My uncle takes the entire morning to clean up his room; a small room at the far end of the house with a window facing the back yard. His son-in-law carries 12 chairs one by one and makes 3 perfect rows. He adds the last touches by nailing a very small white board to the wall underneath the ugly, unfinished painting of a vase of roses my cousin painted when she was in high school.
In the kitchen my aunt is dusting a silver set of tea cups. The tea-pot is boiling and so is every body’s heart–I can tell. I assume it’s the excitement of doing something illegal.
Before any one gets a chance to acknowledge the fear, the door opens and people in groups of two quietly walk in. I race to the living room to hide behind a column so I could see the teacher, miss C. She is very young, in her thirties, perhaps, but it’s her curly hair disturbingly dyed blonde that makes her look young, in a fake way. The dark Iranian skin never looks good with blonde hair.
Last month the local police took her in for some questionings. It’s not clear how they have found out about her and despite her valid permission to teach, she was told to not continue teaching her Cosmic Consciousness classes in a classroom she was renting in a local middle school.Now it’s been a month that those of her students who aren’t afraid of being called for questionings or even being arrested are taking turns to host her classes in their houses.
As The door to my uncle’s room closes, I hear Miss C. calling for what she calls a “Protective Layer.” I am told that Protective Layer is a hallow of an energy that surrounds a person and blocks him or her from negative energies. The only people who can create the layer around them are those pay the monthly fees for the class.
I go back to the kitchen to catch up with my aunt who is now arranging a tray of Persian sweets.
Cosmic Consciousness is the concept that the universe exists as an interconnected network of consciousness wherein each conscious are linked to one another. While this is not a new notion and similar concepts such as Indra’s net in Buddhism or Carl Jung’s collective unconscious have endorsed such beliefs, the Cosmic Consciousness–Iranian style–uses Islamic beliefs. For instance, I read in my cousin’s notes that the best way to reach Allah–one of the core purposes of the class–is to directly talk to Him rather than praying to an Imam–equivalent of a Catholic Saint.
Iranians are religious individuals. Though they might not strictly practice Islam on daily basis by praying five times a day, they are very spiritual and the presence of Islam in their lives cannot be overlooked. It is no surprise that Cosmic Consciousness–Iranian style takes Quran, twists it with some Sufism, sprinkles it with Buddhism, adds some meditation and presents it as new way of thinking; a new life style.
The class is over in two hours and the students leave as quietly as they had entered. For the rest of the night, the family talks about the class and how the “connections” had healed a man who was possessed by a Jinn, a woman with cancer and how something really important will occur in 2012 which will bring the universe to peace.
This class has taken over the lives of this family. At home, they talk about it loudly. Friday nights, when everybody picnics in the park, they talk about it quietly.
I have always perceived my uncle as a religious man. I am kind of proud of him for looking at different thoughts and including his family in his discoveries.
When I am back in the States, I look up the Persian term for Cosmic Consciousness in Google. My search takes me to http://erfanetaher.blogfa.com/cat-2.aspx, the blog of Mr. Taheri, the man who started this movement in Tehran and trained teachers like Miss C.
To my surprise, the archive of previous posts is empty and access to the main page of the Halgheh Institute of Mysticism is blocked by a message that reads “the requested weblog has been blocked due to a Terms Of Service violation.”
A note posted in bold, bright red apologizes for the disconnection from the “Protective Layer” and other “connecting energies” due to reasons such as taking advantage of the powerful energy of the cosmos and misunderstanding of the public about the Cosmic Consciousness.
Could the blog be blocked by the government? Did the Cosmic Consciousness people stopped their practice? I don’t have the answer, but let’s not forget that brining new ideas to a controlled society has not always been an easy task.
With the wide access to satellite TVs and Internet, few Iranians are willing to bow down to the conventional ideas of life, afterlife, universe or religion. Iranians are ready to embrace and explore new ways of thinking about the world, life and even religion.
However Islamic the Cosmic Consciousness might be, it is a new way of defying the core beliefs Iranians are used to and it is not something the Iranian government wants to see its people are drawn to.
Finally, let’s not forget that no matter how hard the government tries to stop such new ideas to spread, Iranians will find a way around it to learn and explore.