You say that Auroville is a dream. Yes, it is a “dream”
of the Lord and generally these “dreams” turn out to be true – much more true
than the so-called human realities!849
– The Mother
Imagine the surrealistic scene: on a plain of red laterite, baked by the sun, a crowd brought there in buses has gathered. They seek shelter under a wide circle of canvas put up for the occasion. In the middle of the circle a small conical hill has been covered with masonry; at the top it carries a ceramic urn in the shape of a stylized lotus. Representatives, most of them young ones, from countries around the globe drop a handful of the soil of their country in that urn, after having repeated in their respective languages a kind of formula read out via loudspeakers . This took place on 28 February 1968 some ten kilometers to the north of Pondicherry. The representatives had come from 124 nations and 23 Indian states. The voice from the loudspeakers was that of the Mother. The formula was the charter of a new city being founded there by her at that very moment: Auroville, the City of Dawn – the new Utopia.
‘We still see her [the Mother], half standing half sitting on a stool, writing the “Charter of Auroville” on that window-sill, equipped with a big piece of parchment and a too thick felt-tip pen which made her handwriting look like cuneiform characters,’ remembers Satprem. ‘”I don’t write pompous solemnities,” she said turning in our direction (and there was always that witty glimmer in her eyes).’ And she wrote in the original French:
CHARTER OF AUROVILLE
1. Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville one must be the willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.
2. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
3. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realizations.
4. Auroville will be a site of spiritual and material researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity.
These were the words that resounded on 28 February 1968 in her voice, in French and English, over that blazing plain where in the distance some slim solitary palmyra trees seemed to dance in the hot air. The charter was being broadcast via all antennae of Akashvani, the Indian national radio. And it was preceded by a salutation: ‘Greetings from Auroville to all men of good will. Are being invited to Auroville all those who thirst for progress and aspire to a higher and truer life.’
When she had finished writing the charter, the Mother also said, descending from the stool: ‘Voila. It is not I who wrote all this. I have marked something very interesting: when it comes, it is imperative, no discussion is possible. I write it down – I am forced
to write it down, whatever I may try to do . It is therefore evident that it
does not come from here: it comes from somewhere above.’850
The City That Wants to Descend Upon the Earth
This did not mean that Auroville came out of the blue on that day and at that moment. The idea of it (or shall we say its hidden presence?) had cropped up several times in the Mother’s life, even in her early youth and afterwards during the occult explorations with Max Théon. It was probably in the Thirties that she had the vision of a city with the living Sri Aurobindo at its Centre, for Antonin Raymond, the architect of Golconde, had then drawn a plan for it. This plan must have remained a distinct possibility for some years as Franti¹ek Sammer too got involved, but this was already during the war, when Sammer was a Squadron Leader with the Royal Air Force. The plan almost got realized when Sir Hyder Ali, chief minister of the Nizam of Hyderabad, offered the Mother a plot of land before the independence of India (1947) in what was at that time the state of Hyderabad. Who can fancy how the Aurobindonian world, now centered around Pondicherry and Auroville, might have looked if this plan had materialized?
And who knows what events from times long past kept vibrating in the Mother every time the intention to found the city of the future rose again to the surface in her. She has said that she had been the mother of Amenhotep IV, the remarkable queen Tiy. This Amenhotep left Thebes in order to found in the desert a brand-new city, Akhetaton, i.e. dedicated to Aton, the god of the disk of the Sun, and he called himself Akhenaton, He Who Serves the Aton. His wife was Nefertiti, famous for the beauty of her conserved bust, and his son-in-law and successor was the equally famous Tutankhamen. Akhenaton’s new religion became ‘the closest approach to monotheism the world had ever seen,’ writes an Egyptologist. It created a new life-style and a much more realistic form of art – the reason why Nefertiti’s bust is still admired by so many.
The profound influence of queen Tiy on her son is a historical fact, but not much is known of the rationale of the whole enterprise. Could it have been that the sun disk, Aton, never depicted as a personified god, represented the golden sun of the Unity-Consciousness, the ‘monotheistic’ One that is Everything, and that Akhenaton, the servant of Aton, deemed himself the instrument of the One? To undertake the adventure of the foundation of Akhetaton against the established religious order, his convictions (or inner knowledge?) must have been exceptionally strong and his surrender unconditional.
