Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Butterfly Effect

Short story
Shilavati was bored.  She had everything she wanted.  A huge LED screen with more than 200 TV channels and a resounding Dolby sound system filled the vacuum of her days with light and sound.  There were manservants and maidservants waiting for her orders to fill the emptiness in her ego with a glass of fruit juice or a ride to the shopping mall.  Yet she felt bored.  Her two children were at school and husband was in the office of the MNC which paid him more money than they really needed.  The family used to go for an outing almost every weekend.  Yet she felt bored.  She switched the channels on the TV.
The English news channel was discussing whether death penalty fitted in with contemporary civilisation.  Within months of becoming the President, Mr Pranab Mukherjee had sent two persons to the gallows and dismissed the mercy petitions of the killers of Rajiv Gandhi.
Why is there so much brouhaha about executing some criminals?  Shilavati wondered.  Aren’t we a species of creatures that kill other members of the species for flimsy reasons?  Like for upholding the wishes of some amorphous god who allegedly spoke with a mouth that he never possessed to a man who heard the divine utterance differently at different times!
Will Pranab da be an inhuman President merely because he sent a few heartless criminals to the gallows?  What about the Chief Minister of a state who presided upon the assaults, rapes, expropriation and murders of hundreds of people and yet is poised to become the Prime Minister of the country?  Is he more humane than Pranab da?  Who decides the humaneness of each individual?
We are a funny lot, mused Shilavati.  We are never contented with what we have. The reality elsewhere is always better.  Our own reality is never satisfying.  Kaikeyi is not content with the opulence in the palace.  Even Rama’s filial devotion, let alone Dasaratha’s marital commitments, cannot make her contented.  It is not enough to crown Bharatha the king, but Rama has to be exiled too.  Discontent becomes malice and malice froths in Kaikeyi’s heart just like the beer being poured into the mug.
Shilavati sipped the beer.  The beer frothed in her mind.  The froth charged her laptop.  Faces came and went on the social network.  One face froze the froth in the beer: like whisky being added into the frothing beer.
Narottam was a friend she had acquired among the many faceless faces in the social network.  An entrepreneur, Narottam was usually on the move.  He had breakfast in London and lunch in Paris.  At least that’s what she was given to understand.  Shilavati envied Narottam’s fortune.  She visualised him ensconced on a burnished throne in a Venetian barge. 
“Life is like an exotic fruit, the juice will dry up if you don’t relish it in time,” Narottam had written in one of his many wise SMSes.  As his messages became juicier they decided to exchange them more discreetly than at social networks.  The mobile phone became the privileged bearer of the juice that overflowed from their laden hearts.
“I’m getting so bored here day after day,” complained Shilavati when many juicy messages had already been exchanged.  “Take me with you to the exotic lands.”
“Okay,” agreed Narottam.  “I’ll take my darling to paradise.  There we will together create a new world.  The gods will envy our love and the apsaras will fill our goblets with heavenly wine.  Our hearts will be intoxicated with the love that Vishwamitra and Menaka forged...”
“Bring all your jewellery.”  Narottam’s supernatural fantasies ended rather too prosaically.  “There’s some hiatus in the business.   America has announced pulling out its troops from Afghanistan.”
Shilavati did not understand what Afghanistan had got to do with it all.  But she was educated enough to know about the butterfly effect.  If a butterfly flapped its wings in Beijing’s corridors, there may be a cyclone in Washington DC.
All her gold jewellery and the diamond love bands gifted by her husband packed in a bag, Shilavati walked gracefully with the gait of a swan into the foyer of the penthouse where Narottam had promised to provide her the paradise.
“Where’s Narottam?” she asked the group of young men who walked into the foyer one by one as if materialised from the thin air by a wizard’s magic wand.
“We are all Narottams,” they laughed.  And they carried her along a corridor where there was no wing-flapping butterfly.
The sun had not risen when she woke up, her head weighed down under the effect of some drug, on the side of a deserted street somewhere in the outskirts of the city... feeling bruised all over, scratches and bites digging in her skin... unable to take a step forward.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Winter of the World




Author: Ken Follett
Publisher: Penguin, 2012       
Pages: 940
Price: Rs399

Ken Follett is a master of epic tales.  He has woven mesmerising stories with wide arrays of memorable characters who are the warp and weft of the fabric of history.  They are characters who either shape the history or are shaped by it.  They are masters or victims.  But they are never puppets dangling from the mechanical fingers of some robotic history.  They are the normal human beings, partly good and partly evil, some strong and others weak, some of whom dare while others cower.

