Saturday, March 09, 2019

p14 two 2006 essays on the days of the Badi' Week

Friday, July 14, 2006

Seven Days and Seven Valleys, Part I

By John Taylor; 2006 July 14

Every day I try to be as physically active as I can, often struggling against waves of turpitude that strike with the overwhelming force of an ocean surf. My cornerstone exercise is practicing table tennis by hitting the ball against a wall and trying to return it. 

The harder I smash it the harder it is to return. This is the least boring of exercises, but it is still tedious, so I relieve the boredom of the repetition by listening to books on tape on a stereo that I hooked for our garage. The latest acquisition is a compilation of inspiring essays about spirituality by self-help gurus that I picked up at the Haldimand Library's annual summer book sale. 

The best of the essays is by the author of "Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," Kushner I think his name is.

Kushner describes in loving detail his ideal daily routine, a set of slow, relaxing rituals such as reading scripture morning and evening, holding hands with his wife and telling her that he loves her before they sit down to break bread, ending his day with reading something funny, that kind of thing. These he tries to work into his week at least four out of the seven days of the week. Most inspiring is to hear how taking the Sabbath seriously revives his soul. He takes his Sundays off work completely and does only soul-refreshing activities; since he is no longer a minister, he attends worship services at a variety of local church denominations, including the Greek Orthodox, whose rituals in a foreign language liturgy he finds relaxing. I was impressed by how his observance salves his week. I have decided, therefore, if I ever get over this anemia, that I will observe the Baha'i Sabbath, which of course is Friday, or Istiqlal (Independence).

In the meantime my compromise will be to spend Fridays writing about the Badi' calendar, starting today. As I went over my collected material on the Baha'i week this morning a strange speculation popped into my mind. How do the seven days compare with Baha'u'llah's Haft Wadi, or Seven Valleys? Let us juxtapose them:

1. Jalal - Glory (Saturday)  Valley one: search
2. Jamal - Beauty (Sunday)  Valley two: love
3. Kamal - Perfection (Monday)  Valley three: knowledge
4. Fidal - Grace (Tuesday)  Valley four: unity
5. 'Idal - Justice (Wednesday)  Valley five: contentment
6. Istijlal - Majesty (Thursday)  Valley six: wonderment
7. Istiqlal - Independence (Friday)  Valley seven: true poverty and absolute nothingness

The questions then arises, are there any scriptural connections between these virtues? Can states of the soul be connected with the virtues of the week by any kind of natural logic? Let us give her, as one of my teachers used to say, the "old college try."

The first day of the Baha'i week is Saturday, Jalal, or Glory, and the first valley is search. One rides through this valley on a "steed" of patience, we are told in the Haft Vadi. Certainly the quest for glory is never one of ease and relaxation. Nobody puts up statues for generals who won easy battles, and even the most skillful artists who live lives of ease never seem to be able to produce paintings worth more than a pittance. Patience in adversity seems by some iron law of the universe to be the prime requisite for success for every seeker after truth. Consider how Baha'u'llah Himself connects His own suffering and patience with the antipathy of those who are "the manifestations of My glory":

"Hearken unto My voice that calleth from My prison, that it may acquaint thee with the things that have befallen My Beauty, at the hands of them that are the manifestations of My glory, and that thou mayest perceive how great hath been My patience, notwithstanding My might..." (Baha'u'llah, Summons, 84, Epistle, 58,

Sunday is beauty day, Jamal, and the above citation from Baha'u'llah illuminates this tie as well. The connection between beauty and the valley of love could not be any more natural. If I love a woman, even should she appear to the world a snake-haired hag who transforms all beholders into stone statues, still my loving eyes will find beauty in her face. As in the ancient Greek myth, such a lover would say, 

