By the time we met with Vice President Mashaee, I was beginning to get the message—we would be tightly restricted, and we would only be approved to meet with people who were specifically approved by the conservative bureaucrats in charge of our visit. This is why I had asked him to facilitate a meeting with government-sanctioned Shia clergy who had both mystical depth and familiarity with Western philosophy. A number of my fellow delegates were upset with me for speaking up spontaneously— they felt that I was threatening the primary values of group consensus and cohesiveness in favor of my own agenda.
Thus, I was delighted several days later when I discovered that the Vice-President's office indeed had followed up on my request. They set up a meeting in Qom with some senior conservative clerics—senior clerical faculty at the Ayatollah Khomeini Seminary, headed by President Ahmadinejad's spiritual advisor, the man reputed to be Iran's most arch-conservative cleric, Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi.
We met with two senior and two junior faculty members from Mesbah-Yazdi's Ayatollah Khomeini Seminary. The senior clerics were Hojat-el-eslam Sohrabi and Hojat-el-elsam Ebadi. Both of them were serious charismatic individuals who had obvious engaged years of sincere spiritual practice.
The junior faculty members were Dr.Mohammed Fanaii, a professor of philosophy and mysticism, and Dr. Mohammed Legenhausen, who teaches Western and Christian philosophy at the seminary. Both of them spoke English. Dr. Fanaii was relatively taciturn, and quite conservative.
Legenhausen, on the other hand was quite a surprise—a warm and friendly American philosophy professor from Texas . (He appreciated our association with Mennonites and peace.) Formerly Gary Legenhausen, he converted to Shia Islam and visited Iran in 1984 and stayed. His familiarity with Iranian religious thinking and American idiom facilitated and furthered our dialog and mutual understanding.