Winter of the World differs from those novels, however.  Its characters are more puppets dangling from the warp and weft of history.  The real persons who shape and manipulate the history are Hitler and Stalin.  Yet they hardly appear in the novel; they work like invisible gods through their agents, the Gestapo and the NKVD, both of which are ruthless in hunting down perceived enemies.

The plot of the novel spans from 1933 to 1949 – from the rise of Hitler in Germany to the disillusionment of Europe with Communism or Socialism.  In the world of both Hitler and Stalin, incompetent but loyal people are promoted to jobs that they cannot cope with.  Blind loyalty is the only virtue.  People who are blindly loyal are no better than the terrorists of today’s gods: they act without ever seeing beyond the tip of their nose.  They are incapable of any better vision. 

Winter of the World is populated with such people and their victims.  The problem with such a world is that we admire none.  The winners don’t deserve our admiration any more than the perpetrators of religious bomb blasts.  The victims are too pathetic to elicit normal human sympathy.   Imagine, for example, a young woman who has to swab her vagina with grease before having to lie down on a patient’s table in a doctor’s room with her skirt pulled up so that Stalin’s Red Army soldiers can shed their lust one by one...  Imagine the little boys and girls picked up by Hitler’s Gestapo to be thrown into the incinerator because they are handicapped and hence not fit to live in a world of healthy Aryans.

In Winter of the World the good people are victimised one way or the other.  The bad people are the winners, the rulers.  That’s why it is the winter of the world.  But such a world may not generate good fiction.  Good fiction mercifully leaves us with some consoling peeps into the flickering goodness of humanity, a goodness that lingers despite the marauding wickedness.  Winter of the World provides no such consolation.

History is the real protagonist in Follett’s historical novels.  But when it is more history than fiction, it may end up as a bizarre world of devils and their tail-hugging cretins.  Winter of the World suffers from this drawback.  But Follett does succeed in weaving yet another epic tale just as he did in his earlier historical novels.


My Reviews of Follett’s other historical novels:
Winter of the World is a sequel to Fall of Giants and is the second book in the Century trilogy.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Music in the Background


What seas what mountains what planets
Or a honeymoon cottage on an exotic isle
   with a bride on hire to suck the lust
What car what villa what gadget
Or a smorgasbord spread out in paradise
Where does it end, this pursuit?

How many millions or billions should the bank balance be
How many villas and hectares will this body need
How many parties bacchanalian and rumbustious
Before I hear the music in the background?


Note: This is the first poem I've written in years.  Maybe, when you sit idle with your foot caged in plaster of Paris poetry forces itself into your soul.  I have an excuse, however, for letting poetry make this forceful entry: I was reading something on philosopher Schopenhauer who thought that a man who has no mental life goes greedily from sensation to sensation in search of happiness and at last he/she is conquered by the nemesis of the idle rich or the reckless voluptuary - ennui.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Justified Strike




Eleven central trade unions have called for a strike which is already on in the country.  The strike is not really unjustified.  The demands for generation of more employment, better enforcement of labour laws, controlling  privatisation of Public Sector Undertakings, and abolition of contract labour are all justified in the given situation today.

It is a situation created by an extremely greedy capitalist system that fostered a self-centred individualism without any social responsibility.  Perhaps, the fault lies in the human heart rather than in systems.

Communism was a system that sought to guarantee the welfare of each citizen in the country.  But in the hands of a man like Joseph Stalin, it turned out to be no different from Hitler’s Nazi fascism. 

Capitalism was also not meant to be what it is today.  It was meant to provide more opportunities to individuals to explore their potential and achieve whatever success they are capable of.  Unfortunately, like any system or ideology, capitalism too went astray. 

Perhaps, systems and ideologies cannot save man from his fellow creatures.  If human nature is fundamentally evil, only laws and regulations can keep its evils under control.  The present strike is an attempt to create new laws or enforce existing ones so that the wealth of the country does not get concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals.   The strike is an attempt to ensure dignified living for all the people of the country as far as possible.  I hope the Government of India will think of some new policies which will guarantee justice for all.   Otherwise what has begun as a token strike may snowball into a disastrous national movement.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Awards and their joy


 

One of the funniest things I find about myself is that my attitude to life is extremely ambivalent.   I take many issues of life very seriously.  On the other hand, I’m aware of the most profound absurdity that underlies human existence, and this awareness helps me laugh even in the face of disasters.

