Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Aware of the objection of “furtiveness” the author attempts to dispel it

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Ignore all rubbish": To Proponents and Opponents of the Book.
As a practicing psychologist I would like to say a few words on this. First, I am writing anonymously because I do not wish to involve myself in this controversy. I have no connection with the other commenting anonymously

By stating that “There was nothing furtive about these encounters” the author is dispelling the suggestion that there was anything “furtive” between them. But why would he dispel it if he did not think or believe that his statement lent itself to interpretation, and that the thought that there was something “furtive” between them would actually arise in the mind of the reader. It is too patent. The author himself admits that the technique he has employed is, in his words, “anticipating and refuting objections”. “Aware of the sort of arguments that could be employed against their own positions” writers “deliberately engage with these objections in order to clear the way for a successful presentation of points that some readers might want to resist”.
So clearly the author is well aware of the objection of “furtiveness” between Mirra and Aurobindo being raised in the minds of the readers upon reading his description, and in anticipation of it, the author attempts to dispel it. In fact it is glaringly obvious that the insinuation is either romantic, sexual, emotional because in the subsequent paragraphs there is talk of marriage etc.
What is interesting is that the author clearly states that the “ book was not intended for devotees” and that he was writing to academia. According to him “People in India and other Asian countries have traditionally believed that it is best to avoid speaking about certain aspects of life. People in America and Europe, as well as metropolitan centres in Asia, do not share this belief. In fact, they believe that to avoid speaking about these aspects of life is a sign of immaturity or self-deception. My readership, as I conceived it, fell mainly in the second category”.
If he anticipates “furtiveness” in the minds of these readers, surely he would have anticipated more than “furtiveness” or the “furtiveness” to have a more furtive connotation to the more traditionally minded reader. He has been willing to happily alienate his fellow-seekers, even jounce their sensitivities and potentially disrupt the harmony of the institution of which he is an integral part. It is naïve to not question the motives of the author in writing this biography.
Dr Ryder Posted by Anonymous to Savitri Era Open Forum at 12:53 PM, October 06, 2010


  1. Dear Dr. Ryder. Yours is a very perceptive comment and I am in full agreement with you. Furthermore Peter's statement about the traditional "belief" of people in India and Asian countries countries that it is best to avoid speaking about certain aspects of life is another one of his long list falsehoods arising from what could be called a Western cultural supremacist outlook. Hindu India and Pagan Europe were for the most part both extremely liberal in their approach to all aspects of life. It was the repressive Semitic religions that sought to purify personal and social life of all sexual influences and banish all mention of this and other taboo topics. If the modern West is today comfortable again with sexuality it is only because it has gradually returned and recovered its liberal pagan roots since the Renaissance. Even then, at least in the U.S., which Peter and his supports uphold as the model of liberality, a harsh, puritanical Semitic religious bigotry has not only been ascendant but has even come to dominate today a vast section of the socio-political landscape. More than in India it is here that not only the mention of certain aspects of life is sought to be banished from public discourse but also these aspects themselves are sought to be excised from society. The problem with the passage in question is, as you rightly point out, that it is trying to suggest the sexual and romantic where there is none whatsoever. From the point of view of yoga this is a clear attempt at perversion. The claim that Peter's use of mere two words "nothing furtive" cancels out all the whole rest of the passage which reads like a controversial and gossiping whisper campaign in the making is sheer nonsense.

  2. Hello Sir,
    Thanks for your comment. You write
    "From the point of view of yoga this is a clear attempt at perversion". That is a strong statement. Here in NY we are rather liberal so perhaps "perversion" is a strong word to use. I do not know much of the Asram to comment on the outlook there, but psychologically speaking, for a member of a spiritual institution to write in this manner on the founders insinuating their sexuality/romanticism/marriage is unusual to say the least. This indicates that the person is some sort of renegade and feels at best a precarious bond with the founders. But spirituality is a rather complex matter and so is the human nature in its seeking after the spirit. I personally believe all ought to be left to (pro/re)gress on their lines. If the highest inspiration the author derives from his Gurus is to demystify, demolish and challenge the myths surrounding them then I suppose that is his calling. He is entitled to his reservations, doubts etc. It is patent that he has questions (issues?) with the founders and has no qualms to insinuate their romance/sexuality/marriage publicly in writing. What is of serious concern is this approach being endorsed publicly. So the real issue is not with the author but with those who are supporting the book. They are doing a big disfavor to the founders and to the institution by breeding confusion which is now evident. I think the committee who allowed this book to pass perhaps did so in oversight and did not take the trouble to read the book.
    Dr Ryder

