Baha'u'llah's Early Mystic Writings notes

Jul 2017
Kettering, Ohio USA
As Max Weber has said, all religions have to provide solutions to the two theological problems of salvation and theodicy (reconciling God's goodness and the existence of evil).[13] Baha'u'llah's discussion of the seven valleys that comprise the arc of ascent in fact encompasses both these themes. As stages of the spiritual journey toward the names <p98> and attributes of God, the Seven Valleys addresses the question of salvation. Aspects of this salvation metaphysics have already been discussed. But the Seven Valleys also addresses the question of theodicy. The philosophical problem of theodicy has been concerned with resolving the apparent contradiction posed by the creation of a world of suffering, injustice, and evil by a God who is just and good. However, it is not the philosophical question but the experiential dimension of the problem that is most important. In the Seven Valleys, the stages of the spiritual journey are also the stages of dealing with the problem of suffering.

In all Baha'u'llah's mystical writings, the issue of suffering in the path of God is presented as a necessary element of spiritual transformation and growth. The Hidden Words contains many such statements. Many of Baha'u'llah's major mystical writings, including the Tablet of the huri, the Fire Tablet, and the Ode of the Dove are clearly concerned with, among other things, theodicy. These writings frequently represent a dialogue between Baha'u'llah speaking as a human being subject to torment and suffering, and Baha'u'llah speaking as the Primal Will, the Holy Spirit, and the Manifestation of God. This inner discourse--normally represented through the romantic dialogue between Baha'u'llah and the Maid of Heaven--exemplifies the stages and dialectic of creative suffering. At first the lover laments his tormenting conditions and consequent suffering, then the beloved explains that this suffering is part of the quest for the beloved and the attainment of perfection in the world, and finally the problem is resolved by an enthusiastic embrace of creative suffering by the lover. The story of Job and the mystic love poetry of Ibn-i-Farid, as well as texts from other mystic traditions, also show similar structures.

The question of theodicy is directly related to the questions of design in nature, progress in human history, the nature of divine providence, and the quality of moral and spiritual action. Usually the denial of divine existence, providence, and justice arises from a belief in the randomness and apparent meaninglessness of events in both nature and history. Such a perspective finds life a set of absurd sufferings and sees no reason for moral and spiritual commitment in the world.

Baha'u'llah's approach to theodicy presents a hierarchical solution to these issues. The first three stages of spiritual progress, which are located within the realm of limitation, are still bound by the logic of <p100> phenomena pertaining to that realm. The third stage, knowledge, represents a solution to the problem of theodicy in terms of the phenomenal realm: here the meaninglessness of events is replaced by meaningfulness, but this meaningfulness is still in terms of phenomena. The world--both nature and history--is now seen as interconnected and teleological. Because not only the beginning but also the end are now perceived, from this enlarged perspective the gaze of the wayfarer comprehends the grand scheme of order and divine justice in nature and creation and discerns progress and emancipation in the complex course of human history. Even evil becomes apprehended within this perspective which, because it includes the end as well as the beginning, makes it possible to see that, in the end, evil only galvanizes the forces that bring about its defeat. This perspective acknowledges divine providence and finds moral and spiritual action justified in light of its positive consequences in the realm of phenomena.

However, this level is not yet the highest plane of spiritual development. In the realm of unity comprising the last four valleys, a qualitatively new perspective and logic emerges concerning theodicy, the world, and moral action. The world is now perceived in its relation to the invisible divine Reality. The beginning and the end are now one, and increasingly both are liberated from any temporal limitation. Phenomenal consequences are no longer the driving force of moral and spiritual action, which is performed not for any extrinsic reward in this world or the next, but for its own sake. One acts purely for the sake of the love of God. The search for the empirical sign of providence at the level of phenomena (which characterized the stages of limitation) is replaced by consciousness of love, mystery, divine transcendence, and the unity and interconnectedness of all things, which becomes the motivation of moral action and the resolution to the problem of theodicy.

The themes of both the Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys--theodicy, freedom, and faith-converge on the topic of moral development. A direct account of moral dynamics, however, is to be found in <p101> the analysis of self or soul ({nafs}), the first approach to reality mentioned in the Four Valleys. No English word conveys the complexity of the term {nafs}, which means soul, self, and desire. The underlying point is that the human soul is capable of acquiring different characteristics and developing different identities--it can be dominated either by the logic of desire or by spiritual values. That is why the entire process of moral development is presented as stages of "self." In the Four Valleys, Baha'u'llah defines the approach of {nafs} in terms of the higher stations of self and not the base self of desire: "On this plane, the self [{nafs}] is not rejected but beloved; it is well-pleasing and not to be shunned. Although at the beginning, this plane is the realm of conflict, yet it endeth in attainment to the throne of splendor" ({Four Valleys} 50).

The discussion of the stages of {nafs} has been a popular topic in Islamic mysticism, and the stages have normally been explicated in the light of Qur'anic verses. Such a perspective provides a powerful theory of morality and moral development which is not only superior to utilitarian, hedonistic, formalistic, nihilistic, and postmodern relativistic forms of ethics, but also to complex and insightful theories like Kohlberg's stages of moral development.[14]
.......... [14. See Lawrence Kohlberg, {The Philosophy of Moral Development}.]

Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha have repeatedly talked about the stages of nafs.[15] In one of 'Abdu'l-Baha's tablets, for instance, ten stages of {nafs} are identified: the desiring and aggressive soul ({nafs-i-ammarih}), the blaming soul ({nafs-i-lavvamih}), the inspired soul ({nafs-i-mulhamih}), the well-assured soul ({nafs-i-mutma'innih}), the pleased soul ({nafs-i-radiyih}), the soul pleasing unto God ({nafs-i-mardiyyih}), the perfect soul ({nafs-i-kamilih}), the celestial Soul ({nafs-i-malakutiyyih}), the heavenly Soul ({nafs-i-jabarutiyyih}), and the Holy Divine Soul {nafs-i-lahutiyyih qudsiyyih}).[16] Not all these stages, and definitely not the last one, are within human reach. The present discussion is concerned with the stages of {nafs}, or self, that represent the dynamics of human will. In the beginning, the will is predominantly hedonistic and aggressive. In the next stage, some form of moral values is accepted but without serious transformation of the will. The result is inner conflict, guilt, and struggle against lower impulses. In the stages that follow, moral values become increasingly universalized and spiritualized, and the will <p102> becomes transformed, progressively reflecting the divine will. The initial contradiction between moral principles and will is transcended, and increasingly the object of one's desire becomes the will of God. Here again the elimination of contradiction between freedom and obedience to the divine will is the central category of Baha'u'llah's concept of self-actualization, selfconsciousness, autonomy, and morality.
.......... [15. See Baha'u'llah, {Majmu'iy-i-Alvah-i-Mubarakih}, 97-98.]
.......... [16. 'Abdu'l-Baha, {Makatib} 1:85-99.]

Two additional points should be emphasized in this connection: first, the fundamental inseparability of law and mystical knowledge; second, the continuity of this principle between Baha'u'llah's early mystical writings and His later writings on law. In the Seven Valleys Baha'u'llah emphasizes that even the highest degree of mystical knowledge is never above the law. Having mentioned the exalted station that lies beyond both oneness of existence and oneness of vision--the highest stages spoken of by the Sufis--Baha'u'llah immediately adds: "In all these journeys the traveler must stray not the breadth of a hair from the 'Law,' for this is indeed the secret of the 'Path' and the fruit of the Tree of 'Truth'; and in all these stages he must cling to the robe of obedience to the commandments, and hold fast to the cord of shunning all forbidden things, that he may be nourished from the cup of the Law and informed of the mysteries of Truth" (39-40). This important concept will be stressed in Baha'u'llah's later writings, notably the Kitab-i-Aqdas, His Book of Laws. In fact, as He states in the Seven Valleys, there is a direct and necessary relation between obedience to the law and the knowledge of mystical Truth.[17] Using a metaphor which will also become important in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the law is here described as a "cup" which imparts the knowledge of the spirit to the one who drinks from it.

The entire structure of the Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys can be understood as the dialectic of negation and affirmation--or death and life, annihilation and subsistence, or effacement ({mahv}) and sobriety ({sahv}). This dialectical movement repeats itself in every individual valley and in the relation of the different valleys to each other. For <p103> instance, in the valley of search, one must travel away from one's self to be able to travel toward the beloved. Similarly, love implies relinquishing self-love in order to become united with the beloved. Knowledge implies going beyond the immediate suffering in order to attain wisdom. Contentment requires poverty in terms of the world in order to achieve true wealth and independence. Wonder requires negation of one's own categories in order to be exposed to divine reality and truth. And annihilation means nothingness in God as the condition of subsistence in God.

