about nature in the Bahai Online Library)

In the same way that an atom of hydrogen is an atom of hydrogen whether part of a nebulosa or part of a DNA molecule in one of your cells, a spirit is a spirit wherever it happens to inhabit.

As a matter of fact, all the atoms our bodies are composed of were once in another plant, animal, or inorganic material. An the exchange is constant. We are never physically exactly the same: our atoms go to different beings constantly as our bodies breath, excrete and die, and we are constantly getting atoms from them as they breath, excrete, are eaten by us or die.

Maybe something is similar with the spirit. (In fact, maybe that big split between "matter" and "spirit" that all religions so frequently establish, is just a way to indicate two different manifestations of the same thing, the Ultimate Reality)

In a deep sense, we all share and profit from the Big Pool of Matter, as we all profit from the Big Pool of Spirit... all of this meaning, we all live in God, the Self-Subsistent.
 
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Jun 2014
1,100
Wisconsin
look, what you say means that plants and animals have spirit. yes? do they have spirit? and is their spirit the same as ours??
Animals definitely do have immortal spirits or souls. If not necessarily human souls and if not necessarily capable of the things human souls are, they nevertheless possess a spirit that transcends death. We can know this if we look at this quote on dreams and the immortality of the spirit/soul from Abdu'l-Baha:

Abdu’l-Baha said:
In the world of dreams the body becomes absolutely passive, but the spirit still functions actively, possessed of all susceptibilities. This leads to the conclusion that the life of the spirit is neither conditional nor dependent upon the life of the body. At most it can be said that the body is a mere garment utilized by the spirit. If that garment be destroyed, the wearer is not affected but is, in fact, protected.
What Abdu'l-Baha does here is use dreams as a proof that our spirits have life outside of our bodies and are not tied to the life of the body.

But one can thus build from that logically: If our dreams are a proof of a soul's persistence after death, then it follows that any being capable of dreaming has a spirit or soul that persists beyond death. :D

Now, this doesn't say anything about plants, of course, nor insects and fish (as they do not dream), but for mammals and some birds (and maybe reptiles... scientists aren't yet sure on that), they dream, and therefore we can only conclude that, from what Abdu'l-Baha says, they have a spirit that persists after death.
 
Apr 2017
196
Mexico
Please read this compilation from Abdul'bahá and the Universal House of Justice on the topic of pets going to heaven.

The process of individuation, (the highest degree of self-awareness) does not seem to be present (or at least not fully developed) in animals.
So, according to what I understand from these quotes from Abdul'Baha and the UHJ, an animal as a distinct individual does not persist after death.

Meaning, my beloved dog, that particular dog of mine, dead some years ago, will not be there wating for me after I die.

This goes in line with the animals not being able to take ethical/moral decisions.
Therefore, this life is not intended for them to build a moral character and there is no need for an afterlife to keep building it. Animals are already perfect as they are.
 
Jun 2014
1,100
Wisconsin
So I'm currently looking through all relevant quotes on the subject (I count three) from Abdu'l-Baha (I'm disregarding UHJ letters because they pretty much just point to Abdu'l-Baha's statements anyways). It seems like there is a contradiction, since one statement unquestionably states animals do not possess immortal souls, and yet another unquestionably states that dreams are a proof of a spirit that persists past death. I think I'm coming to an answer of a sort... perhaps... but I'm still studying.

But while I study, I found something that may be of interest to Maryamr in answering her question or clarifying the verse she found.

In a lot of places Abdu'l Baha and Baha'u'llah refer to three "classes" of "spirit", Plant, Animal, and Man.

Of note: these are not uniquely Baha'i concepts, or even concepts that came directly from revelation. This is an instance of Baha'u'llah or Abdu'l-Baha speaking in terms of the Greek Philosopher Aristotle's own classification system of soul. Which you can read about here: Aristotle's Soul Classifications. This is similar to many times when Baha'u'llah references something in the language and context of the knowledge of his time, like how he describes the process of spiritual development within the framework of the seven stages of spiritual development used by the Sufis. This is not necessarily to state that there are seven objective levels of spiritual development, but more in order to speak to his audience already familiar with the Seven Valleys, in order to better communicate.

An interesting note on Aristotle's system is that, while it is categorized in terms of "Plant", "Animal", and "Human", it is defined a bit different.

A "Plant Spirit" refers to the ability to grow, gain nutrition, and reproduce.

An "Animal Spirit" refers to the ability of sensation and movement.

A "Human Spirit" refers to the thinking mind.

These are also structured in a nested hierarchy, one within another. In other words, all of us communicating here have a "Human Spirit" but we also have an "Animal Spirit" and even a "Plant Spirit". (It's also of note that in this classification system, two of these aren't even things we'd typically consider "spiritual" but are rather what we'd call "physical".)

