Sunday, August 29, 2010

Manoj Das is silent on SCIY

From to date 7 July 2008 08:40 subject Sri Aurobindo, Stephen Phillips book, Heehs biography 
Seth Farber, Ph.D. New York Dear Tusar, … I have been reading Sri Aurobindo off and on since 1980 and have been strongly influenced and inspired and en-couraged by his perspective. …
Have you reviewed Heehs book yet? I just read it with keen interest. What a excellent book. I have a few quibbles. First he overlooks Savitri which has autobiographical as well as philosophical significance. Obviously judging from Savitri, Aurobindo was a man who had some experience of romantic love – as well as the tragedy of death. One must conclude that this tragedy impinged upon his own life. Can one also not conclude that Aurobindo had “fallen in love” with Mira Richard? How else can the kind of union Aurobindo asserted he had established with the Mother be attained?
And we know that relationship had a profundity greater than mere sexual love and affection about which Aurobindo was dismissive. Aurobindo’s response to Paul Richard which Heehs reports (for the first time, I think) that if the Mother wanted he would marry her (!!!) is indeed provocative. Strange that Heehs leaves it dangling–it is hardly consistent with the usual relationship between guru and disciple–although Heehs' no comment seems to imply (with Aurobindo) that it is. Quite remarkable. Don't you think?
In the light of these omissions it is not surprising, albeit disappointing, that Heehs also omits a discussion of the idea of physical immortality that is connected, I submit, into the idea of romantic love. In the kingdom of death love is doomed. Is this not the meaning of Savitri for modern man/woman? Have you read Vladimir Solovyov whose ideas seem to parallel Savitri?
Aurobindo was correct: an biography of him had to remain strangely incomplete because so much about this enigmatic figure remained below the surface – as even Heehs’ excavations have confirmed. I look forward to any thoughts you may have on my musings above. Thanks for your website… Namaste. Regards, Seth Monday, July 07, 2008 10:15 AM]

[The Genesis of a Controversy Annotated by Angiras
A two-page document, "The Role of Peter Heehs in the Archives," was submitted to the Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram around the beginning of September, 2008. This was perhaps the first definite act of hostility in what quickly grew into a full-blown campaign against Heehs. It was soon followed by several longer and in some cases even more virulent letters which were widely circulated to mobilize opinion and force the Trustees to take action. …
This document, headed “The Role of Peter Heehs in the Archives,” was circulated anonymously and is undated. It has been attributed on some websites to Ranganath Raghavan. Ranganath is reported to have given a letter (presumably this one) to the Trustees around the beginning of September 2008 along with Raman Reddy, the compiler of the “Extracts,” who is also a member of the Archives; “we” in the letter probably includes Raman.] 

Despite their pretensions, I dont think the Heehs crowd was ever interested in intellectual debate over the matter.  They (especially Texas Tom!) just took out their guns and started shooting like Rambo (without the justification). From the beginning (for a long time and even now for the most part), it's the "fundamentalists" who have taken great pains to explain their position. It was the "fundamentalists" who tried to reason and went to great lengths to be conciliatory. The "intellectuals" in contrast were not amenable to debate then and they are not open to debate now. They have essentially declared the 'liberal' version of "you are either with us or against us" which is just as pernicious as its conservative counterpart!
On the positive side, it is clear that the book is now sufficiently suspect and will never be considered reliable on its own.

We are where we are because of what Heehs and Carlson have done.  They have reflected the virulent viewpoints and attitudes of specific people in the US academy and the Indian left that are very hostile to SA, India, and all Indians but especially the Hindus.]

Cultural and other differences of background do exist that have influenced the debate and must be examined.  But these have only been used by SCIY to create a false divide and ill-will from the very beginning perhaps at the instigation of Heehs - their warning to Westerners living in Pondy and Auroville is an example.
Real open-mindedness, humility, and restraint are what are needed and the political baggage that some of Heehs most vocal supporters bring with them must be jettisoned if we have to move forward.

At the very beginning of all of this, the SciFi people indicated that they saw Heehs book as something that would preempt the psychoanalysts and answer many of their questions.  Of course, Heehs himself may have also had other reasons for writing it.  They also saw it as something that would help spread Sri Aurobindo's message in the West. …
The SciFi people are so cocksure that they are unwilling to see the contradictions that pepper their theories much less admit that there are clear merits in the opposing arguments.

What SCIY offered in Heehs defense is called ex post facto justification.  Peter writes for his own intellectual pleasure and his defenders pretend that it is part of his service to the Master!!  The reality is that the psychoanalysis in this book is abridged from his 1997 paper "Genius Mysticism and Madness".  One must look at the previous work to see the train of thought.]

“I reject Peter’s book as a biography. I appreciate the anguish it has caused. You know very well I am not any less anguished. I assert that this sort of book should not be written and should not be published again even if corrected at some places because it is written at a level of consciousness that does not deserve to handle as sublime a subject as Sri Aurobindo’s life.” …
“I condemn Peter’s book, but I also reaffirm my conviction that far greater harm has been done by those who attacked the book and the way in which they did it—making mountain of a molehill.”]

But Manoj Das’s presenting it at this stage of developments gives one also the impression of him adjusting his sails to the strong winds that are blowing today. He is a politician at the core, and this is perfectly understandable.]

The SCIY site has vanished now and the day to day debates can never be reconstructed. After two turbulent years one has to rely upon whitewashed history and whatever the adjudicators say. That is the way of the world. But the Ashram insiders very well know what the truth is and surely it will never die. [TNM] 

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