FOUR VALLEYS OVERVIEW


The Word of God may be likened unto a sapling,
 whose roots have been implanted in the hearts of men. 
It is incumbent upon you to foster its growth...  
so that its root may become firmly fixed
 and its branches may spread out as high as the heavens and beyond.

- Baha'u'llah -



Dear Angels,

What follows is of necessity a very limited effort to decipher one of Baha'u'llah's most mystical texts, THE FOUR VALLEYS, His peerless depiction of the last four stages of the soul's journey to God after the ones He described and named THE SEVEN VALLEYS.

In this, Baha'u'llah has us transcend the conventional perception that the pinnacle of perfection is achievement of the SEVENTH VALLEY, the Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness.

"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."

Cannot we see in this a CLAIRION CALL to pursue our growth to the heights of what our soul is enabled to ascend to when we genuinely embrace His Ways, but which are seldom attained?

That essay, being lengthy and quite complex, please ensure you first read Baha'u'llah's description of each Valley before beginning to read our text to make it more intelligible and permit a host of insights to flood your consciousness.

Let's get started.


INTRODUCTION TO THE FOUR VALLEYS

Assuming the reader is already familiar with The Seven Valleys of Baha'u'llah preceding His Four Valleys, let us nevertheless recall the dramatic ending of THE SEVENTH VALLEY, as it concerns every devoted believer and aptly depicts the caliber of the travelers whose lofty flights we will soon witness:

"O My friend! Many a hound pursueth this gazelle of the desert of oneness; many a talon claweth at this thrush of the eternal garden. Pitiless ravens do lie in wait for this bird of the heavens of God, and the huntsman of envy stalketh this deer of the meadow of love."

As history amply demonstrates and as Baha'u'llah confirms here, the stings of misunderstanding, malice or jealousy are inevitably pointed at God's beloveds for what they have dared to offer Him so sacrificially in completing this Valley, stings perceptible by the mystic companions who also see with the eye of God and who are requested to shield these fiery hearts from their undeserving ill fortune and even death. Not infrequently in vain...

"O Shaykh! Make of thine effort a glass, perchance it may shelter this flame from the contrary winds; albeit this light doth long to be kindled in the lamp of the Lord, and to shine in the globe of the spirit. For the head raised up in the love of God will certainly fall by the sword, and the life that is kindled with longing will surely be sacrificed, and the heart which remembereth the Loved One will surely brim with blood. How well is it said:

Live free of love, for its very peace is anguish;
Its beginning is pain, its end is death.

Peace be upon him who followeth the Right Path!"

This point made, we can move on to the subject at hand, THE FOUR VALLEYS, where Bahá'u'lláh's introduction has its own special significance since it could be seen as a recommendation to sustain a Communion of Saints as a helping hand in the fierce struggle ahead.

"I am wondering why the tie of love was so abruptly severed, and the firm covenant of friendship broken." Then reporting the Qur’án, Baha'u'llah reminds his addressee: "Have they not told thee that faithfulness is a duty on those who follow the mystic way, that it is the true guide to His Holy Presence? “But as for those who say, ‘Our Lord is God,’ and who go straight to Him, the angels shall descend to them….”

Then comes the moment when Baha'u'llah presents his next treaty to His Sufi friend.

"O My eminent friend! Those who progress in mystic wayfaring are of four kinds. I shall describe them in brief, that the grades and qualities of each kind may become plain to thee."

The reference to four "kinds" of travelers, when He had previously indicated four "stages", may well suggest that a certain type of attitude or behavior is required for each of the Valleys to come, while the word "stages" would imply that once this is acquired, the next stage is at hand, which will be confirmed subsequently.


THE FIRST VALLEY


In this first stage, "the travelers seek after the goal of the Intended One (maqṣúd)."

But are they truly primed for this sanctuary of sanctuaries?

They will at some point, the guarantee being that "Although at the beginning, this plane is the realm of conflict, yet it endeth in attainment to the throne of splendor."

The conflict alluded to is well described at the end of The Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness. It concerns the remains of the "four birds of prey" which must be eradicated thoroughly:

“Free thyself from that which thy passion desireth; then advance unto thy Lord.”

“Purify thyself from all else save Him, that thou mayest surrender thy life in His love.”

“Draw back from the threshold of the True One if thou still possessest earthly attributes.” '

“Take off from thyself the wrappings of limitations, that thou mayest come to know what thou hast not known of the states of Sanctity.”

Passion... Attachment... Earthly attributes... Limitations... or else said:

Káf... Kuffi... Jím... and Shín...

Vestiges to obliterate one by one.

To that end, let's review some of the helpful hints provided in previous Valleys or in the other Writings of Baha'u'llah.

Passion...

"...in consequence of the efforts which every man may consciously exert and as a result of the exertion of his own spiritual faculties, this mirror can be so cleansed from the dross of earthly defilements and purged from satanic fancies as to be able to draw nigh unto the meads of eternal holiness and attain the courts of everlasting fellowship."

In this line of thought :

"He said: « O Son, if thou art able not to sleep, then thou art able not to die. And if thou art able not to waken after sleep, then thou shalt be able not to rise after death.» "

Attachment...

"...were He to decree the sea to be land, or to pronounce earth to be heaven, or that the former lieth above the latter or below it, or to ordain any change or transformation, for He, verily, is aware of the celestial mysteries, the unseen subtleties, and the ordinances of God."

Earthly attributes...

"O friend, the heart is the dwelling of eternal mysteries, make it not the home of fleeting fancies; waste not the treasure of thy precious life in employment 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 nearness—choose not the homeland of the dust."

Limitations...

"...draw thee from the realms of contradiction unto the retreats of oneness, and to lead thee to the sacred streams of His Law. Perchance thou mayest quaff therefrom, repose therein, quench thy thirst, refresh thy soul..."

Isn't the word "law" the guiding thread of this Valley?

Isn't the complete submission to God's commands, its viaticum?

"In all these journeys the traveler must stray not the breadth of a hair from the “Law,” for this is indeed the secret of the “Path” and the fruit of the Tree of “Truth”; and in all these stages he must cling to the robe of obedience to the commandments, and hold fast to the cord of shunning all forbidden things, that he may be nourished from the cup of the Law and informed of the mysteries of Truth."

It thus becomes apparent that the one who claims to be beyond divine ordinances, above "religion", can hardly be called a traveler:

"If the travelers seek after the goal of the Intended One (maqṣúd), this station appertaineth to the self—but that self which is “The Self of God standing within Him with laws.”"

Once this first milestone is reached, knowing where to set foot is almost indispensable in such an enigmatic environment. The following offers insights.

"One must, then, read the book of his own self, rather than some treatise on rhetoric. Wherefore He hath said, “Read thy Book: There needeth none but thyself to make out an account against thee this day.”"

"The death of self is needed here, not rhetoric: Be nothing, then, and walk upon the waves."

But how to uncover one's deepest reality? How to look inside oneself without the veil of the ego?

Self-knowledge is apprehended in two different ways: spiritually or intellectually. With the Mind or with the mind. In the first case lies our liberation; in the second, the trap of the ego.

"The knower straightway flung himself into the waves, but the grammarian stood lost in his reasonings..."

In different words, "Silence the mind and the spirit will speak," as it often happens during meditation and while dreaming, where the lessons of the spirit rather than human reasoning helps perceive one's remaining frailties, one's residual obscurities.

"This station hath many signs, unnumbered proofs. Hence it is said: “Hereafter We will show them Our signs in the regions of the earth, and in themselves..."”

Once the conflict between logic and intuition resolved, the preparation for the wedding begins. A pristine spirit is essential in the rarefied atmosphere of the Four Valleys which makes that said delightful place appear at times as hell itself, depending on the degree of the cleansing that remains to be done, self-work resolutely accepted or not.

"Likewise is it written, “And be ye not like those who forget God, and whom He hath therefore caused to forget their own selves. These are the wicked doers.”"

Here still suspended between heaven and earth, the eagle struggles to reach its goal, sometimes without knowing to which realm it must retreat, a dichotomy whose results and torments, when unresolved, is vividly described by Abdu'l-Baha :

"O My servants! Could ye apprehend with what wonders of My munificence and bounty I have willed to entrust your souls, ye would, of a truth, rid yourselves of attachment to all created things, and would gain a true knowledge of your own selves—a knowledge which is the same as the comprehension of Mine own Being. Ye would find yourselves independent of all else but Me, and would perceive, with your inner and outer eye, and as manifest as the revelation of My effulgent Name, the seas of My loving-kindness and bounty moving within you. Suffer not your idle fancies, your evil passions, your insincerity and blindness of heart to dim the luster, or stain the sanctity, of so lofty a station. Ye are even as the bird which soareth, with the full force of its mighty wings and with complete and joyous confidence, through the immensity of the heavens, until, impelled to satisfy its hunger, it turneth longingly to the water and clay of the earth below it, and, having been entrapped in the mesh of its desire, findeth itself impotent to resume its flight to the realms whence it came. Powerless to shake off the burden weighing on its sullied wings, that bird, hitherto an inmate of the heavens, is now forced to seek a dwelling-place upon the dust. Wherefore, O My servants, defile not your wings with the clay of waywardness and vain desires, and suffer them not to be stained with the dust of envy and hate, that ye may not be hindered from soaring in the heavens of My divine knowledge."

For the passionate and persistent lover, however, the embrace is now assured.

"Enter thou among My servants,
And enter thou My paradise."


THE SECOND VALLEY

"If the wayfarer’s goal be the dwelling of the Praiseworthy One (Maḥmúd), this is the station of primal reason which is known as the Prophet and the Most Great Pillar. Here reason signifieth the divine, universal mind, whose sovereignty enlighteneth all created things—nor doth it refer to every feeble brain..."

"In this realm, to search after knowledge is irrelevant, for He hath said concerning the guidance of travelers on this plane, “Fear God, and God will instruct thee.”

"“Wouldst thou that the mind should not entrap thee?
Teach it the science of the love of God!”"

"Wherefore, a man should make ready his heart that it be worthy of the descent of heavenly grace, and that the bounteous Cup-Bearer may give him to drink of the wine of bestowal from the merciful vessel."

In this lofty Valley, the gift of divine guidance and of knowledge are thus given freely to God's ardent lovers, the quality of their love challenged at times to verify whether there is any dust left.

"On this plane, the traveler meeteth with many a trial and reverse. Now is he lifted up to heaven, now is he cast into the depths. As it hath been said: “Now Thou drawest me to the summit of glory, again Thou castest me into the lowest abyss.”"

This complete severance from the promptings of self and passion certainly commands the "fear of God" and the speedy vehicle of prayer for detachment so to become such "“Men whom neither merchandise nor traffic beguile from the remembrance of God….”"

After this process of trial and testing by the divine Essayer, a delicious fruit from the Tree of Life is harvested and the bird can soar upward.

"This station conferreth the true standard of knowledge, and freeth man from tests."

"And now do I say, “Verily we are from God, and to Him shall we return.”"

Should he fail, still entrapped in the web of the lower self, the following may well relate:

"“Guided indeed is he whom God guideth; but for him whom He misleadeth, thou shalt by no means find a patron.”"


THE THIRD VALLEY

Even if we realize that it is impossible to fully grasp the profound significance of this Valley and its requirements, let us make a humble attempt.

"If the loving seekers wish to live within the precincts of the Attracting One (Majdhúb), no soul may dwell on this Kingly Throne save the beauty of love. This realm is not to be pictured in words."

Love shunneth this world and that world too,
In him are lunacies seventy-and-two.
The minstrel of love harpeth this lay:
Servitude enslaveth, kingship doth betray.
This plane requireth pure affection and the bright stream of fellowship. In telling of these companions of the Cave He saith: “They speak not till He hath spoken; and they do His bidding.”

From the outset, are not the words "love" and "Attracting One" suggesting  a solution to the enigma, that the magnet of this Valley is fervent love? If so, what kind of love?

"to them beauty’s bower differeth not from the field of a battle fought in the cause of the Beloved"

"The denizens of this plane speak no words—but they gallop their chargers."

As a possible explanation, I submit to you an excerpt from the Master's wisdom:

"Today the greatest of all divine bestowals is teaching the Cause of God for it is fraught with confirmations. Every teacher is confirmed and is favored at the Divine Threshold. In the estimation of the Ideal King, the army which is in the front of the battlefield is encircled with the glances of His mercifulness and in the sight of the Divine Farmer, the sower of the seed is accepted and favored."

If this is the case, the question is: under what conditions will this teaching work really succeed?

"On this plane, neither the reign of reason is sufficient nor the authority of self."

"In this realm, instruction is assuredly of no avail.
The lover’s teacher is the Loved One’s beauty,
His face their lesson and their only book."

We got our answer, didn't we? A strict obedience to God's guidance, not complacency to the ego.

Maybe is this "supplication to God, the Exalted, the Glorified" a magnet to this exalted state of being, but without forgetting the tool of contemplation as well as nourishing the affection that binds the companions.

"O Lord! O Thou Whose bounty granteth wishes!
I stand before Thee, all save Thee forgetting.
Grant that the mote of knowledge in my spirit
Escape desire and the lowly clay;
Grant that Thine ancient gift, this drop of wisdom,
Merge with Thy mighty sea."

The surest way to find out is certainly to become such a lover ourselves. To this end, a meditation on that statement by the Master should be an incentive:

"...when the soul hath unfolded the wings of the spirit, been attracted by the Joy of God, hath soared to the most exalted horizon, hath sought the most glorious Companion, it doth ascend to the divine station of Jabarut... It becomes aware of the secrets of hidden and invisible realities which consumes in envy the hearts of the mystic knowers."

In my opinion, Baha'u'llah has summarized elsewhere the results of the whole spiritualizing process of the Four Valleys as follows:

"Great indeed is the blessedness of him who attaineth Thy presence, drinketh the wine of reunion proffered by the hand of Thy bounteousness, inhaleth the fragrance of Thy signs, unlooseth his tongue in celebrating Thy praise, soareth high in Thy heavens, is carried away by the sweetness of Thy Voice, gaineth admittance into the most exalted Paradise and attaineth the station of revelation and vision before the throne of Thy majesty."

Let's see.


THE FOURTH VALLEY

"If the mystic knowers be of those who have reached to the beauty of the Beloved One (Mahbúb), this station is the apex of consciousness and the secret of divine guidance. This is the center of the mystery: “He doth what He willeth, ordaineth what He pleaseth.”"

At last divested of any earthly attributes, the attracted lover of the Third Valley have been primed to be entrusted with the divine might and power of the highest paradise and to not abuse it in any way.

'“God hath a people beneath the dome of glory, whom He hideth in the clothing of radiant poverty.”'

In this "realm of Absolute Command," the land "of mercy, not the realm of distinction" where one is "free of all the attributes of earth," any other desire than Him "becometh an obstruction and a barrier, and all else save Him is but a curtain," this station being "the station of God’s immutable decree" where one "shalt say ‘Be,’ and it shall be.”

Now receiving instructions directly from the Source and humbly doing what it is told without hesitation nor fear, the soul of the realm of Absolute Command sacrifices all for the glory of God.

"“O My Servant! Obey Me and I shall make thee like unto Myself. I say ‘Be,’ and it is, and thou shalt say ‘Be,’ and it shall be.”"
 
"“Love is a light that never dwelleth in a heart possessed by fear.”"
 
"agony’s arrows He hurls" while He "raineth grace like pearls."

But we, still sons of Adam, are then reminded of our insignificance and earthly attributes, Baha'u'llah stating that "Never the covetous heart shall come to the stealer of hearts, Never the shrouded soul unite with beauty’s rose," thus directing us to our unfinished duty to speak no words and gallop our chargers, reminding us moreover of the virtue of patience since "THESE JOURNEYS have no visible end in the world of time."

Therefore, let us pray for deliverance?






Be wonderfully blessed!

Loesha

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