A Journey Through The Four Valleys

By Ghasem Bayat

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)

    One of the writings of the Blessed Beauty revealed during the Baghdad era was the epistle known as The Four Valleys. In a brief examination of this book we will comment on its composition, form, principal message, and the teachings it enshrines, and focus on some of its features that distinguish it from Islamic mystic writings.

    This epistle, which dates prior to the Blessed Beauty's formal proclamation of His message, was addressed to the leader of the Qádiríyyih sect (a Sufi Order), Shaykh 'Abdu'r-Rahmán of Karkuk, a city of Iraqi Kurdistan. This unique epistle 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 Seven Valleys. This epistle, which has a similar form to The Seven Valleys, was revealed in a masterful style, with eloquent composition and in extreme brevity, in apparent conformity to the traditions, beliefs and the language common amongst the Sufís. Thus it makes full use of the poetry, stories, and traditions common in the mystic writings of Attar, Mawlaví, Láhíjí and others. Yet this epistle stands apart from all mystic writings in its purpose, message, and the meanings intended for the parables, stories, and poems quoted in the book.

    One of the distinguishing features of this epistle, reviewed in this short article, is that its words are not those of the advice of a mystic, guiding the wayfarers in their quest to be united with God. In this epistle, the Ancient Beauty sets out the object of the spiritual quest of man to be the recognition of His station and obedience to His laws. Therefore it is His voice that addresses mankind, calling them to His presence. This reconciles the hopes and aspirations of the faithful of all religions for the coming of their respective Promised One with those of the mystics' goals. As such, all allegories, stories, poems, and traditions quoted in the book relate to Him and direct one's attention to Him; hence, they take a different and a more direct meaning contrary to those intended in mystical writings.

    In addition, the four valleys in the context of this epistle do not imply a method for systematic efforts on behalf of the believers to spiritual progression as might be understood from The Seven Valleys or the writings of the mystics. This epistle contains a general invitation to all believers, in whatever stage of spiritual awareness they may be, to recognize one of His stations relevant to them. Thus it contains advice and guidance to all at whatever stage they may be. The believers are classed in four groups, namely, those that are focused on Self, Wisdom, Love, and Spirit. All are given divine assistance to recognize four of the manifold stations of the Manifestation of God, which are His Self, His Wisdom, His Love and His Spirit. These stages in man's spiritual consciousness and the manifold stations of God's Manifestation's are beautifully explained and elucidated in this epistle, using allegories pertaining to holy places and to philosophical arguments. So everyone is given a share of this spiritual bounty according to his or her capacity.

    Finally, this epistle confirms that all these manifold stations of God's Manifestation are all valid and true, and sufficient for each man's spiritual salvation relative to each person's station. The message that spiritual truth is relative and not absolute is reiterated here, thus eliminating another excuse for those who seek arguments and conflicts when faced with differences in perspectives and beliefs.

    An in-depth study of this epistle will give the seeker a full measure of the spiritual bounties of God's Revelation.

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