The Supreme Leader & The Three Messiahs: A Tale from the Islamic Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment (Islamic Spring)

 

Related Links and Websites: Spiritus Mundi, Novel by Robert Sheppard

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To Read the Blog of Robert Sartorius from Spiritus Mundi: http://sartoriusblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/

 

Background Note: The following excerpt, “The Supreme Leader and the Three Messiahs” is one section of the novel, Spiritus Mundi , by Robert Sheppard. In this scene the leaders of the Campaign for a  United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, including Robert Sartorius and Mohammad ala Rushdie have been taken captive by a terrorist conspiracy and are being held, along with former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton as human shields to prevent a retaliatory nuclear strike in response to the detonation of a nuclear bomb in Jerusalem. Mohammad ala Rushdie, who is also a writer and a novice in a Sufi Order, is invited to read the story he has written while in captivity to the Supreme Leader of Iran, which proves to contain a Neo-Dostoyevskian message for him and the Islamic Renaissance, Reformation and Englightenment unfolding around them:

VI.       Qom                The Supreme Leader & The Three Messiahs

                        Finally, after many days of captivity Sartorius and the band of companions were again blindfolded and led through a maze of corridors, elevators, stairs and hallways to they knew not where. When they were released from their blindfolds they found themselves in the presence of a small party of men dining at a large ornate table in an underground room. Around the walls stood several armed guards at attention. Colonel Moussavi of the Quds Force gave him a profuse apology and regretted the measures taken for security reasons. Also present were Mustafa and Khlorinda. Colonel Moussavi explained that he and Mustafa had attended the same seminary or madresseh, attached to the Haghani School in Qom under the leadership of the Ayatollah Yazdi and supported by the Supreme Leader as well, and that many of the higher officers and ministers of government, Revolutionary Guards and the military were graduates of that school, which had become one of the main centers in which promising young men found patrons, mentors and sponsors who might place them in the highest ranks of the Islamic Revolution. Some regarded the Haghani School as a kind of insider’s Ecole Nationale d’Administration of the Military-Industrial-Theological Complex of the Islamic Revolution or perhaps an Islamic Oxbridge “Old Boy’s Network.” Others more addicted to conspiracy theories saw a sinister and undemocratic hand of the Haghani school behind many of the power plays behind the scenes, and others suspected it of a touch of even more sinister and suicidal addiction to a deranged theology of ushering in a Final Apocalypse. Others attributed the influence of the Haghani School in Iran, the Siloviki in Russia and the Taizi Dang, or Princeling Party in China to a conspiracy at a higher degree of cryptocracy, namely a shadowy elite, the alleged Axis of Synarchy, which was supposed to be behind all three phenomena. The Axis of Synarchy, according to this theory, soucht to preserve the dominance of a cryptocratic elite in the name of a “harmonious society” as it was expressed in China, and most particularly one which would forever counter the thread of bourgiouse individualism and the associated threat of “Anarchy.” Though Colonel Moussavi acknowledged his fathering of the philosophy of Islamic Synarchy in several books and his participation in the Synarchist International which included many of the Siloviki and TaiziDang members who had written or spoken in a similar philosophical vein, he dismissed the allegations of a sinister arch-conspiracy as the ravings of deranged and paranoid sociopaths. Synarchists professed the organic unity of society and the necessary submission of all of its parts to the common will determined, as in Plato’s Republic by an all-powerful elite; they advocated a corparatist government in the name of a harmonious integration of all social classes, legitimating in passing the existence and role of the dominant elites and the dominant social heirarchy, achieving thereby social peace and order. Colonel Moussavi said he was proud to be in the vanguard of the synarchist philosophical movement and praised Mousafa’s dedication to the ideals and the practical struggle for global synarchism.  After graduation from the Haghani School Mustafa had gone back to his country and then on to study at Cambridge. Colonel Moussavi had entered the elite Quds force and with the help of his mentors was advanced quickly into its senior officer ranks, eventually becoming an aide-de-camp to the Imam himself.  They entreated them to sit and have a cordial dinner. At the head of the table and set a ceremonial distance from the others was a man of medium stature dressed as an Imam and with a long white beard and turban headdress. Mustafa presented him with a heavy dignity as the Supreme Leader.

            To Sartorius’ mind the Imam gazing at him from the opposite end of the long and thickly solid table was a massive stillness, an immobility. He was living stone. His great gnarled hands, granite-gray, rested heavily on the wings of his high-backed chair. His head, looking too large for the body beneath, lolled ponderously on the surprisingly scrawny neck that could just be glimpsed through the grey-black wisps of beard. The Imam’s eyes were clouded; his lips did not move. His visage seemed pure force, an elemental being—he seeming to move without motion, act without doing, speak without uttering a sound.

            The Supreme Leader was known for his aloofness and stern demeanor. He was said to have had variously inspired admiration, awe, and fear from those around him. His practice of moving through the halls of the madresehs and later the halls of government never smiling at anybody or anything; his practice of ignoring his audience while he taught, lectured or commanded contributed to his charisma. In newspapers and eyewitness accounts of those who met with him face to face he was often described as “slim,” but athletic and “heavily boned.” He was known for his punctuality. He was regularly so punctual that if he doesn’t turn up for lunch at exactly ten past everyone will get worried and a crisis of state will be feared, because his work is regulated in such a way that he turned up for lunch at exactly that time every day. He goes to bed exactly on time. He eats exactly on time. And he wakes up exactly on time. He changes his frock every time he comes back from the mosque. Though casual observers might see him as an old man frail with age, he had prided himself his long life long with the physical strength of his body, and for a man now in his nineties he looked and moved thirty years younger than his true age, though in any case still bearing the hallowed gravitas of his cumulative years crowned with his glorious white hair,beard and grizzled face.

            The Supreme Leader adhered to traditional beliefs of Islamic cleanliness holding that non-Muslims – like urine, excrement, blood, wine, sweat, etc. – were one of eleven impure things contact with which required major ritual washing or Ghuslbefore prayer or salah. He is reported to have refused to eat or drink in a restaurant unless he knew for sure the waiter was a Muslim. Sartorius noted that at the dinner table he maintained his distance from the foreign guests, though later he became more cordial, apologizing personally for the inconvenience they were suffering, assuring them of their safety and eventual safe return home as far as it was within his power, Inshallah,  and deeply regretting the necessity which detained them. Towards the end of the dinner he listened with evident interest and gentleness as Mustafa introduced the guests and related aspects of their background. Through an interpreter he asked occasional questions of his guests and showed a refined appreciation of their talents and characteristics. He was genuinely respectful to Sartorius’ accomplishments as a scholar, and he told him that he regretted that the responsibilities of office gave him so little time for his studies, research and writing, as well as his spiritual inquiries, which he felt as his real calling—-his present position of national leadership he regretted out loud as “an accidental vocation” which the state of the world unhappily forced on him, alien to his true one. In the unexpected mixed company Sartorius and his colleagues were unsure of the rules of engagement and confined themselves to a polite interchange until they could be more sure of the ground on which they stood or how they might raise the question of their own plight.  

            The Imam, it was generally believed, had shown by his uncanny sweep to power, that he knew how to act in ways which others could not begin to understand. His timing was extraordinary, and his insight into the motivation of others, those around him as well as his enemies, could not be explained as ordinary knowledge. This emergent belief in the Supreme Leader as a divinely guided figure was carefully fostered by the clerics who supported him and spoke up for him in front of the people, but the charisma which gave rise to the intentional propaganda was observed and credited to him as palpably real even by his opponents and enemies.

