Love is a veil betwixt the lover and the beloved.1
When you love any object, you love it because of the presence of the Beloved’s attributes manifest within it; just as you love a letter from a beloved one for the sake of its author. All created things refer to God in this way; creation is the token of its Creator.
So the love we feel is the natural response of the soul to the quality of its Cherished One as revealed by and through material reality. And yet, because He is ever inaccessible to us, this love must always make reference to the point of revelation; that is, it must always be known and expressed within the framework of a limited being, however much that love is for the sake of One Who is limitless.
Thus the nature of our love itself tends to draw us away from the One Beloved, because that love exists due to limited things, and must exist in reference to what is limited – even our feeling of it is limited, our understanding is limited, our own being was created within these limits – albeit the love itself is directed beyond the limited toward the Unlimited.
For example, you receive a letter from one who is longed for. All you have at that moment is the letter; you read it again and again, countless times, for the sake of the one who wrote it. It is your means of communion, your path, your point of connection. In respect to you, it is both reunion and separation, connection and distance; it emphasizes the presence of the author, and emphasizes her absence, at one and the same moment; it confirms and denies reunion in a single stroke.
In respect to the writer, the beloved, it is the dawning point, the voice, the means, the vehicle, the expression, the word, the means, the sign. It is her way of making her love known. It is the form of the tie, the life of the bond. In respect to itself, it is not worthy of mention; ink and paper alone have never deserved love.
In respect to the life, it is both means and barrier. It is the channel, but not the flow; the form, but not the substance; the manifestation, but not the essence.
Between the believer and God, love itself is like the letter. For love is one of the created attributes of God, knowable by its signs in the world of man. Love is enumerated among the several virtues which consciousness may experience. And so love itself is a means by which we gain access to God through the revelation of His attributes in the expression of love. And yet God Himself is exalted beyond love itself. Even love proclaims its lifelessness and unworthiness compared to God Himself. It is only a created reality, at the service of believer’s approach to his Creator, but in no way the goal, or an adequate substitute for the goal. God is beyond all things, all knowledge – inapproachable. Love alone, as with the other attributes of God, permit union between what is exalted beyond any concept of union, and the believer whose limitations require the idea of “union” in order to end the fire of “separation”.
Such that love itself, in its own being, is glorified by the role that it plays, and bemoans that it, too, must hold the believer apart from true union, in the sense of absolute oneness between what is finite with what is beyond even infinity. The painting must stand between you and Beauty, however much it is your means and access to Beauty; however much you could not know Beauty without it; however much its meaning and glory and purpose are its relationship to Beauty; yet, by its very presence, it declares that you and Beauty are still separate, owing to your need of a medium. The painting declares, “You are not yet one with Beauty, for you look to me to see Beauty, though I am not Beauty.” So with love, we love the creator, yet require that love to have the experience of loving. We cannot gain access – while cherishing love – beyond that love, nor reach the Source behind that love, no more than we could see without sight, or know without knowing, or experience presence in absence. The attributes separate us from what is attributed, as the phenomena debar us from the noumenon.
Beyond this is a mystical station in which the medium altogether disappears, as described by Bahá’u’lláh:
… the denizens of the undying city, who dwell in the green garden land, see not even “neither first nor last”; they fly from all that is first, and repulse all that is last. For these have passed over the worlds of names, and fled beyond the worlds of attributes as swift as lightning. Thus is it said: “Absolute Unity excludeth all attributes.” And they have made their dwelling-place in the shadow of the Essence.2
These are a people who consort with the Author of love, of beauty, of all quality perceptible to life. They see love in terms of what makes love lovable, and beauty as to what makes beauty beautiful; and since these two are the same thing, beauty and love disappears and are replaced by Him. Love is left behind; only He remains. Life is no longer experienced, but God is the sole experience. Love as love was “a veil betwixt the lover and the loved one”; now it is Him, and has ceased to be nameable as its own reality. You ask such a man, “What is this? What is that?” And he might say, “What is ‘this’, what is ‘that’?”
… those personages who in a single step have passed over the world of the relative and the limited, and dwelt on the fair plane of the Absolute, and pitched their tent in the worlds of authority and command – have burned away these relativities with a single spark, and blotted out these words with a drop of dew. And they swim in the sea of the spirit, and soar in the holy air of light. Then what life have words, on such a plane, that “first” and “last” or other than these be seen or mentioned! In this realm, the first is the last itself, and the last is but the first.
In thy soul of love build thou a fire And burn all thoughts and words entire.3
One does not even say here that such and such a thing is beautiful because it reflects the Beauty of God; there is no “thing” apart from God to be named; there is no “beauty” to be described; there is no distinction of high from low, left from right. God is God in the mode of God – even though this itself is limited by its being reference to what is unreferenceable. “… 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.” That is, if the beauty of a thing is due to the light of God within it, this still implies that something apart from God is revealing a light that originated from an unseen point outside itself; this still creates a veil between the Source and the believer, by asserting the existence of an intermediary – who is, by the nature of the description, not God. Yet if nothing is which is not Him (“There was God and there was naught beside Him.”), then what is meant by “intermediary”? One does not say that the being of beauty and the manifestation of being related to the same Source, without implying a division within this Source between its being and its manifestation. When even this veil is burnt away, then even the intermediary ceases to have being as an intermediary, which would imply a separate being from the Being that is its being. And thus:
In this city, even the veils of light are split asunder and vanish away. “His beauty hath no veiling save light, His face no covering save revelation.”4
All veils, even that veil by which Beauty was known as “beautiful” by its beauty in the world, are rent, and the believer himself is rescued from his belief. At this point there is no story to tell, for such would imply a telling, which there cannot be as itself. And yet, a telling there is, and a sign, a beauty, a love – even though they do not exist, and it is absurdity to speak as if they did. It is not that the sign is rubbed out from view, for then it would still exist even if invisibly; it is that what was known as “sign” is utterly gone; even sign and signified are beyond a claim of oneness, and one cannot understand why there are words used to talk of such a thing as “sign” and “signified”. What are these, when only God is?
It impossible to discuss the matter in a language that constantly establishes its points by distinguishes one truth from another. Talk of unity discards plurality, while plurality continues undisturbed. If you have a hundred love letters, and say that in fact there is only one letter, you speak truth and confusion in the same moment. There are one hundred, and there is one; each statement denies the other, while both are true. There is no way around this aspect of language, since clarity is achieved at the cost of obscurity. It must be left, then, to experience; hearts which understand will know it by other means, and perhaps speaking on these matters only happens because not speaking was, for a moment, simply less desirable.