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In keeping with past spiritual traditions, this traveller’s search for hope will take you across seven valleys and up seven mountain ranges, each addressing one of the critical dimensions of a world in crisis.
Like all meaningful quests, that journey becomes absolutely necessary if you want to find true hope in our world.
First you will cross the desert-valley of blind souls — where individuals are crawling over each other for power and wealth — before scaling the mountains of long-term vision, integrated knowledge and evolving systems. Here you will acquire the shield of ethics and the values necessary to defend yourself along this journey.
Then you will pass through the second valley, with the threatening jungle of environmental crises. You will edge along the precipices of planetary boundaries, catastrophe threatening at every turn, before hiking up towards the peaks of environmental sustainability.
Beyond is the third valley, a social wasteland of the wealthy who live in castles besieged by the masses of the poor and disempowered. Here you will pass a dangerous crossing which will conduct you to the foothills of community building and up the path of social action to the mountains of justice and unity.
The strength acquired on this journey will equip you to face the fourth valley, which is filled with fire and smoke. Here the perilous quicksand of a materialist economy and a consumer society will threaten to suck you ever deeper into debt. But, beyond this valley rise the majestic peaks of the social economy, richly forested with work – work that is done in the spirit of service.
The experiences and trials of these valleys will help you to traverse the fifth valley, which is crisscrossed with canyons of self and ravines of corruption, so that you can begin to climb the cliffs of altruism and scale the heights of service to humanity.
As you continue in your search for greater reality, the sixth valley is filled with the mists of vain imaginings from which you must find your way towards the high plateau of inevitable human limitations. But it is here that you will glimpse a view of the unattainable universe of higher realities and infinite potentials.
From there you enter the seventh valley, wherein lie visions of the future that are within your reach, inspiring your steps ever upward on this Earth while refining your character and contributing to an ever-advancing civilization. The higher you go, the greater the vistas of the emerging world civilization stretching out before you and beckoning to future generations.
While your individual journey will only contribute to a short span of social progress, along with billions of others your fulfilment will come from the inner qualities you have acquired during your quest and the bricks you will lay in the edifice of the new civilization yet to come:
… that the world of mankind shall be saved from the ordeals of ignorance, blindness and spiritual death. Then will you behold light upon light, joy upon joy, absolute happiness reigning everywhere, the people of the religions consorting together in fragrance and felicity, this world in its maturity becoming the reflection of the eternal Kingdom … – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 441.
Preparing for your journey
A word of warning: as with any voyage, you should not begin overburdened with excess baggage – which you will only have to abandon along the way.
We all start out with inherited assumptions about the world and about ourselves, transmitted by our parents or unconsciously absorbed from our community and the media, perhaps also including a long-standing religious tradition or political perspective. In this journey, you need to be ready to question – not to reject everything in a violent gesture of liberation – but to bring to the surface and re-examine each assumption and preconception in an act of independent investigation of truth, so that what you keep is your own and forms a coherent whole, upon which you can rely throughout your journey:
God has not intended man to imitate blindly his fathers and ancestors. He has endowed him with mind, or the faculty of reasoning, by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth, and that which he finds real and true he must accept. He must not be an imitator or blind follower of any soul. He must not rely implicitly upon the opinion of any man without investigation; nay, each soul must seek intelligently and independently, arriving at a real conclusion and bound only by that reality. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 291.
Equipped with the spirit of independent investigation, a moral compass and signposts for this journey, you can set out with confidence and hope, undeterred by the pessimists and nay-sayers or the fearful and jealous, empowered with the strength to take responsibility for your own destiny.
Arthur Lyon Dahl’s new book In Pursuit of Hope, A Guide for the Seeker, published by George Ronald Books, is available here.