Consciousness can be measured by observing the degree to which an organism can control, or be controlled, by its physical reality. The supremacy of an entity can therefore be defined by the degree to which it can exert the aforementioned faculty.
A basic unit of physical organization, the atom, cannot control or have an awareness of those powers that control its movement. It is therefore subject to external manipulations and most, if not all, physical laws. As we move up the chain of molecular organization, and as organisms become more and more complex we begin to see greater and greater degrees of consciousness.
At the level of animal we see a heightened state of consciousness capable of manipulating and using physical reality to overcome barriers between themselves and continued survival. At the human level of organization we witness the capacity to potentially control and manipulate all of physical reality. Even this unique capacity can be found in varying degrees amongst humans (owing to the human’s capacity to submit to ultimate reality, which will be discussed shortly).
Physical reality is governed by a number of interacting, observable laws and principles, and it is becoming more apparent that human beings are capable of knowing, controlling, reversing, creating, and mimicking all of them. This unique human faculty implies the existence of, and the need for, a separate set of laws to regulate these dominating human powers. These laws are often grouped by abstract conceptions such as unity, rationality, morality, virtue, totality, reality, quality, truth, existence/non-existence, and possibility/impossibility. We refer to these higher laws as spiritual or divine laws. Divine laws exert their influence on humans only through the willing submission of the human entity.
Divine law serves two purposes:
1) Dictates the boundaries within which humans should approach social and physical reality.
2) Guides the human entity (soul) closer to the ultimate reality (God).
Divine law emanates from the source of all consciousness, which is controlled by nothing but controls all things. Although the human mind can know this reality it cannot exert influence over it. The highest station of man therefore is complete submission to the ultimate reality (God), hence submission to divine law. The closest interaction between humans and the ultimate reality occurs via the manifestations of God, also known as prophets, divine educators, and messengers. Manifestations are not formed through experience, as are most great thinkers; rather, their station requires complete and absolute submission to the Ultimate Reality. This special circumstance means that although the manifestations of God are subject to physical laws, they act completely in accord with divine law.
The purpose of the divine educators is twofold:
1) To remind humanity of its spiritual reality.
2) To provide the divine laws required for humans to exist in an ever-advancing social reality.
These divine educators are an anomaly in the world of physical reality. They can neither choose to submit to divine law nor can they deny it. They are subject to it and are the perfect manifestations of it in the physical realm. Divine reality, the realm of existence beyond physical reality is comprised of divine law and devoid of physical laws. The essence of human reality, the soul, attains this reality after death, and three factors determine its continued movement towards the Ultimate Reality:
1) The degree of it’s prior submission to divine law
2) Its influence on other souls during its existence in physical reality
3) The influence of the Ultimate Reality
The first factor determines the station of the soul upon its severance from physical reality. The second factor stems from a special interaction between divine reality and physical reality; namely, the intercession of humans (in prayer and actions) in the physical reality. The third factor that determines the continued movement of the soul towards the Ultimate Reality is the influence of the Ultimate Reality itself:
“The progress of man’s spirit in the divine world, after the severance of its connection with the body of dust is through the bounty and grace of the Lord alone, or through the intercession and the sincere prayers of other human souls, or through the charities and important good works which are performed in its name.” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahà, Some Answered Questions.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Bahá’í perspective on physical and spiritual reality, life after death, the soul, or other related topics check out the following books:
Or check out these other sources for more comprehensive analysis of the above ideas: