Influence of the Imam Khomeini on the Consciousness of the Canadian Author

Influence of the Imam Khomeini on the Consciousness of the Canadian Author

Robin Woodsworth Carlsen met Imam Khomeini during his third visit to Iran since the Islamic Revolution.

The powerful concentration of compassion, vitality, and, yes, bliss that radiated from Imam Khomeini kept this writer bathed in a purifying energy and feeling that expressed itself in the most profound sense of vulnerability and gratitude. I felt I was being given more of the ocean of existence and within the form of that ocean (as flowing through the Imam) was the clarity of the divine; it was in these thirty minutes that the Imam was on stage that I experienced all the cells in my mind and in my heart bursting with healing love and appreciation.

I was being given everything that perhaps could be given to someone, just because it was only through another human being that God Himself could concentrate his intention, his presence, his most perfect meaning. I felt even that my whole life was being clarified, that knowledge about my own destiny, my own unused power and integrity was awakening, that I would henceforth be a better, deeper, and more expanded human being.

The feelings that surged through me had a strangely objectifying influence; this was not sentimental gushings; it was as if the Imam's wholeness was able to move towards everything in Creation in rivers of tenderness and meaning that opened up, refined, and glorified the heart. The Imam was-not out of any intention, but just because of his pure state of being-creating me in the image of what some day I might become, and the sense of something divine and absolute playing through me from the reality of the Imam was the most sublime experience of my life. I remember listening to Handel's Messiah when the Hallelujah chorus played, how that seemed as purely sublime an experience as I had had, given the circumstance of finding that music expressing the highest and most exalting emotion which one was capable of. I thought of the moments of extreme love and surrender to another person.

I thought of the moments when I as a father have touched the essence of my daughter's soul. I thought of the moments when I had triumphed in some athletic contest. I thought of the moments when I had received the benefits of prayer and the audiences I had had with some well-regarded saints. But this experience for its sheer power and purifying fires of feeling and meaning, coming at this point in my life, was the most beautiful experience I could imagine receiving from even God Himself.

When Imam Khomeini left the stage and the audience was filing out of the door, I just stood and watched the place where Khomeini had been sitting: it was radiant with the energy that was now inside my heart. The glow was still present and I simply moved in the waves of this aftermath of shining power. Inside I still felt the most perfect and purifying tears of my life. V. S. Naipaul could see the absurdity of a mythology that resisted the rational, resisted the blessings of modern, secular civilization.

He could even write brilliantly within his bias, perhaps more brilliantly than any mythologically-geized writer. Still his heart would not respond to the most innocent impulses which made Christ declare, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Naipaul would be denied entrance into heaven because he is anaesthetized to that feeling of life that through the Imam had so charged my whole being. He would not see the particular order in the air, the absence of negativity and deadness, the presence of total harmony and purity.

For me these facts were apparent on a physical level of perception . For Naipul they would be mere imagination. The degree to which a human being acts in accordance with the laws of Creation determines the degree of harmony and happiness that emanates from him-or so was the experience of the writer. But one had to be touched by that which takes away one's doubts about what Wallace Stevens calls the “deft beneficence” of the “actual”; Naipaul and Mike Wallace of CBS (who first interviewed Khomeini after the seizing of the hostages) had not touched that deft beneficence; that beneficence was deft enough to escape detection by many intelligent human beings. Just who was chosen to be touched by it remained-and would remain-a secret only to That which had created all this. Somehow one had to be shown what God was, and then the host advanced knowledge was how to recognize

His presence when He appeared -and when He disappeared. God was, according to the mystics, absolutely present everywhere, but within the dance of relativity He was present in varying and approximating degrees depending upon the amount of him that was able to manifest through a particular obJect or being, or environment.

A full realized man like the Imam could radiate God in perhaps his most potent and most intelligently articulated form. Even the Qur'an itself was one of those symbols of God's mystery, for many persons could read it and come to the conclusion that its poetry was surpassable, that its message was redundant, that its organization was disturbingly non-linear, and yet, if God so chose (or if one were willing to surrender to its Arabic cadences, its inner nature) one could find its power revealed. “The highest share is reserved for the one to whom it was revealed: 'The only person who truly knows the Qur'an is he who was addressed by it.”' Khomeini was like the Qur'an; and the recitation of the scriptures and verses of his heart was being performed spontaneously and continuously by Allah.

