After this 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.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 143)
The Universal House of Justice has received your letter … regarding your much loved cat. We are to convey the following response.
Your letter indicates that you are already familiar with the Teachings of the Faith about animals. The animal world, like the rest of God’s creation, mirrors forth His attributes to a prescribed degree. Although the animal spirit is not immortal, through the instinctive virtues with which God has chosen to characterize it, it provides man with tokens of some of its inherent virtues such as innocence, gentleness, affection, friendliness, fidelity and joy – qualities which man may well emulate to foster his own development. The following excerpts from published talks of the Master may be of interest:
When asked about the individual persistence of the animal’s personality after death, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: “Even the most developed dog has not the immortal soul of the man; yet the dog is perfect in its own place."
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London: Addresses and Notes of Conversations, p. 97)
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. Surely those without sin should receive the most kindness and love – animals, except those which are harmful, such as bloodthirsty wolves, such as poisonous snakes, and similar pernicious creatures, the reason being that kindness to these is an injustice to human beings and to other animals as well…. But to blessed animals the utmost kindness must be shown, the more the better. Tenderness and loving-kindness are basic principles of God’s heavenly Kingdom. Ye should most carefully bear this matter in mind.
(Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp.159-160)
Be assured of the loving prayers of the House of Justice in the Holy Shrines for your continuing well-being and serenity.
(Universal House of Justice, 23 August 1992, to an individual believer)
The Universal House of Justice received your email … and well understands the profound bond of affection that must have grown up over some sixteen years between … and her cat…. It has instructed us to send you the following reply…. The difficulty of trying to envisage the realities of the spiritual worlds lies in the limitations of our present conditions. We can picture the next life as little as an unborn child could envision the realities of its life in this world after birth. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains in Some Answered Questions and in other talks and Tablets, spirit expresses itself in the material world in varying degrees. Each of the kingdoms – mineral, vegetable, animal and human – is able to show forth higher qualities, and while the higher kingdoms can embrace and understand those which are lower, it is not possible for an occupant of a lower kingdom to conceive the full reality of an occupant of a higher one. For an animal, the joys and realities of life are basically physical and emotional. It neither possesses, nor can it understand, the spiritual reality of a human being. The world it inhabits is perfectly attuned to its needs and level of existence. If it were to be transported to a purely spiritual world, it would be deprived of all that it knows and values. A human being who does not develop his spiritual nature, who lives at the purely animal and materialistic level, experiences entry into the next life as a descent into hell, while a soul which has developed its spiritual capacities experiences it as an ascent into heaven – as an unfolding and blossoming of greater potentialities. Thus, although, as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains, the animal spirit, which becomes individualized in a particular creature, does not survive in its individual condition after death, this is no deprivation or cause of suffering for the animal, but is perfectly suited to its condition by an All-Wise and All-Perfect Creator. As for a human soul who has known and loved an animal – those experiences, as memories, have become a part of his or her eternal life. This, indeed, is what happens to our relationship to all material things. They will eventually be dispersed, so all the physical beauties of this world will ultimately remain only in our memories; but, as such, they constitute an enrichment of our lives which will continue to develop in the spiritual worlds.
(Universal House of Justice, 9 March 1995, to an individual believer)
When asked about the individual persistence of the animal’s personality after death, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: “Even the most developed dog has not the immortal soul of the man; yet the dog is perfect in its own place.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 97)
Your letter clearly indicates that you are familiar with the teachings of the Faith, which state that the animal spirit is not immortal. As you are seeking some consolation, however, over the loss of your pet dog, you may recall the following statement of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Some Answered Questions: “The exaltation of the animal world is to possess perfect members, organs and powers, and to have all its needs supplied…. But real prosperity for the animal consists in passing from the animal world to the human world, like the microscopic beings that, through the water and air, enter into man and are assimilated, and replace that which has been consumed in his body. This is the great honour and prosperity for the animal world; no greater honour can be conceived for it.” Of course your dog did not pass nor could it have passed normally to the human world in the physical sense as indicated in the Master’s statement. However, you might wish to contemplate that if it is a great honour for the animal to pass from its world to the human physical world, how much grater will its honour be for it to deserve to pass, with such tenderness as you describe in your letter, into the sentimental and emotional consciousness of man, whose soul with all its recollections and reminiscences is immortal. Furthermore, while man is in a higher form of existence, and therefore can educate the animal, yet the animal, through the instinctive virtues with which God has chosen to characterize it, provides man with tokens of some of its inherent virtues, such as innocence, gentleness, affection, friendliness, fidelity and joy – qualities which man may well emulate to foster his own development. To maintain, therefore, that the life of the animal has been a waste is not correct. The animal world is part of God’s perfect creation, and so are the mineral and vegetable worlds, as well as the human world. But man, in this divine and grand Plan, has been made into God’s likeness, and has two aspects to his nature: one of these, in the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, is “a reality connected with the senses and which is shared in common with the animal,” and the other is man’s “angelic aspect,” the “divine power” in him, which is his “essential perfections.” “When we speak of man, we mean the perfect one, who is the sum of spiritual and apparent perfections, and who is like the sun among the beings.” It is hoped that thoughts such as these will comfort you and that continued study of the teachings and meditation upon their inner meanings will help you to understand more clearly the manifold mysteries of God’s creation.
(Universal House of Justice, 9 August 1976, to an individual believer)