On the return of the Imam from exile at the beginning of the Islamic Revolution tears of joy were shed and huge quantities of sweets and fruits were consumed as millions of people jumped for joy, shouting  ‘I’ve seen the Imam in the moon.’ The event was celebrated in thousands of mosques with mullahs reminding the faithful that a sure sign of the coming of the Mahdi was that the sun would rise in the West.  The Imam, representing the sun, at that time was in France and his face was shining in the moon like a sun. People were ready to swear on the Qur’an that they had seen the Imam’s face in the moon. Even the Tudeh Party, the party of Scientific Socialism, shared in the enthusiasm. Its paper Navid wrote: ‘Our toiling masses, fighting against world-devouring imperialism headed by the blood-sucking United States, have seen the face of their beloved Imam and leader, the Breaker of Idols, in the moon. A few pipsqueaks cannot deny what a whole nation has seen with its own eyes.’

Even many secularists who firmly disapproved of his policies were said to feel the power of his “messianic” appeal. Comparing him to a father figure who retains the enduring loyalty even of children he disapproves of, journalists wrote of the defenses of the Imam they heard in the most unlikely settings. A whiskey-drinking professor told an American journalist that the Imam brought pride back to Iranians. A women’s rights activist in Iran, a Nobel Prize nominee, said that the Imam was not the problem; it was his conservative allies and unprincipled underlings who had directed him wrongly. A nationalist war veteran, who held Iran’s ruling clerics in contempt, carried with him a picture of ‘The Imam’ and hung a larger one from the mirror of his automobile. Another journalist told the story of a wealthy Iranian woman, who following bitter criticism of the regime in which she tells him she wants her son to leave the country and repeatedly made the point that life had been better under the Shah, turns “ashen faced” and speechless upon hearing the rumor, later proved false, that the Imam might be dying, pronouncing ‘this is terrible for my country.’

When Mohammad was introduced to the Grand Imam by Mustafa and Colonel Moussavi they took care to point out his spiritual strivings in the Sufi order as well as his work with the Committee for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly. They also mentioned that Mohammad wrote poetry and short stories. At this the Imam was enthusiastically interested, inquiring after his taste in poets and what the subject matter of his stories might be. They discovered they both took a delight in Hafiz and in Rumi and the Imam revealed a little known fact about himself, that he was himself a closet poet and had dreamed in his youth of becoming a writer. He informed Mohammad that after dinner many evenings he convened a kind of literary salon in his private chambers to listen to poets and writers read their poetry and stories, and that he would be honored if he would join Miss Khlorindah, who was this evening to recite some of her poems and sing songs she had written, in honouring him with one or more of his works. Mohammad said that he was delighted to find that His Eminence the Imam was an appreciative enthusiast over literature, but he warned him that he might not find his works to his liking, as he could not approve the repression of the freedom of conscience and expression that he observed to reign in this country, amoung many others,with regard to writers and thinkers, and that he might find his views on the free development of the human spirit beyond the pale of orthodoxy.  

To Mohammad’s surprise, and to the surprise of all present, including Colonel Moussavi and the other aides who were used to his daily manners, the Imam laughed, which he was seldom observed to do, and spoke sharply but with a certain equanimity: “Yes, we are reactionaries, and you are enlightened intellectuals: You intellectuals do not want us to go back 1400 years. You, who want freedom, freedom for everything, the freedom of parties, you who want all the freedoms—- you intellectuals, freedoms of lifestyle, of action, of ideas and expression:  freedom that will corrupt our youth, freedom that will pave the way for the oppressor, freedom that will drag our nation to the bottom……You are young and imagine that this is something new on earth, but we who are old have lived through the twenties and forties and it is all an old story. What is the saying—There is nothing new under the sun. Perhaps it is only after your forties and fifties that you will wake up and separate cant from reality, and then, Inshallah, you will join me in breaking the teeth of those intellectual fops mouthing their saccharine cant. Yes, I invite you to join our literary party and I grant you amnesty in advance for anything you might say—-don’t imagine I haven’t heard it all before or that I am going to have a heart attack of surprise or conscience over it. But I like to hear from young men of spirit and honesty, even if they renounce me. It keeps my mind young though my body may be old. So come tonight and bring your manuscript and read it aloud for me, after I listen to Miss Khlorindah’s poems and songs you shall have my literary ear.  Colonel Moussavi will make the arrangements. Now, if you will be so kind as to excuse me, I must go to my rooms and take a post-prandial nap prior to receiving you. When one is past ninety unfortunately one must conserve one’s energy more than in younger years.”

When Mohammad entered the private quarters of the Supreme Leader attached to the deeply buried command facilities of the underground complex in which they found themselves, he was escorted to a sitting room in which were assembled a small company of about a dozen.  Khlorindah was already reciting some of her poems as he entered, seated on a large easy-chair opposite the Imam, who made himself comfortable stretched out on a low ottoman beneath a hanging Persian carpet in purples and scarlet featuring a pericope of Islamic calligraphy. Her dark limpid eyes invited absorption as the haunting verses tumbled from her lips. Mohammad sat himself in a corner of the room and took in the company as they responded to her voice with nods and occasional sighs of enthusiasm or delight. Then she moved to the other end of the room where was seated a musician in a jellaba with a gaspa flute. As the flute began to flutter from note to haunting note she began to sing Rai tunes, raising the emotional pitch of the gathering, then setting it softly back to earth with a note of melancholy and huzun.

After the song ended Khlorindah bowed modestly to the enthusiastic applause of the small company and set herself down in an empty chair next to Mohammad. Then Colonel Moussavi rose and introduced Mohammad, informing them that the Imam had invited him to share his manuscript of his new short story which he had recently completed, and that Mohammad had been so kind and gracious as to accept the invitation to read it aloud for their enjoyment and enlightenment. Then he escorted Mohammad from the corner of the room to the seat of honour in front of the Imam’s ottoman. Mohammad bowed before the Imam before seating himself and taking his manuscript from the small carrying case he had been given.

               “Quite impossible, as you see, to start without an introduction,” laughed Mohammad. “Well, then, I mean to place the event described in the poem in the intermediate future—-several decades at least beyond our present——Already the Islamic Revolution has progressed and the bulk of the Middle-East has been long united into a United Islamic Republic under the leadership of the Supreme Leader who now functions as a kind of Caliph of the entire region, a leader of the faithful. I call it a poem, or a Parable, though it is composed in prose rather than verse. I haven’t fixed on a final title for it yet, but most likely is The Parable of the Three Messiahs. In any case the idea is that it takes place after the Islamic Revolution has attained its aim and the whole region is united under the guidance of the Supreme Leader and administered through the ulama—-the assemblies and institutions of the clerics, ayatollahs, mullahs and Shariah courts which follow his guidance and command. In such a day there arrives visiting on earth the Mahdi, “The Guided One” who the Westerners compare to their concept of the Messiah and of the Second Coming of Christ as foretold in their Book of Revelations.  On this visit the Mahdi has emerged momentarily from his occultation as the 12th Imam and has come to walk again in the world of men, partially to relieve the loneliness of the occultation and partially for a kind of reconnaissance in preparation for the distant Yahm al-Quiyamah or “Day of the Resurrection,” the day of Advent and of the final Revelation being still not yet immanent. ‘Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven but Allah only’ mused the Mahdi, but he had, nevertheless, a longing to again stretch his legs upon the firm soil of the earth, so missed in his occultation while the ummah waited their centuries in expectation of his final return. No, this once, before those prophesized apocalyptic events the Mahdi wished to walk amoung men unknown to learn incognito the truths of their lives, like the nocturnal perambulations of the Caliph Haroun al-Rashid in the Alf Layla Wa Layla, the Thousand and One Nights, naked of the burden and enforced separation imposed by his exalted position—he wished for a renewed communion with earthly life.  Thus he walked on the streets of Teheran, capital of the newly formed United Islamic Republic stretching from India to Egypt, taking in the sights of children at play skipping rope, mothers shopping for vegetables and young men eagerly awaiting trysts in dark gardens with their veiled beloveds. He was joined in his walk through this living genre painting by two companions cloaked in similar incognito, Jesus Christ–foretold in the Koran (43:61) to accompany the Mahdi in the last days of the apocalyptic advent, and by the Maitreya, their Eastern cousin Messiah of the final days. Thus, arm in arm and savouring the piebald beauty of the sights of the things of this world the Three Messiahs strolled through the streets of Teheran. They made their way through the mazes of streets until they came to the center of the city, where they witnessed over one hundred heretics and adulteresses being burned or stoned to death around the Azadi Tower, and witnessed a chief offender amoung them being cast to the ground enveloped in the flames of his gasoline-soaked frock, from atop the top of the spire of the Milad Tower.

