14 Aug 2011

Prof Kamal Das on Peter Heehs's Research at the Ashram

Ashram Trustees to Govt of India:
“Sri Aurobindo was ‘Psychotic and Mentally Unstable’”


In a shocking revelation, it has now come to light that the Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram led by Manoj Das Gupta have submitted to the Government of India, that original research carried out at the Ashram’s Archives proves that Sri Aurobindo was “psychotic and mentally unstable with a pronounced affliction of lunacy”.

In the Ashram’s Annual Report of Research Activities submitted to the Government and dated 1997-1998, on p.26 the Trustees have cited as “original historical research” an article of some 30 pages by Peter Heehs titled “Genius, Mysticism, and Madness”. This article, written by Peer Heehs as part of his work at the Ashram Archives, was also published in the Psychohistory Review in 1997. Evidently, it matters little to the Trustees that the Ashram Archives was not created for the purpose of denigrating Sri Aurobindo but for preservation of his manuscripts. Nor does it matter to the Trustees that Peter Heehs, being a school dropout, has absolutely no formal training, degree or experience in any field whatsoever, leave alone complex subjects such as psychology and psychohistory.

In this article Heehs attempts to “prove beyond reasonable doubt” that Sri Aurobindo’s genius and spiritual achievements and realisations were the unreliable consequence of mental instability coupled with psychotic and lunatic affliction.

Extracts and Excerpts from “Genius, Mysticism, and Madness” by Peter Heehs
• “Aurobindo’s biographers describe Swarnalotta’s condition as “hysteria,” formerly a catch-all classification for different sorts of mental disorder in females. A modern diagnosis, based especially on the alternating storms account, would probably be manic-depressive illness. But some of the evidence-the psychotic isolation as well as the scar anecdote-suggest schizophrenia. One practicing psychiatrist proposes therefore that Swarnalotta suffered from schizo-affective disorder of the hebephrenic type, alterning laughter and rage being characteristic of hebephrenia.” P.53 (Psychohistory Review)

• “One of Swamalotta’s brothers was more seriously disturbed than she. A police report of 1910 (compiled because of the government’s interest in Aurobindo) described him as “a dangerous lunatic, kept in chains.” Swarnalotta’s sister, Lilavati, was eccentric in her behavior. Aurobindo’s brother, Manmohan, suffered for a time from what we now would call paranoia; later in life, after the death of his wife, he became seriously depressed. Manmohan was a poet, whose juvenile verse was praised by Oscar Wilde and John Aldington Symonds. He died, however, before he could finish his major project. Aurobindo’s youngest brother, Barin, had some measure of the family’s literary talent, but he was so erratic in his direction of a revolutionary group that he narrowly avoided being executed for treason.” p.54

• “There are, however, a few pieces of evidence that suggest that Swarnalotta’s madness might have had a more direct effect on her son [Aurobindo].” P.54

• “Constitution and health. Ellis and Ludwig have noted that many geniuses had weak constitutions. Aurobindo was healthy but weak and uninterested in games. He never learned to ride and, as a result, was rejected by the Indian Civil Service. Ludwig found that many in his upper quartile had chronic illnesses. One of Aurobindo’s classmates noted that Aurobindo had some problem with his “urinary organs” (a Victorian euphemism for kidneys). Aurobindo would die from kidney failure.” p.57

• “Family life. Aurobindo married Mrinalini Bose, a 14-year-old girl, in 1901. They spent only parts of seven years together. Mrinalini never played an important role in her husband’s life. Ellis noted that “a passionate devotion to intellectual pursuits seems often to be associated with a lack of passion in the ordinary relationships of life.”” P.57-58

• “The question of Madness. A subeditor on the newspaper Aurobindo edited once noted in his diary: “Babu Aurobindo Ghose is an extremely strange man. And I suspect a tinge of lunacy is not absent from him. His mother is a lunatic. And it is not at all strange.”“ P.59

