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My daughter was saddened when our pet hermit crab, Betsy, died and she asked if she’d see her again in the next world. Her curiosity and love for her pet, allowed us to have a conversation about the difference between animal and man.
Baha’is are encouraged, from their earliest years, to show love and compassion towards animals.
Train your children from their earliest days to be infinitely tender and loving to animals. If an animal be sick, let the children try to heal it, if it be hungry, let them feed it, if thirsty, let them quench its thirst, if weary, let them see that it rests. Most human beings are sinners, but the beasts are innocent. 1
When we nurture an animal and become close to it, we start to notice that it has distinct qualities and attributes. We may feel a strong connection to the animal’s individual personality, especially when we feel that animal is showing us love, loyalty and friendship. When asked about the individual persistence of the animal’s personality after death, Abdu’l-Baha says:
Even the most developed dog has not the immortal soul of the man; yet the dog is perfect in its own place. 2
Although animals do not possess an immortal soul we are told they posses an “animal spirit.” The Baha’i Writings use the word “spirit” to refer to certain powers and potentialities that pervade the various kingdoms of existence.
After [the vegetable spirit] is the animal spirit, which also results from the mingling and combination of elements. But this combination is more complete, and through the decree of the Almighty Lord a perfect mingling is obtained, and the animal spirit—in other words, the power of the senses—is produced. It will perceive the reality of things from that which is seen and visible, audible, edible, tangible, and that which can be smelled. After the dissociation and decomposition of the combined elements this spirit also will naturally disappear. It is like this lamp which you see: when the oil and wick and fire are brought together, light is the result; but when the oil is finished and the wick consumed, the light will also vanish and be lost. 3
Furthermore, the Baha’i Writings acknowledge that within every created thing there has been placed an enduring attribute of God:
Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of man, however, He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone of all created things man hath been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty. 4
In particular, we see the light of God’s love manifested in the animal kingdom.
The light of love is more resplendent in the animal kingdom [than the vegetable kingdom] because the power of attraction whereby elements cohere and cellular atoms commingle now reveals itself in certain emotions and sensibilities which produce instinctive fellowship and association. The animals are imbued with kindness and affinity which manifests itself among those of the same species. 5
A beloved pet may have inherent virtues such as gentleness, love, friendliness, fidelity and joy. When we see these qualities in an animal we are instantly attracted, because “in their inmost reality” we see mirrored in these animals an attribute of God. The attributes of God are “eternal, ancient” and will continue to be manifested in the next world.
It is clear and evident that when the veils that conceal the realities of the manifestations of the Names and Attributes of God, nay of all created things visible or invisible, have been rent asunder, nothing except the Sign of God will remain – a sign which He, Himself, hath placed within these realities. This sign will endure as long as is the wish of the Lord thy God, the Lord of the heavens and of the earth. 6
Furthermore, the experiences of knowing and loving an animal, and the memories thereof, form part of our soul’s eternal life. Our relationship to all material things will eventually be dispersed and what will ultimately remain are our memories. These memories shape the sentimental and emotional consciousness of man, and will endure in some new state in the next world. Shoghi Effendi explains:
All we know is that our consciousness, our personality, endures in some new state, and that that world is as much better than this one as this one is better than the dark womb of our mother was… 7
As I understand it, the memories we have of our pets and the attributes of God that we recognize in them will remain, even in the next world.
My daughter loved Betsy and perhaps you had a pet you loved. What qualities and attributes did it exhibit that you recognized and cherished?
Footnotes & Citations
Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp.159-160[↩]
Kamelia is a Baha'i and a mother of three (plus an angel). She studied Law, Accounting and Children's Services, but spends most of her days now trying to navigate her way through motherhood. She is particularly interested in early childhood education and Baha'i scholarship.
Beautiful explanation. So often our pets bring so much to us, I’ve felt it is mine to carry them in my heart forever. This is a thoughtful and comforting essay. Thank you.
Bobbie Kolehouse (August 8, 2016 at 7:15 PM)
I’m glad to hear you found this article comforting.
Thank-you for your thoughts.
Kamelia (August 8, 2016 at 10:16 PM)
There have been quite a few “mediums” In Iceland. They “fall into a trance” so that people from the next world can communicate with people in this world. Some of these meetings have been recorded (taped). A book of such meetings has been published. According to reports from the next world some people there can see animals that were close to them. They say that the human mind is so powerful and creative in the next world, that they don´t always know if something is real or made up by their own mind! So if someone misses his or her pet, maybe memory will “bring them back” in the next world. They see them there as they were real.
Gudmundur Steinn Gudmundsson (August 8, 2016 at 10:40 PM)
What a fantastic notion.
Thanks for sharing.
Kamelia (August 8, 2016 at 6:00 AM)
Oftentimes a pet (a dog) would risk his life to save the life of his owner.
Criselda R. Figuerres (August 8, 2016 at 2:52 AM)
Has anyone ever come across a story where a lady, who was very upset at the notion that her dogs would not be in heaven with her, is comforted by
Abdu’l-Baha, where he tells her (paraphrasing) they will be there as long as she needs them. I have discussed it with fellow Bahai’s who have also heard of it but have not found the original story or source.
