1 Aug 2012

The Book that Bombed -- by Krish Patwardhan

On reading the Lives, you get the impression of a monkey who plays to the audience by constantly jumping from one branch of learning to another without assimilating anything. The monkey often breaks some of the branches in a fit of rage, sometimes the very branch on which it was sitting a few minutes ago, and is so restless that it cannot settle anywhere on the tree!

The Book that Bombed

Dubious Documentation

This is what Hannah H. Kim writes in a review on the Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs:

The Lives allows readers to come to an understanding of Aurobindo that is not predetermined by Heehs… by providing the right amount of context that allows the historical materials to largely speak for themselves.

(Hanna H. Kim (Adelphi University) Published on H-Asia (June, 2011) Commissioned by Sumit Guha

I wonder how University scholars can make such naïve and facile observations! If there is one thing that Peter Heehs’s book demonstrates, it is how you can juggle with evidence to produce the wrong impression or put the reader’s mind in a state of confusion. In order to do this successfully, you need to be either highly motivated to misrepresent your subject, or be yourself enough confused to be able to confuse others.  In the case of Heehs, I find both these traits. I will first give an example of the former trait – deliberate and wilful misrepresentation of facts. I quote below two controversial paragraphs from the Lives of Sri Aurobindo:

When he had finished the day’s work, a dozen or more people—members of the household, the Richards, visitors from out of town—came to his study for talk and meditation. On Sundays he and other members of his household visited the Richards for dinner and talk. At some of those meetings, people noticed a surprising development. After dinner those present tended to cluster in two groups: Aurobindo and Mirra on one side, Paul and the others on another. Sometimes, when they were alone, Mirra took Aurobindo’s hand in hers. One evening, when Nolini found them thus together, Mirra quickly drew her hand away. On another occasion, Suresh entered Aurobindo’s room and found Mirra kneeling before him in an attitude of surrender. Sensing the visitor, she at once stood up. There was nothing furtive about these encounters, but they did strike observers as unusual. Neither Mirra nor Aurobindo were in the habit of expressing their emotions openly. The young men, already somewhat unhappy about the inclusion of women in their circle, and the consequent erosion [of] their bohemian lifestyle, were somewhat nonplussed by this turn of events. Paul Richard took it more personally. At times he could be heard muttering a phrase of garbled Tamil, setth ay pochi, by which he meant “the calamity has happened.”49 After a while he asked Aurobindo about the nature of his relationship with Mirra. Aurobindo answered that he had accepted her as a disciple. Paul inquired as to what form the relationship would take. Aurobindo said that it would take any form that Mirra wanted. Paul persisted: “Suppose she claims the relationship of marriage?” Marriage did not enter into Aurobindo’s calculations, what was important to him was Mirra’s autonomy, so he replied that if Mirra ever asked for marriage, that is what she would have.50 

Paul took up the matter with his wife. According to Mirra, recalling the events forty years later, the confrontation was stormy. Aware more than ever that Mirra had made his literary and spiritual accomplishments possible, Paul demanded that she give her primary loyalty to him. Mirra simply smiled. Paul became violent, came close to strangling her, and threw the furniture out of the window. Mirra remained calm throughout, inwardly calling on the divine. For all intents and purposes this was the end of their relationship. A year later Paul confided to the novelist Romain Rolland that it had been a time of “violent crisis” in his life. He had been forced to fight “a dreadful inner battle, which threw me, alone, face to face with death . . . into the immense and glorious void of the Himalayan ‘Ocean.’ “In his diary, Rolland translated this into more mundane language: “In fact,” he wrote, “his wife . . . left him.” 51 (326-27)


49 Purani Talks manuscripts 9:80; 5:98. Richard, who knew virtually no Tamil, seems to have combined two phrases, seththuppochchi, which is colloquial Tamil for “he/she died,” and aypochchu, which means “it is over.” (453)

50 Purani Talks manuscripts 5:76. In the interest of coherent dialogue, I have expanded and slightly amended Purani’s notes regarding this incident, which read: “(One day PR. came & asked him in what way he (A. G.) related to Mirra. He said she was his disciple. But what was her attitude towards him. He said in whatever way the disciple will aspire for me he will get me as such [possibly an allusion to Bhagavad Gita 4.11]—Suppose she claims relations of marriage. ‘Well she will have that’—).” In a report of what appears to be a separate conversation between Aurobindo and Richard, Purani writes that in reply to a question from Richard about Mirra “A.G. simply said she had offered herself to him & she had been accepted. It was her lookout to do what she wanted to do.—” (453)

51. The Mother, L'agenda de Mère, vol. 2: 409; R. Rolland, Inde: Journal 1915-1943, 28. (453)

(Peter Heehs, Lives of Sri Aurobindo)

I have also quoted the corresponding endnotes so that the reader knows the documents that have been sourced in the above passages, because what follows is a discussion regarding their authenticity.

