Monday, December 30, 2013


"Prof. Courtright's Pseudo-psychoanalytic Depiction of Shri Ganesha - Authentic Scholarship or Bigotry?"**


Shree S. Vinekar, MD, DLFAPA, DLFAACAP, MACPsych

Prof. Courtright's use of psychoanalytic theory is a veneer to his bigotry. The issue highlighted by the protesting concerned citizens in the U.S., who are knowledgeable of Hindu culture, is not an attack on Prof. Courtright's freedom of speech or academic freedom. The Hindu scholars are neither oblivious to nor unable to accept academic freedom as a lofty democratic principle. The crucial issue is disregard of scholarly responsibility by Prof. Courtright in interpreting the arcane fields of Hindu Philosophy and Mythology, as well as the inappropriate use of Applied Psychoanalysis. The limitations of his knowledge of both of these subjects makes his book on "Ganesa" comparable to the pseudoscientific arguments, used in the disciplines of Humanities, to justify racism and eugenics in the 1960's. Such fallacious “logic” was designed to gain academic respectability but it is nothing but a vicious and demeaning attack on another culture not unlike that is revealed in anti-Semitic literature and attitudes.

Such a ploy or subterfuge claiming new psychoanalytic insight is likely to mislead and misinform other honest but gullible academicians in the U.S.  Prof. Courtright has distracted them into believing that his work published under the banner of Emory has authentic scholastic merit. He would view any attack on his blatant "cross-cultural vandalism" as an encroachment on his academic freedom. Such defense and other arguments used by Prof. Courtright are nothing but smoke and mirrors. His counteraccusations against his critics further demean and discredit the Hindu scholars who have taken serious exception to the contents of his book. His scholastic sounding exterior is a cover up for the deliberate and malicious maligning of a respectable culture.

The defensive response of Prof. Courtright is a gross misuse of the concept of academic freedom. It is clearly a form of “anal sadistic” attack on another respectable society under the disguise of authentic scholarship. In short, Prof. Courtright has ulterior motives in attempting to publish his book from New Delhi, India. The considered action of the Parliament of India taken against his book and the recall of his book by its Indian publisher must not be viewed as a disregard of the democratic principle of freedom of expression. Simply speaking, the liberty to act cannot be translated as a freedom to urinate on the pole on which a national flag is hoisted. These views are respectfully submitted for consideration by the Emory University authorities that may have been unwittingly but sincerely and tenaciously defending Prof. Courtright, previously losing sight of the above-mentioned implications.

1.    Do the principles of ‘freedom of speech, academic freedom’ as related to the Skopes trial in the 1920s, as well as some of the controversies at Emory University itself regarding academic freedom apply to Prof. Courtright? - See Refs. 1, 2.

Let me first express my appreciation to Emory University officials for their willingness to understand diverse views. In the age of “global shrinking”, universities are not only open to international students but they are also expected to sincerely respect their students' cultural diversity as well as cultural sensitivities. Ethics in academia goes well beyond the respect for "freedom of speech" or "academic freedom." It also takes into account "academic integrity" and "depth of scholarship." In addition, there are other standards to judge the quality of the academic work. This theme of my presentation is elaborated below by drawing attention of the Emory authorities to the facts related to Prof. Courtright's book on "Ganesa" or more appropriately Shri Ganesha, (more on this later). Various perspectives will be examined. I will not accept the expectations laid down by Prof. Courtright that I should at all times quote him within his own context. It is the premise of the presenter that Emory and Prof. Courtright’s colleagues consider this work as a serious scholastic activity and its product. If so, then any obscenity in reference to sacred symbols or images revered in another ancient culture is not permissible by any standard of academic decency. It must be pointed out that Hindu culture has a continuity of some ten thousand plus years and is currently respected and honored all over the world.

I must respectfully submit that the issues under discussion related to Prof. Courtright’s book and its contents do not deserve to be elevated to the status of academic freedom or that of the Skopes “Monkey” Trial.  The famous trial or a farce of the 1920s was to censure a teacher for giving “Darwinian” insights into the origin of man to his students living in the Bible belt.  Prof. Courtright does not need to be viewed as giving new scientific Freudian insights into the origin of the image of Shri Ganesha or adding to the body of scientific knowledge.  Prof. Courtright need not defend himself as being on trial by the fictitious “fundamentalist” Hindus equating them with Fundamentalist Christians in the Bible belt.  Such exaltation of Prof. Courtright, besides being a distraction from the main issue, will necessarily demean his critics as the “non-scientific” regressive minds opposing progress in the field of psychoanalysis and/or religion. 

We are not discussing here a creative fiction like "Indiana Jones," that could be offensive to the Hindu culture; nor are we considering the "psychoanalytic" meanings of fictional Disney characters or children's story characters. Such fictional characters may be, in the folklore, comparable to the mythical character of Shri Ganesha - the elephant "god"- mostly depicted as a toddler or a curious character, riding a mouse. There is a distinct difference in that Shri Ganesha is not just a “Winnie the Pooh.” As will be illustrated soon, the resemblance of the form of Shri Ganesha’s face to the head of the elephant is merely coincidental and almost all Hindus know that worship of Ganesha is not “animal worship.”  

Prof. Courtright has not been able to cross this bridge for cross-cultural understanding. However, it is transparent that Prof. Courtright's direct attack on Shri Ganesha, the image and idol of worship of 800 million Hindus, is calculatedly designed to offend the culture. He is ostensibly giving the impression of trying to study and translate the Hindu idol of worship and mythology surrounding it for greater and deeper understanding of his English-speaking readers. By announcing his circumspect attitude that the image has more meanings than those that meet the eye, he delves into sexual meanings that have no place in traditional texts related to Shri Ganesha. He is deluding his readers and audience into believing that his depth of scholarship has shown new "sexual meanings" for the image of the "elephant-god" as it is popularly misconceived in the Western World.

