Four Valleys: trans Juan Cole

{josquote}What a treat! A new interpretation of the Four Valleys.{/josquote}

On my journeys recently, I discovered that Juan had translated the Four Valleys and put the translation up on Talisman. Of course, this was many years ago - October 1996 - and the translation was forgotten - shame! However, with the help of Sen, I have been able to put the whole translation together. And here it is, folks. What a treat! A new interpretation of the Four Valleys. Many, many thanks to Juan.



"You light of truth,
The pillars of the world never
gave birth to a king like you."[Rumi M][1]

[1] I do not know why you have suddenly severed the bonds of love and betrayed the unbreakable covenant of friendship. But God forbid that the fault lay in your intentions or in a lapse in the sincerity of your good will, such that I vanished from sight and was forgotten.

"What enmity did you see from me
that you cut off all kindness?
Save that we are weak
and you are surrounded by pomp?"[Sa'di]

[2] Or perhaps after one arrow you have withdrawn from the battlefield? But have you not heard that perseverance is a prerequisite of the path? For it is a proof of having arrived at the threshold of the verse, "In truth, those who said, `Our Lord is God,' then persevered, the angels descend upon them."[Qur'an 41:30] He also said, "Persevere as you were commanded." Therefore, this course of action is necessary and required for those who would attain to the carpet of union with the beloved.

"I speak to you of the prerequisites
for arriving at the goal;
You may take my advice,
or you may take offence."[Sa'di]

[3] Even though no reply to my letter has been received, and the wise consider it an error and inappropriate to express one's discipleship yet again under such circumstances, this wondrous new love has abrogated such advice and such established conventions.

"Do not recite the story of Layla
or that of Majnun's grief;
Your love has effaced
all mention of the ancients.
Your name has become
renowned among the lovers!
(Then both the story-teller and the audience
began to dance!)"[Sa'di]

And [Rumi wrote], concerning the wisdom of God and on divine admonition:

"At the start of every month
for three days, my beloved,
it is incredible
how I go out of my mind!
Today is the first
of those three days;
it is a day of triumph,
not a turquoise day of ill omen."

[4] I have heard that you went to Tabriz and Tiflis to teach and conduct seminars, or that you left for Sanandaj in order to ascend the mystical stages. My Sayyid, those who soar into the heavens of the Path belong to no more than four groups. I shall make a brief mention of them, so that the sign and stage of each may become known to and confirmed for you.

The First Valley: Self

[5] If the wayfarers are among those who seek the shrine of the ultimate goal, then their quest takes place on the plane of the self. But it is "The self of God, standing within him with the rules for supplication."[Hadith] In this station, the self is beloved, not despised. It is accepted, not conquered. Although at the beginning of this stage one engages in conflict, one ends it by seating oneself on the throne of splendor. As [Rumi] said, "Friend of the time, Abraham of understanding/ Kill these four birds of prey!"[Rumi M] For after death, the journey of life begins. This is the station of the self with which God is well-pleased, to whom it was said, "Enter among my servants! Enter my paradise!"[Qur'an 89:29-30] This station has many signs and indications. It is in this regard that it was said, "We shall show them our signs in the horizons and in their selves, until it is clear to them that it is the truth."[Qur'an 41:53] No god is there save God. Thus, it is clear that what one should be studying is the book of the self, not a treatise on grammar. As it is written, "Read your Book! Your soul is sufficient in this day as a reckoner against you."[Qur'an 17:14]

[6] They say a mystic and a grammarian set out together on the same journey, and became intimate friends. Then they arrived at the shore of a vast sea. The mystic, without thinking, commended himself to God and walked over the water. The grammarian, when the footprints on the water had disappeared, stood mute with astonishment.

[7] The mystic cried out, "Why did you stop short?"

[8] "My brother, what can I do? Since my feet are unable to take me forward, it is best that I return."

[9] The mystic replied, "Forget all the medieval grammarians you have studied, and pass over the water!"

"Here you must know your nothingness,
not the rules of grammar;
If you become as nothing,
you may safely walk on water."[Rumi M]

[10] It is also written, "Be not as those who forgot God, and so he caused them to forget their selves; those--they are the ungodly."[Qur'an 59:19]

The Second Valley: Intellect

[11] If the wayfarers are among those who dwell in the chamber of the praised one, their station is that of the intellect, which they call "the messenger," and which they consider to be the most great pillar. But the intent is not the imperfect reason of humans, but rather the divine universal intellect, which by its sovereignty on this plane instructs contingent beings. As the sage Sana'i says,

"How can the individual intellect encompass the Qur'an?
How can the spider capture a phoenix?
If you wish to avoid having your intellect
suddenly fall captive to intellectualism,
drag it by the ear
into the school of the All-Merciful."

[12] In this station the waters are rough, and endless waves first lift the wayfarer, then dash him. As the poet says,

"Sometimes you attract me
to the throne of the unknowable Essence;
and sometimes you cause me to die
in the fire of oblivion."

