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Developing our soul is a journey — one that requires our attention, focus, and diligence. Thankfully, the Baha’i writings offer helpful, spiritual insights into every stage of this journey.
Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote that “the stages that mark the wayfarers’ journey from their mortal abode to the heavenly homeland are said to be seven. Some have referred to them as seven valleys, and others, as seven cities.” These “seven valleys” symbolize the seven stages of spiritual growth and development that we must undergo in order to become closer to God.
Baha’u’llah explained “that until the wayfarer taketh leave of self and traverseth these stages, he shall never attain the ocean of nearness and reunion...”
Stage 1: The Valley of Search
The Valley of Search is the first stage of our spiritual growth. In order to traverse this stage, we need to have patience, because without patience, we “will reach nowhere and attain no goal.”
At this stage, we purify our hearts from all attachments and resolve to no longer perpetuate destructive patterns that result from blind imitation. Baha’u’llah added:
No bond shall hold them back and no counsel deter them.
We need to labor in our search for God and demonstrate ardent zeal if we are going to find Him. We should seek the beauty of our Creator everywhere, humbly seeking “fellowship with every soul, that haply in some heart [we] may discern the” secrets of God. And then, with the help of the Almighty, we may enter the next stage of our spiritual development — the Valley of Love.
Stage 2: The Valley of Love
Kindle the fire of love and burn away all things;
Then set thy foot into the land of the lovers.
When our spirits are aglow with the fire of the love of God, we are cleansed, refined, and free from the veils of our lower nature. In this stage, we become oblivious of ourselves, as our spiritual powers become heightened and all of our thoughts are centered on the divine.
Pained by our separation from God, we understand that we can only seek refuge in what is godly. Baha’u’llah explained:
A lover feareth nothing and can suffer no harm: Thou seest him chill in the fire and dry in the sea.
And, if God confirms our love, we may reach the Valley of Knowledge.
Stage 3: The Valley of Knowledge
At this spiritual stage of our growth, we “come out of doubt into certitude, and turn from the darkness of wayward desire to the guiding light of the fear of God.”
Our “inner eye will open” and we will communicate with God, unlocking “the gates of truth” and shutting “the doors of idle fancy.” We are content with what God has decreed, understanding that God gives us tests to make us stronger. So, we strive to have patience during our suffering and “see the end in the beginning.”
As Baha’u’llah wrote:
If thou be a man of communion and prayer, soar upon the wings of assistance from the holy ones, that thou mayest behold the mysteries of the Friend and attain the lights of the Beloved…
Then we may leave this last stage of limitation and arrive at the first stage of unity.
Stage 4: The Valley of Unity
At this stage of our spiritual maturity, we realize how our perceptual filters may have limited us from viewing reality through the light of oneness.
Casting away our biases and preconceived notions, we, as Baha’u’llah instructed, “looketh upon all things with the eye of Unity, and seeth the effulgent rays of the Sun of Truth shining from the dayspring of the Divine Essence upon all created things alike, and beholdeth the lights of Unity reflected upon all creation.”
We understand that there is one human race and that there is a sign of God in every living being. We also recognize the truth of all religions, knowing that God has never left us alone and has sent different prophets, or Manifestations of God, to reveal divine messages to humanity throughout history. These Manifestations include Abraham, Zoroaster, Moses, the Buddha, Krishna, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, the Bab, and Baha‘u’llah.
Baha’u’llah revealed what happens when we gaze through the lens of oneness. He wrote:
With the ear of God he heareth; with the eye of God he beholdeth the mysteries of divine creation. …He stretcheth forth the hand of truth from the sleeve of the Absolute and revealeth the mysteries of divine power.
He seeth in himself neither name nor fame nor rank, but findeth his own praise in the praise of God, and in the name of God beholdeth his own.
Once we complete this stage of our spiritual journey, we will find peace and contentment.
Stage 5: The Valley of Contentment
In the Valley of Contentment, our sorrow turns to joy, and our “anguish and dejection” gives way to “delight and rapture.” Baha’u’llah wrote:
For on this plane the traveller witnesseth the beauty of the Friend in all things. In fire he seeth the face of the Beloved; in illusion he beholdeth the secret of reality; in the attributes he readeth the riddle of the Essence.
For he hath burnt away all veils with a sigh, and cast aside all coverings with a glance. With piercing sight he gazeth upon the new creation, and with lucid heart he graspeth subtle verities.
After we behold the mysteries of inner meanings and experience pure contentment, we will arrive at the next level of our spiritual maturity — the Valley of Wonderment.
Stage 6: The Valley of Wonderment
At this stage of our spiritual journey, we are in awe of the beauty and grandeur of God, as our wonder increases at every moment.
…he beholdeth a wondrous world and a new creation, and goeth from astonishment to astonishment, and is lost in awe before the new handiwork of Him Who is the sovereign Lord of all. Indeed, O brother, if we ponder each created thing, we shall witness a myriad consummate wisdoms and learn a myriad new and wondrous truths.
And the dream world is an example of one of the wonderous phenomena that we should ponder. Our dreams are the depository of secrets and the treasury of wisdom. In the dream world, we hear without our ears, see without our eyes, and speak without our tongues. Sometimes, our dreams might even foretell the future.
“Now there are many wisdoms to ponder in the dream, which none but the people of this valley can comprehend in their reality.” Baha’u’llah wrote, “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.”
God gave us signs like the dream world, so we couldn’t deny the mysteries of the afterlife, nor belittle what we’ve been promised. After we scale the “summits of wonderment,” we come to the final stage of our spiritual development — the Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness.
Stage 7: The Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness
This station is that of dying to the self and living in God, of being poor in self and rich in the Desired One. Poverty, as here referred to, signifieth being poor in that which pertaineth to the world of creation and rich in what belongeth to the realms of God.
When we reach the presence of God, His radiant beauty — and the fire of the love of God in our hearts — will burn away all the veils that had previously shut us out from Him. Whoever enters this stage will become sanctified from everything that pertains to this world.
This is the station where, as Baha’u’llah revealed, “the divine Countenance, dawning above the horizon of eternity, riseth out of the darkness; and the meaning of ‘All on the earth shall pass away, but the face of thy Lord’ is made manifest.” So, he urged us to “listen with heart and soul to the songs of the spirit.”
It’s important to keep in mind that, throughout our journey of spiritual development, we can’t stray “a hair’s breadth from the Law…” Our obedience to the teachings of God enables us to “be informed of the mysteries of Truth.” May we all advance through these stages of our spiritual growth, forgetting ourselves and becoming ablaze with the love of God.
These journeys have no visible ending in this temporal world, but the detached wayfarer—should invisible confirmation descend upon him and the Guardian of the Cause assist him—may traverse these seven stages in seven steps, nay rather in seven breaths, nay even in a single breath, should God will and desire it.