“At one time We spoke in the language of the lawgiver”, Bahá’u’lláh writes in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, “at another in that of the truth-seeker and the mystic”. The present volume brings together a selection of His Tablets which were revealed in the language of the mystic. Some are widely known; others are published here for the first time in English translation.
Although most of the Tablets in this collection were revealed during Bahá’u’lláh’s sojourn in ‘Iráq (1853–1863), the first, the poem known as “Rashḥ-i-‘Amá”, was written in 1852 in the Síyáh-Chál and is among the few He revealed while in His native land of Persia, and in verse. Bahá’u’lláh recounts: “During the days I lay in the prison of Ṭihrán, though the galling weight of the chains and the stench-filled air allowed Me but little sleep, still in those infrequent moments of slumber I felt as if something flowed from the crown of My head over My breast, even as a mighty torrent that precipitateth itself upon the earth from the summit of a lofty mountain. Every limb of My body would, as a result, be set afire. At such moments My tongue recited what no man could bear to hear.” The poetic reflection of that experience, as conveyed in Rashḥ-i-‘Amá, can perhaps never be adequately rendered into another language, yet the present translation is an initial attempt to impart a glimpse of its power and momentous themes.
In ‘Iráq, during the two years Bahá’u’lláh sought seclusion in the mountains of Kurdistán, far from the malice and dissension that had blighted the Bábí community in Baghdád, word of His presence in Sulaymáníyyih attracted religious scholars and mystics of the region, including several prominent Ṣúfí shaykhs, to seek out the One Who dwelt as a humble dervish yet evinced a wisdom that was profound and a power of expression unequalled: “Through His numerous discourses and epistles”, Shoghi Effendi writes, “He disclosed new vistas to their eyes, resolved the perplexities that agitated their minds, unfolded the inner meaning of many hitherto obscure passages in the writings of various commentators, poets and theologians … ‘In a short time,’ is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s own testimony, ‘Kurdistán was magnetized with His love. During this period Bahá’u’lláh lived in poverty. His garments were those of the poor and needy. His food was that of the indigent and lowly. An atmosphere of majesty haloed Him as the sun at midday. Everywhere He was greatly revered and loved.’ ”
When Bahá’u’lláh returned to Baghdád, His Kurdish admirers followed. The sight of ‘ulamá and Ṣúfí shaykhs flocking to visit Bahá’u’lláh astonished the religious leaders of the city, who also began to seek His presence — and became enthralled. Their esteem for Him in turn attracted others, from poets and mystics to government officials, and further spread His fame.
This period, Shoghi Effendi tells us, saw an “enormous expansion in the scope and volume of Bahá’u’lláh’s writings … The verses that streamed during those years from His pen, described as ‘a copious rain’ by Himself, whether in the form of epistles, exhortations, commentaries, apologies, dissertations, prophecies, prayers, odes or specific Tablets” revivified and transformed the Bábí community. It was a period so prolific that, on average, the unrecorded verses He would reveal in a single day and night equalled in number those of the Qur’án. “As to those verses which He either dictated or wrote Himself, their number was no less remarkable than either the wealth of material they contained, or the diversity of subjects to which they referred.”
Among the “priceless treasures cast forth from the billowing ocean of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation” in those days is Bahá’u’lláh’s “greatest mystical composition”, the Seven Valleys, which “describes the seven stages which the soul of the seeker must needs traverse ere it can attain the object of its existence.” Writing years later in ‘Akká, He explained:
This treatise was revealed in the language of the people, in the days prior to Our Declaration. The occasion for its revelation was the receipt of a letter addressed to the Most Holy Court in ‘Iráq from a man of Sunní persuasion, who was both a scholar and a mystic. This treatise was therefore revealed, in accordance with divine wisdom, in the manner that was current amongst the people. However, in this day, every soul who hath fixed his gaze upon the Supreme Horizon, and hath recognized the one true God, hath verily attained unto every one of the seven valleys or seven stations mentioned therein.
Like the twelfth-century poem by ‘Aṭṭár, Manṭiqu’ṭ-Ṭayr (The Conference of the Birds), the Seven Valleys describes a journey through seven stations in quest of the Divine. However, the quest in the Seven Valleys is also one undertaken in a context defined by the imminent dawning of the new Revelation — and indeed the presence of the Beloved Himself.
That the mystic journey cannot be reduced to a fixed scheme, nor the search for the Divine Beloved to a series of discrete stages, is highlighted in a number of other Tablets, four of which are included here. The volume closes with the Four Valleys, an epistle addressed to one of Bahá’u’lláh’s devoted admirers from Kurdistán. Rather than describing a progression through stages, it elaborates four different paths of approach to the Divine.
The current renderings of the Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys are based on the translations by Marzieh Gail, in consultation with ‘Alí-Kuli Khán, published in 1945. While those earlier translations contain many exquisite, inspired passages, some changes were required for clarity and accuracy.
May the publication of this volume contribute to a deeper appreciation of the mystical dimensions of Bahá’u’lláh’s Message and inspire a greater zeal and fervour in raising the celestial call of the Divine Beloved: “For whereas in days past every lover besought and searched after his Beloved, it is the Beloved Himself Who now is calling His lovers and is inviting them to attain His presence.”
