My take on takes on: "Great Soul," by Joseph Lelyveld: "Gandhi left his wife for a Jewish bodybuilder"

Book: Ghandi [Gandhi] left his wife for Jewish bodybuilder

Shocking new biography about Indian leader claims he was racist bi-sexual who had affair with German-Jewish architect

Ynet Published: 03.28.11, 12:30 / Israel News

A new biography on the life of Mahatma Ghandi [Gandhi] claims the Indian pacifist leader was in love with a male German-Jewish bodybuilder. The book "Great Soul" was written by former New York Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld.

Via: Book: Ghandi [Gandhi] left his wife for Jewish bodybuilder - Israel News, Ynetnews.

For a second there, I thought I'd been misspelling Gandhi's name all over the Internet.

Anyway, my comment on Facebook generated the following:

[nameless]: Scurrilous nonsense.

Tom Usher: I have to agree with Subroto at this point. It makes me think of Elton John saying Jesus was homosexual because the Gospel says he loved John. Well, I love my brother, but I've never wanted to have sex with him. So, until there's more than the twisting of some author's writing, I'll just keep thinking of Gandhi as his little heterosexual self.

[nameless]: Tom, "his little heterosexual self"?


Tom Usher: One could read into that phrase all sorts of attitudes not intended. I'm not sure how or whether to flesh it out here.

I do think that there are homosexuals who are preoccupied with "discovering" homosexuality or bisexuality in famous people and especially in those who are most often held up as leading lights. I've seen so many terrible examples of that and seen those terrible examples actually catch on with large segments of the population.

People's reactions to these things vary whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. Who speaks for everyone? Who speaks for everyone even in a large "camp"? It happens, but there are often ruminations below the surface.

On one spectrum, on the left you have homosexuals and heterosexuals and on the right you have homosexuals and heterosexuals. In many ways the homosexuals are closer to the heterosexuals of their same end of that spectrum.

There are many spectra as well, of course.

I don't wish to come off here as shallow or a know-it-all.

I don't know Gandhi's entire life — if he ever had a sexual experience with a male. Even if I were to know that he did, I'd still not be in a position to know it was more than experimentation he rejected rather quickly.

As it is though and as I suggested, I will refrain from thinking of him as a bi-sexual. At this point, I don't see evidence he was bi-sexual.

Subroto Roy:

Tom, that is among the most clear-headed opinions I have seen on this in recent weeks. I trust you will not mind if I quote you in the Note. Gandhi's sexuality, like anyone else's sexuality, would have been an important aspect of his life; and sexuality and sexual consciousness and sexual self-knowledge are such odd and subtle and complex things after all, evolving throughout a lifetime. But when you end up doing so much else in the public domain, as he did, its public significance diminishes proportionately. Suby

Tom Usher:

By all means, quote me. May I quote you as well?

Subroto Roy:

No problem.

My take on: "Book: Ghandi [Gandhi] left his wife for Jewish bodybuilder - Israel News, Ynetnews":

A new biography on the life of Mahatma Ghandi [Gandhi] claims the Indian pacifist leader was in love with a male German-Jewish bodybuilder. ... According to the Telegraph, [I've added links to the Ynetnews passages] the book alleges Ghandi [Gandhi] was in love with German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder, Hermann Kallenbach, for whom he left his wife in 1908.

Okay, but I've loved many males in my life and had sex with none. In coming to know what homosexuality is, of course this is temptation, just as Jesus was tempted. All confrontations with going off the narrow way are temptation and the fact of them cannot necessarily be recorded as sin on the part of the one being subjected to the evil of the one or ones doing the tempting. This is a relative thing though, as God is above temptation in a certain absolute sense. In other words, it is a philosophical hair that may be split until there is no more hair — until the subject has changed. It becomes, as does everything, a matter of semantics.

The book "Great Soul" was written by former New York Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld.

Is he a homosexual or bi-sexual? Does it matter? It could and for the reasons I mentioned above in my Facebook (FB) commentary. However, he has stated elsewhere I've read that he was not making the case that Gandhi was bi-sexual. That "agenda" appears to be the work of other minds who want the world to think of Gandhi as such or to at least cast doubt upon his heterosexuality. Casting doubt is the prime method for evil to begin to cause a soul to slip and to experience an ever slipperier and steeper slope.