Endnote 49 gives the following reference: “Purani Talks manuscripts 9:80; 5:98.” Now the reader will assume that A.B. Purani (author of the notes used in the first paragraph) was present at that time, i.e., in 1920 in Pondicherry. He was not! A.B. Purani, though an early disciple of Sri Aurobindo, did not settle in the Ashram until 1923. He first came to Pondicherry and met Sri Aurobindo in 1918. Then he came in 1921, after Paul Richard left Pondicherry towards the end of 1920. One has only to read the introductory chapters of his Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo to know these dates. (The “Purani Talks manuscripts” are the original manuscripts of the Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo.) Thus A. B. Purani’s notes with regard to the above events cannot be considered as primary evidence. The data must have been collected from other early disciples through hearsay – we don’t even know from whom and whether they themselves were present at that time! How can such a stray note be treated as historical evidence?

Secondly, seththuppochchi means “he/she died” in Tamil. How can that be translated to “the calamity has happened”? Death is certainly a calamity, but nobody died in this case, unless you say that Mirra had symbolically died for Paul Richard. But whose interpretation is that, Paul Richard’s (who did not know Tamil and so did not know what he was saying), or the person who conveyed it to Purani, or Purani’s own? This is not mentioned in endnote 49. So Paul Richard muttered something “in his garbled Tamil”; this is picked up by someone (who perhaps did not know Tamil either) and passed on to A.B. Purani, who jotted it down as a juicy piece of gossip! And this is authenticated as history by Peter Heehs!

Endnote 50 refers to – “Purani Talks manuscripts 5:76.” Let me again remind the reader that A.B. Purani was not present at the time when these events occurred. Because it makes all the difference between a primary and secondary source, between history and mere hearsay!

Further, the notes are so fragmentary that Peter Heehs has to expand and amend them “in the interest of coherent dialogue”! But why use such an incoherent and incomplete jotting? Mark his phrase, “what appears to be a separate conversation”, which means we are not sure as to whether there was only one or two conversations between Sri Aurobindo and Paul Richard with regard to Mirra. This further complicates matters from the point of view of the context of Sri Aurobindo’s replies. Was it the same question of Paul Richard to which Sri Aurobindo replied the second time? Or was it a different one? As there is no question of Paul Richard mentioned in the second conversation, we don’t know. But the inattentive reader will definitely club the two because of their juxtaposition. In any case, how can snatches of conversation like these be taken as historical documents?

Then the whole conversation is based on the supposition of Mirra’s marriage with Sri Aurobindo – “suppose she claims relations of marriage”. Both Paul Richard’s questions to Sri Aurobindo and Sri Aurobindo’s answers to him are based on this supposition, so the reader is left guessing as to what really happened afterwards. In the absence of any information, the reader naturally tends to think that marriage is what finally happened between Sri Aurobindo and Mirra. Now is this history? Paul Richard’s question with a big “if”, followed by Sri Aurobindo’s answer qualified by the same “if” and finally leaving it on Mirra to decide, as if he would have agreed to the marriage if she had proposed it. How can so many “ifs” make up history? An honest historian would come up with well-ascertained facts and not mere suppositions.

Heehs tries to correct the insinuation that Sri Aurobindo and Mirra were married by saying that Sri Aurobindo had accepted her as a disciple, and that he had spoken to Paul Richard of the possibility of marriage in order to preserve her autonomy. But that does not really tilt the balance of evidence to the other side. The balance still leans heavily towards the normal conclusion that any reader, unfamiliar with the facts of Sri Aurobindo and Mirra’s life, will draw – that their relation was that of marriage and not a spiritual association.  This is exactly what our so-called historian wants, leaving things in uncertainty, so that he can perpetrate damage without being accused of projecting a false picture. Note also the reference to Mirra (Mother) as Sri Aurobindo’s “partner” on p 382, which clearly shows Heehs’s intention to convey the wrong impression to the reader.

