Saturday, 8 June 2013

Roots of Gandhi's Charisma

The older view of the source of Gandhi's charisma, well summarized by this short volume published by the University of Chicago, holds that  it was deeply rooted in the aspects of Indian tradition that he interpreted for his time. The key to his political influence was his ability to realize in both his daily life and his public actions, cultural ideals that many Indians honored but could not enact themselves—ideals such as the traditional Hindu belief that a person's capacity for self-control enhances his capacity to control his environment. Appealing to shared expectations and recognitions, Gandhi was able to revitalize tradition while simultaneously breaking with some of its entrenched values, practices, and interests.

Such a view immediately raises the question of why Europeans and Americans of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds were numbered amongst his most fervent disciples. Upper Class English converts like Madeline Slade & Verrier Elwin called Gandhi 'Christ personified'. By contrast, few Hindus or Muslims considered him to incarnate or indeed possess any degree of erudition with respect to their respective Religious doctrines, yet some very erudite men from these communities can be classed amongst his acolytes.
Now it might be asserted that the notion exists that if a man can make himself independent of his environment- for example, if he no longer needs to eat but can draw energy from the aether, a doctrine called 'Breathism' or Inedia-then, it is equally plausible to suggest, he might become the master of his environment and order it in some ideal way such that change and decay lose their motive force.
Between 1880 and 1920 there was a vogue for the 'professional faster'- or 'hunger artist'- like the American, Dr. Henry Tanner- who claimed to have discovered some such technique. It may be suggested that Hindu thought is a plausible origin for this notion and so the reason Gandhi attracted European disciples was because, as an Indian who thought fasting had some morally or socially therapeutic value, it was conceivable that, on his returning to his Hindu roots, he might somehow Antaeus-like draw strength from his native soil and achieve the ideal of Inedia. Thus, one fine day, embarking on a fast against some Injustice or instance of Violence, Gandhi would cease to require food. His body would be transfigured and transformed into a different type of being. Perhaps, the spiritual energy radiating from this now transubstantiated body would bring about a miraculous chain reaction. Violence and Greed would disappear. The Rains would fall at their proper time. Rivers would not turbulently rage or capriciously flow but irrigate vast deserts with a mother's care.The green shoots and gorgeous flowers of the Earthly Paradise would crack open the grimy pavements of infernal cities and the dismal proletariat would find the Factory Chimneys to which they were enchained, turned into Maypoles as Labour itself became but a refrain in a roundelay or marked a movement in a Morris dance.
But, there is a problem with this view. Fasting for political purposes was a program being far more dramatically and tragically carried forward by the Suffragettes in England. Since Gandhi wasn't claiming to be able to do without food, his efforts in this direction were simply not such as could win him celebrity or endow him with charisma.

Indian Nationalist Politics had already produced Revolutionaries turned Holy Men and vice versa of whom super-natural powers and Divine Grace were widely predicated. Thus, there were plenty of templates, of a superior sort, available to Indians whereby their 'cultural ideals' could be seen to have been realized, that too in a marvellous manner, in the 'daily life and public actions' of quite a wide body of people. 

