Our birth into this world is not only “a sleep and a forgetting,” as Wordsworth hints at. It is the earliest moment of a wondrous, lifelong, eternal journey of awakening. The rest of the story is a process of remembering where we came from, what we once knew, and who we really are. Remembering may well be the most vital spiritual practice we can have. Wordsworth also gives us a glimpse of what lies ahead:
Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither, can in a moment travel thither…
The birth process ends a journey of descent, from the eternal worlds, characterized by knowing and forgetting, and at the same time begins a journey of ascent, characterized by awakening to the reality around us. As we come into full consciousness, we gradually remember what was once known from the sacred realm. Somewhere along this journey we sense that there might be something more to life, and we spend the rest of our lives striving to uncover the mysteries of life, while living in the ultimate balance of that remembrance. Then there are others may spend their lives wholly in the temporal realm, forever in the state of forgetfulness, never knowing, or caring, that there was ever anything else to know.
All of the world’s spiritual and religious traditions help us recognize our origin as well as our destiny. Similar to other sacred traditions, at the heart of the Baha’i Faith is the belief that our purpose in this life is to prepare for the life beyond, that the soul is on a journey from and back to God. In carrying out this life purpose, we at the same time contribute to the betterment of the world. As the Baha’i writings put it, the soul “is the repository of the ancient, Divine mysteries of God.” Knowing that our soul is on an endless journey is the basis of living in the Now.
A big step toward accessing the divine mysteries within us is knowing that, beyond all the usual identities we carry with us all the time, our one identity that is timeless is our soul. This is who we are at our essence; it is our eternal identity. The only thing we take with us all the way through this life and into the next is our soul. Discovering and getting to know well this one eternal component that makes us truly unique could even be seen as our ultimate goal of life. This will take us a lot further toward understanding and nurturing the divine qualities or virtues that have been deposited in our soul. This is also what will most help us remember what we once knew before our descent to this world, and it will most help us in our return journey, as well.