Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Hard to categorize Heehs
Peter Heehs started his career as a historian by contributing papers to academic journals. In the absence of requisite university degree, he had to whip up provocative themes to get published. Contacts in some places might have helped him in this regard. But he most benefited from his address of the Ashram archives which provided him the maximum prestige and credibility. Once a number of journal articles came out, writing a book became easy.
All this is hard work, no doubt, but what one can sense with hindsight is an underlying stubborn political zeal. The latter, of course, is nothing unusual; we find it in umpteen authors, and it is easy to categorize them. Heehs’ case, however, is a little bit ambivalent and certainly more complex.
If we walk beyond the shallow Western-anti-devotional-objective characterization bandied about against him, we come across a paradigm of scholarship which salutes the Statue of History alone. Co-victim of the distorted history books in
where Sri Aurobindo has been an anathema, he has persisted with an exemplary zeal to import the name of Sri Aurobindo to academic discourse, through the back-door many a times, like the appellation of terrorist, for instance. His praise for Sri Aurobindo and his works, wherever appears, can’t be said to be niggardly. Thus, the overall picture, despite the miasma generated by The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, leaves much scope for the benefit of doubt. India
I am, therefore, not so certain about Heehs as of yet, and this is not a piece of paid news. [TNM]