Monday, February 17, 2014

Marriage and Death

Isn't this just a happy topic right after Valentine's Day?

You know, when I first realized that this blog would be an on-going project, I had in mind a certain number of topics to regularly address, such as an analysis of various Writings of the Faith, the administration, and so forth. Well, all good intentions aside, I soon realized that I would be distracted from that by a number of topics that just suddenly came up, such as today's.

And no, this article is not a sad comment on my wife and I. It is, instead, a reply to a very good question that came up from the previous article. The question was, in a nutshell, what happens if one partner in a marriage passes away and the other gets re-married later. Aside from the obvious sadness followed by joy in that other's life, what happens in the next world? The partners in marriage are to be together for all eternity, so which one takes precedence? Or all three together? What happens?

Great question. And, as I'm sure you know, there doesn't appear to be anything clear-cut about it in the Writings. So what do we do? Well, I don't know about you, but I like to use a bit of logic. Of course, what passes for logic in my brain is only my own opinion and nothing official.

Where to begin?

Well, the first step for me is to look at the relationship between two people who are married when they get to the next world. We are told by 'Abdu'l-Baha that a married couple will "attain eternal union throughout all the worlds of God, and improve the spiritual life of each other". He says, "when the people of Baha desire to enter the sacred union of marriage, eternal connection and ideal relationship, spiritual and physical association of thoughts and conceptions of life must exist between them, so that in all the grades of existence and all the worlds of God this union may continue forever and ever for this real union is a splendor of the light of the love of God." It seems fairly obvious, then, from just these two quotes among many, that two souls who are married have the joy and bounty of being together in all the various worlds of God.

But what about two people who are not married? Perhaps they're just very good friends. How do they interact in the next world? For myself, there are many of my friends here whom I truly hope to see and associate with in the next world. I think we'd have a great time. (At the very least, they could sure laugh at me and all the silly things they've seen me do back in this world.) So what about them?

First, we must acknowledge that "spiritual progress in the other world is limitless, and is not confined to those who have attained unto the knowledge and recognition of the Cause while still in this world." So it doesn't matter if my friends are Baha'i, or not, atheist or theist. Everyone can progress in the next world. God's bounty is not limited.

As to those that we know in this world, we are told that in the world to come a soul will "recognize or discover persons with whom he hath been associated." "And know thou for a certainty," says 'Abdu'l-Baha elsewhere, "that in the divine worlds, the spiritual beloved ones will recognize each other, and will seek union, but a spiritual union. Likewise a love that one may have entertained for another will not be forgotten in the world of the Kingdom. Likewise, thou wilt not forget the life that thou hast had in the material world."

Every love that we have known will be remembered in the next world. How cool is that? Imagine how much more that love will be for the one whom we married.

So, everyone progresses. We recognize our friends and loved ones. We recall every love we ever felt. Pretty good so far.

The next thing that comes to mind is that the soul in the next world is truly spiritual. It has no association with the body anymore. There is no gender, nor anything pertaining to the physical world, although we still retain our individual identity. "According to Bahá'u'lláh", writes Shoghi Effendi, "the soul retains its individuality and consciousness after death, and is able to commune with other souls. This communion, however, is purely spiritual in character, and is conditioned upon the disinterested and selfless love of the individuals for each other." So it doesn't matter if the person was male or female back here in this realm. That no longer applies.

I know that my friendship with Marielle, my wife, which will continue through all the worlds of God, is the highest friendship that I have. As 'Abdu'l-Baha said, our marriage is helping us develop that "profound friendship of spirit, which will endure in the next world". But does that mean that I can't have other friends to that same degree? I'm not sure, but I don't think so. I mean, I think I can have other friends that are friends to a profound degree. After all, in this world I have many other friends, even though I have a friendship with my wife. (Sometimes even because I have a friendship with my wife.)

So, that's all the background for my train of thought here. Let's go on.

If I should chance to pass away before her, and she should fall in love with another man, then I would hope that they would marry. As such, I can only imagine myself waiting there in that next realm, which is "sanctified from time and place" (which makes the very concept of waiting kind of obsolete to begin with), anxiously awaiting that opportunity to meet not only my best friend, but her great friend, too. After all, once I am freed from the oddities of this world, and all the jealousies and weird emotional stuff that gets in the way of friendship for too many people, how could I not eagerly look forward to meeting someone who is so dear to my wife? I would truly look forward to traversing the many worlds of God with them, just as I do with her, and all those other souls who are so near and dear to my heart.

And finally, to answer the original question as clearly as I can: I think they will all be together, in joy and love, through all those myriad worlds of God.


  1. My belief: In the next realm we are free of ego wants. When I wonder and want to have connections with anyone other than God in this or the next realm I remind myself that is my human-bound- brain trying to make sense of the unknowable by referencing my human experiences.

    Your last sentence sums it up for me perfectly.

  2. Two friends of mine, in their 60's, both with significant health challenges, wanted to get married just so they could be together through all the worlds of God; but neither could look after the health needs of the other. They didn't know what to do, so they wrote to the House of Justice, who replied:

    "The Teachings of the Faith affirm that deep spiritual relationships can be developed between unmarried individuals that will endure in the next world. In responding to the question of whether souls will be conscious of one another in the next world, Bahá’u’lláh has stated, in a well-known Tablet found in Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, that “the souls of the people of Bahá, who have entered and been established within the Crimson Ark, shall associate and commune intimately one with another, and shall be so closely associated in their lives, their aspirations, their aims and strivings as to be even as one soul”, and He assures us that they “are united in the bonds of intimacy and fellowship.” Further, Shoghi Effendi, in a letter dated 4 December 1954 written on his behalf to an individual believer, describes the relationship “we should establish with our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters and friends” as “a deep spiritual bond which will be everlasting, and not merely physical bonds of human relationship”, and he likened these relationships to the “profound friendship of spirit” that should exist in a
    Bahá’í marriage." (Universal House of Justice to an individual, 4 August 2013)

  3. Another thing to consider is those of us who aren't married (or are divorced) - are we deprived of someone to go through all the worlds of God with? No! God has promised to find us a husband in the next world! How cool is that?!

    " The souls who sacrifice self, become detached from the imperfections of the realm of man, and free from the bondage of this ephemeral world, assuredly the splendors of the rays of Divine Union shall shine in their hearts, and they shall find ideal relationship and happiness in the Eternal Paradise."
    (Signed) ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Abbas.

    This paragraph relates to those souls who never in this world find their true spiritual mate, and remain deprived throughout this transitory life of that great joy. To such He says: “If you become detached from this ephemeral world and the imperfections of the realms of man, assuredly the splendors of Divine Union will shine in your heart and you find ideal relationship and happiness in the Eternal Paradise." (Portals to Freedom, p. 109)