Pale Plausibilities
A Preface for the Second Edition
"Tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner."

French proverb

Introduction: To Be Gora

Much has happened in the three years since this book first appeared in the summer of 1995. In November of 1996, the American Academy of Religion awarded the volume its History of Religions Prize for the best first-book of 1995 in all areas and subdisciplines of the history of religions. Just two months later, the book was attacked in a major Calcutta newspaper in a sensationalistic book review. The inflammatory nature of the review sparked an understandable show of public wrath, inundating the newspaper with a flood of letters, more the editors claimed than they had seen in recent memory. After giving voice to thirty-eight of these letter writers, who were reacting more to the book review (which they all had read) than to the book (which none of them had read), the newspaper decided to officially close all correspondence on the issue, probably a wise move given the highly charged, emotional tone of the discourse.1 Not a single person spoke in my defense, or perhaps more accurately, was allowed to speak in my defense.2 Shortly after this unfortunate affair, English and Bengali newspapers in India reported on the central government's move to consider banning the book, some politicians in New Delhi proposed that a letter of protest be sent to the U.S. government,3 and an Indian scholar published a spirited defense of the book in The Hindu, an important national daily.4

When I ponder all of these voices, I cannot help thinking about Gora, Rabindranath Tagore's brilliant historical novel set, like Ramakrishna's story, in nineteenth-century Calcutta. The novel is named after its main character, a physically immense brahmin who happens to be amazingly pale (gora). Gora spends his time writing for a band of nationalists, all of whom virtually worship him, and travelling around the city and countryside fighting the British, the westernized Brahmos, and anyone willing to argue with him. Towards the end of the novel, Gora decides to stage a huge purification rite to cleanse himself of any impurity he may have incurred while he was in jail (for defending a village against the British). As he begins the ceremony, Gora is interrupted by news of his father's collapse and possible imminent death. Believing that he is about to die, Gora's father reveals to his son a deeply ironic truth: Gora is not a brahmin at all; in fact, he's not even Indian. He was adopted at birth after his Irish mother died giving birth to him during the Mutiny of 1857. With this revelation, Gora suddenly realizes that all he thought he was he in fact is not, and that all he thought he hated he in fact is: "In a single moment, Gora's entire life appeared to him like a very strange dream. The foundations of his life that had been constructed and built up all those years from childhood dissolved completely. It was as if he did not know who he was or where he belonged."5 At first terrified, Gora quickly finds himself transformed in a religious experience of the "man of the heart" (maner manusa), that casteless divine-human spirit of the Baul songs who transcends all social categories and judgments in the mystical inner space of the human being. Ecstatic, Gora runs to a friend and exclaims: "Today, in a single instant, that fortress of feelings and thoughts has dissolved like a dream, and I, now completely free, have suddenly fallen into the midst of a vast truth."6

Many of my sincere critics, whether they know it or not, are in the midst of a strikingly similar story. They reject me and my work, but there are many deeply ironic, Gora-like truths in their now impressively cosmopolitan tradition, a multi-faceted cultural "paleness" that hints at still unacknowledged, unknown dimensions of our shared humanity. Consider, for example, one of the more canonical English biographies of the tradition, Christopher Isherwood's Ramakrishna and His Disciples. Like pale Gora himself, this text and its unquestioned place in the canon contain a hidden "vast truth" that effectively dissolves any ideological "fortress of feelings and thoughts" that can be constructed against the imagined spectre of homosexuality.

