Gandhi's Trial


From: Tarjei Straume
Date: Mon Nov 10, 2003 3:59 pm
Subject: Gandhi's trial

I've been wondering if there's something wrong with the Yahoo! mail server today, because my mails take hours getting through, and the volume of messages is below normal. So this is a test mail of sorts, while I take the opportunity to get into another subject here that is linked to.... well, what can we call it... esoteric anarchosophy perhaps? It's about the relationship between politics and philosophy. Mahatma Gandhi was a political activist who succeeded in ending British rule in India, so he must be said to have had power. But what kind of power was that? It was not power in the sense of seeking control of others, but in the sense of simply being an autonomous human being in the full sense of the word.

Rudolf Steiner was evidently an admirer of Gandhi, and on October 16, 1923, in the evening, he held a lecture for the teachers of the Waldorf School in Stuttgart entitled "A Comprehensive Knowledge of Man as the Source of Imagination in the Teacher." (from Erziehung und Unterricht aus Menschenerkenntnis, GA 302a). The topic he brings up is something that we may very well call the subtext of history, and he says that the teacher should enable the students to discover what is happening beneath the surface of events in addition to the obvious. In order to illustrate this, he describes the trial against Mahatma Gandhi in India:

I will give you an example of what is needed in order to adopt the right attitude in our civilization today. You have all heard of Mahatma Gandhi who, since the war, or really since 1914, has set a movement going for the liberation of India from English rule. Gandhi's activities began first in South Africa with the aim of helping the Indians who were living there under appalling conditions and for whose emancipation he did a great deal before 1914. Then he went to India itself and instituted a movement for liberation in the life there. I shall speak today only of what took place when the final verdict was passed on Mahatma Gandhi and omit the court proceedings leading up to it. I would like to speak only of the last act in the drama, as it were, between him and his judge. Gandhi had been accused of stirring up the Indian people against British rule in order to make India independent. Being a lawyer, he conducted his own defense and had not the slightest doubt that he would have to be condemned. In his speech - I cannot quote the exact words - he spoke more or less to the following effect: 'My Lords, I beg of you to condemn me in accordance with the full strength of the law. I am perfectly aware that in the eyes of British law in India my crime is the gravest one imaginable. I do not plead any mitigating circumstances; I beg of you to condemn me with the full strength of the law. I affirm, moreover, that my condemnation is required not only in obedience to the principles of outer justice but to the principles of expediency of the British Government. For if I were to be aquitted I should feel it incumbent upon me to continue to propagate the movement, and millions of Indians would join it. My aquittal would lead to results that I regard as my duty.'

The contents of this speech are very characteristic of that which lives and weaves in our time. Gandhi says that he must of necessity be condemned and declares that it is his duty to continue the activity for which he is to be condemned. The judge replied, 'Mahatma Gandhi, you have rendered my task of sentencing you immeasurably easier, because you have made it clear that I must of necessity condemn you. It is obvious that you have transgressed against British law, but you and all those present here will realize how hard it will be for me to sentence you. It is clear that a large portion of the Indian people looks upon you as a saint, as one who has taken up his task in obedience to the highest duties devolving upon humanity. The judgement I shall pass on you will be looked upon by the majority of the Indian people as the condemnation of a human being who has devoted himself to the highest service of humanity. Clearly, however, British law must in all severity be put into effect against you. You would regard it as your duty, if you were aquitted, to continue tomorrow what you were doing yesterday. We on our side have to regard it as our most solemn duty to make that impossible. I condemn you in the full consciousness that my sentence will in turn be condemned by millions. I condemn you while admiring your actions, but condemn you I must.' Gandhi's sentence was six years of hard labor.

You could hardly find a more striking example of what is characteristic of our times. We have two levels of actuality before us. Below is the level of truth, the level where the accused declares that if he is aquitted, it will be his solemn duty to continue what he must define as criminal in face of outer law. On the level of truth, also, we have the judge's statement that he admires the one whom, out of duty to his Government, he sentences to six years' hard labor. Above, at the level of facts, you have what the accused in this case, because he is a great soul, defined as a crime: the crime that is his duty and that he would at once continue were he to be aquitted. Whereas on the one level you have the admiration of the judge for a great human being, on the other you have the passing of judgement and its outer justification. You have truths below, facts above, which have nothing to do with one another. They touch on one another at only one point, at the point where they confront each other in statement and counter-statement.

The British government in India concluded that their power would be radically weakened if Gandhi should serve his entire six year sentence, so he was released after a few months. It wasn't only his enormous popular support the authorities worried about; what made matters worse was that Gandhi enjoyed prison life and looked forward to being arrested, so he could find solitude to meditate and read and rest and gain strength for future work. How do you punish a man who encourages you to do so, and whose criminal, seditious revolutionary mission is served by it?



From: Frank Thomas Smith
Date: Tue Nov 11, 2003 8:31 am
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Gandhi's trial

Tarjei wrote:


I will give you an example of what is needed in order to adopt the right attitude in our civilization today. You have all heard of Mahatma Gandhi who, since the war, or really since 1914, has set a movement going for the liberation of India from English rule. Gandhi's activities began first in


All very reminiscent of Socrate's trial. See the next issue of SCR, which will appear any moment now.

Frank Thomas Smith


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