Once agains, this suggests that if, indeed, there was some unique way in which Gandhi incarnated some Great Principle, then there was nothing specifically Indian, or Hindu, about that Principle. I say this because men like Khan Abdul Ghafoor Khan or Abbas Tyabji  were certainly not in thrall to some 'Indian' or 'Hindu' ideal- it is offensive to suggest it- whereas a convert to Hinduism, like Savitri Devi, found nothing interesting in Gandhi.
Now it is true that Gandhi did believe he had a special understanding, denied to others, and arising from his principled way of life, of Hinduism, but he also thought that he had special insights into a number of other quite disparate subjects. It was not uncommon for an acolyte firmly convinced of Gandhi's genius in one area to indignantly reject his thinking in a separate field.  By contrast, other charismatic figures of the period- Hitler, Stalin and so on- were portrayed by their propaganda machines as possessing super-human capacities in every domain. 
It is true that anti-Imperialist forces as varied as the Maji Maji rebels in German Tanganika and the Boxers in China ascribed magical powers to their leaders and India was not far out of line with this trend. Annie Beasant and the adherents of the Theosophy Society unquestionably held that the 'mahatmas', from whom they received instruction, existed on an astral plane and were immune to death and the ageing process.
Still, since it is a fact that no actual and long standing acolyte of Gandhi's has ever made any similar claim about him- though many of his contemporaries were indeed deified and have an on-going cultus- it must be the case that it was not the devotee's desire to believe in the super-natural that invested Gandhi with charisma but some human quality or charm of expression which he possessed in a superlative degree..
It is interesting that whereas Amedkar is considered a Boddhisattva, Gandhi is not acclaimed as an Avatar or Siddha or Avadhoot on anything similar. Thus, it seems to me, the roots of Gandhi's appeal can't be found in anything specifically Indian or Hindu, nor is it the case that his acolytes considered him to have received some special gift of grace from God- so, it surely follows, the roots of his charisma can't be found in traditional values or Religious beliefs but, rather, if people continued to idolize Gandhi even after specific initiatives of his, whether political or socio-economic, which brought him great celebrity, had been proved to be dismal failures, foredoomed by his amateurishness and confusion of thought, then the secret of his appeal must be sought in the secular arena constituted and sustained by the, so to speak, 'counter culture' Mass Media of his times. 
The obvious rejoinder to this view is to say- 'Gandhi was a virtuous man. Politics is a dirty business. People idolized Gandhi because he never compromised his principles. The world would be a much better place if we all emulated Gandhi. What is this nonsense you are talking about 'counter-culture' and 'Mass Media'? Since when has Virtue and Principled Behaviour been 'counter culture' or 'Pop culture' or any such nonsense? Kindly get your head examined!'
The problem with this rejoinder is that Gandhi's actions and thoughts were known to his acolytes. Those actions were not virtuous for Virtue seeks not to bring itself into Temptation. Nor were they principled- Gandhi experienced no redemptive tragedy arising from a conflict between Love and Duty- he bounces like an elastic ball away from the troubles of his eldest son- there can be no Uttara -kanda to the Gandhicharitra; Sophocles and Aeschylus will search his character in vain for any trace of 'pathos mathei'- Gandhi blunders, Gandhi suffers self-doubt, but Gandhi learns nothing, nothing was his fault; there had been no tragic dividing between the high road of Duty and the shaded path of the heart; if any lesson is to be learnt it is that people are even greater scoundrels than he thought them and perhaps his Chastity hadn't been tested sufficiently by  attentions to pretty girls.
Now, it is possible that Gandhi, like Quixote, suffered from a mental aberration and that his actions were intended to be virtuous and principled and only failed to be so because he mistook windmills for giants and a tavern wench for a chaste chatelaine.
I suppose you could say, 'what if Quixote was the only virtuous and principled man in the whole of Spain? In that case, though we may lament his mental infirmity, yet we do right in idolizing him. If it is proved that his virtue has driven him mad, might we not benefit by sharing his madness for what truly defeats the ends of human existence is to live without virtue and without principles?'
Indeed, people writing about Gandhi often appear to be making some such argument. They hint that the Indian political class, prior to his advent, was wholly lacking in Virtue, in Principles, in belief in Non-Violence, Hindu-Muslim Unity, Concern for the Poor etc, etc. Yet, even a cursory examination of the facts shows there is no truth whatsoever in this line of reasoning. I do not say Gandhi was a dwarf standing on the shoulders of giants but that he was a Vamana to such Moral Titans as threatened the Olympus of British Imperium. Under his auspices, Indian Capitalism was derailed from the project of raising up the country in the manner that Japan had raised itself up, Indian Islam was derailed from the project of tackling the root causes of its economic and educational decline- Muhammad Ali Jinnah was campaigning for Waqf reform long before Timur Kuran pointed out how failure to reform Inheritance Law had enfeebled Muslim Commerce- the campaign by Indian lawyers to get peasants the protection of the law, as in Champaran, that too was derailed because Gandhi thought lawyers were scoundrels; the anti-caste movement, the Hindu-Muslim unity movement, the reform movement in the Princely States, you name it, every single progressive initiative predating Gandhi's return to India was derailed by his activities. 
Fair enough, if he had delivered 'Swaraj' (Independence) on the time-table that he promised. He didn't. Instead he frustrated and derailed even such very cautious reforms as would have proceeded had there never been so much as a single public-spirited Indian in the country.
Yet, despite all this happening very publicly, despite his closest adherents being acquainted with all the facts of the case, his 'charisma' rather waxed than waned and, in time, became the sole tangible asset on his, or indeed his Party's, balance-sheet. It was that charisma from which he drew the dividends which he frittered away on his crack-pot schemes. 
The alternative view- viz. that vested interests financed and promoted Gandhi- his charisma was a snake-oil they palmed off on the credulous public- collapses when we find that Industrialists like Jamnalal Bajaj gave up their Wealth and took up humble occupations in Gandhi's Ashram, not as matter of hypocrisy but from genuine conviction.
Does this mean that Gandhi possessed the personal magnetism of a Gurdieff  and should be classed simply as a charismatic cult leader? Some of his adherents, it can't be denied, were of such stuff as cultists are made- but many, nay most, weren't anything of the sort. They loved Gandhi, it is true, but all the evidence points to their love being returned- surely not a trait discoverable in a Narcissistic personality- and there are instances of Gandhi taking an interest in the ideas and aspirations of others even when they conflicted with his own long cherished beliefs. 