               As the Mahdi walked through the thronging crowds gathered to witness these events, try as they might to guard their anonymity, all—yea, how strange, all—-all recognize Him at once! The population rushes towards Him as if propelled by some irresistible force; it surrounds, throngs, and presses around, it follows Him…. Silently, and with a smile, compassionate and merciful as that of Allah himself upon His lips, He crosses the dense crowd, and moves softly on, followed by his two silent companions walking behind him. Compassion and Mercy burn in His heart, and warm rays of Light, Wisdom and Power beam forth from His eyes, and pour down their waves upon the swarming multitudes of the rabble assembled around, making their hearts vibrate with returning love. He extends His hands over their heads, blesses them, and from mere contact with Him, aye, even with the hem of His garments, a healing power goes forth. An old man, blind from his birth, cries, ‘Lord, heal me, that I may see Thee!’ and the scales falling off the closed eyes, the blind man beholds Him…The crowd weeps for joy, and kisses the ground upon which He treads. Children strew flowers along His path and sing to Him,

‘Allahu Akbar!’ It is He, it is Himself, they say to each other, the Mahdi, it must be He, it can be none other but He! Passing through the thronged Bazaar he pauses at the portal of the old Imam Khomeyni Mosque, just as a wee white coffin is carried in, with tears and great lamentations. The lid is off, and in the coffin lies the body of a fair-child, seven years old, the only child of an eminent citizen of the city. The little corpse lies buried in flowers. ‘He will raise the child to life!’ confidently shouts the crowd to the weeping mother. The officiating mullah who had come to meet the funeral procession, looks perplexed, and frowns. A loud cry is suddenly heard, and the bereaved mother prostrates herself at His feet. ‘If it be Thou, then bring back my child to life!’ she cries beseechingly. The procession halts, and the little coffin is gently lowered at his feet. Divine compassion beams forth from His eyes, and as He looks at the girl-child, then he looks behind to his companions. The three of them lay hands upon the tiny corpse.  His lips are heard to whisper once more, ‘Allahu Akbar’ ——and straightway the damsel arose. The child rises in her coffin. Her little hands still hold the nosegay of white roses which after death was placed in them, and, looking round with large astonished black eyes she smiles sweetly …. The crowd is violently excited. A terrible commotion rages among them, the populace shouts and loudly weeps, when suddenly, the massive main door of the great mosque opens and there appears the Supreme Leader himself………..He is a tall, gaunt-looking old man of nearly four-score years and ten, with a stern, withered face, and deeply sunken eyes, from the cavity of which glitter two fiery sparks. He has laid aside his gorgeous Imam’s robes in which he had appeared before the people at the executions of the enemies of the Islamic Revolution that morning, and is now clad in his old, rough mullah’s frock. His sullen assistants and bodyguards of the ‘Revolutionary Guards Quds Force’ are following at a distance. He pauses before the crowd and observes. He has seen all. He has witnessed the placing of the little coffin at His feet, the calling back to life. And now, his dark, grim face has grown still darker; his bushy grey eyebrows nearly meet, and his sunken eye flashes with sinister light. Slowly raising his finger, he commands his minions to arrest Him….

              Such is his power over the well-disciplined, submissive and now trembling people, that the thick crowds immediately give way, and scattering before the Revolutionary Guards, amid dead silence and without one breath of protest, allowing them to lay their sacriligious hands upon the three Strangers and lead the Mahdi away with his two companion Messiahs…. That same populace, like one man, now bows its head to the ground before the Imam, who blesses it and slowly moves onward. The Revolutionary Guards conduct their prisoners into a police van which takes them away to the looming mass of Evin Prison; then pulling them from the vehicle and pushing them into a narrow, gloomy, vaulted prison-cell. They lock them in and retire….

               The day wanes, and night–a dark, hot breathless Iranian late-summer night–creeps out and settles upon the city of Teheran. The air smells of laurels and orange blossoms. In the looming darkness behind the immensely thick walls of Evin prison the iron door of their cell is suddenly thrown open, and the Supreme Leader, holding a dark lantern, slowly stalks into the dungeon. He is alone, and, as the heavy door closes behind him, he pauses at the threshold, and, for a minute or two, silently and gloomily scrutinizes the three Faces before him. At last approaching with measured steps, he sets his lantern down upon the table and addresses Him in these words:

               “‘It is Thou! … Thou!’ … Receiving no reply, he rapidly continues: ‘Nay, answer not;  be silent! … And what couldst Thou say? … I know but too well Thy answer…. Besides, Thou hast no right to add one syllable to that which was already uttered byAllah’s Messenger and the Twelve Immams before Thee…. Why shouldst Thou now return, to impede us in our work? For Thou hast come but for that only, and Thou knowest it well. But art Thou as well aware of what awaits Thee in the morning? I do not know, nor do I care to know who thou mayest be: be it Thou or only thine subversive image, to-morrow I will condemn and throw Thee aflame from the Milad spire and stone your companions to death before the Azadi Tower, as the most wicked of all the heretics; and that same people, who to-day were kissing Thy feet, to-morrow at one bend of my finger, will rush to add fuel to burn your broken bones and limbs to spent ashes. Wert Thou aware of this when you came?’ he adds, speaking as if in solemn thought, and never for one instant taking his piercing glance off the meek Face before him nor those of His two Brothers beside Him….”

               “I can hardly realize the situation described in your fantastic fable–what is all

this, Mohammad?” suddenly interrupted Khlorindah, who had remained silently listening to her brother guest at the Imam’s literary salon. “Is this an extravagant fancy, some perversion of faith or some mistake of the old man, your future Supreme Leader?” she asked incredulously.

               “Let it be the the latter, if you like,” laughed Muhammad, “since modern realism has so perverted your taste that you feel unable to realize anything from the world of fancy…. Let it be a flawed psychological ideosyncracy. Again, the future Supreme Leader is ninety years old, and he might have easily gone mad with his one idee fixe of power; or, it might have as well been a delirious vision, called forth by his fancy inflamed by his own impending inevitable death of which he is only too acutely well aware, overheated by the mass executions of the hundred un-Islamic heretics of that forenoon……. But what matters for the poem which?  The question is, that the old man has to open his heart; that he must give out his thought at last; and that the hour has come when he does speak it out, and says loudly that which for ninety years he has kept secret within his own breast.”

               “And his prisoners, does the Mahdi never reply, nor his companion Messiahs? Do they keep silent, looking at him, without saying a word?” asked Khlorindah, incredulously, the gap in verisimilitude exasperating her patience in following the story.

               “Of course; and it could not well be otherwise,” again retorted Mohammad. The Supreme Leader begins from his very first words by telling the Mahdi and his companions that He has no right to add one syllable to that which has been said before. Clearly whatever has been needed to say or do has been accomplished in the past centuries ago and there is no need for any living deeds or words to follow; it is only for the living to follow the words already written and yield wholly to the authority of the keepers of the words and not any more for the words to follow the living.  All has been given over to the book and the interpreters of the book, the ulema of which he is the unquestioned and authoritative head.  To make the situation clear at once, the above preliminary monologue is intended to convey to the reader the very fundamental idea which underlies Velayat-e Fiqh–as well as I can convey it;  his words mean, in short: ‘Everything was given over by Allah to the Book of the Past, its Law and its Keepers, the ulama and their Supreme Leader and everything now rests with him alone; Thou the living spirit hast no business to return and thus hinder us in our work.’ In this sense the ulama and the mullahs not only talk but write likewise.

