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The Bahá'í Concept of the Soul

The Bahá'í Faith teaches that human beings are souls, not bodies, and though physically belonging to the animal kingdom, are lifted above the rest of creation by virtue of having a soul. Further, by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the soul, we are able to perceive the Divine reality of things. "All great works of art and science are witnesses to this power of the Spirit." - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 85

So a man or woman is a dual being, each part independent of the other, except that the soul does not need a body to exist, while the body cannot live without its soul. How they interconnect was the subject of many questions put to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of Bahá'u'lláh Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith. He explained it this way:
"...the rational soul, meaning the human spirit, does not descend into the body--that is to say, it does not enter it, for descent and entrance are characteristics of bodies, and the rational soul is exempt from this...The spirit never entered this body, so in quitting it, it will not be in need of an abiding-place: no, the spirit is connected with the body, as this light is with this mirror. When the mirror is clear and perfect, the light of the lamp will be apparent in it, and when the mirror becomes covered with dust or breaks, the light will disappear." - Some Answered Questions, p. 239
Bahá'ís believe that spirit is changeless and indestructible, and that progress and development of the soul, as well as its joy and sorrow, are independent of the body. So, even death of the physical body has no power to destroy the soul. By definition it has no birth and no death.

The physical world is regarded as a learning environment, where souls newly separated from their Creator can utilize free will to develop virtues that will draw them back closer to God, and thus, happiness. There is a finite period of time spent in the physical plane, after which the souls move back into a spiritual realm where further progress is no longer based upon personal will, but is dependent upon the will of God.
"As to the soul of man after death, it remains in the degree of purity to which it has evolved during life in the physical body, and after it is freed from the body it remains plunged in the ocean of God's Mercy. From the moment the soul leaves the body and arrives in the Heavenly World, its evolution is spiritual...it only evolves nearer to God, by the Mercy and Bounty of God." - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 65
This set of beliefs is why believers spend so much time working on their own characters, developing virtues--those same virtues found in all religious teaching: honesty, trustworthiness, compassion, purity of motive, etc., etc. Not only do they want to insure progress of their souls, they know also that those actions are the pathway to happiness right here on Earth.

Personally, I find it a great burden off my shoulders that I don't have to worry about finding ways to change the world--or even my friends and family. All I have to do is pay attention to my own development. AND, it doesn't matter what others believe, or are doing, or what happens to me along the way. I can be in control of the only thing possible: my reactions. That is a very liberating idea.

What is even more exciting is that if I manage to change, in whatever little way, it affects everyone around me. Hey, maybe I AM capable of changing the world--little by little, day by day!

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