Those who are familiar with the story of the budding of Auroville feel spontaneously stirred when they read about Akhenaton and his new city in the desert sands. But the conservative priests of the traditional religions of Amon and Re finally carried the day against the revolutionary innovator – which was the reason why Tutankhaton changed his name into Tutankhamen. Akhetaton has been sleeping for centuries under the sands of a hill near Amarna, Tell-el-Amarna.
After the departure of Sri Aurobindo, the city that
wanted to descend upon the Earth disappeared for some time from the immediate
interests of the Mother, but not for long. In the beginning of the Fifties, the
city again started forcing itself on her attention. In 1952 she wrote: ‘The
unity of the human race can be achieved neither through uniformity nor through
domination and subjection. A synthetic organization of all nations, each one
occupying its own place in accordance with its own genius and the role it has to
play in the whole, can alone effect a comprehensive and progressive unification
which may have some chance of enduring. And if the synthesis is to be a living
thing, the grouping should be done around a central idea as high and wide as
possible, and in which all tendencies, even the most contradictory, would find
their respective places. That idea is to give man the conditions of life
necessary for preparing him to manifest the new force that will create the race
of tomorrow.’851 In these words, one finds Sri Aurobindo’s vision of world unity as the indispensable condition for world transformation and the divinization of the Earth.
In August 1954, the Mother published her well-known
text ‘A Dream’. ‘There should be somewhere upon earth a place that no nation
could claim as its sole property, a place where all human beings of goodwill,
sincere in their aspiration, could live freely as citizens of the world, obeying
one single authority, that of the supreme Truth; a place of peace, concord,
harmony, where all the fighting instincts of man would be used exclusively to
conquer the causes of his suffering and misery, to surmount his weakness and
ignorance, to triumph over his limitations and incapacities; a place where the
needs of the spirit and the care for progress would get precedence over the
satisfaction of desires and passions, the seeking for pleasure and material
enjoyments.’ She then briefly passes in review the principles on which such a
place should come about, educationally, organizationally, financially and
economically, ‘for in this ideal place money would no more be the sovereign
lord.’ And she continues: ‘The earth is certainly not yet ready to realise such
an ideal, for mankind does not yet possess the necessary knowledge to understand
and accept it or the indispensable conscious force to execute it. That is why I
call it a dream.’852
But the supramental transformation was advancing with giant strides. In the previous chapters we have followed its principal phases up to 1968. The circumstances quickly improved to render the realization of the dream possible. The main requirement for such a place on Earth was that it be protected in an occult way. Everything new always meets with strong adversities till in course of time it becomes, if sufficiently viable, the familiar way of viewing things and in its name the next new and unusual something is being attacked. Such are the petty ways of humanity. But this new something contained a deadly danger for the established order. It did not want to push it aside to take its place. No, what it wanted was much worse: it wanted to transform the established order, so that consequently this order would no longer remain itself or could no longer remain in existence. The new city had to become the ferment of a new Evolution, of a New Order in which there would no longer be a place for the old laws and their Masters. Not only would humanity, archconservative in its ignorance (and malicious selfishness), refuse to allow this, the Asura of Falsehood, the Lord of the existing Order, would not stand it and launch his legions to hold on to his empire. Without a powerful occult protection the ‘cradle of the New World’ would never be able to exist; very soon it would become another Tell-el-Amarna, a hill of sand in the desert. How many hills of this kind dot the road of the long march of humanity?
From 1965 onwards the plan of the new city gradually
began to take shape. When the Mother was asked how Auroville was going, she
answered: ‘Auroville is going well and is becoming more and more real, but its
realisation does not proceed in the usual human way and it is more visible to
the inner consciousness than to the outer eye.’853 ‘Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all
countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds,
all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human
unity,’854 she wrote in September of that year.