This positive aspect of Gandhism- more especially the mutual affection and camaraderie which permitted large sections of the Indian National Congress to develop an esprit de corps by the shared experience of penal servitude (an important factor in holding India together for 30 years after the departure of the British)- should, by itself, have been enough to yield some substantial benefit during the period of Gandhi's domination. Yet, the evidence is, it did no such thing. Egypt gains the semblance of Independence, India gains nothing. Ceylon gains universal suffrage with strong minority protection- India gains worse than nothing- a system of representation precisely calculated to envenom Community relations and to make things like dealing with the Bengal Famine an impossibility save by the intervention of the Viceroy.

It is an ungainsayable fact that had Gandhi never returned to India, every existing initiative would have had a happier expression and more harmonious outcome. Yet, it is remarkable that this fact can be acknowledged without impugning any aspect of Gandhi's charisma because no similar empirical evidence can be adduced to support the view that some corrupt dealing or sociopathic tendency lay behind it.
Thus, in seeking to get to the root of Gandhi's charisma, we find ourselves blocked and baffled at every turn. A functionalist explanation fails because Gandhism was dysfunctional. A conspiracy theory fails because the facts contradict it. A 'hamartia' or 'flawed Great Man' narrative fails because Gandhi wasn't a King, or the head of a Religious Sect, he never commanded unquestioning obedience, and so we are left  looking at something more imprecise, if not nebulous- not a 'Man of Destiny' but a 'Schelling focal point' or 'Obligatory Passage Point for Interessement' or some other such more or less fuzzy concept to which the notion of 'hamartia' is not applicable. Indeed, the danger of such an approach is to reduce Gandhi's characteristic confusion of mind, which he unfailingly brought to bear upon every issue, to something transmitted into him by abstract social forces- i.e. a Great Man narrative quickly turns into its opposite, Gandhi turns out not to be a Man at all but rather a blank sheet on which impersonal and abstract elementals inscribe their inscrutable agon.

In our own day, we are familiar with the figure of the celebrity singer, or actor or writer or what have you, gaining a sort of second life as the exponent of an esoteric doctrine or exotic cause whose broad appeal arises from the feeling shared by many ordinary people that the 'Knowledge Economy' which consigns them a lowly rank does not really know anything at all valuable; nor does the increasingly homogenized Political Class, notwithstanding skills finely honed by pollsters and focus groups, represent anything real except this Planetary Technology that reprocesses the tectonic convulsions of the subject's hidden depths into the meretricious and manufactured consent of a specious Citizenhood.

