A passage from Secret of Divine Civilization

Jul 2017
341
Kettering, Ohio USA
For desire is a flame that has reduced to ashes unaccounted lifetime harvests of the learned, a devouring fire that even the vast sea of their accumulated knowledge could never quench. How often has it happened that an individual who was graced with every attribute of humanity and wore the jewel of true understanding, nevertheless followed his passions until his excellent qualities passed beyond moderation and he was forced into excess. His pure intentions changed to evil ones, his attributes were no longer put to uses worthy of them, and the power of his desires turned him aside from righteousness and rewards into ways that were dangerous and dark. A good character is in the sight of God and His chosen ones and the possessors of insight, the most excellent and praiseworthy of all things, but always on the condition that its center of emanation should be reason and knowledge and its based should be true moderation. Were the implications of this subject to be developed as they deserve, the work would grow too long and our main theme would be lost to view.


Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 59-60.





I don't know what the theme is for this, I'm having trouble following this.
 
Jul 2014
840
colorado/summer-Oklahoma/winter
As I read and re-read this passage, moderation jumps out at me. Desire(passion) whether it is for Godly traits or earthly rewards results in someone losing sight of living a simple life of service to others. You become too narrowly focused on one aspect of life, whether it is spiritual or physical. Thinking about all the writings we read, moderation is
usually implicit. We are exhorted to choose a service to someone instead of to God. That by serving others we are serving God by that very action. Living only a pious life, with self flagellation is not desirable. We often look at desire as only a negative physical thing. Desire to be closer to God is a very good thing, but if that is one's only focus, it becomes a roadblock to one's full development, just like focusing only on wealth of worldly acquisitions is a roadblock. We are to follow the example of Abdul' Baha who was undeniably spiritual, but who also lived a life of goodness in this physical world. And, we are to be happy and joyful while doing so. It is an amazing responsibility. Anyway, that's my personal interpretation.
 
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Sep 2010
4,627
Normanton, Far North West Queensland
As I read and re-read this passage, moderation jumps out at me. Desire(passion) whether it is for Godly traits or earthly rewards results in someone losing sight of living a simple life of service to others. You become too narrowly focused on one aspect of life, whether it is spiritual or physical. Thinking about all the writings we read, moderation is
usually implicit. We are exhorted to choose a service to someone instead of to God. That by serving others we are serving God by that very action. Living only a pious life, with self flagellation is not desirable. We often look at desire as only a negative physical thing. Desire to be closer to God is a very good thing, but if that is one's only focus, it becomes a roadblock to one's full development, just like focusing only on wealth of worldly acquisitions is a roadblock. We are to follow the example of Abdul' Baha who was undeniably spiritual, but who also lived a life of goodness in this physical world. And, we are to be happy and joyful while doing so. It is an amazing responsibility. Anyway, that's my personal interpretation.
I see they are sound thoughts on that passage Becky.

Regards Tony
 
Jul 2017
341
Kettering, Ohio USA
After looking over it some more with the context of the surrounding passages I came to the following conclusion:

So I think the theme of the original passage is we could originally have a good character with a lot of knowledge, but if we don't use reason, knowledge, and moderation, our passions will turn our good qualities into bad ones.
 

Jcc

Mar 2013
600
Edwardsville, Illinois, USA
After looking over it some more with the context of the surrounding passages I came to the following conclusion:

So I think the theme of the original passage is we could originally have a good character with a lot of knowledge, but if we don't use reason, knowledge, and moderation, our passions will turn our good qualities into bad ones.
We need to be humble, and not consider ourselves better than anyone. Use the example of the earth that allows itself to be trodden over, even though it supports the life of every living thing.
 
Jun 2014
1,120
Wisconsin
For desire is a flame that has reduced to ashes unaccounted lifetime harvests of the learned, a devouring fire that even the vast sea of their accumulated knowledge could never quench. How often has it happened that an individual who was graced with every attribute of humanity and wore the jewel of true understanding, nevertheless followed his passions until his excellent qualities passed beyond moderation and he was forced into excess. His pure intentions changed to evil ones, his attributes were no longer put to uses worthy of them, and the power of his desires turned him aside from righteousness and rewards into ways that were dangerous and dark.
This has strong parallels to the Valley of Love section of Seven Valleys, so reading that may help add context.

