The journey of the soul is a process of endless growth and infinite possibilities
From the Bahá'í view, then, the journey of the soul is a process of endless growth and infinite possibilities.In this respect the Bahá'í belief about the afterlife differs significantly from some other views, particularly those which assert that the afterlife is but a reflection of this life, a final judgment--we spend eternity in paradise if we have done well or in hell if we have not.In contrast, the Bahá'í writings tell us that our lives are never static, never finished or completed.Even in the next world we will continue changing and developing.The encouraging part of Bahá'í belief in the eternal progress of the soul is the promise of endless growth and change.The intimidating part of this belief is that we are given only one soul to work with for the rest of eternity.Whether we like ourselves or not, we are stuck with ourselves forever.This belief alone should prompt us to pay careful attention to our progress in this physical life.
What happens after we die?
The Bahá'í writings also describe some important features of the transition to the next stage of our existence.Bahá'u'lláh says that at the point of death, when the soul ceases to associate with the body, we will evaluate our lives: "It is clear and evident that all men shall, after their physical death, estimate the worth of their deeds, and realize all that their hands have wrought."
Bahá'u'lláh exhorts us to evaluate our lives on a daily basis, to bring ourselves "to account each day" before we are "summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds."
After death, when our souls have ceased to associate with our physical bodies, we will experience emotions appropriate to the progress we have made in our spiritual development.Bahá'u'lláh tells us that "the followers of the one true God shall, the moment they depart out of this life, experience such joy and gladness as would be impossible to describe, while they that live in error shall be seized with such fear and trembling, and shall be filled with such consternation, as nothing can exceed."
But what will happen after our initial experience in the afterlife?
The Bahá'í writings hint that, among other things, we will meet other souls, continue to learn, and generally participate in the work of the divine worldHe also says that "the world beyond "is as different from this world as this world is different from that of a child while still in the womb of its mother."
We can understand certain properties of the soul, as well as certain laws governing its progress.What is more, acquiring such knowledge can have a dramatic effect on how we think about ourselves and how we conduct our lives.For example, the Bahá'í writings observe that the human soul is an emanation from God, an essence which assumes its beginning and identity at conception when the soul begins its association with the body.Once begun, the soul is eternal.It is not dependent on the existence of the body.
Neither is the soul's progress impaired by infirmities of mind or body.Bahá'u'lláh says, "Know thou that the soul of man is exalted above, and is independent of all infirmities of body or mind."These impairments do not hinder the soul's progress because the soul is not in the body.The soul associates with the body in much the same way as a light becomes apparent in a mirror or a television signal becomes perceptible through a receiver.If a mirror becomes dirty or obscure, it loses the capacity to reflect light clearly, but the light is still resplendent.Likewise, if a television receiver is in disrepair, we may not be able to see a program, but we know that the signal from the station has not been adversely affected by the malfunctioning receiver.
The reason progress can take place in the afterlife is simple.All the powers that distinguish us as human beings - reason, memory, abstract thought, inventiveness, willpower--are properties of the soul, not the body.Some scientists theorize that the essential capacities of the human reality are nothing more than the powers of a highly evolved brain.The Bahá'í writings assert that all distinctive human powers are functions and faculties of the soul.The brain may channel the soul's will into specific acts, but memory, thought, decisions, willpower, identity itself all derive from the soul.