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July 8, 2012

Question:  Is there a heaven for animals?

The scriptures of the world religions describe orderly and hierarchical divine worlds. Working from the bottom to top of the various kingdoms, we find increasing specialization, abilities and powers. For example, the mineral has cohesion, but not the growth of the plant. The animal has cohesion and growth, but also feeling and movement. The human being includes all the powers of the lower kingdoms, but transcends these powers to possess the rational faculty and the immortal soul.  The determination of whether of not we shall see our animal friends in the afterlife, should not be made on the basis of wishful thinking or imagination, but rather on the basis of divine endowment. The question becomes then: in the divinely ordered creation, does the animal possess an attribute that enables it to survive death?   In the Bahá’í view, the answer is no. Despite the fact that animals possess spirit-energy, as do all life-forms, God has not endowed the animal with the immortal soul, the capacity that would enable it to experience eternal life.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the son of the Prophet-Founder Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), and the authorized interpreter of his teachings, answered today’s question in 1911 in London: “Even the most developed dog has not the immortal soul of the man; yet the dog is perfect in its own place. You do not quarrel with a rose-tree because it cannot sing!” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 97). In other words, animals possess powers and virtues that are perfect for their station in life.

Heaven for the animal is to be treated kindly, receiving the best of care, attention and affection: “Educate the children in their infancy in such a way that they may become exceedingly kind and merciful to the animals. If an animal is sick they should endeavor to cure it; if it is hungry, they should feed it; if it is thirsty, they should satisfy its thirst; if it is tired, they should give it rest…Ye should pay great attention to this question.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá). We should also remember that the human being, when deprived of divine education,  is capable of far greater evil than any animal.
-  Jack McLean

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