It is through the process of differentiation and integration, movement beyond the self and toward the other, that one achieves a new, more comprehensive and thus more authentic and richer consciousness of reality. This symbolism seems most clearly present in the final stage of the Seven Valleys, which concerns the dialectic of death and life, or annihilation and subsistence. Baha'u'llah emphasizes the same point in the need for unity of effacement (or intoxication) and sobriety. This is further developed in the Kitab-i-Aqdas where the structure of Baha'i ideal society is presented in terms of the unity of the aesthetic and rational principles. The principles of refinement {litafat}) can be seen to correspond to the moment of intoxication, effacement, and annihilation, whereas the principle of rationality, work, and efficiency corresponds to the moment of sobriety. In this way the spiritual journey can also be conceptualized as the dialectics of aesthetic and rational principles.

Given that the ultimate aim of spiritual development in Baha'u'llah's description of the mystical journey is the recognition of the Manifestation of God, another way to interpret these stages pertains to the <p104> process of the individual's recognition of the station of Baha'u'llah. In this understanding, the valleys may be represented in the following sequence. At first the wayfarer is looking for answers everywhere (search); then he hears of the new revelation and become enthusiastic to investigate it (love). After accepting Baha'u'llah as the Manifestation of God (knowledge), he gradually learns about His teachings concerning unity in diversity at different levels of reality and recognizes the oneness of all the Manifestations of God (unity). Having acquired a new spiritual identity and heightened perspective, he experiences contentment, detachment from the world, and confidence in his new identity (contentment).

The next stage is one of bewilderment, wonder, and confusion. This is the stage of deepening and scholarship. By studying this new faith ever more deeply, he realizes new gems and insights that were hidden to him. At the same time he confronts issues that he does not immediately grasp, and which may seem contradictory to his reason or understanding. This stage is, as Baha'u'llah testified, a perilous one. Knowledge previously secure is questioned and past confident identities challenged. Like the dream state, this stage is filled with mysteries and insights and yet also with bewilderment and questioning. As in a dream, the identity is fluid and insecure.

This stage opens up two possibilities. One is negative: namely, the individual becomes filled with pride and takes himself and his own categories as the standard to which divine revelation is submitted. He reifies every single judgment of his reason in the form of the myth of total reason. This road is the road of hasty generalizations, disregard of the principles of covenant, and eventual spiritual suicide. The alternate approach is one of patience, humility, faith, and commitment to the divine standard even if there remain questions that one has not yet adequately understood. Such an approach of humility takes the believer to the final stage of annihilation in, and subsistence by, the divine will. Here one recognizes the Words of God with the eye of God and understands their meanings in the light of Baha'u'llah's own interpretive principle, namely the principle of covenant. This is the station of the most great steadfastness. It is here that gradually new insights are <p105> created, creative solutions are found, and novel identities based on harmony of the individual will and the divine will are developed.

The idea of {dhikr} was introduced in Chapter 2 in connection with Sufism. In its general sense, as prayer and remembrance of God, the concept of {dhikr} is approved and strongly emphasized in the writings of Baha'u'llah, even while He clearly rejects some of the specific ritualistic practices associated with Sufi {dhikr}.[21] For example, in His ordinances concerning prayer in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Baha'u'llah prohibits muttering sacred verses in public places (? 108) and enjoins moderation even in reading the revealed Word (? 149).
.......... [21. An excellent example of a Baha'i approach to meditation and prayer is Lasse Thoresen's {Unlocking the Gate of the Heart}.]

The concept of {dhikr} itself becomes fundamentally reinterpreted in the Baha'i writings. {Dhikr} means both remembrance and utterance. In discussing the ontological circle, it was seen that the four stages of creation--Will, Determination, Destiny, and Decree--are different expressions of the Manifestation of God, which The Bab has identified as different expressions of {dhikr} or "utterance." This {dhikr} is obviously the equivalent of the Word of God, or the creative act of God, which is the realm of the revelation and manifestation of God. The divine command in the form of the word "Be," which brings forth all creation, is precisely the divine {dhikr}. As to the Word of God and His "Remembrance" in the world, {dhikr} in the Baha'i writings primarily refers to The Bab and Baha'u'llah. For instance, throughout The Bab's Commentary on the Surih of Joseph (Ahsanu'l-Qasas or Qayyumu'l-Asma'), {dhikr} is used as the title of The Bab Himself.[22] In this, The Bab's first revealed scripture, even the term {dhikr} itself is a subtle but unmistakable declaration of His station as a Manifestation of God.
.......... [22. The Bab, {Selections}, 41-42.]

{Dhikr} as the divine creative Word and revelation finds its mirror in the human {dhikr} or remembrance of God. In this form, {dhikr} takes the character of dialogue with God in the form of prayer. This {dhikr} or praise of God is in fact the essence of created beings. But because no <p107> one can adequately praise God because no one can know God, the only way we can remember God in prayer is to mention the self-description of God. {Dhikr}, then, becomes reciting the prayers revealed by the Manifestations of God. Since revelation is progressive, {dhikr} also becomes a progressive process and presupposes the recognition of the Manifestation of God in each age. In one passage, Baha'u'llah simultaneously rejects traditional Sufi practices including {dhikr} and confirms that the criterion of acceptability for both deeds and worship is the Manifestation of God:

There hath been, and continueth to be, a number of men in islands who have denied themselves food and water, associate with the beasts of the field, impose upon themselves extreme mortifications, and engage in rituals of a devotional nature [{adhkar}]. And yet not even one among them is remembered by God.... Today the mantle of deeds and the crown of worship are, outwardly and inwardly, this Most Great Remembrance [{Dhikr}]. He is, verily, the Word that decideth between the peoples and reduceth all mountains to dust....[23] [23. In Mazandarani, {Amr va Khalq} 3:445-46. (Dr. Saeidi's provisional translation)]

The Baha'i historical approach to mystical experience is also reflected in the conception of {dhikr}. But this historical consciousness is accompanied by the principle of the oneness of humanity and service to society. That is why the place dedicated to {dhikr}, that is, the Baha'i House of Worship, or Mashriqu'l-Adhkar (Dawning-place of the Mention of God), as the place of prayer-service is not only open to the followers of all religions, it is also the center of various institutions of social service designed to help the poor and needy, the homeless, the orphans, and the community in general. Once again, the concept of {dhikr} becomes translated directly into the committed practice of the oneness of humanity. Shoghi Effendi writes of the relationship between the spiritual and social aspects of the Mashriqu'lAdhkar: "Nothing short of direct and constant interaction between the spiritual forces emanating from this House of Worship centering in the heart of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, and the energies consciously displayed by those who administer its affairs in their service to humanity can possibly provide the necessary agency capable of removing the ills that have so long and so grievously afflicted humanity."[

It is clear that the spiritual knowledge which is the goal of the mystic journey is qualitatively different from prevalent modern notions of knowledge--notably positivistic approaches in which knowledge is a mechanistic product of the interest in control and domination of nature oriented to utilitarian purposes. Some of the characteristics of spiritual knowledge can be summarized as follows. Similar to Plato's concept of knowledge as remembrance of the experience of the spiritual world prior to the descent into the realm of matter,[25] spiritual knowledge is the actualization of the inherent essence and perfections of human beings. Such knowledge is a response to the inner core of existence, and the soul's return to its authentic home. The ultimate interest, so to speak, of this form of knowledge is the realization of the purpose and goal of existence.
.......... [25. See Plato, {Collected Dialogues}, 353-84.]

Unlike various empirical sciences, this form of knowledge concerns the totality of being and metaphysical reality as well. In spiritual knowledge one attains a sense of unity and sympathy with nature, other humans, and transcendental reality. Spiritual knowledge relates humans to all created things as the mirrors of divine perfection. Such knowledge necessarily becomes inseparable from committed practice <p109> and encompassing love. It is a type of knowledge in which art, philosophy, science, religion, and other human faculties are harmonized and oriented toward the spirit of service and love.