               “‘Hast thou the right to divulge to us a single one of the mysteries of that world whence Thou comest?’ enquires of Him my old Supreme Leader, and forthwith answers for Him. ‘Nay, Thou has no such right. For, that would be adding to that which was already

said by Thee before; hence depriving people of that freedom for which Thou hast so stoutly stood up while yet on earth…..Anything new that Thou would now proclaim would have to be regarded as an attempt to interfere with that freedom of choice—the choice of accepting or rejecting in toto, a fait accompli, the Book and the Faith—–as it would come as a new and a miraculous revelation superceding the old revelation of fourteen hundred years ago, when your Messenger Razul didst re-echo and reaffirm the companion Messenger on your right hand, so repeatedly telling the people: “The truth shall make you free.”

               Behold then, Thy “free” people now!’ adds the old man with somber irony. ‘Yea!… it has cost us dearly.’ he continues, sternly looking at his victim. ‘But we have at last accomplished our task, and–in Allah’s name…. For fourteen long centuries we had to

toil and suffer owing to that “freedom”: but now we have prevailed and our work is done, and well and strongly it is done…..Believest not Thou it is so very strong? … And why should Thou look at me so meekly as if I were not worthy even of Thy indignation?… Know then, that now, and only now, Thy people feel fully sure and satisfied of their freedom; and that, only since they have themselves and of their own free will delivered that freedom unto our hands, into the hands of the ulama, by placing it submissively at our feet. But then, that is what we have done. Is it that which Thou has striven for? Is this the kind of “freedom” Thou has promised them?'”

               “Now again, I do not understand,” interrupted Khlorindah. “Does the

old man mock and laugh?”

               “Not in the least. He seriously regards it as a great service done by himself, his brother mullahs, ayatollahs, Imams, and judges to humanity, to have conquered and subjected unto their authority that freedom, and boasts that it was done but for the good of the world. ‘For only now,’ my future Supreme Leader goes on to say (speaking of the consequences of the Islamic Revolution) ‘has it become possible to us, for the first time, to give a serious thought to human happiness. Man is born a rebel, and can rebels be ever

happy?… Thou and thy Brother had been fairly warned of it, but evidently to no use, since Thou hast rejected the only means which could make mankind happy; fortunately at Thy departure Thou hast delivered the task to us…. Thou hast promised, ratifying the pledge by Thy own words, in words giving us the right to bind and unbind… and surely, Thou couldst not think of depriving us of it now!'”

               “But what can he mean by the words, ‘Thou has been fairly

warned’?” asked Khlorindah.

               “These words give the key to what the old Iman has to say for his

justification… But listen——-“‘The terrible and wise spirit, the spirit of self-annihilation

and non-being,’ goes on the Imam, my future Supreme Leader,  ‘the great spirit of

negation conversed with Thy Brother Messiah in the wilderness, and we are told that he “tempted” Him… Was it so? And if it were so, then it is impossible to utter anything more truthful than what is contained in his three offers, which Thou, Brother Messiah,  didst reject, and which are usually called “Temptations.” Yea; if ever there was on earth a genuine striking wonder produced, it was on that day of Thy Brother Messiah’s three temptations, and it is precisely in these three short sentences that the marvelous miracle is contained. If it were possible that they should vanish and disappear for ever, without leaving any trace, from the record and from the memory of man, and that it should become necessary again to devise, invent, and make them reappear in Thy history once more, thinkest Thou that all the world’s sages, all the legislators, initiates, philosophers and thinkers, if called upon to frame three questions which should, like these, besides answering the magnitude of the event, express in three short sentences the whole future history of this our world and of mankind–dost Thou believe, I ask Thee, that all their combined efforts could ever create anything equal in power and depth of thought to the three propositions offered Thee by the powerful and all-wise spirit in the wilderness? Judging of them by their marvelous aptness alone, one can at once perceive that they emanated not from a finite, terrestrial intellect, but indeed, from the Eternal and the Absolute. In these three offers we find, blended into one and foretold to us, the complete subsequent history of man; we are shown three images, so to say, uniting in them all the future axiomatic, insoluble problems and contradictions of human nature, the world over. In those days, the wondrous wisdom contained in them was not made so apparent as it is now, for futurity remained still veiled; but now, when fourteen centuries have elapsed since the departure of the great Messenger who prophesized the Mahdi’s return with the return of the Christ at his right hand, we see that everything in these three questions is so marvelously foreseen and foretold, that to add to, or to take away from, the prophecy one jot, would be absolutely impossible!

               “‘Decide then thyself.’ sternly proceeded the Inquisitor, ‘which of ye two parties  was right, that of the Tempter or that of the Messiahs: Thou who didst reject, or he who offered? Remember the subtle meaning of question the first, which runs thus: ‘Wouldst Thou go into the world empty-handed?’ Would Thou venture thither with Thy vague and undefined promise of freedom, which men, dull and unruly as they are by nature, are unable somuch as to understand, which they avoid and fear?–for never was there anything more unbearable to the human race than personal freedom! Dost Thou see these stones in the desolate and glaring wilderness? Command that these stones be made bread–and mankind will run after Thee, obedient and grateful like a herd of cattle. But even then it will be ever diffident and trembling, lest Thou should take away Thy hand, and they lose thereby their bread! Thou didst refuse to accept the offer for fear of depriving men of their free choice; for where is there freedom of choice where men are bribed with bread? ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’– was Thy Brother Messiah’s answer.

               Oh, never, never, will they learn to feed themselves without our help! No science will ever give them bread so long as they remain free, so long as they refuse to lay that freedom at our feet, and say: “Enslave, but feed us!—Feed our bellies and our brains—Take away this cruel necessity to think and weigh and freely choose the good over evil only by the anguished guidance of the clouded heart and mind.” That day must come when men will understand that freedom and daily bread enough to satisfy all are unthinkable and can never be had together, as men will never be able to fairly divide the two among themselves. And they will also learn that they can never be free, for they are weak, vicious, miserable nonentities born wicked and rebellious. Thou hast promised to them the bread of life, the bread of heaven; but I ask Thee again, can that bread ever equal in the sight of the weak and the vicious, the ever ungrateful human race, their daily bread on earth? And even supposing that thousands and tens of thousands follow Thee in the name of, and for the sake of, Thy heavenly bread, what will become of the millions and hundreds of millions of human beings to weak to scorn the earthly for the sake of Thy heavenly bread? Or is it but those tens of thousands chosen among the great and the mighty, that are so dear to Thee, while the remaining millions, innumerable as the grains of sand in the seas, the weak and the loving, have to be used as material cannon fodder for the former? No, no! In our sight and for our purpose the weak and the lowly are the more dear to us. True, they are vicious and rebellious, but we will force them into obedience, and it is they who will admire us the most. They will regard us as gods, and feel grateful to those who have consented to lead the masses and bear their burden of freedom by ruling over them–so terrible will that freedom at last appear to men! Then we will tell them that it is in obedience to Allah’s will and in His name that we rule over them. We will deceive them once more and lie to them once again—for never, never more will we allow Thee and thy Brothers of the Living Spirit to come among us. In this deception we will find our suffering, for we must needs lie eternally, and never cease to lie! “Such is the secret meaning of “Temptation” the first, and that is what Thy Brother Messiah didst reject in the wilderness for the sake of that freedom which Thou didst prize above all. Meanwhile Thy Tempter’s offer contained another great world-mystery. By accepting the “bread,” Thou wouldst have satisfied and answered a universal craving, a ceaseless longing alive in the heart of every individual human being, lurking in the breast of collective mankind, that most perplexing problem–“whom or what shall we worship?” There exists no greater or more painful anxiety for a man who has freed himself from all religious bias, than how he