Now the naming and association of these three categories established by Aristotle is not perfect. I'll leave the question of whether a particular animal can possess what we call a "Human Spirit" for more research (as more research is needed) but... based on Aristotle's own classification system, some plants have "Animal Spirits". Certain plants DO have the ability to sense things, notably touch or light, and move to react to the sensation. It's rare but is indeed a thing that certain plants possess this "Animal Spirit".

Thus this metaphorical light in the verse you cite moving from one lantern to another could refer to the progress of an individual person or humanity as a whole, as we all (as detailed above) possess Plant and Animal Spirits. (Or it could even refer simultaneously to the path of an individual, humanity as a whole, and creation as a whole, in a parallel fashion...)
 
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Oct 2014
1,823
Stockholm
He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Luke 19:40

The Breeze of God hath been wafted over the world at the advent of the Desired One in His great glory, whereupon every stone and clod of earth hath cried out: "The Promised One is come! The Kingdom is God’s, the Mighty, the Gracious, the Forgiving." Bahá'u'lláh.

Indeed, matter has a spirit, if we are to believe the scriptures.

gnat
 
Apr 2017
196
Mexico
Indeed, one day men will discover a special kind of "particles" or "matter" that constitute conciousness (let's call them "spiritrons" for the sake of joking).

From what I have read, some neurobiologists believe that the known particles of matter cannot explain conciousness.

It is not that conciousness is "magic"... it is very real, but made up of constiuents of reality that are not the known protons, electrons or quarks. Consituents that have not been identified yet, except by their manifestations over what we call "matter". Something like the so called "gravitrons" used to explain gravity.

In the same way that atoms arrange in different ways to form minerals, plants, animals and humans, but they are still atoms, spiritrons, the units of conciousness, may arrange in different ways to inhabit those forms.

I look forward to the day when the gap between what we know as "matter" and what we understand by "spirit" will be filled. The split that religions brought to our lives will be considered just a convention, a practical (but limited) way to talk and teach about different aspects of the same, Ultimate Reality. Until that day comes, we will not be able to fully understand what the Blessed Beauty or the Master said... which should not worry us: they probably did not understand either what they were talking about... they were just reflecting the Light.
 
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Oct 2014
1,823
Stockholm
Read this in the light of the discussion above. Then these words by Bahá'u'lláh
are frightening:

Him whom I abhor ye have loved, and of My foe ye have made a friend. Notwithstanding, ye walk on My earth complacent and self-satisfied, heedless that My earth is weary of you and everything within it shunneth you.

The earth weary of us!

O concourse of priests! Leave the bells, and come forth, then, from your churches. It behoveth you, in this day, to proclaim aloud the Most Great Name among the nations. Prefer ye to be silent, whilst every stone and every tree shouteth aloud: ‘The Lord is come in His great glory!’?

Stones and trees already have recognized Him!

gnat
 
Jun 2014
1,100
Wisconsin
Of the two Abdu'l-Baha quotes in the provided link, after deep research I can say that I don't think the first one should be used at all here, as after careful research I don't think that Abdu'l-Baha is even talking about this subject in that verse.

He is talking about Aristotle's three-soul model with the terminology assigned to the three categories by Saint Thomas Aquinas. This terminology would naturally be used simply because it was the terminology of the time and not necessarily because the terminology is correct.

Under this three-soul model, a "Plant Soul" is simply the ability to obtain nutrients and grow. An "Animal Soul" is the ability to move one's body and to gain sensory information. A "Human Soul" is the ability to think and to reflect on one's own thoughts, which is an ability called metacognition.

Additionally, these souls exist in a nested hierarchy, in Aristotle's model, where anything that possesses a higher soul also possesses the lesser ones. In other words, a human possesses an animal soul as well as a plant soul, despite not being a plant. This is important when considering Abdu'l-Baha's quote. With this context, we can understand that two of our three souls will die.

In later models adopted by Arabic and Persian philosophers, and later repeated by Aquinas, the idea that the "Human Soul" could, contrary to Aristotle's views, exist without the other two souls was added.

These labels aren't perfect, however. Though it is understandable that Abdu'l-Baha would use the terminology relevant of the time.

For example, by the definitions given by Aristotle and Aquinas, a venus flytrap possesses an Animal Soul.

Furthermore as a Human Soul is defined in the bounds of metacognition, it is worth noting that more species than humans possess this ability. Apes, dolphins, and rats have been shown to possess metacognition, and thus a "Human Soul" by Aristotelian terminology, the same terminology employed by Abdu'l-Baha.