There is one more thing to which I would like to draw the reader’s attention. Heehs often inserts his own sentences in the middle of paraphrased documents, so that the division between the document and his own comment disappears. This is deliberately done, so that the reader takes his comment to be part of the document. For example, the following sentence is his interpolation and not part of the original text of Purani’s note quoted in endnote 50: “Marriage did not enter into Aurobindo’s calculations, what was important to him was Mirra’s autonomy.” I am not contesting here the content, but the method – the content actually suits a spiritual interpretation of the relationship. But the question is why does Heehs think it necessary to insert this sentence? Obviously to mitigate and qualify what otherwise is only gossip from the grapevine! But if he had found this note worth historical consideration, he should have presented it as it is, objectively, without making any qualifications. Why did he not do it? – Because no reader will then take him seriously! The unqualified content of the note would immediately expose his intention to denigrate Sri Aurobindo and Mirra in the public domain.

That is why Purani’s notes quoted in endnotes 49 and 50 have to be rejected in toto. Not that the information in them may not be partly correct, but because they are so fragmentary, decontextualised and go so much against the well-established facts of Sri Aurobindo and Mirra’s life, that it is better to set them aside and treat them as unusable. That is why A.B. Purani himself did not include them in his biography of Sri Aurobindo. Heehs claims that his narrative is based on well-researched facts as opposed to previous biographies written by Sri Aurobindo’s admirers and disciples, but this is not true. Well ascertained facts are always welcome in the public domain when they are corroborated with unquestionable evidence and presented in an unbiased manner. Heehs has failed here on both counts: neither the above notes merit serious historical consideration, nor they have been presented objectively.
Endnote 51 has the following reference: “R. Rolland, Inde: Journal 1915-1943, 28.”
I quote the sentence from the Lives which refers to endnote 51:

In his diary, Rolland translated this into more mundane language: “In fact,” he wrote, “his wife . . . left him.51 (Lives, p 327)

Let me now quote the full text of Romain Rolland’s sentence, which is a mere footnote in his book:

In fact, his [Paul Richard’s] highly intelligent Jewish wife Myriam left him to marry his friend and collaborator, Aurobindo Ghose.

(December 1921)     

Why did not Peter Heehs quote the full sentence? Because it would expose Romain Rolland’s ignorance of the facts of Sri Aurobindo and Mirra’s life, and this in turn would reflect on Heehs’s choice of documents. Romain Rolland does not even know her name – he refers to her as Myriam! And of course he has no hesitation whatsoever to say that she had left Paul Richard to marry Aurobindo Ghose. But what is his source of information? – Two letters from Paul Richard written to him in 1921 after he left Pondicherry in a spirit of revolt against Sri Aurobindo. So Romain Rolland gets a one-sided account from Paul Richard and makes a hero of the man who almost strangled his wife to death. It is true that Romain Rolland appreciated Sri Aurobindo’s writings in the Arya, but he hardly knew of the spiritual association of Sri Aurobindo and Mirra, and remained ignorant of it long after Mirra was addressed as “Mother” by Sri Aurobindo’s disciples. He wrote in his diary 16 years later in June 1937:

Aurobindo communicates with them [his disciples] through the intermediary of his wife – “the Mother” (493)

This has been considered as a “historical document” by Peter Heehs to write his so-called objective history!

From the point of view of documentation, the Lives is not an honest work of history. A lot of labour has gone into it -- the author is said to have spent around four decades of his life at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives. But he has wasted his time in collecting the wrong kind of data from the wrong sources because of his wrong attitude. It is true that wrong or right is a very subjective matter, but there are some common sense rules in the selection of authentic sources and their presentation in the public domain. One is that you give more importance to primary evidence than secondary or tertiary ones. The second is that they should not be so fragmented that you have to complete them for the sake of coherent reading – this can be done by a novelist but not a historian. The third is that there should be a minimum consideration of the credibility of the document you would like to present. These fundamental rules have been haughtily disregarded by our so-called objective historian. For, he has often given more importance to secondary sources just because he was desperately looking for negative evidence to counteract the wealth of positive evidence favouring Sri Aurobindo. For the same reason, unusable snatches of conversation (such as A.B. Purani’s notes) have been literally resurrected from the dust and obviously biased and ignorant remarks (such as Romain Rolland’s notes) have been sanctified at the altar of historical truth.

