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Seasons of the Soul:
Reflections on "The Seven Valleys of Bahá'u'lláh" - The Valley of Search

by Hedi Moani

published in The Family: Our Hopes and Challenges
Rosebery: Association for Baha'i Studies Australia, 1995
An ancient Maori proverb poses the question:
"What in life, is of the greatest importance?"
And the voice of the Ancestors, the Concourse on high, make reply:
"it is people, it is people, it is people!"

Man, the crown of creation, the image of God, and the heir to His Kingdom, is the custodian of the spark of the Infinite, and the repository of "the secrets of pre-existence."[1] In his possession, he has the priceless treasures of the human soul, and it is through the unfoldment of the latent potentialities of the soul, that his life finds its meaning, and his heart attains to abiding joy!

The Seven Valleys of Bahá'u'lláh depicts the journey of the soul, longing to reunite with the Object of its Quest; the Cause of All Causes, and the Creator of men and angels. In a masterpiece of mystical prose, the Pen of Glory explores this pivotal theme of Divine Revelation; relating the story of the seeker's spiritual odyssey "from the abode of dust to the heavenly homeland",[2] and his sojourn from the planes of remoteness to the verdant meadows of nearness and presence. With haunting words and gem-like utterances, Bahá'u'lláh describes the seven stages of the wayfarer's progress, each endowed with its unique character, prescribed challenges, and essential attributes.

The flame of hope in the seeker's heart is ever fuelled by his matchless depictions of the ultimate goal:

"This most great, this fathomless and surging ocean is near, astonishingly near unto you. Behold, it is closer to you than your life-vein! Swift as the twinkling of an eye ye can, if ye but wish it, reach and partake of this imperishable favour, this God-given grace, this incorruptible gift, this most potent and unspeakably glorious bounty."[3]

Through the revelation of "sacred and resplendent tokens"[4] the ancient mariner uncovers the treasure maps of the soul, and beckons the seeker to embark the Crimson Ark, and journey the uncharted waters of destiny; perchance he may find this glorious prize, and attain to the object of his innermost longings:

"Hear Me, ye mortal birds!

In the rose garden of changeless splendour a flower hath begun to bloom, compared to which every other flower is but a thorn, and before the brightness of whose glory the very essence of beauty must pale and wither".[5]

He, moreover, calls the traveller "to a station wherein" he shall "see nothing in creation save the Face" of "the Beloved One", while sounding a note of caution, that

"until the wayfarer taketh leave of self, and traverseth these stages, he shall never reach to the ocean of nearness and union, nor drink of the peerless wine."[6]

The first stage is:

The Valley of Search

"The steed of this valley is patience; without patience the wayfarer in this journey will reach nowhere and attain no goal".[7]

Consider the parable of the pearl; witness how the lowly oyster, through effort and patience, and over a long passage of time, is able to transform a grain of worthless sand into a pearl of great beauty and perfection; and how, the transient existence of a mere seashell, is thus immortalised in the imperishable lustre of a priceless treasure! In like manner, the sand-grains of adversity, ordained for the training of the soul, once subjected to the elixir of trust and detachment, yield the golden fruit of patience, sustaining the seeker through the seasons of the soul! Having bartered the ephemeral for the eternal, enduring all things, the wayfarer at the end, wins both the wager and the day; and his fortitude, at long last, is richly rewarded!

Seeking a Thing with Zeal

"On this journey the traveller abideth in every land, and...in every face he seeketh the beauty of the Friend...he joins every company and seeketh fellowship with every soul...that haply in some face he may behold the beauty of the Loved One."[8]

Emulating the Majnun of love, he seeks his Beloved ceaselessly, as life without her is void of meaning, and existence bereft of purpose! With the "entire affection" of his heart, and the "full force" of his "mighty wings", he pursues the Layli of his longing, confirmed in the truth of the verse; "Whoso seeketh out a thing with zeal shall find it."[9]

The God-intoxicated hero, forsaking the icons of imitation, sets aflame the harvest of reason at the altar of longing. Freed from the shackles of human learning, and cognisant of the truth that, in this valley, "whatever he hath seen, and heard, and understood,... availeth him nothing,"[11] the wayfarer abandons the edifice of worldly wisdom for the pavilions of the inner mysteries of Divine Utterance, and barters the pitiful husk of acquired knowledge, for the potent wine of the vineyard of God's Revelation.

