U-Turn Theory: A specimen pattern

Some of you may be vaguely familiar with U-Turn Theory by Rajiv Malhotra. Those who are familiar with his works over the years would also know how he exposed in great detail the “academic cartel” which controls the entire supply-chain, from research grants to publication and dissemination. Further, if you had read the paper on University of Hawaii’s Indian Philosophy programs, you would have come across these two interesting pieces of information. In these two cases, we see the pattern where there is a deliberate effort to not disclose Indian influence & contribution in cutting-edge science:

[…] a few years prior to writing his seminal book on quantum mechanics and the brain, Dr. Stapp, an eminent theoretical physicist at Berkeley, had studied Vaishnava philosophy under teachers at ISKCON and had written a book about the Vaishnava cosmology to show that it was consistent with quantum mechanics. Unfortunately, political pressures appeared to have compelled him to abandon this link publicly, and even in his own seminal work, he failed to feature this previous important work by him that had shaped his own intellectual breakthrough. Had this been a link between Bible and quantum physics, one doubts that he would have denied his own work going forward. Rajiv Malhotra engaged Dr. Stapp on this matter privately and confirmed his uncomfortable suspicions about Eurocentrism in the field of philosophy of science. (page 101, note #5)

And,

[Amit] Goswami’s 1995 book, The Self-Aware Universe, caused a stir and invigorated the nascent field of Consciousness Studies. It gave a systematic and comprehensive argument that Vedanta is best able to interpret the counter-intuitive empirical results of quantum mechanics. This was a watershed event. Many Western scholars started to utilize his ideas and arguments, bringing the notion of the primacy of Consciousness into prominence within certain circles of the philosophy of science. Unfortunately, most Western scholars inspired by this thesis have neither credited Goswami’s work nor acknowledged Indian philosophy. (pages 48-49) Instead they relocate these ideas either into Biblical equivalents or onto frameworks attributed to non-theistic (secularized) but distinctly Western thinkers. This repackaging bothered Rajiv Malhotra in the mid-1990s, as he regularly participated in various academic conferences on Consciousness Studies, and his disillusionment led him to develop the U-Turn Theory on how and why the West appropriates and reformulates non-Western ideas as its own. (page 100, note #4)

Otherwise sympathetic and honest scholars who after years of painstaking research, end up capitulating to the cartel, when it comes to publishing and holding on to their careers. The latest case of U-Turn is by Dr. Guy L Beck in the field of music, history of music – specifically, influence of Indian music in the development of Western music. Dr. Beck, illustrates another U-Turn pattern, similar to note #4 above where instead of explicit attribution to Indian sources, it gets fully or partly relocated outside India, hyphenated and shared with others like Indo-Iranian, Indo-Arabic or Indo-Greek. In these constructs the Indo part is retained reluctantly, or it is quietly dropped off at some later time, as in the case of Arabic Numerals and possibly Higgs-Boson as well.

Now, Dr. Beck succumbs to the academic cartel’s demands:


From: Rajiv Malhotra

One of several patterns of Uturns is when the scholar takes Hindu contributions to the West, and reclassifies them as “Asian” or something broader, in order to dilute the Hindu origins. Example:

In the mid 1990s, Infinity Foundation gave a grant to a Western scholar of Hinduism who specializes in music. His proposal was to travel to European museums and see if the oldest musical instruments in Europe were of Indian origin or had been influenced from India. He was to use this physical evidence combined with text based evidence that early European music was influenced by the raga, and Indian instruments influenced European ones. We gave this grant with great enthusiasm. But then nothing came out of it since almost 2 decades.

Recently I got the following disappointing status:

After submitting the project several times for publication, it has been rejected by many good publishers on various grounds. I always try to get it into a “university press” if possible. I have since reworked the concept into a broader spectrum of “Indo-Iranian Contributions or Influences on the West” which has now some prospective takers. The new framework takes us back to Zoroastrianism’s influence on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as the very pronounced musical influences (and chant) upon all three, etc. The research from London and Oxford is still part of it; in fact I have given many lectures and presentations showcasing various aspects of this research, including vocal demonstrations, but no book as yet.

