In continuing my reading of C.S. Nott’s book, Teachings of Gurdjieff (Routledge & Kegan Paul), I have come to see that there are some basic misconceptions about objective art, or rather, discrepancies in definitions. As you know, the Gurdjieff school is influenced strongly by the Christian and Sufi schools. Nott, in discussing architectural pieces he believes to be examples of objective art, mentions several belonging to those traditions. One is the Taj Mahal in Northern India; then certain Gothic Cathedrals in France. But I do not agree with this assessment, and I think the definition Gurdjieff himself provides as reproduced in Nott’s book, makes it clear that objective art in architecture is not just superior aesthetics. For can we consider the Taj Mahal as anything other than a masterpiece of exquisite proportions. True, it reaches a pinnacle in this sort of expression, and its harmony is indeed mathematical, as Mr. G emphasises. A similar harmony was known to the Greeks and to the Renaissance masters. Even today in the Orient there are schools where mathematics form the basis of art. But this, to my mind, does not qualify a piece to be considered objective art, even as defined by Gurdjieff:
‘Love not art with your feelings. Real art is based on mathematics. It is a kind of script with an inner and outer meaning. In early times, conscious men – who composed music, designed statues and images, painted pictures and constructed buildings – all of which were such that they had a definite effect on people who came in contact with them: on their feelings and senses.’
(Page 67, emphasis P.N-B.)
The question of ‘meaning’ is the important part of the above information. In terms of my work, that ‘meaning’ refers to knowledge, and especially the supramental Gnosis. Hence, a piece of objective art is indeed like a book with a script emerging from the forms.
In my last letter I referred to the Mother’s Chamber as such a ‘book’, and the script being the new Language that evolved simultaneously with her creative act of Seeing. Remember, these two aspects of the Temple began to ‘descend’ at the same time. The Mother had her first experience of the Temple in the first days of January, 1970. During that period she also carried out the second and most important phase of the process when she gave the ‘measure’ of the Vision, the formula (in the exact measurements of the Chamber) which would link the higher planes in which the Temple exists in essence with our physical world of form. Certainly that was by far the most important part of the process, without which no real connection could be made between these dimensions. Without that Measure, the vision would not have had any power to influence happenings on Earth. It would have remained a vision above, a seeing which only sporadically seekers could enjoy in an altered state of consciousness, disengaged from the body, not one rooted in the Earth dimension and hence able to serve in the Supramental Manifestation in the manner in which her Temple was destined.
When the Seeing and the act of Measuring were completed in those first few days of January, 1970, the next phase of the descent took place in March immediately thereafter, – in another part of the world. That was when I saw The Magical Carousel, and recorded that seeing. If you recall, the 10th Chapter gives an accurate description of the Mother’s Chamber, in particular its ‘essence’, or the precise nature of that inner content or meaning, that ‘script’, to use Gurdjieff’s term; for this was the beginning of the descent of the Knowledge connected with the Temple, the symbol-heart of the new city-consciousness. Indeed, the seeing was so complete – notwithstanding that I had no connection with the Mother at the time – that it incorporated certain aspects of the difficulties in the execution of the plan which were to surface several years later and were to become key elements of discord when we sought to have the Mother’s original plan reincorporated in Auroville, and not the architect’s modified version. Among others were the single entry into the chamber through the floor, and the walls without any openings. In The Magical Carousel, these specifications that the Mother insisted upon were confirmed when the story describes how the children ran their hands around the walls of the chamber to see if there were any openings, as well as the manner in which they ‘rise’ into the Room, rather than by any entry through the walls. And then there was, of course, the main point: the hole in the centre of the Room, which is closed as the story describes by the rising presence of the Time-spirit into the Chamber.
These were some of the principal items that were subsequently altered by the architects and which, until 1976, we sought to have reincorporated in the building, since it was still possible to do so at that time. These attempts failed, however, and the result is the meaningless piece of contemporary architecture that has arisen at the centre of Auroville. There is no element of objective art in that structure, contrary to the plan the Mother gave which is the purest expression of objective art.
The point I wish to make is that concurrently with the Mother’s seeing of the Temple, the ‘script’ also began to descend into our physical world in which language – name and form – is a vital ingredient. Language, the body of the Word, is the vehicle of the Knowledge, or ‘essence’. Hence, it is understandable that in dealing with a piece of true objective art, this special language with its own perfection and integrality of form, would come into being together with the Mother’s original Seeing. The years that followed witnessed the consolidation of the true Temple at the heart of the new Creation, through the ‘Yoga of the Chamber’ which it gave rise to, – a central feature of our work over the past 15 years. This has revealed the manner in which the gnostic species will come into being through the evolutionary process. Indeed, the nucleus of the new Creation has already evolved as a result of that yogic process which the Temple’s descent set in motion.
In contrast, what is the ‘script’ of the Taj Mahal? Or the Gothic Cathedrals, which are purported to be examples of objective art? Certainly there is a superior understanding of architecture in those creations, a true sense of the sacred even. But knowledge and above all process are lacking in those structures. An atmosphere is indeed created to carry the viewer into an experience that was central to Christianity in the Gothic Cathedrals; for example, the littleness of the human being vis-à-vis the Creator, which seems to have reflected the consciousness prevailing at the time the Cathedrals came into being. Higher authority, be this religious or secular, was overpowering and omnipotent. And this is accurately conveyed in certain Gothic Cathedrals. The experience of God that comes to the viewer in such a structure is perfectly in turn with the conceptual appreciation of the Judeo-Christian divinity.
But the Gothic Cathedral goes no farther than that. It does not encompass process, higher cosmic harmonies, and hence it does not convey the ‘laws’ that are operative to bring into the Earth’s atmosphere the essence and powers which true objective art is meant to do, when indeed such structures contain ‘scripts’ of higher knowledge and its consequent power. In a word, the Gothic Cathedral makes no link between the higher and lower planes.
Nott refers to the creation of the Cathedrals as being products of conscious processes, and is fascinated by the fact that their execution was anonymously carried out. In contrast we have the spirit of the Renaissance that followed, when the individual’s role in the creative process became supreme. The ego of the artist was never so glorified and had never attained such heights!
Though there was clearly a purpose behind the design and construction of certain Gothic Cathedrals, this alone does not qualify them to be considered objective art. The anonymity of the execution is, of course, a paramount aspect of all true sacred art and architecture. We find this to be the case still today in India, though a degeneration is also beginning in this respect here.
India still maintains the pure traditions of sacred architecture. But please note that I am making a clear distinction between various architectural forms in this analysis. One is aesthetic and deals mainly with mathematical proportions for the purpose of carrying the viewer into a higher experience of art for the sake of perfection and beauty of form, and little else; the Taj Mahal, for example. Another is the sacred, which encourages an experience proper to the religion or mystical bent that the structure focuses on, – such as the Gothic Cathedral, or even many temples in India and throughout the Orient. Today we do not find sacred architecture coming up in the West. Church building has fallen entirely into the hands of contemporary university trained architects. It is out of the realm of sacred art. An example is the recently constructed Baha’i Temple in New Delhi, opened to the public in late 1986.
In the East, however, this art form is still alive. In consequence, the tradition of anonymity continues. In India, for example, the name of the architect is never prominent in the execution of a new temple or a sculptor in the fashioning of a special idol; nor are the names known of the architects in the construction of the temples of antiquity. However, one questions how long this tradition will be able to survive, inasmuch as the government of India, in an effort to stimulate the crafts and honour good craftsmanship, to revitalise certain aspects of India’s ancient heritage and culture, is interfering in this tradition by conferring awards on select craftsmen, thus endangering that essential feature of anonymity in the execution of sacred art.
This would seem to be a laudable development from the standpoint of good government. But if it is carried to extremes, it is certain to corrode the true tradition and the imperative need to cultivate the correct poise in the executor with regard to the source of inspiration and the creative process, which deal with higher experiences of consciousness.
But, let us be more specific. The important feature of such art and architecture is the consciousness out of which the vision arose. In true sacred architecture (not to speak of objective art), there was always a seer to whom the vision came (like the Mother in the vision of the Temple). This vision was then passed on to the executors, who never interfered in the fashioning process. Out of this, very detailed shastras, or scriptures, have evolved over the centuries, dealing with the question of accurate Measure and Form in the effort to secure that the purity of the original vision be ever maintained and no distortions creep in with the passage of time when the vision is reproduced over the ages. These Shastras are still followed meticulously today in the fashioning of the idols and in temple building in India. However, you can easily appreciate that constrictions of this nature are intolerable to the Western architect, a truth that was amply proven in the construction of the Mother’s temple in Auroville, in which the execution was entirely in the hands of architects from the West.
Thus the Seer to whom the vision came remained always the supreme authority in the creative process involving sacred forms, never the architect, the sculptor or the painter. In the West this tradition does not exist. But even regarding India we have to consider the deeper issues which lie behind the tradition and assess just where that tradition stands today. This draws the discussion once again to the Mother’s Temple and the question of true objective art in contrast to the sacred experience or the aesthetic. We can make certain comparisons for this purpose between Christian sacred architecture and Indian. I trust that this will reveal what is lacking in those creations that tend to carry the viewer into the realm of aesthetics rather than the sacred in art.
