Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hartz bares his heart


from Prof Kamal Das profkamaldas@gmail.com to bcc tusarnmohapatra@gmail.com date 28 August 2011 14:48 subject   RICHARD HARTZ joins PETER HEEHS in blaming Ashram Trustees for TLOSA Disaster and Abuse of Archives Dept
Richard Hartz joins Peter Heehs in blaming Ashram Trustees for TLOSA Disaster and Abuse of Archives Dept

Justice is blind and cannot see body language. Thus, unlike the Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust who relied on this perceived blindness to escape the Law and were erroneously using sign language and were calling it “dignified silence”, Peter Heehs has been speaking up aggressively and cutting his losses. He has, as already known to all, filed memos in the Orissa Court holding the Trustees responsible for his perverse “research” and the debacle and fallout of his offensive and illegal book The Lives of Sri Aurobindo (TLOSA).
Now Richard Hartz, a long-time associate of Peter Heehs at the Archives of the Ashram, and the principal co-conspirator in the crime that is TLOSA, has jumped in and joined the chorus in blaming the Trustees.
In an open letter dated 25th August 2011 to his dwindling, shaky and jittery supporters who are increasingly questioning the wisdom of TLOSA and discussing its withdrawal, Hartz writes:

“I have been in Pondicherry the whole time and my perception is based on what I have experienced here, not on the discussion on internet forums where the situation has been different. In early October 2008 the Managing Trustee described the Ashram as a "seething cauldron." This was no exaggeration. At that point I was almost the only person in the Ashram who had tried to defend Peter, apart from Manoj Das Gupta himself who heroically stood his ground in refusing to expel him. (He did, however, ask him to withdraw from the Archives until things return to normal, which so far shows no sign of being likely to happen.) It is hard for me to relate my memory of this phenomenon to the "healthy doubt against an excessive intellectuality" you speak of. If there was a comparable outburst of collective hysteria in support of PH, I never heard about it. At least it didn't happen here.

… The basic question raised by the Lives controversy is whether a member of the Ashram can be allowed to write for an academic audience in terms acceptable to that audience. (As you suggest, I could have written a book that might have offended no one, but CUP would never have published it.)

… In agreement with Sri Aurobindo's own description of the Ashram as a laboratory, it is officially recognized by the Government of India as a research institute for purposes of tax exemptions on donations from devotees. This fact is important for understanding how the Lives came to be written in the way it was, because it is part of the reason why Peter Heehs was encouraged to write and publish academic articles which could be listed in the Ashram's reports on its research activities, submitted annually to the government. Despite his lack of formal credentials, he succeeded in getting these papers published in a wide range of academic journals. That meant, of course, adapting his style of writing to academic expectations … . Since his publications were being regularly cited in the Ashram's official reports, he was led to believe that this activity, even if it drew criticism from some quarters, was consistent with the aims of the Ashram. To a certain extent, his downfall resulted from his doing too well the work he had been assigned and encouraged to do.

I hope this will shed light on the question of whether or not it was appropriate or acceptable for a person in Peter's position to write the book he did.” 

In other words Hartz is revealing that Columbia University Press (CUP) “would never have published” a book which “offended no one” given Heehs’ “lack of formal credentials” and the resulting limited saleability. Therefore Heehs had to write an “offensive book” in order to make it saleable to CUP and the public, and the Ashram Trustees “assigned” this work to him and “encouraged” him.
This stunning volte-face by Richard Hartz, the first public admission holding the Trustees of the Ashram responsible for encouraging and misguiding Heehs in the disaster that is TLOSA, is a watershed moment. The reference by Hartz to Heehs’ downfall is also telling.
This turn of events is being brought about by the now-public information that CUP will shortly file papers in the Orissa court against orders detailing the role of the Ashram Trustees in supporting, aiding and endorsing all that is wrong with TLOSA. This much CUP will certainly do to absolve itself of the serious charges it is now faced with, not least among them, Heehs’ allegation that he was erroneously labelled “Founder” by CUP and is not personally liable for this serious legal, moral and criminal lapse.
Each failure raises the threshold of the next potential success and there comes an inflection-point where the pain of loss is too great to pursue any further potential gain. Does Manoj Das Gupta understand this? We do. Truly, Prof Kamal Das 28 August 2011

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