Excommunication is a religious concept and suggests that the community resorting to it is a religious one. Supposedly Sri Aurobindo and the Mother did not found a religion. However, the movement to expel Peter Heehs from the Ashram has displayed all the signs of religious behavior, with some mixture of politics but no apparent spiritual impulse. Due to the courageous stand taken by the Managing Trustee, the excommunication movement has not entirely succeeded. Otherwise one would have had to conclude that the conversion of the Ashram from a spiritual community into a religious institution, which has been in progress for years, is complete. As it is, the outcome still hangs in the balance.
But excommunication in its original sense is a specifically Christian practice... But what is remarkable is that Aurobindonianism seems to have arrived, in just a few decades of accelerated evolution, at a stage of religious fossilization and intolerance of difference comparable to what it took Christianity hundreds of years to reach. And if present trends are not reversed soon, an East-West Schism appears to be on the horizon. As we all know, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother warned repeatedly against starting a religion in their names. If one asks what they meant by a religion, a sure symptom is exclusivism - unmistakably indicated by practices such as excommunication.
I can imagine. For I have lived in the American South through the mid-1960s, actively engaged in the Civil Rights Movement at that time. I was involved then in the protests and arrests, looked into the eyes of hatred and intolerance, watching demagogues whip up the masses into a frenzy that fed into a lynch-mob mentality.
And I have seen and lived through the divisive damage done to Auroville by those who refused to recognize the "civil rights" of AV residents after the Mother's passing. I experienced for myself then first-hand, the harassment, arrest, beating, jail and expulsion at the hands of one party; while being "excommunicated" by another for daring to call him out for the divisive and intolerant behavior he was inciting among his crusaders in Auroville. Yes, I know the damage that can be done when we turn "other" into "enemy" in the name of righteousness or purity or saving us from the infidels that would corrupt "our" Truth.
From this "locus standi", I believe this raw open-warfare approach to excommunicate Peter and ban his book not only brings great harm to him but to us all. For I believe it will not only lead to greater divisiveness, intolerance and narrowness of spirit; but it exposes our own inability as fellow seekers and children of a common Divine Mother to address grievances among ourselves in a truer way that lead to a more harmonious and integral resolution. For what we are presently demonstrating through such actions of internecine court cases, book-banning and excommunication of those whose ideas or actions we find intolerable is itself an action of the very intolerance we claim as offensive.
After all, aren't we here in these bodies precisely to grow and widen, to become more conscious, more receptive, more loving? to expand and embrace and enlighten what we do not yet understand in ourselves as well as in others, willingly opening to light the dark parts we hide and defend in ourselves? And isn't this effort exactly what is called for in this Moment on this Earth? Of course it is!