Despite his massive political and spiritual influence, the twentieth century Indian revolutionary turned mystic Sri Aurobindo Ghose has been curiously neglected in Western scholarship. Heehs, one of the founders of the Aurobindo Ashram Archives, corrects this by producing what is certain to become Aurobindo's definitive biography. Aptly pluralized, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo recovers Aurobindo as a scholar, politician, revolutionary, poet, philosopher and sage by helpfully dividing the major periods of his life from his childhood in India and England to his final years as reclusive spiritual guru with the equally enigmatic Mother at their [Pondicherry] ashram. While certainly rewarding, wading through Aurobindo's prolific writings can be a daunting task. Heehs, therefore, has done us a great service by organizing vast amounts of primary and secondary sources, including Aurobindo's own diaries and unpublished letters, to produce a compelling biography that intelligently discusses the main themes of Aurobindo's epic political, literary, and metaphysical canon. He is also to be congratulated for resisting the tendency to mythologize and perpetuate the romantic mystification of earlier hagiographies. Although clearly persuaded by Aurobindo's spiritual weight and metaphysical vision, Heehs doesn't avoid less flattering issues such as Aurobindo's early commitment to political violence and the neglect of his wife. The result is a clear and detailed picture of a fascinating figure whose continuing religious relevance can be seen in the contemporary popularity of many of his pioneering East-West teachings: the evolution of consciousness, an integral approach to spiritual liberation and a socially engaged this-worldly mysticism. Particularly recommended for those interested in the religious, cultural and political landscape of twentieth-century India.

Ann Gleig, Rice University, in Religious Studies Review 35 (1) March 2009