Obviously only selected creatures in this world were capable of knowing the Qur'an was divinely inspired; only selected creatures in this world were capable of knowing there was such a thing as God; only selected creatures in this world were blessed enough to know the integrity and the power that was embodied in this Islamic teacher, Time magazine's 1979 Man of the Year (Time of course giving this tribute as it would have given Hitler Man of the Year award at the point that he had established his Nazi rule in Germany just before the war).

One still, when leaving this impression, has to face the contradictions, the ambivalences of the revolution and the knowledge that there were many good, intelligent, and creative human beings on this earth who would, with all sincerity, oppose Imam Khomeini and has Islamic mandate. But this did not take away the fact that the reality of the Imam's person eloquently spoke of a final order, a final consum mation that made the opponents of Islam and himself much less eloquent and complete in their arguments, since they were opposing that which had been blessed by the Absolute itself, that which had created this universe-and, I hasten to add, the hate that now dominated the hearts of millions of people. I looked at the space previously occupied by the Imam and saw the invisible reality of this universe.

Since the remains of a human being (after he or she has left a room) who is pure and filled with the wholeness of life give light and energy to the atmosphere, it was relatively easy to iind myself just lingering with what had happened to me and having my attention fall on the stage and the white sheet in the chair above me.

Before this experience of seeing Imam Khomeini I rather thought that I would find the law of the revolution, because somewhere Khomeini himself would reveal some form of narrowness, some form of restriction, some form of limitation.

However, despite the rigorous, adamant mould in which his face was cast, despite the firm, unyielding adherence to the absolute dogma of Islam, there was the benediction of Being, the benediction of the fullness of life; I was receiving what is called in the East darshan, the sacred energy and power that is given off by a saint, by a realized human being, only in this case, because of the tumultuous meaning of the revolution (the first time perhaps since the Prophet Mohammad himself that a gage, a mystic had brought about violent political change which led to revolution and war-and quite possibly a whole change in the design of international politics), because of the international consequences of the activities of Imam Khomeini there was an additional power and purpose in the presence of this man.

The guru or the saint most often does not disturb the secular order, the monk, the mystic has big followers, but their activities represent an apolitical process of purification and change; here, however, although beyond the grip of what was changing and relative (i e. being established in the purity of Being) Ayatollah Khomeini was leading a revolution that touched the lives of everyone, a revolution that went smack into the world of Realpolitik, the United Nations, the CIA, and the maneuverings of Moscow until this point the only challenge to the West and capitalism had come from the doctrine of socialism, from the atheistic Marxist Leninist theories (and revolutions); now religious conservatism, indeed the very essence of “the opiate of the people,” had awakened people to the power of myth, of religious truth.

The fact that Khomeini stood at the centre of all this, the fact that he was the reason for all this, and the fact that his consciousness moved in the articulated unfolding of the intention of Allah, meant that his spiritual grace and power was that much more potent, that much more 'cosmic' in its significance; here was a Muslim holy man turning the world upside down, demonstrating that religion can and does play a vital role in the outcome of world events.

It was even a religious position to denounce the religiosity of this revolution, since such a condemnation was itself a statement that God Himself did not want to be mixed up with the most important affairs of the world, or else, of course, that God did not exist. Only Allah could vindicate the revolution, and this could only happen by having the Iranian nation continue to defy the predictions of secularized oracles, who no doubt wondered about the threat of the Soviet Union, or thought in terms of a democratic socialist successor to Khomeini.

Naturally if my observations and biases are correct the Islamic Revolution of Iran would be triumphant in the most absolute sense: Iran would remain under the domination of Shi'a Islam, a whole nation would subscribe to the values, to the principles of a major religious system, and doing so, challenge the arrogance of Western humanistic ideology, as well as the levelling doctrine of scientific, dialectical materialism.

It was one thing to stand in the presence of a saint, a recognized Master or Guru; I had already done this on a number of occasions. It is quite another thing to stand in the presence of a religious personality who manifested the qualities of a saint, an ancient sage, but who at the same time was the apex of a whole transformation in the configuration of world politics.

