What happens after death is so unspeakably glorious that our imagination and our feelings do not suffice to form even an approximate conception of it. The dissolution of our time-bound form in eternity brings no loss of meaning. – Carl Jung
Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because dawn has come. – Rabindranath Tagore
Die happily and look forward to taking up a new and better form. Like the sun, only when you set in the west can you rise in the east. – Rumi
Death is simply a shedding of the physical body like the butterfly shedding its cocoon. It is a transition to a higher state of consciousness where you continue to perceive, to understand, to laugh, and to be able to grow. – Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
I’m not afraid of death because I don’t believe in it. It’s just getting out of one car and into another. – John Lennon
Everything science has taught me – and continues to teach me – strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace. – Wernher von Braun
The virtues we acquire, which develop slowly within us, are the invisible links that bind each one of our existences to the others – existences which the spirit alone remembers, for Matter has no memory for spiritual things. – Honore Balzac
After each sunset comes a sunrise. – Abdu’l-Baha
Every death is also a birth.
We spend nine months in our mother’s womb; and our birth into this world means we die to the womb-world. Then, if we’re lucky, we spend a century or so in this world. Inevitably, when we die to this material world we pass into the next existence, the world of the spirit.
That means we die twice—once, to the womb-world; and again, to this world. We leave each of those places behind and graduate into a fresh life. We’re born twice, too—our final birth transmits the human soul to a new plane of existence, to an afterlife, to a divine, spiritual world. For that second birth, the Baha’i teachings say, we need to develop the means that will allow us to have an everlasting life:
That divine world is manifestly a world of lights; therefore man has need of illumination here. That is a world of love; the love of God is essential. It is a world of perfections; virtues or perfections must be acquired. That world is vivified by the breaths of the Holy Spirit; in this world we must seek them. That is the Kingdom of life everlasting; it must be attained during this vanishing existence.
By what means can man acquire these things? How shall he obtain these merciful gifts and powers? 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 second birth, be baptized by the Holy Spirit and enjoy everlasting existence. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, pp. 63-64.
Here are Abdu’l-Baha’s beautiful, plainly-stated requirements in list form:
- The knowledge of God
- The love of God
- Philanthropic deeds
- Severance from this world
- Sanctity and holiness.
This unique list—a ladder to an everlasting existence—can help every human being attain heavenly grace.
In the Baha’i concept of the afterlife, the spiritual development we accomplish here readies and prepares us for what we’ll need there in the next stage of our existence. When Abdu’l-Baha says “Unless he acquires these forces and attains to these requirements he will surely be deprived of the life that is eternal,” he doesn’t mean that our “second birth” somehow won’t take place. Obviously, everyone goes through that experience of death and rebirth into the spiritual realm. But not everyone arrives there suitably equipped:
If he attains rebirth while in the world of nature, he will become informed of the divine world. He will observe that another and a higher world exists. Wonderful bounties descend; eternal life awaits; everlasting glory surrounds him. All the signs of reality and greatness are there. He will see the lights of God. All these experiences will be his when he is born out of the world of nature into the divine world. Therefore, for the perfect man there are two kinds of birth: the first, physical birth, is from the matrix of the mother; the second, or spiritual birth, is from the world of nature. In both he is without knowledge of the new world of existence he is entering. Therefore, rebirth means his release from the captivity of nature, freedom from attachment to this mortal and material life. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 304-305.
Release and freedom, the Baha’i teachings call this new stage of human existence. Those conditions require each of us to make a conscious decision in this life, which involves turning to God, doing good for others and detaching from the physical in favor of the spiritual realities of life.
Next: How to Get Ready for Eternity