Upon the Eastern wind Cathay’s entrancing musk doth waft;
This sweetly scented breeze from Our curling locks is raining down.
The day-star of adornment hath dawned forth above the face of God;
Behold that mystic truth which from His Countenance is raining down.
The sea of purity hath from the wave of true reunion surged;
This precious, rare bestowal from our rapture is raining down.
The treasuries of love lay hid within the very heart of Fárs;
From out this treasure trove the pearls of faithfulness are raining down.
The splendour of the rose doth bring the ecstasy of choicest wine;
This subtle music from the ringing tones of Lordship is raining down.
The trumpet-blast of Judgement Day, the joyful bliss of heaven’s call —
Both at a single breath are from the firmament now raining down.
The Day of “I am He” is made to shine resplendent from Our face;
The Age of “He is He” from out Our flowing cup is raining down.
From out the fountain of Our heart hath God’s celestial river flowed;
This cup of honeyed nectar from Our ruby lips is raining down.
The Day of God hath been fulfilled, for lo, the Lord hath been unveiled;
This wondrous message from the melody of Ṭá’ is raining down.
Behold Bahá’s outpouring grace, the bounty of the clouds above,
Which, merged into a single song, in God’s own voice is raining down.
Behold the Lord’s leviathan, behold His sacred countenance;
Behold the blessings of the heart that from His throne are raining down.
Behold the Palm of Paradise, behold the warbling of the Dove;
Behold the glorious hymns that in the purest light are raining down.
Behold the soul-entrancing song, behold the beating of the drum,
Behold the sacred rhythms that from Our hand are raining down.
Behold the Countenance Divine! Behold the Maid of Paradise!
Behold the grace upon the world from Our own presence raining down.
Behold the everlasting Face! Behold the chalice-bearer’s charm!
Behold the crystal draught that from Our brimming cup is raining down.
Behold the fire of Moses, see His hand that shineth white;
Behold the heart of Sinai — from Our hand all raining down.
Hear ye the sotted lovers’ sighs, behold the garden blooming fair;
Behold the bliss that from His presence in your midst is raining down.
Behold the radiant face of Há’, behold the beauteous robe of Bá’;
Behold the Lordly grace that from Our Pen is raining down.
The vessel of the Advent this, the clouds of limpid waters these;
The trill of songbirds this, from Our fleeting Wellspring raining down.
An exposition of the mysteries enshrined in the stages of ascent for them that seek to journey unto God, the Almighty, the Ever-Forgiving
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate!
Praise be to God Who hath made being to come forth from nothingness; graven upon the tablet of man a measure of the mysteries of His eternity; taught him from the storehouse of divine utterance that which he knew not; made him a perspicuous book unto such as have believed and surrendered their souls; given him to behold, in this dark and ruinous age, a new creation within all things; and caused him to speak forth, from the midmost heart of eternity, and in a new and wondrous voice, embodied in the most excellent Temple. And all to this end: that every man may testify, in himself and by himself, before the Seat of the revelation of his Lord, that there is none other God but Him; and that all may reach that summit of realities where none shall contemplate anything but that he shall perceive God therein. This is the vision of the splendours which have been deposited within the realities of all things; for otherwise He, exalted be His glory, is entirely sanctified above being seen or witnessed: “No vision taketh in Him, but He taketh in all vision; He is the Subtile, the All-Perceiving.”
And I praise and glorify that primal Sea which hath branched out from the ocean of the unseen Essence, and that primal Morn which hath broken forth upon the horizon of Singleness, and that primal Sun which hath risen in the heaven of everlasting splendour, and that primal Fire which was kindled from the Lamp of eternity within the Niche of oneness: He Who is called “Aḥmad” in the kingdom of the exalted ones, and “Muḥammad” amongst the concourse of the favoured ones, and “Maḥmúd” in the realm of the sincere; and in the hearts of the knowing, “whichsoever ye call upon, most beauteous are His names.” And upon His kindred and His companions be abundant, abiding, and eternal peace!
To continue: I have hearkened to the song of the nightingale of knowledge upon the twigs of the tree of thine inmost being, and to the cooing of the dove of certitude upon the branches of the bower of thine heart. Methinks I inhaled the fragrance of purity from the raiment of thy love and, in perusing thy letter, attained thy very presence. I noted, moreover, thine allusions to thy death in God and thy life through Him, and the love thou dost cherish for the beloved of the Lord and for the Manifestations of His names and the Exponents of His attributes. I have purposed, therefore, to acquaint thee with holy and resplendent tokens from the realms of might and glory, that haply they may draw thee nigh unto the court of holiness, nearness, and beauty, and draw thee to a station wherein thou shalt see naught in all existence but the hallowed Countenance of thy Beloved, and wilt behold all of creation as a day wherein none was deemed worthy of mention.