Doubting Method

We need to dispel the wrong impression in some quarters that Sri Aurobindo and Mirra’s relationship was that of marriage. The fact that she did not even have a physical relation with Paul Richard (her second husband) should already speak for itself. They had come together due to their common interest in occultism and spirituality, and she had agreed to go through the formalities of a marriage on his request so that he could keep custody of his three children from his first wife. That they had no physical relations is recounted by Paul Richard himself in his memoirs edited by his son, Michel Paul Richard.

Although Mira had no inhibitions or moral objections about the full exchange of love and creative forces between human beings, she believed that the animal mode of reproduction was only a transitional one and that until new ways of creating life became biologically possible her own motherhood would have to remain spiritual. My nature, however, was deeply patriarchal; I believed that one should never refuse to share with another human being the joy of creation and the duty of the living to the unborn, and I never concealed my thoughts on the matter. So, with her full consent and even encouragement, I had a new child at that time, a daughter who was named Genevieve, and that child was not hers.

(Michel Paul Richard, Without Passport, pp 75-76)

If Mirra was so averse to physical relations when she was married to Paul Richard, why would she seek the same with Sri Aurobindo? Incidentally, the above document has been used by Heehs on pp 254 and 314 of his Lives! But why did he not consider its relevance to his presentation on pp 326-27, where the reader is most likely to conclude that Sri Aurobindo and Mirra’s relationship was that of marriage? In fact, there are more than half a dozen passages in the Lives which contradict this conclusion of marriage. I quote them below:

As for Mirra, she seemed to have a capacity for spiritual surrender that rivaled that of the great Indian bhaktas or devotees. (258)

Leaving Pondicherry was more of a shock to Mirra than to her husband. Over the last ten months, she had felt fulfilled in her inner life as never before. Now she was deeply shaken. What did the divine intend for her? After long meditation, she came to understand that “the time of repose and preparation was over”; it was time for her to “turn her regard to the earth.” She accepted this, but was still convinced that her place was in Pondicherry. And surely (she told herself) Aurobindo thought so too. (260-61)

Mirra also was striking but in a less showy way: “an exceptionally beautiful woman of medium height,—with a face lit up with power and intelligence and [a] very graceful and active body. Her movements were quick, yet rhythmic and in full control. Her smile was of rare sweetness, which broke out as she looked at you.” Though outwardly affectionate and even motherly, she seemed to be holding something back: “Her depth of culture, rare intuitive intellect and yogic powers were seldom manifest to a casual observer.” Especially when Mirra and Paul were present, the conversation turned to the fulfillment of Aurobindo’s ideal, “the great future when man would bridge the gulf between matter and spirit, by divinising even his body.”41 (323)

One thing is clear, however: the arrival of Mirra Richard had an enormous impact on his practice. With her help, he told Barin, he completed ten years of sadhana in one.57 Her assistance was especially important in turning his sadhana outward. If he had been concerned only with his own  transformation or with transmitting his yoga to a limited number of people, he could have done it on his own. But for his work to have a lasting effect in the world, he needed a shakti, a female counterpart.

Shakti, as Aurobindo explained in The Synthesis of Yoga, is the conscious power of the divine. “By this power the spirit creates all things in itself, hides and discovers all itself in the form and behind the veil of its manifestation.” Systems of yoga that aim at liberation regard shakti as, at best, a force that can help the individual obtain release from the limitations of mind, life and body. But systems aiming for perfection, such as tantric yoga or the way of the siddhas, see shakti as the power needed to transform oneself and the world. Tantrics and siddhas worship shakti in the form of goddesses such as Kali; some also worship women as embodiments of the divine force. This is the rationale behind the esoteric sexuality of certain forms of tantrism. The consecrated union of a human male and female is seen as a reenactment of the cosmic act of creation. Some schools of tantric yoga put so much stress on this relationship that they require male practitioners to have female sexual partners. Aurobindo made it clear that this was not the case in his yoga. “How can the sexual act be made to help in spiritual life?” he asked a disciple who posed the question. It was necessary, in the work he was doing, for the masculine and feminine principles to come together, but the union had nothing to do with sex; in fact it was possible in his and Mirra’s case precisely because they had mastered the forces of desire.59 (328-329)

For two or three years after her arrival in 1920, Aurobindo’s spiritual relationship with Mirra was invisible to those around them. (329)

Besides, it was becoming obvious that if anyone in Pondicherry was going to become Aurobindo’s chief disciple, it was Mirra Richard. (334)

Mirra and Datta were the only full-time women, though the wives of two or three of the men were also allowed to stay on the condition that they and their husbands renounced sex. (335)