Becky (August 8, 2016 at 8:39 AM)
I also heard of this story during my research on the topic. Unfortunately I couldn’t come across a reliable source.
Kamelia (August 8, 2016 at 9:06 AM)
I have also – I think Hooper Dunbar mentioned this story in one of his talks? I am looking for it to support a comment I made to a fellow Baha’i — has anyone found it? :o)
Liz Archer (August 8, 2021 at 5:18 PM)
Very true. Animals possess many admirable qualities.
Kamelia (August 8, 2016 at 9:13 AM)
I remember that quote. Am a dog lover and took care of friend’s dogs. Just using this site for a recent dog, Shelby, a Chihuahua who just passed.
A lit if us may be in the next world seeing our dogs! Someone once said, they teach us to love
Esther Bradley—DeTally (December 12, 2022 at 9:45 AM)
What was the name/s of Baha’u’llah’s dogs?
What were the names of Abdu’l Baha”s dogs?
In the Kitab-i-Aqdas (p.60), ‘If you should hunt with beasts or birds of prey…” could the object of such hunt be pizza?
Go easy on the dog-centric explanations!
David (August 8, 2016 at 12:31 AM)
So what is important is what they mean to us? How they helped humans grow in this world because it will be part of our development. Very interesting Kamelia. I miss all my pets who left and love the ones I have.
Omid Hejazi (August 8, 2016 at 8:23 AM)
sorry betsy, the writings do not indicate that there is any kind of animal in heaven, excerpt horses.
dana (August 8, 2016 at 1:40 PM)
Despite all the fine, soothing words in this article, the end conclusion is the same: animals do not have an immortal soul and do not survive physical death. Well, at least your position is clear.
I have no doubts at all that animals pass to the afterlife, just as we humans do.
As Will Rogers said, “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
Peter (February 2, 2017 at 7:01 PM)
Thank you for commenting and for sharing your view point. While Kamelia has clearly and eloquently stated her understanding of this subject, I think it’s important to emphasize that this is her personal understanding — just as all the content we share is based on the personal understanding and opinions of our authors and editorial staff. Baha’i Blog is not an official Baha’i website and ultimately all Baha’is or those interested in its teachings are encouraged to study and deepen on the sacred texts with their own eyes (all of these texts are online and can be found here: http://www.bahai.org/library/). For an official website of the Baha’i community, feel free to visit: http://www.bahai.org/
Thank you for taking the time to read our article and for commenting. We truly appreciate it.
Sonjel Vreeland (February 2, 2017 at 3:21 PM)
Thank you for your courteous and informative reply!
Peter (February 2, 2017 at 3:52 PM)
Lovingly and eloquently written, thank you Kamelia.
Maury (November 11, 2021 at 1:51 PM)
Paris Talks 5.12 says:
“The superiority of man over the rest of the created world is seen again in this, that man has a soul in which the dwells the divine spirit; the souls of the lower creatures are inferior in their essence. ”
Maybe it makes sense than to say that animals don’t have a rational soul because their soul is different from ours. Also the animals don’t have an immortal soul like a man but has an immortal soul like an animal????
Elizabeth Betty Donaldon (September 9, 2017 at 2:49 AM)
What an excellent quote. I wish I’d come across it earlier and included it in the post. From my understanding it seems animals do have souls/spirits that reflect attributes of God and will endure but that it is different from the rational immortal soul of man.
Kamelia (July 7, 2020 at 1:57 AM)
“….Maybe it makes sense than to say that animals don’t have a rational soul because their soul is different from ours. Also the animals don’t have an immortal soul like a man but has an immortal soul like an animal????”
Good point, Elizabeth. thank you for that. I personally would not accept the word “inferior”, but I am very comfortable with your clarification.
Peter (July 7, 2020 at 12:04 PM)
Animals do not have an immortal soul. But as the human whose immortal soul was changed by them we “bring” them with us when we go over to the “other side”.
Nancy (February 2, 2022 at 6:18 AM)
How do you know that? Do you have personal experience? Or are you just relying on sacred texts? Just asking….
My own personal experience did show me that animals live on after physical death, just as humans do. I have a website dedicated to just that topic, with the personal experiences of lots of people having had contact from their beloved companion animals after they had passed over.
Every best wish to you!
Peter (February 2, 2022 at 5:55 PM)
Having had pets I’m keenly interested in this topic. I loved my pets and am happy that they have a spirit that survives the physical world. I’ve been searching the writings to reconcile my experiences with the writings.
My family has psychic abilities in varying degrees, one daughter in particular has written books about her experiences and being the owner of several cats has asked me to take care of two of them should I go to the spirit world ahead of her. She’s seen the spirit of one of a previously diseased cat by her staircase, and has interacted with it in her meditations. I, also, have had a vision of two dogs I had, one looked at me prior to entering a tunnel and the other who’s hair, because of his age, was scraggly while in the physical world. He had some curl being part cocker spaniel but when I saw him in my vision he had hair that was very curly and well groomed.
Annie Kennedy (February 2, 2023 at 2:06 AM)
Thanks for the article and the comments. This is a very interesting topic I had been wondering about lately.
Javier (March 3, 2023 at 2:51 AM)