The seeker's goal is to enter the city of Love, and partake of the "honey of reunion". He aims to ascend the heights of ecstasy promised by the verse:

"If we taste of this cup, we shall cast away the world",[12] and yields to the enticing invitation; "Ascend unto My Heaven, that thou mayest obtain the joy of reunion, and from the chalice of imperishable glory quaff the peerless wine".[13]

He hearkens to the enchanting melodies of "the naked glory"' of the "everlasting candle", calling its "moth-like lovers", to "brave every danger,...strip yourselves of every earthly affection, and with a zest that none can equal...hasten to embrace your Beloved."

To Cast away the World

"O SON OF BEING!

If thine heart be set upon this eternal, imperishable dominion, and this ancient, everlasting life, forsake this mortal and fleeting sovereignty."[15]

By the "world", "mortal sovereignty," and the like is meant such inordinate attachments to the transient features of this earthly life, that impede the progress of the soul towards its Creator. Should a man, however, live in utmost comfort, and partake of all the benefits this world could offer, and yet disallow such conditions to deflect his heart from its noble quest, or lessen his devotion to the paths of righteousness, such wealth and pleasures could in no wise harm him! Ponder, on the other hand, the pitiful plight of him, "who gains the whole world, but loses his own soul!",[16] exchanging "the garden of eternal delights for the dust-heap of a mortal world!"[17]

The Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh, bear ample testimony to the greatness of the soul, its wondrous powers, and incomparable worth. Of the station of the martyrs, sacrificing this life, for life here-after, the pen of Glory inscribes these choice words of wisdom:

"To tinge thy hair with thy blood is greater in My sight than the creation of the universe, and the light of both worlds."[18]

And again, pointing to the wealth of heavenly virtues gifted to the human soul, the seeker is reassured by the utterance:

"O YE SONS OF SPIRIT!

Ye are my treasury, for in you I have treasured the pearls of My mysteries and the gems of My knowledge".[19]

Having lost sight of his true spiritual destiny, man is in this day, in relentless pursuit of the material world, fain convinced that therein lies the key to his happiness and eternal salvation. Having grasped this handful of dust, he is utterly oblivious of Bahá'u'lláh's admonition that:

"The world is but a show, vain and empty, a mere nothing, bearing the semblance of reality, set not your affections upon it."[20]

Naught but the potency of the Word of God, and His wondrous Revelation, can in this day, revive the human soul or refresh the withered flower of man's heart; transmuting the base metal of his earthly nature into the pure gold of heavenly virtues and divine perfections. Elevating the seeker's sight to the horizon of God's boundless favours, the Great Spirit probes deep into the mystery of man's creation:

"Praise be to God, Who hath made being to come forth from nothingness; graven upon the tablet of man the mysteries of pre-existence;...to the end that every man may testify in himself, by himself, in the station of the manifestation of His Lord, that verily there is no God save Him, and that every man may thereby win his way to the summit of realities, until none shall contemplate anything whatsoever but that he shall see God therein."[21]

In the "Tablet of the World", the honeyed tongue of the Ancient of Days invites the wayfarer to a banquet of incomparable delights:

"O My Servant!

Were ye to discover the hidden, the shoreless ocean of My incorruptible wealth, ye would of a certainty, esteem as nothing the world, nay the entire creation."[22]

The force that propels the seeker in the valley of search is none other than the passion and potency of his love for God. The tender plant of his soul is in perpetual longing for the company of the Sun of Truth, and the unfoldment of his soul, its maturity and perfection are solely dependant on this energizing communion; deprived of this, naught remains, but the desolation and despair of the winter-land of remoteness! Little wonder, then, at the emphatic assertion of the Peerless Friend, saying:

"To the true lover reunion is life and separation is death, a myriad lives he would forsake to hasten to the abode of the Beloved."[23]

Purity Of The Heart

"O SON OF SPIRIT!

