Reality, Soul and
the Worlds of God
III. The Reality of the Soul – Understanding Your True Self
E. The Life Path of the Soul
8. The Soul’s Pursuit of its Objectives and Highest Potentials
b. The Path or Journey of the Soul
[Compiler’s Note: The reader may want to study the compilation Fire and Gold
, for quotes about how tests influence the soul’s growth and development. The treatment of this topic is too large to encapsulate herein. The reader may also want to look back at Section I. E. “How to Perceive Reality.
i. The Seven Valleys
[from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh:]
[Compiler’s note: The reader may want to study the whole book. These are just a few arbitrarily chosen excerpts to give the reader a sense of the general flow of the soul’s journey, as Bahá’u’lláh wrote of it to a Sufi mystic.]
The stages that mark the wayfarer’s journey from the abode of dust to the heavenly homeland are said to be seven. Some have called these Seven Valleys, and others, Seven Cities. And they say 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. The first is The Valley Of Search
. The steed of this Valley is patience; without patience the wayfarer on this journey will reach nowhere and attain no goal.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, pp. 4-5)
It is incumbent on these servants that they cleanse the heart—which is the wellspring of divine treasures—from every marking, and that they turn away from imitation, which is following the traces of their forefathers and sires, and shut the door of friendliness and enmity upon all the people of the earth.
In this journey the seeker reacheth a stage wherein he seeth all created things wandering distracted in search of the Friend.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, “The Valley of Search”, pp. 5-6)
The true seeker hunteth naught but the object of his quest, and the lover hath no desire save union with his beloved.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, “The Valley of Search”, p. 7)
And if, by the help of God, he findeth on this journey a trace of the traceless Friend, and inhaleth the fragrance of the long-lost Joseph from the heavenly messenger1
, he shall straightway step into The Valley of Love
and be dissolved in the fire of love.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, “The Valley of Search” and “The Valley of Love”, pp. 7-8)
1(Refer to the story of Joseph in the Qur’án and the Old Testament)
The steed of this Valley is pain; and if there be no pain this journey will never end. In this station the lover hath no thought save the Beloved, and seeketh no refuge save the Friend.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, “The Valley of Love”, p. 8)
Love setteth a world aflame at every turn, and he wasteth every land where he carrieth his banner. Being hath no existence in his kingdom; the wise wield no command within his realm. The leviathan of love swalloweth the master of reason and destroyeth the lord of knowledge.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, “The Valley of Love”, p. 10)
“Love’s a stranger to earth and heaven too;
In him are lunacies seventy-and-two.”
(Bahá’u’lláh quoting Jalálu’d-Dín Rúmí, a Persian Súfí poet, in the Mathnaví: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, “The Valley of Love”, p. 10)
Wherefore must the veils of the satanic self be burned away at the fire of love, that the spirit may be purified and cleansed and thus may know the station of the Lord of the Worlds.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, “The Valley of Love”, p. 11)
And if, confirmed by the Creator, the lover escapes from the claws of the eagle of love, he will enter The Valley of Knowledge
and come out of doubt into certitude, and turn from the darkness of illusion to the guiding light of the fear of God. His inner eyes will open and he will privily converse with his Beloved; he will set ajar the gate of truth and piety, and shut the doors of vain imaginings. He in this station is content with the decree of God, and seeth war as peace, and findeth in death the secrets of everlasting life. With inward and outward eyes he witnesseth the mysteries of resurrection in the realms of creation and the souls of men, and with a pure heart apprehendeth the divine wisdom in the endless Manifestations of God. In the ocean he findeth a drop, in a drop he beholdeth the secrets of the sea.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, “The Valley of Love” and “The Valley of Knowledge”, pp. 11-12)
After passing through the Valley of knowledge, which is the last plane of limitation, the wayfarer cometh to The Valley of Unity
and drinketh from the cup of the Absolute, and gazeth on the Manifestations of Oneness.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, “The Valley of Knowledge” and “The Valley of Unity”, p. 17)
And the wayfarer, after traversing the high planes of this supernal journey, entereth The Valley of Contentment
. In this Valley he feeleth the winds of divine contentment blowing from the plane of the spirit. He burneth away the veils of want, and with inward and outward eye, perceiveth within and without all things the day of: “God will compensate each one out of His abundance.”1
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, “The Valley of Unity” and “The Valley of Contentment”, p. 29)
After journeying through the planes of pure contentment, the traveler cometh to The Valley of Wonderment
and is tossed in the oceans of grandeur, and at every moment his wonder groweth. Now he seeth the shape of wealth as poverty itself, and the essence of freedom as sheer impotence.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, “The Valley of Contentment” and “The Valley of Wonderment”, p. 31)
At every moment he beholdeth a wondrous world, a new creation, and goeth from astonishment to astonishment, and is lost in awe at the works of the Lord of Oneness.
Indeed, O Brother, if we ponder each created thing, we shall witness a myriad perfect wisdoms and learn a myriad new and wondrous truths.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, “The Valley of Wonderment”, p. 32)
After scaling the high summits of wonderment the wayfarer cometh to The Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness
This station is the dying from self and the living in God, the being poor in self and rich in the Desired One. Poverty as here referred to signifieth being poor in the things of the created world, rich in the things of God’s world. For when the true lover and devoted friend reacheth to the presence of the Beloved, the sparkling beauty of the Loved One and the fire of the lover’s heart will kindle a blaze and burn away all veils and wrappings. Yea, all he hath, from heart to skin, will be set aflame, so that nothing will remain save the Friend.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, “The Valley of Wonderment” and “The Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness”, pp. 35-36)
In this Valley, the wayfarer leaveth behind him the stages of the “oneness of Being and Manifestation” and reacheth a oneness that is sanctified above these two stations. Ecstasy alone can encompass this theme, not utterance nor argument; and whosoever hath dwelt at this stage of the journey, or caught a breath from this garden land, knoweth whereof We speak.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, “The Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness”, p. 39)
These journeys have no visible ending in the world of time, but the severed wayfarer—if invisible confirmation descend upon him and the Guardian of the Cause assist him—may cross these seven stages in seven steps, nay rather in seven breaths, nay rather in a single breath, if God will and desire it. And this is of “His grace on such of His servants as He pleaseth.”1
They who soar in the heaven of singleness and reach to the sea of the Absolute, reckon this city—which is the station of life in God—as the furthermost state of mystic knowers, and the farthest homeland of the lovers. But to this evanescent One of the mystic ocean, this station is the first gate of the heart’s citadel, that is, man’s first entrance to the city of the heart; and the heart is endowed with four stages, which would be recounted should a kindred soul be found.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, pp. 40-41)
ii. Gems of Divine Mysteries
Know thou of a truth that the seeker must, at the beginning of his quest for God, enter the Garden of Search. In this journey it behoveth the wayfarer to detach himself from all save God and to close his eyes to all that is in the heavens and on the earth. There must not linger in his heart either the hate or the love of any soul, to the extent that they would hinder him from attaining the habitation of the celestial Beauty. He must sanctify his soul from the veils of glory and refrain from boasting of such worldly vanities, outward knowledge, or other gifts as God may have bestowed upon him. He must search after the truth to the utmost of his ability and exertion, that God may guide him in the paths of His favour and the ways of His mercy. For He, verily, is the best of helpers unto His servants. He saith, and He verily speaketh the truth: “Whoso maketh efforts for Us, in Our ways shall We assuredly guide him.”1
And furthermore: “Fear God and God will give you knowledge.”2
In this journey the seeker becometh witness to a myriad changes and transformations, confluences, and divergences. He beholdeth the wonders of Divinity in the mysteries of creation and discovereth the paths of guidance and the ways of His Lord. Such is the station reached by them that search after God, and such are the heights attained by those who hasten unto Him.
When once the seeker hath ascended unto this station, he will enter the City of Love and Rapture, whereupon the winds of love will blow and the breezes of the spirit will waft. In this station the seeker is so overcome by the ecstasies of yearning and the fragrances of longing that he discerneth not his left from his right, nor doth he distinguish land from sea or desert from mountain. At every moment he burneth with the fire of longing and is consumed by the onslaught of separation in this world. He speedeth through the Paran of love and traverseth the Horeb of rapture. Now he laugheth, now he weepeth sore; now he reposeth in peace, now he trembleth in fear. Nothing can alarm him, naught can thwart his purpose, and no law can restrain him. He standeth ready to obey whatsoever His Lord should please to decree as to his beginning and his end. With every breath he layeth down his life and offereth up his soul. He bareth his breast to meet the darts of the enemy and raiseth his head to greet the sword of destiny; nay rather, he kisseth the hand of his would-be murderer and surrendereth his all. He yieldeth up spirit, soul, and body in the path of his Lord, and yet he doeth so by the leave of his Beloved and not of his own whim and desire. Thou findest him chill in the fire and dry in the sea, abiding in every land and treading every path. Whosoever toucheth him in this state will perceive the heat of his love. He walketh the heights of detachment and traverseth the vale of renunciation. His eyes are ever expectant to witness the wonders of God’s mercy and eager to behold the splendours of His beauty. Blessed indeed are they that have attained unto such a station, for this is the station of the ardent lovers and the enraptured souls.
And when this stage of the journey is completed and the wayfarer hath soared beyond this lofty station, he entereth the City of Divine Unity, and the garden of oneness, and the court of detachment. In this plane the seeker casteth away all signs, allusions, veils, and words, and beholdeth all things with an eye illumined by the effulgent lights which God Himself hath shed upon him. In his journey he seeth all differences return to a single word and all allusions culminate in a single point. Unto this beareth witness he who sailed upon the ark of fire and followed the inmost path to the pinnacle of glory in the realm of immortality: “Knowledge is one point, which the foolish have multiplied.”3 This is the station that hath been alluded to in the tradition: “I am He, Himself, and He is I, Myself, except that I am that I am, and He is that He is.”3
In this station, were He Who is the embodiment of the End to say: “Verily, I am the Point of the Beginning”, He would indeed be speaking the truth. And were He to say: “I am other than Him”, this would be equally true. Likewise, were He to proclaim: “Verily, I am the Lord of heaven and earth”, or “the King of kings”, or “the Lord of the realm above”, or Muḥammad, or ‘Alí, or their descendants, or aught else, He would indeed be proclaiming the truth of God. He, verily, ruleth over all created things and standeth supreme above all besides Him. Hast thou not heard what hath been said aforetime: “Muḥammad is our first, Muḥammad our last, Muḥammad our all”? And elsewhere: “They all proceed from the same Light”?
In this station the truth of the unity of God and of the signs of His sanctity is established. Thou shalt indeed see them all rising above the bosom of God’s might and embraced in the arms of His mercy; nor can any distinction be made between His bosom and His arms. To speak of change or transformation in this plane would be sheer blasphemy and utter impiety, for this is the station wherein the light of divine unity shineth forth, and the truth of His oneness is expressed, and the splendours of the everlasting Morn are reflected in lofty and faithful mirrors. By God! Were I to reveal the full measure of that which He hath ordained for this station, the souls of men would depart from their bodies, the inner realities of all things would be shaken in their foundations, they that dwell within the realms of creation would be dumbfounded, and those who move in the lands of allusion would fade into utter nothingness.
Hast thou not heard: “No change is there in God’s creation”?4 Hast thou not read: “No change canst thou find in God’s mode of dealing”?5 Hast thou not borne witness to the truth: “No difference wilt thou see in the creation of the God of Mercy”?6 Yea, by My Lord! They that dwell within this Ocean, they that ride upon this Ark, witness no change in the creation of God and behold no differences upon His earth. And if God’s creation be not prone to change and alteration, how then could they who are the Manifestations of His own Being be subject to it? Immeasurably exalted is God above all that we may conceive of the Revealers of His Cause, and immensely glorified is He beyond all that they may mention in His regard!
Great God! This sea had laid up lustrous pearls in store;
The wind hath raised a wave that casteth them ashore.
So put away thy robe and drown thyself therein,
And cease to boast of skill: it serveth thee no more!
If thou be of the inmates of this city within the ocean of divine unity, thou wilt view all the Prophets and Messengers of God as one soul and one body, as one light and one spirit, in such wise that the first among them would be last and the last would be first. For they have all arisen to proclaim His Cause and have established the laws of divine wisdom. They are, one and all, the Manifestations of his Self, the Repositories of His might, the Treasuries of His Revelation, the Dawning-Places of His splendour and the Daysprings of His light. Through them are manifested the signs of sanctity in the realities of all things and the tokens of oneness in the essences of all beings. Through them are revealed the elements of glorification in the heavenly realities and the exponents of praise in the eternal essences. From them hath all creation proceeded and unto them shall return all that hath been mentioned. And since in their inmost Beings they are the same Luminaries and the self-same Mysteries, thou shouldst view their outward conditions in the same light, that thou mayest recognize them all as one Being, nay, find them united in their words, speech, and utterance.
Wert thou to consider in this station the last of them to be the first, or conversely, thou wouldst indeed be speaking the truth, as hath been ordained by Him Who is the Wellspring of Divinity and the Source of Lordship: “Say: Call upon God or call upon the All-Merciful: by whichsoever name ye will, invoke him, for He hath most excellent names.”7 For they are all the Manifestations of the name of God, the Dawning-Places of His attributes, the Repositories of His might, and the Focal Points of His sovereignty, whilst God—magnified be His might and glory—is in his Essence sanctified above all names and exalted beyond even the loftiest attributes. Consider likewise the evidences of divine omnipotence both in their Souls and in their human Temples, that thine heart may be assured and that thou mayest be of them that speed through the realms of His nearness.
I shall restate here My theme, that perchance this may assist thee in recognizing thy Creator. Know thou that God—exalted and glorified be He—doth in no wise manifest His inmost Essence and Reality. From time immemorial He hath been veiled in the eternity of His Essence and concealed in the infinitude of His own Being. And when He purposed to manifest His beauty in the kingdom of names and to reveal His glory in the realm of attributes, He brought forth His Prophets from the invisible plane to the visible, that His name “the Manifest” might be distinguished from “the Hidden” and His name “the Last” might be discerned from “the First”, and that there may be fulfilled the words:
“He is the First and the Last; the Seen and the Hidden; and He knoweth all things!”8 Thus hath He revealed these most excellent names and most excellent names and most excellent words in the Manifestations of His Self and the Mirrors of His Being.
It is therefore established that all names and attributes return unto these sublime and sanctified Luminaries. Indeed, all names are to be found in their names, and all attributes can be seen in their attributes. Viewed in this light, if thou wert to call them by all the names of God, this would be true, as all these are one and the same as their own Being. Comprehend then the intent of these words, and guard it within the tabernacle of thy heart, that thou mayest recognize the implications of thine inquiry, fulfil them according to that which God hath ordained for thee, and thus be numbered with those who have
attained unto His purpose.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gems of Divine Mysteries, paragraphs 36-47, pp. 27-36)