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The Seven Valleys, Baha’u’llah’s mystical treatise on the spiritual path, encourages us all to detach from this material world and attach our hearts to a higher reality:
O friend, the heart is the dwelling-place of eternal mysteries: Make it not the home of fleeting fancies. Waste not the treasure of thy precious life occupied with this swiftly passing world. Thou comest from the world of holiness: Bind not thine heart to the earth. Thou art a dweller in the court of reunion: Choose not the homeland of the dust. – Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, in The Call of the Divine Beloved, pp. 44-45.
Unlike the Sufi traditions out of which it grew, and which claim that a union with God is possible, The Seven Valleys focuses more on reunion and union with those messengers of God that come to guide humanity—as opposed to God directly, who the Baha’i teachings see as largely unknowable. Baha’u’llah alludes to his own role and station as a messenger of God in The Seven Valleys, but also wrote that:
… God, in His Essence, is sanctified above all ascent and descent, egress and regress; He hath through all eternity been exalted beyond the attributes of His creation, and will ever remain so. – Ibid., p. 32.
The Seven Valleys offers an enormous amount of wisdom and insight for reflection, but I’d just like to focus on a couple of stories and metaphors that particularly resonate with me, and which seem to offer some practical wisdom for our day-to-day lives.
The “Valley of Wonderment,” for example, features a theme of dreaming—and a reflection on its role in understanding the mysteries of the life beyond:
One of the created phenomena is the dream. Behold how many secrets have been deposited therein, how many wisdoms treasured up, how many worlds concealed. Observe how thou art asleep in a dwelling, and its doors are shut; on a sudden thou findest thyself in a far-off city, which thou enterest without moving thy feet or wearying thy body. … And perchance when ten years have passed, thou wilt witness in this temporal world the very things thou hast dreamt tonight. …
Consider the difference between these two worlds, and the mysteries they conceal, that, attended by divine confirmations, thou mayest attain unto heavenly discoveries and enter the realms of holiness. – Ibid., pp. 42-43.
Perhaps you might want to think about this the next time you have a déjà-vu experience!
Baha’u’llah included another well-known story in the “Valley of Knowledge” about a lover who pined for many years for his lost beloved and searched for her everywhere. Heartsick and dejected, one night he left his home for the marketplace and a watchman started to chase him, barring his every escape. He cursed the watchman, viewing him as the angel of death. The chase led him, eventually, to a garden wall, which he scaled with great difficulty. But, on the other side of the wall, he finally found his beloved who was searching by lamplight for a ring she had lost. Baha’u’llah wrote:
Now if the lover could have seen the end, he would from the beginning have blessed the watchman, prayed God on his behalf, and seen his tyranny as justice; but since the end was veiled to him, he lamented and made his plaint in the beginning. Yet those who journey in the garden land of true knowledge, since they see the end in the beginning, behold peace in war and conciliation in enmity. – Ibid., p. 25.
At an individual level, this perhaps provides us with a good lesson in taking the longer view—to try and see the end in the beginning. In this fleeting physical life, the Baha’i teachings encourage us to look ahead to the next phase, and to plan for that approaching spiritual existence.
The “Valley of Unity” also contains some really helpful metaphors, which explain spiritual concepts more clearly. The sun, Baha’u’llah pointed out, bestows life on all things, but how it manifests to each of those things may appear differently. The rays of the sun would look different if it shone through red or yellow glass, for example:
These variations proceed from the object itself, not from the light. And if a place be shut away from the light, as by walls and a roof, it will be entirely bereft of the light of the sun and deprived of its rays. – Ibid., p. 29.
So what does this metaphor mean? What it says to me is how we each reflect a divine light differently and/or can shut ourselves off from an ever-present spiritual sunshine: “How strange that the Beloved is as visible as the sun and yet the heedless still hunt after tinsel and base metal,” Baha’u’llah says at the end of The Seven Valleys. He calls whoever may listen to another way.
This article is adapted from Zárrin Caldwell’s Podcast on “The Soul Salons: Exploring our Spiritual Heritage,” which you can find here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/280970