It also claims that as an older man he held "nightly cuddles" – without clothes - with seventeen year-old girls, including his own niece.

That's irrelevant. If he was capable of doing that without obtaining erections and without desiring to have sex with them, more power to him.
The Daily Mail article states:

He once told a woman: 'Despite my best efforts, the organ remained aroused. It was an altogether strange and shameful experience.'

I can relate to that on a certain level. "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" is how Jesus would put it. The quote though indicates that he was not having intercourse with them and didn't want to. He wanted them to be safe from the involuntary flesh. I don't look upon that as a bad thing on his part at all. It can be done though. Why he wasn't able to manage it, I don't know other than of course, he had residual things happening in his mind where his body wasn't obeying him. Beating oneself up for it is not the answer.

That Daily Mail article also states:

The biography also details one instance in which he forced Manu to walk through a part of the jungle where sexual assaults had in the past taken place just to fetch a pumice stone for him he liked to use to clean his feet.

She returned with tears in her eyes but Gandhi just 'cackled' and said: 'If some ruffian had carried you off and you had met your death courageously, my heart would have danced with joy.'

Now, that is a statement that is easily misunderstood by the conventional and parochial mind and language. Gandhi was a spiritual person who was somewhat if not primarily syncretic. There is a place in the spirit where fear is the enemy. His point was on courage, even if the prosaic mind doesn't grasp it. The point is that she wasn't hurt and that he wanted for her what he saw as courage. That in and of itself is not evil or selfish, contrary to the spirit of the whole quoted passage from the Daily Mail. The greater point should include Gandhi's attitude about the ruffians he would also have change. That is consistent with Jesus's teachings as well. I subscribe to that. I've had similar issues in my own life.

I had a woman come into my house with my six-year-old daughter in tow whereupon she commenced to lecture me about how wicked it is that I allow her to play outside in my yard alone. I explained to her that I was not interested in raising a cowardly child but that I also understand the where and when of vigilance and have something going on of a spiritual nature that escaped her, that woman. She left confused but never bothered us again. My daughter is the better for my not having constantly hovered over her, although she may beg to differ on how much hovering I actually did.

"Gandhi wrote to Kallenbach about 'how completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance',"

A bodybuilder would have been very interested in his physique and likely his health and such. He may very well have been instrumental in causing Gandhi to become more aware of those things and to also attempt to stick to a dietary and physical regimen of some sort. One cannot conclude from Gandhi's statement that it meant sexual intercourse of any kind.

the book said. It is also claimed that Ghandi [Gandhi] nicknamed himself "Upper House" and Kallenbach "Lower House."

This of course could be (I believe is) alluding to matters spiritual. Kallenbach was an architect. Gandhi was well read. I don't know when he read Augustine for instance or others who would have been thinking about the spiritual house as upper versus the material house that so far has been lower. Frankly, the idea of associating this with homosexuality would never have occurred to me. It's a stretch that seems "clear" to the mind that wants the world to come to think of homosex as not only not a bad thing but to consider it a great and healthy thing divorced from any negative consequences of its own accord and divorced from all negative forms of lust such as greed and violence. However, there are positive correlations — meaning homosex, greed, and violence are related even though they don't all have to be manifest in their most glaring in one place all at the same time. They are each subcategories of lust in general — lust for selfishness apart from wholeness that is the perfect as envisioned by Jesus.

According to the Daily Mail, Kallenbach was born in Germany but emigrated to South Africa where he became a wealthy architect. He lived with Ghandi [Gandhi] for two years in a house he built in South Africa.

How many men have had male roommates or house mates where there was no sex between them and no temptation concerning the same? I've roomed with males at school and otherwise. Sex didn't enter into it. If all males who ever live under the same roof together are therefore bi-sexual or homosexual, then that would be news to all the males who believe themselves heterosexual by reason of the fact that they don't desire sex with their fellow males.

As late as 1933 Ghandi [Gandhi] wrote to Kallenbach telling of his unending desire and branding his ex-wife "the most venomous woman I have met," the Daily Mail reported.

Lot's of men think of their ex-wives as "the most venomous woman [they] have met." It's rather common. As for desire to get back to a life with one's close male friends, to return to a better time, is not an indication of sexual desire. I have attempted at times to rekindle old friendships. People change though. People develop in different directions, so it isn't always to be that one may regain some of the better aspects of one's old friendships and fraternal and what is called Platonic-love relationships. Love is a term that should never be used exclusively to mean sexual. There is also sex without love.