Right now, I’m laughing at my foot imprisoned in plaster of Paris by the orthopaedist.  While I’d hate to stay put even in heaven for too long, I have learnt to play with the luxury of free time afforded by the present experience.   This blog is part of that playing.

First of all, I must thank three persons with an apology to two of them.  They are: Anjan Roy, Guspazha Chinar, and Umashankar Pandey.  My heart goes out to them for nominating me for the Liebster Award.  Unfortunately, I was not in a position to respond to Anjan and Guspazha because when their nominations came I was on both my feet which carried me from place to place on my regular duties.   I wouldn’t have had the patience to go through the exercises that the nominations demanded.  I tender an unconditional apology to both of them for my reprehensible inefficiency which may be misconstrued as arrogant indifference. 

Now, with whole days and nights at my medically earned disposal, I have decided to put my plastered foot in my mouth and respond to the demands of the latest nomination which comes from a blogger par excellence, Umashankar Pandey.

I’m supposed to start with eleven facts about me.  Since I started this blog with one such fact, I shall now give only ten more.

2.      Books are my best friends (apart from the one woman who tolerates me very patiently).

3.      Let not my icy exterior deceive anyone; there is a lot of fire deep down which can scorch.

4.      I detest with my whole heart any kind of violence perpetrated in the name of gods and religions.

5.      There is a lot of immaturity in me which I would like to project as childlike innocence.

6.      I avoid socialisation whenever I can (lest my projected innocence harm other equally innocent people).

7.      I love my job, teaching, in spite of the government’s and experts’ relentless efforts to stifle the profession.

8.      Writing is my hobby, a pastime.

9.      My dream is to live in a quiet rural area after retirement.

10.  Gadgets, luxury, and other such things don’t fascinate me at all. 

11.  I learnt to laugh at myself very late in life; my life would have been much richer had I learnt it earlier.

I’m now supposed to answer Umashankar’s eleven questions.

  1. Top 4 authors, or photographers, you love

Answer: Dostoevsky, Kafka, Kazantzakis, and G B Shaw

  1. Top 4 Movies

Answer: Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, Karate Kid, and a Malayalam movie whose name is Danny if I’m not mistaken.

  1. Top 4 singers/albums

I stopped listening to music long ago.  Even in those days when I used to play music during my leisure, I never had any favourite singers or albums.  I liked country songs and melodious and meaningful Malayalam movie songs.

  1. What would you do if you were to be stopped from writing?

Reading and thinking.  [Preaching too, if I’m permitted!]

 

  1. Are you in favour of banning books?

Absolutely not.

 

  1. Are you in favour of capital punishment?

I can tolerate it in certain exceptional cases.

 

  1. Are you in favour of veils for women, as in hijab?

Absolutely not.

 

  1. Which is the best translated work (or works) you’ve read?

Kazantzakis’s novels, especially Zorba the Greek

 

  1. Moments you cherish.

Too personal... pardon me.

 

  1. Moments you’d rather forget.

The whole of 1996 through 2000!

 

  1. Is blogging for everyone?

Well, I’m very tolerant.

 

My nominations for the same award:

1.      Cyber Diary – for the wealth of knowledge

2.      Shalu Sharma Guide to India – for the wealth of passionate insight

3.      Its my walls – for the wealth of pictures

4.      Chayachitrakar – for the wealth of exoticism

5.      Chasing Passions -  for the wealth of imagination

6.      My Yatra Diary – for all wealth from far and wide

7.      The Girls who looked for Rainbows – for the wealth of variety

8.      Panchalibolchi – for the wealth of verse

9.      Sane Randomness – for all the gentle prods

10.  Subho’s Jejune Diet – for both width and depth of perspectives

11.  http://joshidaniel.com/ - for the sheer delight of photography

And 11 questions for the nominees:

1.      The holiday destination of your dream?

2.      The most important quality you would expect in your best friend?

3.      What do you like/hate most about your boss?

4.      If you could change one thing about your physical appearance, what would it be?

5.      The person who influenced you the most so far?

6.      Do you think capitalism will soon give way to a new system?  If yes, can you predict [even in the haziest way] what the new system would be like?

7.      Whose company would you choose if you were to be marooned on an uninhabited island for a week?  [You can choose a person or a thing or an animal]

8.      What would be the first thing you do if you are made the dictator of India for a year?

9.      If the devil appears to you [as he did to Dr Faustus, for example] and grant you a boon (a wish), what would you ask for?