Most of our “dharma” activists dishing out grants would be awestruck to hear him play sitar, impressed that he gives lectures on Indian music at prestigious places. It depends upon how high you raise the standard. I find this shift from Indian to Indo-Iranian unacceptable. In other words, raga gets classified somehow as Zoroastrian and hence its spread to the West is easier to sell to publishers. I have written my disappointment quite candidly.


From: Gene Kieffer_____Off-topic response, but Rajivji’s comment brings it back into context

Dear Rajiv,

You could change the world if you were to present the Hindu Concept of Kundalini to America in strictly scientific terms. One strong supporter you could count on is my long-time friend Dr. Karan Singh, M.P. He would be 100% behind you in this cause.

Sincerely,

Gene Kieffer

Rajiv comment: No. Its already been highly digested precisely because of these so-called “scientific” terms. The tendency has been to use the pretext of science to de-contextualize the categories, and thus prepare them to get re-contextualized (i.e. digested). That’s what I am exposing in my work on digestion. Regarding Dr. Karan Singh: I have known him personally and admire many qualities in him. But political ambitions turns into political correctness and this can compromise a person’s ability to take a strong stand for dharma. To be specific: Disappointed at the way under his watch Auroville has been turned over to leaders who are rapidly facilitating it to get digested into the belly of Ken Wilber via various suction mechanisms at work there.


From: tvikhanas

I have noticed this pattern several times too, from mathematics to yoga. If West wants to deny precise credit, all it has to do is claim in a very reasonable and enlightened manner that cultures x, y, z apart from India too had these ideas in one form or the other. The implication would be there is nothing special in India’s discovery and West can rightly claim it is “humanity’s” discovery.

We see this happening big time when it is claimed that native Americans had “spirituality”, Africans had “spirituality”, Chinese Taoists had “spirituality” etc. It goes without saying that the superior whites also had “spirituality” and Indian “spirituality” is up for grabs without due acknowledgement. The same is happening when Yogis are lumped with shamans/medicine men, “higher consciousness” is bandied about as if it is an obvious thing that every one, including the West, knew about. Huxley’s Perennial Philosophy is the classic example of this strategy to appropriate Indic thought/techniques. But when it comes to West’s discoveries the standards for drawing comparisons suddenly become very stringent.

This “everyone in every age had it” has the effect of taking Indians away from their authentic tradition to a low grade mishmash created by third rate academic charlatans. Ground fact is that there is simply no comparison between Indic traditions and any other culture. The “spirituality” label, while convenient in certain contexts, can hardly do justice to the reality.


From: Me

This is truly very disappointing & unfortunate. Based on the description, I guess this is referring to Dr. Guy L Beck? I knew he had received funding, so when I came across his books on Amazon I assumed they were outcomes of research funded by Infinity Foundation. Kirtan groups who know about his research will be utterly shocked to learn this (as some of them are familiar with Rajivji’s U-Turn Theory), but it will certainly more than open their eyes to what is going on in the academy, and a great illustration of the U-Turn process.

If after almost his entire career of research, deep cultural & personal involvement with Indian classical music & artists, he can so easily abdicate his responsibility towards truth, fairness & integrity, it is a complete betrayal of trust, as he ought to know the noble goals of Infinity Foundation.

**END**

Lock_iconMessage #4173 Emails from Rajiv Malhotra discussion forum on Yahoo! Groups (closed, members-only) reproduced here with permission.