Khomeini's revolution would forever alter the dialectics of world conflict; the superpowers would continue their ideological warfare, but one country would remain unattached to and autonomous of the world giants, and would create a fresh dimension to the debate about the 'free' world and the totalitarian world. Science and progress had driven God from the stage of world events; now it seemed that God wished to return; it was through the person and consciousness of Ayatollah Ruhullah Khomeini that this unexpected and mystifying process was taking place, a process that could only be understood in the utter calm at the centre of the Islamic storm: Khomeini's consciousness, which manifested as the Absolute as it, unimpeded and unresisted, passed through his nervous system.

After five minutes, apart from the presence of those Revolutionary Guards who were presently living on the premises of the Imam's sacred territory, I was the only member of the audience who remained in the hall; the rest of the delegates to the conference had gone back to their buses. It was the grace of the situation that had even allowed me to pause there for such a long time and to ignore the obvious momentum of the departing crowd, the obvious directive to return to the buses and leave this place of power and light. But standing in my own appreciation, or rather, standing in the protecting beneficence of Imam Khomeini's Spiritual remains, I was as if invisible until such time as my fulfillment was complete.

It so happened that the Revolutionary Guards noticed me throughout the speech of the Imam, and noticed the effect this experience had-and was continuing to have-as I stood in the almost empty hall and just gazed effortlessly, still with the lovely bumming bliss in my heart. My translator, Mohammad Abbaszadeh, conferred with the Revolutionary Guards and it became a source of some satisfaction for them to see a Westerner moved in the brilliance of their leader's hallowed presence.

I could see that they too understood and felt the absolute fact of Khomeini's real nature, that that nature had been sanctified by God, that this fact was at the source of the revolution; clearly Ebrahim Yazdi could not feel this fact, and thus his problems with the more irrational manifestations of the revolution. The faces of the Revolutionary Guards glowed with the joy and rapture of having seen their beloved leader, and yet to find that someone (a non-Muslim) could participate in that love, this was a moment of vindication for the revolution, for Islam, for everything that was happening in Iran.

They expressed a desire to interview me, and I walked over to the wall and leaned there while they asked me-not, it so happened, about their Imam, but about the revolution. Well, there was a returning surge of pure feeling that welled up in my eyes and began again to cleanse my heart, and I found that, quite innocently (this was the purest emotion I had experienced since walking through Beheshte Zahra Cemetery two years before), that emotion took over my whole being, and my inarticulate reply was the most eloquent response I could give to the question. They could see what was still holding me, and they silently shared that sacred consensual validation of their leader. Finally, after these organic, I can even say objectifying, tears had stilled somewhat I began to gaze expression to my thoughts, all in terms of the experience I had just had.

The river of feeling was still moving through my heart, but it seemed possible to give expression to the idea of how my experience this day had revealed the sources of inspiration of the revolution. The inside of the revolution was now inside me, and although it was not in the destiny of things that I had been born in Iran, to become a Muslim fighting in the revolution (there were other revolutions, non-Islamic in their character, which were perhaps, on a smaller scale, as necessary as this revolution: God, it seems, expresses different tendencies in different places; even the pardon of the individual had some meaning in the script; Islam was not the only way God fulfilled Himself through man), I joined this revolution on the level of my heart, in so far as I knew its origin was pure, and that therefore it needed my modest prayers.

The complex issue was to discern where God perhaps was not about to support the universalizing of the revolution, but I was pretty certain I could experience the sanctity of this revolution, the sanctity of Islam, and the sanctity of Imam Khomeini, without however altering my sense of the very different destiny in store for the Western world.

And there were still challenges for these Iranian warriors; their inner jihad was not complete; therefore their vision was still subject to some distortions; they still, even in repeating the words of their Imam, could greatly oversimplify the forces of truth that sought articulation in the world, and particularly in the sphere of nationhood. They were, at least the great majority of them, probably incapable of the mercy, compassion, or wisdom that would enable them to understand how someone could be sincere and even highly developed and still resist this revolution. The revolution was for some; it was for Iran; it may have even been for the Middle East itself; this did not mean, however, that anyone who might oppose the revolution, or resist the Islamization of the world, was evil.