Some vast, inward and wholly submerged aspect of an otherwise atomized polity connects up with other beings across Time and Space in a manner which constitutes an occult and marvelous Continent governed not by the Statesman's Words but the Sorcerer's Wonders.
In Gandhi's case, where then should we begin to look for the secret of his appeal? 
Here, it is instructive to look again at the field where he first gained salience and celebrity- turn of the century South Africa.
During the long peace stretching from 1870 to 1914, two conflagrations stand out-  first, the Boer War, which fed anti-British sentiment, and then the Russo-Japanese War, where an Asiatic power, albeit one which had Westernized itself, defeated the most autocratic of European Empires. Both of these Wars, though small in comparison with the Universal Holocaust which was soon to follow, showed that European Imperialism was susceptible to challenge both from the military and the moral stand point and that such challenges could have a huge impact on Eupope's own internal constitution and elite politics. The abortive Russian Revolution of 1905, which owed more to Tolstoy than Marx, was a direct consequence of the defeat inflicted on the Tzar by the Japanese.
In Britain, initially 'Jingoistic' patriotism sparked by the Boer War had led to the election of a 'khaki' parliament- i.e. one dominated by gentleman who had served on the Front- but then a reaction set in and the subsequent election showed public opinion had swung the other way. In Literature, Swinburne, an ardent anti-Boer, was completely superseded, indeed made to look rather silly, as the relic of a bygone age, by anti-Imperialist writers like George Bernard Shaw and G.K. Chesterton. Even Churchill, whose exploits in the Boer War had kick-started his political career, was now engrossed in the project of internal Reform- curbing the power of the Aristocracy, unshackling the Trade Unions, and introducing the sort of National Insurance Scheme that  previously had been considered, by people like Herbert Spencer, as the first step to a 'servile State'. In other words, Colonial Wars conducted in far off places, had, for the first time, become a driver for Socio-Political Change at the very heart of the great European Empires.
In this context, Gandhi, an Asiatic disciple of Tolstoy in post War South Africa, could easily become a focal point of an essentially International sort.
General Smuts, having been tipped the wink by General Kitchener that a political change in Britain was in the offing, though losing the War yet manages to win the Peace, not least by getting Public Opinion in England and America on his side by playing the 'Yellow Peril' card- i.e. by suggesting that Chinese or 'coolie' Asiatic immigrants posed a threat to the White Man's standard of living and 'Civilized' code of conduct- especially with regard to the treatment of women.
 Gandhi, like Smuts, a barrister who had given proof of courage and self-sacrifice on the field of battle, was a natural leader for Asiatic resistance to this cunning policy of the Boers. But the cards were stacked against him and the Chinese leader, Leung Quin. The political prize of permanent domination of South Africa was now linked to demonizing and crushing the spirit of the Asiatics. Thus, even if Gandhi had been an intelligent negotiator, he wouldn't have won any concession from Smuts for the entrepreneurial and professional class that he himself represented. However, whereas the Chinese, despite their valiant efforts, could be pitilessly deported just so Smuts could show the Mine Owners who had the upper hand, the same was not true of the Indian labouring class- because as subjects of the British King Emperor, Whitehall would have to intervene to evacuate and resettle them. Moreover, the Indian 'coolies' had been pushed too far. The poll tax had been set too high to allow them a margin for survival. They had nothing to lose by going on strike. The Mine owners could threaten to shoot them if they did not work but this was tantamount to the re-establishment of slavery, which the British Govt. could not countenance. Thus, if Smuts had not buckled, the British would have been obliged to evacuate the Indian labouring population and resettle them elsewhere in which case they would have been no worse off whereas the South African economy would have sustained irreparable damage. 
Only by remitting the poll tax could Smuts give the Indian workers an incentive to remain and go back to work. Gandhi, already a celebrity in India, for his decision to go to jail over this and related issues, had received strong political and financial support from India and since his methods had been impeccably 'moderate'- the 'Naram Dal' in Indian Politics could claim
1) that Gandhi's methods- not the desperate action of the labouring classes- had secured some huge victory in South Africa. 
2) Gandhi was a 'Moderate' of the stamp of Gokhale or the Servants of India- i.e. a highly educated and rational being whose patriotism arose from a pure ethical instinct which could have no truck with popular passions or suddenly take recourse to violence.
Acclaim accorded to Gandhi by the Indians- and his extraordinarily rapid ascent in Indian politics- had the effect of confirming his celebrity status as arising from some special gift in his field of specialization. However, this view was fundamentally mistaken. Just as an unknown, or not particularly talented, actor might suddenly gain prominence by taking a seemingly unsympathetic role disdained by others but which becomes a surprise hit; thus gaining a celebrity status, or cult following, which enables him to make a grab at Political or other such Power, so too in Indian politics, Gandhi attained an unsustainable 'super-star' status, eclipsing more able colleagues, precisely because his inexperience and confusion of mind led him to espouse contradictory and deeply flawed programs- like 'Khilafat' & 'Swaraj'- which were bound to end up more bitterly dividing those they hoped to unite.
Yet, since celebrity and salience might appear to be good things in themselves, it was possible to suggest that Gandhi had merely been a better surfer of evanescent waves of Popular Agitation which were foredoomed to collapse long before they hit the shore-line of established Power structures. This being the case, when the fated Tsunami finally arrived, might not Gandhi and his acolytes gain a brief glory riding that final all-annihilating big wave as it swept away the sky-scraping Babels of Cosmopolitan Civilization?