The verse is speaking of the topic of emotion overpowering reason. We are told in Seven Valleys that all "redness" or blood in the world is from those lovers who's love, or emotions, have become out of control. The Valleys also frequently speaks of emotion overcoming and destroying reason and rationality.

A good character is in the sight of God and His chosen ones and the possessors of insight, the most excellent and praiseworthy of all things, but always on the condition that its center of emanation should be reason and knowledge and its based should be true moderation. Were the implications of this subject to be developed as they deserve, the work would grow too long and our main theme would be lost to view.
This speaks of the need to detach from ones emotions and turn to reason and insight to overcome the madness of emotion.

For an example of this, look to terrorists. The terrorist is not devoid of all spiritual development, rather he has made it to the Valley of Love, only for that Love to drive him completely insane, and thus he is able to do horrifying acts of terror in the name of his twisted Love of God. A terrorist is, at his spiritual core, one who has become lost in the Valley of Love.
 
Jul 2017
341
Kettering, Ohio USA
This speaks of the need to detach from ones emotions and turn to reason and insight to overcome the madness of emotion.

For an example of this, look to terrorists. The terrorist is not devoid of all spiritual development, rather he has made it to the Valley of Love, only for that Love to drive him completely insane, and thus he is able to do horrifying acts of terror in the name of his twisted Love of God. A terrorist is, at his spiritual core, one who has become lost in the Valley of Love.
I don't think that this has anything to do with the Valley of Love. Love of God is always good. In this passage from Abdu'l-Baha, he is referring to passion and desire, which is not love. This is evident from the paragraph that comes before this one:

The third element of the utterance under discussion is, "opposes his passions." How wonderful are the implications of this deceptively easy, all-inclusive phrase. This is the very foundation of every laudable human quality; indeed, these few words embody the light of the world, the impregnable basis of all the spiritual attributes of human beings. This is the balance wheel of all behaviour, the means of keeping all men's good qualities in equilibrium."
The Secret of Divine Civilization, p 59

Also see the paragraph following:

All the peoples of Europe, notwithstanding their vaunted civilization, sink and drown in this terrifying sea of passion and desire, and this is why all the phenomena of their culture comes to nothing. Let no one wonder at this statement or deplore it. The primary purpose, the basic objective, in laying down powerful laws and setting up great principles and institutions dealing with every aspect of civilization is human happiness; and human happiness consists only in drawing closer to the Threshold of the Almighty God, and in securing the peace and well-being of every individual member, high and low alike, of human race; and the supreme agencies for accomplishing these two objectives are the excellent qualities with which humanity is endowed.
The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 60
 
Jun 2014
1,120
Wisconsin
I don't think that this has anything to do with the Valley of Love. Love of God is always good. In this passage from Abdu'l-Baha, he is referring to passion and desire, which is not love.
I think you are mistaken and need to take a closer look at Seven Valleys.

Just to compare two quotes, first from your source: "For desire is a flame that has reduced to ashes unaccounted lifetime harvests of the learned"

Now from the Seven Valleys: "and when the fire of love is ablaze, it burneth to ashes the harvest of reason."

Don't those two alone show enough parallels to warrant a closer look?? :p Desire/love burns the harvest of the learned/reason in both!! I don't know how the connection could be more obvious with those two lines as reference points.

I understand your position that the OP quote is more about desire than love, but I think that the Baha'i Texts imply the two concepts of desire and love are closer than you assume.
 
Aug 2010
728
New Zealand mainly
...
I don't know what the theme is for this, I'm having trouble following this.
Compare this to my translation, in Principles for Progress page 189, and see if the comparison higlights why you are having trouble:


The third phrase in the hallowed words is “opposing his passions.” See how
these words contain within themselves sublime mysteries! They are the
epitome of that compendium of meanings and fluent style, the Quran. They
are the foundation of a praiseworthy character. Indeed, these words are as a
candle for the world and the strongest basis, for the children of Adam, for
a spiritual and enlightened character. They balance all virtues, they ensure
true moderation in all good human practices.