10.  If you were to write an autobiography, what would be its title?

11.  If you were to write an autobiography, who would you dedicate it to?

 

 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Let One Billion Rise




The last Valentine’s Day witnessed a women’s movement that brought global attention on certain important problems of women.  Women were discriminated against in the past in a variety of ways.  While discrimination seems to be on the wane today, violence against women is apparently mounting. 

It is possible that the decrease in discrimination and the increase in violence are correlated.  When women began to be more successful and more visible in the public, some of their male counterparts (who could not achieve proportionate success in life) reacted violently.  As women continue to ascend the rungs of success, this problem is likely to be more accentuated.  The problem, in this case, lies with the men; it is men who need treatment.

But it’s not fair to put the entire blame on men alone.  True, patriarchy has been the dominating system in most parts of the world and men created the rules for women.  It is a man who drew the Lakshman rekha for Sita; it is a man who kidnapped her; and, again, it is a man who abandoned her when other men cast aspersions on her chastity.  It has been a man’s world hitherto.

Nevertheless, the blame cannot be put on men alone today.  We live in a time which has already given much liberty to women and ample opportunities to forge her own destiny.  Have women made proper use of that liberty and those opportunities?

In the middle of the 20th century, feminist Simone de Beauvoir wrote: “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman; ... it is a civilisation as a whole that produces this creature.”  The civilisation that De Beauvoir spoke about made woman a commodity, something that was “constructed” by man, by patriarchal systems.

Half a century later, we live in a substantially different world.  We inhabit a civilisation that gives equal rights and liberty to women, in addition to many protective measures like reservation policies.  In spite of that, about one billion women (a third of the entire women population in the world) feel insecure.  There is something radically wrong somewhere.

I have already admitted above that there is something wrong with the men who inflict violence on women.  I also raised a question whether it is only the men’s fault.

The women are responsible in many ways for defining themselves and the responsibility is ever more today when they have been given much liberty and rights.

One of the first things that women have to do today is to stop seeing themselves as commodities.  If De Beauvoir lived in a time when the patriarchal systems commodified women, can today’s women admit that they are not also party to the process of their own commodification?  We can accuse an Andrew Marvell of commodifying his Coy Mistress by virtually dismembering her identity into discrete sexual objects by focusing his gaze on her eyes, forehead, breasts, “the rest,” and “every part,” before raping her mentally with the bizarre threat that if she refuses him, “then worms shall try / That long preserved virginity.”

Marvell lived about five centuries ago.  Has a woman’s situation in society changed much today?  My focus, however, is not on that situation but on women’s responsibility in upholding that situation.  Can women today claim that they are not equally culpable for the commodification of their species?  Look at the advertisements and the movies.  Don’t women allow themselves to be commodified, to be shown as objects of men’s sexual pleasures – overtly or covertly, sensually or vicariously?  Consider the amount of jewellery sold all over the world every day – it’s in hundreds of kilograms.  Why do women think that their bodies are objects to be decked with such jewellery?  Consider the fashion industry, the cosmetics industry, the beauty industry... Can man sustain these industries without the woman’s cooperation?  So, who is commodifying women today?

As long as women allow themselves to be perceived as commodities, there will be hordes of Marvells to admire the various parts of the commodity according to each one’s taste.

In 1975, a female socio-linguist, Robin Lakoff, wrote that women’s language was inferior since it contained patterns of “weakness” and “uncertainty”, focused on the “trivial”, the frivolous, the unserious, and stressed personal, emotional responses.  If we replace the word ‘language’ with ‘attitudes’ or ‘perception’, Lakoff’s verdict would be correct even today.  

The issue of women’s emancipation is too complex to be analysed in a few lines like these.  I have merely looked at it from just one angle which, according to me, deserves serious consideration. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

When God Said Cheers




Anurag Kashyap’s play, When God Said Cheers, was staged in Delhi recently.  Reading about it in the Metro supplement of today’s Hindu newspaper [14 Feb], I wondered why God couldn’t actually be a person with some sense of humour.

All the gods I know are dreadful bores.  They are too grumpy, or jealous, or bloodthirsty.  I’d love a God who would share a drink with me in the evening and engage me in a light-hearted conversation peppered with occasional bouts of laughter.  I’m sure God will burst into laughter when we discuss his priests and their religions.  I can imagine the tears that God will try to hide behind the whisky glass when we will discuss His believers killing other people in His name.