"I cannot imagine a thing as ugly as the intercourse of men and women," he once told Kallenbach.

On a certain spiritual level, there is nothing unusual in this thought. It would depend upon the spirit between the man and the woman. A union of true love is not ugly. The issue with Gandhi there may well have been a general statement of the condition of humanity where there is so much falling short of the pure, unselfish affection that can and has existed between certain men and women in all of existence. Sex for love versus sex for the physical certainly is a matter of ugliness. Whether Gandhi and I would have come to see eye-to-eye on this, I cannot say at this point. I do know that after having read a cross-section of his works, I do not agree with him concerning a number of things ultimate. He was not a Christian in any sense, although he thought of himself as appreciating Jesus sans the mainline denominations. He was a Hindu more than anything, an adherent to Ram. I don't subscribe. He was also not a total pacifist. He left room in his philosophy for his followers to take to violence if it came to that over what he saw as cowardice. Exactly where and when that cowardice arises such that one should rather fight and kill, I don't see. The idea is foreign to Christ's teachings.

The book also claims the Indian leader held racist views against South African blacks.

Well, he did; however, he may have been making his statement to one who understood more about Gandhi's view concerning nature versus nurture. Who's to say that Gandhi necessarily faulted those Black's genetically speaking where simply introducing concepts unfamiliar to them wouldn't work their spiritual work for the good? I'm not prepared to say what was in Gandhi's heart and mind in that regard. Certainly, there have been savage tribes all over the world, White, Black, and every other. Enlightenment hasn't come to all peoples instantly and evenly. That doesn't mean that individual members of the various tribes are unworthy to be given the word. It also doesn't prove that ultimately all nations will not come to see the light. I say they will. I say those who refuse will fall away. Those who remain will be likeminded in ways beyond what Gandhi's followers obtained for a fleeting season.

"We were marched off to a prison intended for Kaffirs," he is quoted as saying during a visit to the country. "We could understand not being classed with whites, but to be placed on the same level as the Natives seemed too much to put up with. Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilized."

Well, was he lying (for the time)? Were they "as a rule uncivilized" in the sense Gandhi meant? Was it unfair treatment not to segregate him from those others? It was a different time. Not too long before on that same continent, cannibalism was not uncommon. Extremely strange ideas and fears concerning the other were prevalent such that even attempting to communicate was rendered all but precluded. Would it have been right to put Gandhi in a cannibal's village because he was seen as inferior to the Whites? I would say so. That doesn't show I'm a racist. Plenty of descendants of cannibals abhor that dark past. We all have darkness in our genetic lineages. Jesus's genetic ancestors made mistakes. That's part of the message. It's part of the Good News — that we may overcome. There's nothing racist in that. Jesus went first to his closest biological kin but also made clear that his message was not to be reserved to them. I see nothing wrong in that at all. I rather love it. I rather love that guy, Jesus, and I don't have the slightest interest in having sex with him, now or ever.

The Wall Street Journal's review states the book depicts Gandhi as "a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent, a fanatical faddist, implacably racist, and a ceaseless self-promoter, professing his love for mankind as a concept while actually despising people as individuals."

It goes further than that:

Joseph Lelyveld has written a generally admiring book about Mohandas Gandhi, the man credited with leading India to independence from Britain in 1947. Yet "Great Soul" also obligingly gives readers more than enough information to discern that he was a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist—one who was often downright cruel to those around him. Gandhi was therefore the archetypal 20th-century progressive intellectual, professing his love for mankind as a concept while actually ­despising people as individuals. [emphasis added]

"...the archetypal 20th-century progressive intellectual, professing his love for mankind as a concept while actually ­despising people as individuals." Jesus was a "archetypal 20th-century progressive intellectual"? It's laughable. It's the typical anti-Christ mentality speaking there against progressive intellectuals because that anti-Christ mentality wants all things associated with the giving-and-sharing economy to be placed in doubt. It is "The Wall Street Journal" afterall. Nothing could be farther and further from the Christian Commons.
That Wall Street Journal article is nothing short of a hit piece. A great deal is taken completely out of context and is written from the perspective of someone who is spiritually retarded.

Well, I haven't read the book, and I don't know that I'd care to. I suppose I'd pursue it given the opportunity. What's a weirdo, someone who can't be naked with seventeen-year-old girls without being unable to avoid wanting sex with them? "political incompetent"? He wasn't Churchill's kind of politician. He did get the job done of getting Churchill's ilk out of India, and rightly so. He wasn't wrong about the technological appropriateness of some of his ideas for the India of his day. He was too compartmental for me, too Luddite in a way; but he was not worse than the Churchill types. He was a better man than Churchill. I can say that without reservation.

Gandhi read all the main scriptures of the major religions. He read many of the philosophers. Exactly when he did that in terms of the timing of his correspondence with Kallenbach is something I've not studied. It doesn't much matter to me. Once one has read all of those things and has discussed them in manners that more than suggest that one is reaching for esoteric understanding to bring it into the mainstream, one ought not think of that other one (Gandhi) as any longer speaking in theretofore conventional or parochial terms.

Jesus loved humanity but despised people as individuals. Jesus also despised humanity but loved people as individuals. The only way that makes sense is within the full-context meaning Jesus applied to those terms. It cannot be understood via the heretofore conventional or parochial. I dare say though that Gandhi, having read the Gospel, which I know he did, contemplated long and hard on these matters and did make some headway in grasping meanings over and beyond the said conventional and parochial understandings. I do know that he did not fully understand Jesus, however, else he would definitely have become a Christian leader. He made the unending error of rejecting Jesus because of those who claimed to be Christian even while he, Gandhi, said things that indicated that he realized the two should not be taken as necessarily unified. Jesus and his Church are not everyone who claims Christianity. Gandhi loved my Christ but not my Christians, but they aren't and weren't my Christians or Jesus's Christians. Gandhi should not have gone that route. He should have love Jesus and therefore been a Christian himself. He did not though become a Christian; and therefore, by Jesus's own definition of Christianity, Gandhi did not love Jesus or even like him but rather hated him, which leaves the door open to that perhaps Gandhi was sexually disturbed or otherwise confused regarding his place in terms of lust: Greed, violence, and/or sexual depravity. As I've mentioned, he left room for violence where Jesus Christ does not.

The WSJ article quotes Gandhi about the Black Africans and the Whites view about racial purity, "We [Gandhi] believe as much in the purity of races as we think they do."

That is a difficult statement to defend, and I won't even attempt to mitigate it. I don't believe in that "racial purity." That "racial purity" cannot be confused with spiritual purity. Gandhi appears to mean biological/ethnic purity there. It does show his confusion and lower state vis-a-vis Jesus Christ, who holds with no such "racial purity" but rather takes people completely spiritually even while understanding the flesh at the same time. The spirit is over flesh and will bring the flesh into conformity, a state Gandhi did not attain though he seemed to want to.

Certainly, Gandhi was not Christ. He went through phases. He had some limited knowledge about diet and food's impact upon the psyche (spirit and soul). That's not to say that foods don't impact upon sexual desires. They do. It's been known for thousands of years, and "science" is now catching up with and clarifying much about that in the non-spiritual sense. It will have to deal with the spiritual; but the spirit cannot be tested, so that "science" must change or hit a plateau.

The WSJ continues:

Gandhi was willing to stand up for the Untouchables, just not at the crucial moment when they were demanding the right to pray in temples in 1924-25. He was worried about alienating high-caste Hindus. "Would you teach the Gospel to a cow?" he asked a visiting missionary in 1936. "Well, some of the Untouchables are worse than cows in their understanding."

Jesus though said not to cast pearls before swine. What does it mean? The swine are people there. They are unenlightened and unreceptive and dangerous to the flesh. As for Gandhi's choice though, he was clearly wrong because he was not a Christian. Yes, you would teach the Gospel to the Untouchables if you knew the Gospel, which Gandhi did not. He knew it as a cow in this sense.

I am not a Gandhi apologist. I have written negatively about Gandhi. I don't though like taking him out of context, which Gandhi-haters love to do whether they understand the context or not — and I say they do not.

Most people like to link the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., to Gandhi; but that is a very superficial reading of King. Jesus Christ was King's leading light by far. Gandhi was not a spiritual leader of King's. Gandhi was an example of non-violent struggle, with all his warts. That non-violence was not original with Gandhi, who was himself influenced by Leo Tolstoy and Leo's anarcho-Christianity.

Gandhi is not the Mahatma for me. He was clearly better than Hitler and Churchill and many, many others; but he is not Jesus Christ or even close to it.