I am also reminded here of the late Christopher Isherwood.7 Chris Isherwood was openly homosexual, and he was quite frank about his homosexual reading of Ramakrishna. For example, he wrote (autobiographically, I suspect) about a person who in 1962 had written about Ramakrishna as a "homosexual who had had to struggle hard to overcome his lust for his young disciple later to be known as Vivekananda."8 Just three years later, his own biography appeared. Isherwood understood but could not share Swami Prabhavananda's outrage over the 1962 piece and confessed that he himself would often describe Ramakrishna to his fellow homosexuals as someone who had "got into drag" and who was, as he put it, "at least to some extent, one of us." Still, for Isherwood, there was not quite enough evidence "to honestly claim him as a homosexual, even a sublimated one."9 It all boiled down to this: since Ramakrishna possessed a childlike honesty, had he felt lust for another male, he no doubt would have said so, "which would mean that, if such a situation had indeed ever arisen, it must have been known of and concealed by Ramakrishna's biographers."10 (This, of course, is exactly what I demonstrate in the present work.) Isherwood then goes on to explain how he would have liked to have discussed these matters in his own biography of Ramakrishna, but that that "was out of the question" as soon as the book became "an official project of the Ramakrishna Order." He was sending the chapters to India as he wrote them for comments and corrections, and he knew "that there were limits" to what he would be allowed to write about.11 Isherwood, in other words, was being censored, and he knew it. He would return to this theme so dear to his heart again in his very last novel, this one about the painful disagreements and ultimate reconciliation of two brothers, one of whom was gay and interested in joining a Hindu monastery on the banks of the Ganges in Calcutta.12

How, then, could a critic use Isherwood's eminently orthodox biography to "correct" my heterodox one? Would not such a person be holding up a homosexual author who was prevented by the tradition from writing about Ramakrishna's homosexual dimensions in an attempt to suppress a book that is about the ways the tradition has suppressed Ramakrishna's homosexual dimensions? Nothing is as it seems, as Gora so dramatically realized.

Perhaps in the future there will be less fear of homosexuality and less misunderstanding about the historical record. Perhaps there will also be more Goras and revelations of that mystical "man of the heart." Let us hope so. If there are not, some of my devotional and Indian readers may begin by rejecting an author whom they have never met for wanting to talk openly and honestly about the homosexual roots of Ramakrishna's mysticism only to find themselves, in the end, rejecting some of their own brothers and sisters, their own sons and daughters, and, ironically, their own saint. I can only encourage them not to walk down this path, as so much of our humanity (and divinity) lie in a decidedly different direction.

On the Complexity of the Secret and the Dialectic of the Erotic

A further unfortunate result of all of this is that such a controversy tends to fixate the discourse on only one aspect of what I have called "the secret." Granted, Ramakrishna's homoerotic desires are central to understanding the particular phenomenological shape of the secret as it was revealed in the saint's life and teachings, but such desires by no means exhaust the secret's dimensions and meanings. Secrecy also played a crucial role in the structures, histories, and censorship of the texts (Introduction and Appendix), in the construction, practice and psychology of Tantric ritual (Chapter 2), in the ontology of Ramakrishna's mystical and visionary experiences (Chapter 3), in the theological hermeneutics of the avatara mythologies (Chapter 4), and in the problematic "shameful" status of the Tantra itself in Bengali culture (Chapter 5). The book, in other words, does not end with Ramakrishna's homoerotic desires. It only begins with them.

Also relevant here is the manner in which my dialectical category of "the erotic" has been misread by some as flatly monodimensional, as if it meant simply "sex," when in fact the erotic only begins with physical sexuality and moves out (really "up") from there into the sublime, "sublimated" realms of symbolic vision, mystical experience, mythology and theology. I could, no doubt, address such a misunderstanding in the same way that Freud answered his own critics. In an effort to show that his own concept of "libido" was not the "outrageous innovation" that people supposed it to be, the analyst called attention to how sexuality lay in an unbroken continuum with the "higher aims" of "love for parents and children, friendship and love for humanity in general, and also devotion to concrete objects and to abstract ideas." "All these tendencies," Freud writes, "are an expresson of the same instinctual impulses."13 Then, as if to move even higher "up" along the continuum, Freud invokes--appropriately, I would argue--the erotic mysticism of Plato and the love theology of Paul: "In its origin, function, and relation to sexual love," he wrote, "the 'Eros' of the philosopher Plato coincides exactly with the love-force, the libido of psycho-analysis . . . and when the apostle Paul, in his famous epistle to the Corinthians, praises love above all else, he certainly understands it in the same 'wider' sense."14 Such provocative thoughts, penned in 1921, find powerful echoes six years later in a correspondence that would lead to a long, eminently productive dialogue between psychoanalysis and comparative mysticism, initiated by none other than the French novelist, self-professed mystic and Ramakrishna biographer, Romain Rolland. In 1927, the French savant sent Freud his biographies of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda and proposed to Freud that he analyze the "oceanic" mystical experience (une sentiment océanique) of the saints and Rolland himself as something qualitatively different than the illusions that Freud had shown constitute "the common-man's religion."15