Three days after the descent, Aurobindo asked Barin to tell the sadhaks two things. First: “the power has descended into the unconscious,” but it was necessary to work things out in detail “by the help of that power.” Second: “Mirra is my Shakti. She has taken charge of the new creation. You will get everything from her. Give [your] consent to whatever she wants to do.” 119 (345)

The above passages show the deep and sublime relation of Sri Aurobindo and Mirra, which hardly goes with the stormy break and marital rearrangement that is presented on pp 326-27. In fact, this passage, when read with the others, seems totally decontextualised and stands in stark contradiction to them. It is this method of constantly doubting and contradicting himself that I find erroneous. Peter Heehs will argue saying that he is presenting the pros and cons of the topic under discussion, but, on a closer scrutiny, you find that the negative and positive statements he makes contradict each other because of the enormous difference of the fundamental notions of life you generally assume before making any statement. If you assume the truth of spiritual and occult realities, all your facts get organised around that belief. You can then freely speak of divine love and spiritual association, occult action with physical effects, spiritual experiences and all kinds of things recorded in various spiritual traditions all over the world.  If you adopt, on the contrary, a strictly materialistic point of view, you will not only refrain from mentioning spiritual truths but will rather interpret them according to what you think they actually are. So spiritual experience becomes hallucination for the materialist, occult action becomes mere imagination, and divine love and spiritual association only euphemisms for marriage and sex. Now you cannot adopt simultaneously both these world-views, straddle as it were the spiritual and the material worlds and narrate the same facts (or facts related to the same issue) without being logically inconsistent and intellectually dishonest.

Take this particular case. Heehs writes eight wonderful passages on the spiritual relation of Sri Aurobindo and Mirra, which he ought not to have written at all if he did not believe in it.  At the same time, he makes one opposite statement from the materialistic point of view, which demolishes or nullifies the content of the eight. The overall effect on the reader is such that he is likely to dismiss the content of the eight passages. The conclusion he will draw is that despite all the talk on bhakti, physical transformation and freedom from sex, Sri Aurobindo’s relationship with Mirra was that of plain marriage, and, in that respect, was not much different from that of any other married couple. But then why did Heehs write the eight passages corroborating their spiritual association because that too does not go with sex and marriage?

Heehs compares Mirra’s capacity for spiritual surrender to that of the great Indian bhaktas (on p 258), how she felt fulfilled in her inner life as never before during her first visit to Pondicherry (p 260), how  deeply she was interested in Sri Aurobindo’s ideal of divinising the body (p 323), how she had mastered the sexual desire (p 329); had a spiritual relationship with Aurobindo (p 329); was obviously going to become his chief disciple (p 329); that the very condition for staying in Sri Aurobindo’s house was a total renunciation of sex (p 335) and that she took charge of the new creation after the descent of the overmind in 1926 (p 345).  How can all these conceivably go with the passage on pp 326-27 where Heehs presents the coming together of Sri Aurobindo and Mirra as an ordinary marital rearrangement? Further, how do you explain the use of the word “partner” (which has a clearly sexual connotation) in referring to her on p 381? This is surely not an objective presentation of facts! It is rather self-contradiction and duplicity.

Let us take a hypothetical case, which has a close parallel in the Lives (read the discussion on the possibility of Sri Aurobindo’s madness on pp 245-47). Say you write a description of the experience of Nirvana basing yourself on the testimony of a realised person. Would you, in the same breath, question the very possibility of spiritual experience and ask whether it was all a self-delusion? Either you believe in the truth of spiritual experience, in which case you will never express such fundamental doubts, or you don’t, in which case you will not even care to write about it, and, if you do write, it will be only to prove that it was a hallucination. But the worst thing to do is to flip flop between the two opposite stands and pretend to be on both sides, for that shows a complete lack of sincerity. Just as in real life, you are expected to take a stand, failing which you will be considered unstable, confused or devious, genuine scholarship also demands a forthright position which you consistently adopt. On reading the Lives, you get the impression of a monkey who plays to the audience by constantly jumping from one branch of learning to another without assimilating anything. The monkey often breaks some of the branches in a fit of rage, sometimes the very branch on which it was sitting a few minutes ago, and is so restless that it cannot settle anywhere on the tree!