shall soonest find a new object or idea to worship. But man seeks to bow before that only which is recognized by the greater majority, if not by all his fellow-men, as having a right to be worshipped; whose rights are so unquestionable that men agree unanimously to bow down to it. For the chief concern of these miserable creatures is not to find and worship the idol of their own choice, but to discover that which all others will believe in, and consent to bow down to in a mass. It is that instinctive need of having a worship in common that is the chief suffering of every man, the chief concern of mankind from the beginning of times. It is for that universality of religious worship that people destroyed each other by sword. Creating gods unto themselves, they forwith began appealing to each other: “Abandon your deities, come and bow down to ours, or death to ye and your idols!” And so will they do till the end of this world; they will do so even then, when all the gods themselves have disappeared, for then men will prostrate themselves before and worship some idea. Thou didst know, Thou couldst not be ignorant of, that mysterious fundamental principle in human nature, and still thou hast rejected the only absolute banner offered Thee, to which all the nations would remain true, and before which all would have bowed–the banner of earthly bread, rejected in the name of freedom and of “bread and mannah in the kingdom of Allah”! Behold, then, what Thou hast done furthermore for that “freedom’s” sake! I repeat to Thee, man has no greater anxiety in life than to find some one to whom he can make over that gift of freedom with which the unfortunate creature is born. But he alone will prove capable of silencing and quieting their consciences, that shall succeed in possessing himself of the freedom of men. With “daily bread” an irresistible power was offered Thee: show a man “bread” and he will follow Thee, for what can he resist less than the attraction of bread? But if, at the same time, another succeed in possessing himself of his conscience–oh! then even Thy bread will be forgotten, and man will follow him who seduced his conscience. So far Thou wert right. For the mystery of the human being does not solely rest in the desire to live, but in the problem–for what should one live at all? Without a clear perception of his reasons for living, man will never consent to live, and will rather destroy himself than tarry on earth, though he be surrounded with bread. This is the truth. But what has happened? Instead of getting hold of man’s freedom, Thou has enlarged it still more! Hast Thou again forgotten that to man rest and even death are preferable to a free choice between the knowledge of Good and Evil? Nothing seems more seductive in his eyes than freedom of conscience, and nothing proves more painful. And behold! Instead of laying a firm foundation whereon to rest once for all man’s conscience, Thou hast chosen to stir up in him all that is abnormal, mysterious, and indefinite, all that is beyond human strength, and has acted as if Thou never hadst any love for him, and yet Thou wert He who came to “Lay Forth His life for Salvation of His friends!” Thou hast burdened man’s soul with anxieties hitherto unknown to him. Thirsting for human love freely given, seeking to enable man, seduced and charmed by Thee, to follow Thy path of his own free-will, instead of the old and wise law of chastisement which held him in subjection, Thou hast given him the right henceforth to choose and freely decide what is good and bad for him, guided but by Allah’s image in his heart. But hast Thou never dreamt of the probability, nay, of the certainty, of that same man one day rejected finally, and controverting even Allah’s image and Thy truth, once he would find himself laden with such a terrible burden as freedom of choice? That a time would surely come when men would exclaim that Truth and Light cannot be in Thee, for no one could have left them in a greater perplexity and mental suffering than Thou has done, lading them with so many cares and insoluble problems. Thus, it is Thyself who hast laid the foundation for the destruction of Thine own kingdom and no one but Thou is to be blamed for it.

               And Thou, cousin Maitreya, you came so many incarnations ago as the Buddha, the Great Liberator of mankind from endless Suffering as the plaything of Desire and Illusion. You also promised to set him free from his suffering into a Nirvana of immutable Truth. But if Man was so unequal to the burden of Freedom, and its choice between good and evil, then how much more was he incapable of lifting the weight of Illusionless Truth! Thou didst counsel ‘Abandon all Desire,’ for it is the engine and root of all suffering and the Mother of Illusion. But thoughtest Thou that weak and needful man was capable of renouncing his dearest dreams and desires without renouncing life itself? If you did Thou hast erred most egregiously and fruitlessly compounded the unbearable burden upon fragile man and woman, extinguishing the root of their every happiness and consolation! Thou hast compounded his suffering and unhappiness by taking away even the illusory joys of his delusions. Thou hadst promised that the Truth should set him free, but what man could be strong enough to live without Illusion? Nay! Man lives only by, for and through his illusions—–Truth is Death! Death to the Truth! Long live Life—Long live Delusion! Wilst you also come back to hinder our work? Wilst Thou burden suffering man and woman with the unbearable choice between truths and illusions—insufferably beyond their strength? Nay! Give the Children their Fairy Tales and their God in Heaven and their Myths to live by! Take your Truth and your Freedom from Desire and Delusion away back to your Nothingness!—-the Human Heart can bear none of them!

               “‘Meantime, every chance of success was offered Thee which but Thou Three so coarsely rejected. There are three Powers, three unique Forces upon earth, capable of conquering for ever by charming the conscience of these weak rebels—-Men—-for their own good; and these Forces are: Miracle, Mystery and Authority. Thou hast rejected all the three, and thus wert the first to set them an example. When the terrible and all-wise spirit placed Thy Brother Messiah on a pinnacle of the temple and said unto Him, “If Thou be the son of God, cast Thyself down, for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone!”–for thus Thy faith in Allah should have been made evident, Thou didst refuse to accept his suggestion and didst not follow it. Oh, undoubtedly, Thou didst act in this with all the magnificent pride of a god, but then Men–that weak and rebel race–are they also gods, to understand Thy refusal? Of course, Thou didst well know that by taking one single step forward, by making the slightest motion to throw Thyself down, Thou wouldst have tempted “the Lord Thy God,” lost suddenly all faith in Him, and dashed Thyself to atoms against that same earth which Thou camest to save, and thus wouldst have allowed the wise spirit which tempted Thee to triumph and rejoice. But, then, how many such as Thee are to be found on this globe, I ask Thee? Couldst Thou ever for a moment imagine that men would have the same strength to resist such a temptation? Is human nature calculated to reject miracle, and trust, during the most terrible moments in life, when the most momentous, painful and perplexing problems struggle within man’s soul, to the free decisions of his heart for the true solution? Oh, Thou knewest well that that action of Thine would remain recorded in books for ages to come, reaching to the confines of the globe, and Thy hope was, that following Thy example, man would remain true to his God, without needing any miracle to keep his faith alive! But Thou knewest not, it seems, that no sooner would man reject miracle than he would reject God likewise or worship the miracles of a science that could pretend to rival and surpass your higher miracles, for he seeketh less God than “a sign” from Him. And thus, as it is beyond the power of man to remain without miracles, so, rather than live without, he will create for himself new wonders of his own making; and he will bow to and worship the soothsayer’s miracles, the old witch’s sorcery and Tarot, were he a rebel, a heretic, and an atheist a hundred times over. Thy Brother Messiah’s refusal to come down from the cross when people, mocking and wagging their heads were saying to Thee–“Save Thyself if Thou be the son of God, and we will believe in Thee,” was due to the same determination–not to enslave man through miracle, but to obtain faith in Thee freely and apart from any miraculous influence. Thou thirstest for free and uninfluenced love, and refusest the passionate adoration of the slave, the forced harlot or prostitute before a Potency which would have subjected their will unfreely once and for ever. Thou judgest of men too highly here, again, for though rebels they be, they are born slaves and nothing more. Behold, and judge of them once more, now that fourteen centuries have elapsed since the last Messenger, Razul Allah. Look at them, whom Thou didst try to elevate unto Thee! I swear man is weaker and lower than Thou hast ever imagined him to be! Can he ever do that which Thou art said to have accomplished? By valuing him so highly Thou hast acted as if there were no love for him in Thine heart, for Thou hast demanded of him more than he could ever give–Thou, who lovest him more than Thyself! Hadst Thou esteemed him less, less wouldst Thou have demanded of him, and that would have been more like love, for his burden would have been made thereby lighter. Man is weak and cowardly. What matters it, if he now riots and rebels throughout the world against our will and power, and prides himself upon that rebellion?  It is but the petty pride and vanity of a school-boy. It is the rioting of little children, getting up a mutiny in the class-room and driving their schoolmaster out of it.—You have seen the movie “If?”—But it will not last long, and when the day of their triumph is over, they will have to pay dearly for it. They will destroy the temples and raze them to the ground, flooding the earth with blood. But the foolish children will have to learn some day that, rebels though they be and riotous from nature, they are too weak to maintain the spirit of mutiny for any length of time. Suffused with idiotic tears, they will confess that He who created them rebellious and free undoubtedly did so but to mock them. They will pronounce these words in despair, and such blasphemous utterances will but add to their misery–for human nature cannot endure blasphemy, and takes her own revenge in the end. “‘And thus, after all Thou has suffered for mankind and its freedom, the present fate of men may be summed up in three words: Unrest, Confusion, Misery! Thy great Brother Prophet John records in his vision, that he saw, during the first resurrection of the chosen servants of God–“the number of them which were sealed” in their foreheads, “twelve thousand” of every tribe. But were they, indeed, as many? Then they must have been gods, not men. They had shared holy Martyrdom for long years, suffered scores of years’ hunger and thirst in dreary wildernesses and deserts, feeding upon locusts and roots–and of these children of free love for Thee, and self-sacrifice in Thy name, Thou mayest well feel proud. But remember that these are but a few thousands–of gods, not men; and how about all others? And why should the weakest be held guilty for not being able to endure what the strongest have

