I have heard this entire debate with a bit of skepticism. I’m all for an objective and scientific analysis but such a level of analysis would call for the requisite amount of study and academic rigour.Having recently completed my Phd under a hard task master of a Guide (I’m deeply grateful to him for that, for it provided value addition to the work I was doing). I was therefore keen to know about Mr Heehs’ academic training and credentials. Since he was straying into the field of Psycho-Analysis at a distance in both space and time, I was reminded of Walter C Langers’ famous attempt to psycho-analyse Adolf Hitler for the OSS during the War. Hitler however was a psychopath. Sri Aurobindo was an incarnation in the Indian sense of the term - the contrast could not have been starker.Besides Dr Langer was a highly reknowned psycho-analyst. That is why I was intrigued and was curious to know of the qualifications of Mr Heehs for this kind of a subject.
To my intense surprise I found that Mr Heehs has no academic qualifications to speak.of. A former taxi driver and school dropout, he is a self-confessed Historian. It is rather presumptuous of Heehs therefore to diagnose Sri Aurobindo of suffering from Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Considering his total lack of academic and medical qualifications I think it was downright outrageous on his part to pontificate arbitrary personal opinions as “historical research”. Hindus are a tolerant people. Would Mr Heehs have dared carry out such an analysis of The Holy Prophet in an Islamic country? But we will let that pass.
Sadly it also shows up our needless infatuation for the white skin as a colonial hangover that we need to outgrow.My question is simple. Would an Indian of similar academic background have been allowed to masquerade as a Historian in the Ashrama and allowed such access to the archives?
A Sanskrit proverb says – “we do not trace the origins of a river and we do not trace the origins of the Guru”. The advice was well meant. In the Indian tradition the Guru is God - he is Vishnu and he is Brahman. Every soul is a part of the Godhead - the Brahman - so where is the doubt? In 30 years Heehs was expected to imbibe a little bit at least of the Indian ethos and tradition. Clinical research is another approach altogether, and one that I would be very curious about. However that calls for academic training and research -especially if you are inclined to stray into such controversial terrain!
I’m not an academic snob. I realise that an unlettered cowherd could have great spiritual wisdom. However , Heehs is not talking of wisdom - he is tom-tomming about an objective and academic approach. That, I’m afraid, calls for academic qualifications! In the absence of these, I’m not prepared to treat his research findings as authentic or credible.
Maj Gen G D Bakshi