A mystical commentary on Quality

The following uses the concept of Quality, as discussed in all the previous e-mails, to attempt a commentary on the last valley of The Seven Valleys. It should be obvious these are only my opinions, so I phrase the comments in direct language. I also continue to use the terms “quality” and “value”, instead of “God”, since “God” has several meanings, and has become a very confusing word.

This station is the dying from self and the living in God, the being poor in self and rich in the Desired One.

If “self” is that self of which we are conscious, apart from our awareness of quality, then “dying from self” occurs as we become absorbed in our experience of quality. This is like the car driver taking off at full speed. His consciousness of himself as a static entity gives way to his consciousness of the act of driving. This is his real, living self, and so he starts to become impoverished in terms of his definitions of what his self meant, and is now rich is the actual fact of its meaning expressed in the fulfillment of its purpose, which is the experience of quality.

Poverty as here referred to signifieth being poor in the things of the created world, rich in the things of God’s world.

The “created world” is that world of understandings and definitions – specific perceptions – that occur in the moment after our immediate experience of Quality. These have their place in a functional role – the way that everyone uses ATMs but no one is in love with them – but they do us wrong when we seek to possess them, and to feel enriched by that possession. The wayfarer at this point wholly detaches himself from these definitions as descriptors of his experience of quality, and experience the wealth of quality that results. For example: he gives up his “idea” that he likes a particular kind of painting, and now is free to fall completely in love with whatever type he truly does like – because of the quality it reveals to him.

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.

As the seeker experiences quality to a fuller extent – “the presence of the Beloved” – it has exactly this effect: his love for that quality becomes so intense that it eradicates every other considerations. He transforms into an awareness of quality alone, and now you cannot find any sign of “him”. This “blaze” is the intensity of his joy, love and awe at such a “beauty”. And the “veils and wrappings” are all those elements of the world and of the self which had prevented him from such an intimate union.

Yea, all he hath, from heart to skin, will be set aflame, so that nothing will remain save the Friend.

It continues to the fullest extent, consuming even his “knowledge” of who he is; until his universe, his existence, is only quality. There is nothing else – nor can there be anything else (see previous essay). If he shows any conception of the “world” at all, it is in the varying degrees to which it manifests “the Friend”.

When the qualities of the Ancient of Days stood revealed, Then the qualities of earthly things did Moses burn away.

Here it is in condensed form, the formula of the soul’s transformation: When the highest value becomes apparent, and the soul does not turn away from this value in denial, it will instantly begin to consume every transitory veil. “The Ancient of Days” is God-as-manifest-in-the-world, or the source of Quality; while “earthly things” are those ideas that blind us to this quality.

He who hath attained this station is sanctified from all that pertaineth to the world.

All connections are dropped, and his natural freedom is restored. He is neither dependent on words, nor meanings, nor aid, owing to his direct communion with the Beloved. “Forget all save Me and commune with My spirit; this is the essence of My command, therefore turn unto it.” He is now capable of fulfilling this command.

Wherefore, if those who have come to the sea of His presence are found to possess none of the limited things of this perishable world, whether it be outer wealth or personal opinions, it mattereth not.

This is because objects have no quality apart from the role they play in quality’s manifestation. Once that role ends, they have no significance whatever. Whether it be wealth or opinions that allowed the soul to reach his heights, those things now lose even the derivative meaning they had in helping him get there.

For whatever the creatures have is limited by their own limits, and whatever the True One hath is sanctified therefrom; this utterance must be deeply pondered that its purport may be clear.

This is because those things that we use to know quality must, at the same time and with respect to their nature, also restrict our ability to know quality. They possess inherent limitations that cannot be overcome, which causes the soul always to seek a more excellent means of communion. Quality itself, in the meanwhile, is not limited at all, and awaits only the efforts of man to achieve an ever-higher degree of its manifestation.

“Verily the righteous shall drink of a winecup tempered at the camphor fountain.”1 If the interpretation of “camphor” become known, the true intention will be evident.

I have written another essay on the meaning of camphor in this passage, which is on my website. In the context of quality: The wine is quality, and the winecup are those things – inward and outward – we use to perceive it. The element of camphor is a detaching agent, that allows us to use such methods without making the mistake of believing they possess value on their own, apart from quality.

This state is that poverty of which it is said, “Poverty is My glory.”

The poverty of definitions. They are out there, but no longer “owned”. When a person is thus empty, he is now constantly filled by his awareness of quality.

This is the plane whereon the vestiges of all things are destroyed in the traveler, and on the horizon of eternity the Divine Face riseth out of the darkness, and the meaning of “All on the earth shall pass away, but the face of thy Lord….” is made manifest.

Since the soul has burned away all obscuring veils, he is now a nothingness-of-awareness, in Sartre’s terms. He sees only; he is not. “The Divine Face” – quality; the form of God’s manifestation in the world – appears to him rising out of the dark of material things, like the rising sun that mounts the sky and pours color and life into the world of being. This quality of light is utterly independent, however, even of its manifestation. If the world were to vanish, the sun would still be shining. The seeker recognizes this, and so the mutability of earthly forms is of no concern, since quality exists independently of all changes, and would be present even if only a single atom remained.