My first counsel is this; possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting."[24]

In a celebrated passage of the Book of Certitude, once again the Author of the Bahá'i Revelation affirms the sanctity of the heart as a pre-condition of the journey:

"When a true seeker determines to take the step of search in the path leading to the knowledge of the ancient of Days, he must before all else cleanse and purify his heart, which is the seat of the revelation of the inner mysteries of God, from the obscuring dust of all satanic fancy."[25]

On the wings of trust and detachment, free from the fetters of "vain desires", and the entanglements of "envy and hate", the seeker soars in "the heavens of Divine knowledge";[26] a knowledge born of the understanding of his own true self. With the eagle eyes of spirit he observes the brevity of this earthly life; ponders its vicissitude, and reflects the eventual decay of all idols of man's earthly affections! The Phoenix of his soul, seeks a more lofty goal; a purpose timeless; and an aspiration worthy of the excellence of his noble creation! This glorious destiny is none other than the acquisition of heavenly virtues and divine attributes, drawing him ever nearer to the Courts of the Most High! Confirming this, the Tongue of Grandeur utters these words of consummate wisdom:

"I...have ordained for your training every atom in existence, and the essence of all created things..."[27]

Body and Soul

In this path, the traveller is in constant conflict with the duality of his own existence. To him, the world of matter is of little import, and the world of spirit all-consuming! He walks "the spiritual path, with practical feet", and as a nightingale of affection, content with meagre sustenance, warbles the melodies of rapture in the rose garden of perpetual praise. The paradox of his being is akin to the life of a tree; its roots anchored to the earth below, its limbs rise to bathe in the sunshine of heavenly delights, growing ever closer to the source of life and light!

The seeker's goal is to gain, in this brief span of three score years and ten, a life immortal, joys imperishable, and boundless favours. His aim is to consort with the inmates of Heaven, and partake of the potion of ecstasy in the realms of infinite bliss. This to him is the chosen path, the wise counsel, and the consummation of the innermost longings of his heart. Enraptured, he climbs the "mount of faithfulness"; and approaching the pavilions of light, enters the Courts of His presence, and gazing upon the Face of the Friend, exclaims:

Behold the beauteous countenance of the long lost Joseph!

"Night hath succeeded day, and day hath succeeded night, and the hours and moments of your lives have come and gone, and yet none of you hath, for one moment, consented to detach himself from that which perisheth. Bestir yourselves, that the brief moments that are still yours may not be dissipated and lost."[28]

No Remnant of Love or Hate

The Divine Educator, unfurling the standard of the true seeker, states:

"He must so cleanse his heart that no remnant of either love or hate may linger therein, lest that love blindly incline his to error, or that hate repel him away from the truth."[29]

The sanctity of his soul rejects inordinate attachment to the outdated traditions of a by-gone era; and the loftiness of his intent, eludes the company of vain and prideful people. He neither seeks the praise of his peers, nor does he let the words and deeds of a self-seeking generation sap the foundation of his belief in God. He shuns the excessive pursuits of an immoderate age, and flees from blind imitation, thus safeguarding his inner sight, in anticipation of beholding the glory of the Immortal Face! In this valley the wayfarer is witness to the toils and sorrows of a humanity bereft of spiritual vision; caught in the web of rancour and hate, tearing at the garment of civilization, disrupting the delicate fabric of man's ordered life, and endangering his finest accomplishments, and his only home. The seeker, therefore, discarding such pitfalls of ignorance, clings firmly to the cord of fairness and impartiality:

"lest...love blindly incline him to error, or...hate repel him away from the truth"[30]

He washes "away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vain-glory", and abides by the binding counsel to:

"cling to patience and resignation, observe silence, and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smouldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison."[31]

AROHANUI

This work is dedicated to the memory of the late Mrs Emily Easy, who was the first to introduce me to the love of Bahá'í literature in English.
      Devonport NZ, June 1994


References

'Abdu'l-Bahá

    Tablets Of The Divine Plan
Bahá'u'lláh (1976), Gleanings From The Writings of Bahá'u'lláh:
    (3) p326
    (5) p320
    (14) p321
    (20) p328
    (22) p323
    (28) p321
Bahá'u'lláh (1975), The Seven Valleys And The Four Valleys:
    (1) p1
    (2) p4
    (4) p3
    (6) p4
    (7) p5
    (8) p7
    (9) p7
    (11) p7
    (12) p7
    (21) p2
Bahá'u'lláh (1975), The Hidden Words:
    (13) AHW61
    (15) AHW54
    (17) PHW39
    (18) AHW47
    (19) AHW69
    (23) PHW4
    (24) AHW1
    (27) PHW29
Bahá'u'lláh (1950), The Kitáb-i-Íqán:
    (25) p192
    (26) p192
    (29) p192
    (30) p192
    (31) p193
The Holy Bible (King James): (16) Mathew: 16-26
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