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A Man Against Time

gandhi [1]1,417 words

Editor’s Note:

Savitri Devi met Mohandas Gandhi in India in September, 1941 and reports on part of their conversation in the second selection below. It seems probable that their meeting was preceded by correspondence, and it would be interesting to know if any correspondence survives in Gandhi’s archives. 

Although Savitri clearly disagreed with Gandhi on many issues, she nevertheless also admired him as a “man against time,” even though she regarded his “non-violence” as a deceitful form of violence, a kind of emotional blackmail. Savitri believed violence to be inevitable and indispensable in the Dark Age. Thus she did not object to Gandhi’s violence but to his deceit–as opposed to the frank and unapologetic violence that she favored.

The following texts are excerpted from Savitri Devi’s books. The title is editorial.

From The Lightning and the Sun
(Calcutta: Savitri Devi Mukherji, 1958), chapter 3

We have said: those who remain “above Time” do not resort to violence. This does not mean that all men who abstain from violence are necessarily liberated souls, living “above Time.” First, an immense number of cowards are non-violent for fear of taking risks. And they are anything but free from the bondage of Time. Then, that which one often takes for non-violence—that which actually goes under that name—is, in reality, but a subtler form of violence: pressure upon other people’s feelings, more oppressive and—when one knows, in each case, what feelings to appeal to, many a time more effective than pressure upon their bodies. The late Mahatma Gandhi’s much admired “non-violence” was of that type: moral violence; not: “Do this, or else I kill you!,” but: “Do this, or else I kill myself!” Knowing that you hold my life as indispensable. It may look “nobler.” In fact, it is just the same—apart from the difference in the technique of pressure. It is, rather, less “noble” because, precisely on account of that subtler technique, it leads people to believe that it is not violence, and therefore contains an element of deceit, an inherent falsehood, from which ordinary violence is free.

The late Mahatma Gandhi was by no means what we have tried to define as a man “above time.” He was what we shall call a man “against Time,” aiming now—far too late or . . . a little too soon—at the establishment of a tangible order of justice (Ram raj) on this earth. But, inasmuch as it lacks the frankness of brutal force, his so-called “non-violence”—moral violence—is characteristic of our epoch of dishonesty (however honest and sincere he might have been himself). It is, perhaps, the first instance in history of a disguised form of violence applied, on a broad scale, in a struggle for a good purpose. Its popularity in India can partly be credited to the fact that it was, or seemed to be, the only practical weapon in the hands of totally disarmed and, to a great extent, naturally apathetic people. But it enjoyed abroad, also, a tremendous publicity, quite out of proportion with its real value (and the late Mahatma Gandhi’s tremendous reputation of “holiness” is no less out of proportion with his real place among the great men of India). The foreigners who have done the most to popularise it are people typical of our degenerate age: people who recoil at the mere thought of any healthy and frank display of force, but who cannot even detect moral violence; men and women (especially women) of the Western Democracies, the most hypocritical half of the world. It appealed to them precisely to the extent that it was violence in disguise. Even English people (some of whom had lived in India; some of whom had, nay, occupied a high position within the ranks of British colonial officialdom) could not help admiring it. It was not that hated brutal force which other great men “against Time” had used in the course of history (or were using at our epoch) to bring about an age of justice. Oh, no!

But it surely was not, either, the non-violence of the men “above Time” who, if they cared at all to take an occasional stand against the unavoidable fall of mankind, would either use no real pressure at all to enforce their good laws—and fail, from a worldly point of view, as King Akhnaton did—or else, exert “against Time” any amount of violence that might be necessary, in the spirit of the God Who speaks, in the Bhagavad-Gita, to the Fighter for a just cause (provided the latter happens to be, like Arjuna, a Kshatriya, i.e., a warrior by race and by nature).

From Impeachment of Man
(Calcutta: Savitri Devi Mukerji, 1959), chapter 6

We know that quite a number of people nowadays are rather inclined to condemn the increasing use of machines in all walks of life. They insist, like Mahatma Gandhi, on the hardening, “soul-killing” effect of the constant handling of machinery upon the man who handles it; and they often oppose to that the natural friendship of man and of his faithful collaborators, the beasts of burden. We have seen too much of the daily distress of beasts of burden in all countries save perhaps a very few, to subscribe for a minute to the views of such incurable optimists, or to share their hopes. Men, if allowed to use animals to draw carts or to carry loads, on a broad scale, will surely overload them, overwork them and ill-treat them, in order to get out of them all the material service they possibly can for the money they spend on their food. Average men are naturally selfish and greedy and cowardly; they always were; they apparently always will be, so far as we know human nature.

In September 1941, in a half-an-hour’s interview which he was kind enough to grant us, we could not help drawing the attention of India’s saintly politician, Mahatma Gandhi, to the cause of the unfortunate horses that his followers and visitors used to hire to carry them from the Wardha railway station to Sevagram — Gandhi’s abode — and back. We pointed out to him the number of times those beasts had to run the five miles that separate the two places, tired or not, hungry or not, sick or not, drawing in their two-wheeled carriages — “tangas” — besides the driver, believers or professed believers in the Mahatma’s creed of love towards all life, whose number varied from one to six. Before leaving Wardha we had ourselves reported one of the drivers to the police for making a horse work in spite of an open wound upon its back, and we recalled the incident before the great man. Mahatma Gandhi seemed to understand our point of view and to share, to some extent, our sympathy for the exploited horses. But he knew the people with whom he had to work. He told us frankly: “I have, as it is, no real disciples. If I started criticizing those who come here for taking advantage of the ‘tangas’, I dare say, then, even the nominal ones would soon leave me, and the little good I might do would be entirely lost.”

If that be the truth about Gandhi’s own followers, then what can be expected of man in general? What can be expected of those who do not even profess to adhere to a life-centered creed? — of those who have vested interests in the exploitation of beasts of burden? Can one reasonably believe that they would be kind and merciful towards their dumb “collaborators and friends” — that they would never overload them; never force them to work when tired or sick or unwilling, as long as they believe that a contrary behavior would be more profitable to themselves, materially? Even just laws protecting the four-legged laborers would result in little good. No government can afford to maintain a policeman to watch each and every cart-driver in the street, each and every ploughman in the fields-provided we suppose an animal-loving government could exist and last before tremendous changes take place in the collective ethics of our societies. Therefore as long as certain beasts are permitted to work for man at all, it seems that there will be fifty harsh and exacting masters for one naturally kind one.

The best course of action would be, in our opinion, to reduce as far as possible, and gradually to suppress altogether, the use of animals for hard work. The development of machinery is, in that respect, helping the cause of our dumb brothers.