Bahá’u’lláh’s Early Mystic Writings, the Seven and Four Valleys, and Outreach to Bahá’ís and Muslims

Bahá’u’lláh’s Early Mystic Writings 2019
Faculty: Christopher Buck

John CottonJohn Cotton, a Bahá’í from Russellville, Arkansas, has been reading Bahá’u’lláh’s Seven Valleys and Four Valleys for more than forty-five years (he became a Bahá’í in 1972). But he says his appreciation for the works “has benefitted greatly from” the Wilmette Institute’s course Bahá’u’lláh’s Early Mystic Writings.

What are some of the insights he has taken away from the course? In his own words, he shares what some of them are:

  • The unity of the themes addressed by Bahá’u’lláh in His mystical writings of this period 1853–63.
  • The close relationship between the Kitáb-i-Iqán, The Gems of Divine Mysteries, and the Seven Valleys.
  • The idea that this period represents His proclamation to the mystics.
  • Continuing “to develop my ability to search the available scholarship to explore the themes in the Bahá’í writings, and the Bahá’í Library Online,” which “is among my most valuable resources, as is the archive of materials and forum posts from previous Wilmette Institute courses.”
  • Encountering Nader Saiedi’s work in several courses now: The Badí‘ (Bahá’í) Calendar: Reshaping Our Material, Social, and Spirituality Reality, The Writings of the Báb, and this course. Stephen Lambden’s review of Saiedi’s Logos and Civilization had initially prejudiced me against his work, but again and again he has been among the most helpful scholars in sorting out the writings of the Báb. I ordered his Gate of the Heart: Understanding the Writings of the Báb to have on hand.

Sohrab's Self Study Notes for the Seven Valleys of Baha'u'llahWhat Next? What has John been doing since he completed the course on Bahá’u’lláh’s early mystic writings? One thing he has done that brings joy to any faculty member is this:

I have acquired Julio Savi’s Towards the Summit of Reality: An Introduction to the Study of Bahá’u’lláh’s Seven Valleys and Four Valleys and Sohrab Kourosh’s Self Study Notes for The Seven Valleys of Bahá’u’lláh and plan to continue to explore these mystical works of Bahá’u’lláh through their insights. It was quite exciting to have the The Call of the Divine Beloved [a new compilation of Bahá’u’lláh’s mystic writings] and the compilation on Prayer and Devotional Life [released by the Universal House of Justice in February 2019] during this course. How fortuitous.

A second thing on which John is still working is his final project (slowed down by a death in the family):

My presentation will be on the Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys. A Bahá’í in my area has shared that he has tried to understand this book for twenty years and has failed to get anything out of it. He is participating in a study circle on the Kitáb-i-Iqán and is able to comprehend that material, so I will endeavor to present the background of and an outline of the Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys based on insights from this course. I think it may be of interest to non-Bahá’ís in my area as well.

A third thing involves an action reaching beyond the Bahá’í community. John hopes “to make a presentation to Muslim friends in our town on these early mystic writings.”

John had one final comment: “I’m so grateful for the Wilmette Institute courses. I would truly be lost in the wilderness without them. You folks are my lifeline.”

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