But why on earth does Peter Heehs perform such antics? He wants to cater to all kinds of readers (which is simply not possible), and at the same time protect himself from criticism. He protects himself from the devotees of Sri Aurobindo by making a sufficient number of positive statements on him, and he panders to the materialistic academia by making a sufficient number of negative statements and scathing remarks which will get him a certificate of objectivity from them. For, according to this kind of academia (which cares a hoot for spirituality), you have to scorn all spiritual phenomena, otherwise you are branded as superstitious and relegated to the Middle Ages. It is this horror of being rejected by this academia which is at the root of Peter Heehs’s antics. He has to strut about with the air of an agnostic (who is smart enough to question and spurn spiritual truths) while writing a whole book on a spiritual man, whose importance lies in the spiritual philosophy he has propounded, on the spiritual techniques he has practised, and on the spiritual events that have occurred in his inner life, all of which are invisible to the outer eye and have no material proof. But why write the biography at all when you want question the very fundamentals? Write instead a book of philosophy and discuss the age-old issues concerning spirituality and materialism, for after all they are the oldest enemies in human civilisation. Biographical narrative and philosophy can hardly go together. Coherent narration implies a definite philosophical stand you have already taken with a “willing suspension of disbelief”. Therefore the biographer’s job is only to present facts within the framework of notions he has chosen to operate, and his responsibility is only to ascertain and corroborate them with sufficient documentary evidence. That is all. If he starts interpreting them each time from various standpoints, he will be hamstrung at every step and will never be able advance in his narration.

I do admit the problem of writing a biography of a great spiritual figure, especially when you are addressing readers who do not believe in the truth of spirituality, though practically the problem might not arise because they might not even touch your book. Those who read will necessarily have some interest, which implies a readiness to believe in spirituality. But even with those who do not believe in it, the problem is not as insurmountable as Peter Heehs makes it appear. Thousands of books on spiritual figures have been written both by Westerners and Indians without adopting this “monkey method”. Most authors are quite comfortable in functioning on two different levels for the material and spiritual facts and events. The material facts of life (birth, death, marriage, outer achievements) are covered by referring to various institutional and personal records. The spiritual events, such as the realisation of the Brahman, are taken on the testimony of the spiritual person, for the biographer is usually not in a position to verify them. All that he can do is to check whether they are well-documented and at the most compare them with similar accounts of others. So depending on the various shades and degrees of belief or disbelief in spiritual phenomena, he will either mention or not mention them in different ways. But the biographer generally adopts one line of thought and cogently works out the rest on that basis. He does not constantly vacillate like Heehs between the spiritual and materialistic views and contradict himself by interpreting the same facts from both points of view.

To sum it up, the result of Heehs’s “doubting method” in the Lives has proved to be his undoing. He has wrecked his own boat at mid-sea and you wonder why at all he set sail on this long voyage and waste forty years of his precious life in an Ashram that did not suit him. A University would have been a more appropriate place for him, but even there he would have been pulled up for his doublespeak and dishonest approach. For whether you are an atheist or a believer, an agnostic or a materialist, a rationalist or a mystic, you are expected to be consistent with the view you have adopted and have a certain fidelity to the stand you have taken. Heehs lacks this fundamental honesty required of a true scholar, especially of a historian who is supposed to provide authentic information to the public. He thought he would impress everybody with his intellectual fireworks, but the outcome of it is a book that has bombed at the very outset of its publication.

Krish Patwardhan

17 December, 2011


1 comment:

  1. For, according to this kind of academia (which cares a hoot for spirituality), you have to scorn all spiritual phenomena, otherwise you are branded as superstitious and relegated to the Middle Ages. It is this horror of being rejected by this academia which is at the root of Peter Heehs’s antics.

    This does not only apply to Peter Heehs, as there is a small coterie of western intellectuals in the IY community that hold similar fears. The enlightenment group, as I tend to label them share a refusal to recognise that the Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is at the highest reaches of spirituality and this is combined with persistent attempts to drag Sri Aurobindo and the Mother into the mire of western scientific rationalism and reductionist thought. This is of course there right, but personally to me it reeks of white male privilege and unconscious adherence to19th century class structures and beliefs

    I cannot comment on the book as I have not bothered to read it, but It is good to see this article and the earlier one by Vishwas Patel, i have been waiting for some years for the Indian community to develop a thorough critique, rather than flapping their hands about and singing woe is me. Western males unfortunately are bullies, and more unfortunate still, totally unaware of it, as self reflection is not part of their tool kit. A final comment, beware of big fish in little ponds, self agrandissment is common.


    Krish Patwardhan