As far as I was concerned even God Himself might not lend absolute support to the attempt to make His Creation completely Islamic. One thing was certain, though it was through Islam and only Islam that he was reviving the power of one of his mythologies, subtly undermining the growing assumption that secularism (Western and Eastern) had banished him from the stage of world events. This was the great dilemma for the sensitive observer of this revolution: to realize that it was a purifying miracle, a necessary miracle, a decisive force for the spiritual regeneration of mankind.

The Islamic Revolution in Iran would show that it was not subject to the cause and effect paradigm of modern international politics, where the sense of the divine was absolutely absent, where the notion of God was irrelevant to the analysis of events. Islam-through the Imam and this revolution-was the simplest and most adamant challenge to this idea, and its very intransigence, its refusal to play the game of politics according to the rules of Machiavelli was an important statement about the reservoirs of meaning and truth that had slipped from the consciousness of man.

The Islamic Revolution in Iran was the most efficient and powerful means to bring about this recognition, this confrontation, this awakening. Even the rise of conservative religion in America was itself part of the tendency in Creation at this time, although one did feel that the evangelical expression of Christianity was not sufficiently archetypal or richly mythological to be comparable to what was happening in Iran, and the difference in leadership between Jerry Falwell and Imam Khomeini demonstrated God's own opinion of that difference-and its significance.

What was important for many Westerners was to realize that yes, this revolution was not acceptable as a model for society in Europe or in North America; no, the individual in the West had become just too sophisticated, too knowing of the inexhaustible creative particularizes of subjective experience, of individual expression. Islam could have, perhaps, at the time of Mohammad, conquered the whole world; now, however, things had gone too far through the demythologizing of mankind; there was some truth that had to come out from the demythologizing, from that self sufficiency, from that fetish of the ego.

But whatever that truth was, it had not found its integrated system of argument that would amount to an answer to this revolution, in a primitive but fundamental sense, this revolution, under the beautifully realized leadership of Ayatollah Ruhullah Khomeini was the purest uprising of the spirit in the world today. The criteria one had to adopt were of course different from those wed to assess, say, the Nicaraguan Revolution, the Cuban Revolution; nevertheless the demonstration that there was a non-material reality at the basis of existence needed to be proclaimed; Islam and this revolution was the means to demonstrate this truth, and all those born within the range where its influence was likely to predominate were themselves chosen to come to grips with its mythological power.

None of these things were of course repeated to the Revolutionary Guards. To declare there are many truths, that there are other ways to God besides through Islam, and that Islam is a universal truth but not a truth that would universalize its spiritual hegemony throughout the whole world is not the appropriate or useful truth to plead to someone who must see Islam as the only truth.

For a Muslim, and especially a Muslim in Iran, to spend his energy and thinking on the idea that truth is pluralistic, that his religion is relative to offer things, that he should adopt a moderate attitude with respect to spreading the truth of Islam-this is to dilute the necessary power of his motivation and therefore the energy necessary to accomplish the goal for which Islam was given to the world.

That goal was the knowledge of surrender to That which had created this universe, that goal was the movement, the evolution of the self towards a greater harmony with the universe, that goal was the achievement-in its highest sense- that was now embodied in the Imam himself: the eternalizing of the individual through the expansion of the ego into the Absolute. One must, if one is to move efficiently towards such a goal, not doubt the supreme efficacy of the system of worship, purification, and action revealed by one religion.

Even Allah has willed it this way; on the other side, after one has touched the benediction of God, then one can intuitively recognize that there must be many ways to what is Absolute, as many ways as God has manifested in choosing His prophets, for each religion diverges at some point from every other religion; Islam was certainly no exception, but it was of some significance that God was choosing this religion through which to remind all men of the preeminent significance of the spiritual dimension of life; the Islamic Revolution happened because of the stature of Imam Khomeini. There was no other recognized leader of another major religion-even the Pope-who could match the intensity, nor the magnitude of holiness that radiated from the Imam.

What I did utter to the Revolutionary Guards was recorded, and I consider my statements to be the most spontaneously expansive and satisfying remarks I have ever been allowed to make after witnessing a spectacle of extreme aesthetic brilliance.

