We were there for about forty-five minutes before there were signs that the Imam was about to make his entrance. The signal was clear; several other turbaned 'ulama emerged from the door and indicated to the mullah who was waiting on stage that the chieftain, priest, holy man commander and Imam was on his way. At the appearance of [Imam] Khomeini in the doorway everyone jumped to his feet and began shouting, "Khomeini!" "Khomeini!" "Khomeini!" in the most vibrant athletic, rejoicing, militant tribute that I had ever witnessed for another human being. Everyone seemed completely taken over by the spontaneous surge of love and adulation, and yet there was the proclaiming with every cell of their heart the absolute confidence that what and who they were honoring was worthy of such honor in the eyes of ALLAH [SWT]. Indeed I would say that the explosion of ecstasy and power that greeted the Imam was itself not so much a simple reflex based upon a fixed idea of the Imam; it was rather the natural and exuberant hymn of praise, of celebration that was demanded by the very majesty and overpowering charisma of this man. For once the door opened for him I experienced a hurricane of energy surge through the door, and in his brown robes, his black-turbaned head, his white beard he stirred every molecule in the building and riveted the attention in a way that made everything else disappear. He was a flowing mass of light that penetrated into the consciousness of each person in the hall. He destroyed all images that one tried to hold before one in sizing him up. He was so dominant in his presence that I found myself organized in my sensations by that, which took me far beyond my own concepts, my own way of processing experience. I had expected-no matter what the apparent stature of the man to find myself scrutinizing his face, exploring his motivation, wondering about his real nature. [Imam] Khomeini's power, grace, and absolute domination destroyed all my modes of evaluation and I was left to simply experience the energy and feeling that radiated from his presence on the stage. A hurricane he was, yet immediately one could see there was a point of absolute stillness inside that hurricane while fierce and commanding, he was yet serene and receptive. Something was immovable inside him, yet that immovability moved the whole country of Iran This was no ordinary human being; in fact even of all the so called saints I had met - the Dalai Lama, Buddhist monks, Hindu sages - none possessed quite the electrifying presence of [Imam] Khomeini. For those who could see (and feel) there could be no question about his integrity, nor about the claim, however muted by people like Yazdi, by his people that he had gone beyond the normal (or abnormal) selfhood of the human being and had taken residence in something absolute. This absoluteness was declared in the air, it was declared in the movement of his body, it was declared in the motion of his hands, and it was declared in the fire of his personality, it was declared in the stillness of his consciousness. There was no mystery about why he was so loved by millions of Iranians and Muslims throughout the world and he demonstrated, to this observer at least, the empirical foundation for the notion of higher states of consciousness. Yes, the severity, the humourlessness, the absolutist judgment was apparent; yet given the circumstances within which he was placed, there was the affirmation of appropriateness in his every gesture and aspect. This was the most extraordinary person I had seen.
At first he did not speak; another religious leader addressed the audience, [Imam] Khomeini sitting in a kind of immaculate silence and perfect equilibrium. He was motionless; he was detached; he was in an ocean of peacefulness; and yet something was in pure motion; something was dynamically involved; something was ready to wage constant war. He dwarfed all those people whom I had met in Iran; he dominated the stage even while the other mullah spoke. All eyes were on [Imam] Khomeini, and there was not the slightest trace of egotism, of self-consciousness, even, if I can say it, of inner dialogue or random thinking. His whole being focused relentlessly yet spontaneously on the point of concentration that aesthetically and spiritually fitted into the dramatic scene we were witnessing. Despite the fierce intention, the absolute sense of uncompromising rectitude, there was yet the sense of something perfectly effortless and smooth that dictated the manifest movements of his hands, the sound of his throat clearing, the focus of his attention. Here hundreds of patriots and Muslims had shouted his greatness, had sworn their love, their absolute adulation; yet while receiving all this he remained within himself, he remained unmoved; he remained in the dignity of some imperturbable inner state that was beyond the boundaries of a causation that I was familiar with.
The reader may wince at the extravagance of my description of this man; he must know, however, that despite everything that I had heard, despite the contradictory evidence I had received before (the seeming violence of the rhetoric, the lack of creative playfulness and so on), the actual and immediate impression of what Imam Khomeini was had nothing to do with some sort of idea or concept. The experience was too overpowering for that. Imagine for a moment the pushing of the body of oneself out of one's mother's womb, or the moment when one might awaken to the fact that one was being created inside a fetal body, or the moment when one was conscious of dying, or the moment when one first discovered the power of egos: these experiences have as their basis a primary determinant outside of the frame of reference the individual; what is dominant is the intrinsic nature of the reality which is giving birth to the experience. Such is what happened on the morning of Wednesday, February 9th, 1982 in North Tehran. The subjectivity of the experience seemed to be objectified by something that was at the very basis of my consciousness; I transcended the mode of experience that normally determined what sensations, thoughts, feelings constellated into my awareness of self. [Imam] Khomeini was that powerful; [Imam] Khomeini was that strong; [Imam] Khomeini was that ego less and invincible
In a moment I saw all the impulses of the revolution, the whole history of the overthrow of the Shah, the rhythms of martyrdom, the bygone Islamic civilization that had temporarily overshadowed the West: all of this was contained in the presence of this man. He was the source of the revival of Islam, he was the source of the revolution, and he was the source of whatever power this revolution and Islam represented to the world. Without him I am certain the monarchy would still be in place and Islam would be effectively eliminated as a factor in the political destiny of the Middle East. Once seeing [Imam] Khomeini I questioned whether even the revolution in Iran would survive in its vitality and coherence for it seemed pretty obvious that all inspiration was derived from [Imam] Khomeini's leadership. [Imam] Khomeini was the revolution. Those given the awareness or feeling to know what he represented (the wholeness of life biased through Islam) could not help but be filled with the fervor of Islam, the blessed confidence of martyrdom, and the determination to spread Islam to the world. He uplifted and transformed; this was done not through some projected idea of his charisma; it was done by the actual material of life; it was accomplished through the intention of that which had created this whole drama. No, [Imam] Khomeini was at the center of this Islamic eruption; [Imam] Khomeini was the fountainhead of the spiritual power that flowed into the hearts of Muslims throughout the Middle East-at least those Muslims who instinctively were close to the heart of Islam.
