Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Moral Retardation of the Venerable Holy Men

It's hard writing an interdisciplinary book like One Cosmos Under God. Actually, probably not as hard to write it as to sell it. For one thing, books like mine don't easily fit into any general category, so they inevitably wind up in the "new age" section of the bookstore, where it definitely doesn't belong. There I must compete for shelf space with Alien Channelers, PhDs in Shamanology, Spiral Dynamics Facilitators, Indigenous Wisdom Peddlers, Dreamtime Tool Repairmen, Exotic Botanical Merchants, Futurist Lawgivers of Life, Gazing Transmission Masters, Quantum Wakefulness Swamis, Matter Magic Salesmen, and Prosperity Consciousness Yogis.

Not to mention the king of all metaphysical hucksters, Deepak Chopra. One thing I haven't yet figured out--but probably could if I gave it a little thought--is why these new-age folks automatically tilt way left and are so deeply morally confused. In Chopra's latest missive on huffingtonpost, he discusses "how far into brutal punishment" the United States has "descended." He says that "America leads the world in executing criminals and is among the few Western countries that still retain the death penalty." I think the operational word here is criminals, although to be accurate he should have said murderers. In the countries we are fighting, the criminals murder the innocent, so he has hardly drawn a fair comparison. Plus, knee-jerk opponents of capital punishment don't understand that proponents such as myself regard the notion of keeping all murderers alive as nothing less than a decadent and sophisticated barbarism.

Chopra has said that "the U.S. has a higher proportion of its citizens behind bars than Stalin put into the Gulag," and that the "US prison boom creates an Orwellian world." The only thing Orwellian about our world is that Chopra has become a very wealthy man expressing such loony sentiments in it. He says that "our maximum security facilities, such as Pelican Bay in California, are incredibly inhumane by any standard except a concentration camp." Yes, I'm sure he'd prefer to live in a Saudi or Chinese prison.

"Finally," says Chopra, "there is the shameful detainment of suspected terrorists in isolation for months or years at a time,"the "arbitrary and high-handed treatment of captured military prisoners in Guantanamo," and "the horrors at Abu Ghraib and the alleged secret prisons operated in Eastern Europe... "

It's as if this guy is working for the other side. In a way, he is. When your moral compass is that broken, you inevitably marshall all of your energy against what is good, and in concert with what is evil. It pains me to hear such talk, because, as a lover of Yoga and Vedanta philosophy, it just makes them appear foolish. He reminds me of no one so much as Mahatma Gandhi, one of the most overrated human beings in history. Gandhi also thought that it was evil to fight the great evil of his day, Hitler--in other words, Gandhi wasn't just morally confused, but morally deranged.

In an article in Commentary entitled The Gandhi Nobody Knows, by Richard Grenier, he notes that Gandhi "wrote an open letter to the British people, passionately urging them to surrender and accept whatever fate Hitler had prepared for them." Gandhi told the British, "Let them take possession of your beautiful island with your many beautiful buildings. You will give all these, but neither your souls, nor your minds."

Later he wrote two letters directly to Hitler, addressing him as "My Friend," and fawning over him like Chopra might fawn over Kofi Annan or Jimmy Carter: "That I address you as a friend is no formality. I own no foes. My business in life has been for the past 33 years to enlist the friendship of the whole of humanity by befriending mankind, irrespective of race, colour or creed." To Gandhi, British imperialism was closely akin to Nazi imperialism: "If there is a difference, it is in degree. One-fifth of the human race has been brought under the British heel by means that will not bear scrutiny."

Gandhi felt that "If there ever could be a justifiable war in the name of and for humanity, a war against Germany, to prevent the wanton persecution of a whole race, would be completely justified. But I do not believe in any war."

As such, regarding the Holocaust, Gandhi wrote that if he were a Jew in Germany, he would challenge the nazis "to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this, I should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance but would have confidence that in the end the rest are bound to follow my example. If one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy which no number of resolutions of sympathy passed in the world outside Germany can. Indeed, even if Britain, France and America were to declare hostilities against Germany, they can bring no inner joy, no inner strength."