He may defend that these meanings exist in the Unconscious as discovered and described by Sigmund Freud. He may also insist that he is free to assign these meanings to any of the attributes of Shri Ganesha he chooses to focus on. He will persuade his supporters to believe that he is simply exercising his right of freedom of speech as well as his right of academic freedom. He will insist that only the conservative Hindus will perceive maligning and malice in his writing. He will argue that such perception is only in the eyes of the beholder who reads excerpts from his book that are either misquoted or quoted out of context. In making such claims he ignores the forest and focuses on the trees. His views are grossly bizarre besides being mainly incongruent with the emotional tone that the Hindu culture has developed around the image and idol of Shri Ganesha.  

The mystique and mysteries of India and Hindu culture have long fascinated the imagination of Western scholars for centuries. "Hindu culture” as well as “psychoanalysis” has also long been the fodder of the Journalists and other writers who want to write sensationalist articles that captivate their readers. It is common to engage in so-called “creative” efforts to give one's own meaning to anything these scholars choose to explain in their “own frame of reference”.  For example, it may be an acceptable psychoanalytic interpretation to say that Winnie the Pooh's excessive craving for honey is a creative depiction. Instead it may be presented in psychoanalytic parlance as standing for his lingering nostalgia for "oral" strivings and their satisfaction common to all children.

Prof. Courtright could plagiarize or elaborate on such psychoanalytic characterization simply to pervert it at next level by sexualizing it. He could apply such reasoning to the understanding of Shri Ganesha, without full comprehension of what the "modaka" (a special sweet pastry) in the left hand of Shri Ganesha that symbolically stands for in spiritual parlance of Yoga and Hinduism. However, he would be taking undue liberties in using the words "oral sex" in reference to this symbol. He could have simply referred to the "oral" phase of psychosexual development of all infants and children. He could have focused on the evolutionary adaptive "instinct" in all humans for sweets to provide ready energy, or the evolutionary biological need to store "fat" in the abdominal wall, etc., etc. Instead, Prof. Courtright takes a morbid flight into describing Shri Ganesha as engaging in "oral sex." He does not reveal any primary sources in the Hindu literature (Puranas or mythology) wherein there is a mention or even a vague allusion to such perverted sexual practice on the part of Shri Ganesha.

Even the benign meaning of “fixation” at the oral stage of psychosexual development does not apply to Ganesha in my opinion. It is beyond the bounds of academic respectability, when someone like Prof. Courtright suggests that the highly revered and deeply worshipped and loved "Hindu God" engages in "Oral Sex." Such explicit aspersion on even a fictional character like "Winnie the Pooh" would depict an abhorrent image in the Western culture. To say that this loved character of children has perverted adult genital sexuality, fixated at the oral stage leading to Pooh's alleged homosexual practice of oral sex, would be an absurd “psychoanalytic” formulation. Depicted as such, Pooh's character assassination will make him a poor "role model" for children. Such crass "psychoanalytic" interpretations using pornographic language will not be given the status of "scholarly work" in any thoughtful institution of higher learning except at Emory.  It reveals lack of scholarship of psychoanalytic theory. It is to be viewed as merely a deliberate misapplication of the “psychoanalytic” theory to attack the author of the story who created the character of Winnie the Pooh that is loved by most children in the world. Besides all of the arguments leveled against Prof. Courtright’s views, the most asinine one is for anyone interested in his pornographic depiction of oral sex of “Ganesa” would be to ask how the elephant’s mouth tucked under his trunk could make it anatomically possible for him to engage in oral sex with another male organ that is not hanging like the mama elephant’s udders under her abdomen. The Emory academic freedom defenders are not interested in raising such anatomical questions for Professor Courtright to solve the anatomical puzzle presented by him about elephant head performing oral sex on a human male.

This illustration amply clarifies how even endearing and beloved character, Winnie the Pooh, can be presented offensively in the Western culture to make it abominable. Similarly, Prof. Courtright's "psychoanalytic" interpretation of “Ganesa” is also an indication of a product of his sick mind he displays. He reflects and reveals, in interpreting “Ganesa,” his morbid fantasies springing from his own internalized perceptions, or projections of his own internal representations (introjections) of the culture in which he has grown up, whether with or without psychoanalytic sophistication. I hope he did not learn these "facts" about oral sex at Emory! I must also make a bold statement that the Western Indologists are mostly a "strange breed." Most of them, unlike other academicians, intriguingly, show deep disdain, contempt, and even hatred, towards the subject matter (India and Hindu heritage) they purport to devote their entire life studying. In contrast, most authentic academicians show love, fascination, and true curiosity for knowledge, or at least a desire to add to the knowledge base, when studying an unfamiliar subject with due regard to its complexities. It does not take a genius to draw the conclusion after studying the writings of the Western Indologists that they are motivated to depict Hinduism as "irrational", and “inferior” to their own religion and culture. Although their own religion itself may be a gigantic superstition resting upon MYTHS (which they insistingly call history), they would insist that Hinduism is full of “superstitions.” Such efforts were highly rewarded during the British colonial rule in India. The proselytizing motivation of many of the Christians in the U.S. and the West has fueled and financed this breed of Indologists in the Western world for the last few decades, if not for couple of centuries. 

Please remember that we are discussing Prof. Courtright's work on Shri Ganesha which is presented as a product of "scholarly academic activity engaged in at Emory," a non-fictional scholarly pursuit expounding "facts" about the "Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginning."