Of this did the nightingale of oneness sing in the garden of his mystical treatise, saying, “And there shall appear upon the tablet of thine heart an inscription of the subtle mysteries of the verse ‘Fear ye God; God will teach you’, and the bird of thy spirit shall recall the sanctuaries of ancient splendour, and soar upon the wings of longing into the heaven of the command ‘Walk the beaten paths of thy Lord’, and partake of the choice fruits of communion in the gardens of the utterance ‘Feed, moreover, on every kind of fruit.’”
By My life, O friend! Wert thou to taste the fruits of these verdant trees that spring from the soil of true understanding, once the effulgent light of His Essence hath been reflected in the Mirrors of His names and attributes yearning would seize the reins of patience and restraint from out thy hand and stir thy spirit into commotion with the splendours of His light. It would draw thee from this abode of dust unto thy true and heavenly habitation in the midmost heart of mystic knowledge, and raise thee to a station wherein thou wilt soar in the air even as thou treadest upon the earth, and wilt walk upon the water even as thou movest over the land. Wherefore, may it rejoice me, and thee, and whosoever mounteth into the heaven of knowledge, and whose heart hath been revived by the breezes of certitude that waft from the Sheba of the All-Merciful upon the meadow of his inner being. Peace be upon him who followeth the way of guidance!
And further: the stages that mark the wayfarers’ journey from their mortal abode to the heavenly homeland are said to be seven. Some have referred to them as seven valleys, and others, as seven cities. And it is said that until the wayfarer taketh leave of self and traverseth these stages, he shall never attain the ocean of nearness and reunion nor taste of the matchless 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. Nor should he ever become downhearted: If he strive for a hundred thousand years and yet fail to behold the beauty of the Friend, he should not falter. For those who seek the Kaaba of “for Us” rejoice in the tidings “In Our ways shall We assuredly guide them.” In their search, they have stoutly girded up the loins of service and at every moment journey from the plane of heedlessness into the realm of search. No bond shall hold them back and no counsel deter them.
It is incumbent upon these servants to cleanse the heart, which is the wellspring of divine treasures, of every marking; turn away from imitation, which is following the traces of their forefathers; and shut the door of friendship and enmity upon all the people of the earth.
In this journey the seeker reacheth a station wherein he seeth all created things wandering distracted in search of the Friend. How many a Jacob will he see searching after his Joseph, how many a lover will he behold hastening towards the Well-Beloved; a world of adoring souls will he witness tracing the path of the Adored One! At every moment he findeth a weighty matter, in every hour he becometh aware of a new mystery; for he hath severed his heart from both worlds and set out for the Kaaba of the Beloved. At every step, aid from the invisible Realm will attend him and the fervour of his search will grow.
One must judge of search by the standard of the Majnún of love. It is related that one day they came upon Majnún sifting the dust, his tears flowing down. They asked, “What doest thou?” He said, “I seek for Laylí.” “Alas for thee!” they cried, “Laylí is of pure spirit, yet thou seekest her in the dust!” He said, “I seek her everywhere; haply somewhere I shall find her.”
The true seeker hunteth naught but the object of his quest, and the sincere lover hath no desire save reunion with his beloved. Nor shall the seeker reach his goal unless he sacrifice all things. That is, whatever he hath seen, and heard, and understood — all he must set at naught with “no God is there”, that he may enter into the realm of the spirit, which is the city of “but God”. Labour is needed, if we are to seek Him; ardour is needed, if we are to drink the nectar of reunion with Him; and if we taste of this cup, we shall cast away the world.
On this journey the wayfarer dwelleth in every abode, however humble, and resideth in every land. In every face he seeketh the beauty of the Friend; in every region he searcheth after the Beloved. He joineth every company and seeketh fellowship with every soul, that haply in some heart he may discern the secret of the Beloved, or in some face behold the beauty of the Adored One.
And if, by the help of the Creator, he findeth on this journey a trace of the traceless Friend, and inhaleth the fragrance of the long-lost Joseph from the heavenly herald, he shall straightway step into the Valley of Love and be consumed in the fire of love. In this city the heaven of rapture is upraised, and the world-illuming sun of yearning shineth, and the fire of love is set ablaze; and when the fire of love is ablaze, it burneth to ashes the harvest of reason.
Now is the wayfarer oblivious of himself, and of aught besides himself. He seeth neither ignorance nor knowledge, neither doubt nor certitude; he knoweth not the morn of guidance from the night of error. He fleeth from both unbelief and faith, and findeth in deadly poison his heart’s relief. Wherefore ‘Aṭṭár saith:
For the infidel, error — for the faithful, faith;
For ‘Aṭṭár’s heart, an atom of thy pain.
The steed of this valley is pain, and if there be no pain this journey will never end. In this plane the lover hath no thought save the Beloved, and seeketh no refuge save the Friend. At every moment he offereth a hundred lives in the path of the Loved One, at every step he throweth a thousand heads at His feet.
O My brother! Until thou enter the Egypt of love, thou shalt never gaze upon the Joseph-like beauty of the Friend; and until, like Jacob, thou forsake thine outward eyes, thou shalt never open the eye of thine inward being; and until thou burn with the fire of love, thou shalt never find thyself in the true yearning’s embrace.