One of my first truly interesting experiences in Iran was my visit to the little room where Ayatollah Khomeini, the George Washington of the Islamic Republic of Iran, essentially ran the government for its first decade. He lived extremely simply, as you can see.
The man who served as his personal attendant was there to greet us and to offer us a tour. He was, clearly, full of devotion to "the Imam" as he calls his Master. I became curious. So when we got a chance to spend time next door in the meeting-room, or Hossein-i-yeh, the place where the Imam met with people many times a week between 1979 and his death in 1989, I sat down and meditated.
The room is utilitarian, large, and mostly a museum these days. The simple chair in which Imam Khomeini used to sit was served with flowers, but there was no ceremonial acknowledgment asked of anyone. We just removed our shoes before entering. During the time when I was able to sit there, the hall was filled with mingling tourists and tour guides, Iranian and American, shooting photos and talking. But I closed my eyes and dropped in, to notice whatever was there to notice.
And it didn't take long for me to drop into what was there in that room - the powerful presence of utterly still, perfectly rested conscious being. It was unmistakable, stable, unyielding, and unblinking. Fierce. Pure. Ancient.
(Interestingly enough, this powerful transmission was not nearly as palpable when I meditated ten days later at the much larger and more-visited Imam Khomeini Shrine where his body lies.)
After meditating, it was perfectly clear to me how and why this
man had been able to stand, with total authority, at the center of the enormous world-changing forces that buffeted Iran during his lifetime. He operated from a very strong and genuine realization, one he was even able to transmit to others. The nation trusted him for reasons that had never been apparent to me before: they could feel that he embodied an absolutely trustable spiritual awareness - a deep causal mystical realization.
What is most clear to Westerners is that Ayatollah Khomeini insisted on every aspect of Iranian government and life being ruled by strict traditional Islamic codes that rigidly suppressed modern Western individuality. What is least clear to Westerners is that the Imam's leadership was animated by a powerful spiritual awareness.
After meditating, I spoke again with this servant-devotee. This man's eyes glowed, and he looked upon me with a new openness and respect. The two of us spoke together in a deeper field, with shared awareness of the sacred context that is (whether Americans like it or not) a functional precondition for meaningful dialog between the Islamic Republic and the United States and probably also between the Islamic and Western secular worlds.
(Integral theory buffs might be thinking about the Wilber-Combs lattice, wondering about structures and states can both be addressed - a vital matter, indeed! Of course it's essential, but I don't think structures can be discussed in this cross-cultural dialog without a deep meeting in higher states - through shared meditation and prayer. On that basis, many new possibilities for mutual understanding open up.)