Freud responded to Rolland's friendly request both in private and in print with just such an analysis,16 psychoanalyzing Rolland's "oceanic feeling" in some depth,17 suggesting that further inquiry might uncover "connections here with a number of obscure modifications of mental life, such as trances and ecstasies,"18 and eventually even admitting that psychoanalysis and "certain mystical practices" share a "similar line of approach" in that both seek to peer into and appropriate the inner depths of the psyche by "upsetting the normal relations between the different regions of the mind."19 Thus began the psychoanalytic study of mysticism.20 Freud, Ramakrishna, and the modern category of mysticism, in other words, share a common synchronistic history, and Kali's Child can be read as both an extension and a development of that original correspondence, with India and Ramakrishna in the middle as it were, between the French scholar-mystic, who would call for a "mystic psycho-analysis" informed by the ecstatic states of Ramakrishna,21 and the Viennese "master of suspicion," who openly doubted that such states could "lead us to the ultimate truths from which salvation is to be expected."22

But even given such fascinating connections, we need not travel to Freud's ancient Greece or to Rolland's early twentieth-century France to begin to understand a nineteenth-century Bengali saint, for India herself is spectacularly rich in doctrines, symbolisms, and mythologies of erotico-mystical transformation: from the well-known cakra system of kundalini-yoga (whose "lotuses" Ramakrishna saw in a vision, like some preternatural Freud,23 as so many symbolic vaginas); to the Siddha alchemical traditions that explicitly equate the transmutative properties of mercury and semen;24 to hatha yoga, that sublimating "practice of breath and seed";25 to the alternating mythologies of Siva, the "erotic ascetic"26 whose phallomorphic lingam Ramakrishna recognized, again not unlike a good psychoanalyst, as a transformative symbol of his own physical penis; to the reforming, "high" Hindu Tantra of Abhinavagupta's Trika Kaula, which identified ritual orgasm with a consecrated female partner as "a privileged means of access to a blissful expansion of consciousness in which the deities . . . permeate and obliterate the ego of the worshipper"27; to all those Bengali "vernacular" Tantric traditions that make their appearance in the present volume, the Saktas, the Kartabhajas, the Bauls, the Navarasikas and the Sahajiyas, with their stunning array of rituals and symbols of sexual transformation--their Five M's, Four Moons, "passionate Krsnas" (raga-krsna), dancing frogs, seas of nectar, rituals with other men's wives (parakiya-sadhana), kama ("lust") become prema ("divine love"), and conquering heroes (vira). To speak of the erotic, then, as I have in the pages that follow--as a dialectical phenomenon that develops only through the crooked, halting and unpredictable spirals of regression and progression, of sexual expression and spiritual experience, of neurotic suffering and liberative healing, and which finally culminates in a transethical psycho-physiological transformation of genuine ontological significance--is not to practice a prurient sensationalism (or more bizarrely, a misplaced "orientalism"). Nor is it to reduce the quite genuine mystical experiences of Ramakrishna to simple sex. It is to draw on the comparative and critical powers of my own cultural inheritance (the history of religions, psychoanalysis and Christian mysticism) and to put these resources into real, respectful dialogue with India's Tantric traditions, all of which know that the secret of the mystical is the erotic.

John Stratton Hawley of Columbia University beautifully captured something of this dialectical, spiralling nature of the erotic in a recent book review when he poetically paraphrased the spirit of Kali's Child as a challenge "to dive into the vortex that opens up when religious creativity is aligned with our deepest bodily desires, not pitted against them" and noted that the book's originality and importance lie not in its discussion of sexuality per se but in its ability to focus on "Ramakrishna's sexuality as being religiously significant." Hawley's concluding lines return to this same central theme:

. . . Kripal not only reveals Ramakrishna's homoerotic secret, but turns that secret into a searching beacon. Instead of accepting that childhood dramas of sexuality determine religious behavior, he bathes psychoanalysis in the light of Tantra and asks, in effect, "What is homoeroticism?" "What is the deep meaning of sexual conflict?" In doing so, he spreads open the gates of that sometimes terrifying mansion of fun in which Ramakrishna lived, and suggests that in some dimension each of the rest of us lives there, too.28
No one has captured the intended spirit of the work more accurately.