• “This does not pretend to be a full catalogue either of the psychotic personality or of the mystical mind. It simply displays certain experiences of mentally disturbed persons (taken from the Schreber case and others studied by Sass, Boisen, et al.) alongside mystical experiences that have at least verbal resemblance to them (as recorded by Aurobindo in his poetry [CP], letters [LY, OH], and spiritual diary [RY]). (It should be noted that Aurobindo considered his poems to be transcriptions of actual experiences and not symbolic expressions or imaginations.) I have grouped the experiences in rough categories.” [In the following Tables] P.64


Psychotic Experience Mystical Experience
Auditory hallucinations are common in “psychotic patients on the schizophrenic spectrum” [Sass, 62] Aurobindo often heard voices, some of which he considered commands (adesh) of God [LY,40]
A patient described voices “becoming visible, as if written in various letters or signs” [Sass, 92] A patient described voices “becoming visible, as if written in various letters or signs” [Sass, 92]
The “tendency of the psychotic to read hidden meanings in what he sees about him” [Boisen, 74] Aurobindo found special meaning in texts happened upon or consulted (“sortilege”) [RY, passim]
A patient “contained within his body all the heavenly bodies” [Sass, 22] “In me Arcturus and Belphegor burn” [CP, 131]


Psychotic Experience Mystical Experience
“The basic split in the schizoid personality was a cleft that severed the self from the body” [Laing 1968, 174] Aurobindo was “unconscious of the body for many years” [OH, 89]; “My body [is] a dot in the soul’s wide expanse” [CP, 142]
Catatonic withdrawal, observed in Schreber and Madeleine, is “common in schizophrenia” [Sass, 38] Aurobindo has periods of “inert mood” (jadavat bhava) [unpublished letter]
Schreber, like many schizophrenics, believed his body was undergoing radical transformations [Sass, 45] In his diary Aurobindo recorded various subtle bodily transformations (kaya-siddhi) [RY, passim]
Schreber had various sexual experiences including sexual union with the Divine; in this relationship he is transformed into a woman [Sass; Wiethaus] Kaya-siddhi included causeless sexual delight (maithuna-ananda) [RY, passim]; “Nature” in Aurobindo is “Hoping her lord to touch, to clasp, to be.” [CP, 139]


Psychotic Experience Mystical Experience
Schreber lived in a private cosmos of “nerves,” “rays,” “souls,” “gods” [Sass, 7] Aurobindo described in his diary (and presents in his philosophy) an inner cosmos of worlds, beings, etc.
Many schizophrenics feel they have special powers or are controlled by external forces [Ludwig 1994, 1656] “My acts are Thine, I do Thy works and pass ... Thy force in me labours at its grandiose plan” [CP, 143]
Schreber and other schizophrenics believe they are able to affect external events, such as the weather [Sass, 63; see also Laing 1967, 125-26] Aurobindo’s diary contains many references to his directing of his yogic power (aishwarya) in order to influence external events [RY, passim]
“The most profound of schizophrenic fears” are “delusions of world catastrophe’’ [Sass, 50; cf. Boisen, 3] In 1907 Aurobindo predicted the coming of a period of “sudden upheavals and revolutionary changes” [OH, 390]
“The whole world turned in my head” [a schizophrenic, in Sass, 50] “I contain the whole world in my Soul’s embrace” [CP, 131]
The schizophrenic “may perceive both the external world and the existence of his own ego, but he no longer feels their reality; ... ‘le sentiment du réel’ is lacking” [Sass, 24] “All is abolished but the mute Alone ... There is no I, no Nature, known-unknown./ The city, a shadow picture without tone/ Floats, quivers unreal ...” [CP, 161]


Psychotic Experience Mystical Experience
“I am not alive ... I have never really existed” [patient quoted by Sass, 52] “I have escaped and the small self is dead ... No one I am, I who am all that is” [CP, 153]
“I became in a way for God the only human being ...” [Schreber quoted in Sass, 60] “I am the one Being’s sole immobile Bliss” [Ibid.]; “I am a single Self all Nature fills” [CP, 151]
Many psychotics identify themselves with Christ or God [Boisen, 761; “Schreber and God are, in some sense, one” yet Schreber “also experiences God as alien” or “distant” [Sass, 64] “I am a centre of Thy golden light/ And I its vast and vague circumference,/ Thou art my soul great, luminous and white/ And Thine my mind and will and glowing sense.” [CP, 135]
Schreber’s relationship with God was “perhaps the central preoccupation of the Memoirs” [Sass, 63] Aurobindo’s relationship with God was certainly the central preoccupation of Record of Yoga
“Schreber was convinced of both the profundity and ineffability of his own special vision of reality” [Sass, 93] Like many mystics Aurobindo felt that his experiences were ineffable, but, convinced of their truth, attempted to give expression to them.
• “These similarities [as tabled above] would undoubtedly be enough to cause some clinicians to interpret Aurobindo’s experiences in psychopathological terms.” P.65