The New York Times praised the book. "Lelyveld is especially qualified to write about Gandhi's career on both sides of the Indian Ocean: he covered South Africa for The New York [Times?], and spent several years in the late 1960s reporting from India. He brings to his subject a reporter's healthy skepticism," the paper said.

Of the various articles linked to above, that NYT piece is the closest to reality. It is the most appreciative of the pragmatism of Gandhi even while not losing sight of his greater spiritual ambitions.

I'm not satisfied with this level of knowledge about the matter in terms of the treatment of Gandhi by the mainstream and why this "issue" is being given so much uncritical play other than I highly suspect that homosexuals (certain of them who like to use the term homosexual "community" especially) are up to no good trying to relax the natural inhibitions and actual initial revulsions on the part of the children toward homosexuality.

It is a double-edged sword, as Gandhi is also being portrayed as a sexual weirdo — not conducive to that agenda of that "community."

Reviews of Lelyveld's Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India claimed that the book portrays Gandhi as a bisexual with a relationship with one of his disciples, the German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder Hermann Kallenbach, a charge that Lelyveld insists is incorrect.

Since the controversy broke out, Lelyveld has consistently denied claims that his book portrays Gandhi as a bisexual, or a racist, etc. "It does not say Gandhi was bisexual. It does not say that he was homosexual. It does not say that he was a racist. The word bisexual never appears in the book and the word racist only appears once in a very limited context; relating to a single phrase and not to Gandhi's whole set attitudes or history in South Africa. I didn't say these things, So I can hardly defend them."

Lelyveld adds, "It is a responsible book, it is a sensitive book, it is a book that is admiring of Gandhi and his struggle for social justice in India and it's been turned into as if it is some kind of sensationalist pot boiler. It is not."

Lelyveld quotes correspondence between Gandhi and Kallenbach, including excerpts from the latter's diary, with language that seems suggestive of a homosexual relationship, with Gandhi speaking of his disciple Kallenbach as "Lower House," and of himself as "Upper House," and saying that cotton-wool and Vaseline were a constant reminder of their "mutual love," Lelyveld says this relates to the cotton wool and Vaseline that Gandhi and Kallenbach used in giving themselves enemas, one of Gandhi's fads. Both Lelyveld and other commentators have claimed that while the language by today's standards may seem to betray a homosexual relationship, for the time period in which it was used, it was the usual language between close platonic friendship bonds.

Politicians in India have generally and across the political spectrum denounced the book and demanded it be banned as being allegedly defamatory, with the Government of Gujarat under Narendra Modi banning the book as "perverse in nature... hurting the sentiments of those with capacity for sane and logical thinking," and demanding a "public apology" from Lelyveld, and with Federal Law Minister Veerappa Moily of the Governments of India and Industries Minister Narayan Rane of the Government of Maharashtra promising to ban it. There have also been demands for an apology from Lelyveld and demands to have him prosecuted. Liberal commentators and some Gandhi kin have taken umbrage against the backlash against Lelyveld and opposed moves to ban the book.

Source: "Joseph Lelyveld: Controversy over Mahatma Gandhi," Wikipedia. (accessed April 11, 2011).

Lest you falsely imagine that I overstate the case concerning the agenda of some homosexuals:

Bio Details Malcolm X's Gay Life
A new biography discusses slain civil rights leader Malcolm X's "early homosexual relationship with a white businessman."
By Editors
First Gandhi, now Malcolm X?

Now, to be "fair," that homosexual site hasn't (as of the original date of this post) taken an editorial position regarding either Gandhi's or Malcolm X's sexuality. However, if you want to see more on the subject in terms of how the radical and even fascistic homosexuals use such materials, do a Google search on the issue and steer to other than the beaten paths. You'll find homosexuals now speaking and writing that it is a done deal that Gandhi was a homosexual so everyone needs to accept homosexuality as being something to not only be protected but lauded. I will not be supplying links to such, as they usually come with at least soft-core porn of homosexuality — something I prefer not being subjected to and don't wish to promote amongst my site-visitors.

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  • Tom Usher

    About Tom Usher

    Employment: 2008 - present, website developer and writer. 2015 - present, insurance broker. Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Political Science. City University of Seattle, graduate studies in Public Administration. Volunteerism: 2007 - present, president of the Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project.
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