It is related that one day they came upon Majnun sifting the dust, and his tears flowing down. They said, "What doest thou?" He said, "I seek for Layli." They cried, "Alas for thee! Layli is of pure spirit, and thou seekest her in the dust!" He said, "I seek her everywhere; haply somewhere I shall find her."
(Baha'u'llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 6)

Who is Layli and why do we seek her?

What is a Seeking Layli Event?

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Alum cliffs - Sunday the 22nd June

O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.'
(Kesuvim (Writings), Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs))

To dwell in the cliffs of the valleys, in caves of the earth, and in the rocks.
(King James Bible, Job)

We're heading to Alum Cliffs on Sunday 22nd. The format is as usual - meet at the car park at 12 noon. As the carpark is not beautiful it would probably be best if we all brought our picnics in daypacks or something else that can easily be carried up to the lookout. Its described as an easy 10 or 15 minute walk and the views are reported to be spectacular. Does Layli dwell in clefts of the rock? We won't know unless we look for her.

Photos of the cliffs can be found at and at .

Theres also some interesting old postcards of the cliffs at

The Cliffs are clearly signposted on the right when driving from Deloraine to Mole Creek (near Chudleigh about 20 mins from Deloraine). This website has a map and give driving instructions:

Lifts from Launceston can probably be arranged. Just post a comment here asking for a lift.

For far be it from His greatness and His glory that He should turn away a seeker at His door, cast aside from His Threshold one who hath set his hopes on Him, reject one who hath sought the shelter of His shade, deprive one who hath held fast to the hem of His mercy, or condemn to remoteness the poor one who hath found the river of His riches.

A nearly ideal Garden

A divine Mine only can yield the gems of divine knowledge, and the fragrance of the mystic Flower can be inhaled only in the ideal Garden, and the lilies of ancient wisdom can blossom nowhere except in the city of a stainless heart.

Well we didn't actually catch the fragrance of the mystic Flower so presumably the Bridport wildflower reserve was not actually the 'ideal Garden' but it was certainly a lovely spot to picnic, wander and pray.

The reserve borders the coast so we were able to find a convenient, naturally occurring picnic table to enjoy our meal.
As you can tell from the shadows it was a bright sunny autumn day. Quite a change really from the previous excursion to the barren coldness of the heights of detachment. Whether the pleasant conditions made it more or less likely for us to find Layli and/or the Incorruptible flower is, I suppose debateable, but lets not waste time debating it.

We did have company too - several humans had chosen to enjoy the coastal scenery and some other local residents expressed interest in joining our picnic.

This particular fellow was polite and patient but convinced there should be something in it for him. It calls to mind how often Baha'u'llah uses birds and their flight as a metaphor for the spiritual life of mankind.
How can I make mention of Thee, assured as I am that no tongue, however deep its wisdom, can befittingly magnify Thy name, nor can the bird of the human heart, however great its longing, ever hope to ascend into the heaven of Thy majesty and knowledge.

All in all it was a delightful spot but following our meal we did feel a wander in the reserve itself was appropriate. In late autumn few flowers were in bloom but there were some and the greenery was impresssive.

This particular plant raised hopes which were cruelly dashed. On first inspection it appeared to have an almost plastic perfection with no marks of damage from inscts, mould, wind or other agents. Could it be the Incorruptible flower? Alas, careful examination revealed some minor flaws. Still "Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes.

We never identified the name of the plant so we knew it only as the Fibre Optic plant (Fibricanus Optici) If anyone can identify it for
us please post a comment.

We got lost and rather to our surprise found ourselves on a beautiful beach.

Say: He Who is the Unconditioned is come, in the clouds of light, that He may quicken all created things with the breezes of His Name, the Most Merciful, and unify the world, and gather all men around this Table which hath been sent down from heaven.

It has been noted that this blog keeps saying we had devotions but produces no photographic evidence to back this up. Partly of course this is because of a natural reluctance to disturb the moment of prayer with a flashing camera. But it does also seem that something (or Someone?) alwaya seem to intervene. On this trip no photos were taken of the actual prayers but we did record the view from the spot where we held our devotions. However, despite the brightness of the day, it came out like this.

"..... marvel not at how He turneth darkness into light, light into darkness, ignorance into knowledge, error into guidance, death into life, and life into death"

Perhaps it was just an incompetent cameraman.