He did not smile once; his face was implacably set in the resolution of his will; God demanded everything from him; he had given his life to serving God. There was nothing to laugh at, to be amused at, to wonder about; his course had been set and he was in the determined consequences of that course: to bring Islam into the prominence which its divine genesis had portended. He lived for Islam; he had become the instrument of Islam; he had no purpose but the enactment of Islam. His individuality seemed merged with the universality of his higher purpose. I detected no mental entropy, no inner reactions to his environment; no, there was only the inevitable pattern of duty that placed him into the servitude of ALLAH [SWT]. Of course neither science nor psychology could verify these observations; they entirely escaped the instruments, the diagnosis of experiential reality; nevertheless one might suspect that his brain waves would yield readings of hemispheric coherence not typical of those of us still in the normal grip of conflict, ambivalence, and insecurity. Physiologically, octogenarian that he was, there was the impression of soundness, of efficiency, of non-wasted energy and performance. Everything he did - from the motion of his hands to the opening of his mouth to the sound of his words - was under the aegis of one ordering intelligence. He was totally non-divided; he gave the sense of someone who had not only mastered himself but was himself now the servant of another master, and one can only assume that he had either hallucinated himself into the experience of submitting to God, or that indeed he had achieved that permanent grace that was the subject of my controversial discussion with Ebrahim Yazdi and the Lebanese professor. Here he was, perhaps the most hated man of post Hitler civilization, yet one saw him as being utterly undemagogic; one saw him as - at the very least - an Old Testament prophet, an Islamic Moses come to drive Pharaoh from his lands (Pharaohism being expressed in all those values and activities that ignored the reality and pre-eminence of ALLAH [SWT]).
Despite the hatred (and I thought of all the millions of people who had gone through many days of their lives during the hostage crisis filled with negative thoughts about "The Ayatollah", how the most powerful hostility had focused itself on him) he yet appeared untouched by this destructive energy. He had been strong enough to survive it; he had been perhaps strong enough to be chosen to release it; now he was hated even more for thousands of his countrymen - not to mention Saddam Hussein and the monarchs of the region - now turned against him. I intuited that the very hatred directed against him had in fact strengthened the revolution, had in fact made him that much more powerful; he did not live for the approval of others, he did not live to be a hero; he did not live for any personal satisfaction; he lived for the truth he experienced in the laws of Islam, in the revelations of the Prophet, in the happiness and immortality that could be achieved through Islam.
All this will seem preposterous to most of those who read this book, and yet the clarity with which these impressions asserted themselves made them self-evident and as truthful as the awakening from a dream. [Imam] Khomeini was for real, and the projection of the personal, or I should say, impersonal presence of [Imam] Khomeini diminished the impression of any other political leader I had seen. He might be the enemy of pluralistic values; he might be the enemy of individualist freedom; he might be the enemy of democratic government; he might be the enemy of the metaphysics of variable subjectivity (i.e. the universe of the individual); but one could not deny that, despite his severe countenance and the rigid and inflexible values and laws for which he stood, he was, for all that, the most towering force of wholeness and integrity; he was a microcosm of Truth as it passed through Islam. He was not someone with whom one could discuss the meaning of individual choice, or the sensuous beauty of ballet, but he was yet the most formidable human being on the stage of international politics, and he seemed, at least from my vantage point, to be easily a contemporary of Christ himself, not that [Imam] Khomeini would ever compare himself with Christ-but he radiated that same uncompromising integrity and one-pointed intention. How was it that a human being who had not tasted the variety of human experience, how was it that a human being who denied the experimental riches of personal freedom, how was it that such a person could contain, could embody so much of the order of the universe itself. Well, for those readers who find the apologetics of stoning to death adulterers a trifle disconcerting - or the execution of homosexuals - the description and interpretation I have given may seem the most inflated form of self-distorting perception. Nevertheless I wish to make it clear that one must - at least for purposes of drawing some conclusions about this revolution and the adamantine love in which [Imam] Khomeini is held by over half of his countrymen - separate the ideological statements of [Imam] Khomeini from the spontaneous measure of the man's stature as a human being. His stature is not so much derived from his words, nor his authority, but from the living expression of his being, from the very way in which the universe reacts to the organized form of his personality. For all his extremist rhetoric, for all his bitterness towards the United States, for all his cursing of the West, he still transcends the content of his words, the content of his writings; what is primary is the elemental grace that floods into one's heart with the slightest intention to open oneself to the naturalness of one's experience. A film or theatre director, if he were to view the performance of Ayatollah [Imam] Khomeini would say this was the one actor who could play the role of a Messiah-or the Twelfth Imam, so magnificent was his stage presence, so absolute was the sense of his confidence, so unalterable was his will.