Have you ever had an ineffable experience—one you simply couldn’t describe in words?
In the accounts of the subjects who had near-death experiences in Raymond Moody’s study, particularly in the accounts of those who seem to have had an extended experience, several parallels between the NDE and the description of our entrance into the afterlife in the Baha’i writings are evident. For example, all of Moody’s subjects acknowledge the ineffable nature of their near-death experiences. They find language totally inadequate to convey the reality of that existence:
Now, there is a real problem for me as I’m trying to tell you this, because all the words I know are thee-dimensional. As I was going through this, I kept thinking, “Well, when I was taking geometry, they always told me there were only three dimensions, and I always just accepted that. But they were wrong. There are more.” And, of course, our world—the one we’re living in now—is three-dimensional, but the next one definitely isn’t. And that’s why it’s so hard to tell you this. I have to describe it to you in words that are three-dimensional. That’s as close as I can get to it, but it’s not really adequate. I can’t really give you a complete picture. – Raymond Moody, Life After Life, p. 26.
Baha’u’llah likewise indicates the indescribable difference between physical and spiritual life—the two planes of human existence. He further notes that even were it possible to describe this experience, he would not do it because it would be unwise for him to give us this insight:
The nature of the soul after death can never be described, nor is it meet and permissible to reveal its whole character to the eyes of men … 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. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 156.
The Purpose of Life
Moody’s subjects and the Baha’i writings are also in accord regarding the purpose of our physical experience and the progress of the human soul. That primary purpose—achieving incremental spiritual development through a process of learning—Moody discusses more elaborately in Reflections on Life After Life.
One of Moody’s subjects states that in the course of his experience he came to understand that, according to the “being of light,” the attainment of knowledge is the purpose of life:
He seemed very interested in things concerning knowledge, too. He kept on pointing out things that had to do with learning, and he did say that I was going to continue learning, and he said that even when he comes back for me (because by this time he had told me that I was going back) that there will always be a quest for knowledge. He said that it is a continuous process, so I got the feeling that it goes on after death. – Raymond Moody, Life After Life, pp. 67-68.
The Baha’i writings emphasize education as one of the primary purposes of physical reality. The Baha’i definition of justice for the individual is to know and then to do. As we have also noted, the sort of knowledge and learning that is most praiseworthy is that which leads to spiritual progress. In fact, Baha’u’llah states that the acquisition of knowledge is essential if the soul is to fulfill its potential:
Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 260.
What is more, there are many statements in the Baha’i writings indicating that our education continues in the next stage of our existence in the realm of the spirit:
Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. – Ibid., p. 155.
Abdu’l-Bahá likewise affirms that during such progress, the departed souls will discover the “mysteries of which man is heedless in this earthly world.” – Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, Volume 1, p. 205.