Friday, August 27, 2010

Heehs supports a neutral stance

from Jitendra Sharma aurofrance@gmail.com to "Tusar N. Mohapatra" tusarnmohapatra@gmail.com date 27 August 2010 01:37 subject Reply to Mr. Raghu
Dear Mr. Raghu,

In the book “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo”, Peter Heehs observes that in the psychiatry and clinical psychology sciences, mystical experiences are considered as symptoms of schizophrenia. According to Peter, Freud's view "should be understood on the pattern of the individual neurotic systems familiar to us." (p. 246) He opines that "a defender of mysticism would argue that the truth value of mystical experience is so much greater than the truth value of psychiatry — a discipline based on dubious assumptions — that any attempt by the latter to explain the former is absurd." He supports a neutral stance by saying "But unless the defender was an experienced mystic, this would just be substituting one set of unverified assumptions for another. When I speak of Aurobindo’s experiences, my aim is not to argue either for their veracity or for their delusiveness; I simply present some of the documented events of his inner life and provide a framework for evaluating them." (p. 246)
Jitendra SharmaCalicut, Phone: 0495-2731523, Mobile: 9847753963

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Mr. Sharma. A few clarifications:

    1. Peter actually writes on P. 246 that "Recent psychiatry has barely amended Freud's idea that "religious phenomena are only to be understood on the pattern of the individual neurotic systems familiar to us." He is simply stating a point of view on "religious phenomena" entrenched in the field of psychiatry. He is definitely not advocating that point of view on Aurobindo's spiritual experiences.

    2. As you point out, on the same page 246, Peter adopts a stance of neutrality, eschewing affirmation of their "veracity" or their "delusiveness", on the status of Aurobindo's spiritual experiences.

    But, then this is inconsistent with your claim in your earlier post that "In “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo”, Peter Heehs speculates that Sri Aurobindo’s spirituality was a result of his “inherited schizophrenia”."

    Again, Peter is simply stating a point of view on spiritual experiences, a point of view germane to any account of those experiences. On p. 245, he simply writes, after mentioning some types of spiritual experiences reported by Aurobindo, that "those familiar with the literature of psychiatry and clinical psychology may be struck by the similarity between Aurobindo's powers and experiences and the symptoms of schizophrenia." It is true that some features of mystic experiences as such, and not only Aurobindo's spiritual experiences, resemble the experiences of schizophrenics.

    But I think Peter should have gone on to point out right after this sentence that "those familiar with the literature of psychiatry and clinical psychology may be struck by the similarity between Aurobindo's powers and experiences and the symptoms of schizophrenia." that those familiar with the literature of psychiatry and clinical psychology may be struck also by some differences between "Aurobindo's powers and experiences" and the symptoms of schizophrenia.

    Peter does refer to some of these differences later on p. 247 but it would have been apposite if he had added that in the context of his remark at the end of p. 245.

    It is on p. 247 that Peter also refers to Hemendra Prasad Ghose's comment that "Aurobindo might have inherited a "tinge of lunacy" from his mother." and R.C. Dutt's suggestion to the same effect.

    But Peter does all this in the context of a survey of positive and negative opinions or perceptions of Aurobindo's personality. He certainly does not use H. P. Ghose's comment or R.C. Dutt's comment to suggest that Aurobindo's spiritual experiences are delusive.

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