And God will tell me a parable:

In one of Hitler’s concentration camps, a group of Jews put Yahweh on trial.  They charged him with cruelty and betrayal.  There was nothing that could be offered as a defence for Yahweh.  No extenuating circumstances.  No benefit of doubt.  Yahweh was guilty indeed. He deserved death as punishment.  The Rabbi pronounced the verdict.  Then he looked up and said, “The trial is over; it’s time for the evening prayers.”*

And God will laugh raising the whisky glass to his thin lips.

And I will join the laughter forgetting my environment.  The Hegemon will come hearing the laughter, God’s and mine.

“Don’t you know that you’re living in a sacred place, a temple of the goddess of knowledge?  How can you laugh...?  Oh, I see, you’re not only laughing but drinking too.  Such shameless immorality!”  The Hegemon will pronounce the verdict.  I’ll lose my job.  So, dear God, I can’t share a drink with you yet much as I would love to hear you say ‘cheers’ with a twinkle in your eyes.


Notes

* This story is borrowed from Karen Armstrong’s book, A History of God.

Hegemon (from Greek root which means leader, guide, commander, chief): one who exercises hegemony

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Pope Retires




Pope Benedict XVI has announced his decision to retire.  Let’s hope that the Catholic Church will get a liberal and visionary Pope.

Benedict XVI was one of the most conservative popes of the recent times.  He failed to tackle certain important issues that rocked the church, particularly related to sexual matters.  The Church’s attitude to homosexuality has always remained ultra-conservative and Benedict XVI did not help to understand the issue in any intelligent light.  The issue of priests’ marriage was shelved conveniently even when the misdeeds of many priests, particularly instances of paedophilia, rocked the Church many a time.  The ordination of women as priests was not given due consideration.

A year before Benedict XVI was anointed the Pope, he was described as his predecessor’s “Grand Inquisitor” by theologian Hans Kung.  Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (who later became Pope Benedict XVI) together persecuted many theologians who advocated liberal and sensible approaches to contemporary problems.  Under their leadership, the Catholic Church remained one of the most obscurantist religions in the late 20th century.

There’s much that a good Pope can do for the Church.  In his history of the Catholic Church Hans Kung suggests that the Church should support:

·         a social world order: a society in which human beings have equal rights, live in solidarity with one another, and in which the ever-widening gulf between rich and poor is bridged;
·         a plural world order: a reconciled diversity of cultures, traditions and peoples...
·         a world order in partnership: a renewed fellowship of men and women in the church and society...
·         a world order which furthers peace

The Church has always remained a very narrow institution with unabashed holier-than-thou attitudes.  A broad-minded Pope can make the Church a meaningful and relevant institution in the 21st century.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Bigots and Selfistan




In Salman Rushdie’s novel, Shalimar the Clown, a Muslim boy and a Hindu (Pandit) girl are in love.  When the matter is brought to the attention of their parents as well as the panchayat, nobody finds anything seriously wrong.  Abdullah, the boy’s father, mentions Kashmiriyat, “the belief that at the heart of Kashmiri culture there was a common bond that transcended all other differences.” Pyarelal Kaul, the girl’s father added, “There is no Hindu-Muslim issue.  Two Kashmiri (…) youngsters wish to marry, that’s all.”

This is the Kashmir of the early 1960s as presented by Rushdie.  Half a century later, we know how far Kashmir is from such a broadminded understanding of religion and life.

It’s not a problem confined to Kashmir or a few places.  The more the world advances towards the utopian global village, the more the people’s minds seem to shrink.  A recent New York Times report lays bare the bigotry of a Lutheran pastor in America.  The pastor had to apologise for participating in an interfaith service.  His explanation highlights the bigotry that plagues the Lutheran church.  He explained that he had spent hours with his congregation educating them about the differences between Lutheran teaching “and the teachings of false religions such as Islam or Baha’i,” both of which had clergy members at the interfaith service. (emphasis added)

What can an interfaith service mean if the participants come with such prejudices?  It will only be a mere sham meant to hoodwink people into accepting a pseudo tolerance of other religions.  Such hypocrisy will not achieve any noble goal.  It’s better to live in the small circle of one’s own religion than pretend to make friends with believers from other religions.  Pretensions are more lethal than open bigotry. 