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13 thoughts on “U-Turn Theory: A specimen pattern

  1. Dr. Guy Beck rejoinder to Rajiv Malhotra: The consensus of most respectable scholarship is that the religion, language, and culture of pre-Zoroastrian Persia and Vedic India were nearly identical. Ancient India was part of the larger complex of Aryan traditions. Both Persians and Indians called themselves Aryans and both were involved in ritual chant and musical activity. The further one follows the evidence, the roots of Indian music must be found there, which were later combined with the indigenous forms in the subcontinent. I was also very enthusiastic about the initial project, but since I have done the research I am compelled by the evidence to modify it accordingly. The raga was not identified as such until the 8th century in India, a time when there were already sophisticated scale systems in Greece and Persia. Bharata’s Natya-Sastra, the oldest textbook on music (generously given as 400 BCE), discusses Jati scales but not ragas. Bharata’s influence is of course immense on the subcontinent, but difficult to trace outside. Prof. Bharat Gupt of Delhi University is an expert on this text and tradition,who finds symmetries between the Greek theatre and ancient Indian drama. Otherwise, it is impossible to know what the ancient Indian music was or sounded like. Most of the ragas performed today are less than 200 years old in their present form, with others dating from about 1500 CE. In terms of instruments India is home only to the long barrel drum and the transverse flute. Most other instruments can be traced back to ancient Indo-Iranian regions or Central Asia (bowed lutes). In scholarship one must follow the evidence, and so I can say proudly that I have not succumbed to any academic cartel but have relied upon the most defensible sources and theories. My career in religious studies and music is not bound to any academic faction or trend, but is vowed to pursue objective research. I have already published a number of works on Indian religion and music (2006, 2011, 2012) that touch upon the Infinity project. This particular book in question (forthcoming) effectively traces the influence of Aryan religious and cultural traditions on both East and West.

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    • Dr. Beck,

      I appreciate you taking the time to respond. For a proper discussion I would recommend posting your response in the Yahoo Group where Rajiv Malhotra (RM) & others can add further to this topic which will benefit all of us. Here is the link to this discussion at Yahoo : Message #4173

      In your email to RM you had mentioned that after reworking to hyphenate with Iran you now have publishers willing to accept this research. Based on that, it appears your own initial research had convinced you to credit India exclusively, but you had to hyphenate with Iran because publishers compelled you.

      After submitting the project several times for publication, it has been rejected by many good publishers on various grounds… I have since reworked the concept into a broader spectrum of “Indo-Iranian Contributions or Influences on the West” which has now some prospective takers.

      Both Persians and Indians called themselves Aryans

      The meanings of Arya is quite different in Indian & Non-Indian usage.

      …the religion, language, and culture of pre-Zoroastrian Persia and Vedic India were nearly identical.

      We can find remarkable similarities with Vedic India all over the place until it gets destroyed & digested by the monotheisms. A lot of research already exists that shows India as the source of “the religion, language, and culture”, as well. We can even find similarities in Greek & Indian philosophies, from pre-Pythagoran to Plato – Henceforth why can’t we call this Indo-Greek Philosophy? Notice that hyphenation, denial, dismissal happen only when it comes to India’s contributions, whether in maths, science, philosophy or arts.

      …influence of Aryan religious and cultural traditions on both East and West.

      So we should first resolve : Who are/were the Aryans & where was their homeland? Got to be very careful with that can of worms!

      The raga was not identified as such until the 8th century in India…
      Natya-Sastra…discusses Jati scales but not ragas…
      Most of the ragas performed today are less than 200 years old…
      India is home only to the long barrel drum and the transverse flute. Most other instruments can be traced back to ancient Indo-Iranian regions or Central Asia…

      This seems to completely ignore the contributions & internal evolutions of Indian non-textual oral folk, tribal and arguably the original classical tradition – Carnatic. Veena is mentioned in the Yajur Veda and one string fiddle was very common in folk music. Jati scales evolved into the modern Raga templates, which in Carnatic system became standardized after 14th century developing under Vijayanagar Empire’s patronage. Please see Music of India

      Please let me know if I am wrong. I welcome you to post in the discussion group as well.

      Thank you!