One could have just watched Rudolph Nureyev dance Swan Lake, one could have just watched a superbly coached North Carolina basketball team win the NCAA championship, one could have fallen in love with the most beautiful woman or man, one could have ascended to the top of Everest, or one could have heard Bach's Mass in B Minor while sitting in Westminster Abbey-but none of these experiences would have equaled what happened to me this day, for to be truly open to receive the grace of Ayatollah Khomeini was to receive the reflection of God Himself as He could only concentrate Himself through the nervous system of a human being.

I received that grace and all the attendant meanings that danced through my mind. My life was clarified-not through being imaged by Islam and not even by the intention of Khomeini himself- but through the fact that in something Absolute passing through- perpetually-the consciousness and personality of Imam Khomeini God Himself could instruct me in the lessons I still had to learn.

Those instructions inscribed themselves inside my heart, and I emerged from my encounter with Imam Khomeini even more individuated and integrated than I had been before coming to Iran. The truth of Khomeini - his state of consciousness, the magnificence of his personal integrity-went even beyond Islam; it was affecting Creation on the level of the actual molecules of life itself, and all of Creation was being healed, but especially those persons fortunate to be open to receive what he was. Somehow this day had been prepared for me by all my previous experiences, but most especially by my association with the spiritual and intuitive side of life.

Carl Jung, were he alive today, would have been one of the few prominent Western intellectuals to have recognized and applauded the role and the integrity of Ayatollah Khomeini, for Jung knew the sickness that had descended into man's soul when modern man tried to cut himself off from the myths of the past. Jung would have seen this revolution as the attempt of the collective unconscious to assert some form of equilibrium after having been so unbalanced by the rationalizing of man's soul, by the exorcism of God from the universe.

Having made my comments, inspired as they were, the Revolutionary Guards offered to let me meet the Imam personally; now it may strike the reader as preposterous but after being filled up by the Imam, having in fact received the ocean of love and power that I had, to see him personally seemed superfluous; I had been given (or so I felt) all that which God would have wished for me to receive; to meet the Imam personally was to ask the Imam to focus on me personally; I knew his time was too precious for that; I knew that whatever questions I had about the revolution and his role in it had been answered.

It thus seemed almost unnatural to ask for a personal audience with the Imam. Nevertheless I could see with what eagerness this offer had been made and I realized that even though it might be just a formality, and even though I would not think of pressing my individuality upon the Imam, it would nevertheless add to my credibility in the West, and it would enable me to see whether there was anything different to the Imam when he was in a personal encounter with someone. I therefore agreed to the tentative meeting, which was eagerly sought by my translator and guide, Mohammad Abbaszadeh.

We were ushered through a gate into the pathway leading up to the house of the Imam. We waited there for some thirty minutes and then were invited to wait in a room within the house itself. Taking off our shoes we were asked to sit down, where tea was served to us (in Iran tea is served constantly), where various mullahs sat, also waiting for an audience.

Now here the atmosphere was again exhilarating, vibrating with freshness and purity; compared to the hotel it was as if one were breathing into the exhaust pipe of a car and then breathing the air on a Himalayan mountain, so much did the consciousness of Khomeini make a difference, so much did the reverence and perpetually charged ambience affect the environment. There was one crudely insensitive mullah who continued to draw the exhaust fumes into his lungs; apparently even in the house of the Imam, there was permission to persist with one's addictions. But even the polluting effect of the cigarette smoke was not sufficient to take away the dominant reality of the consciousness inside this house.

I closed my eyes and just experienced the serenity in the air, and then after about fifteen minutes (and there were some incredulous looks by the various mullahs who wondered how an obviously Western and non-Islamic journalist had been permitted inside the residence of the Imam: most Western journalists had not even been allowed inside Iran for the past fourteen months; to be awaiting a personal meeting with the Imam, well that was past all reason-and I felt the miraculous fact of my situation) we were told, hastily, that the Imam had suddenly changed his schedule and was going into the hall once again to address a new audience of devotees, high school students and some of the poor from South Tehran; this would mean that we couldn't be received in his own private room, that we would (the interpreter and I) have to intercept him on his way into the hall.

We rushed to the passageway which joined the house with the hall, and were told almost immediately upon reaching our position, below the passageway, on the ground, that the Imam was on his way. Khomeini came through the doors of his house and again there was the whirlwind of divine energy, the swirling power of love and solemnity that carried its intention within a total sense of universality. He approached me, was told by Mohammad my name and where I was from, and his hand reached down as both my hands went up to receive him.

