Now as to what thou askest concerning the spirit and its “return” to this world of humanity and this elemental space: Know that spirit in general is divided into five sorts—the vegetable spirit, the animal spirit, the human spirit, the spirit of faith, and the divine spirit of sanctity.
The vegetable spirit is the virtue augmentative, or growing or vegetative faculty, which results from the admixture of the simple elements, with the co-operation of water, air and heat.
The animal spirit is the virtue perceptive resulting from the admixture and absorption of the vital elements generated in the heart, which apprehend sense impressions.
The human spirit consists of the rational, or logical, reasoning faculty, which apprehends general ideas and things intelligible and perceptible.
Now these “spirits” are not reckoned as Spirit in the terminology of the Scriptures and the usage of the people of the Truth, inasmuch as the laws governing them are as the laws which govern all phenomenal being (i.e., all existences belonging to the phenomenal or material universe, called “the world of generation and corruption”), in respect to generation, corruption, production, change and reversion, as is clearly indicated in the Gospel where it says: “Let the dead bury their dead;” “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit”; inasmuch as he who would bury these dead was alive with the vegetative, animal and rational human soul, yet did Christ—to whom be glory! —declare such dead and devoid of life, in that this person was devoid of the Spirit of Faith, which is of the Kingdom of God.
In brief, for these three spirits there is no restitution or “return,” but they are subordinate to reversions and production and corruption.
But the Spirit of Faith which is of the Kingdom (of God) consists of the all-comprehending Grace and the perfect attainment (or salvation, fruition, achievement) and the power of sanctity and the divine effulgence from the Sun of Truth on luminous light-seeking essences from the presence of the divine Unity. And by this Spirit is the life of the spirit of man, when it is fortified thereby, as Christ saith: “That which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.” And this Spirit hath both restitution and return, inasmuch as it consists of the Light of God and the unconditioned Grace. So, having regard to this state and station. Christ announced that John the Baptist was Elias, who was to come before Christ (Matt. 11:14). And the likeness of this station is as that of lamps kindled (from one another): for these in respect to their glasses and oil-holders, are different, but in respect to their light, One, and in respect to their illumination, One; nay, each one is identical with the other, without imputation of plurality, or diversity or multiplicity or separateness. This is the Truth and beyond the Truth there is only error.
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha (‘Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, vol. 1)