Correspondence, Corrections and Confirmations

Having defended my thesis about Ramakrishna's homoeroticism, bemoaned the manner in which this controversy has tended to erase the larger textual, psychological, ontological and mythological concerns of my work, and reasserted the dialectical, nonreductive nature of my category of the erotic, let me freely admit that the book is not beyond criticism. But, as I made clear in my first preface, I never intended it to be. Hence I have welcomed a rather extensive two and a half year correspondence with a number of sincere, sophisticated and critical readers about various points of translation and interpretation. In the process, my work has come under an extraordinarily intense and minute scrutiny. Swami Atmajnanananda, for example, has gone through the first edition with the proverbial "fine-toothed comb" and published his criticisms in a journal article (but only, I might add, after corresponding with me for almost a year).29

Consequently, I have had to scrupulously think, rethink, and think again through various readings, turns of phrases and translation choices. Through such a process, I have come to the conclusion that I have indeed erred in places. In particular, I deeply regret my confusion of the Bengali maga ("wife") with magi ("bitch") on pp. 281-282 of the first edition and would like to apologize here for any emotional pain that this has caused my readers; it was a perfectly honest mistake, but it is nevertheless a real one, and I accept full responsibility for it. I have also, I believe, overplayed the degree to which the tradition has suppressed Datta's Jivanavrttanta. Indeed, to my wonder (and embarrassment), the Ramakrishna Order reprinted Datta's text the very same summer Kali's Child appeared, rendering my original claims of a conscious concealment untenable with respect to the present (but still solidly in place with respect to the past--Datta, after all, faced a possible lawsuit, and Satyacharan Mitra, Ramakrishna's "second biographer," hints that many were deeply troubled and offended by earlier treatments of Ramakrishna's life, a likely reference to Datta's text30). Finally, I have learned of and found on my own a number of minor translation errors, typos, and necessary shifts of emphasis, none of which had any significant bearing on my interpretive conclusions and all of which I have corrected in the present edition.

Having gladly admitted my errors, I must add that nothing that has been advanced so far has convinced me that my hermeneutical model is wrong or misguided or even exaggerated. Quite the contrary, numerous events--from my revisiting of previous scholarship to my personal correspondence with a number of appreciative devotees and associates of the tradition--has convinced me of the correctness of my original model. A word about each of these processes is in order, as both bear directly on the controversy at hand: the first (the previous scholarship) by contextualizing my arguments in a long line of scholarly consensus; the second (support from within the tradition) by problematizing any simplistic dichotomy between my conclusions and the tradition itself.

The first thing that one notices about earlier scholarly discussions of Ramakrishna's homosexuality is that every such former treatment of the issue lies buried in passing, single-line comments, hard to find end-notes, or unpublished, almost underground documents (for reasons that I think are painfully obvious now). Perhaps the first to comment openly on the saint's homosexuality was the Sanskritist Jeffrey Masson, who addressed the issue briefly in print on at least four separate occasions,31 commenting on, among other things, the striking parallels that exist between Ramakrishna's life and Freud's textual case study of the homosexual Schreber, who, like Ramakrishna, thought of himself as the "wife of "God," experienced a subtle feminine energetic body,32 and wrote of his mystical "voluptuousness" as "a fragment of the state of bliss given in advance."33 Shortly after Masson's reflections, Isherwood raised the issue of Ramakrishna's homosexuality in his autobiography (see above), and Malcolm McLean briefly discussed it in the introduction of his dissertation translation of the Kathamrta.34 Sumit Sarkar returned to it again in his magisterial, virtually underground text, "The Kathamrita as Text,"35 probably still the finest essay ever written on the saint. More recently, the respected Indian psychoanalyst, Sudhir Kakar, pointed out that Ramakrishna could be identified as a "secondary transsexual"36 and discussed with a French philosopher the saint's homosexual proclivities.37 And, if I could use anecdotal evidence that historians and Indologists have shared with me over the course of the last eight years, the list could be easily and impressively expanded. Indeed, I believe that we can with little hesitation speak of a "consensus" on the homosexual issue, at least among academics trained in historical-critical and analytic methods.38