In Indian culture, we have a conventional tradition to address respectable individuals appropriately.  For example, it is customary to say "Pundit" Ravi Shankar and "Ustad" Allah Rakkha and not simply "Ravi Shankar" and "Allah Rakkha." Addressing even individuals without their titles is considered quite a disrespectful practice. Addressing Shri Ganesha simply as “Ganesa” in the title of the book reflects similar disrespect. The word "Lord" is without a true equivalent in Sanskrit tradition and is a well known British English word signifying the power and authority granted by the British monarchy/feudal system. Of course, the usage, "Lord Jesus our Lord," is also an English version of the Hebrew Bible translated via Spanish into English. The word "Lord" is peculiarly British and has no traditional usage in India other than that given to it by the colonial age translators of Hindu texts, sometimes used for translating words like "Ishwara," "Prabhu," "Bhagawan," etc.  In Hindu tradition the respectful name for “Ganesa” would be "Shree Ganesha" and not just plain disrespectful "Ganesa," if at all He is to be recognized as "Lord" as intended by "Paul" or "Courtright" (in contrast to Prof. Courtright). The subtle disdain as well as a cultural disregard for the subject of his study is evident even in the author's choice of the title for his book. This is stated to drive the point that Courtright is not cross-culturally as competent as he claims to be. His colleagues who are even more poorly informed, no wonder, give him the status of an authority on Hinduism.

The appropriate title for the book in question then should have been "Shri Ganesha - Revered as Remover of Obstacles, Lord of Beginning," if at all the word "Lord" were to be retained by the author. This presenter presumes that Prof. Courtright has translated the name “Vighneshwara” as “Lord of Obstacles.” The Hindus, on the other hand, intuitively understand the figurative meaning of this name as “Remover of Obstacles.” Taking into account the age of the religion, (originating 10 to 12 thousand years before the present,) not withstanding any bias towards the truths therein, the seers like Vyasa, clearly attempted to simplify the profound philosophical principles into more comprehensible stories.  Indeed, this has never been an easy task.  For, how can one explain such concepts as “Omniscience,” “Omnipresence,” “Omnipotence,” and even their respective antitheses? Vyasa (known for his Vishalabuddhi) actually wrote the Puranas by his own admission for the people of “dull intellect” (“Mandabuddhi”), meaning people that had only concrete thinking abilities. Prof. Courtright heavily relies on Puranic stories. These are in his view nothing but “myths,” while placing undue emphasis on literal translations and mistranslations. In doing so, he takes devious liberty to distort the stories just enough and embellishes them with his own lewd meanings to transform them into a sort of soft pornography. However, the Puranic stories were, in fact, devised for the greater purpose of illustrating cosmic order and principles. These stories were not simply a reflection of the human Unconscious mind. Such technique was expressly deliberately used in order to teach or lead a mass of people to a higher sense of being. These stories were designed to help people develop a relationship with "God." But, how else could they best explain such a complex subject to the masses, dealing with the individual consciousness being transformed into transcendental Universal or Cosmic consciousness?

It must be understood that these masses in question were, most importantly, if not uneducated, at the very least not all very literate. Therefore, the seers had to break down the different aspects of such complex a subject as the all-encompassing, ineffable, indescribable, incomprehensible, indefinable concept of “GOD” into individual characteristics and into entertaining stories that can be easily understood. The god of knowledge, the god of destruction, goddess of wealth, god of wisdom, etc. are just some examples of these simplifications of the different characteristics or aspects of this idea of “Supreme Being.”

All pervading aspect of God depicted by Vishnu, for example, has been translated as “penetrating,” and therefore, Vishnu has been described by Western Indologists as a “phallic god.” This is the very kind of defamation of Hindu “gods” that is a favorite activity of Western Indologists for the last several decades, when in fact they are concentrating on perverted language, or translational flaws rather than on the true meaning of the Sanskrit words. It is partly a result of ignorance but mostly springing (with deliberate effort) from a deep sense of irrational superiority about their own “monotheistic” orientation. Such lack of understanding has led to debates about whether Hinduism and Vedic culture is monotheistic, pantheistic, polytheistic, etc., when in fact it is completely misunderstood and ignored that none of these definitions can even apply to Hinduism.

In summary, Prof. Courtright is an epitome of Western Indologists’ attitudes and biases, and he announces his ignorance of the subject matter or disdain for it even as he chooses the title for his book. His book, therefore, can be judged from its "proverbial" cover.  Such trash or near pornographic material should not have been allowed to blemish Emory’s countenance in the first place, but every effort needs to be made now to change the battered countenance of Emory. Prof. Courtright's book on Shri Ganesha is nothing but “cross-cultural vandalism” disguised as seriously conceived monogram with psychoanalytic elucidation. It is totally out of "cultural context." Any university should not have given it recognition without evaluating it to see if it contained true “knowledge” about Shri Ganesha and Hindu mythology and its psychoanalytic exposition. Therefore, nothing quoted from his book need be viewed as "out of context." Furthermore, it does not behoove any writer producing such irrational garbage to use his academic title when presenting himself as an author, or even to call it an academic pursuit. Prof. Courtright does not stop at making an allegation that Shri Ganesha performs oral sex but goes further to label him as a "eunuch" and literally uses the word “Hijra” to describe him with a connotation that He is a male prostitute. The Emory authorities consider this a benign exercise of academic freedom. None of them have the courage to dare take such liberties with Islamic theology and get away with defending such behaviors on the grounds of "academic freedom" by demeaning Islamism.

I must clarify, however, that I am here to present my views in my private and personal capacity.  I am a taxpayer in the U.S. for 36 years and an U.S. citizen who is familiar with the provisions of the first amendment of the U.S. constitution. My views are certainly based on my background as a practicing psychiatrist and a child psychiatrist with academic background. However, I am not offering my views as an expert witness or as a forensic psychiatrist. I am not a novice to the concepts of the “freedom of speech” or “academic freedom,” or "psychoanalytic interpretations." As a Member of the American College of Psychiatrists, Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Academy of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Certified in Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Forensic Psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, I am familiar with "Psychoanalytic Theory." As a Professor of Psychiatry in historically the very first department of Psychiatry in the U.S. to integrate “Behavioral Sciences” and to name itself “Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences,” I am also very sensitive to the issues of academic freedom.  It is not my intention to use undignified and crass language deliberately. The near pornographic, crass treatment of the subject matter by Prof. Courtright himself in his text necessitates use of such language as one runs out of euphemisms. Therefore, I will deliberately use forceful colloquial expressions to drive the points home. 

