In the global events we are experiencing right now, some people live in fear because they think we have no control over life; some realize life is short and try to re-prioritize their life. I feel that if we have a deeper understanding of what is life and the purpose of life, maybe we will turn our effort to work toward a better life in this world and for the world to come. After this life, our physical life ends, but our soul continues to live. Life here on this planet is not only physical but also has a spiritual purpose.
What is life? When we see plants grow, we see life. The spiritual power in plants is the power of growth. A plant without that spiritual power has no life. The same is true with man. The spiritual power within us makes us alive. And from the condition of our spiritual power we see the condition of human life. The life of a man has two parts, physical life, and spiritual life. We are spiritual beings because the spiritual power which we have within our soul sets us apart from the animal kingdom. What types of spiritual power are within us?
Baha’i teachings tell us man is endowed with many types of spiritual power. When we see a physical body grow or cells renew, it is the power of growth in man. When we use our five senses to perceive the world, it is the power of the senses which animals also have. We also have an intellectual power which is a function of both the mind and the soul, and this power places us above the animals. We can use our intellectual power to discover things. The spiritual powers of the intellect include imagination, thought, comprehension, and memory. So our physical life is endowed with the power of growth, sensory power, and intellectual power, which make us a human, but we also have more.
A Seed of the Heavenly Life ~ The Spirit of Life
The spiritual perception in the human soul makes us a spiritual being and able to live spiritually. If a man uses his intellectual power only with his physical perception, the life he lives in only a material life in the physical realm. If a man uses his intellectual power with his spiritual perception, then he can live spiritually.
The Baha’i teachings also tell us when God creates a man He also deposits a seed of the heavenly life in his soul. Sometimes it called the spirit of life and when it fully developed we called it the spirit of faith. It is like how the physical body is called an embryo before it is fully developed. The seed of our heavenly life can’t start to grow unless it has been kindled by the fire of the love of God. And that is the life that Jesus called spirit.
“That which is born of flesh is flesh; and that which is born of Spirit is spirit.” He meant that those who were simply born of the human body were dead spiritually, while those quickened by the breaths of the Holy Spirit were living and eternally alive. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, 8/5/1912)
The spirit of life is kindled by the fire of the love of God and nourished with the grace of God. This result of living this spiritual life is to develop eternal life. The human soul is everlasting, but with development of the spirit of life it makes the human soul both eternal and heavenly. We can live spiritually with spiritual power and perception, but we can’t live a heavenly life without turning our heart and soul toward the Kingdom of God with divine assistance and bounties.
Where can we develop the heavenly life? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us,
The Place of Developing the Spirit of Life
In the beginning of his human life man was embryonic in the world of the matrix. There he received capacity and endowment for the reality of human existence. The forces and powers necessary for this world were bestowed upon him in that limited condition. In this world he needed eyes; he received them potentially in the other. He needed ears; he obtained them there in readiness and preparation for his new existence. The powers requisite in this world were conferred upon him in the world of the matrix so that when he entered this realm of real existence he not only possessed all necessary functions and powers but found provision for his material sustenance awaiting him. Therefore, in this world he must prepare himself for the life beyond. That which he needs in the world of the Kingdom must be obtained here. Just as he prepared himself in the world of the matrix by acquiring forces necessary in this sphere of existence, so, likewise, the indispensable forces of the divine existence must be potentially attained in this world. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace 7/6)
Matrix is Latin for “mother”, and we can think of the world of the matrix as “Mother Earth”, for the evolution of mankind, and also our mother’s womb for the development of an individual person.
What are the stages we need to go through to develop that heavenly life? What do we need to develop? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us the progression of the human soul needs to go through different stages and he has developed capacity for advancement to the next station and condition.
The Stages Which the Spirit of Life Travel Through
In the world of existence man has traversed successive degrees until he has attained the human kingdom. In each degree of his progression he has developed capacity for advancement to the next station and condition. While in the kingdom of the mineral he was attaining the capacity for promotion into the degree of the vegetable. In the kingdom of the vegetable he underwent preparation for the world of the animal, and from thence he has come onward to the human degree, or kingdom. Throughout this journey of progression he has ever and always been potentially man. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace 7/6)
This message not only tells us how the human soul progresses in physical form. It also gives us the idea of what stages we need to travel through to become an eternal being. First our heart needs to be attracted by the love of God and the Kingdom of God like the power of attraction in the mineral kingdom. The spirit of life must be ignited through the fire of the love of God to enter the next stage, it is the growth stage like the vegetable kingdom. In the growth stage, we will be able to observe the spirit of life growing. The way we observe growth is the development of spiritual limbs and organs, which are the spiritual quality and virtues. As spiritual qualities develop, we also need to exercise the spiritual senses, spiritual perception. With that perception, we develop into the sense stage like the animal has in the physical realm. Prayer and meditation help us develop spiritual perception, until the light of the divine intellect power (the emanations of consciousness) emanates from us. In this spiritual intellect stage we develop our true capacity as a divine being. Through these four stages, and the development of four divine spiritual powers, we see the spirit of life develop and see the inner life manifest. From the inner life, we see the signs of divinity and the image of God within us. That is the life bestowed by the bounties of God and that is the true life we seek.
What We Need to Do While We Develop The Spirit of Life
First, through the knowledge of God. Second, through the love of God. Third, through faith. Fourth, through philanthropic deeds. Fifth, through self-sacrifice. Sixth, through severance from this world. Seventh, through sanctity and holiness. Unless he acquires these forces and attains to these requirements, he will surely be deprived of the life that is eternal. But if he possesses the knowledge of God, becomes ignited through the fire of the love of God, witnesses the great and mighty signs of the Kingdom, becomes the cause of love among mankind and lives in the utmost state of sanctity and holiness, he shall surely attain to a second birth, be baptized by the Holy Spirit and enjoy everlasting existence. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace 7/6)
The physical life that develops in the mother’s womb is the first birth of human life. In this world we develop our spirit of life and prepare for the second birth in the realm of the Kingdom of God. Like the development of the physical body provides us with the well-being of our physical life, the development of spiritual qualities will provide us the well-being of our spiritual life in the next world.
The true life which God bestows on us is the eternal life. And that seed of eternal life is placed within the reality of man when God created us. When we attain the birth of the spirit of life, that is heavenly life that Jesus brought to us and that life has no death. That is true life which God bestowed on mankind and which is the life of a developed soul. We can’t develop it without being attracted by the love of God and we develop it with the grace of God.