In this way, the hidden mystery becomes clear from the blessed verse in the Surah of the Cave: "And you might have seen the sun, when it rose, inclining from their Cave towards the right, and when it set, passing them by on the left, while they were in a broad fissure of the Cave. That was one of God's signs; whomsoever God guides, he is rightly guided, and whomsoever he leads astray, you will not find for him a protector or guide."[Qur'an 18:17] If one were to study the allusions made in this very verse, it would be sufficient. For in describing these men, the Qur'an says, "men whom neither commerce nor selling diverts from the remembrance of God."[Qur'an 24:37]

[13] This station is the balance, and the end of being tested. On this plane, there is no necessity actively to seek profit. In instructing the wayfarers in these depths, God says, "Fear God and God will teach you."[Qur'an 2:282] In the same way, he says, "Knowledge is a light that God casts upon the heart of whomsoever he wills."[Hadith] Therefore, the abode must be prepared and made ready for the descent of providence, so that the cup-bearer might amply serve the wine of nobility from the goblet of mercy: "For the like of this let the workers work!"[Qur'an 37:61] At this time I say, "We are from God and to him we shall return."[Qur'an 2:156]

The Third Valley: Love

[14] If the lovers are intoxicated by those who constantly worship in the temple, none but the beauty of love can seat itself on the throne of sovereignty. I cannot describe this station and do not know how to depict it.

"Love considers alien both heaven and earth;
it has within it seventy-two types of insanity!
The singer of love croons this melody when he performs:
servitude is bondage, and sovereignty is a headache!"[Rumi M]

This plane requires only love and seeks only the limpid waters of affection. In describing its inhabitants, the Qur'an says that they "do not anticipate God in their speech, and they implement his commands."[Qur'an 21:27] Neither the authority of the intellect nor the power of the self is sufficient for this station. As one of the prophets of God said, "How might I attain to you?"

[15] The answer came, "Abandon the self, then come."

[16] This people considers being seated next to the row of sandals the same as being put at the head of the table, and they reckon the portico of beauty to be the same as the field of a battle waged in the path of the beloved. Those who worship in this temple have no object, but are mounted upon it. They see nothing of the friend save his soul. They consider all words to be obsolete, and they make use of all obsolete words. They do not know their heads from their feet, or the difference between their hands and feet. They call the mirage "water itself," and call going "coming."

As they say,

"In the Sufi center, he heard
a portrayal of how beautiful you are;
the Sufi set out on the road
to the tavern!
Passionate love for you
has demolished the edifice of patience
Your tyranny all at once
stole away all hope."[Sa'di]

In this station, of course, learning and studies become vain and useless:

"The lovers have acquired a teacher
of the beauty of the friend;
their lesson books and drills
are but his face.
Their lesson is confusion,
excitement, and tumult!
They have no books of Law,
and study no ritual works.
The chain of discipleship of this people
is scented tresses;
the textbook question is difficult;
but it is also far from the Friend!"[Rumi M]

In the Supplications it is written:

"O God, whose grace fulfills all needs;
no one is worthy to be remembered
along with you.
Deliver the atom of knowledge
that is in my soul
from passion and abased clay;
and connect the droplet of learning
that you gave to me before
with your own oceans."[Rumi M]

Therefore I say, "There is no might or power save through God, the Guardian, the Eternal".

The Fourth Valley: Mystical Insight

[17] When those endowed with mystical insight attain to the countenance of the beloved, this station is the throne of the heart and the mystery of the straight path. This abode is the enigma of "He does whatever he wills and decrees what he wishes." Should all who are in the heavens and on the earth elucidate this noble mystery and subtle secret until the trump of the judgment day sounds, they would not be able to explain a single letter or to give an accounting of it. For this station is fate, and the preordained secret. It is this matter that some asked about. They received the answer, "A billowing ocean that cannot be traversed."[Imam Ali] They asked again. "A black night in which you cannot move about."

[18] Naturally, all persons who perceive this plane conceal it. If they were to reveal a droplet of it, their heads would be hung from the city gates. Even so, I swear by God that if a seeker appeared, I would make mention of it. For as he says, "Love is a noble thing, that is not in the heart of the fearful." The wayfarer unto God on the white path beneath the crimson pillar will never arrive at the station of his homeland save through the hand that is empty of what is in the hands of the people. Whoever does not fear God, God makes him fearful of everything. Whoever fears God, God causes all things to fear him.

"Speak in Persian, though Arabic might be more lovely
Love has a hundred [khur?] other languages."[Rumi M]

[19] How happy is the one in this station:

"If he were to bestow
his pearl-laden shell
as a gift, now,
on hearts,
he would draw the arrow
of tribulation, now,
and his target would be souls."

Were it not contrary to the decree of the Book, I would give to my murderer a portion of my wealth, bequeath him an heirloom, confer upon him favors, and forgive him. But what can I do? I have no wealth, nor has the sovereign of fate thus decreed. At this time I perceive the fragrance of musk from the coat of the Essence by way of the Joseph of Baha, as though it was near--even though you find it far away.