endured? Why should a soul incapable of containing such terrible gifts be punished for its weakness? Didst Thou really come to, and for, the “elect” alone? If so, then the mystery will remain for ever mysterious to our finite minds. And if a mystery, then were we right to proclaim it as one, and preach it, teaching them that neither their freely given love to Thee nor freedom of conscience were essential, but only that incomprehensible mystery

which they must blindly obey even against the dictates of their conscience. Thus did we. We corrected and improved Thy teaching and based it upon “Miracle, Mystery, and Authority.” And men rejoiced at finding themselves led once more like a herd of cattle, and at finding their hearts at last delivered of the terrible burden laid upon them by Thee, which caused them so much suffering. Tell me, were we right in doing as we did? Did not we show our great love for humanity, by realizing in such a humble spirit its helplessness, by so mercifully lightening its great burden, and by permitting and remitting for its weak nature every Sin, every baseless Illusion, provided it be committed with our Authorization? For what, then, hast Thou come again to trouble us in our work and set the free spirit in contention with the fixed word and authority of the written Book and the ulama and Caliphate its keepers? And why lookest Thou at me so penetratingly with Thy meek eyes, and in such a silence? Rather shouldst Thou feel wroth, for I need not Thy love, I reject it, and love Thee not, myself. Why should I conceal the truth from Thee? I know but too well with whom I am now talking! What I had to say was known to Thee before, I read it in Thine eye. How should I conceal from Thee our secret? If perchance Thou wouldst hear it from my own lips, then listen: We are not with Thee, but with him, and that is our secret! For centuries have we abandoned Thee to follow him, yes—eight centuries. Twelve of occlusion, Fourteen hundred years now since we accepted from him the gift rejected by Thy Brother with indignation—the Caliphate, the power of Caesar, universal Dominion; that last gift which he offered Thee from the high mountain when, showing all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, he saith unto Thee:”All these things will I give Thee, if Thou will fall down and worship me!” We took Byzantium from him and the glaive of Caesar, and declared ourselves, Ulama and Caliph, alone the kings of this earth, its sole kings, though our work is not yet fully accomplished. But who is to blame for it? Our work is but in its incipient stage, but it is nevertheless started. We may have long to wait until its culmination, and mankind have to suffer much, but we shall reach the goal some day, and become sole Caesars, Caliphs, Universal Imams and Ulama, and then will be the time to think of universal happiness for men.

               “‘Thou couldst accept the glaive of Caesar, and of the Caliphate and of Alexander and Qin Shihuangdi and of the Great Khan Thyself; why didst Thou reject the offer? By accepting from the powerful spirit his third offer Thou wouldst have realized every aspiration man seeketh for himself on earth; man would have found a constant object for worship; one to deliver his conscience up to, and one that should unite all together into one common and harmonious ant-hill; for an innate necessity for universal union constitutes the third and final affliction of mankind. Humanity as a whole has ever aspired to unite itself universally. Many were, the great nations with great histories, but the greater they were, the more unhappy they felt, as they felt the stronger necessity of a universal union among men. Great conquerors, like Timoor and Tchengis-Khan, Alexander, Ashoka, Napoleon and Qin Shi Huangdi passed like a cyclone upon the face of the earth in their efforts to conquer the universe, but even they, albeit unconsciously, expressed the same aspiration towards universal and common union. In accepting the kingdom of the world and Caesar’s purple, one would found a universal kingdom and secure to mankind eternal peace. And who can rule mankind better than those who have possessed themselves of man’s conscience, and hold in their hand man’s daily bread? Having accepted Caesar’s glaive and purple, we had, of course, but to deny Thee and the subversions of thy Brothers of the Spirit, to henceforth follow him alone. Oh, centuries of intellectual riot and rebellious free thought are yet before us, and their science will end by anthropophagy, for having begun to build their Babylonian tower without our help they will have to end by and by in cannibalism. But it is precisely at that time that the Beast will crawl up to us in full submission, and lick the soles of our feet, and sprinkle them with tears of blood and we shall sit upon the scarlet-colored Beast, and lifting up high the golden cup “full of abomination and filthiness,” shall show written upon it the word “Mystery!” But it is only then that men will see the beginning of a kingdom of peace and happiness. Thou art proud of Thine own elect, but Thou has none other but these elect, but a thin aristocracy of the spirit, and we–we will give rest to all. But that is not the end. Many are those among thine elect and the laborers of Thy Vineyard, who, tired of waiting for Thy coming, already have carried and will yet carry, the great fervor of their hearts and their spiritual strength into another field, and will end by lifting up against Thee Thine own banner of Freedom and of Truth.  But it is Thyself Thou hast to thank. Under our rule and sway all will be happy, and will neither rebel nor destroy each other as they did while under Thy free banner. Oh, we will take good care to prove to them that they will become absolutely free only when they have abjured their freedom in our favor and submit to us absolutely. Thinkest Thou we shall be right or still lying?They will convince themselves of our rightness, for they will see what a depth of degrading slavery and strife that liberty of Thine has led them into. Liberty, Freedom of Thought. Truth, Conscience, and Science will lead them into such impassable chasms, place them face to face before such wonders and insoluble mysteries, that some of them——-more rebellious and ferocious than the rest—-will destroy themselves; others—-rebellious but weak—-will destroy each other; while the remainder, weak, helpless and miserable, will crawl back to our feet and cry: “‘Yes; right were ye, oh Mullahs of Allah; ye alone are in possession of His mystery, and we return to you, praying that ye save us from ourselves!” Receiving their bread from us, they will clearly see that we take the bread from them, the bread made by their own hands, but to give it back to them in equal shares and that without any miracle; and having ascertained that, though we have not changed stones into bread, yet bread they have, while every other bread turned verily in their own hands into stones, they will be only to glad to have it so. Until that day, they will never be happy. And who is it that helped the most to blind them, tell me? Who separated the flock and scattered it over ways unknown if it be not Thee and Thy Brother Liberators of the Spirit? But we will gather the sheep once more and subject them to our will for ever. We will prove to them their own weakness and make them humble again, whilst with Thee they have learnt but pride, for Thou hast made more of them than they ever were worth. We will give them that quiet, humble happiness, which alone benefits such weak, foolish creatures as they are, and having once had proved to them their weakness, they will become timid and obedient, and gather around us as chickens around their hen. They will wonder at and feel a superstitious admiration for us, and feel proud to be led by men so powerful and wise that a handful of them can subject a flock a thousand millions strong. Gradually men will begin to fear us. They will nervously dread our slightest anger, their intellects will weaken, their eyes become as easily accessible to tears as those of children and women; but we will teach them an easy transition from grief and tears to laughter, childish joy and mirthful song. Yes; we will make them work like slaves, but during their recreation hours they shall have an innocent child-like life, full of play and merry laughter. We will even permit them sin, for, weak and helpless, they will feel the more love for us for permitting them to indulge in it. We will tell them that every kind of sin will be remitted to them, so long as it is done with our permission and for the glory of our Faith; that we take all these sins upon ourselves, for we so love the world, that we are even willing to sacrifice our souls for its satisfaction. And, appearing before them in the light of their scapegoats and redeemers, we shall be adored the more for it. They will have no secrets from us. It will rest with us to permit them to live with their wives and concubines, or to forbid them, to have children or remain childless, either way depending on the degree of their obedience to us; and they will submit most joyfully to us the most agonizing secrets of their souls–all, all will they lay down at our feet, and we will authorize and remit them all in Thy name, and they will believeus and accept our mediation with rapture, as it will deliver them from their greatest anxiety and torture–that of having to decide freely for themselves, and separate the wheat of Truth from the chaff of Illusion. And all will be happy, all except the one or two hundred thousands of their rulers. For it is but we, we the keepers of the great Mystery who will be miserable. We shall bear the burden of their freedom upon ourselves, and if we meet Allah in heaven we will take our chances as Martyrs that the great love of mankind which we have consummated shall deliver us in the final judgment from the weight of any of our possible sins. There will be thousands of millions of happy infants, and one hundred thousand martyrs who have taken upon themselves the curses of freedom, the knowledge of good and evil, the discernment of illusion and truth. Peaceable will be their end, and peacefully will they die, in Thy name, to find behind the portals of the grave–but death. But we will keep the secret inviolate, and deceive them for their own good with the mirage of life eternal in Thy kingdom. For, were there really anything like life beyond the grave, surely it would never fall to the lot of such as they! People tell us and prophesy of Thy coming and triumphing with Thy Brother Messiahs once more on earth; of Thy appearing with the army of Thy Elect, with Thy proud and mighty ones; but we will answer Thee that they have saved but themselves while we have saved all. We are also threatened with the great disgrace which awaits the whore, Babylon the great, The Western Bitch gone in the teeth,  the “Mother of Harlots”–who sits upon the Beast, holding in her hands the Mystery, the word written upon her forehead; and we are told that the weak ones, the lambs shall rebel against her and shall make her desolate and naked. But then will I arise, and point out to Thee the thousands of millions of happy infants free from any sin. And we who have taken their sins upon us, for their own good, shall stand before Thee and say: “Judge us if Thou canst and darest!” Know then that I fear Thee not. Know that I too have lived in the dreary wilderness, where I fed upon locusts and roots, that I too have blessed freedom with which thou hast blessed men, and that I too have once prepared to join the ranks of Thy elect, the proud and the mighty, and that I too have sat under Thy Bodhi Tree separating Truth from Illusion with a mind purged of desire. But I awoke from my delusion and refused since then to serve insanity. I returned to join the legion of those who corrected Thy mistakes. I left the proud and returned to the really humble, and for their own happiness. What I now tell thee will come to pass, and our kingdom shall be built, I tell Thee not later than to-morrow Thou shalt see that obedient flock which at one simple motion of my hand will rush to add stones to Thy stoning and upon your pyre, on which I will burn Thee for having dared to come and trouble us in our work. For, if there ever was one who deserved more than any of the others our condemnation–it is Thee! To-morrow I will Martyr Thee. Inshallah!”