The case of Ramakrishna's homosexuality, in other words, seems to be closed. What we are seeing in the controversy surrounding the book is not a balanced scholarly debate about an open historical question but a turbulent wake produced by the book's passage through the troubled waters of a deep cultural rejection of homosexuality. In Indian and devotional contexts, at least, the book often lacks what sociologists call "plausibility," that is, a sociological context in which its ideas can be freely and safely entertained. Its truths are quite literally un-believable. The British sociologist of religion, Steve Bruce, puts the issue this way:

Being right and being believed are not the same thing and the first does not always lead to the second. What is important for the career of any ideas or body of ideas is the environment of social circumstances and social relationships that makes them more or less likely to be believed.39

Kali's Child is a case in point. It has been lauded by scholars in numerous contexts for "being right," but it nevertheless remains completely unbelievable in other, primarily devotional and Indian, contexts, not because of any inherent fault in the book's arguments or evidence, but because there are at present simply too few social, cultural, psychological and religious support structures available in such contexts to render its ideas widely thinkable. For such reasons, any open, public discussion of such matters becomes emotionally, epistemologically and morally impossible, and anyone who dares engage in such a discussion is labelled "deviant" or "sinister." It is always easier to silence an "impossible," implausible thought (and him who thinks it) than to change one's world to accomodate this new possibility. It is very difficult to be Gora, to see another's explanation of one's own cultural paleness, not as a cold moral condemnation, but as a warm, liberating revelation of a shared humanity.40

Fortunately, however, religious and cultural traditions are never uniform or monolithic, and there are always "openings" in every human community. There are always Goras. Hence I have heard from more than a few devotees and associates of the tradition who have written to me about their own spiritual struggles, their own personal secrets, and their own liberating reading of the book. I could tell many, many stories here, all of them touching, some of them surreal: from the Ramakrishna devotee who discovered in my work "one of the most confirming spiritual experiences" of his life; to the midwestern woman for whom the book catalyzed a long journey of filial understanding and personal healing; to the open-minded, open-hearted monastic who found real inspiration in the book and defended my moral right to think differently, even if he could not agree with all of my ideas; to the New age guru, Adi Da, who understands himself to be a joint reincarnation of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, who had my dissertation flown out to him on his Fiji island, and who now includes Kali's Child in his list of the top 1000 spiritual classics of all time.

But one story will have to suffice for now. It involves a devotee-correspondent who, at first deeply troubled by the book but ultimately convinced by its evidence, moved gradually to a position of real appreciation for the book's rejection of reductionism and a conviction that the controversy surrounding its claims boils down to a fear of a misunderstood homosexuality. At some point in this man's many ten-page plus letters, he sent me a passage he had noticed many years ago in a collection of reminiscences by some of Ramakrishna's contemporaries. The following passage from Shivanath Shastri caught his eye as in particular need of explanation, although at the time he could not quite supply one. Now it made perfect sense to him:

But while in the carriage, Ramakrishna insisted upon sitting on my left-hand side on the seat. I could not at first understand his meaning. . . . . I asked for the reason of his [covering his head with his chudder in the fashion of young married women of Bengal]. He said, "Don't you see I am a woman for the time being; I am travelling with my lover." Sayings this he threw his arm around my waist and began to make a sort of dancing movement . . . as a mark of his great pleasure. At this point there came on his fit or trance . . . .41

My correspondent then went further and artfully demonstrated how the later tradition has excised this passage from its own use of the larger text in which this passage appears. The devotee had read Kali's Child carefully, understood it, and had learned to reread his own tradition in the new light of the book's theses and methods.

