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Letters...but in all the shouting, no one’s listening.


As I read “The Interpretation of Gods,” I found my mind entertaining the following image: Imagine a Martian anthropologist—learned, sensitive, but quite deaf and not a little arrogant. Suppose him to visit Chicago and attend a performance of the symphony. And suppose we looked at the notes our Martian scholar was scribbling—how might they read?

Perhaps, “Colorful earthling ritual. On dais, scores of shamans worship. In rapt attention, their eyes follow the master shaman’s every ritual gesture. With mouths and fingers, they cradle and caress multiform vessels in sensual homage to their unseen deity.”

Plausible, if you happen to be a deaf Martian. Absurd, if you have ears. The narrow and pretentious outpourings of Doniger, Kripal, et al ring not a little strained and frivolous to anyone with a mite of spiritual sensibility. Please, Chicago, recruit scholars of grander vision than these!

Doniger’s bullying detractors show a similar smallness of mind. Thanks to Mr. Malhotra, we’ve now got a shouting match. Each side digs in its heels, mired in its own self-righteousness—but in all the shouting, no one’s listening. Still, let’s not dismiss Malhotra and his ilk too quickly. Their tactics may be mean-spirited, but their outrage is genuine.

Let the University do its part to bring clarity to this academic fog. It’s high time the University recruited scholars to its fold who really do see both sides of this issue.

Karl Gores Whitmarsh, AB’73
Los Angeles

The Magazine welcomes letters. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited. To ensure a range of views, we encourage letters of fewer than 300 words. Write Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 5801 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637. Or e-mail: