Travelling through London and the Seven Valleys

Most Londoners will agree that a large portion of each day is spent travelling: by bus, bicycle, boat, car, overground, underground, and now more recently, even by cable-car or river boat. On the London underground alone, there are an estimated 3 million journeys taken each day. [1]

Our daily physical journey brings to mind another journey we are each on: a journey which we often forget about in the hustle and bustle of our daily routine. This journey is a spiritual journey, that of the human soul, as it seeks to develop spiritual qualities and progress closer to its Creator.

Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, poetically outlines the various stages of this spiritual journey in His book The Seven Valleys. In this book, described as one of Bahá’u’lláh’s “greatest mystical compositions,” [2] Bahá’u’lláh identifies the spiritual qualities required to advance through this journey.

Bahá’u’lláh was born in Tehran in 1817 to a noble family of Persia. Forsaking earthly riches and pursuits, He dedicated His life to promoting the unity of mankind. In 1863 (in fact, the same year in which the London Underground was first opened [3]) He proclaimed to be the latest in a series of Divine Messengers, bringing new spiritual and social teachings for our modern age.

It was around this time that Bahá’u’lláh revealed the aforementioned Seven Valleys as a response to questions posed by Shaykh Muhyi’d-Din. A judge and follower of Sufism, Shaykh Muhyi’d-Din was particularly interested in the reality and journey of the human spirit.

In the spirit of building bridges, the Seven Valleys was written in the mystical style of Sufism which the recipient could relate to. Indeed, it was based on The Conference of the Birds by the 12th Century Sufi poet Farid ud-Din Attar and has certain similarities but also many differences. Bahá’u’lláh uses the basic outline of this story and takes the reader on a spiritual journey, through the seven valleys as described by Attar.

The journey begins in the Valley of Search, a valley wherein the traveller, in order to traverse it, must cleanse his or her heart, “which is the well-spring of divine treasures” [4] , from the markings and attachments of this material world. He or she must avoid blindly following the paths of his or her forefathers, and with ardour, zeal and patience, search for truth.

Having traversed the first valley, the traveller – now a seeker of truth – traverses through the Valley of Love. Like a moth which has found a flame, the seeker’s heart becomes filled with love for the Creator, and longing to grow closer Him.

The seeker then enters the Valley of Knowledge – knowledge of God, and not one based on material learned knowledge, which can often lead to pride in ones accomplishments. The seeker begins to understand the spiritual mysteries latent in the universe and with his or her “inner eye” [5] finds a wisdom in all things, “seeing the end in the beginning” [6].

The next stage is the Valley of Unity. In this valley, the seeker is released from the bondage of all earthly limitations and is freed from the “cage of self and passion”[7] . He or she sees in all things the attributes of God, “and seeth in himself neither name nor fame nor rank, but findeth his own praise in praising God” [8].

Having detached him or herself from all earthly things, the seeker enters the Valley of Contentment. Although he or she may appear outwardly poor, or may experience tests and difficulties, he or she is endowed with spiritual wealth and power, and experiences inner contentment.

With inner contentment, the seeker enters the Valley of Wonderment and, like a person who diving into the ocean recognises the enormity and vastness of its depths, the seeker beholds the greatness of creation. “At every moment he behold 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” [9].

Finally, the seeker enters the Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness – “the furthermost state of mystic knowers, and the farthest homeland of the lovers” [10] . Poverty in this valley, as described by Bahá’u’lláh, “signifieth being poor in the things of the created world, [and] 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” [11]

As we embark each day on our physical journeys, we can be reminded, through the Seven Valleys, of a parallel journey which is spiritual in nature; a journey that enables us to discover the mysteries of this life, to reflect the spiritual qualities of our Creator, and in so doing, contribute towards the betterment of mankind.

[1] Transport for London. 2013. Facts and Figures. Available at: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/modesoftransport/londonunderground/1608.aspx [Accessed: 4 May 2013].

[2] Effendi, Shoghi. 1944. God Passes By. Wilmette, USA: Baha’i Publishing Trust, p. 140.

[3] Transport for London. 2013. History. Available at: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/modesoftransport/londonunderground/1604.aspx [Accessed: 4 May 2013].

[4] Bahá’u’lláh. ~1862 (1991 edition). The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys. Wilmette, USA: Baha’i Publishing Trust, p. 5. (Can also be accessed electronically at: http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/SVFV/)

[5] Ibid, p. 11.

[6] Ibid, p. 15.

[7] Ibid, p. 19.

[8] Ibid, p. 18.

[9] Ibid, p. 32.

[10] Ibid, p. 41.

[11] Ibid, p. 36.

Danny Stevenson

Medical Doctor

Danny has an MBChB from the University of Cape Town and is enrolled to do his Masters in Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Danny works as a medical doctor in various hospitals within London.

Shirin Taherzadeh

Domestic Violence Caseworker in Wandsworth

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