In May 1966 she wrote to a person who probably had read ‘A Dream’: ‘You say that Auroville is a dream. Yes, it is a “dream” of the Lord and generally those “dreams” turn out to be true
– much more true than the human so-called realities!’855 About the origin of the future city she never left place for the least
doubt: ‘The conception of Auroville is purely divine and has preceded its
execution by many years.’856 Asked who had taken the initiative of building the city, she answered: ‘The supreme Lord.’
In between her other external and internal work, the Mother gave a lot of attention to Auroville. The occult task consisted in bringing the city, which existed in the subtle physical, down into terrestrial materiality. When asked where the city should be located, she asked for a map, closed her eyes and planted her finger on a spot some fifteen kilometers to the north of Pondicherry, near the coastline of the state of Tamil Nadu (Land of the Tamils), where there are some scattered bits of Pondicherrian territory. Plots of land had to be bought. The establishment of the international city had to be discussed with the government of Tamil Nadu and the central government in New Delhi. UNESCO was asked to recognize the project, and it did so. The first constructions arose on the barren soil, candidates for becoming the first Aurovillians wrote letters to the Mother or came reconnoitering, architects started designing their dream city.
A Centre of Transformation
The Mother laid down that the maximum number of inhabitants should never exceed 50,000, because a city is no longer viable with a population beyond this number. As master plan she chose the grand model of a spiral galaxy, one of the designs by the Builder of the universe himself. She divided the future city into four zones: international, residential, cultural and industrial. It is difficult to find out when exactly the name of Auroville was coined, but she made clear that it meant ‘City of Dawn’ (aurora), not City of Sri Aurobindo, as is often supposed, although the association with his golden name will always resonate in the name of Auroville.
What was the aim of the city and who were expected to become its inhabitants? As is clear from many of the aforementioned quotations, the Mother often stressed the realization of human unity. (Once she called the city ‘the Tower of Babel in reverse . Then they came together but separated during the construction; now they are coming again to unite during the construction.’857 She even made the reflection whether the Tower of Babel – just like Akhetaton – had not been an early essay to build something like Auroville.)
She therefore laid down the ‘conditions to live in
Auroville’ as follows: ‘1. To be convinced of the essential unity of mankind and
to have the will to collaborate for the material realisation of that unity; 2.
To have the will to collaborate in all that furthers future realisations.’858 These were the ‘psychological conditions,’ ‘the goodwill
to make a collective experiment for the progress of mankind’.859
From the spiritual standpoint, however, Auroville was a new step forward in the realization of the supramental transformation process on Earth and in the material accomplishment of the task of the Avatar. The unification of humanity was a necessary condition thereof, but by itself, as an independent ‘worldly’ attempt, it would have been a rather limited motive. This is why the Mother wrote: ‘Auroville wants to be the first realisation of human unity based on the teaching of Sri Aurobindo860.’ She declared: ‘The task of giving a concrete form to Sri Aurobindo’s
vision was entrusted to the Mother. The creation of a new world, a new humanity,
a new society expressing and embodying the new consciousness is the work she has
undertaken. By the very nature of things it is a collective ideal that calls for
a collective effort, so that it may be realised in the terms of an integral
human perfection.’861 An
integral human perfection can be no other than a supramental perfection; all
perfections inferior to it remain under the spell of the Subconscient and
Inconscient, and consequently can never be integral. The Mother therefore wrote
in a message for UNESCO: ‘Auroville is meant to hasten the advent of the
supramental Reality upon earth.’862 Auroville was meant to be ‘the cradle of the overman’, according to the
definition of the word overman as a transitional being. ‘Auroville has been
created for an overhumanity, for those who want to surmount their ego and
renounce all desire, to prepare themselves for receiving the supermind. They
alone are true Aurovillians.’863
‘[Auroville] is a centre of transformation, a small nucleus of men who are
transforming themselves and setting an example to the world. That is what
Auroville hopes to be.’864
From this we may conclude that there was a minimal condition to become an Aurovillian, namely a willingness to turn towards the future and to collaborate in the realization of the essential oneness of humanity, and a maximal condition, the pursuit of overmanhood – with all possible positions and variations in between. One of the causes of this apparent ambivalence, afterwards to be encountered in the attitude of many Aurovillians, was the danger that Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and their teaching might be hardened into a new religion. For it is in the nature of the human being to slide, without noticing it, from a living experience (e.g. a spiritual one) into a mental fixation of the experience (e.g. dogmatic religiosity).