As amply illustrated by his work, Prof. Courtright lacks the authentic knowledge of Hindu symbols, their culturally accepted meanings, as also, the appropriate use of psychoanalytic theory. He may have the freedom to express his own limited understanding or ignorance of Hinduism.  He may even express his idiosyncratic views about the psychoanalytic interpretations to explain Shri Ganesha’s image and the mythology surrounding it. Yet, he and his friendly colleagues are out of line when they insist that they have a right to consider his book as authoritative. It is absurd to insist that it deserve the status of a textbook for students learning about Hinduism or even that of  a “recommended reading” in any institution of higher learning. It should not have been quoted by responsible curators of respectable world-class museums in misleadingly describing what Shri Ganesha stands for. Emory may have to accept some responsibility for such unfortunate carry over of Courtright’s writings into the “world view” about “Ganesa.”

I truly believe personally that his book needs to be ignored as “academic garbage.” Those who are ignorant of Hindu Vedic Philosophy, Hindu Culture, Hindu art of iconography, and Tantric Mysticism may erroneously and undeservingly view it as an authoritative text.

Yogic Meditation is no longer viewed as some hocus-pocus in the 21st century as exemplified by a special issue devoted to that subject by Time magazine (and 455 or more research articles on this subject in the scientific literature). Joseph Campbell was fully aware of “OM” as signifying the concept of the "ultimate absolute" but had not discovered that Shri Ganesha was an iconographic representation of “OM,” a highly revered sacred symbol of the Hindu Vedic culture.  Besides, the "idol" is an entity like the one recognized in psychoanalytic literature as "transitional object" conceptualized by a British psychoanalyst, D.W. Winnicott. For Hindus, it arouses very many tender, warm, feelings not unlike those that are aroused by "mother" or "father" (primary love object) in any human being. Prof. Courtright may have missed the boat, or if he did not, he took undue liberties in denigrating the sacred symbol revered, worshipped, and loved by eight hundred million Hindus. In his foolish moment of so-called “academic” zeal, he has demonstrated sacrilegious attitude both deliberately and consciously. 

Prof. Courtright has failed to understand what “OM” and “Shri Ganesha” stand for.  It is more than what the "Cross, Mary and Jesus" stand for in theology of Christianism. “OM” or Shri Ganesha for Hindus are more like the “Father in Heaven” for the Christians or equivalent of and comparable to their “God.” Prof. Courtright's writings are almost like a "juvenile" second grader deliberately calling bad names addressed to another child’s mother, and claiming or asserting his first amendment rights for freedom of speech. Moreover, with the prestigious academic title provided him by Emory, he can also claim that his is a sincere scholarly activity gaining respect of his Western colleagues. His Western academic colleagues have not demonstrated intellectual honesty in evaluating his writings. They have not used the same standards that they normally would use in objectively evaluating such writings. These are standards related to depth of authentic scholarship, including but not limited to the avoidance of deliberate misrepresentation of the contents of the mythology presented. What is worse is that because of the status granted to Prof. Courtright by Emory and Oxford University Press, he has been flaunting himself as an academic authority on Shri Ganesha. His book is full of inaccuracies, misleading and false information, not unlike the Christian missionary efforts to denigrate Hinduism under the disguise of Western scholarship.  If such act of deliberate gross misrepresentation is disguised as "academic activity" with backing from prestigious universities of the West, naturally it causes outrage in all educated Hindus. Such reaction is not limited to just a small section of Hindus whom Emory publications try to bully and demonize as “protectors of Hindutva.” Such counteraccusations cast on honest critics and aggrieved and hurt culture is nothing but an indication of unwillingness to open a dialogue. The counteraccusations further victimize the victim. Besides, they are another smoke screen and stonewalling tactic.

We are not surprised to find “the innocent” Prof. Courtright "wondering" and "not knowing” what is so "objectionable" about his “purely academic work” so well accepted by the “academic community of the West.” He is too shrewd to not know what he is accused of while he feigns "innocence." That is a common reaction even in a “common criminal” who is caught red handed. One could point out that symbols similar to “OM” in other religions represented by the “cross” or even the “prophets” of other religions can be subject of psychoanalytic inquiry as to their psychological meanings. Such meanings of these symbols in the unconscious, it may be argued, do have "sexual" connotations. Anyone can easily formulate culturally discordant interpretations designed to ignore the lofty, or noble, constructive, side of any religion. Anyone can depict it as totally irrational and chaotic belief system or cognitive experience similar to the dreams or symbols represented in the unconscious. Such unwise and unadvised “academic” interpretations of religion by scholars of repute in universities would be seen as outrageous.

I will give examples of such reversed but unwise "cross-cultural vandalism" that could easily be practiced through any department of religion of any university. It is not to be questioned whether reputable publication houses and media would widely publicize such views or not. Knowing the historically lopsided practices of the Western publishers and media, such views will, in my opinion, be assigned to obscurity just like what Prof. Courtright's work should have truly deserved. I will avoid indulging in wild psychoanalytic interpretations of other religions and their revered symbols and stay away from depth psychology. ----For example, the “cross,” historically representing an instrument of torture used to execute and slowly and painfully kill a human being, can also be viewed as the mathematical symbol, “plus,” and it could be hypothetically and blasphemously viewed by some as a representing an erect phallus or symbol of copulation. Hypothetically, and even blasphemously some academics may depict some unidentified “prophets” as proven “paranoid schizophrenics,” with latent homosexual tendencies. Even worse, it may be hypothesized that some of them showed pedophilic and polygamous tendencies. They could propose that the “prophets” were suffering from a form of epilepsy (temporal lobe epilepsy) with elaborate inter-ictal delusional systems. The ecstatic “religious experiences” and “seeing and hearing God” were hallucinations resulting from paroxysmal electrical activity in some specific locations of their temporal lobes.

These "delusional systems" predicated upon abnormal experiences were offered as “religions,” full of myths, to the gullible innocent and primitive uncivilized ancient desert populations, inducing paranoia about the “infidels” or “non-believers.” Neither they nor their semi-illiterate followers in the deserts had the ability or sophistication to comprehend the more advanced abstract philosophies and cultures. They either did not have access to the scientific knowledge extant in that age or they could not comprehend it because of their lack of cognitive development. They had no knowledge of "object representation" in the conscious or unconscious mind. They had no knowledge of how that could be used to bring out the best and the noblest, the warmest and tender, nurturing, and compassionate feelings and positive "affects." These affects in human nature along with respect for all living beings can be aroused instead of fear, guilt and shame as is routinely done in Abrahamic religions. These so called prophets of the desert land were too primitive to understand such form of worship and ignorantly equated it with the most primitive "idol worship" or "animal worship" of their contemporary primitive neighbors who were simply moved by awe or fear.

Much advanced knowledge and psychological sophistication existed in other parts of the world for several millennia before these primitive desert “religions” originated in the Middle East in a “paranoid and traumatizing” political atmosphere around two to three thousand years ago. A question, therefore, can be raised as to whether such inflammatory "academic writings" will be protected under the first amendment rights and academic freedom by universities of international repute. Will they view such writings as a benign legitimate academic activity of the Departments of Religion protected by freedom of expression to be endorsed by the Universities? Alternatively, will the universities be willing to look at them as “cross-cultural vandalism” by the “others” with vested interest or persons with personal stakes who do not respect their revered religious symbols and idols as well as the sentiments of the “majority?” Will Emory defend their faculty if he/she publishes such sacrilegious material from a publishing house in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, or in Saudi Arabia? Will Emory want to be implicated in such designed and calculated mischief that is certain to invite the wrath of large sections of the world population? This is the most serious egalitarian consideration for Emory authorities.

Based on such considerations, I submit that the issues related to Prof. Courtright’s work need to be divested from the considerations related to the first amendment and academic freedom. He is right in saying he is protected in the United States by the dictum of freedom of speech and academic freedom.  He is wrong in assuming such freedom can be used for denigrating other advanced cultures that are difficult for him and others in his relatively primitive culture to comprehend.  He is throwing his "autistic" aspersions on other well-accepted and rational philosophies of the East without due effort to comprehend them or without respecting the sentiments of eight hundred million Hindus. Instead of publishing his psychoanalytic insights in Psychoanalytic Journals, he published them for the lay public in India from New Delhi. Such act of inviting negative reaction from a large section of the world population is an irrational, arrogant, and narcissistic position, oblivious to its implications and as un-empathic as all arrogant, narcissistic personalities hold.

It would be equally irrational to pronounce a “fatwa” of death penalty on authors who exercise academic freedom and freedom of speech as in the case of Salman Rushdie. Salman Rushdie has playfulness, a sense of humor, literary talent and great humanistic and liberal egalitarian approach, which are utterly lacking in Prof. Courtright's writings. Besides, he lacks knowledge of the subject matter he entertains. Both reactions, those which publicly castigate Prof. Courtright, or which defend avidly his academic freedom are overkill. Such responses elevate "poor judgment" in the academic pursuits to the status of "martyrdom." Such histrionics and counter-histrionics on the part of his accusers and his defenders exalts Prof. Courtright's status and gives him undeserved notoriety.  Focusing on such issues related to the reactions and responses to his publication distracts discussants from considering the main issue of his using his academic position at Emory to indulge in maligning other non-Christian cultures and religions with impunity. There has to be a more mature response in reaction to what may be considered "an immature juvenile act" of the Emory professor.

2.  Is there a difficulty for Hindus in maintaining a charitable attitude towards the academic activities of the Departments of Religion in the Universities?  Do Hindus appreciate interest in their culture and religion if Hindu religion is taught as an academic subject in the Departments of Religion in the Western Universities?

Will Emory scrutinize Prof. Courtright's psychoanalytic interpretations as holding any water if reviewed by authentic psychoanalytic scholars who are Hindus and who understand the cultural significance of Shree Ganesha? I am raising this question to emphasize that Emory or any of his academic supporters has not undertaken such objective inquiry in the last 20 plus years. A sincere interest in teaching Hindu philosophy and religion in the Universities will require faculty with necessary qualifications. Departments of Religion should not just be mouthpieces of the Christian missionaries given to irrationally disparaging and discrediting other religions as “not respectable”, illogical, and non-scientific or inferior. Due respect for Hindu culture will be most appreciated whether at Emory or at any other university if Hindu religion is to be appropriately taught in their Departments of Religion.

3. Can there be a fair-minded approach to teaching a religion in any University?

There are concerns about the manner in which Hindu religion is being taught currently in public universities.  Especially, if comparative religion and all religions are taught by one religious group, one could question both the academic fairness and authenticity of scholarship. In schools where there are a large number of students and scholars, who have various different religious backgrounds, it would be more honest to give a disclosure about the limitations of Departments of Religion. A false pretense about the knowledge of religions other than that of Christianism would be unethical in the absence of qualified teachers. If second generation Indian American Hindu students, for example, want to learn basics about Hindu “religion,” at Emory University, it would be a shame if it is taught by academics who are both insensitive and academically unprepared.  That is not to say that it would not be a shame if such anti-Hindu “professors” like Prof. Courtright taught Hinduism to “non-Hindu” students. 

4. Is psychoanalytic study of any religion part of "applied psychoanalysis," and if so, what are the minimum qualifications for those who venture into such academic activity?
Psychoanalysts can explain a number of things in an individual's life but most Western academics teaching religions other than Christianity using psychoanalytic theory without authentic psychoanalytic training are involved merely in demeaning another culture. They do not realize that images like those of Shri Ganesha are simply Rorschach cards for them upon which they are projecting their own conscious and unconscious fantasies.  Expression of such fantasies is perfectly acceptable within the framework of any freedom. It does not add anything to the knowledge base to express such fantasies under the disguise of “academic freedom.” Such activity is nothing more than “intellectual masturbation.”  Besides, sexualizing non-sexual neutral images (and Freud very well knew that there were many such in the world including his own “cigar”) titillates the authors and readers alike. Sexualized material including pornography is a multi-billion dollar business in the U.S. The commercial market value of Prof. Courtright’s book speaks for at least one motivation that could have led to his writing the book in the manner in which he has written it.

