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3. Feelings of being threatened, supported by false or delusional reasoning
The threat of the unfamiliar that evidently is felt by all the leaders of the movement is given remarkable expression by Reddy: “Now the proportions of the mischief have taken a terrifying form and it has to be countered by an inner force of faith and conviction fountaing [sic] out of the devotees and the alumni of SAICE” (AR3). Reddy also refers vaguely to Heehs’s “specific motive or veiled agenda” and “sinister intentions” (AR1). This is the language of the conspiracy theorist, which Reddy also uses in another email: “May be [sic] he is being encouraged and even paid to do so by some groups in the USA. In any case the roots of the book seem to go much deeper and I believe that there is conspiracy behind Peter’s work: the conspiracy to malign Sri Aurobindo and de-mystify him and his teachings by bring them down to the murky levels of the present human consciousnes [sic] which is itself wallowing in the mud of the vital-physical.” (AR3).
The xenophobic theme present in Reddy’s letter is common among conspiracy theorists, and is taken up by many of the leaders of the anti-Heehs movement. Pandey speculates that Heehs is being “supported from outside” (AP1). Ranade goes further, inventing a “nexus” between Heehs and Jeffrey Kripal, an American professor of religion, warning his readers of their “foul intentions” (SR2). He even concocts a meeting in the Ashram between Heehs and Kripal (who has never been to Pondicherry), during which Kripal “was reportedly taken by Peter to the Archives cold storage and shown unpublished documents of Sri Aurobindo’s life” (SR1).
Pushed to the limit and strengthened through repetition, perceptions of threat produce a paranoid attitude in the minds threatened. Ranade gives evidence of such an attitude in many places. “The scope of fraud is so widespread that on every page at least one can demonstrate such deliberate distortions and defamatory intent. Numerous passages are obviously defamatory under section 499 of the IPC. But none of this is visible to the common reader who takes it all at face value from ignorance of the real facts” (SR1). “The next step, by Peter and the interests working through him, will go all out for the kill” (SR1). Ranade, along with Reddy and others, imagine that the existence of Heehs’s book may result in the takeover of the ashram by the government. Playing upon this threat in an email, Ranade imagines that “the problem [of government takeover] has been created by PH and his book -- deliberately and maliciously. All the rest has followed” (SR2). When Ranade finds that those in authority do not take his inventions seriously, he enlarges them to include the ashram administration: “I was further appalled to discover that under your instructions Matriprasad has begun to build dossiers of information against each one of us involved in exposing Peter’s book by actively seeking out anyone who might have personal grudges from the past, in order to ‘build cases’ against us” (SR3).
Ranade alludes to his own predilection for launching legal cases in several places in his emails: “Numerous passages of the book can be easily proved to be defamatory under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code” (SR1). “These few examples are enough to prove Peter’s perverse and harmful intentions and to demonstrate defamation according to the standards defined by Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code” (SR1). Ranade acted out his legal approach by launching, through proxies, civil and criminal cases against Heehs in Orissa. (Note that all substantive portions of the complaint against Heehs in the Orissa High Court were transferred bodily from Ranade’s email of 25 September (SR1)). These cases are being financed by Ranade’s friend and former SAICE classmate Jayant Bhattacharya (See last paragraph of this web page). Thus, ironically, it is Ranade and not Heehs who is receiving “outside help” in this affair, engaging in deliberate misinformation and distortion, “going all-out for the kill,” building cases, and promoting mischief.