As a textualist and a historian of religions, this dialogic ability of the book to engage deeply and positively such "Goras" and enter, however controversially, into the tradition is perhaps what fascinates me most about the book's reception. As one devotee put it, my work on Ramakrishna's "secret talk" has itself become "secret talk" within his community. Hence despite attempts to suppress or ignore it, some devotees (like the gentleman discussed above) now read Kali's Child alongside the traditional canon. And when they do, they inevitably encounter old scenes in radically new ways. The book is thus both a moral problem and an intellectual promise for the tradition. It reveals, and so, like Ramakrishna's own "secret talk," it must be concealed--hence it is attacked in a Calcutta newspaper and its existence is denied, wished away in an entire country. In all of this, Kali's Child has itself become, much like the biography that Chris Isherwood found impossible to write, the censored passages of Gupta's Kathamrta, or that "bosh and rot" of Ram Chandra Datta's first biography, yet another form of guhya katha or "secret talk." The patterns of revelation and occultation that I posited in the early textual tradition have thus surfaced again in the present, as if to re-establish my thesis about the past.

Jeffrey J. Kripal

January 1998

1 See Narasingha Sil's review, "The Question of Ramakrishna's Homosexuality," in The Statesman (31 January 1997), the 38 ensuing letters to the editors (7, 11, 13, 18 February 1997), and the editors' final decision to close off all correspondence on the issue, "Now Let It Rest" (18 February 1997).
2 William Radice of the University of London bravely tried twice to defend my work in The Statesman as a valuable piece of sympathetic scholarship (once as a stand-alone letter and once in the context of a review of another book). The newspaper refused to print the first defense and cut every reference to me or my work from the book review (The Statesman, 22 August 1997). Radice finally got to speak a year later in his own positive review of the book (Journal of the School of Oriental and African Studies, vol. 61).
3 See, for example, "Ramakrishna's Impulses Spark Row," in The Times of India (10 April 1997).
4 T.G. Vaidyanathan, "Kripal and Kali's Child" (The Hindu, 4 May 1997). Vaidyanathan called the scholarship of Kali's Child "compassionate."
5 Rabindranath Thakur (Tagore), Gora (Calcutta: Biswabharati, 1964), 584; translations mine.
6 Ibid., 588-589.
7 I have removed a paragraph here about another colleague (anonymously referenced) and my memory of what he said about my work in reference to Isherwood. The paragraph appeared in the original preface. I have removed it here at this colleague's request.
8 My Guru and His Disciple (Penguin Books Ltd., 1981), 247.
9 Ibid., 249.
10 Ibid., 248.
11 Ibid., 249.
12 See his A Meeting By the River (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1967).
13 Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, in James Strachey, ed., The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (London: Hogarth Press, 1975), vol. XVIII, 90.
14 Ibid., 91. A very similar line appeared one year earlier, in his 1920 preface to the fourth edition of Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (S.E., vol. VII, 134).
15 Rolland, of course, was thinking of Freud's The Future of an Illusion (S.E., vol. XXI), which had just appeared. Freud describes Rolland's own position as follows: "One may, he thinks, rightly call oneself religious on the ground of this oceanic feeling alone, even if one rejects every belief and every illusion" (Civilization and Its Discontents, S.E., vol. XXI, 64).
16 For the fascinating story of how this correspondence generated the traditional psychoanalytic theory of mystical experience as a psychic regression to the primary narcissistic state of the infant and a constructive-critical analysis of the history and present state of psychoanalytic studies of mysticism (including this one), see William B. Parsons, The Enigma of the Oceanic Feeling (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).
17 Civilization and Its Discontents, 64-73.
18 Ibid., 73.
19 New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, S.E., vol. XXII, 79-80.
20 We could also place that beginning in Freud's famous study of the homoerotic mystic, Daniel Paul Schreber (Psycho-analytic Notes on an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranaoia [Dementia Paranoides], S.E., vol. XII), a text which, believe it or not, is also linked to scholarship on Ramakrishna (see my discussion of Masson below). But it is only with the Rolland correspondence and his subsequent publications that Freud begins to think more systematically about the "oceanic feeling" as a separate category linked to that of mysticism.