In addition to being oriented to the totality of being, this exalted knowledge is also self-reflective and critical in nature (in the Kantian sense of {critique} as a process of self-reflection and selfknowledge).[26] In this way, spiritual knowledge is not a mechanistic reflection of some external phenomenon by the human subject. On the contrary, it is a critical process of self-realization and selfdiscovery.
.......... [26. See Immanuel Kant, {Critique of Pure Reason}.]

Beyond even that, spiritual knowledge is simultaneously a transformative process in which the subject of knowledge, namely the self, is fundamentally changed through the process of knowing. Realization of the self means a structural change in attitudes, goals, values, and priorities. It is a movement away from the logic of enslavement by immediate physical hedonistic and aggressive impulses, and a movement toward actualization of all the self's manifold potentialities. Selfconsciousness, consequently, implies freedom and the unity of the individual will with the divine will. The implication of this logic is that the ultimate evidence for the truth of this type of knowledge is the spiritualization of the life and activities of the subject. It is a knowledge that demands expression in a discourse of deeds rather than words.

Such knowledge is universal knowledge in the sense that, with the attainment of knowledge of the self, the wayfarer has also attained knowledge of the totality of reality. This is evident in the notion that the human being is the perfect mirror of the world. Knowledge of the self becomes knowledge of being in general. This self-knowledge is ultimately possible through knowledge of the Manifestation of God, who represents the Perfect Human Being in each particular age. Knowledge of the self through knowledge of the Manifestation of God becomes knowledge of one's own state of perfection or paradise. Finally, this knowledge, by its very nature, becomes a historically specific knowledge--a progressive knowledge in the context of progressive revelation. In Baha'u'llah's revelation, the center of that knowledge and the demonstration of its attainment is the principle of the oneness of humankind. <p110>

The metaphysics of reality that Baha'u'llah expounds in His early mystical writings lays the conceptual and ethical foundations for all His later social teachings. The direct connection between the metaphysical reality of oneness and the ethical orientation of unity that it entails is expressed concisely in the Hidden Words: "Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest" (Arabic Hidden Words 68). <p111>

The principal message of the Seven Valleys is that God’s Manifestation has appeared amongst humanity. This is the Good News awaited by the faithful for centuries and even millennia. This message is also for the mystics who would prepare themselves for their entire lives for just a glimpse of the Ancient Beauty.

The Islamic mystic Writings provide spiritual guidance to seekers in their quest for communion with God. The words of Bahá’u’lláh, on the other hand, are the words of the Divine proclaiming His Manifestation in this world and calling the believers to His Presence. This Good News, which in the Seven Valleys is at times wrapped in allegories and symbolic terms and at other times in lucid terms, is unmistakably clear if taken as a whole.

As the views of some Sufi extremists regarding their communion with God have become indistinguishable from Pantheism, Bahá’u’lláh makes it clear in this Treatise that union with God as described by Sufi extremists is unattainable. He redefines and restates the goal of the mystic quest as recognition of God’s Manifestation for the age and obedience to His laws, thus uniting the goals of the mystics and the faithful in their hopes and aspirations.

The Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, irrespective of the time-period, language, and form of composition all have a common purpose, and all contain elements of the Teachings of the Faith. As an example some of the Teachings that appear in the Seven Valleys and were elucidated in His subsequent Writings are outlined here:
• God is indescribable. All names and titles given to God relate to God’s Manifestations.
• The Manifestations of God are all one.
• Obedience to God’s commandments and recognition of His Manifestations at each age are both necessary for man’s salvation.
• Man is in need of God’s grace, bounty and spiritual guidance.
• The spiritual Worlds of God are innumerable.
• Man’s heart and soul becomes worthy of God’s grace when purified and cleansed from base desires and excessive materialism. The guidance given in the Seven Valleys prepares man to receive God’s grace.
• The ultimate goal of man’s spiritual progress is recognition of God’s Manifestation for the age.
• Man is essentially a spiritual being with material needs. Hence his happiness depends on the extent of his spiritual growth.
• Physical and spiritual truths are not absolute, but relative.
• Each man receives his portion of God’s grace and everyone is judged according to his or her own capacity.
• The prerequisite to success in one’s search after truth is the elimination of all forms of prejudices and blind imitation.
• Man must set his vision at the outcome of all things.
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Jul 2017
Kettering, Ohio USA
Tablet of All Food

He is Supremely Powerful in accomplishing that which He willeth through a command on His part. And He is God, Powerful over all things.

[1] Praise be to God Who hath caused Oceans of Light to surge in the Divine Fiery Water; excited the Letters of the Dispensation (huruf al-zuhur) in the Incomparable, Beclouded Point and made the Hidden Mount to revolve about the Firmament of the Theophany, the Concealed Self, the Focal Centre of Eternality. [2] He caused the Lordly Point to circle round the Most-Splendid, All-Enduring Ornament to the end, that all might testify that He is the True One; no God is there save Him. [3] He, verily, is the Incomparable, the One, the Eternal, Who neither begetteth nor is begotten. He can never be likened to any single thing. And He, God, is the Majestic, the All-Compelling.
[4] Praise be to God Who hath caused the Fiery Depths to overflow from the Purified, Sanctified Temple and made the Beauteous Deep to sprinkle forth refined, glorious Dewdrops. [5] He hath attracted the Countenances characterised by the letter "H" (al-ha') through the unique, eternal melodies and enabled the Light-filled Dove to sing forth with warblings timeless and everlasting. [6] This, to the end, that all might become aware that He is the True One; there is none other God besides Him, the Beneficent, the Almighty Who cannot be described by aught save His Essence or characterised by aught save His Eminence. He, verily, is the All-Powerful, the Wrathful.
[7] Praise be to God Who hath caused the Light to circle round the twin Mounts of His Light and made the Light to revolve around the twin Spheres of His Light. [8] He hath caused the Light to beam forth in the Loci of His Light and made the Light to be retained in the Repositories of His Light. [9] He hath also caused the Light to scintillate through the impulses of His Light and made the Light to shine resplendent in the Countenances of His Light.[10] Praise God! Praised be God! Worthy of praise is He Who establisheth His Own worth, for besides Him there is none other.

[1] So praised be Thou, O My God, O My God! Bereft of splendour am I, until I invoke Thee through Thy sanctified verses. No glory have I until I confide in Thee through Thine intimate Letters. [2] Without radiance am I until I experience Thee through the secrets of Thy Might. [3] And no lustre have I until I observe Thee in the hidden retreats of Thy Light.
[4] So praised be Thou, O My God, O My God! We failed to invoke Thee at the moment which Thou madest Me one saddened before the surging of the Deep Sea of Thy blissfulness and made Me one grieved in the land nigh unto the billowing of the Fathomless Deep of Thy Joyousness. [5] Likewise at the moment which, in Thy House, Thou madest Me one afflicted before the high courses of the Oceans of Thy Radiance.
[6] So praised be Thou, O My God, O My God! We failed to adequately bear witness unto Thee in that Thou hast testified before all things unto Thine Own Self, through Thine Own Self, for Thou, verily, art God, no God is there except Thee. [7] Eternally Thou hast rested upon the Throne of Glory and hath everlastingly been concealed by the essence of Bounty and Justice. [8] Eternally and everlastingly Thou wast hidden in the Image Thou hadst aforetime in the magnificence of Glory and Beauty. [9] Not a single person is capable of fathoming the fullness of Thine Interiority and no soul is able to describe the substance of Thine Identity. [10] Whenever the holy ones attempt to become acquainted with Thee, they subscribe to falsity in the holy court of the King of Thy Munificence. [11] And, as often as those who confess Thy Unity attempt to characterise Thee, they join partners with Thee at the intimate threshold of the Sovereign of Thy Might.
[12] So praised be Thou, O My God, O My God! Thou art the One who created Me free of affliction in Thy dominions and provided for Me in such wise that not an atom of misfortune befell me in Thy regions. [13] Such was the case, until Thou enabled Me to recognise Thy Remembrance and inspired Me as One acknowledging the truth for Thy sake; One obedient to His command as befits Thy Truth. [14] Thou art the One Who deposited in Mine inmost essence, a Lamp from Thy Being, by means of which Thy Self might become known. [15] It beamed forth in Thy Kingdom and I found a haven in the court of Thy Might until oceans of sadness surged over Me -- a mere drop of which no soul could bear to drink. [16]I wept to such an extent that the spirit well-nigh departed from My body. [17] I was so filled with anxiety that the Spiritual Beings were sorely troubled. I was overcome with sorrow so as to grievously distress the Luminous Ones. [18] And praise be to Thee, O My Beloved, on account of all that Thou madest to appear through Thy Power, ordained through Thy Will, decreed through Thy Judgement, and determined through Thy power of Accomplishment, for all these things are a pr oof of Thy Cause and a path unto the Sovereign of Thy Graciousness.
[19] So praise be to Thee, O My God, O My God! How can I call upon Thee through the wonders of Thy Remembrance when the Path to the gnosis of the boundary of Thine Essence is cut off? [20] And how can I not call upon Thee, in that Thou didst not create Me except for the remembrance of Thy benefits and the commemoration of Thy favours. So praise be unto Thee! [21] I, verily, stand before Thee unto Whom all bow down in adoration.
[22] So praise be to Thee, O My God, O My God! We failed to entreat Thee on those darkest of nights on which the Dove of the Command sang out on Mount Sinai, from the right side of the Crimson Tree, with the melodies of Thine Eternity; [23] or, during those lengthy periods of gloom, when the Light-filled Bird warbled beyond the veils of the realm of concealed Divinity with the warblings of Thy Perpetuity. [24] This inasmuch as Thou raised Me up unto the Heaven of the Unseen through the supremacy of the Sovereign of Thine Endless Permanency; [25] made Me to ascend unto the Horizon of Evident Attestation through the power of the King of Thy Divinity; [26] caused Me to be elevated unto the hidden retreats of Thy Oneness and ennobled Me through the meeting with Thy Countenance such that I came to abide in Thy sanctuary and found a haven in Thine Expanse. [27] I reclined upon cushions of Light through Thy bounty and rose up above the Heaven of Manifestation through Thy Munificence. [28] Thereby did My heart find peace, My soul comfort, My being delight and My essence equanimity, for thereby was I numbered among those who are assured through the meetingwith their Lord.