‘No New Religion’
All religions have grown out of a living revelation, communicated in its pure, living form by an Avatar, who is the active incorporation of his or her message, or in a lesser form by a human instrument, a prophet. The aim of the revelation is that it should become in the experience of those who accept it as real and living as in the experience of the Initiator. This happens sometimes, in exceptional cases. But up to now it has generally been the mass which has appropriated the revelation for itself, and the general level of mankind is still so low (‘humanity is still very little,’ as the Mother said) that it always simplifies the message of the revelation, which it is unable to comprehend mentally, and that it degrades its spiritual content. Moreover, the ego is present, in humanity and in spiritual matters, with its usually masked inclination towards selfishness, possession and power.
The living revelation becomes encased in formulated articles of faith, in a creed. This creed appropriates the revelation for itself and strives to impose its skeletal remains on all other forms of professed creeds, on penalty of eternal damnation and even of physical death. It proclaims its formulas as the only ones leading to salvation and starts mentalizing and distorting them until they have become a caricature of the original source. Spirituality is based on the direct experience of a supra-mental reality; as such, it is felt to be irrational by the mental consciousness of the human being. Religion is always suspicious of true mysticism and of the true spiritual experience, for it knows itself to move on a much less elevated plane. Once religion has the worldly powers behind it, it will hush up the (irrational) mystics, expel them (even physically from life) or try to bring them back ‘within the womb of the community,’ within the ranks of a predominantly worldly organization in which all spiritual flowers are artificial.
The teaching of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, together with their abundantly documented biographies, contain more than sufficient elements to turn it all into a new religion. One will remember how the Mother experienced this in April 1962 as a distinct possibility. In December 1972, Newsweek published an article about the Mother under the title: The Next Great Religion? And the first sectarian tendencies, fungi on the humus of their vision, are perceptible.
Those who draw their inspiration from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have to defend themselves against allegations by religions and worldly organizations that they belong to a sect. At a time when sects are rife (a significant phenomenon caused by the turbulence of a world in transition), most of them with their roots in Eastern soil, it is not easy to show convincingly that this is not a sect. Anyone who has read this book up to here knows how any kind of sectarian mentality is incompatible with the vision (in this context it even feels incorrect to use the word ‘teaching’) of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The rich and voluminous literature they have left was intended as a communication of their own experience865
and for the expansion of the understanding and the knowledge of the reader; they
have always stressed the absolute individuality of the way; they have made it
dear that the path of the transformation, the road towards tomorrow, is a
prospect for the mature souls who, in surrender, want to respond to the call
which cannot be defined by words or formulas. We know all that. But names like
‘Sri Aurobindo’ and ‘Mother’ are automatically associated with sectarianism by
the prejudiced and unknowledgeable, and it is hard to deny that some followers
of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother take on sectarian attitudes. The Mother herself
said, looking down from her room into the courtyard of the central Ashram
building where Ashramites and visitors were thronging around Sri Aurobindo’s
tomb: ‘They are already making a religion of it.’ And she wrote by way of
admonition: ‘Do not take my words for a teaching. Always they are a force in
action, uttered with a definite purpose, and they lose their power when
separated from that purpose.’866
This may therefore be an appropriate place to quote the
following words of the Mother in connection with Auroville and religion: ‘We
want the Truth . Auroville is for those who want to live a life essentially
divine but who renounce all religions whether they be ancient, modern, new or
future. It is only in experience that there can be knowledge of the Truth. No
one ought to speak of the Divine unless he has had experience of the Divine. Get
experience of the Divine, then alone will you have the right to speak of it. The
objective study of religions will be a part of the historical study of the
development of human consciousness. Religions make up part of the history of
mankind and it is in this guise that they will be studied in Auroville – not as
beliefs to which one ought or ought not adhere, but as part of a process in the
development of human consciousness which should lead man towards his superior
On 23 November 1968 she said: ‘No new religions, no dogmas, no fixed teachings. It has to be avoided at any price that this should become a new religion. For as soon as it would be formulated in some elegant and impressive way, that would be the end868.’ But history shows that the sectarian-minded most readily quote the antisectarian statements of their masters or gurus.