The Western scholars engaged in such activity (in making a buck) certainly do not have the same emotional nuances and meanings or affection attached to the images that most Hindu academics would have. For Hindus, for example, the meaning of the symbol “OM” or its representation in Shri Ganesha is non-sexual and neutral.  Not every dog lover or animal lover must be considered, by even remote innuendoes, as expressing his/her deep-seated “bestiality.”  That kind of logic borders on perversion or a thought disorder. An esteemed professor at Emory University, like Prof. Courtright, has demonstrated such perverse logic or a thought disorder. Such thought disorder is usually seen in “paranoid schizophrenics.” Emory University has every right to protect his academic freedom although any average prudent Hindu can see through such garbage and recognize it as wearing only a flimsy academic garb. Even granting that he could write such a book given his academic freedom, it must not be touted as an authoritative representation of Hindu religion and its revered symbols in the Western academic literature and museums.

There is no evidence that Prof. Courtright has any formal psychoanalytic training, and if he does have any training at all, he is a total embarrassment to the Psychoanalytic Institute that trained him. Psychoanalytic study could be a worthwhile effort if it is undertaken in good faith to improve the quality of life of human beings. Psychoanalysis is a clinical science and has strong humanitarian foundation.  Prof. Courtright lacks such orientation. His is a gross "caricature" of psychoanalytic point of view. It would be more honest if someone has psychoanalytic training and background, and in addition, has authentic knowledge of the culture before venturing into an attempt to undertake a psychoanalytic study of another culture. Even reputable academicians like Margaret Mead and John Money had their shipwrecks when they manifested lack of honesty in their efforts to apply psychoanalytic concepts to their subjects of investigation.

5. Is Prof. Courtright instrumental in instigating a clash of cultures and possibly waking up the sleeping Hindu population of India that has been tolerant of abuse for centuries?

At the turn of the 19th century, a Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was “legally” thrown out of a first class compartment of a train by railways authorities in the British ruled South Africa.  The authorities were enforcing the extant laws and Gandhi was "legal" in that he had legally purchased a first class ticket. This event was a momentous historical insult inflicted upon a representative of a large country and its population that was subjected to injustices by the British Empire with its unjust laws and full military power. This insult had far reaching effects on the British Empire as the history subsequently revealed. The Hindus could view the insult inflicted on eight hundred million Hindus by Prof. Courtright at the turn of the 20th Century as continuation of its disparagement by foreign culture and religion. The American and other Western missionaries further perpetuate such practice engaged in with a sense of authority by once dominating British and their missionaries in Independent Indian Republic imitating the British.

There is a continued onslaught on the culture, idols, and ideals of the now politically independent Hindus. There is perpetual interference in the internal affairs of Hindu society and in the internal politics of India. The proselytizing organized religions of the previous invaders of India have continued this activity under the disguise of “religious freedom” long after their political domination was brought to an end. These proselytizing religions misinterpret the "religious tolerance" of the Hindus and "secular India" as a license to inflict social breakdown in the host Hindu society. The systematic destruction of a society and culture, by inflicting losses and humiliation, which started centuries ago, is relentlessly progressing even 60 years after the attainment of independence.

The British and Islamic foreign rulers subjected the large Hindu population to centuries of tyranny and abuse.  One cannot tell eight hundred million Hindus how they should protect their pride and cultural integrity or deal with the likes of Prof. Courtright. Of course, Prof. Courtright does not need to take their permission either every time he opens his mouth or holds his pen. The principles of “freedom of speech”, “academic freedom,” and “religious freedom” are appropriately respected in certain jurisdictions. These concepts can be surreptitiously used to encroach upon the rights and integrity of another large, ancient, and proud culture. They are effective and laudable principles within the jurisdiction of Emory and the U.S. but need to be tempered not only when dealing with anti-Semitic or anti-Islamic elements but the non- aggressive cultures also need to be treated with respect if long term diplomatic relationship needs to be maintained with their countries. 

The very fact that Prof. Courtright chose a publisher in India in 2001 for his book originally published in England in 1985 speaks for the same “anal sadistic” drives of the Christian missionaries and “Macaulay” (See Ref. 3). These tyrants of the past and the present who are motivated proselytizers have had the same denigrating and demeaning attitude manifested by Prof. Courtright.  He believes that his "anal sadistic" motivations will go unnoticed or unlabeled. The Hindu majority in India may not recognize his anal sadism in psychoanalytic terms. The Hindus could very well react vehemently to it at the emotional level. The sadist is recognized at the emotional level whether he admits he is or not, whether he is labeled as a sadist or not, or whether he claims innocence or not.  What quacks like a duck and walks like a duck is a duck. 

The first tactic of a proselytizer is to disillusion his subjects of conversion in his/her own religion  by presenting the subject’s religion as negative and unacceptable to his reason. Prof. Courtright could be viewed as a vandal and a cross-cultural “anal sadistic” proselytizer or their agent like all the others who have inflicted untold insults and injuries on eight hundred million Hindus in the past and present.  He represents, in exhibiting his bizarre “unconscious” to the world, blatant ignorance and disdain of another respected culture. He shows utter nonchalance, arrogance, a feeling of a power backed by the wealth and power of his supporting evangelical Christian organizations, posing himself as the “Holier than Thou” innocent victim of the criticism of the “irrational” Hindus.  He is continuing the legacy of “Lord Macaulay.” (See Ref. 3) His inflammatory book is likely to soon trigger intense and widespread negative reactions towards all proselytizing elements in India. It may become instrumental in triggering a final mass movement in India for emancipation of the Hindus from all proselytizing religions. Hindus have been subjugated and abused for 12 centuries by the proselytizing foreign religions of the world.