Indeed, is not the appeal of irrational strands in any contemporary counter-culture precisely that of, I will not say surviving a common doom, but gaining an exalted vantage point from which to view the awesome unfolding of that all-nihilating cataclysm?
Yet, a moment's consideration will show that there are two ways in which such a desire could be satisfied. One might take the path of terrorism- the hijacker in the cockpit crashing his plane into the sky-scraper- but, in this instance, there is the risk that death will not claim us at our moment of exaltation and we will live on in chains to bear witness to the folly of our actions. Alternatively, we might rigorously deny ourselves the previous option, though making every other sort of preparation, save that of inflicting actual harm, to the same end. However, since in both cases, the possibility exists that the underlying action is foolish merely; perhaps a more palatable course is to hedge our bets, to carry on as normal in all practical matters, but 'at night, to dream Moosbrugger'- i.e. to constrain impulses of this sort to the realm of fantasy. Yet, this too yields little satisfaction and so some sort of accommodation might be sought, in company with like-minded people, which, it is possible to believe, might actually yield some benefit to the common weal.

The question that must arise, in the context of conventional, Secular, Political Philosophy- or Social Choice theory- is whether fundamentally ontologically dysphoric preferences- in other words, situations where people feel, 'this is the wrong world- nothing in it can make me happy'- on an analogy with gender dysphoria- where a person feels trapped in a body of the wrong gender, no concession or compensation short of gender reassignment will do- pose a fundamental challenge to our views as to what is legitimate in Methodology and reasonable in World Views.

In the case of Iran- a country which we imagine to be obscurantist and patriarchal- it is a fact that the reality of gender dysphoria has been recognized and, in some respects, it appears they have been somewhat ahead of us, for a paradoxical reason- viz. our greater tolerance of homosexuality may have caused us to say 'you don't really need to take this step. The truth is you have been brain-washed by our homophobic culture. Don't go under the knife. The very thought makes me queasy.'
I don't personally have any knowledge of this issue- but I can see that the fact that some such possibility exists is enough to show I have no sure means of determining what Justice requires.
Similarly, with ontologically dysphoric views of a type with which I  feel no empathy, or which make me feel queasy, the temptation is for me to say- 'Oh, you people are just confused by all this brain-washing we are all constantly subjected to. There's some rational path of compromise such that you can stop feeling this way. So, just you stop listening to crack pots and dabbling in all this counter-culture nonsense.'
If there is any utility to the analogy I am proposing, then there is something I'm radically missing by yielding to the temptation of being an old fogey - viz. the necessity for the creation of some new way of being in Society which can tackle the root cause of the malaise.
Even if there is some obvious villain on whom to pin the blame, a deeper understanding is required. Indeed, in the case of a Movement or tendency linked to dysfunctional charisma or charisma yoked to a sociopathic end, it becomes urgent to tackle the underlying ontological dysphoria which the charismatic leader taps into to recruit his capacity for mischief.