The First Aurovillians
In what way would the Aurovillians869 interpret the words of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother? And who were the first Aurovillians? A motley crowd. One should keep in mind that everything new or fashionable in spirituality and occultism attracts two categories of persons: on the one hand those who have the call and the sincere seekers who want to get more from life than it can give them in the normal circumstances of their world, on the other the adventurers and the confused, who are looking for trips here, there and elsewhere, as long as they can get a kick out of it or simply because things happen to occur, without a conscious, intentional or necessary motivation. And there are those who cross over from one category to the other. One should also take into account that we are now talking about the Sixties. In those years, many had travelled to India before The Beatles, Mia Farrow and Donovan, and still more followed them. Most were flower children, hippies, dressed in their own shabby uniform, sexually liberated, drug users. It would not take long before Auroville became integrated into the hippie-circuit, almost at par with places like Goa and Kathmandu.
The Mother, as always, wanted ‘no rules, no laws, no committees’: ‘Every person has full freedom.’ As to the social organization, she foresaw a ‘divine anarchy.’ This, again, is a concept we find in Sri Aurobindo; he saw it as the final aim of the social evolution, when all individuals in the Unity-Consciousness will no longer be governed by a social authority but directly by the Godhead, in a concrete relation of unity with all others in divine Love. Any deviation from or resistance against this Order founded on divine Unity will then no longer be thinkable, it will be impossible. The Mother formulated it as follows: ‘The [ultimate and real] anarchistic state is the self-government of each individual, and this will only be the perfect government when everybody becomes conscious of the inner Divine and obeys Him, and Him alone.’
They came to South India, alone or in small groups,
with Auroville as the destination of their trip, or they were travelling in
India and got intrigued by rumours they heard about Auroville, enough to go
there and see for themselves. Most of them left, a few stayed on. The climate
there is harsh; it is a climate of extremes, with monsoon rains which make
everything clammy because of the humidity of the air, and summers when
everything gets clammy because of perspiration. The soil was not much better
than arid country, with here and there a village now being awakened from a
lethargy that had lasted for centuries. ‘[The Aurovillians] who are in contact
with the villagers should not forget that these people are worth as much as they
are, that they know as much, that they think and feel as well as they do. They
should therefore never have an attitude of ridiculous superiority. [The
villagers] are at home and [the Aurovillians] are the visitors.’870 But it was such a terrible world for the Westerners. India itself was so totally different, and even the elementary western conveniences were still lacking at that time – sharp razor-blades, a cake of soap that did not melt in your hand, a ball-point that did not leak, cheese, a loaf of bread, a glass of beer . Being there on a visit was in most cases an interesting, adventurous and colourful experience, as long as you had enough traveller cheques and a return ticket in your pocket. But staying on to spend the rest of your life there?
Everybody had his or her own idea of Auroville, of course. The charter was very inspiring, and to build the city of the future . hey, if you could tell your relatives and friends that that was why you went to India, and that you wanted to dedicate your life to the progress of humanity, not to speak about an eventual transformation into a, ahem, superman! But once there, you sweated buckets on that red, sun-baked laterite, and you had to drag pakamaram stems about, braided palm leaves, stones and bricks, and many, many buckets of water. You had to get accustomed to live with flies, mosquitoes, ants of a hundred varieties, cockroaches, geckos, rats, scorpions, venomous snakes. You had to learn Tamil and try to get along with the idiosyncrasies of those Frenchmen, Dutchmen, Americans, Australians, Belgians, Argentineans, Russians and Koreans.