[1] O thou glorious enquirer who art set aglow through the Fire of the Friend! [2] Be thou assured that from the very first day that God aided Me through faith in Him and confirmation in His Cause, it was not my desire to respond to the enquiries of any among the servants. [3] But since I found in thy heart a fire from the Proof of God and a brand from the Light of the Manifestation of His Self, the ocean of My affection hath surged and it is My wish to reply to thee through the power and might of God. [4] My munificence overfloweth with the sprinklings of servitude in the Land of the Theophany, in order that the breezes of Light might attract thee unto the summit of exhilaration, and cause thee to attain that station which God hath decreed for thee in these days in which the winds of sorrow have encompassed Me on all sides. [5] This on account of that which the hands of the people have committed for they have calumniated me without proof or written testimony.[6] O Lord! Cast patience upon Me and make Me t o be victorious over the seditious people.
[7] Then know that for this paradisiacal verse [Q. ], this choice fruit, divine song and heavenly pearl, are subtle meanings endless in their infinitude. [8] I, by the grace and bounty of God, shall sprinkle upon thee something of the superabundance of its meanings that may serve as a memorial for the believers, a guiding light for the estranged, and a stronghold for the agitated. [9] Then bear thou witness that for "food" are diverse levels of meaning; it must suffice thee, however, that We expound four of them.
[10] It signifieth the realm of the Throne of He-ness (Hahut), the Paradise of the Divine Oneness. [11] None is capable of expounding even a letter of that verse relative to that Paradise. [12] This inasmuch as that realm is that of the Mystery of Endless Duration, the Unique Sonship, the Incomparable Israelicity and the Resplendent Selfhood. [13] Its exoteric aspect is the essence of its esoteric aspect and its esoteric aspect the essence of its exoteric aspect. [14] It is inappropriate that anyone should attempt to elucidate a single letter of it. [15] God, however, will disclose its mysteries when He willeth unto whomsoever He willeth.[16] And I, verily, in view of My injury and My misery am not informed of even a letter thereof. [17] This inasmuch as the matter cannot be related except on the part of God, its Fashioner and its Originator.
[18] So praise be unto God, its Creator and its Lifegiver above that which those who confess the Unity of God assert.[19] By He in Whose hand is My Soul! If oceans of Light should surge forth in that realm all who are in the heavens and on earth would assuredly be drowned; save, that is, a number of the Letters of this Dispensation (`Theophany'). [20] In this respect God beareth sufficient witness as regards both Me and thee.
[21] It signifieth the realm of the Paradise of Endless Duration, the Throne of the Divine Realm (Lahut), the Snow-White Light. [22] It is the realm of "He is He Himself" and there is none other save Him. [23] This Paradise is allotted unto those servants who are established upon the Seat of Glory, who quaff liquid camphor nigh unto the All-Beauteous One, and who recite the verses of Light in the Heaven of Manifest Justice. [24] Thereby are they enraptured and from that "food" derive comfort.
[25] It signifieth the Paradise of the Divine Unicity, the Golden [Yellow] Land, the Depths of realm of the Divine Omnipotence (Jabarut). [26] It is the realm of "Thou art He [God] and He [God] is Thou" allotted unto those servants who do not cried out e xcept with the permission of God; who act according to His command and ever restrain themselves in accordance with His wisdom [27] -- just as God hath described them [in the Qur'an] for they are the honoured servants of whom it is written: "They speak not till He hath spoken; and they do His bidding" (21:27).
[28] It signifieth the Paradise of Justice, the Verdent [Green] Land, the Fathomless Deep of Kingdom of God (Malakut) allotted to those servants whom "neither traffic nor merchandise beguile from the remembrance of God" (Qur'an 24:27) since they are the companions of the Light. 29] They enter therein with the permission of God and find rest upon the carpet of the Almighty.
[30] It signifieth the realm of the Paradise of the Divine Bounty, the Crimson Land, the Golden Secret, the Snow-White Mystery and the Point of human realm (Nasut). [31] In it are the proofs of the Remembrance greatest, if you are of those who are informed.

[1] Ah! Alas! Then Ah! Alas! If the Primal Point were alive in these days and witnessed My grief he would assuredly, at all times, comfort Me, treat Me tenderly, and fill Me with ardent joy. At every moment would he strengthen Me. [2] So Ah! Alas! Would that I had died after him, before these days, or were one quite forgotten, consigned to oblivion.
[3] Say: O Thou Concourse! Comfort me! Do not calumniate Me or hasten My affair for I am a servant who hath believed in God and in His signs [or verses], and there doth not remain of My days except a few.[4] God, My Lord, is sufficient protector against you since he sufficeth Me and sufficeth he whom he desired aforetime. [5] Sufficient is the careful account of His own Self. [6] Lord! Pour out patience upon Me and make Me victorious over the disbelieving peoples who do not cry out except in accordance with their own delusions or move except as their idle fancies prompt them. [7] Say: It is not for you to ask why it is this way for you neither comprehend nor understand.

[1] O Thou Faithful One! When the breezes of love spilled over from the right-side of the Sinaitic Tree you were turned to the right and to the left; [2] in that place, in the Cave of Light, you were protected with the permission of God, the Exalted, for He is God, Powerful over all things.[3] And you acknowledged and understood all that We expounded for you. Then bear witness that We desire to expound further.
[4] Then know that the significance of "food" is the essence of knowledge; that is, all branches of learning. [5] "Israel" signifieth the Primal Point and the "children of Israel" He whom God, on His part, made a Proof unto the people in these days. [6] " Except what Israel made unlawful for itself [or himself]"; that is, that which the Primal Point made unlawful for his elevated ones and his servants.
[7] Then bear witness that all that God decreed in the Book through His command and His power of interdiction is the truth about which there is no doubt. [8] It is incumbent upon all to act in conformity therewith and to assent thereto. [9] Let not the actions of those who have been spreading wickedness in the land veil you. They suppose that they are rightly guided.[10] Nay! By the Lord of the Realm of the Divine Cloud ! They are liars and calumniators. [11] The nature of that party is such that they should never be allowed to eat even barley in these days. [12] How then, can they possibly be allowed to eat what God hath forbidden in the Book? So praised be He, praised be He above that which the associators assert.

