As to the planes of the soul, its conditions and degrees; the cause of its abasement and exaltation and its origin, know thou: spirit hath illimitable stations and innumerable conditions or degrees. But in the world of existence they are generally limited and enumerated as:
1) the cohesive mineral,
2) the growing vegetable,
3) the sensible animal,
4) the mortal human,
5) the abased soul (the soul inclined to evil),
6) the self-accusing soul,
7) the inspired soul,
8) the assured soul,
9) the contented soul,
10) the approved or accepted soul,
11) the perfect soul,
12) the soul of the Kingdom (Malakut),
13) the soul of the Dominion or Empyrean of Heaven (Jabarut),
14) and the Divine soul of the Heavenly court (Lahut).
By the human mortal soul (4) is meant that spirit, which is characterized by the power of speech. That is to say, the spirit which sustains human powers, physical and mental faculties, perfections, divine knowledge, sciences, arts and mystic wisdom. It is likewise subject to the influence of dark passions and earthly imperfections. How great is God for this astonishing miracle and this great point, this perfect word in the Book of existence. Thus it is evident that the spirit manifests different aspects and traverses various contrasting and endless grades or stations. It has the capacity to become a mirror for the endless grades or stations. It has the capacity to become a mirror for the reflection of the manifestation of divine realities (Lahutiyyih) and a point for reflecting perfect divine attributes. Also there are grades of abasement for it in this world of existence. It can be veiled by the impure veils produced by the limitations which prevent its attaining to its source and point of origin, and shut it out from the signs of its Creator which have been deposited within it, through the bounty of its Maker. And due to its progression in the realms of nearness and proximity and because of its abasement in the wilderness of remoteness and perversity — it is clothed in each grade with a different appearance. Therefore in each stage it is described by a certain term.
For instance, when it is in the depths of degradation and the lowest grades of animal passions and takes pleasure in evil and ephemeral diversions, becomes hardened by the coldness of this world of existence and dull and neglectful of the warmth and love of its Creator, the Merciful, the Bountiful, then on account of its degradation in the wasteland of death and perversity and its occupation with evil and rebellious pursuits, it is characterized as the abased or evil soul (5). As God says, “the soul leads one to evil unless God have pity upon it.”
From this dark and dreary baseness, the soul progresses to a point where it occasionally receives an indication of its degradation in the abyss of ignorance of the path it is treading, of the ignorance veiling it from its Creator, and of its forgetfulness of the remembrance of God. From time to time the breeze of awareness passes over him and stirs him to momentary wakefulness. Upon observing its immersion in the depths of ignorance and negligence, it accuses itself; and seeing itself lost in the desert of evil, it reproaches itself. It becomes remorseful through its lowliness and baseness, for having fallen to such grades of passion and degradation and for being hindered by accumulated veils from attaining higher spiritual degrees. It becomes hindered from the remembrance of God due to these satanic imaginings and because of remorse and reproachfulness and for blaming itself, it is called the self-accusing soul (6). As God says, “I will not swear by the self-accusing spirit.”
When the soul rising from this most lowly and bestial condition and ascends to a more dignified and nearer station and degree and is assisted by divine confirmations and receives signs of inspiration and is inspired by the meaning of the Book, as it is said, “Read thy Book, it is sufficient unto thee this day”; and the reality of day and night becomes apparent to it, and it is invited to the Shores of the ocean of knowledge, is nourished by divine food from the heavenly paradise, is fed from the fruits of the tree of bounty, drinks from the streams of generosity, is sustained by the eternal delicacies, tastes the sweetness of choice morsels, befittingly realizes its elevation and degradation, its rise and fall, judges its affairs with insight, resolves its own difficulties, inclines itself away from the ephemeral to the eternal, withdraws its sight from all created things, sets itself towards the Presence of the Almighty, receives calls from the Concourse on High, attends to that which causes its advancement until it attains to the summit of assurance and the throne of gratitude, becoming a focal center of inspiration among men and gains from its efforts those fruits which will lead it to the goal of its desire — it thus is then referred to as the inspired soul (7). It distinguishes its evil doings from its noble deeds. As God says, “So God inspired him with his evil doings and his good deeds.”
Through its awakening to the remembrance of its Lord and the call of its Creator, its arising from the couch of false imaginings, its recollection of God, the Most High, its ascension to the degrees of love and assurance, its immersion in the ocean of certitude, its recognition of the signs of God in the dawning-place of the world of existence, the horizon of the worlds of being and the Manifestation of the sign of Unity from the dawning-point of heaven, its entrance into the heart of paradise, its vibration through the warmth of God’s love, its progress towards God, the Almighty, the Most-Powerful, its sitting upon the throne of peace and constancy and its proffering from the cups of steadfastness at all times — it is referred to as the assured soul (8).