Also it seems obvious at least to me that more than just the human species possesses what is termed a "Human Soul". For example, we have some archaeological evidence that the neanderthal species had religious practices. So one can only imagine that other early human species outside of Homo sapiens possessed the capacity for spiritual development and, thus, a human soul.

Now the second quote from Abdu'l-Baha suffers from some vagueness and, thus, is something I wish could be clarified. For example, knowing the specific wording of the question as it was asked, as well as the translations of both the question and answer, would be extremely helpful in discerning its precise meaning. As we have it, though, Abdu'l-Baha only mentions dogs in his answer, which leaves open the possibility of having an immortal soul for those species now confirmed by science to have metacognition, as they definitively have a Human Soul by the Aristotelian definitions that Abdu'l-Baha himself employs.

As for the quote I placed above, using dreams as proof of an immortal presence not tied to a physical life, it would be interesting to see, as studies on metacognition and dreaming in animals proceeds in the future, if there is any link between metacognition and dreaming.

Though, I'm still running into one contradiction problem in what Abdu'l-Baha states: While there have been no studies that I can find on metacognition in dogs, there is ample evidence that dogs dream. So I cannot, as of yet, find a clean way to reconcile Abdu'l-Baha's statements that dreaming is a proof of having an immortal soul and that dogs do not posses the "immortal soul of the man". My only resolutions to this seeming contradiction so far is if he was only referring to a specific type of dreaming (there are three types in Baha'i understanding), or perhaps he had something else in mind other than what I was thinking when he used the term "immortal soul of the man". Or a mistranslation in either the question or answer of either talk. Well... still puzzling that one through. :D
 
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Jun 2014
1,100
Wisconsin
More digging, and another find. This time from Abdu'l-Baha which further elaborates on the Aristotelian soul system. On how a higher soul possesses all the lower souls (in this specific instance, focusing on the presence of love in all categories). Emphasis added:

The Promulgation of Universal Peace said:
We take a step higher into the vegetable kingdom where we find an increased power of attraction has become manifest among the composing elements which form phenomena. Through this degree of attraction a cellular admixture is produced among these elements which make up the body of a plant. Therefore, in the degree of the vegetable kingdom there is love. We enter the animal kingdom and find the attractive power binding together single elements as in the mineral, plus the cellular admixture as in the vegetable, plus the phenomena of feelings or susceptibilities. We observe that the animals are susceptible to certain affiliation and fellowship and that they exercise natural selection. This elemental attraction, this admixture and selective affinity is love manifest in the degree of the animal kingdom.
Finally, we come to the kingdom of man. As this is the superior kingdom, the light of love is more resplendent. In man we find the power of attraction among the elements which compose his material body, plus the attraction which produces cellular admixture or augmentative power, plus the attraction which characterizes the sensibilities of the animal kingdom, but still beyond and above all these lower powers we discover in the being of man the attraction of heart, the susceptibilities and affinities which bind men together, enabling them to live and associate in friendship and solidarity. It is, therefore, evident that in the world of humanity the greatest king and sovereign is love. If love were extinguished, the power of attraction dispelled, the affinity of human hearts destroyed, the phenomena of human life would disappear.
 
Apr 2017
196
Mexico
Thank you so much, Walrus, for this deep study on what the "soul" of animals may mean.

Going back to the original post of this thread, I think that gnat has made a good point in framing this under the overall concept of evolution.

First, let me refer to the meaning of Light. I have seen this word used a lot in reference to God. In fact, Glory (splendor, "Bahá") and Light are used as the same concept. Other sacred names of god are "Resplendent", "Source of Splendor", "Luminary", "Everlasting Candle", "Most Great Light".

So maybe Abdul'baha in the quote referred in the original post is using "light" in reference to God, since human in his pursuit of perfection comes to the "world of light".

During the evolution of this world, the Light of God was manifested first in the minerals, as there were no living beings on earth. Then plants appeared, so the Light of God manifested in plants as the apex of creation for that time. Then animals came, and the Light of God was best manifested in them. Finally, humans appear, and we are now the apex and the best manifestation of God attributes (as other texts in the Scriptures declare).

So, rather than an itinerant "spirit", Abdul Bahá may be referring to the progressive nature of the manifestations of God on this planet.

By the way, this would be in line as well with the concept of progressive revelation.
We could say that the Light was in the lantern of Buddha, then in the lantern of Moses, then Christ's, then Mohammed's, then Baha'u'llah's. It is not that there was an "itinerant" individual soul inhabiting each of them, but that the Light of God ("Bahá") was being manifested in each one of them successively, making the most recent revelations greater than previous one.

I like to think that Bahai Faith is bound to "rule" over all other faiths ("spiritual" manifestations of God), just as man "rules" over plants, animals and minerals ("physical" manifestations of God).
 
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