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  2. Dr. Beck: I am a trained Hindustani vocalist, and have never played sitar. My principle concern is to present Indian culture as purely as possible without rebranding it or changing it in any way; That is why I do not perform fusion or synthetic combinations of jazz, new age, with Indian. For a demonstration, please attend my lecture/concert at the Smithsonian in Washington DC on December 6, at 6 PM, Meyer Auditorium. An Indian sitarist and tabla player will also perform. There is no U-Turn here; instead a straight arrow to (what I interpret) as the core of Indian or Hindu vocal spirituality and experience.

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    • I am somewhat familiar with your research and accomplishments as an artist. Hence the initial disappointment. You are probably aware, most scholars who do U-Turns actually claim to love India, Indian culture etc, but they all apparently love their careers even more. Many Indians wholeheartedly collaborate with U-Turners without being aware. Whether there is U-Turn in your case or not – I will leave that to the person who recognized & came up with the U-Turn Theory after compiling a great variety of case studies.

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  3. Thank you for your reply. The switch to “Indo-Iranian” in my project actually had nothing to do with publishers but only with my own journey through the historical and linguistic evidence. Publishers do not care either way, except that because of controversies caused by RM’s virulent attacks on Western academics, respectable publishers have become wary of Infinity Foundation funded projects that appear to endorse the indigenous Aryan theory. I was trying to be discreet with RM in trying to modify it a bit, but my change seems to have stirred some negative reactions for which I am sorry. In fact, that passage you cited of mine was copied from a private email I sent to RM and which I regret now as I did not give permission for it to be posted in a public site. The languages of Rig Veda and Avesta are closer than any two languages in the ancient world, and thus their common culture must be addressed. A much stronger case can be made for the Indic contributions when Persia is included. In fact, Persia and Asia were both part of the original proposal, but for some reason it came to be viewed as strictly an “Indian” origin project. Indo-Greek collaborations, etc came much later and come under the Indo-European umbrella. The Indo-Iranian nexus is the oldest Aryan civilization. Persia and India are the only two ancient groups that used the term Aryan for themselves–in both cases it means of noble culture, And with the direct influence of Zoroastrianism on Biblical religions I was intending to make a stronger case for Vedic/Avestan spirituality on the West in terms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Vedic Varuna is the same as Ahura Mazda which broadened biblical monotheism to make it universal which it was not before Persian captivity of the Jews. My research shows how several of the Vedic sages (ie Vasishta) were of Iranian stock, etc and so there is an admixture here that predates classical Indian civilization on the subcontinent. Regarding the Aryan homeland, since there is no common agreement (see Edwin Bryant) among academics, one can argue a position and I have chosen my position based on the evidence that I have chosen to rely on. I do not recall being required to subscribe to non-academic positions or agendas. Of course the music and chant is part of all this. Because RM mentioned raga and it influence I have located it in Sanskrit texts later than Bharata. There was folk and tribal music but that was not based on ragas or classical scale patterns. Carnatic music developed in its present form later than Hindustani, as the Dhrupad style can be traced further back into the Medieval period than the melakartas. The original classical music is Gandharva Sangit as described in Dattilam and Bharata. Please see my book, Sonic Liturgy: Ritual and Music in Hindu Tradition (Univ of South Carolina Press, 2012). I do not wish to be labelled a U-Turner which by definition is someone who appropriates Indian culture or thought as his or her own. I have not done that. Just the contrary–I attempt to represent the middle ground of truth if that can be found. Many people love India, as I do, but that does not mean I have rejected other traditions such as the West. MY Gurus have ensured me that Hindu philosophy is universal and does not require a change of religion. Regarding U-Turners, what about Indians who come to America and embrace Western values and life styles in order to make a good living, and then suddenly revert back to their motherland of India and discredit the West? Are they not also U-Turners?

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    • Publishers do not care either way, except that because of controversies caused by RM’s virulent attacks on Western academics, respectable publishers have become wary

      Of course, because RM has totally exposed the corruption in the academy, specific to Indology.