Gandhi's charisma still exists as an unproblematic fact about the world. One can become captivated by him just by looking at his picture. This is scarcely a cause for concern. Yet, in recent years, there has been quite a revival and burgeoning of 'Gandhian' programs at least some of which appear to be a terrible waste of resources or a criminal enterprise in delay and obfuscation. This suggests to me that Gandhi's charisma is not of a simple sort- i.e. a token of the infinite love and understanding that exists as free floating energy- but that it has a specific relationship with a type of ontological dysphoria prevalent in a post fin de siecle, fin du mond, Edwardian era which bears some uncomfortable similarities to our own.
In particular, there is a sort of panic which arises from an increasing awareness of radical inter-dependence, the ceaselessly pragmatics of negotiation, repair and accommodation, contemplating which one feels a despair of the spirit. In earlier times, surely, people could believe that there was some way to insulate themselves, to insulate their own Society, from everything else such that Freedom had a horizon as the end of Work. There was always some expedient, some tangible quick-fix, just round the corner which would secure a steady state of diminishing effort and increasing returns and one reason to believe so was the notion that all things constitute sub-systems self-regulating in themselves. It is sufficient to secure our own independence from the complex web of things, by establishing an ideal order within our own sphere of sovereignty, for us to be forever after  buffered from everything else and though interaction and exchange would continue to occur this would happen on terms of trade increasingly favourable to ourselves, because Providence has arranged for an ideal hierarchy of systems and since our natural place stands at the top of that hierarchy, the mere effort to insulate ourselves within an ideal ordering, or praxeology,  would suffice for everything lower down the chain of Being to achieve the spontaneous equilibrium natural to it.
Thus, the power elite might say, 'Once we can agree on the ideal way to decide how to divide up the cake between ourselves, we need no longer bother about the Economy or National Security or the Environment- they are all self regulating. The important thing is to insulate our own debate about how to carve things up amongst ourselves from shocks arising from those hierarchically lower systems. To think we have a duty to repair or regulate lower systems is sheer lunacy. We can't be the nursemaids of Industry or the Environment or overly concern ourselves over Defence. That should be left to businessmen or farmers or the sturdy yeomanry, who, of course, left to themselves, are perfectly able to see off any threat.'
No matter which sub-system one looks at, the power-elite within it are going to have this temptation.
After India was properly annexed to the Crown, British administrators were pulled in two different directions- one, the need for more and more intervention to replace crashing systems or repair moral ecologies, the other the temptation to concentrate on receiving as much praise and commendation as possible by saying 'well, from time immemorial, the Indian village has been self-regulating. It is only our own misguided desire to help, or the malicious desire of the so-called 'Reformers' to meddle, which has caused the present problem. So long as we do nothing and concentrate on the really important question- viz. who gets which Gong and fat post-retirement sinecure- India will be fine.
Indian barristocrats too were pulled in opposite directions. They could either undertake stewardship of the arduous and Sisyphus like task of extending legal protection to ever poorer members of the productive classes- this is the only recipe for productivity growth and an escape from the threat of demographic collapse or moral anarchy-  or else they could renounce everything and compete with the British power elite for honors deriving from doing nothing but foster the myth of Indian 'organic' self-regulation which, provided the de trop British departed post haste, would somehow magically restore prosperity and communal harmony and ecological balance and so on.
The Janus face of Gandhian charisma-as-interessement, beaming with toothless benevolence, is the icon under which simultaneous pilgrimages in opposite directions continually embark with the certainty of re-encountering each other at journey's end.
No doubt, something similar could be said of every metaphorical description of a political program or interessement mechanism. The fact is, in the same way that the physical organism needs sleep, so too does the Spirit require some means of buffering itself from Life's web of radical inter-dependence and a respite to recruit itself through the contemplation of Platonic ideals.  No doubt a great mischief is worked when such Ideals supervene on pragmatics and needful decisions are put off. But, if we recognize that there may be types of ontological dysphoria which correspond to some way of being in the world not yet available or imperfectly recognized then even the foolishness of Philosophy, the grotesqueness of gesture politics, is found to have a necessary inertial property without which inter-dependence would have no temporality and Reason no sleep.


  1. One hundred years ago only a small minority of Indians were educated. Few Hindus or Muslims had a proper grasp of their Religion or proper inculcation in the Indian Culture. Instead they were subject to hunger and disease and exploited and abused at every turn.
    Gandhiji stands out as a man who turned his back on the elite life-style and high politics to live the life of the poor. Not only that, but the greatest men and women of India came to recognize that he had taken the right path. Even the British King received the Mahatma in his Royal Court even though Bapuji was wearing only the loincloth and shawl of the poor peasant.
    That is the root of his 'charisma'.
    He was the initiator and others followed his footsteps. That is why he is the Father of the Nation and also why people from all over the world can take inspiration from him.