  3. It must be pointed out that many of the conclusions Peter makes in the book are inconsistent with the state of consciousness a Yogi would have. Heehs never brings up for example the important fact that in the year 1920, Sri Aurobindo had gone beyond ordinary humanity. A person who has gone through Nirvana, Cosmic Consciousness, and attained Supramental consciousness is drained of all romantic or sexual desires. Like Sri Aurobindo, the Mother was also in a higher state of consciousness. Some of the implications of this Universal state of consciousness are:

    1) one’s subconscious gets cleaned up.
    2) one becomes emotionless – which is why many saints are “stone-faced”.
    3) one acquires a Universality of vision. And the Heart is filled with love for all - personal love is out of question.
    4) one’s need for sleep is greatly reduced.

    Also relevant to what has been raised by Dr Ryder, is the point that The Mother had confronted Paul Richard over his insistence that she accept him (Richard) as her Guru. It had nothing to do with their marriage. Heehs “extensive” research did not bring this up either.

    Either Heehs did not consider these and the other omissions he's made to be important enough for an accurate potrayal of Sri Aurobindo's life or did not expect his readers to be sophisticated or spiritually inclined enough to be receptive to them. Either way it doesn’t reflect well on him, his motivations, and his readers.

  4. To a psychologist
    "Either way it doesn’t reflect well on him, his motivations, and his readers" is amply evident.
    Again, in my opinion the institution must take some accountability for this book for allowing it pass through it. There ought to have been peer reviews or some checks in place before something as important as a biography of the founder is released.
    From your comment it seems there are omissions by the author and therefore he has been selective in the dishing out of facts. That is not uncommon. In this book what he has done is shared both sides of the coin so to speak and left it to the reader to decide. This is the current trend of biographers and news media here, to be credible by presenting both the sides. The bias is on the positive side in the book. I believe the "negative" facts have been shared for the same reason - to appear credible and not necessarily to condemn Aurobindo. The impression one gets here is that he has attempted to appear credible more than being credible. In the case of the latter there is an objective mining through the data and only credible facts on both the sides are shared. In this book, in the effort to appear credible the author could have manufactured or used hearsay to create the negative side. Its almost like there had to be the "other side" for every argument that he puts forth. The "furtive" passage is a case in point. If the preponderance of the data pointed to no relationship between Mirra and Aurobindo there was no need to indulge in the petty portrayal of the "hand holding".
    There is definitely some manipulation here. Again it is very unusual for a member of an institution to write in this manner about its founder. It is fair to say that he is not particularly enamored of the founder.

  5. "It is fair to say that he is not particularly enamored of the founder."
    Yeah, that's why he spent all that time and effort in writing a 496-page biography documenting several achievements of that founder and even managed to get a prestigious university press, Columbia University Press, to publish it!

  6. "Yeah, that's why he spent all that time and effort in writing a 496-page biography documenting several achievements of that founder and even managed to get a prestigious university press, Columbia University Press, to publish it!"

    Neither the fact of writing a biography, nor the size in pages is indicative of the author's sentiments towards his subject. Many other bigger biographies have been written by authors who are indifferent or antithetical to their subjects. I could give you a list but would rather just state the obvious and leave it at that.

    Also Columbia University Press may have prestige in mundane circles but it is not "prestigious" from the point of view of Yoga. A fancy reputation in a world of ignorance and falsehood means nothing to those who are seeking or open to Higher Truths.

    Also just because someone gets a book on Sri Aurobindo published from there does not mean they are enamored of Sri Aurobindo. They could be doing it because clearly they themselves value the sort of "prestige" that this kind of publishing house can offer them using which they can gain scholarly recognition and enhance their personal prestige. In fact, the only person whose prestige can be enhanced by association with the so-called prestigious is the author himself. Sri Aurobindo certainly has no need for CUP's prestige to enhance His standing.

    Furthermore, a person could have his book published from a so-called prestigious university and yet have the intent to damage the reputation of the subject. The perfect example is Jeffrey Kripal with his book on Sri Ramakrishna in which he tries to impute motives of homosexual pedophilia as the well-springs of the love of that Master for his "boys". Could anything be more derogatory? And yet it is published from a "prestigious" Western/European academic institute.

    If I could play the prophet, if for nothing else then just for our mutual amusement, I would predict that you will eventually see the prestige of this Wall-Street + Fossil-Fuel based civilization crumble and along with it the prestige of CUP as well into the dust.