Friday, August 27, 2010

The Mother was not an omniscient being and never claimed to be one

from Dr. Raghu to date 27 August 2010 00:22 subject re: pl. post
 Dear Mr. Mohapatra, Pl. post and kindly also do not disclose my e-mail address. Thank you! best, Dr. Raghu
What’s Good for “The Mother” May Not be Good for The Gander!
In a recent post, Mr. Sandeep Joshi has culled, no doubt after a Herculean labor of search, from K.D. Sethna’s recollections, an example of the Mother’s proscription of publication in Mother India of articles by  Mr. X from Bombay.
It should be noted at the start that K.D. Sethna’s account remains vague on the nature of X’s skepticism and sarcasm and the “several unpleasant things he had said”. What exactly was his “critical approach” to the Mother’s “workings”? We can’t form a clear picture of what gave offense or concern to the Mother in the absence of these important details. KDS also embellishes his account with his own imaginative musings on the Mother’s motives. We must take care not to conflate the two.
What conclusions does Mr. Joshi want to draw from this episode? And specifically, what conclusions does he want to draw which would have a bearing on the case of Peter Heehs and his book?
I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Joshi has in his mind something like the following form of inference:
1. The Mother prohibited publications of articles by Mr. X.
2. The case of Mr. X and that of Peter Heehs are similar.
3. So, the Mother would have also prohibited the publication or distribution of writings by Peter Heehs.
4. Whatever the Mother does is right or justified.
5. So, whatever the Mother did in a certain case should be emulated by her disciples in all similar cases.
6. So, the Mother’s disciples should emulate and extend her prohibition in the case of Mr. X’s articles to the case of Peter Heehs and his writings.
7. So, the Mother’s disciples should also prohibit or proscribe Peter Heehs' writings.
The conclusion (# 7) rests on some dubious premises. Hence, the argument is defective.
One important premise is # 2: that the case of Mr. X and that of Peter Heehs are similar. As I said at the beginning, K. D. Sethna’s account is vague and in the absence of details on X’s alleged offenses we cannot conclude that his case bears any resemblance to the case of Peter Heehs and his book on Aurobindo. Apart from this, I have already pointed out, in an earlier posting on this forum, Mr. Joshi’s distortions of Heehs’ account of Aurobindo’s views on The Secret of the Veda. So, any further attempt on Mr. Joshi’s part to document the “sins” of Peter Heehs and establish comparability or parity with the case of X must be viewed with circumspection and skepticism.
Given the dubiousness premise # 2, premise # 3 falls flat on its face and we can’t conclude that the Mother would have also prohibited the publication or distribution of writings by Peter Heehs.
Even if we assume that the inference has not derailed by the time we get to premise # 3, premise # 4 which claims that “Whatever the Mother does is right or justified.”  attributes infallibility to the Mother’s judgments. But it should be obvious that only an omniscient being can be infallible. And I take it that it is uncontroversial that the Mother was not an omniscient being and never claimed to be one. Let us also note that, much to his credit, Aurobindo never claimed to be an omniscient being either!
So, if the Mother was not an omniscient being, this implies that she was not infallible. This further implies that she could have been mistaken or imperfect in her judgments in any given case. So, it is not out of the question that she could have been imperfect or mistaken in her judgments in the case of Mr. X. The vagueness of K.D. Sethna’s account of the alleged offenses of Mr. X only adds to the uncertainty concerning the wisdom of the Mother’s judgments in this case.
All this has a bearing on premise # 5. If we are unclear, due to paucity of information or details, about the basis of the Mother’s judgments in a given case, this implies that we cannot be certain about the wisdom of her judgments in that case. And this further implies that we cannot hold her judgments in that case as a model for her disciples to emulate in other similar cases. So, premise # 5 also collapses.
Premise # 5 can be questioned even if we accept premise # 4 on the infallibility of the Mother’s judgments. Presumably, the Mother’s judgments are a function of her higher level of consciousness. If so, then it would not be sensible to try to ape or mimic her judgments even in similar cases without benefit of that higher consciousness. So, even if premise # 4 is accepted, premise # 5 does not follow from it.
With the collapse of premise # 5, we are assured of the collapse of premises # 6 and # 7. Hence, the argument fails and the example of the Mother’s censorship or proscription given by Mr. Sandeep Joshi doesn’t imply or support in any way the claim that it would be justified to proscribe the publication or distribution of Peter Heehs’ book.
drraghu has left a new comment on your post "Division and disharmony lies within each one of us...":


  1. I think your own assumptions of Mr Joshi's premises are erroneous and the edifice of your argument is therefore a house of cards.

    Clearly, Mr Joshi's post was in response to the over-interpretations by you and others of various anecdotes that no doubt show how tolerant Mother and Sri Aurobindo were of all kinds of people (they undoubtedly were). In other words, it is a response to those who have been forcefully pushing the idea that they (Mother and Sri Aurobindo) would have tolerated or even accepted Peter Heehs book. Mr Joshi now shows that an alternative view can exist and they did not give their sanction to anything and everything (no matter what Mr "X" said in Mother India). The chasm between Mr. Heehs supporters and detractors cannot be bridged by these types of arguments as Mr Joshi has shown and its foolish to continue them.

  2. You did not read my post carefully and therefore missed two essential facts:

    1. I did not say that Mr. Joshi actually subscribes to those premises. I said that I would not be surprised if he had that sort of argument in his mind in advertising that example of the Mother's censorship.

    By the way, is this the only example we have or do we have others? If it is the only example, then any generalization based on it would be akin to concluding that summer has arrived on the basis of sighting a single swallow!

    2. We want to know what conclusions Mr. Joshi wishes to draw from that example since he has remained uncharacteristically silent on the implications of the example he has selected. If he thinks that the example gives support to the view that the proscription of Peter Heehs' book would be justified, then he needs to spell out the premises and assumptions he is using to arrive that conclusion on the basis of a single example of censorship by the Mother.

    Such premises and assumptions are most likely to be identical or similar to the ones I have given, and, hence, would be subject to the criticisms I offered.

    You attack a straw man. I never claimed that Aurobindo would have tolerated "anything and everything". And I think none of the supporters of Heehs' book hold that asinine view. Obviously, there are limits to any form of tolerance.

    The issue is whether Aurobindo (or the Mother) would have tolerated the publication and distribution of Peter Heehs' book. A single example of censorship doesn't show that the Mother would have also proscribed Peter Heehs' book. To jump to that conclusion from that single example, you must take the route of the premises I have identified and undermined.