• “Conclusions: Mental disturbance runs in families and here the mediation is at least partly genetic. It is possible, therefore, that there is a linked transmission of some traits of genius and of a tendency to psychopathology.” P.69
Thus by deliberate decontextualisation and distortion, Sri Aurobindo’s sublime spiritual experiences have been equated to the ravings of a madman, and presented to the Government of India as original research of the Ashram!

The Canary Sings

The blame-game and the end-game always go hand in hand and play out in tandem. Peter Heehs, right from his early days of unemployment and taxi driving in New York up to his criminal collaboration and nexus with Manoj Das Gupta, has always been a survivor.

With the end-game very much underway and criminal charges and imprisonment and deportation staring him in the face, Peter Heehs has begun singing to the authorities in the hope of absolving himself by blaming his powerful benefactors.

On page 7 point 5 of his affidavit filed in self-defence in the Court of Orissa, Peter Heehs has clarified that he is not the Founder of the Ashram Archives, and has blamed the publisher of the book stating that the false claim was made by Columbia University Press “who made here an inaccurate statement”, and therefore it is they who must pay for the crime instead of him.

Continuing in the same vein, and in the same affidavit filed in Court, on page 67, he cites this very article titled “Genius, Mysticism, and Madness” as evidence that the Ashram Trustees have supported him, guided him and even endorsed his findings relating to Sri Aurobindo’s insanity by having this article submitted to the Government of India as original research carried out by him at the Ashram as part of his official work at the Archives. The idea is not to sink alone. The idea is to blame Manoj Das Gupta and Columbia University Press for all his crimes and try to get away in the process. However, that will not happen as neither MDG nor CUP will sacrifice themselves to save Heehs.

Questions to Manoj Das Gupta

• Do the donations to the Ashram made by thousands of sincere devotees have to be spent on this type of work aimed at defaming and maligning Sri Aurobindo?

• Why does the Ashram Archives have to constantly explore the subject of lunacy and mental instability with regard to Sri Aurobindo? Are there no other worthwhile subjects available for research? And why spend so much time and energy in perverse research when many of the major writings of Sri Aurobindo are still lying unpublished and the new Collected Works is a full twelve years behind its schedule of publication?

• How can tax concessions and benefits granted by the Government of India to an institution in Sri Aurobindo’s name be abused in this blatant and shameless manner to denigrate Sri Aurobindo and belittle the intellectual and spiritual achievements of the Mahayogi?

• How much longer will you continue to defy the inmates of the Ashram and continue to promote and support the insult and denigration of Sri Aurobindo in complete defiance of law and the minimum required loyalty to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother?

Prof Kamal Das

1 comment:

  1. I have one humble question to ask - will the present Trustees of the Ashram rule the roost forever, and we will have to wait till eternity for their physical demise? Or is there any way that this band of lunatics can be dethroned from the high offices and seats of power? What baffles me more than Peter Heehs' actions are the ways of the Trustees who have been invisibly wielding the sceptre from behind the scenes and yet continue to enjoy not only the material benefits of being a part of the said community, but also supreme and absolute temporal power. As far as I can see with my humble sight, Peter Heehs is just the brand name behind this sinister development. He is the face and the front of this diabolic movement. What guarantee is there that even after this nightmare called Peter Heehs is over, the honourable Trustees won't pull out another Peter Heehs from under their sleeves and continue this mindless (or should I say elaborately mindful) mayhem! I humbly state my question once again to my fellow aspirants in the Ashram, when will the reign of the present board of Trustees end?