Reflections on Ken Wilber's The Religion of Tomorrow
(2017) - Parts
INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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More essays by Ray Harris | Ray Harris' website: www.novelactivist.com
I had hoped that Tony's review "Incredible India" of my essay "India: Aryan Patriarchy and Dravidian Matriarchy" would generate an interesting debate, as have some of his past reviews of my writing on this site. Sadly I was bitterly disappointed. I simply did not recognize my article in his review: instead he reviewed an article of his own imagination.
Was I really that unclear?
Okay, so let's deal with some of his more egregious misreadings.
“Harris relies a lot upon lesbian writers in order to facilitate a more progressive assessment of Indian history. I don't see why a writer's sexuality is relevant in this discussion.”
One writer, Dr Giti Thadani, and her sexuality is of secondary importance, it is her authority as a cultural historian who has studied her subject that really matters. As a lesbian she was motivated because the Aryan pandits have declared that lesbianism is un-Indian and that India has no history of this particular sexual deviance (it's apparently a Western import). She set out to disprove this and in her travels uncovered how the goddess religion had been suppressed and co-opted.
“To claim that India had a right to break free from the British Empire does not contradict the claim that there have sometimes been abuses toward minorities after she won independence.”
I never claimed such a thing.
“I've already addressed this in another essay, but it's worth reiterating that Islam was in India before Muslim conquests. Arab traders had established links to Indian ports even before the birth of Muhammad.”
How could Islam have been in India before Mohammed? But yes, India had been trading with Arabs (Sabaeans, Zororastrians, etc) for a long time. Remember Alexander the Great? He conquered Egypt and Palestine as well as invaded India. India also had trading relations with Rome. It was not necessary for me to detail commonly understood history.
“For example, there have been incidents where Indian soldiers have opened fire on peaceful demonstrations, according to some, killing up to a thousand civilians.”
True, and anyone who knows anything about partition knows that Hindus can be extremely violent. But what is non-controversial is the fact that the Muslim League pressed for partition and an independent Muslim state, thus exacerbating sectarian tensions. Up until that time Hindus were working to include Muslims in the new Indian nation. It's just that certain Muslim supremacists couldn't countenance living in a Hindu majority state.
“True, Muslim rulers in Kashmir have a mixed record. It's worth pointing out that after the Durrani Empire, it was the Sikhs who were in charge, not Muslims, and it was the British who altered the demographics thereafter. Prior to this, Kashmir was known as a land of tolerance.”
Indeed, and what is clear is that since then Muslims have had no intention of allowing Hindu pilgrims access to their sacred sites. Most of the sites sacred to Kashmir Shaivism have been desecrated or destroyed. Whilst Hindus were generally tolerant of Islam, Islam is intolerant of Hinduism, even in one of its major cultural centres.
“His argument hinges on his study of Tantra, which he holds to be the pure spiritual current running through India.”
I don't hold this to be true at all.
“To say that Aryans manipulated Indian religion, as opposed to just saying that those in power were corrupted, as power tends to do, strikes me as overly essentialist, as though they're not a legitimate part of India, and the pre-Aryan Dravidians were “always” there.”
Did I say they were “always” there? What I said was that Indian civilization has been continuous since the Neolithic age. The Dravidian people are widely acknowledged to be related to Australian Aborigines, and given that they arrived in Australia somewhere between 60 – 40,000 years ago it would be safe to suggest the Dravidians were in India before that. Most historians accept that the Aryans arrived in India around 3,500 years ago.
“What stood out in this particular essay is the suggestion that happiness for happiness sake is the primary reason we should take up meditation.”
This is not what I said at all. What I said is that it is a perfectly legitimate 'minimal' reason. In fact what I said was: “If meditation can make people happier then it has value in its own right, independent of whether or not it proves one or other metaphysical theory.” Christians meditate, Sufis meditate, Buddhists meditate, Taoists meditate, Arya meditate, and yet their metaphysical systems differ. How so?
“I recall in another essay that Harris interprets the Buddha's famous gesture of touching the earth as a witness to his enlightenment as meaning that divinity is embedded within nature.”
I really don't recall saying this and I note Tony doesn't provide a reference. In which case his following comments on Buddhism are irrelevant.
Tony is at his weakest when discussing Tantra. I can best describe his understanding of Tantra as basic and second-hand, mine is first-hand. For example he says:
“And as far as the left-hand path is concerned, it should be pointed out that it not only involved transgressing strict caste taboos, but also included intoxication, necrophilia, coprophilia, cannibalism, and black magic (not something like White Magick, but the type aimed at procuring powers).”
Here he conflates a number of different traditions and sects, but it would take a large essay to begin to unravel the many half-truths and misunderstandings contained in his statement.
Black magicians do exist and they are sometimes called 'tantrika'. This is a colloquial corruption of the word used to describe local magicians. The 'left-hand' sects I am familiar with have nothing to do with village black magic. Furthermore his claims of necrophilia and coprophilia are absurd and a misuse of the terms. Both necrophilia and coprophilia are part of the larger group of clinical paraphilias and only have meaning in a Western psychological context as a pathological sexual obsession. Does Kaula have a compulsive sexual obsession with corpses and shit? The practice of cannibalism is attributed specifically to one marginal sect, the Aghori, and not to Tantra in general.
This one sentence alone discredits anything Tony might have to offer on the subject of Tantra.