As it was assured in its faith, ended its waverings, eased its difficulties, cooled its heat, refined and removed its veils, changed its darkness into light, set aside its vain pursuits, replaced its imperfections with perfections, tore asunder its veils, uncovered its mysteries, revolutionized the soil of its being and cast off its burdens so that God, hid Guide, Savior, Light-Giver and his Maker, and how exalted is He above the sayings of the ignorant — it attains to this most great, perfect, refined, pure, sweet station and drinks from this stream which is finer than the breeze, and reaches the stage of submission and contentment, now it will leave behind its desires, deliver its affairs into the hands of God, the Most Great King, place its trust in Him and will recline upon the cushion of His Grace and Generosity and shall not choose the most great comfort in place of the most great suffering, but will be content with what has been decreed for it by God — so much so as to be happy and rejoiceful in the time of suffering and grateful and thankful when the ocean of pain and catastrophe is agitated — and if the arrows of hardships reach him from the clouds of Divine decree and the rain of suffering descend upon it, you will see it honey-tongued, giving thanks to God, the Help in Peril and eloquently praising and remembering his Lord, the Most Gracious. This is the station that if thou attainest it thou shall acquire such joy that sorrows cannot reach thee, and such happiness as cannot be affected by any unpleasantness, such ease and comfort as will not be changed into hardship and distress and a tranquillity that will not be followed by agitation or difficulties, because the reins of the affairs are in the mighty grasp of the Lord, and the whole earth is in His grip in the Day of Resurrection and the heavens are rolled up on His right. High and exalted is He above the partners they assign to Him! So much so that not a leaf will move upon a tree and not a fruit will drop except by the Will of thy Lord, the Merciful, the Compassionate. He who walks upon this exalted plane has no will, rest, movement, destiny or decree save that which God ordaineth. He becometh, through the effulgence of the signs of unity, entirely selfless in his essence, his attributes and his very being, even as the shadows vanish before the shining forth of the Ancient Day Star. With the soul’s will has vanished and disappeared in the Will of God, it will become God’s will. Its satisfaction will be God’s satisfaction. Then the veils shall be removed and duality will pass from the reality of the heart. Then the sign of contentment appears in the soul and because of this satisfaction with the decree of its Creator and its submission to the commands of its Maker, it is referred to as the contented soul (9).
Through the outpourings of such bounties and being surrounded with luxuries and delicacies, clothed in the robe of generosity and favor, dressed in the raiment of submission and contentment, the soul will be addressed by the Concourse on High: “Blessed art thou for having traversed the whole way and pursued the path, until thou arrived to the stream of faithfulness and drank from the pure waters of dedication and contentment, left behind thy desires, submitted to the decree of thy Lord, offered up all thou didst possess and sacrificed thy heart, thy spirit and being in the path of thy Lord — and these are the light of thine eyes! And because of this thou attained to this most exalted and glorious station and will enter acceptable in the presence of the Lord thy God, resting in the shade of His Grace, happy, joyful and exhilarated through His Graciousness and Bounty, since “great is His Favor towards His devoted servants!” Then due to its elevation to this realm of contentment which is highly pleasing to God and because of its being accepted at the threshold of its Creator — it is referred to as the approved soul (10).
And after taking flight on the wings of holiness unto the celestial realm of this paradise and having tasted the sweetness of its degrees of intimacy in the garden of paradise, having acquired therein these high and noble attributes and ascended unto this lofty spiritual condition and when from its reality have streamed forth fountains of divine wisdom and it has become the recipient and dawning-place for the effulgence of this light and has attained assurance through the remembrance of God, the Almighty and become contented with His decrees and approved or accepted at the threshold of His door — it is referred to and known as the perfect soul (11).
Through the acquisition of such divine perfections it thus becomes worthy and prepared to enter into the Kingdom of God (Malakut) (12), which is the paradise of the righteous and the dwelling-place of the just, those whose faces are illumined through the Glad-Tidings of God, and whose countenances shine with the signs of God. To this degree of attainment God refers saying: “O thou assured soul, return to thy God, contented and accepted, pass in among my servants and thus enter My palace.”
(At this point there come 2 lengthy paragraphs of mystic and poetic description of Malakut)
When the soul opens the wings of its spirit and is attracted by the divine influences and soars to the loftiest horizon and turns to the Abha Kingdom, it will ascend to the station of Divine Empyrean or Dominion (Jabarut) (13), and will be confirmed by the supreme and manifest power and the great and ancient mystery and will become informed of the mysteries of the unseen and hidden realities by reason of which the hearts of the knowing ones are consumed in their longing after them, and will reflect the Rays from the Sun of Reality and in all aspects and conditions disclose its manifestations and lights and will ascend to a station which hath been sanctified from the perception of the perceiving ones.
Since this station has been created from the essence of power, might, grandeur, sovereignty, majesty and independence, it is freed from things that have limitations and duality. It is the essence of unity, oneness and uniqueness. It is light upon light, mystery upon mystery, the Sadratu’l-Muntaha, the supreme degree, the highest center, the furthermost point of worship (Masjid’ul-Aqsa of the Night Journey), the most sublime aspiration in the world of creation. Its perfections have neither beginning, end nor limitations. Happy the one who attains this lofty and holy station!
Concerning the Divine Spirit of the Soul (Alahiyyih) (14), it is the Supreme Reality comprising all the divine and heavenly realities manifested by the Ancient Light.
(At this point there come 2 paragraphs of mystic and brilliant explanation)
No matter how high the soaring one fly in the utmost degrees of knowledge and understanding, no matter how near the worshippers of the One True God ascend towards the summits of certitude, they are but reading letters from the book of their own selves, and reaching only to the brilliant unseen signs that are enshrined in the reality of their own beings, and circling round the center of their own entities. Thus the degrees which are beyond their realm of understanding shall never be perceived nor understood by them.
(At this point the Tablet goes on until its end with 7 more paragraphs of mysterious and detailed explanations.)
By God, the Forgiving, and the Manifest Beauty! If anyone from among the pure and devoted would turn to God in this Great Day and would gaze with the purest vision, not only shall he know all the meanings and realities latent in every word of the verses of God, the Self-Subsisting, the Mighty, but he shall know even those in every letter and point, because all these realities and significances flow in their entirety in the essence of these words, these letters and points. From them streams gush forth and within them oceans surge! Happy are those who attain!
(Provisional Translations, ‘Abdu’l-Baha – Planes of the Soul, p. 1)
EXTRACTS FROM A TABLET OF ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ (Persian and Arabic)
(Originally published in Egypt. This Tablet is many pages long, and what follows are extracts from it. The Tablet is not authorized for publication.)