               Mohammad paused. He had entered into the situation and had spoken with great animation, but now he suddenly burst out laughing.

               “But all that is absurd!” suddenly exclaimed Khlorindah, who had hitherto listened perplexed and agitated but in profound silence. “Your poem is a glorification of Allah, not an accusation, as you, perhaps, meant it to be. And who will believe you when you speak so of ‘freedom’ and of ‘truth’? Is it thus that we Muslims must understand it? It is but the perverters of the word of Allah that you condemn not his faithful servants gathered around us; it can only be the unthinking fanatics and men of violent hearts and not our reflective true leaders that you have been exposing! Your future Supreme Leader is an impossible character not like our actual Supreme Leader before us.  What are these sins they are taking upon themselves? Who are those keepers of mystery who took upon themselves a curse for the good of mankind? Who ever met them? We all know the false mullahs who only manipulate, plot and scheme for their own personal power, and no one has a good word to say in their favor; but when were they ever truly as you depict them? Never, never! The false mullahs are merely a hypocrite army making ready for their future temporal kingdom, with a mitred emperor–a false Caliph at their head. That is their ideal and object, without any mystery or elevated suffering. The most prosaic thirsting for power, for the sake of the mean and earthly pleasures of life, a desire to enslave their fellow-men, something like our ancient feudal system of serfs, with themselves at the head as owning proprietors—that is all that they can be accused of. They may not believe in God, that is also possible, but your suffering future Supreme Leader is simply—an absurd fancy!”

               “Hold, hold!” interrupted Mohammad, smiling. “Do not be so excited. An absurd fancy, you say; be it so! Of course, it is a fancy. But stop. I ask you, why should the mullahs

of your imagination live but for the attainment of ‘mean material pleasures or for personal power?’ Why should there not be found among them one single genuine martyr suffering under a great and holy idea and loving humanity with all his heart? Now let us suppose that among all these mullahs thirsting and hungering but after ‘mean material pleasures or personal power’ there may be one, just one like my old future Supreme Leader, who had himself fed upon roots in the wilderness, had gone through the deepest personal spiritual aspirations and searching, been tempted in his faith and suffered the tortures of damnation while trying to conquer flesh, in order to become free and perfect, but who had never ceased to love humanity, and who one day prophetically beheld the truth; who saw as plain as he could see that the bulk of humanity could never be happy under the old system, that it was not for them that the great Idealists, the Razul Messengers of Allah, had come and died and dreamt of His Universal Harmony. Having realized that truth, he returned into the world and joined–intelligent and practical people. Is this so impossible?”

               “Joined whom? What intelligent and practical people?” exclaimed Khlorindah quite excited. “Why should they be more intelligent than other men, and what secrets and mysteries can they have? They have neither. Atheism and infidelity is all the secret they have. Your Surpreme Leader does not believe in God Allah, and that is all the Mystery there is in it!”

               “It may be so. You have guessed rightly there. And it is so, and that is his whole secret; but is this not the acutest sufferings for such a man as he, who killed all his young life in asceticism in the desert, having flogged, lacerated, torn and and tested and subdued his body to the spirit in Ashura, and yet could not cure himself of his love towards his fellowmen? Toward the end of his life he becomes convinced that it is only by following the advice of the great and terrible spirit that the fate of these millions of weak rebels, these ‘half-finished samples of humanity created in mockery’ can be made tolerable.  And once convinced of it, he sees as clearly that to achieve that object, one must follow blindly the guidance of the wise spirit, the fearful spirit of death, negation and destruction, hence accept a system of lies and deception and lead humanity consciously this time toward death and destruction; and moreover, be deceiving them all the while in order to prevent them from realizing where they are being led, and so force the miserable blind men to feel happy, at least while here on earth. And note this: a wholesale deception in the name of Him, in whose idea the old man had so passionately, so fervently, believed during nearly his whole life of orthodox faith! Is this no suffering? And were such a solitary exception found amidst, and at the head of, that army ‘that thirsts for power but for the sake of the mean pleasures of life,’ think you one such man would not suffice to bring on a tragedy? Moreover, one single man like my Supreme Leader as a principal leader, would prove sufficient to discover the real guiding idea of the Ulamic system with all its armies of mullahs, judges and unquestionable texts and rules freed up from the burden of any contact with the Living Spirit; the greatest and chiefest conviction that the solitary type described in my poem has at no time ever disappeared from among the chief leaders of that movement. Who knows but that that terrible old man, loving humanity so stubbornly and in such an original way, exists even in our days in the shape of a whole host of such solitary exceptions, whose existence is not due to mere chance, but to a well-defined association born of mutual consent, to a secret league, organized several centuries back, in order to

guard the Mystery from the indiscreet eyes of the miserable and weak people, and only in view of their own happiness? And so it is; it cannot be otherwise. I suspect that even the Falasifiyah or Masons or Buddhists or Bahai or even Marxists have some such Mystery underlying the basis of their organization, and that it is just the reason why the clerics hate them so—orthodox mullahs dreading to find in them rivals, competition, the dismemberment of the unity of the idea, for the realization of which one flock and one Shepherd are needed. However, in defending my idea, I look like an author whose production is unable to stand criticism. Enough of this. I let my work speak for itself or speak not at all.”

               “You are, perhaps, a Faylasuf yourself!” exclaimed Khlorindah. “You do

not believe in God but in Reason like the Falsafas,” she added, with a note of profound sadness in her voice.

               “Not at all” he riposted, “I am more a mystic than a mere rationalist, but I am a freethinker in both directions. I insist that the Living Spirit and its eternal explorations and deeper conjunctions not be extinguished or aborted by false restraints.”

               “It sounds more like obscurantist youthful Romanticism,” chided the Imam, “…..I enjoy your imaginative spirit, and I respect your manly courage which but few would have before me under such circumstances. Your kind of Romanticism is something I would criticize a sixteen year-old for being without, but chide a thirty-year old for not having outgrown. I applaud you for it here….but do not expect me to authorize its publication for the masses.”

                But suddenly realizing that her brother guest artist was looking at her with mockery Khorindah felt compelled to react. “How do you mean then to bring your poem to a close?” she unexpectedly enquired, casting her eyes downward, “or does it break off here?”

               “My intention is to end it with the following scene:  Having disburdened his heart, the Supreme Leader waits for some time to hear his three prisoners speak in Their turn. He asks for their reply. Their unbroken silence weighs upon him. He has seen that his captives have been attentively listening to him all this time, not without understanding, with their eyes fixed penetratingly and softly on the face of their jailer, and evidently purposefully bent upon not replying to him. The old man longs to hear the Mahdi’s voice, and those of his Brother Messiahs of the Spirit. He longs to hear Them reply; better words of bitterness, condemnation and scorn than Their silence. Suddenly The Mahdi rises; slowly and silently approaching the Inquisitor, He bends towards him and softly kisses the bloodless, four-score and-ten- year-old lips. Christ and the Maitreya follow him and kiss him in turn. That is all the answer. The Supreme Leader shudders. There is a convulsive twitch at the corner of his mouth. He goes to the door, opens it, and addressing the three he intones, ‘Go,’ he says, ‘go, and return no more… do not come again… never, never!’ —-and lets Them out into the dark night. The prisoners vanish into the Teheran evening, leaving behind only a pervading lingering scent of Night-blooming Jasmines.”

               “And the old man?” asks Khlorindah.

               “The kiss burns his heart, but the old man remains firm in his

own ideas and unbelief.” Mohammad replies.

               “And you, together with him? You too!” despairingly exclaimed Khlorindah, while Mohammad burst into a still louder fit of laughter

               “I am faithful to Allah in my own fashion” replied Mohammad.

               “And do you renounce me then?” asked the Imam chidingly.

               Mohammad rose from his chair and mad no reply but kissed the Imam on his bloodless, four-score and ten year old lips.

               “That is plagiarism,” chided the Imam.

                Mohammad bowed silently in reply, exiting.

C   Copyright Robert Sheppard  2011  All Rights Reserved

About robertalexandersheppard

Robert Sheppard , Author, Poet & Novelist Pushcart Prize fof Literature 2014 Nominee Professor of World and Comparative Literature Professor of International Law Senior Associate, Committee for a Democratic United Nations (KDUN) E-mail: rsheppard99_2000@yahoo.com Robert Sheppard is the author of the acclaimed dual novel Spiritus Mundi, nominated for the prestigious 2014 Pushcart Prize for Literature in two parts, Spiritus Mundi the Novel, Book I and Spiritus Mundi the Romance, Book II. The acclaimed “global novel” features espionage-terror-political-religious-thriller action criss-crossing the contemporary world involving MI6, the CIA and Chinese MSS Intelligence as well as a "People Power" campaign to establish a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly on the model of the European Parliament, with action moving from Beijing to London to Washington, Mexico City and Jerusalem while presenting a vast panorama of the contemporary international world, including compelling action and surreal adventures. It also contains the unfolding sexual, romantic and family relationships of many of its principal and secondary characters, and a significant dimension of spiritual searching through "The Varieties of Religious Experience." It contains also significant discussions of World Literature, including Chinese, Indian, Western and American literature, and like Joyce's Ulysses, it incorposates a vast array of stylistic approaches as the story unfolds. Dr. Sheppard presently serves as a Professor of International Law and World Literature at Peking University, Northeastern University and the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) of China, and has previously served as a Professor of International Law and MBA professor at Tsinghua University, Renmin People’s University, the China University of Politics and Law and at the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in Beijing, China. Having studied Law, Comparative Literature and politics at the University of California, Berkeley (Ph. D.Program in Comparative Literature), Northridge, Tübingen, Heidelberg, the People’s College and San Francisco, (BA, MA, JD), he additionally has been active as professor of International Trade, Private International Law, and Public International Law from 1993 to 1998 at Xiamen University, Beijing Foreign Studies University, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Graduate School (CASS), and the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. Since 2000 he has served as a Senior Consultant to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Beijing and has authored numerous papers on the democratic reform of the United Nations system.
This entry was posted in Apocalyptic Literature, Arab Awakening, Best New Religious Novels, Best New Spiritual Novels, Comparative Religion, Dostoyevsky, Hashem Aghajari, Imam, Islamic Awakening, Islamic Fundamentalism, Islamic Philosophy of the Ulema, Islamic Religious Philosophy, Literature of Religious Philosophy, Literature of the Christian Messiah, Literature of World Religion, Mahdi: The Islamic Messiah, Messianic Buddhism, Messianic Islam, Mullahs, Neo-Dostoyevskian Literature, New Apocalyptic Literature, New Dostoyevskian Literature, New Existential Literature, New Iranian Literature, New Iranian Literature of the Islamic Spring, New Iranian Literature of the Resistance Movement, New Islamic Literature, New Islamic Religious and Philosophic Literature, New Islamic Religious Philosophy, New Literature of Comparative Religion, New Literature of Religious Philosophy, New Literature of the Arab Spring, New Literature of the Islamic Reformation, New Literature of the Islamic Spring, New Literature of the Messiah, New Literature of the New Islamic Reformation, New Literature of the New Islamic Renaissance, New Literature of the New Messiah, New Literature of World Religion, New Literature on the Islamic Ulema, New Literature on the Supreme Leader, New Messianic Literature, New Religious Existential Literature, New Religious Literature, New Religious Novels, New Spiritual Novels, New Voices from the Islamic Spring, New Voices from the Islamic Uprising, New Writing from the Arab Spring, New Writing from the Islamic Spring, New Writing on the Islamic Ulema, Opening the Gates of Ijtihad, Religion, Religious Novels, Religious Philosophy, Spiritual, Spiritual Novels, Spirituality, The Arab Spring, The Arab Spring and Opening the Gates of Ijtihad, The Brothers Karamazov, The Buddhist Messiah, The Gates of Ijtihad, The Grand Inquisitor, The Grand Inquisitor and the Supreme Leader, The Iranian Grand Inquisitor, The Islamic Enlightenment, The Islamic Grand Inquisitor, The Islamic Messiah, The Islamic Reformation, The Islamic Renaissance, The Islamic Spring, The Islamic Spring and The Arab Spring and Opening the Gates of Ijtihad, The Mahdi, The Maitraiya, The Maitraiya Buddha, The Messiah, The Parable of the Grand Inquisitor, The Return of Christ, The Second Coming of Christ, The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ulema, Urdu: ولایت فقیه, مهدي‎, ولاية الفقيه, ولایت فقیه, Velayat-e faqih, World Messiahs, World Peace, World Peace Novels, World Religion, الثورات العربية‎, الثّورات العربيّة, حركة النهضة الجزائرية‎ and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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