The fundamental problem was that very few knew what it was all about essentially, and that they did not understand very much of the little that they read and heard. All problems were put to the test again – religious, political, racial, sexual, interpersonal, financial – with endless discussions, friction and quarrels about trifles. The Mother listened, gave advice, counsel and encouragement. Really, the certainty in the subtle worlds concerning Auroville must have been very firm and the invisible protection very powerful to allow the Mother to proceed with the foundation of the most utopian of all utopias: ‘the cradle of the overman.’
All non-Aurovillians involved in the foundation of the city were unanimous about the fact that those newcomers, for a part idealists but also for a part not so cleanly dressed hippies and even wandering and uncaring good-for-nothings, were totally unsuited and unable to build Auroville. One saw them riding sputtering motorbikes, with smudgy bandannas around their long, entangled hair, the girls half naked (according to the Indian standards of decency), talking in funny, incomprehensible languages, and their legs invariably covered with orange Aurovillian dust; thus did they their shopping in the streets of Pondicherry, drank tea or coffee – and what was it again that they were smoking? One saw them also in the Ashram, even in the room of the Mother, who made special appointments for them.
The professional sadhaks of the Ashram kept their distance – not all of them, but many. So did the Indian office-bearers of the Sri Aurobindo Society, a body independent of the Ashram that the Mother had put in charge of the organization and the finances of Auroville. And then there were the stories one heard from the first Aurovillian settlements!
The future city would cover a circle, approximately, with a diameter of ten kilometers, from the coast up to the main Madras road inland. But all the plots could not be bought immediately, of course. Besides, it was an absolute principle never to exert any pressure on the local population. And when the big landowners got air of the situation, they drove up their prices threefold, fivefold, tenfold.
Then in 1973 the Guide, the Lodestar departed. It was an unbelievable shock, especially for the still so young and helpless Auroville. She had understood the man with his music of The Rolling Stones and The Doors, the hippie with his joint or the girl in an unwanted pregnancy. Whatever picture one may construe of the Mother, she was no moralist with a raised eyebrow, no mother superior even when she had to give advice on so many occasions; the advice was asked of her, and together with the advice she always gave something else, more profound, more powerful than her often misinterpreted words. She was, lest we forget, the divine Mother who by her Yoga had become the body of the Earth, who was literally present in the rock, the tree and the yogi, in the swindler and in the secretary-general, in the just and in the sinner, in the somewhat clarified human being and in the distorted, crooked, suffering one. How could she, who said of the Asura of Falsehood: ‘After all, he is my son’, ever have been able to turn her back on a temporarily errant or stultified youth? Every soul is her child. And she spoke those unforgettable words: ‘Do not try to be virtuous. See in what measure you are unified, one
with everything that is antidivine. Take up your share of the burden, accept to
be yourself impure and mendacious. Thus you will be able to take the Shadow and
offer it. And in the measure that you are able to take it and offer it, things
will then change. Do not try to be among the pure. Accept to be with those who
are in the darkness and, in a total love, offer all that.’871
That voice, the support disappeared, externally anyway – but who was able to see behind the facade of things? For Auroville, the period of the troublesome years started. On the one side there were the real Aurovillians, still for the most part non-Indians with a residence permit, deemed incapable but all the same the ones who were digging, building and planting; on the other side there were the management and the members of the Sri Aurobindo Society, exclusively Indian and some of them with mighty relations in the country, who mostly lived and worked in Pondicherry although some were ‘technically’ considered to be Aurovillians. The Sri Aurobindo Society owned the land, the money, the prestige, and acted as the direct deputy of the Mother. The Aurovillians had nothing, for the Society cut off their funding; most of them were foreigners in the country and of dubious repute in Indian eyes.
It is a human, much too human story. An irreconcilable feud arose between the two mightiest administrators of the Society; Auroville itself become internally separated into a French faction, who were able to read the writings of Satprem, and those who did not know French and were mainly of Anglo-Saxon origin. Aurovillians were attacked by paid miscreants from the villages; some Aurovillians were even put in jail. Sensational articles appeared in the press about smuggling, drugs and sex orgies in Auroville. The controversy went all the way up to the Supreme Court in New Delhi. It is worth mentioning that Indira Gandhi and later her son Rajiv kept supporting the Auroville of the Aurovillians through thick and thin, as did people of the stature of J.R.D. Tata, the aviation pioneer and industrialist-with-a-heart.
