Reading a beautiful tale of a lover’s search for his beloved, from the Baha’i Writings, sparked Kate’s own spiritual search — and offered her a blueprint of how to continue on that path.
In this episode of “Moments of Meaning,” Sean Hinton speaks to Kate Glastonbury, who was born and raised in Wagga Wagga, Australia, and now works in international development in Sydney. As a young woman in the mid-90s, Kate briefly lived in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia — a place that had just come out of Soviet rule and that was, Kate says, “similarly new to the world as I was.”
Kate became friends with Sean around this time, and he frequently shared with Kate passages from the writings of the Baha’i Faith, a religion Kate had heard of before but had never looked into very deeply. “I always had a spiritual life and a connection with God and prayer, and my belief in God was always important to me,” Kate says. “But I guess I wasn’t finding an avenue for that.”
Kate remembers one evening when she was visiting Sean in Ulaanbaatar: “Things were changing after a long, hard, cold, Mongolian winter. The days became really long. It was a warm evening… And we were sitting in your apartment and you read this passage to me.”
Here is an excerpt from the passage Sean read to Kate — a short story about a man’s desperate search for his beloved, written by Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith in his book “The Seven Valleys”:
There was once a lover, it is said, who had sighed for long years in separation from his beloved, and wasted in the fire of remoteness. From the rule of love, his breast was void of patience and his body weary of his spirit; he reckoned life without her as a mockery, and the world consumed him away… The doctors knew no cure for him, and companions avoided his company; yea, physicians have no remedy for one sick of love, unless the favour of the beloved deliver him…
Then one night he could bear life no more, and he left his house for the marketplace. On a sudden, a watchman followed after him. He broke into a run, with the watchman in swift pursuit; then other watchmen came together and barred every passage to the weary one… His feet carried him on—that hapless one bleeding with the arrow of love—while his heart lamented. Then he came to a garden wall, and with untold pain and trouble he scaled it. He saw that it was very high; yet, forgetting his life, he threw himself down into the garden.
And there he beheld his beloved with a lamp in her hand, searching for a ring she had lost…
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.
Something about this story — an allegory for an individual’s search for Divine Truth — struck a chord in Kate. “I just remember being completely carried away, I felt like I had gone to a different spiritual plane… I definitely felt so enamoured by this passage.” Even after she went home that night, Kate felt a new, powerful sense of purpose. “I knew that this was something so profound that it required my response; that this was the truth that I was being given and that I had a responsibility to it, that I couldn’t just hear these words and remain who I was. That I had to follow them and understand the implications for my life.”
Kate opens up about how that search continued, and how the story of the lover and his jump over the garden wall informed the steps she took on that path towards discovery. Sean also explains what attracted him to that passage in the first place, and why he decided to share it with her.
Looking back, Kate feels that this story affected her so deeply because it mirrored what she was going through at that moment in her life. “At the time, I wouldn’t have thought about it as a path of search,” she says. “But in hindsight, that was what was happening.”
“Moments of Meaning” is a podcast where Sean Hinton speaks to people from all walks of life whose lives have been profoundly affected by the writings of the Baha’i Faith. They share the quotes that inspired them and delve into the story of that moment of meaning and the powerful changes it caused.
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