Anyone who sees this larger picture described above can see through Prof. Courtright’s games. He presents himself deceptively as an “innocent victim scholar” who simply exercised his academic freedom and scholarly pursuit to “understand and explain” interpret another ‘religion’ to the West. Emory may also take this flagrant view into consideration before allowing its rubber-stamp to be used by Prof. Courtright under the disguise of academic freedom to engage in non-scholarly provocative sacrilegious activity with impunity. His publisher in India has shown good sense without becoming pedantic about protecting his freedom of speech and academic freedom in India.  Without labeling him negatively, his publisher in India has wisely recognized his mischief for what it is, and has acted quietly and quite appropriately by recalling his book. His friends in the U.S. are living in an ivory tower. Their support of Prof. Courtright needs to be viewed as motivated by the same anal sadistic drives rather than their lofty wish to protect the “freedoms” which undoubtedly are used inappropriately to demean and insult other cultures. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s work to attain “true freedom” is yet to be finished and merely gaining political freedom from the British has not reestablished the freedom and pride of the Hindus, which is trampled upon daily even since independence of India.

Emory would not want to practice such unjust acts. People who continue to demean Hindu culture in Independent India will be asked to put a stop to it. Eight hundred million Hindus will not need permission or guidance from Prof. Courtright or Emory as to how to view Emory University or Prof. Courtright’s book. They know now how to act in response to it.

Whether to allow the likes of Prof. Courtright to seek a safe haven in the public universities in the U.S. is not a decision to be made by Hindus. Nevertheless, Hindus, just like those who oppose anti-Semitic activity in the U.S., will henceforward let their voice be known to oppose anti-Hindu activity. Hindus have taken centuries of abuse and they will say enough is enough to Prof. Courtright and to other proselytizing religious groups in India. The concept of religious freedom and freedom of expression is corrupted by these elements to systematically weaken a very proud society.

India, inhabited primarily by Hindus for millennia, was known to have been contributing 24% of the export of the entire world in 1755. It has been impoverished by the foreign rule by stymieing and stifling its pride and productivity bringing it down to 1.5% in 1945. (Recently published Harvard University data). The once one of the richest nations of the world in 1755 has been impoverished. Now the proselytizing religions supported by the foreign elements are taking advantage of the very same socio-economic deprivation of the Hindu population inflicted upon it by the very same foreign elements. Economic deprivation is one of the most significant factors exploited by the proselytizing organized religions in India. The Hindus are now aware of this larger picture and will not stand anyone like Prof. Courtright intruding into India to denigrate the "religion" practiced by its majority. Emory needs to consider this picture before allowing Prof. Courtright to attach its name to his misguided wrongheaded efforts in India. Emory may have been unaware of such implications of Prof. Courtright’s book published from India. The eight hundred million Hindus will therefore consider Prof. Courtright’s defense by Emory unwise.

6.  Summary: Can Emory undo the damage done by Prof. Courtright?  Does Emory have any responsibility or ethical obligation to correct this matter as an issue within the purview of its Public Relations or International Relations Department? Are there more fundamental changes needed in the manner in which Prof. Courtright and the Department of Religion are permitted to function in their dealings with other cultures and other religions? --Various constructive suggestions are offered.

In summary, the corrective measure is to re-earn the goodwill and friendship of the large Hindu population of the world that is likely to look at Emory as a potential institution for their higher learning. This painstaking open dialogue with Emory will be an exercise in futility if it falls on deaf ears. Corrective measures implemented by Emory will make this dialogue worthwhile. Emory has an opportunity to set ethical standards for the Departments of Religion in private and public universities in this country and perhaps for all universities in the world.  It can be a leader in ethical cross-cultural global educational efforts in Departments of Comparative Religions or Religious Studies.

Prof. Courtright’s freedom of speech or academic freedom can still be protected if his book is publicly recognized as specious, speculative, and full of inaccuracies as pointed out by Hindu scholars.  Proactive steps to prevent such ineptness in the Department of Religion by improving relationship and communication with Hindu scholars will be desirable. Injecting authentic scholarship of Hinduism into the faculty of Emory University will be a valuable long-term goal.

The short-term goal is to prohibit Prof. Courtright from teaching Hinduism in any academic setting. Every effort needs to be made to protect Emory from being caught in a skunk fight with any organized religious groups whether they are Christians or Hindus. Hindu philosophy is liberal. It honors true freedom of speech in the pursuit of seeking truth and accepting true reality. Prof. Courtright is not accused of blasphemy.  The "Courtright Case" needs to be put to sleep with dignity and respect for offended culture in a diplomatic manner and not let it fester or escalate any further. The best approach is to avoid inappropriate media attention and not let sensationalism of any kind pervade the responsible inquiry by the Emory authorities.

No public castigation, humiliation, or disciplinary action against Prof. Courtright is demanded or even suggested by this presenter.  Prof. Courtright needs to be admonished not to engage in any more mischievous activities that promulgate clashes of cultures by engaging other religious cum political organizations, be they academic or not, in his defense. In short, he needs to calm down his negative activism. This is quintessential from the point of peaceful cross-cultural communication and dialogue as well for world peace and harmony. His ignoble work truly needs to be ignored, as it should have been in the first place.

Emory has an obligation not to stoop down to his level. Emory now has the obligation to correct his wrongs and redeem the mistakes by publishing appropriate responses that place the matter in proper perspective. It needs to give “equal time and place” as well as publicity and prominence to those that can expose Prof. Courtright’s inaccuracies and offensive statements.  For example, Emory could publish this article in their intramural newsletter so the students and other faculty can get a balanced picture.

