It’s wonderful
October 31, 2008

Philip was an elderly Bahá’í friend who passed away a few years ago. He was a colourful, larger-than-life American who made everybody laugh. One of his favourite expressions, which captures his life right to the end, was: “It’s wonderful.”

Even as Philip lay dying, his wife told me that he kept saying: “It’s wonderful” over and over again, until the moment he passed away. She said that she had felt like a midwife helping Philip’s soul to be born into the next world.

I thought the analogy of birth was such an inspiring way for her to view the death of her husband.

In describing Philip’s peaceful passing, and comparing it to a birth, she reminded me of how Bahá’u’lláh, Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, invited us to view life on earth – as a preparation for the world to come.

Bahá’u’lláh compares life in this world to that of a baby in the womb. There, the whole purpose of the baby’s existence is to develop its physical body, to prepare it for life in the physical world.

In the same way, the purpose of life in this physical world is to develop our spiritual side – our souls – to prepare us for our birth into the spiritual world.

According to Bahá’u’lláh, it’s impossible to try and understand the next world, because, He said: “The world beyond is as different from this world, as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother.”

But, like the baby in the womb, we can, nonetheless, prepare ourselves for birth into the next world. And because the world we’re going to is a spiritual world, we need to develop our spiritual limbs and faculties here, in this life, to prepare us for the life to come.

Qualities such as love, faith, and truthfulness are some of the spiritual limbs we need in the next world.

My friend Philip certainly had many of these qualities – and a charming humour – in abundance. No wonder then that the words he uttered in his last breath were: “It’s wonderful!” And I am sure he is still saying it.

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The world of the matrix
October 19, 2008

My friends are over the moon to hear they’re expecting their first baby and everything’s ready for the new arrival in a few months time.

They’ve discovered it’s a girl and thanks to some pioneering new technology they’ve also seen a very clear image of her features.

They paid for a special scan which shows an amazing 3-dimensional image of the baby growing in the womb and what looks like a smiling face! Seeing this image of my friend’s baby reminded me of a delightful story I read about unborn twins who were having a chat in the womb about whether there really was a mother.

One twin insisted that of course there was a mother, as he could feel her presence with him all the time. The other dismissed the mother, arguing: “Have you ever seen her? Can you prove her existence?” The debate ended a few months later when the twins were born and were embraced in the arms of their emotional mum.

I love the parallels in this story between the womb, the world, and life after death. We can also find this analogy in the Bahá’í Faith when we read about the next life.

According to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, son of Bahá’u’lláh, just as the purpose of life in the womb is for the baby to develop its physical faculties for this world, so the purpose of our existence in this world is to develop our spiritual faculties, in preparation for the next life.

Unfortunately we can’t physically see what’s in store in the next life, and just like the baby in the womb, we have to wait until we arrive.

But although we can’t see the next world,  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has given us a vivid description of it and, more importantly, what we’ll need when we get there. He described the next world as a place of holiness and light, and spoke of it as a place of spirituality, faith and the love of God, which He said we should strive to develop in this physical world.

He said that the main purpose of our lives was to acquire virtues to equip us for our eternal journey and wrote:

“Exert thyself night and day so that spiritual powers may penetrate thy heart and soul.” 

I’ve discovered I’ve more in common with an unborn baby than I could’ve ever imagined. We’re both preparing in different ways for the new life ahead – one into this world and the other into the next world – but neither of us knows when it will be.