A Journey Through The Seven Valleys
First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #24
Louhelen Bahá'í School: Michigan, USA
October 8–12, 1999
(see list of papers from #24)
Next presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #26
Bosch Bahá'í School: California, USA
November 26–28, 1999
(see list of papers from #26)
This epistle of the Blessed Beauty was addressed to Shaykh Múhyi'd-Dín, the judge of Khániqayn, a town northeast of Baghdad near the Iranian border, and was revealed during the Baghdad era circa 1862 A.D. It is in the language of the Sufís and in accordance to their customs and traditions. It forms a part of a category of scriptures known as the attractive writings, which includes The Hidden Words, The Book of Certitude, The Essence (Gems) of Mysteries, The Ode of Varqá'íyyih, and The Four Valleys.
The Manifestations of God throughout the ages have introduced mankind to Their Messages gradually. Furthermore, these Messages have been tailored according to the exigencies of time and environment, the customs, the traditions, the language and the common understanding of the people for whom they were intended. These two unalterable principles have remained the singular approach of the messengers of old, and the way Their Divine Messages were communicated. Thus the first principle covers the method of teaching and the second the form the words of these Luminaries assume. The vast ocean of the Revelation of the Cause of God in this age demonstrates the application of these principles.
We will take a short journey through this exciting epistle, briefly demonstrating these principles and its teaching content. The full measure of its spiritual delight will be for those who embark on an in-depth study of the epistle.
Although this epistle is revealed in an eloquent language and is composed in a masterful style, with beauty and brevity, its poems, traditions, words of wisdom, and stories can be traced throughout the mystic writings of Attar, Mawlaví, Láhíjí and others. These subject matters deal superficially with the description and the titles of various stages of mystic journeys as well as with the process and the prerequisites that a wayfarer must go through.
This epistle, though bearing a superficial resemblance in form, composition, and apparent content to Islamic mystic writings, stands apart in its purpose, meanings, and claims. Some of its distinctive features that form the subject matter for this essay on The Seven Valleys are as follows:
First, the Islamic mystic writings are the words of mystics who guide seekers in their spiritual quest to progress towards the goal of becoming one with God. The Seven Valleys, on the other hand, are the words of the Divine, proclaiming His manifestation in the Kingdom of man, calling the believers to His Divine Presence. This message is lucid on occasion and is, at others, wrapped in allegories and symbolic terms, and yet it is unmistakably clear when taken as a whole in this book. The object of the ancient quest of the mystics in becoming one with God is changed at a stroke to that of the recognition of God's Mouthpiece and His Manifestation for the age. This unites the Object of the hopes and expectations of the faithful throughout the ages with those of the mystics in the Person of God's Manifestation.
Second, it seems that this book has an apparent similarity with Islamic mystic writings, such as their form, stories, traditions, poems, descriptions and titles of each stage of the mystics' quests, but this is not so. An in-depth study of this epistle reveals that the context and the intended meaning of every tradition, poem and story quoted by the Blessed Beauty is to point to His Person and to His Revelation. Thus, the above resemblance also remains superficial, as each story and poem and tradition is given a new meaning and purpose.
Last, but not least, the entire writings of Bahá'u'lláh, irrespective of the time of their Revelation, language, and form of composition, are in harmony of purpose and all contain elements of the Teachings of the Faith. This epistle also contains the seeds and the essence of a great number of the Teachings of the Faith quoted in various degrees of clarity. In this article we will quote some examples of the Teachings that were elucidated in greater detail in the subsequent writings of the Blessed Beauty.
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