"The scent of a soul reaches my soul;
the perfume of my friend arrives.
For the sake of years of companionship
evoke again a mood from those happy times
till earth and heaven break out in laughter,
and intellect and spirit and sight
experience a hundred times more mirth."[Rumi M]

[20] This is the station of recovering from bewilderment and the obliteration of confusion. There is no place for love on this plane, nor any place for friendship. As it was said, "love is a veil between the lover and the beloved." Love in this station becomes a curtain that conceals whatever is other than it. This is what Sana'i said:

"No heart filled with desire
can ever approach that beloved
no body substantial enough to wear a shirt
can ever unite with that rosy cheek."

For this is the world of command, and it is purified above the allusions of the people. The persons who have attained this temple are seated upon carpets of gladness with perfect delight, and the joy of divinity. They speak of godhead, are firmly in the saddle of justice, and exercise authority. They give each one his due according to just measure. Those who drink from this chalice dwell in the domes of glory above the pre-existent throne, and are sitting upon the seat of grandeur in the pavilions of exaltation. "Therein they shall see neither sun nor bitter cold."[Qur'an 76:13]

[21] On this plane the highest heavens are not in opposition with the lowest earth, nor do the former seek superiority. For this is the station of grace, not that of expressing opposites. Even though at every moment they attain a new state, none of these states is greater than any other. About this station it is said, "no matter preoccupies him to the exclusion of another." And elsewhere: "Every day he is upon some labor."[Qur'an 55:29] This is that food that never loses its taste or changes its color. If you eat even a morsel you will, of course, chant this verse: "I have turned my face toward the one who created the heavens and the earth, a man of pure faith; I am not of the idolaters."[Qur'an 6:79] And "So We were showing Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, that he might be of those having sure faith."[Qur'an 6:75] Then thrust your hand into your pocket, and withdraw it with power: you will find it a light to the worlds.

[22] How pleasant is this sweet water from the hand of the cheerful cup-bearer; and how delicate is this pure wine from the hand of the intoxicated beauty. How pure is this food of happiness from the camphor fountains that spring up for anyone who drinks of them and knows how delicious they are, and arrives at the station of knowledge of them.

"It is not our habit to say more than this;
a stream cannot contain the sea."[Rumi M]

For the mystery of this utterance is hidden in the treasury of purity, is sanctified above the jewels of speech in the vaults of concealed might, and is holy above the subtleties of the spoken word. Bewilderment is greatly prized in this station, and unrelieved poverty is much sought after. For this reason he said, "Poverty is my pride." It has also been said, "God has a group of persons who subsist beneath the domes of grandeur, whom he has concealed gloriously in the raiments of poverty."[Hadith] They are the ones who see through his eyes and hear through his ears, as it is mentioned in the famed saying of the Prophet.

[23] Sayings and verses, whether on the horizons or in souls, exist in great numbers concerning this station, but I will content myself with citing two, that they may be a light to my readers and a source of joy to those filled with yearning. The first is this: "My servant, obey me until I make you like me; I say, `Be!' and it is, and you shall say `Be!' and it shall be." The other is this: "O son of Adam: Do not become intimate with anyone in whom you do not find me. When you want me, you will find me devoted and near." All the wondrous allusions and precious indications that have been mentioned refer to only one letter and to a simple point. This is the wont of God, and you will never find any change or alteration in the wont of God.

[24] It has been some time since I began writing this letter, thinking of you. Since your reply had not reached me, I began with some complaints, but your recently arrived missive has removed them and impelled me to post the letter. It is not necessary for me to mention my love of you, for God is sufficient as a witness. Give my regards to Shaykh Muhammad. I will stop with these two greetings. They say,

"I seek to be near you,
which is better than the most high throne;
I want to see your face,
which is better than the garden of Paradise."[Sa'di]

When I laid the trust of love upon my pen, it refused to bear it, then fell unconscious. When it awoke, it said, "Glory be to Thee! I repent to Thee; I am the first of the believers."[Qur'an 7:140] Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds.

"We shall postpone the explanation
of this turmoil and this heart aflame,
till another time;
it will be more joyous
than the unveiling of beloveds!
Do not seek after disturbances, and bloody riots.
Ask no more of Shams-i Tabriz!"[Rumi]

[25] Peace be upon you, and upon those who circle around you and attain your presence. All that which I wrote before has been devoured by flies. This will be composed of something good, even though Sa`di in this station mentioned an individual who said,

"I wish to write no more,
for flies are bothering me;
because my words are so sweet."

[26] My hand is unable to write anything further, pleading that I conclude. Therefore I say, "Glory be to thy Lord, the Lord of Glory, above what they describe!"[Qur'an 37:180]


[1] The reference "Rumi M" means the passage is by Rumi and found in his work the Mathnavi.

Go to the original blog entry...