For selfish passions are a flame that has consumed a hundred thousand
hayricks, the harvest of the lives of wise sages. Once it was kindled, the
sea of their arts and sciences could not quench it. How often an individual
adorned with every worthy attribute of humanity and ornamented with the
jewel of spiritual understanding has, because of passion, allowed his own
good practices to pass beyond moderation, reaching the point of excess. He
exchanges sincere motives for corrupt ones, and his abilities are no longer
exhibited in worthy ways, rather the force of passions and desires draws
him from the straight and salutary path into a wider but unstable road that
is pernicious and treacherous. †An upright character is of all things the
most praiseworthy in the sight of God, in the eyes of His chosen ones, and
of all men of understanding, providing its directing force is wisdom and
knowledge, and its standard true moderation. Were the implications of this
subject to be developed as they deserve the work would grow too long and
the main theme would be lost to view.
Actually the section from † : “An upright character … and its standard true moderation” is translated by Shoghi Effendi, in ‘Excerpts from Bahāʾi Sacred Writings’ in The Bahāʾi World, A Biennial International Record, Vol. 2, April 1926-1928, p. 52.
Does the bifocal approach help ?
 
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Jul 2017
341
Kettering, Ohio USA
I think you are mistaken and need to take a closer look at Seven Valleys.

Just to compare two quotes, first from your source: "For desire is a flame that has reduced to ashes unaccounted lifetime harvests of the learned"

Now from the Seven Valleys: "and when the fire of love is ablaze, it burneth to ashes the harvest of reason."

Don't those two alone show enough parallels to warrant a closer look?? :p Desire/love burns the harvest of the learned/reason in both!! I don't know how the connection could be more obvious with those two lines as reference points.

I understand your position that the OP quote is more about desire than love, but I think that the Baha'i Texts imply the two concepts of desire and love are closer than you assume.
I don't think that Abdu'l-Baha would find love in the Valley of love objectionable. So He is not doing this here. He would not be contradicting Baha'u'llah. It's just a coincidence of language.

I don't understand the Seven Valleys. I don't know of anyone who has been in such a state as described here:

In this city the heaven of rapture is upraised, and the world-illuming sun of yearning shineth, and the fire of love is set ablaze; and when the fire of love is ablaze, it burneth to ashes the harvest of reason.

Now is the wayfarer oblivious of himself, and of aught besides himself. He seeth neither ignorance nor knowledge, neither doubt nor certitude; he knoweth not the morn of guidance from the night of error. He fleeth from both unbelief and faith, and findeth in deadly poison his heart’s relief.Wherefore ‘Aṭṭár saith: For the infidel, error — for the faithful, faith; For ‘Aṭṭár’s heart, an atom of thy pain. The steed of this valley is pain, and if there be no pain this journey will never end. In this plane the lover hath no thought save the Beloved, and seeketh no refuge save the Friend. At every moment he offereth a hundred lives in the path of the Loved One, at every step he throweth a thousand heads at His feet.

“The Call of the Divine Beloved”

I know I have never offered a hundred lives in the path of the Loved One. I found out when I was taking the course Early Mystic Writings of Baha'u'llah that Baha'u'llah said that every Baha'i has passed through all seven valleys. This has also been explained in the beginning of the beginning of the new translation Call of the Divine Beloved:

⁠Writing years later in ‘Akká, He explained:

This treatise was revealed in the language of the people, in the days prior to Our Declaration. The occasion for its revelation was the receipt of a letter addressed to the Most Holy Court in ‘Iráq from a man of Sunní persuasion, who was both a scholar and a mystic. This treatise was therefore revealed, in accordance with divine wisdom, in the manner that was current amongst the people. However, in this day, every soul who hath fixed his gaze upon the Supreme Horizon, and hath recognized the one true God, hath verily attained unto every one of the seven valleys or seven stations mentioned therein.⁠

Bahá’u’lláh, “The Call of the Divine Beloved” , p.6

I don't feel like I've passed through the Seven Valleys. Those descriptions don't seem to apply to me.

I interpret recognizing the one true God as recognizing Baha'u'llah.