A sincere academic would have apologized to Hindus publicly after realizing he had wronged them. The manner in which Prof. Courtright has conducted himself so far indicates that such apologies are not likely forthcoming.  If only he stops engaging in any further cross-cultural vandalism against the Hindu culture while at Emory, after apologizing to eight hundred million Hindus, Emory would be considered to have taken a step in the right direction.  If Emory permits such nonsensical writings to pass as academic wisdom, Hindus of the world will naturally have serious questions about the motivations of Emory authorities also. His offensive writing reveals his own psychopathology and primary process thinking of his own mind. In addition, it is his stubborn and adamant defense, and his mustering the political support of his cohorts to inflame a clash of cultures or civilizations that makes Prof. Courtright an objectionable character of the 21st century.

Emory has an absolute obligation to put a stop of such escalating negative religious-political activity on the part of Prof. Courtright. His argument that his critics are quoting him out of context is a lame argument. Emory may best insist that Prof. Courtright give up any efforts to revive this book, and instead, figuratively, bury it in the ignoble archives of history saving further embarrassment to Emory. Prof. Courtright's work is not only an insult to Hindu culture and "Applied Psychoanalysis," but it is also a disgrace to Emory. It would be a noble gesture on the part of Emory to make whole the aggrieved culture, which has no legal remedy in sight. Emory is in a position to do so by accepting all of the above suggestions although Emory would understandably like to treat Emory faculty judiciously with due respect and dignity. The key to redressing these matters will be Prof. Courtright himself and his change of heart. Even the Presidents and respected leaders in this country and many other countries, and on very rare occasions even the Catholic Popes have apologized publicly for their wrongdoing.  Prof. Courtright has many such role models to follow if he wants to mend the matter. He can either create more conflicts or peacefully resolve a conflict, created by no one but himself, befitting a Professor in the Department of Religion with maturity expected of him.

Respectfully submitted by Shreekumar S. Vinekar, M.D. (All rights reserved)




2.and more importantly

3. It was February 1835, a time when the British were striving to take control of the whole of India. Lord Macaulay, a historian and a politician, made a historical speech in the British Parliament, commonly referred to as The Minutes, which struck a blow at the centuries old system of Indian education. His words were to this effect:

“I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”

** This essay is like a “Book Review” presented in a confidential meeting held by Emory nearly 10 years ago. The author was invited to present his views. This essay represents his own views.  He does not represent any organization with which he is affiliated. The author does not accept any liability for any losses Prof. Courtright may suffer because of expression of the views expressed in this article and other criticisms leveled at him.

Errata: Page 6:  “shrewd not know” should read “shrewd to not know”


Courtright, P.B. (2001).  Gane’sa Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings. Delhi, India. Published by Motilal Bansaridass Publishers, and then withdrawn.

Nagera H. (1990). Basic Psychoanalytic Concepts on Libido Theory. London, UK: Karnac Books

Nagera H. (1990). Basic Psychoanalytic Concepts on Metapsychology, Conflicts, Anxiety, and Other subjects. London, UK: Karnac Books

Interested readers are referred to the article "Demystifying Shri Ganesha" on this blog.

REL 100
Average Quality
Rater Interest1
Grade ReceivedN/A
He isn't the most exciting lecturer, but his class is fairly easy. The workload is mostly reading, with a few papers thrown in. Its not bad, but its boring...
Poor Quality
Rater Interest2
Grade ReceivedN/A
The most boring class I've taken at Emory. Didn't read a single book for his class. No one was able to speak through his lectures bc he was just ranting about the book, and sometimes read the book to us. Didn't like it, but my grade was nice.

Poor Quality
Rater Interest4
Grade ReceivedN/A
I slept during most of his classes, but I still managed to get quite a good grade. Although his lecture is quite boring, if you are ready to write about two 10-page papers and are willing to get an easy grade, take it.
Poor Quality
Rater Interest1
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Poor Quality
Rater Interest3
Grade ReceivedN/A
this man is an awful teacher. he's lazy and doesn't know what to do with a class for 50 minutes so he plops them down in front of a tv and makes them watch pointless videos. this class was the biggest waste of time


  1. "I am support this book. Dr. Wendy wrote ForePlay, for my own book on how Ganesha was having sex with his mother. These Hindoo Terrorists have plastered the internet with pages describing me as a Child Pornographer, but I am in fact a Scholar and Leading Export in this field. My Dean is also called Phaullus and we want Academic Freedom to publish our books and sell them. In pur own Church, most priests have oral sex with the nuns and with the Choir, so what is so terrible about Wendy and I expressing our fantasies in our books?"

    This is Prof. Paul Courtright's message to President Obama in his response to a petition simply requesting an ethical code for authors claiming to be Scholars in Hindu Studies.

    Note the English spelling and grammar of this so-called self-styled scholar who wants to peddle his fantasies as facts. He cannot see the difference between the perversions of lowly priests and nuns in Christian Churches and the facts of their well known perversions and his own perverted fantasies denigrating the sacred and pure revered by the Hindus. Thank their Christian God that the Christians do not revere their Priests and Nuns in their Churches as sacred and pure while they admittedly engage in such base perverted behaviors that Paul Phallus Courtright so very much admires.

    This is what is meant by thought disorder of Prof. Paul Courtright. His is not scholarship but pure mudslinging under the disguise of self-claimed scholarship deserving academic freedom as a cover to operate under.

    He does not care for ethics but simply wants to sell his "hot" "sexy" books under the auspices of
    "Hindu Studies."

  2. Please note Paul Phallus Courtright equates Shri Ganesha with the perverted oral sex engaging Catholic priests and nuns and members of their Church Choirs as if they too are deities for the Christians and are all revered while engaging in oral sex which with a far fetched illogical reasoning and a logical fallacy he claims Shri Ganesha routinely engaged in. What a creep that calls himself an "export" (Not expert) in Hinduism. Is that a Freudian slip? Is he exporting oral sex which is a million dollar game in his country a la Monica Lewinski and his oral sex culture in which Paul Phallus Courtright grew up and was trained in the seminaries where such practice was rampant?