      …Infinity Foundation funded projects that appear to endorse the indigenous Aryan theory.

      As stated in my previous comment, this is not how we use the term Arya – as refering to a ‘race’. This is a colonial construction.

      The Indo-Iranian nexus is the oldest Aryan civilization. Persia and India are the only two ancient groups that used the term Aryan for themselves–in both cases it means of noble culture

      Again, this understanding of ‘Arya’ imposes geographic, ethnic limitations, which is not in the original Vedic usage. See for example: kRRiNvanto vishvam Aryam

      with the direct influence of Zoroastrianism on Biblical religions I was intending to make a stronger case for Vedic/Avestan spirituality on the West in terms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

      While we can find these influences and similarities certainly interesting, we should keep in mind that the “differences are not inconsequential” as explained in RM’s Being Different (www.BeingDifferentBook.com).

      I do not recall being required to subscribe to non-academic positions or agendas.

      What if the currently accepted academic positions are not entirely objective and free from centuries of bias that perpetuate Western hegemony?

      There was folk and tribal music but that was not based on ragas or classical scale patterns. Carnatic music developed in its present form later than Hindustani, as the Dhrupad style can be traced further back into the Medieval period than the melakartas.

      Carnatic is the oldest form of Indian classical music that has continued to evolve on its own. Hindustani in its present form emerged after the arrival of Turkic, Persian influences – in a way, itself is a result of fusion.

      Many people love India, as I do, but that does not mean I have rejected other traditions such as the West.

      Good. We don’t have to be ‘monogamous’ when it comes to loving, enjoying different cultures & traditions. 🙂

      I do not wish to be labelled a U-Turner which by definition is someone who appropriates Indian culture or thought as his or her own. I have not done that.
      Regarding U-Turners, what about Indians who come to America and embrace Western values and life styles in order to make a good living, and then suddenly revert back to their motherland of India and discredit the West? Are they not also U-Turners?

      Strawman.
      Please take some time to understand U-Turn Theory in depth.

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  4. Let me clarify my position further. I am not a Christian, but consider myself a universalist, Vedantist type of Hindu if you will. My wife is Bengali and I have gone through a Hindu wedding ceremony in Calcutta. I follow a Hindu diet and practice meditation and Nada Yoga daily, along with my vocal music.

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  5. “Regarding U-Turners, what about Indians who come to America and embrace Western values and life styles in order to make a good living, and then suddenly revert back to their motherland of India and discredit the West? Are they not also U-Turners?”

    Dr. Beck, please allow me to respectfully request that you study the history and mechanisms of colonial forces and how the effects of the damage caused are still very much prevalent today. This easy to read blog post written by a youth member of the Native American community will shed some light on the unconscious white privilege embedded in your vasanas. and why your above quoted comment is absolutely absurd… http://mycultureisnotatrend.tumblr.com/post/781005138/on-reverse-cultural-appropriation

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  6. We have a Punjabi governor down here in Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, who has forsaken his Hindu family upbringing and willingly embraced Catholic religion for political gain. There is a strong Hindu community here who helped him get elected, but he ignores them and bashes Hindu culture instead. Is his conversion due to the stain of colonialism? Colonialism is blamed for everything wrong in the world. Why don’t we blame the Roman Empire for taking over Europe or the Mongols for capturing Asia. There is no end to the historical blame game. Gandhi and other great thinkers and Gurus have identified the problem within ourselves and not on external political forces, and that deep down we are all human beings. I also think it pretentious to embrace all this Marxist talk of Western hegemony, colonial construction, etc. It is like beating a dead horse in today’s global culture, and that for non-academics like you and others to adopt this outdated postmodern academic jargon is irrelevant and without consequence. One must simply try to do good work as much as possible without whining over old wounds. The British left India more than 60 years ago. Do you remember them? I think not.