"Your face transfixes everybody, my love, they are paralyzed by admiration. I would be too, except that I look into your reflection in my shield." And so it is with God, He is a sun that blinds all who behold directly His Godhead, for finite beings are not constructed for direct linkage with the Supreme Love. All that we can bear of the divine must be virtual, indirect, reflected love. Even at a hint of the direct Face we cry in the words of the Kaddosh, "He is other, other, other!" and are turned to stone. Consider the imagery in the first paragraph of the Haft Vadi's love valley,

"In this city the heaven of ecstasy is upraised and the world-illuming sun of yearning shineth, and the fire of love is ablaze; and when the fire of love is ablaze, it burneth to ashes the harvest of reason." (SVFV, 7)

This is why I get all riled up when people talk about "Baha'i theology," which I consider an oxymoron. Theology is the practice of theologians, theoreticians serving a professional clergy. There is no professional Baha'i clergy precisely for this reason: divine knowledge is not knowledge in the sense of any other knowledge. 

It knows us, we do not, we can not know it. It cannot be professionalized or exclusivized or be said to be here rather than there. Baha'i theology is an oxymoron, and the word "theology" is a paradox, at least it is as soon as you accept that God is an unknowable essence. In that sense Baha'is are much closer in their beliefs to atheists than to theologians, for arrogant ignorance is built into the very word "theology." Divine knowledge is for none and it is for all, but never for some rather than others. The shame of professional theology is that it is first, rather than last, to persecute the prophets and Manifestations. History demonstrates this, if we look at her victims, men turned to statues arrayed around Medusa, theologians are always in the first rank. So says Baha'u'llah, in almost as many words:

"From time immemorial the clay clods of the world have, wholly by reason of their love of leadership, perpetrated such acts as have caused men to err." (Epistle, 87)

Immanuel Kant, with uncanny prescience foresaw the division in Baha'u'llah's Order between administrators and the learned. In his peace sketch he added that while theology (I would say "knowledge of God," as opposed to professionalized theology) always leads and conditions lower forms of knowledge, it is not clear exactly how its primacy operates:

"The philosophical faculty occupies a very low rank against this allied power. Thus it is said of philosophy, for example, that she is the handmaiden to theology, and the other faculties claim as much. But one does not see distinctly whether she precedes her mistress with a flambeau or follows bearing her train." (Kant, Sketch of Perpetual Peace)

Next Friday I will turn from day two's love and beauty to day three, Monday, the day of perfection and knowledge.

Friday Essay on the Days of the Badi' Week

By John Taylor; 2006 October 13

"Each day He is upon some task." (Qu'ran 55:29)

Today is Friday the 13th, an unlucky day according to old superstitions. This day motorcycle clubs, in their contrarian, outlaw spirit, have taken for their own. They regularly congregate at this time at Port Dover, several dozen clicks down the road from Dunnville. 

In summer months whenever a Friday falls on the thirteenth of the month, the roaring of motorcycles travelling in packs towards Port Dover is heard all day long. So Friday the 13th is the day of periodic roaring around here.

Friday, the thirteenth or otherwise, we are told will someday be the day of rest for Baha'is, as it already is for Muslims. In preparation for that, I have taken on the project on Fridays (Fridays when I remember and have leisure to do so) of discussing the Badi' calendar virtues assigned to each of the days of the week.

The first question that springs to mind is, why is Friday our day of rest? Most often the explanation is that given in Genesis, where God created the world in six days and took a break on the seventh. Less often do we hear this explication, given in Exodus:

"And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud." (Ex 24:16)

Thus the first day of our Badi' week is just that, Baha, Glory, which like a cloud covers over the mount where the Law of God, the Ten Commandments, are about to to be revealed. Clouds behave strangely over mountains, forming wierd and beautiful plumes that have been photographed by cloud fanciers clubs. Their shots of these unusual formations have been given broad media attention lately. Thus veiled by mist on the mountain top, Moses waits six days until before on the seventh day the cloud of Glory passes and the revelation of the Law, the meeting with Yahweh unveiled, takes place -- from this brief meeting with the unveiled Godhead, Moses seated, Yahweh walking away, we get the expression "God Passes By."

Parallels and allusions to this primal revelatory event are common in the Writings of Baha'u'llah. For example the Tablet "Tajalliyat," translated "Effulgences," uses a root, Tajalli, which means "self-disclosure," or "God's unveiling Himself to His creatures." 

The allusion seems to be to the traditional Jewish marriage ceremony, where the bride after the ancient ceremony used to hand over her veil (in the Muslim version she is completely veiled beforehand, even to the husband-to-be), symbolizing their entry into a new household.

The revelation of the law of God, then, is no ordinary lifting of the fog, it is a marriage ceremony entailing a complete change of lifestyle for the creature, who must show eternal love, a lifelong commitment extending through this life and all the worlds of God. This may be why in the fourth and last Tajalli, about "Divinity, Godhead and the like," Baha'u'llah promises that turning to the Lote tree there would so enrich the "man of insight" as to make him "independent of aught else and to acknowledge his belief in that which the Speaker on Sinai hath uttered from the throne of Revelation." Hence the last day's virtue, Istiqlal, Independence. One is the condition of being totally married to the Law and instituting a new household independent of the ideas, culture, family and history that engendered that creature.

This outlines some of the meaning of the first and last days of the Badi week, but what about the days in between? How do their virtues fit in between Glory and Independence? Are they completely veiled? We could try using the Seven Valleys as crib notes, in which case Friday, Independence Day, would fit with valley seven, that of true poverty and absolute nothingness. This certainly underlines the fact that marriage with God is not anything like the equal arrangement that is marriage between a man and a woman. God is everything and the soul nothing, absolutely nothing.

This combination of the Seven Valleys with the image of Moses veiled in clouds awaiting a revelation of the Law on Mount Sinai above can fit with each day and its virtue. Each day is a descent into the valley of conscious life, rounded by sleep in the unknowable mists above. Here is how such a virtue week would look, combined with its corresponding valley:

1. Jalal - Glory (Saturday); search
2. Jamal - Beauty (Sunday); love
3. Kamal - Perfection (Monday); knowledge
4. Fidal - Grace (Tuesday); unity
5. 'Idal - Justice (Wednesday); contentment
6. Istijlal - Majesty (Thursday); wonderment
7. Istiqlal - Independence (Friday); true poverty and absolute nothingness

As the Qu'ran notes at the beginning, God reveals something new each day, and each week. A week is seven days of new revelation, sitting in a valley looking up to see what the Law reveals from its mystic cloud. Each day is a virtue, and each virtue has an opposite, a vice to avoid. Consider the seven virtues and seven deadly sins, as laid out by Cameron:

"Man can acquire the `seven virtues' of faith, hope, charity, justice, fortitude, prudence and temperance or he can fall into the grip of the "seven deadly" or "capital sins" of pride, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, avarice and sloth." (Cameron - Disconnected Letters of the Qur'an, p. 40,

Accordingly, with minor changes in order could you chart these virtues and vices together, and juxtapose them with the days of the week and the seven valleys mentioned above? Here is the best I can do with that idea. Let me know if it makes any sense.

1. Glory (Saturday); valley of search, faith vs. pride
2. Jamal - Beauty (Sunday); valley of love, charity vs. wrath
3. Kamal - Perfection (Monday); valley of knowledge, prudence vs. lust
4. Fidal - Grace (Tuesday); valley of unity, fortitude vs. sloth
5. 'Idal - Justice (Wednesday); valley of contentment, justice vs. avarice
6. Istijlal - Majesty (Thursday); valley of wonderment, hope vs. envy
7. Istiqlal - Independence (Friday); valley of true poverty and absolute nothingness, temperance vs. gluttony

Note: 12 March, 2019

The new translation of the Seven Valleys is here:

It is even preceded by a Tablet named Rashh-i-'Ama, or The Clouds of the Realms Above.