[1] O Thou Friend! Since you were irradiated through the orient light of the radiance of the splendours of the Morn of Eternity (subh al-azal) -- the lights of which [or, of whom] have filled the horizons [2] -- and been captivated by the winning ways of the Light of Endless Duration -- the traces of which [or, of whom] have appeared upon the Temples of the Orient Light -- [3] then know that the intention of "food" in these days in which the Sun shineth in the centre of Heaven and the Lamp of Eternality hath shed splendour upon the Luminary of the Realm of Divine Cloud, is none other than the Bearer of the Cause. [4] "Israel" in this connection, signifieth the Primal Will by means of which God created all who are in the heavens and on the earth and what is between them. [5] The "children of Israel" are those servants who were captivated by the Light of that Primal Will in the "year sixty" (= 1260 AH = 1844 CE) and thereafter until the "Day" on which He shall assemble the people before the Lord of the Worlds. [7] God desireth not that anyone be oppressed but the people wrong their own selves. [8] So know that the Light of God hath ever been established upon the Throne of Favour and will ever remain the like of what it was; though the people neither comprehend nor bear witness.
[9] Since We have lifted you up to the summit of the Mount of Light, elevated you to the peak of the Mount of Servitude in the Land of Exhilaration, [10] enabled you to drink deep of the Water of the Divine Oneness from the Camphor Fount at the hand of the All-Beauteous Joseph, [11] and given you rest in the Cradle of Tranquillity about which the Gladsome Ant sang forth -- therein your spirit enlivened, your soul delighted and your essence gladdened -- [12] then thank God Who created you aforetime by a command on His part and made you to be numbered among those servants who are rightly guided through the verses of God.

[1] Now, at this moment, I cease not to complain of my sorrow and anguish unto God for He alone acknowledgeth My anxiety, is aware of My plight and heareth My lamentation. [2] By He Who hath made the Bird of Light to soar in the Land of the Theophany! [3] None is to be found as dejected as I, for now do I dwell at the point of dust in obscure ignonimy. [4] There is no possessor of Spirit in the Dominion of God except he weepeth over Me to the degree that the heavens are well-nigh cleft asunder, the earth split open and the mountains levelled. [5] This inasmuch as the Eye of Time hath not seen anyone as oppressed as I. [6] And I, verily, have been patient and forbearing; have sat between the hands of God, trusted in Him and committed the affair unto Him, perchance He might comfort Me and protect Me from all that the people have committed.
[7] Then know, O Kamal! If I should expound that verse [Qur'an 3: 87] from this day until the days find their consummation in *al-mustaghath* ("the One Invoked for Help"; abjad 2001] -- which is the Day when the people will rise up before the Countenance of the Living One, the Wondrous, the extent to which God would favour me through His grace and bounty [with numerous explanations] could not be estimated. [8] This inasmuch as the Mystery of the Divine Oneness hath been set in motion, the Ocean of Endless Duration hath surged and the Countenance of Light in the Heavens of the Realm of Unknowing, hath beamed forth from the right side of the Tree of the Command.[9] This, in these days, in which the Sun of Manifestation hath risen in unique manner though the people are neither cognisant of its magnitude nor mindful of its subtlety.
[10] So Ah! Alas! If they [the people] could but perceive, the Proof would never be hidden from them nor the Favour be beyond their grasp. [11] Say: It is not for you to ask why it is so lest you join partners with God Who created you and aided you through a Light from before Him; if, that is, you are of those who truly believe.
[13] Give ear, O Kamal! to the voice of this lowly, this forsaken ant, that hath hid itself in its hole, and Whose desire is to depart from your midst, and vanish from your sight, by reason of that which the hands of men have wrought. [14] God, verily, ha th been witness between Me and His servants. God it is Who beareth witness unto Me in all respects.
[15] So Ah! Alas! If the Last Point, the Countenance of My Love, Quddus were alive he would assuredly weep over my plight and would lament that which hath befallen me. [16] And I, for My part, would at this moment beseech his eminence and supplicate his holiness that he would enable Me to ascend unto the court of His might and recline on the cushion of his sanctity as I was wont to do in those days [now past] when I was free of the aforementioned misfortunes. [17] O Lord! Cast patience upon Me and make Me to be victorious over the transgressors.

[1] O Thou Faithful One! If you be of those who dwell in the Snow-White Forest, the Isle of the Criterion (al-Furqan), then know that "food" signifieth the Guardianship (al-wilaya) which God decreed for His people. [2] The intention of "Israel" in this connection is the Point of the Criterion (al-Furqan) and of the "children of Israel" His trustees [= the Imams] who succeeded Him [Muammad] and by means of Whom God recompenseth His righteous servants.
[3] And if you be of those who dwell in the Crimson Isle, the Orchard of the Exposition (al-Bayan), then know that We abandon the "food" [of the Islamic wilaya?] and desire the Primal Point [the Bab], the Pure Wine of the Divine Oneness in an elevated station. [4] The intention of "Israel" in this connection is the Last Countenance [= Quddus ?], the Mystery of Endless Duration in an elevated station [5] and the Countenance of Light, the Disengaged Manifestation, the Temple of the Divine Oneness [= Mirz a Yahya?) in an elevated station whom the aggressors caused to be imprisoned in the land and concealed in the cities. [6] So praised be God above that which the hands of the People commit. And God is not unaware of the actions of the people.

[1] Since, at this moment, the fire of love surgeth in the heart of al-Baha [Bahá'u'lláh], the Dove of Servitude singeth in the Heaven of the Divine Cloud and the Bird (Hoopoe) of Light warbleth in the midst of the firmaments, [2]the Sinaitic Tree burneth of itself through the Fire of its own self above the Ark of the Testimony beyond Mount Qaf, [in] the Land of Realization,[3] and the Ant of Servitude hideth in the Vale of the Divine Oneness in this "Night" with mystic fidelity, wherefore do I desire to further expound that verse [Qur'an 3:87]. [4] This inasmuch as God hath, at this moment, informed me about it through His grace and bounty. And He, verily, is the Mighty, the Generous.
[5] Then bear witness that "food" signifieth the Ocean of the Unseen which is hidden in the Scrolls of Light and treasured up in the Inscribed Tablets. [6] "Israel" signifieth the Manifestation of the Command in these days and the "children of Israel" the people of the Bayan. [7] And that "food" was allowed for them [the Babis]; that is, for all who desire to ascend unto the Heaven of Bounty and to drink of the Water of Manifestation [or Pure Water] from that Cup, the Goblet of Servitude, which resembleth naught but a shadow in the land. [8] I, however, ask God's forgiveness on account of that limitation. So praised be God, One worthy of praise and mighty beyond the attempts of the negligent to describe Him.

[1] So Ah! Alas! If there should surge upon me a sprinkling from the Ocean of Divine Authorization from the Sovereign of the Realm of the Divine Cloud and King of Glory, [2] I would expound that verse [Q ur'an 3:87] with the accents of the spiritual ones, the sanctified myriads, and the melodies of the enraptured ones. [3] Since I have not inhaled, however, the fragrance of realization or accomplishment then that which I have already set forth for you mus t suffice you; for it is sufficient proof unto those who were, in the days of their Lord, given to remembrance.
[4] In view of the fact that you have sought and derived warmth from the Fire of Love and have found pleasure in the charm of the tra ce of ink in these apposite Tablets, then bear witness and be assured that I [Bahá'u'lláh] have claimed naught but servitude to God, the True One. [5] And God is my arbitrator against that which the people falsely allege.
[6] Say: `Woe unto you on account of that which your hands have committed; hereafter shall you be brought before the Knower of that which is hidden and that which is manifest [see Qur'an 9:106b] and assuredly, in this respect, be questioned.'
[7] Say: `O People of the Concourse! Be not astonished at the handiwork of God, the mercy of God and His blessings upon you, if you are of those who are informed. [8] Fear God! and know that the handiwork of God radiates forth in the image[s?] of the Lamp of Eternality among the artistry of the people. How is it that you neither consider this nor bear witness unto it?'

[1] Then Ah! Alas! By He Who hath restrained the dove of sorrow in the breast of al-Baha' [Bahá'u'lláh]! [2] All that I have witnessed from the day on which I first drank the pure milk from the breast of My mother until this moment hath been effaced from my memory in consequence of that which the hands of the people have committed. [3] And God is aware of all that p ertains to the people though they are not informed.
[4] Say: `O People of the Realm of the Divine Cloud! Issue forth from your habitations and present yourselves in the sanctum of Light, the manifest Divine Cloud, the most-great House of God, as hath been decreed, with the permission of God, the Exalted Who beareth witness, in the Tablet of the Heart.'