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    • If you are having to go so far off on a wild tangent to defend yourself, I think that pretty much gives away the game. I already dismissed your troll bait in previous comment as “Strawman”. Now you have returned back with this comment. I still respect you as an artist but you are beginning to lose it fast if you are only capable of this kind of dialog. Stay on topic please.

      You brought up the “Aryan” category which leaves me with no choice but to point out that it is a colonial racist construction with no basis in reality, no matter how many years it has been since Colonialism supposedly ended. You resort to deploying this outdated category to justify hyphenation with Iran.

      You also dismiss that in India folk, theater, tribal, classical & up to today’s movie musical genres all have interacted, enriched & helped evolution of each other throughout history. None of this was in self-imposed isolation or developed in vacuum. There is long tradition of traveling bards, musicians & entertainers. Haven’t seen your research, but would like to know if you have looked at ‘gypsy’ contributions to European (and later American) music. Where did these ‘gypsies’ come from? Carnatic does not begin with the synthesis of melakartas few centuries ago – it was an important & major milestone in evolution of this genre. Ragas are not at the beginning of classical music, but a major milestone in the long course of evolution. Earlier pre-raga stages could have traveled out of India, which may or may not have textual evidence as much of it was oral transmission. By dismissing this, it is easy to postdate everything in India and claim it all came from outside. But this non-academic blogger could be completely wrong. That is why I asked you to tell me if this is wrong. You could have done that had you cared to stay on topic and not try to drag us into useless off-topic issues.

      non-academics like you and others to adopt this outdated postmodern academic jargon is irrelevant and without consequence.

      You seem to be spending way too much time discussing with someone who is irrelevant & insignificant. Dost thou protest too much? You could have had this discussion with RM instead of me. My blog hardly has any readers & I rarely publish. But inadvertently you might end up causing a Streisand Effect.

      You are always welcome to post relevant comments here. While on this topic I don’t care to discuss about Aryans, Mongolian Marxists and Bobby Jindals. Oh, let me remind you – the topic we are supposed to discuss is influence of Indian music in the development of Western music.

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  7. Aryan as a racial category is a colonial construction. Both the ancient Persians and Vedic Indians referred to themselves as Arya, meaning noble, not a race. We are entitled to use that term in reference to these peoples. If you think not, then you are being overly politically correct in avoiding all mention of the “A” word. The ancient Indian scales no doubt passed into other cultures, as foreign kingdoms brought Indian musicians and dancers to their courts all over the the ancient world. The problem is the lack of documentation. My interest is not so much in material culture as in the ideas of religion and music and how they interacted, and thus influenced whole regions. No offense intended with my tangential comments.

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    • Thank you for that on-topic response.

      Aryan: We have to go by the criteria of “popular usage”. Vast majority of people will assume you are referring to a race of light-skinned horse riding nomads. Historic fiction the academy largely still subscribes to. You already rejected my “non-academic positions and agendas”. “Arya, meaning noble, not a race” – may be the fact, but is not yet academically correct. I don’t care about political correctness, as you can see for yourselves if you read my other posts here.

      ancient Indian scales no doubt passed into other cultures

      Not to over-simplify, but from what you have presented so far:
      Ancient Indian = Aryan
      Ancient Iranian = Aryan
      Therefore – hyphenation: Indo-Iranian influence on Western music.
      Is this correct?

      Pardon my ignorance, but I have not come across any material you have published on Iranian music itself.
      Is there any work already available in PD on the ancient Indian & Iranian musical interactions & exchanges?
      Any consensus on the overall direction of ancient influence, east-to-west or west-to-east?
      Would like to know the initial direction of influence in the remote antiquity. Later post-Islamic influence into India of course we know.
      Did any ancient Iranian text on this topic survive Alexander’s pillaging of Persepolis, to then be later burnt by Arabs?

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    • Dr. Beck, I am still waiting for your response to my questions, so we can discuss further. Since there is this well-known problem of lack of documentation, what is the basis for your hyphenation with Iran other than just relying on the common Aryan identity?

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