And so another day of seeking over, we wend our way back to the car park.
No doubt we will keep seeking and haply, somewhere, sometime, some of us will find her.

Who is Layli and why seek her?

Tell us not the tale of Layli or of Majnun's woe --
Thy love hath made the world forget the loves of long ago.
When once thy name was on the tongue, the lovers caught it
And it set the speakers and the hearers dancing to and fro

(Sa'di, Muslihu'd-Din of Shiraz)

In general. I'm going to take this advice so if you want a well-researched, accurate account pf the story of Layli do your own googling. Just briefly, possibly inaccurately, and mostly from Wikipedia it seems:

The story originated in the seventh century in a real event where a young man (Qays) and young woman (Layli or often Layla) fell in love but were prevented from marrying by family pressure. The knowledge that Layli had been married to another drove Qays insane hence he became known as 'Majnun' which means, quite simply, 'mad'. He spent the rest of his life wandering disconsolately on the fringes of society, supposedly continually searching for Layli.
The story has been picked up and reworked by many great Middle Eastern writers and has even been claimed as the source for Romeo and Juliet though scholarly opinion is against that idea.
In the hands of those influenced by Sufi thought the story takes a religious turn with Layli signifying 'the Beloved' - the Divine Essence - and Majnun standing for Everyman constantly, obsessively seeking the presence of the unknowable God.
The story of Majnun and Layli makes only a couple of brief but powerful appearances in the Baha'i Writings where Baha'u'llah speaks with approval of the intensity of Majnun's search.
Yea, although to the wise it be shameful to seek the Lord of Lords in the dust, yet this betokeneth intense ardor in searching. "Whoso seeketh out a thing with zeal shall find it."
For Baha'is, of course, being mentioned by Baha'u'llah, is the highest pinnacle the story could have reached but others may be further impressed by the fact that the guitar god himself, at the time manifesting himself as Derek and the Dominos, named a song and indeed an album after Layla.
It is important to remember that for speakers of the original languages the hero of all versions of this tale is known as 'the insane'. It is as though 'Romeo and Juliet' was actually called 'Juliet and the Loony'.
Religions, including the Baha'i Faith, by and large are (and certainly like to be thought of as) practical, sensible, organisations working to make this world a better place. Perhaps, Baha'u'llah's endorsement of Majnun may help to remind us that religion can also be an obsessive search for the Unknowable, Unfindable which can make us appear and even be quite crazy.

When once the seeker hath ascended unto this station, he will enter the City of Love and Rapture, whereupon the winds of love will blow and the breezes of the spirit will waft. In this station the seeker is so overcome by the ecstasies of yearning and the fragrances of longing that he discerneth not his left from his right, nor doth he distinguish land from sea or desert from mountain.

Love accepteth no existence and wisheth no life: He seeth life in death, and in shame seeketh glory. To merit the madness of love, man must abound in sanity; to merit the bonds of the Friend, he must be full of spirit.

Moderation in all matters

"In all matters moderation is desirable" (Baha'u'llah)

Any comments sent to this blog will be be moderated. That is I will either accept them or reject them according to my rather random whims. Some firm rules are:

  • Comments will not be posted which clearly identify by word, image, or any other method a living individual unless I have that person's explicit permission to do so. In the case of minors I would also need the explicit permission of a parent or guardian. I will take a comment which includes the sender's name as a signature as explicit permission to post it.
  • Comments will not posted which in my uninformed opinion may be illegal under Australian or Tasmanian law.
  • Comments will not be posted which appear to me to be primarily advertising a commercial product or venture.
  • Generally, comments will not be posted which I regard as vulgar or likely to give offence.

Some rather vaguer rules are:

  • Comments from someone who actually attended a 'seeking Layli' event will normally be posted no matter how far off topic.
  • Comments from someone who doesn't attend these events are expected to be pretty much on the topic of devotional picnics held in spots of wild scenic beauty.
  • Generally speaking I am not likely to post argumentative comments or disagreements with people especially if the person being disagreed with is me.

These are not the laws of God just the rules of of this blog but I will to the extent of my limited resources of tact and wisdom try to follow this advice from Baha'u'llah:

"Indeed the laws of God are like unto the ocean and the children of men as fish, did they but know it. However, in observing them one must exercise tact and wisdom..."