All that is now history. Auroville lives, despite everything. Its population keeps slowly increasing. There are now over one thousand permanent residents in something like fifty settlements or ‘communities’, big and small, named Aspiration, Hope, Certitude, Vérité, Ami, Abri, Far Beach, Sri Ma, Two Banyans, Nine Palms, Djaima, Fraternity, Dana, Auro Orchard, and so forth. There are schools, guest houses, a bakery, many handicraft workshops (also for export), libraries, a press, organizations for cooperation with the villages, an information centre for visitors. Auroville is chockfull with life and talent. The basic principle has remained that of liberty, which means meetings and discussions. But where else on Earth would something like this be possible: the rudiments of a city being built by people of many nationalities, with scanty means, in a harsh climate, based on the principle of freedom, in the state of a country with its own laws and administrative structures?
The problems are legion. So many figureheads have been liberal with wise advice but without risking to commit themselves in any personal or durable way. Looking down their nose on those amateurs, still deemed incapable and spiritually underdeveloped, they have in their greatness turned away form such a bungling undertaking.
It is true that for the price of a fighter jet or a space rocket half of the planned Auroville of the 50,000 souls could be built. However, suppose that financially it suddenly becomes possible to build the city, would that, in this early stage of its growth, be the Auroville the Mother envisaged? It might resemble a resort of the Club Méditéranée, but what about the spiritual content which is the real rationale of Auroville’s existence? Auroville lives in the hearts of the simple Aurovillians, the quiet and patient ones who in surrender go on working in good times and bad times. Buildings have to be constructed; creations have to come about in beauty and harmony; but most important of all is the work on oneself, the inner unfolding, starting from very little (the ordinary human being all of us are) to go towards very much (beyond man). All else has been done before, it is this that is new. And it will automatically externalize itself into a visible city.
At the heart of the city there will not be a boisterous, chaotic centre, but a place of quietude, harmony and beauty. The lotus bud with soil of the whole planet is still standing there, now in the middle of an amphitheatre with a circle of twelve gardens surrounding it. A stone’s throw away, the big banyan tree, the geographical centre of the city, continues spreading out its’ aerial roots. And both stand in the shadow of the Matrimandir.
‘Matrimandir’ is a Sanskrit word which means ‘house, or temple, of the Mother’. From outside, it resembles a golden, slightly flattened globe breaking out of the Earth – the golden world of the Supermind breaking out of Matter. The globe, with a diameter of about thirty meters, rests on four gigantic supports representing the four active powers of the Mother in the universe: Maheshwari, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati. The most important feature inside the globe is a ‘chamber’ with a diameter of about twenty meters and near the wall twelve round columns seemingly supporting the ceiling but not touching it. The chamber is completely white and its marble floor is covered with a white carpet. In the middle of the chamber a crystal ball of seventy centimeters872 rests on a pedestal consisting of four gold symbols of Sri Aurobindo, which in turn is placed in the centre of the symbol of the Mother on the floor. Night and day a ray of light falls through a central opening in the ceiling of the chamber straight on to the crystal. During the day the ray consists of sunlight deflected by a mechanism that follows the movement of the sun; at night the ray is produced by conserved solar energy. There is nothing else , in the chamber and all noise is avoided.
A crystal that projects a ray of light directly into the core of your being, in a harmonious room of material purity – one can give all kinds of interpretations to it or simply undergo the unworldly beauty of the place. The Matrimandir cannot be explained. The Mother has ‘seen’ it and wanted it to be erected in the centre of Auroville as soon as possible. It represents ‘the consciousness of the Divine,’ it is ‘the soul of Auroville’ she said, and ‘the sooner it will be finished the better’ for the young city.