[1] I, verily, conclude this discourse in that the Dove of Light sang forth aforetime at the mom ent of its [His] arrival in the Land of Exhilaration and warbled with the accents of the heart. [2] And you know, O my beloved, that, for the sake of God, I desired authorization since patience, on account of my love for the unveiled beauty of God, had de parted from me. [3] And you know that a son of adultery wilfully desired to shed My blood.
[4] Nay, by the presence of Thy Might! I do not pledge allegiance unto him, either in secret or publicly. [5] It is God alone Who causeth the day of the spilling of My blood to draw nigh and when My tears shall be sprinkled upon the dust. [6] So, O would that this My day were the day of the shedding of my blood, for my ardent desire is for the soil. [7] So praised be God, One Worthy of Praise and Mighty, above that w hich the associators assert with respect to His description. And praise be to God, Wondrous Lord of all the Worlds.
Jul 2017
Kettering, Ohio USA
Bahá’u’lláh announces his intention of writing a treatise on the stages of the heart at the very end of “The Seven Valleys,” which he presents as a description of “the seven stages which the soul of the seeker must needs traverse ere it can attain the object of its existence” (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By 140). Whoever has entered into the seventh Valley, the Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness, has certainly reached a very important turning point in his/her spiritual life. That seeker has begun to learn how to forget limited personal self, how to concentrate human capacities on the Self of God, the divine Manifestation on earth, and how to submit personal will to the Will of God, as expressed by the Manifestation, through wholehearted adherence to God’s laws.
And yet Bahá’u’lláh says that although this Valley is reckoned by them “who soar in the heaven of singleness and reach to the sea of the Absolute... as the furthermost state of mystic knowers (‘árifán), and the farthest homeland of the lovers (‘áshiqán),” nevertheless it is just “the first gate of the heart’s citadel, that is, man’s first entrance to the city of the heart... (madíniy-i-qalb)” (Valleys 41). If the inner meanings of the word heart (Arabic: qalb; Persian: dil) are considered,3 this statement will become clearer: submission to the Manifestation of God through a strict adherence to divine laws is the indispensable prerequisite for anyone who wants to start exploring the mysterious expanses of his/her own heart, the seat of the inner Self.
Bahá’u’lláh goes on to announce that “the heart is endowed with four stages (chihar-i-rutbih)” and promises to describe them, “should a kindred soul be found” (Valleys 41). “The Four Valleys” is just this promised description.
The epistle begins with an exquisitely flourished prologue, which is not a mere homage to the classical Persian epistolary style. It also conveys at least two important spiritual concepts. The first one is that “faithfulness is a duty on those who follow the mystic way... [and] the true guide to His Holy Presence” (Valleys 48). “Faithfulness” translates the Arabic istiqámat, which conveys also the idea of perseverance. The second concept is that “it is contrary to the usage of the wise to express My regard anew...” (Valleys 48). A similar concept is also expressed in The Hidden Worlds: “The wise are they that speak not unless they obtain a hearing, even as the cup-bearer, who proffereth not his cup till he findeth a seeker, and the lover who crieth not out from the depths of his heart until he gazeth upon the beauty of his beloved” (34–35).
At the end of his prologue, Bahá’u’lláh abruptly introduces his main theme: “Those who progress in mystic wayfaring (samavát-i-sulúk) are of four kinds (chihar táyifih)” (Valleys 49). He presents them as wanderers who traverse four different Valleys, described as spiritual stations (maqám, rutbih). In each of these Valleys he describes “grades” (martibat) and “qualities” (alámat), as though implying that in each Valley the mystic wayfarer will continuously and gradually move towards his/her intended goal.
The travelers are called by different names in each of the Valleys: “travelers” (sálikán) in the First and in the Second, “loving seekers” (‘áshiqán, literally: lovers) in the Third, and “mystic knowers” (‘árifán) in the Fourth.4 They differ from each other because they have chosen different spiritual goals. Bahá’ u’lláh describes each of these goals through a divine attribute: “the goal of the Intended One” (ka‘biy-i-maqsúd), “the dwelling of the Praiseworthy One” (hujrihy-i-mahmúd), “the precincts of the Attracting One” (bayt-i-majdhúb), and “the beauty (the beauteous countenance) of the Beloved” (tal‘at-i-mahbúb), in each of the four Valleys respectively.
In reality these goals are but one and the same: God, as manifested in four of God’s infinite attributes. But for the wayfarers, their aiming at different attributes of God implies different attitudes. In fact each of these stations “appertaineth” to a different spiritual reality: “the self” (nafs) or more exactly “the Self of God” (nafsu’lláh), “the primal reason” (‘aql-i-kullí rabbánií) and “the beauty of love” (tal‘at-i-‘ishq) in the first three Valleys, “the apex of consciousness (‘arsh-i-faw’ád) and the secret of divine guidance” (sirr-i-rashad) in the fourth. Apart from the fourth Valley, which seems precluded to any human being, the others seem not to be mutually exclusive.
The first Valley, which is the station of the “self,” may be viewed as the spiritual path wherein knowledge of God is being sought through a correct use of will. The second Valley, which is the station of the “primal reason,” may be viewed as the spiritual path wherein knowledge of God is being sought through a correct use of the capacity of knowing. The third Valley, which is the station of the “beauty of love,” may be viewed as the spiritual path wherein knowledge of God is being sought through love.
Whereas the goal of the mystic path is usually considered as the annihilation of the self (Arabic: faná’, Persian: mahv), in the first Valley Bahá’u’lláh says that “the self (nafs) is not rejected but beloved; it is well-pleasing and not to be shunned” (Valleys 50).
The first spiritual quality that comes to mind while reading these words is “assertiveness,” as clearly defined by Linda Kavelin Popov: “Being assertive means to be positive and confident.... being aware that you are a worthy person created by God. You have your very own special gifts. Only you have your unique combination of qualities” (Virtues Guide 61). In fact Bahá’u’lláh states that this station belongs not to any “self” whatsoever, but to “The Self of God (nafsu’lláh) standing within Him with laws”7 (Valleys 50). Here the conditions are described under which the self, as concupiscible soul (an-nafsu’l-ammára), may be changed into a well-pleasing self, i.e., a “soul at rest” (an-nafsu’lmutma‘inna) (Qur’án 12:53; 89:27). These are the conditions under which the self as “individuality,” that is, as a potential nucleus of divine individual qualities within a person, may grow into an actual heavenly entity, a spiritually mature human being.
8 The material qualities of the natal or carnal self (an-nafsu’l-ammára) should be metaphorically killed, as Abraham’s “four birds of prey,” and replaced by the divine qualities of the spiritual self (an-nafsu’l-mutma‘inna). Bahá’u’lláh writes in one of his tablets: “All that which ye potentially possess can... be manifested only as a result of your own volition” (Gleanings 149). Therefore this stage could possibly be viewed as the stage of human will.
The beginning of this station “is the realm of conflict,” the conflict typical of a human being who is still unable to properly use his/her psychophysical entity, in order to produce spiritual thoughts, feelings, words, and deeds, mainly because that person has not yet made a definite choice between the material world into which he/she was born and the spiritual worlds towards which he/she is, albeit yet unconsciously, moving.
If the qualities of the self must be fully realized, we on the one hand should learn how to “read the book of [our] own self” (kitáb-i-nafs) (Valleys 51), i.e., our own personal qualities. On the other hand, we should never “forget God” (Valleys 52), i.e., we should always adhere to the divine laws, as expressed through the Manifestation of God. Self-knowledge on the one hand and knowledge of God on the other seem to be the prerequisites for the true realization of the self. The most important quality for these two goals to be attained is self-effacement (mahv). Only if the traveler is able to leave self behind, together with any passion and desire arising therefrom, will she/he be able metaphorically to fling herself/himself into the waves of the Sea of Grandeur, wherein will be discovered the concealed pearls of divine wisdom.
The Second Valley Knowledge is the distinctive quality of this Valley. Thus the goal of the wayfarer traversing this land is the Manifestation of God as Primal Reason, as “divine, universal mind (‘aql-i-kullí rabbání) whose sovereignty enlighteneth all created things (Valleys 52). Is not the Manifestation of God indeed described by Bahá’u’lláh as the Repository of all Knowledge? While describing this Valley, Bahá’u’lláh says how knowledge may be attained: knowledge is a gift of God. That is why “to search after knowledge is irrelevant...” (Valleys 53): it is only through fear of God and through God’s bounty that hearts will be enlightened. Being steadfast in the love of God and detached from “merchandise” and “traffic” (Valleys 53); that the heart may be prepared and “be worthy of the descent of heavenly grace” (Valleys 54); relying on God’s assistance and submitting to God’s will, with the assurance that “guided indeed is he whom God guideth...” —these are the prerequisites for anyone who wants to reap the fruits of true knowledge.
