Skambha paddock, Palani Hills and Thea’s tree, planted by her in 1986 from a slip of the ‘Realisation’ tree from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry.
Aeon Centre of Cosmology (ACC), (situated on the land known as Skambha,) was established in 1986 near Perumalmalai in the Palani Hills of Tamil Nadu, South India, by Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet (Thea). The Centre ‒ 18 km below the tourist area of Kodaikanal ‒ stretches across acres of hillside and pastures, bordering the Gangavar River. Aeon Centre of Cosmology is supported by Aeon Trust, a not-for-profit Educational Trust registered by the Home Ministry of India, holding 80G status.
Aeon Centre of Cosmology: Early History
In January 1987, Thea wrote to her newly appointed Board of Trustees about the founding of her Centre:
The focus of this past year has been the founding of the permanent site for our Aeon Centre of Cosmology, with considerable success. Its location is a very sacred place and propitious for our work. I would like to point out that this is not an ‘ashram’ in the traditional sense of the word. Nor is it a conventional educational institution.
For this reason I am calling it a ‘centre’, meaning a central focus of a new force working in the world, where people may come who are interested in the new Consciousness that is manifesting on Earth, a place where they can come into contact with the living essence of that Consciousness and learn to become channels for its expression in life. To establish the ‘life divine’ of Sri Aurobindo’s vision. This is a centre of cosmological/yogic studies, by an applied cosmology, and a practice of Sri Aurobindo’s revolutionary Supramental Yoga.
Because of this newness, it is not possible to compare ACC to any other place on Earth, find models for this work in any other organization or ashram. We are ‘hewing a path’, and therefore it is often not possible to explain a work that is unveiling itself before the clear lines of its new course have been traced. We are discovering and disclosing a completely new path, ‘a new way’.
…. This work can be a beacon, a stable point in the midst
of a dying civilization. For this reason I have named the new land ‘Skambha’,
that ‘Support of the world’ sung of in the Arthavaveda,
that ‘cosmic pillar’, that ‘axis mundi’.
When all else falls and collapses, Skambha shall ever remain.’ With blessings, Thea
Skambha – the Land
Visitors to Skambha always comment on its exquisite planning and construction, honoring every tree and stone and contour of the land. It is hard to believe the estate was once a bare scrubbed mountainside. Thea’s primary concern always included improvement of the environment as well as the living standards of the people from the adjacent villages.
In a document she wrote in 1989, titled Project Proposal, Cheese Factory and Related Services, she gives a detailed description of her objectives and the situation at that time. Perumalmalai was considered a rural territory with a population of about 1500, and the region which once had housed thick shola had been significantly denuded by contractors over the years. The people employed on the estates were primarily a floating population of immigrants from Sri Lanka who had very sporadic work; their homes were mostly mud and thatch roof. The road passing down into the valley from the main Palani Ghat Road was ‘more akin to a river-bed and not fit even for walking’.
In this proposal, Thea states that the Trust and Aeon Centre of Cosmology had a role to play:
“We do not believe in charity. We do believe in Development. Nor do we believe in a development which benefits only a few, and usually the more affluent. The Aeon Centre of Cosmology does not wish to grow in the midst of poverty. And it is ideally situated and prepared to bring about an integral development of the small area where it operates. It is the aspiration of the organization that this valley will one day be in a position to stand as a model for the rest of India, in particular the hilly regions…”.
Aeon Trust and Aeon Centre of Cosmology have acquired a reputation over the years of integrity and seriousness of purpose. The result has been that with little funding Thea, her students and staff have enriched the lives of the local people.
In a paper titled, Aeon Centre Of Cosmology, Its Nature And Activities, Thea wrote that the study of universal harmonies is the focal point of her yoga and of her centre: ‘… EVERY activity at the Centre is measured and assessed according to this cosmological yardstick, the Gnostic Circle:
‘With this tool, work at the Centre encompasses every aspect of life in an apt reflection of Sri Aurobindo’s injunction. ”All life is yoga”. But the objective of the work at the Centre is to unveil the deepest inner truth of life’s varied expressions… In this light the Centre at Skambha is on the order of a laboratory. In this ‘nuclear space’ the formulas of the new cosmology are tested on the basis of non-speculative LIVED experiences… Its correct description is an APPLIED Cosmology, with time and its various cycles as the field for this verification…’
Skambha remains the place where Thea’s students aspire, in their daily lives, to apply this cosmological tool, The Gnostic Circle. Currently students are:
- engaging in organic agricultural cultivation
- maintaining Skambha lands in their pristine beauty
- organizing Thea’s voluminous body of research into Archival material
- printing and promoting her books
- teaching – online and at the Centre – programs on Thea’s Indocentric Cosmology