In 1963, a full hundred solar years after Husayn declared himself to be the Promised One of all Promises, and a quarter century after I had joined the Flock, I attended the inauguration of the next great epoch of the End of Days, as the Flock was transformed into the Letter Day Recipients of the Memoranda of the Men on the Mountain. After the passing of a full hundred years, memoranda would now be issued on a regular basis from God’s mountain to the World Flock. Inspired by the spirit of that august occasion, I traveled to Iran to visit the place where it all began.
I met my friend and fellow Recipient Mehran at Tehran airport. He drove me into town and we had a delicious supper at a pleasant little Armenian restaurant. I noticed various portraits of volcanoes hanging on the walls. “Why all the volcanoes?” I inquired.
Mehran explained to me that the featured mountains were the symbols of Iran and Armenia: the mountains Damavand and Ararat, respectively. “It’s a message of peace,” he said. I nodded several times in approval.
We chatted innocuously, careful not to broach any political controversies, in the spirit of obedience. It was just as well. The current Islamic uprising, led by Ruhollah Khomeini, was something of an embarrassment. After all of the sacrifices and martyrdoms of the Gatebreakers, why did all the protesters who followed this man find it necessary to start an entirely new uprising? It seemed like an incredible waste of effort, to say nothing of blood.
Mehran drove me to my hotel after dinner. He gave me a day to let my clock catch up, and then he dropped in the next morning, and he drove me out east of the city toward Damavand. We drove over a couple high ridges into the Caspian Sea watershed and wound around the eastern shoulder of the mammoth mountain. We stopped and drove up the side of the mountain to get out and stretch our legs. I wasn’t about to challenge the summit.
As we descended to the car, Mehran spotted something in the grass and bent down to pick it up. It was a huge reddish-brown feather. It looked like an eagle feather. Mehran handed it to me and declared, “We welcome you to Iran!” I bowed playfully, received the feather, and held it as we returned to the car.
Our first destination would be up the Noor River. We made a left at the confluence of the Noor and the river we’d been following since well before Damavand. The Noor River is well named. The canyon that it follows is broad and sunny. Though the river flows through the heart of the Alborz Mountains, it’s cut deep into the range, so the day gets warm. The road is narrow but doesn’t wind much, so we got to Takor in good time. We sat on the front porch of the holy mansion in the warm shade and watched the river until the caretaker walked up. I was holding the feather that Mehran had found on Damavand, and the old caretaker glanced at it and said a few words with a wink. Mehran translated, “You have a Seemorgh feather. Good luck!”
“I have a what?” I asked Mehran.
“A Seemorgh feather. It’s a legendary bird, like a phoenix, only it doesn’t burn up. It just gives you its feathers to burn.”
“What for? Good luck?”
“Sure. It’s like a genie. Burn the feather and the Seemorgh helps you with your problem.”
I gazed out over the river, and I imagined two boys playing catch down in the floodplain past the riverbank. One was a teenager, a young man, and the other was a little boy. Each had his baseball glove and cap, though their faces and voices were very Iranian. They were speaking Persian. The little boy had good form for his age. I figured his big brother had taught him well.
Husayn and John never played baseball, of course. When they were boys, baseball could hardly be said to have existed in America, much less Iran. That was just my American mind imagining two American archetypes; the older brother looking after the younger, making sure he grew up straight, and more importantly, got his baseball mechanics down. Of all the biased and contradictory accounts of these brothers’ lives, all agree that the boys were close, that the older nurtured and spoke well of the younger. But the trials of adulthood, family, upheaval, power, and exile would exact a heavy toll on their brotherhood.