The path is not smooth; the traveler will experience “trial and reverse.” But at the end “the bounteous CupBearer” will “give him to drink of the wine of bestowal from the merciful vessel” and in this exhilaration, from “the lowest abyss” the wayfarer will be drawn “to the summit of glory” (Valleys 53, 54, 53). In fact the traveler, having attained “the true standard of knowledge” (Valleys 53), will be free from tests and will experience that return to God which Bahá’u’lláh assures us to be possible even during this earthly life.
The Third Valley The theme of love is the leitmotiv of this Valley. The goal is God as the Attracting One: the One Who draws all creatures to that Self. The seekers are defined as “loving seekers.” The reality ascribed to this Valley is “the beauty of love” (Valleys 54).
Detachment seems the most important quality so that the spiritual capacity of love may be used in the best way and the lover may attain the supreme object of desire: the Attracting One. Detachment from the self implies unconditional obedience to the commandments of God, as exemplified by the “companions of the Cave” (Valleys 55), who preferred to seclude themselves in an obscure cave, where death would have been their undoubted lot, rather than sacrificing to the pagan gods. Detachment from the self implies a spirit of sacrifice, wherefore no battle is too difficult or unwelcome when “fought in the cause of the Beloved” (Valleys 55). It implies detachment from “the reign of reason” (Valleys 55) and a willingness to accept any apparent insanity in the search of the pleasure of the Beloved.
To love means to be conscious of, and to surrender to, a powerful, irresistible attraction towards the Beloved. Only motion towards the Beloved brings peace to the heart. Any other experience is utterly irrelevant. Love demands a nearness, which appeases the longing heart, but only when it is so close as to imply a complete identification between the lover and the Beloved. It is like a humble drop of water merging with the mighty sea.
The spiritual adventures described in these three Valleys differ from each other only in their details; the major themes are common to all three. The traveler starts from a condition of conflict and trial, from which emergence will only be possible if the traveler initiates the independent action of cleansing the heart, through submission to the Will of God. Thus, with God’s assistance, the wayfarer will reach the goal of selflessness, wherein will she/he experience a condition of contentment and joy. However, for the goal of selflessness to be attained, the help of God is required.
Thus, if the starting points and the spiritual realities to which these three Valleys are ascribed are different, their courses do not seem so far from each other. A prerequisite is common to all three: forgetting the self by leaving behind anything the self has acquired that does not conform to the divine Will, by being ready to do anything so that the Beloved’s will may he realized, and by becoming the Beloved’s willing, conscious, and loving instruments.
Human beings differ from one another, and different human beings may excel in one or the other aspect of the willing, knowing, and loving capacities of their soul. And yet, the fulfilment of the purpose of human Life requires harmonious development of all these capacities.13 This is why it seems likely that each human being must have an experience of each of these three Valleys. Otherwise growth could be unbalanced.
The fourth Valley, describing as it seems to do, the lofty and unattainable condition of the Manifestations of God, could also suggest a hint of the glory of the goal of perfection towards which human beings should strive, albeit assured that such a perfection will never be theirs.
The opening words of the description of this Valley announce that it is different from the others. In those Valleys Bahá’u’lláh spoke of goals to be searched for, or of precincts within which “the loving seekers wish(ed) to live,” but here he describes “mystic knowers” (‘árifán) “who have [already] reached to the beauty of the Beloved One...” Their “station is the apex of consciousness and the secret of divine guidance” (Valleys 54, 57). Beyond this no one can go.
Bahá’u’lláh says very clearly that no human being can fully understand this condition. It is a “bottomless” and fathomless sea; “It is the blackest of nights...” (Valleys 58). And even those who know its secrets will explain them only if they meet true seekers, albeit conscious that by so doing they will be persecuted even to death. But in this stage there is no fear, neither of pain nor of death: there are only “full awareness,” “utter self-effacement,” and complete detachment (Valleys 60).
It is while Bahá’u’lláh describes this condition that he makes what Bausani defined as Bahá’u’lláh’s “confession” (Saggi 472) of divinity, having caught, like the Jacob of old, “the fragrance of His garment blowing from the Egypt of Bahá” (Valleys 59), Bahá’u’lláh is, ready to obey “the duty of long years of love” and give the announcement of his lofty station, so “that land and sky may laugh aloud today, / And it may gladden mind and heart and eye” (Valleys 60).
Such is the self-effacement in this station, that even love is perceived as “a veil betwixt the lover and the beloved,” and as a shroud that will lessen the joy of nearness to such a “beauty’s rose” (Valleys 60). Was not in fact the Manifestation of God described as “the Primal Veil of God,” a Veil above which “ye can find nothing other than God...” (The Báb, Selections 131)?
Bahá’u’lláh defines this Valley as “the realm of Absolute Command” (‘álam-i-amr) (Valleys 60), which among the divine kingdoms described by Islamic mystics is the realm wherein the divine Manifestations abide invested with their full authority over all created things.
Likes: Walrus
Jul 2017
Kettering, Ohio USA
The tablet is addressed to a Babi named H .a¯ji¯ Mi¯rza¯ Kama¯lu’d-Di¯n from the small town of Nara¯q in Iran. Kamalu’d-Din had become a Babi some years earlier and, after the death of the Bab, he had remained firm in his faith notwithstanding the persecutions of the Babis and the dissensions he witnessed among them. The state in which the Babi movement found itself preoccupied him greatly and became one of the reasons that impelled him to travel to Baghdad. His avowed aim was to encounter Mirza Yahya, who was then considered to be the nominal representative of the Bab, and ask him for clarifications on a number of points of exegesis and mysticism. Having arrived in Baghdad, Kamalu’d-Din found it impossible to find Mirza Yahya who lived in hiding for fear of being identified as a Babi leader and who refused to enter into contact with the Babi community. He then wrote to Baha’u’llah asking him to solicit from Mirza Yahya a commentary upon a verse of the Qur’an taken from the Su¯ra of ‘Imra¯n which says: ‘All food was lawful to the children of Israel except what Israel forbade to itself before the Torah was sent down.’5
Baha’u’llah transmitted Kamalu’d-Din’s letter to Mirza Yahya who wrote back an answer so superficial that his interlocutor lost all faith in his spiritual eminence. Kamalu’d-Din then turned to Baha’u’llah whose eminence and knowledge he had begun to catch a glimpse of. It is under these circumstances that Baha’u’llah revealed for him the tablet known today as the Tablet of All Food.6
After this long preamble, Baha’u’llah begins his commentary by explaining that the word ‘food’ has numerous meanings and these meanings can only be understood through the hierarchy of the four spiritual worlds. These four worlds are the worlds of Ha¯hu¯t, La¯hu¯t, Jabaru ¯t and Malaku ¯t.11 In other writings the name of Na¯su¯t appears as part of the hierarchy. It is the world of human beings (na¯s). It is not the physical world, but rather a psychological world in which we must fight our spiritual battles.
The world of Ha¯hu ¯t represents a station in which the essence of God remains unmanifested and totally veiled. On that ontological level, no other being exists but God. His singleness is total, and there is no creature to know Him. It is to this station of Hahut that the following words of the prophets apply: ‘“In the beginning was God; there was no creature to know Him” and “The Lord was alone; with no one to adore Him”.’13 The world of Hahut is a world outside of time and before any causation. In that world there is no first cause or cause of causes in contrast with the world of time where God has always been a creator and where there was always a creature to know Him. This is why he indicates that these words signify ‘that the habitation wherein the Divine Being dwelleth is far above the reach and ken of any one besides Him’.14
Baha’u’llah describes this world as the world of ‘He is’ (Huwa), and ‘the Paradise of the Absolute Unicity’ (Ah .adiyya).15 It is the Absconditum where no intelligence has ever penetrated. One refers to this world as to that of the ‘Hidden Mystery’ or the ‘Primal Point’, for the primal point (alnuqt .a al-awwaliyya) is the first singularity from which all has proceeded and that encompasses in itself all the potentialities of existence. It is the One who contains nothing but himself and from whom all the numbers have been engendered. God, in that world, is an unmanifested essence, for the essence manifests itself by attributes, but they are not yet distinct from the essence. The ancient philosophers made reference to this world as the world of the ‘One’.
Finally, the Hidden Treasure retains its mystery, for, contrary to what the majority of the thinkers and philosophers of the past have said, Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha do not identify the Primal Point or the One with the divine essence. For them, such expressions should be considered at best as images (tamthi ¯l) or mental representations (tas .awwura ¯t) used only to facilitate our comprehension. In one of his tablets, Baha’u’llah affirms that it is false to speak of God as One for that introduces already a sign of quantity, and God is above all numbers and all quantity.21
In the world of La¯hu ¯t, the attributes of God begin their unfoldment. The potentialities contained in the divine essence manifest themselves, but only within the boundaries of the divine essence. A distinction between the essence and the attributes can finally be made. Baha’u’llah describes this level of existence of the divine Manifestations as ‘the station of pure abstraction and essential unity’.22 At this level of existence, it is impossible to make any distinction between God and the divine Manifestations. The Manifestations exist only in total union with the essence of God. They have no individuality, no separate identity. They do not possess any other self but the divine self; this is the reason this world is called the kingdom of ‘He is He Who is and there is no other but Him’ (Huwa huwa wa la¯ ila¯ huwa).23 This world is the world of the first divine emanation (tajalli ¯), that is to say the Holy Spirit or the divine Word. The Word is the spiritual force God uses to create the world. The philosophers have named this spiritual force ‘Logos’ or ‘Nous’.
Baha’u’llah, in many passages of his writings, refers to the world of the divine Word as the invisible force that animates his manifestation and the inspiration that moves his pen. Sometimes he speaks of it as a totally divine world, external to himself, where the essence of God manifests itself as ‘the Lord of Lords’. Sometimes he describes the Word as manifesting itself through his own person and incarnating in him. This indicates two points of view, both of which are relative and neither of which is exclusive. In his writings Baha’u’llah frequently distinguishes these two ontological viewpoints. The western reader would be mistaken in believing that they are pure artifices of poetry. When, for example, Baha’u’llah refers to himself as ‘the Tongue of Grandeur’, or ‘the Most Exalted Pen’, he does not use simple poetic metaphors. Rather, such expressions introduce different ontological and metaphysical distinctions between him as a person and the Word for which he is the mouthpiece. Once he spoke from Lahut and at another time he spoke from the Jabarut. These ontological stations change the perspective he gives on reality and these expressions become precious indications that allow the spiritual and metaphysical meaning of such passages to unfold. There is no trace of his individual self, and any other vestige of his personal identity has vanished. The world of Lahut contains in potentiality all the other levels of existence and all the creatures of these worlds.
Only the divine Manifestation has access to the world of Lahut. The divine dove and the mystical nightingale are other personifications of the world of Lahut. It is from this world that divine inspiration descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove on the day of his baptism and the angel Gabriel who appeared to Muhammad is another personification of that world. In the writings of Baha’u’llah, the prophetic inspiration is sometimes symbolized by a dove or a nightingale, sometimes by a virginal and angelic creature which is called a H .u ¯ri ¯. Like the dove on the day of Jesus’ baptism, this celestial Huri appeared to Baha’u’llah in the Siya¯h-Cha¯l at the moment in which he received the first intimation of his prophetic mission. It is important to note that the Huri does not represent an actual vision. Rather it should be taken as an image depicting in symbolic terms the mystical experience of the prophetic inspiration that results from total union with God.
Below the world of Lahut comes the world of Jabaru ¯t, a world in which nothing exists but the divine will (Jabr). In this world one finds only God and His Manifestations. At this level of existence divine Manifestations leave the level of the fused union of essences, which is particular to Lahut, and acquire individual existences. Baha’u’llah describes this level of existence of the divine Manifestations as ‘the station of distinction’ which pertains ‘to the world of creation and limitation thereof’ and which is characterized by ‘differentiation, temporal limitation, characteristics and standards’.27 In this world, the Manifestations become the channels of the divine will. They are the archangels of which the Mosaic tradition speaks. To them is applied the formula ‘Thou (the Manifestation) art He (God) and He (God) is thee (the Manifestation)’.
Baha’u’llah refers to this world using various expressions such as ‘the Kingdom of unity’ (Wa¯h .idiyya), ‘the most exalted Paradise’, ‘the Paradise of Justice’, ‘the Tabernacle of Glory’ or ‘the world of divine decrees’, for in this world there exists only the decree (qad .a ¯) of God, and it is by this decree that the divine Manifestation speaks and acts. Through the power of Jabarut the divine decree rules over the world, for the Word of God always prevails in the end. The divine decrees are the spiritual laws that will never be changed. They constitute the fundamental order hidden behind the reality of all things, the source of all knowledge, human or divine. Whoever has attained complete understanding of these laws has entered paradise and has grasped the ultimate reality of unity, for true unity is the unity of will between the creature and the Creator. Baha’u’llah also speaks of this world as the ‘World of Command’ (‘a¯lam al-amr),29 for it is by this command (amr) that all the creatures (khalq) have come into existence. The ‘World of Command’ is distinguished from the ‘World of Creation’, or ‘Created World’ (‘a¯lam al-khalq), by the fact that the World of Command is the world of divine justice, while the World of Creation is the world of mercy; for without the divine mercy, the creatures, because of their imperfection, could not subsist.
Jabarut is also the world of the Mother Book (umm al-kita¯b) and of the Preserved Tablet. The Mother Book and the Preserved Tablet represent the quintessence of revelation (wah .y), the spiritual laws that are eternal. The Mother Book represents the divine knowledge that the Manifestations share with God in the world of Jabarut. When in the Tablet of Ahmad Baha’u’llah says of the Baya¯n that ‘It is the Mother Book’, he does not mean that the Bayan is uncreated or contains laws that cannot be changed, rather he means to confirm the inspirational status of the book as part of the divine revelation. The Bayan is part of the same truth that is revealed again and again. In Jabarut the revelation exists independently of all human knowledge; it has no need of the garment of words and is not submitted to the contingency that characterizes the created world. When the divine Manifestation transmits the divine revelation to men, he gives it a contingent form that is the form of human language. In the Baha’i Faith the concept of revelation goes far beyond the revealed words of the holy books. The distinction made by Baha’u’llah between his revelation and his writings appears clearly in this passage:
Say: The First and Foremost testimony establishing His truth is His own Self. Next to this testimony is His Revelation. For whoso faileth to recognize either the one or the other He has established the words He hath revealed as proof of his reality and truth.34
The concept of revelation not only includes the words revealed by the prophets but his deeds and his lasting influence on the world. Revelation is a power at work in God’s creation. It is the source of the progress of humankind and the cause of transformation of society. It can influence people even when they have never read Baha’u’llah’s writings or heard of his message. Thus the Mother Book does not represent the prototype of any particular book, but the matrix from which all the revealed books have been issued forth, the knowledge that God shares with His Manifestations and which is common to all dispensations.
The Preserved Tablet, which Baha’u’llah sometimes calls the Tablet of Chrysolite,35 has an even greater meaning. It is upon this tablet that the divine decrees (qad .a ¯ ) are inscribed and consequently it becomes the source of the knowledge of the past and of the future. It is the symbol of the omniscience of the divine Manifestations and of the omnipotence of God. Omniscience and omnipotence should be considered as two aspects of the same reality of the Jabarut and it is from that source that the Manifestations derive their knowledge and power. The ‘divine Pen’ (qalam-i ila¯hi ¯ ) becomes then the expression of this omnipotence for this is the pen that registers the divine decrees; at the same time the pen is a symbol of omniscience for it is the channel of revelation. There is a clear association between the idea of ‘pen’ and the idea of ‘tablet’, which are both personifications of the Jabarut. Shoghi Effendi wrote: ‘The Preserved Tablet is a spiritual expression and has no actual existence. It sometimes refers to the Manifestation Himself, Whose knowledge encompasses the knowledge of the former and the latter generations.’36
The world of Malaku ¯t, which is situated below Jabarut, is the angelic kingdom of those souls to whom God has revealed Himself in the splendour of His ‘greatest manifestation’ (al-maz .har al-akbar).37 In the Tablet to Varqa¯ Baha’u’llah has given us a striking description of this world. He explains that the term Malakut covers two significances. The first concerns the Manifestation and the second ‘the world of images’ (‘a¯lam al-mitha ¯l) which is an intermediary world between Jabarut and the human world of mortality (Nasut), between ‘the heavens’ and ‘the earth’. It is in Malakut that the soul resides, for the soul is an essence (jawhar) and essences never leave the world of essences.
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