I held his hand for a few moments and he sent the thunderbolts of his immovable power into my eyes. It was as I had imagined it would be: there was nothing to say in those ten to fifteen seconds when in silence I received once again this unbounded ocean of supreme purposefulness. He was what he was inside the hall, only this time the universe was closer, but it was as if seeing the face of Jehovah in a moment when Jehovah took the form of the mask of the human being.

There was no wish, nor intention to disturb the wholeness of this moment of union with him, and my individuality seemed to form in a kind of non-anxious and harmonizing expansiveness that could bring about no needs. I had been filled before he touched my hand (or rather as I grasped his hand with both my hands); I was reminded of the sense of eternal replenishment that was the reality of himself as he was nearest to me. My trip to Iran seemed to have completed itself; I could have gone home after the Imam had left the hall; now, having seen him close up, I experienced that the answers had come in the form of a steady revelation.

The Imam never really personalized himself, and even all those who loved him and who were with him never expected him to personalize himself; he was universal and impersonal, and because of this he was capable of infinite compassion and devotion to all those who chose to follow the path of Islam. Even during the lecture I noticed his son, Ahmad, would turn in the direction of his father (he was seated just to the right of Khomeini) and gaze upon his father with the sense of knowledge that Khomeini was no longer his father; Khomeini was his Teacher, Khomeini was the source of living wisdom; Khomeini was the embodiment of Islam. Ahmad studied him as if to see the confirmation of this idea of the Imam's consistent appropriateness.

He, Ahmad, had gained, from the dispassionate equilibrium of his father, his own beautiful serenity, and by watching his father closely he registered the impulses of intelligence that served to show Ahmad the proper movements of the universe as they might embody themselves (and did) within a human being. It was the disciple looking up at his Master-the Master's closest disciple. His father had transcended the status of father, he was the father to the whole nation of Iran and to devout Muslims everywhere. It was, then, this impersonal reality of Khomeini that gave to him the expression of supreme devotion to God and to Islam.

Mohammad kissed fervently the hand of the Imam as he passed on from me to extend his hand down (his left hand) to Mohammad. It was a beautiful hand, a hand that, however aged, still retained the vitality of life, and was no doubt covered with the impressions of the lips of thousands of Iranians. To kiss this hand was for a Muslim to receive a special kind of grace, and Mohammad told me eagerly after-wards that his own hand (he held it open to me) “would never touch anything evil or impure for the rest of my life.” And when I returned to the hotel many of the Muslims were amazed that I had seen the Imam personally, and they wanted to see my hand, to express their envy and their assurance that my hand was now considered holy!

We walked down through the alleys leading to a street where a taxi would take us back to the hotel; I felt the conspiracy of time and space trying to gradually diminish my experience; but with just the slightest turning of my attention I was able to hold the full meaning and intensity of it-at least as it now translated itself into my present circumstances. I felt how so much tension had gone out of me, the tension brought about by the apparent contradictions and excesses of the revolution. I knew that I had discovered and experienced the great secret of the revolution; I knew that somehow I would try to communicate that secret in my book on Iran.

That secret has been told; it is the truth about this revolution, but it is equally obvious that many people will assume I have exaggerated or that I have been deluded; others may even feel that I have betrayed the cause of freedom and democracy by writing as I have. (I have friends who now are in adamant opposition to the regime, having been close to individuals who have been executed or discredited or persecuted by the present regime.) But I insist that this is the reality that everyone must at least consider, it may be rejected, but still the argument must be made, and I have made it here.

And I readily confess that all my subsequent experiences in Iran carried with them the vision of the integrity of the leader of the revolution, and therefore I found a touchstone to measure and deter-mine the meaning of various events to which I was exposed. While I was in presence of the Imam I had a yearning that all politicians of note take the time to visit Imam Khomeini. I still have that yearning. Imam Khomeini is the most charismatic political leader of the twentieth century-and he is much more besides. He is one of a handful of individuals I have met who have left me transformed. He is therein Iran supporting one of the precious pillars of God: Islam and the supreme truth of surrender to God.


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