O Brother! Not every sea hath pearls; not every branch will flower, nor will the nightingale sing thereon. Then, ere the nightingale of the mystic paradise repair to the garden of God, and the rays of the heavenly morning return to the Sun of Truth, make thou an effort, that haply in this dustheap of the mortal world thou mayest catch a fragrance from the everlasting garden, and live forever in the shadow of the peoples of this city.

This is a warning that not everything offers quality in a form the seeker is capable of recognizing. Until he has reached the point of burning away all veils, those veils will obscure his ability to perceive quality in its lesser forms. Bahá’u’lláh states that He is offering this text (The Seven Valleys) as both a description, and an example, of quality, so that the soul of the reader may be quickened and guided to the palace of his love, Who dwells in the city of those who live only for quality.

And when thou hast attained this highest station and come to this mightiest plane, then shalt thou gaze on the Beloved, and forget all else.

Now there is only quality; one ceases even to notice that he had once believed that things-other-than-quality had a separate form of existence.

The Beloved shineth on gate and wall Without a veil, O men of vision.

Another reference to quality’s being everywhere, all the time. It is not obscured from us, but we obscure ourselves from it by our selves and our ideas.

Now hast thou abandoned the drop of life and come to the sea of the Life-Bestower. This is the goal thou didst ask for; if it be God’s will, thou wilt gain it.

The individual self, as the “drop”, has rejoined the sea of quality, since he is but a part of the same drama as all other things, and is of little significance in himself. He is great only to the extent that he participates in this drama. The drop merges with the waters of the sea, since the existence of forms is of the mind only, while the essence of water – quality – truly exists.

In this city, even the veils of light are split asunder and vanish away.

The “veils of light” are the magnificence of quality itself. For example: good, pretty, wonderful, fun; if these are taken as having value in themselves, apart from the quality that gives them meaning, then again the seeker has gone astray. But even these veils are “split asunder” at this stage, and the wayfarer is only distracted even by quality’s beauty.

“His beauty hath no veiling save light, His face no covering save revelation.”

Like the Taoist: “Looked at, it cannot be seen; listened to, yet it cannot be heard.” It is everywhere; it is the most simple fact in all existence. Souls exist only to commune with it. Yet somehow, this very simplicity has made it the most difficult thing to grasp.

How strange that while the Beloved is visible as the sun, yet the heedless still hunt after tinsel and base metal.

Indeed, how strange that quality is everywhere, and every soul knows it, and yet still people strive after possessions and the accretion of a sense of self – as if to create a substitute for the very quality they love! Why??

Yea, the intensity of His revelation hath covered Him, and the fullness of His shining forth hath hidden Him.

Here it is explained: Quality is revealed so perfectly in the world, it can pass by unnoticed. It is too easy for a person to imagine that there is some other reason – like, the attributes of their self – that explain why something is good. Quality does not strive to distinguish itself from creation, since it is the basis of creation’s being.

Even as the sun, bright hath He shined, But alas, He hath come to the town of the blind!

Quality is shining, every day, on a humanity that is paying no attention, and that rarely ever does, if history is an example. All of this stems from love of self – even though there is nothing about the self to be loved, except those moments when it participates in the discovery of quality.

In this Valley, the wayfarer leaveth behind him the stages of the “oneness of Being and Manifestation” and reacheth a oneness that is sanctified above these two stations.

I’m not familiar enough with this Sufi doctrine to connect it to Quality.

Ecstasy alone can encompass this theme, not utterance nor argument; and whosoever hath dwelt at this stage of the journey, or caught a breath from this garden land, knoweth whereof We speak.

Quality can only be known by experience; you cannot discuss it. And once a person knows it, they know it completely, emphatically.

In all these journeys the traveler must stray not the breadth of a hair from the “Law,” for this is indeed the secret of the “Path” and the fruit of the Tree of “Truth”; and in all these stages he must cling to the robe of obedience to the commandments, and hold fast to the cord of shunning all forbidden things, that he may be nourished from the cup of the Law and informed of the mysteries of Truth.

A reference to the fact that morality is what allows our vision to be clear enough to perceive quality. Since morality is knowing what is better from what is worse, then an architect who is moral will be able to create a building that can reveal quality. If he ignored the moral laws of architecture, he would always be hunting blindly for the right form, and would lose his way. The same applies to human lives: in which our moral code is exactly like those laws, and our own being is the edifice we are constructing, whose perfection determines our capacity to know quality in its highest forms.

For the head raised up in the love of God will certainly fall by the sword, and the life that is kindled with longing will surely be sacrificed, and the heart which remembereth the Loved One will surely brim with blood.

An interesting statement that describes what happens in this world to those who dedicate themselves to quality and live for nothing but. Such a person is simply too great a threat to those who desire to sustain their definitions apart from quality, and if such people are prone to violence and lack restraint, they will try to beat the quality-lover back into shape. This has been the response of society to every one of the Manifestations of God, Who had no eye for anything but Quality, and Whose being revealed nothing else – and that, to the greatest extent.

  1. Qur’án 76:5