2002 Indic Colloquium
Participant Detail

Back to Schedule and Participants
Back to Colloquium Home

Makarand Paranjape

Contact Information




Jawaharlal Nehru University
English Department
New Delhi, INDIA 110067






91-11-6165886 / 6198234 JNU FAX


Phone (other)

91-11-6107676 / 6167557 JNU





Web site






Background Information

Makarand Paranjape is Professor of English at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His serveral published books include Decolonization and Development: Hind Svaraj Revisioned (1993) and The Penguin Sri Aurobindo Reader (2000).


The Third Eye and Two Ways of (Un)knowing: Gnosis, Alternative Modernities, and Postcolonial Futures

This paper takes as its starting point Sri Aurobindo's critique of Western irrationalism. What emerges from such a critique is that the central philosophical enterprise of the West proceeds in cycles of affirmation and negation of a certain kind of rationality. In the last two hundred years or so, this has meant the enthronement of instrumental reason and then its recent repudiation at the hands of several thinkers. Neo-classcisim, romanticism, modernism, and, now, postmodernism also show traces of a similar cycle of affirmation and negation. Seeing its own history in terms of a progression from the pre-modern, to the modern, to the post-modern, the West has relegated other societies to a space equivalent to its own irrational past, thereby turning geography into history. However, I would like to argue that a civilization such as India is neither pre-modern, nor modern. In fact, one cannot call it post-modern or anti-modern either, though that is how some choose to see it. I would argue that India is best understood either as a traditional or a non-modern society. By this is meant that it does not subscribe to the logic of History that the West has invented. In a non-modern society, what is central is neither rationality nor its opposite, but something else, call it wisdom, which includes but supercedes rationality. The debate between the West and India is not between modernity and tradition or between modernity and pre- or anti-modernity, but between modernity and non-modernity. Indeed, in the ultimate analysis, this is a debate between two kinds of rationality, two ways of seeing, two visions and version of the world. A new global renaissance is possible not by rejecting or negating the West or by posting some kind of dissenting knowledge system against the dominant one, but by trying to change the world order on the basis of a mass inner awakening and transformation. In this process, wisdom, which is signified by the opening of the third eye, has to play a key role, not just the rationality-anti-rationality axis in which we seem to be ensnared at the present.

Read the entire paper in PDF format (48K, 9 pp.)