According to Grenier, Gandhi was convinced that such a "moral triumph would be remembered for "ages to come." "If they would only pray for Hitler (as their throats were cut, presumably), they
would leave a "rich heritage to mankind." "Even after the war, when the full extent of the Holocaust was revealed, Gandhi told one of his biographers, that the Jews died anyway, didn't they? They might as well have died significantly."

Er, you go first, Mahatma.

Compare the morally confused Gandhi and Chopra to another Hindu who has had a profound influence on my own life, the morally lucid Sri Aurobindo. Aside from Winston Churchill, as far as I know, he was the most vociferous public opponent of Hitler in the 1930's, when few others recognized the nature and extent of his evil. Many in India were actually supportive of Hitler's aims, since they so hated the British. But Aurobindo wrote that such individuals "have no idea about the world and talk like little children. Hitler is the greatest menace the world has ever met." Later he wrote that the struggle against Hitler was not just war, but "a defense of civilization and its highest attained social, cultural and spiritual values and of the whole future of humanity."

What Sri Aurobindo wrote in the early 1940's could be equally applied today, with not one word altered: "You should not think of it as a fight for certain nations against others... It is a struggle for an ideal that has to establish itself on earth in the life of humanity, for a Truth that has yet to realize itself fully and against a darkness and falsehood that are trying to overwhelm the earth and mankind.... It is the forces behind the battle that have to be seen and not this or that superficial circumstance... It is a struggle for the liberty of mankind to develop, for conditions in which men have freedom and room to think and act according to the light in them, and to grow in the Truth, grow in the Spirit. There cannot be the slightest doubt that if one side wins, there will be an end of all such freedom and hope of light and truth, and the [spiritual] work that has to be done will be subjected to conditions which would make it humanly impossible; there will be a reign of falsehood and darkness, a cruel oppression and degradation for most of the human race such as people in this country do not dream of and cannot yet realize."

It may sound polemical to call someone like Chopra a moral idiot, but there are surely moral idiots, just as there are intellectual idiots. It simply means that the person in question is unable to reason coherently within the realm of good and evil, and to make sound moral distinctions. In this regard, they might as well be working for the other side.

7 Comments:

Blogger Newvictorian said...

Bob,

What an outstanding post, the kind that weaves disparate threads together to make a new insight.

I'm going to link up to it and put you on the blogroll...and buy the book.

Nice work. Thanks!

12/20/2005 09:04:00 AM  
Anonymous jim said...

Out of the park again, Bob!

12/20/2005 11:52:00 AM  
Anonymous dilys said...

Yep, I can report that newvictorian will be pleasantly surprised by the book. My hyper-critical husband sure was!

As to the thread, one thing I find increasingly credible about Christian dogma is "just because it's 'spiritual' doesn't mean it's truth." Materialism isn't the only concern; there are spirits, and spirits. As well as rather straightforward formulae for testing them, in several traditions.

If I had to spin a hypothesis, Chopra and others are perhaps informed and expert siddhi-masters, operating in the heady astral landscape, which is likely to be a mixed bag, and which we worship at our peril.

Or so I'm told.

12/20/2005 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger ShrinkWrapped said...

It is a never-ending source of amazement to me that people can convince themselves of the most vacuous nonsense and call it profundity. At one time it was a source of never-ending amusement, but the times are so parlous and the results of the left's endless need to undermine our military and intelligence defenses while shoring up their precious psychological defenses so potentially dangerous, that I am no longer amused.
Another terrific post.

12/20/2005 01:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the new age types are mistaking the high of meditation for reality. I recently discussed this issue with a Buddhist friend. I asked him if his practice enabled him to have unconditional love for everyone. He said no, he only wants to see things as they are.

12/20/2005 09:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you love pimpin that book, don't you? every post.

I like what you have to say though, and may go purchase it for myself for christmas

12/21/2005 06:22:00 AM  
Anonymous ew1(sg) said...

anonymous says:

"you love pimpin that book, don't you? every post."

Actually, its kind of fun, you ought to give it a whirl.

12/21/2005 10:45:00 AM  

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