February 16, 2012
The Valley of Love -- by Juliet Thompson
The Valley of Love is the second stage in this spiritual journey.
If you will pause and consider what it means to see, in the mirror of a peerless Being who speaks to us with human lips and looks upon us through human eyes, the perfections of God, the might of His love, the depths of His knowledge, the transcendency of holy attributes, you will understand that the first glimpse of such a revelation of spiritual splendor must plunge the soul into a new condition. A bewildered and confused condition. For such is the state of "the traveler" in the Valley of Love. He is "alien in both worlds."
Once I saw a picture by a great artist, Kahlil Gibran, called ''The Beholder." A man is standing on a mountain-peak, bowed before a blaze of glory bursting through clouds, amazement in every line of his lonely figure. This to me is a representation of the traveler in the Valley of Love. He stands on the threshold of a new world. He has caught but the first glimpse of the light bursting through clouds. But this glimpse is enough to make earth shrink for him. His former life, his "little life," seems to have been a state of death, a condition narrow as the babe's life in the matrix --a twilight compared with the blaze into which he now looks. All that pertains to this "little life" is nullified by the great new vision, and, with the transformation of his values, the dis integration of his old safeties, his old attachments, begins.
The traveler has seen in the mighty Messenger the symbol of the Cross, of the seed sacrificed in the earth that the Tree of Life might be planted in this world, freeing the world of its miseries through its fruits of Divine Love and Faith. The spirit of the disciple wakes in this seeker. He too would sacrifice his life for so transcendent an object. Egoistic ambitions can no longer retain any foothold in him A pure ambition has replaced these. Human love seems no more than a step on the way, as he contemplates the heart's true goal, the image of the Divine Beloved in the perfection of the Messenger. As yet the traveler has not advanced to that Valley where all loves branch from one Love, all work is exalted into worship. Stunned by his vision of light, he cannot adjust to human life the new, overwhelming experience."The harvest of reason is consumed." The logical conclusions of his finite mind, concerned with the circumstances of a limited experience, are useless in this Kingdom of Faith, into which he has gazed from its threshold.
The traveler is now disqualified for the world in which his body lives. In his state of ecstasy he is unintelligible to others, even those once nearest to him. His new language is as a foreign tongue to them. He has forgotten theirs. His aims are transposed to another dimension than the world in which they function. Their goal is not consciously his goal. He becomes a helpless stranger in their midst, and while he yearns to carry them with him on his wondrous voyage of discovery, by his very actions, his futile zeal, he is ever defeating his own purpose, driving his dear ones farther and farther from him and from the Truth he worships.
No wonder that in this Valley the traveler "rides the steed of pain." F or though, as Baha’u’llah sublimely says, "he seeks no asylum save the Friend” and "would joyfully offer a hundred lives in the way of the Beloved," nevertheless the tentacles of the heart are slow to disentangle themselves from the dear objects of attachment, or from the subtler attachments to the hidden self, and as yet the traveler has not reached that valley where he "sees the end from the beginning," “peace in war," "life in death," "reconciliation in estrangement." Still, though he must inevitably suffer in this process of detachment, which will in the end enable him to love with the freedom of the divine love, in his state of ecstasy he courts pain. As Attar writes, "Let the infidel have error and the faithful Faith, Attar seeks only an atom of Thy pain." Dimly aware of its import in the "Way of Love," his being is focused on pain.
A visitor in the Prison of Akka, called to the presence of 'Abdu'l-Baha, "the Servant of the Glory," saw in that presence the unattainable beauty and perfection. An agony of desire was wakened in her to bring to His feet gifts, an agony of realization that she had nothing to bring, nor would ever have a worthy gift for the majesty of this Servant unless His holy Spirit first bestowed it upon her. So, when He said to her, "What would you ask of me? Speak!" she answered, "I want to suffer." For instinctively she knew that "not till the whole nature is consumed to the roots can the heart become a casket of rubies to pay the price."
"You have given your heart, my daughter," 'Abdu'l-Baha replied.
"This heart is not fit to give. I want to give everything it loves."
"You may," said 'Abdu'l-Baha.
Thus, the "lover," who "loses consciousness of himself and all else," is willing - nay eager - to immolate others, as well as his own life, on his altar of sacrifice -- to build a great funeral pyre for himself and his beloved alike!