The bigots should not stretch out hands of pretended friendship.  As one of Rushdie’s characters says in the novel quoted above, “Why not stand still and draw a circle round your feet and name that Selfistan?”  Bigots should be confined to their own Selfistans. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Path of the Masters



The Path of the Masters
Author: Julian Johnson
Publisher: Radha Soami Satsang Beas

Though I bought this book when I visited a satsang 6 or 7 years ago, I wouldn’t have read it even now had my school not been taken over by the Radha Soami Satsang Beas.  Religion and spirituality don’t appeal to me.  In fact, the word ‘religion’ conjures up in my mind images of burning heretics and witches, crusades and jihads, protests and riots.

I visited the satsang as a visitor driven by curiosity and not as a pilgrim.  The impression I gathered (from the only one visit I ever made) was that what attracted people to such gatherings was nothing different from what the author of this book discards as normal religion.

There are many places in the book where the author calls religion “the solace of the weak” (Voltaire’s phrase), an escapist measure, or a childish solution to life’s problems.  Almost half of the book tries to show that traditional religions cannot bring genuine answers to any individual’s spiritual quest.  Judaism, for example, has degenerated into a mere code of ethics imposed by priests.  “Priestcraft” in Christianity has smothered the spirit of Jesus’ teachings.  Islam has no answer to the question how one can “enter the kingdom of heaven here and now.”

The other half of the book is devoted to explaining that only a living master can lead one to the living kingdom of heaven, who is the real master, and what the master’s teachings are.

The author, Julian Johnson, was “a man of many parts, and besides being a distinguished surgeon, was also an artist, scholar, pilot, and an ordained minister of the church (the Baptist church in America), and had been in India as a missionary” before he became a disciple of Sawan Singh, a Master (guru or saint). He spent many years with the Master before becoming convinced that every religion invariably becomes obsolete and only a living master can fulfil a pilgrim’s spiritual quest. 

In the author’s view a Master is a person who has total mastery over his life, a mastery derived from a profound understanding of human life and his universe.  The Buddha, Jesus, and the Prophet Mohammed were all such Masters.  But dead Masters can no more enlighten followers than can a dead surgeon operate on a patient.  This is a recurrent assertion in the book.

The second half of the book is an explanation of the Hindu scriptures, the Hindu cosmology as well as mythology and Hindu practices such as the yoga, although the author has made it sound as the teaching of all great Masters.  He goes out of his way, for example, to show that Jesus acquired his wisdom from India.  “Probably a year following his first reported discussion with the elders of his people at Jerusalem, he (Jesus) was taken to India by one of ‘the wise men of the East’ (the magi) who had visited him at the time of his birth,” says the author.  “Those men were the magi of the Mesopotamian school.  But there is no doubt that they had communication with India, from where many spiritual teachings had emanated since the beginning of history.  It seems probable that the one who took Jesus to India was an Indian yogi who at the time of the birth of Jesus was visiting in Persia and Mesopotamia.”

Where does the author get such history from?  We don’t know.  With similar revealed wisdom he asserts that “The two doctrines of karma and reincarnation are important considerations in the science of the Masters.  They are accepted as facts of nature not only by the Masters but by  practically all schools of Oriental thought.  More than half of the human race today accepts karma and reincarnation as established facts of nature.”

The book was first published in 1939.  The copy I have is the 16th edition published in 1997.  Even in 1939, did “more than half of the human race” accept karma and reincarnation as established facts of nature?

The book is suffused with dogma although the author condemns dogmatism as the worst evil in the pursuit of spiritual truth because “Dogma is a declaration of opinion which the writer assumes to be fact, but concerning which he has no definite knowledge.”  The author calls his Master’s (as well as others’ provided they are genuine Masters) teaching “a scientific method and even asserts that it “meets every demand of science.”  The true disciple can experience what the Master has experienced; hence scientific.

If that does not satisfy you, the author has more to offer.  “True religion consists in developing that attitude of mind which ultimately results in seeing one infinite existence prevailing throughout the universe, thus finding the same divinity in both art and science.  This is the higher ideal of science.  Why limit science to the test tube and microscope?  Real science finds its ultimate domain in those broader and more beautiful worlds where only the mind and soul may enter, after being purified from the dross of materiality.”

The author redefines science altogether. Thus he creates a new religion although he is against religion and its dogmatism!

Finally, is the Master above the kind of degeneration that religions undergo after the death of their founders?  The author says that his own Master, Sawan Singh (after whom my school is named), lived a simple life with no secrecy, no mystery about him, travelling in ordinary vehicles like other people.  Are his followers, the new Masters, doing the same?  Are they really “the friends and saviors of those who struggle toward the light”?