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7. Abusive and misleading use of language
All intelligent readers of the campain leaders’ letters, emails and proclamations have been struck by their juvenile tone, specious arguments, and reliance on ad hominem attacks. This is especially true of Pandey’s communications to Heehs, a man he has never met. Filled with puerile abuse and immature sarcasm, they are, to say the least, surprising productions from a man with a professional background.
None of the leaders examines any statement in Heehs’s book in a scholarly or indeed in a rational manner. None, that is to say, actually apply an unemotional discussion to anything Heehs has written. What Heehs has written is “perverse”, “diabolic”, “asuric” and so forth, and therefore does not require reasoned consideration. Ranade devotes twelve pages of his email of September 25 to a detailed consideration of several points in Heehs’s book, but Ranade’s style of “argument” is simply to make assertions which turn out to be either irrelevant or false. In no case does he demonstrate that a statement by Heehs is unfounded. His only interest is to show that Heehs statements are “perverse”, “nefarious”, or at any rate not the sort of thing that should be found in a biography of Sri Aurobindo.
Here is one example of a wholly unsubstantiated assertion by Ranade. He claims, alarmingly, that according to Heehs Sri Aurobindo “had romantic affairs with the Mother involving veiled tantric sexual practices” (SR2). There is, in fact, no statement or suggestion in Heehs’s book that even vaguely resembles what Ranade asserts. There is, on page 325 of the book, a scene in which the Mother holds Sri Aurobindo’s hand: “After dinner those present tended to cluster in two groups: Aurobindo and Mirra on one side, Paul and the others on another. Sometimes, when they were alone, Mirra took Aurobindo’s hand in hers. One evening, when Nolini found them thus together, Mirra quickly drew her hand away.” This is followed, on page 329, by a discussion that makes it clear that the relationship between Sri Aurobindo and the Mother was entirely non-sexual:
“Shakti, as Aurobindo explained in The Synthesis of Yoga, is the conscious power of the divine. “By this power the spirit creates all things in itself, hides and discovers all itself in the form and behind the veil of its manifestation.” Systems of yoga that aim at liberation regard shakti as, at best, a force that can help the individual obtain release from the limitations of mind, life and body. But systems aiming for perfection, such as tantric yoga or the way of the siddhas, see shakti as the power needed to transform oneself and the world. Tantrics and siddhas worship shakti in the form of goddesses such as Kali; some also worship women as embodiments of the divine force. This is the rationale behind the esoteric sexuality of certain forms of tantrism. The consecrated union of a human male and female is seen as a reenactment of the cosmic act of creation. Some schools of tantric yoga put so much stress on this relationship that they require male practitioners to have female sexual partners. Aurobindo made it clear that this was not the case in his yoga. “How can the sexual act be made to help in spiritual life?” he asked a disciple who posed the question. It was necessary, in the work he was doing, for the masculine and feminine principles to come together, but the union had nothing to do with sex; in fact it was possible in his and Mirra’s case precisely because they had mastered the forces of desire.”
Ranade’s statement about “veiled tantric sexual practices” is not simply the confusion of a reader whose English-comprehension skills are not up to scratch. It is a wilful falsehood worded in such a way as to have the greatest emotional effect.
Ranade’s email of 25 September is filled with innuendo and abuse. To give a few examples: “deliberate bias”, “clever mix of facts with speculation”, “thin-end of the wedge”, “will go all out for the kill”, “intentionally placed these quotations out of their historical context”, “deliberately falsified”, “cunning strategy”, “obvious negative bias” etc. It is thus with astonishment that one reads the following sentences in his more recent emails: “Those of us who have been exposing PH’s mischievous book have limited our criticism to exposure of distortions and perverse intentions in the book. We have never attacked any individual who supports the book” (SR2: an email in which the word “perverse” is applied to Heehs three times). And, more remarkably, “We have never even criticized Peter Heehs personally” (SR3: “perverse” applied once). The evident disconnect between these statements by Ranade and the text of his emails, not to mention the court cases he has sponsored, is striking.
In his case, the signs of a split personality are particularly obvious: “I write to you in great pain on realizing how low you have let yourselves fall in sheer pettiness and foul politicking!… Your surreptitious arrangement… smacks of irresponsible and petty scheming… and all this just to serve your petty political ends and personal grudges…. History will judge you harshly for such actions. Dear Trustees, we all respect you and appreciate that you carry many responsibilities on your shoulders….” (SR3) Observe the abrupt transition from aggression to sympathy.