    1. I see. So living the life of the poor means going to London to see the King. Come to think of it, the poor people of Champaran tried to see the King when he came on a hunting expedition. They were chased away and their petition was rejected. So, desire to see the King and petition him is what poor people want. No wonder Gandhi went to see the King. But, pussycat pussycat what did you do there? Did Gandhi say to the King- please help us. We are poor. We need food. We need medicine.'
      No. He saw some political mouse under some chair and forgot all about the poor people of Champaran or Bardoli or Wardha or, in fact, any part of India.
      We may say, dignity of India, Indian national pride forbids us asking for food or medicine. But, in that case, to help the poor, why not change your nationality- Gandhi could have pretended to be Zulu- and ask the King Emperor to help his poor Indian subjects without Indian pride being damaged in any way.
      Now you may say- 'Poor of India considered Gandhi their one true treasure. He could not become a Zulu, even to help the poor of India.'
      My reply is- 'in that case why couldn't he just become for one moment a smart Gujerati bania who strikes a clever deal which gets the poor the resources they need?'
      You may reply- 'Banias are the ones who sucked the blood of the poor in the first place! Leopard can't change his spots.'
      I would disagree. If the bania takes off his banyan and appears bear chested he can become a Mahatma. Other lawyers may not have known this trick, but once Gandhi showed the way they quickly adopted it.
      Did Gandhigiri raise up the poor by even one iota?
      Bania can take off his banyan but the leopard inside him can't change his kleshas.

  2. I think the notion of Charisma is intimately connected with the philosophical problem of chorismos- i.e. the gulf between the ideal and the actual. The charismatic person is considered as the ideal type and gets to decide how close any given actual being is to the ideal and what duties are incumbent on that agent if he wishes to keep his grade or hope to advance forward.
    True, there could be a revolution as when Zeus supplanted Chronos. Suppose there is a genealogy of chairs which start off as humble kitchen stools but evolve into something so beautiful and comfortable that they oust the 'ideal chair' which is the throne.
    This may seem a strange way to think about ideals but it has one benefit- it gets round the 'third man' Argument of Aristotle. If this chair is related to the ideal chair then there must be a third chair which encodes that relationship. If I say, this chair participates in the ideal chair, you may say 'Chairs don't participate in anything- they are just chairs. Or else, please show me a chair which when you look at it you can truthfully say 'this chair shows the participation of that other chair in the ideal.'
    In the case of Gandhi- you may feel he was not principled or virtuous and perhaps you may even think you have some evidence which proves it. Still, a lot of people believed he was the most principled and virtuous person of his time. Since they too wished to be virtuous and principle, they invested him with Charisma and by accepting his judgement as to their rank and duties as soldiers of Truth (Satyagrahis)they got round the problem of 'chorismos' which is the feeling of being wholly cut off from knowledge of the ideal.

    1. Thank you- very illuminating. What you say explains the attitude of the European disciples like Mirabehn (Madeline Slade) about whom Sudhir Kakar wrote a book recently. Indian philosophies/soteriologies had a 'field theory' rather than notion of participation or methexis and karma ended up doing all the work to yield a benevolent outcome...Perhaps, in Western Philosophy the problem of how one thing acts upon another is more acute or carries a sort of anxious valency- the feeling of being cut off from God, or the Ideal, even without any overt sin...I am struggling to think whether we have it in India in any other form than the Theistic Bhakti/viyogini- i.e. trope of separation from the Beloved (i.e. God)..
      Gokhale's Servants of India Soc. had been compared to a sort of Jesuit Mission.. Gandhi's ashram was more loosey-goosey..but the latter had the advantage of giving access to the Jail cell...
      Sorry, just thinking aloud... Actually, the more I look at it, the more I find in your comment. I can now see how an honest person can be a Gandhian. I guess kenneth Boulding was of that sort. I'll need to mull this over a lot more. Thanks again. Very generous of you to take the trouble.
      I think