Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gandhi, Again

The July/August issue of The Atlantic magazine contains an examination of Gandhi’s image by Christopher Hitchens, using Joseph Lelyveld’s recent study of Gandhi’s life, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India (mentioned in a March 27 Blavatsky News post), for his template.

The word Mahatma (often employed in ordinary journalistic usage without any definite article, as if it were Mohandas Gandhi’s first name) is actually the Sanskrit word for “Great Soul.” It is a religio-spiritual honorific, to be assumed or awarded only by acclaim, and it achieved most of its currency in the West by association with Madame Blavatsky’s somewhat risible “Theosophy” movement, forerunner of many American and European tendencies to be found in writers, as discrepant as Annie Besant and T. S. Eliot, who nurture themselves on the supposedly holy character of the subcontinent.

Hitchens has taken on the claims of a number of prominent individuals over the years, including Mother Theresa. The rest of his comments can be read here.

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