The Matrimandir only makes sense when it represents something on the level of the forces which have to contribute towards the coming of the New World. It must be a kind of spiritual power plant creating a field with a transforming power which acts upon all who enter into it, upon those who live in its vicinity, and upon the Earth out of whose body it seems to emerge. The transformation of the Earth was the object of the Mother’s Work. Auroville is another step in that direction which became possible in the general process of transformation, a step ‘outwards’ in the divulgence of the new Force. If the Mother had wanted the occult power source which is Matrimandir to be built, then it can only have been, in a vision without religion, with the intention of speeding up the transformation of the Earth.
The Mother said several times that Auroville exerts an occult influence in the world. That what vibrates in the cell, vibrates in the universe. That what has life in one place of goodwill, spreads in the whole body of the Earth. At first she said that the attempt at world unity which is Auroville contributed in preventing a third world war. Later on, in the beginning of February 1968, Sri Aurobindo gave her the complete rationale for the existence of the city and she noted down his words: ‘India has become the symbolic representation of all the difficulties of present-day humanity. India will be the site of its resurrection, the resurrection of a higher and truer life.’ And she explained that: ‘The same thing which in the history of the universe has made the Earth the symbolic representation of the universe so as to be able to concentrate the work at one point, that same phenomenon is occurring now: India is the representation of all human difficulties on earth, and it is in India that there will be the cure. And it is therefore that one has made me create Auroville.’873
The sea port she envisioned, the airport, the hotels, the yachting club, the hydroplanes, the film studio, the press and publishing house for publication in all world languages, the grand organ in the auditorium – all that is not there yet. As we have seen, Auroville’s material growth can only be the outcome of its spiritual growth, and at the moment it is not yet ripe for a material development of such dimensions. But the real Auroville exists in the hearts of the Aurovillians; it is there that it has to develop fully before a complete outward shape makes any sense. At present, there is little more than the embryo of a city. But the fact that Auroville still exists and continues growing is itself, considering its purpose and the circumstances of its beginnings, a miracle.
‘Auroville is a great adventure,’ the Mother said. She had seen the city in that world where is being prepared what has to be realized on the Earth; she also knew that the city already exists in the hankering hearts of so many, not only on that spot on the Coromandel Coast but in the whole world – in all places where women and men can no longer stand the deadening meaninglessness of existence and long with all the intensity of their heart for Meaning, Beauty, Truth, Authenticity, for a totally satisfying, twenty-four carat fulfilment of life, at last.
‘The city will be built by what is invisible to you,’ said the Mother. ‘Those who have to act as instruments will do so despite themselves. They are nothing but puppets in the hands of larger Forces. Nothing depends on human beings, neither the planning nor the execution: nothing! That is why one can laugh.’874
849 The Mother on Auroville, 7
850 L’Agenda de Mire IX, 54
851 The Mother on Auroville, 10
852 The Mother on Auroville, 6
853 The Mother on Auroville, 12
854 Words of the Mother (the Mother) 13, 194
855 The Mother on Auroville, 7
856 Words of the Mother (the Mother) 13, 207
857 Auroville References in the Mother’s Agenda, 37
858 Words of the Mother (the Mother) 13, 198
859 The Mother on Auroville, 16
860 Author’s emphasis.
The Mother on Auroville, 3
861 Words of the Mother (the Mother) 13, 210
862 Words of the Mother (the Mother) 13, 221
863 Words of the Mother (the Mother) 13, 224
864 Words of the Mother (the Mother) 13, 225
865 Cf. Sri Aurobindo: ‘I was never satisfied till experience came and it was on this experience that later on I founded my philosophy, not on ideas by themselves.’ (Sri Aurobindo Archives and Research, 1983, no. 2, p. 164)
866 Words of the Mother (the Mother) 13, 1
867 Words of the Mother (the Mother) 13, 212
868 The Mother’s emphasis.
Notes sur le chemin (the Mother), 152
869 The Mother spelled ‘Aurovillian’ with one l, saying this is an example of the Aurovillian language in the making!
870 The Mother on Auroville, 56
871 L’Agenda de Mire III, 46
872 Made especially for Auroville by the Carl Zeiss Werke in Oberkochen, near Stuttgart (Germany).
873 Auroville References in the Mother’s Agenda, 61
874 The Mother on Auroville, 13.