21 Romain Rolland, The Life of Ramakrishna (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1986), 216, n.1.
22 New Introductory Lectures, 80.
23 "Do not forget," Freud writes, "that blossoms are actually the genitals of plants" (Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis, S.E., vol. XV, 158).
24 For an impressive phenomenological-historical mapping of these traditions, see David Gordon White, The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).
25 Quoted in ibid., 264.
26 The expression, of course, comes from Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty's Siva: The Erotic Ascetic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973).
27 Alexis Sanderson, "Saivism and the Tantric Tradition," in The World's Religions, ed. by S. Sutherland et al. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988), 679-680.
28 History of Religions, vol. 37, no. 4 (May 1998); italics his.
29 Swami Atmajnanananda, "Scandals, cover-ups, and other imagined occurrences in the life of Ramakrsna: An examination of Jeffrey Kripal's Kali's child," International Journal of Hindu Studies, vol. 1, no. 2: 401-420. A close reading of this article and the present edition will reveal where I agree with Atmajnanananda and where I still disagree. I am deeply grateful to Swamiji for his intellectual honesty, for his religious integrity, and, most of all, for his humane civility.
30 Satyacharan Mitra, Sri Sri Ramakrsna Paramahamsa: Jivana O Upadesa (Calcutta: Great Indian Press, 1897), 1.
31 Jeffrey M. Masson, "Sex and Yoga: Psychoanalysis and the Indian Religious Experience," Journal of Indian Philosophy, vol. 2, 309-310, 312; "Indian Psychotherapy?" Journal of Indian Philosophy, vol. 7, 331; The Oceanic Feeling: The Origins of Religious Sentiment in Ancient India (Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1980), 8-10; ibid., 46-47.
32 Psycho-analytic Notes, 32.
33 Ibid., 29. For the Schreber-Ramakrishna correspondence, see The Oceanic Feeling, 8-10.
34 Malcolm McLean, "A Translation of Sri-Sri-Ramakrsna-Kathamrta with Explanatory Notes and Critical Introduction" (Ph.D. diss., Otago University, 1983), lxxii-lxxv.
35 Sumit Sarkar, "The Kathamrita as Text: Towards an Understanding of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa," Occasional Papers on History and Society 12 (New Delhi: Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, 1985), 6, 70-71, 90, 103-106.
36 Sudhir Kakar, The Analyst and the Mystic: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Religion and Mysticism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 33.
37 Catherine Clément and Sudhir Kakar, La Folle et Le Saint (Paris: Seuil, 1993), 177-179.
38 Even scholars who are critical of the book often accept the homoerotic thesis as proven. See, for example, Gerald Larson's AAR feature review essay, "Polymorphic Sexuality, Homoeroticism and the Study of Religion, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 65, no. 3: 655-665. For a response, see my own "Mystical Homoeroticism, Reductionism and the Reality of Censorship: A Response to Gerald Larson," Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 66, no. 3.
39 Steve Bruce, Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 230.
40 Some readers have drawn the conclusion that my homoerotic thesis was somehow intended to "attack" Ramakrishna. Such a conclusion could not be further from the truth. Homosexuality per se carries no negative moral connotations for me; quite the contrary, with Freud, I believe that homosexuality is "no vice, no degradation," that it "cannot be classified as an illness," and that "it is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime" (all lines from a touching letter of Freud's to an American mother who had written to him about her homosexual son, quoted in Kenneth Lewes, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Male Homosexuality [New York: Meridian, 1988], 32). Moreover, and just as importantly, I am convinced, again with Freud, that homosexually oriented human beings have been unusually, even fantastically, creative in the realms of art, religion and culture, far out of proportion to their numbers (Psycho-analytic Notes, 61). The history of mysticism is a dramatic case in point that has yet to be adequately explored in this light. To call Ramakrishna a homoerotic mystic, then, is not to attack him; it is to honor, understand and appreciate him by properly (that is, comparatively) contextualizing him in a long line of similarly oriented religious virtuosi.
41 Nanda Mookerjee, ed., Sri Ramakrishna and His Admirers (Calcutta: Charu Publishing Co., n.d.), 45-46.

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