Conditioned as the Westerner is by aesthetics, which many have little to do with the sacred, and nothing to do with objective art, it is understandable that when the West made a closer contact with the East during the colonial period, there could be no proper evaluation of the spiritual world expressing itself in the eastern art and culture that the colonialists met. The yardstick used for the purpose was far removed from the Indian experience and tradition. The Westerner is conditioned by the glorified persona of the artist and by aesthetics in his experience of the sacred in religious art. And this aesthetic yardstick is wholly subjective. But what do we find in India, whose sacred art is still today rooted in the higher experience and seeing of seers and maintained though a formidable body of Shastras?
We find idols and temples fashioned according to accurate measurements which, as I explained in my first letter to you, serve to link the higher planes where Seeing takes place to the physical dimension in which we live. Not as a ‘conscious’ process, but resulting from the condition of being of the Seer. Thus the important feature is that measure. Therefore, how can the Westerner, whose conditioning is so foreign to this tradition with its respect for that condition of Being, ever understand the imagery of the Hindu idols and temples when he is completely closed in the box of aesthetics and personality and has never penetrated the planes in which the Indian Gods and Goddesses have their ‘abode’?
Failing to do this, the western critic cannot understand the forms those Godheads require in order to make the link from plane to plane and thereby bring into being on Earth a focus of living energy. The Hindu idol captures a living force, for which purpose it has its particular design and measure which must, at all costs, be respected.
In the age when the numerous Hindu Godheads came into being – namely during the 8th Manifestation, or between 2000 and 8000 years ago – Hindu imagery perfectly served the purpose of linking the planes that had been reached then via the spiritual experience of the sages. These were the Overmental planes, to use Sri Aurobindo’s terminology. That was the apex that had been reached during the 8th Manifestation. The exuberant abundance of forms, to name just one feature, is a clear reflection of the Overmental consciousness, a step below the Supramental.
The point I wish to make is that in India the tradition of sacred and objective art has been preserved throughout the ages without interruption. That is, the process and its purpose are known and still respected. And indeed it is in India that the renewal of these superior art forms is being carried out, to align the process with the forces operating in this new Manifestation, the 9th. For this is what the Mother’s Temple is: it is the element which carries the experience a step higher (though interestingly closer to the core of the most ancient Vedic truth-seeing). Her Temple, in its original purity, carries us to the Supramental plane above the Overmental, and accurately links our physical world with that higher one. Being objective architecture, it introduces at the same time the process whereby the principle of Supermind can secure itself at the heart of the new world and evolve from itself the new Gnostic species on this planet.
India has always been central to the evolution of consciousness on Earth. But the entire world, India no less, is feeling the effects of the great transition of our times. This means we are experiencing all the travails and ‘labour pains’ inherent in the difficult transitional passage from one Age to another, from one plane to another, in the effort to carry the evolution of the species out of the limitations of the Overmental creation and extend our boundaries to the Supramental. Indeed, this brings me to the final point of this discussion, if it is to be complete: the question of cosmic harmonies.
All true higher sacred and objective art is grounded in a vision of cosmic harmonies. As I pointed out in my last letter, central to all art is the question of Form; and central to sacred and objective art is a Form that encompasses the cosmos; or rather, it evolves from a consciousness that is, at the very least, cosmicised. The Mother’s, for example. Hers being the Temple of this New Age, a ‘new model of the universe’, it is clear that the ‘script’ it contains creates a new cosmic language. Name and Form combine to provide a new and enhanced seeing and experience of the cosmic harmonies. I have proven this to be true in my books, namely The Gnostic Circle and The New Way.
The important point is this: ‘As above, so below’, to borrow the ancient Hermetic aphorism. But what has happened to that ‘above’ in recent times, distinguishing it from all previous ages? Its measurement has increased. By three planets, to be exact. In view of this increase, it is clear that a temple, as objective art, must incorporate this increase. That is, it comes into being precisely as a product in function of this enhancement. Accordingly, to seek to install a piece of objective art from the past as the focal point of the present, as some people do, is both a futile and a foolish exercise. Only the experience in the present can faithfully encapsulate the new harmony and enhancement.
Therefore I have had to refer constantly to the Mother’s Temple in this discussion, otherwise it is meaningless, abstract and theoretical, – features completely foreign to true objective art. But I shall have to be faithful and true in this matter and refer to the entire experience of the descent of that Temple, in order to engender the fullest appreciation of true objective art and its purpose.
Thus we have a new vision of cosmic harmonies that perforce has to come into being in view of the enhanced measure of our solar system. Indeed, the new Language conveys just such a vision, the Gnostic Circle being the ‘alphabet’ which provides the elements necessary for the ‘construction’ of the Temple in The New Way. But I have always stressed the fact that India is the centre of the new Age, and it is therefore in India that the old has to be worked out and the new established. Let me now provide the details of this process, to prove this statement, and at the same time reveal the difficult destiny this central position brings.
Indeed, the Temple of the new Age and its objective art have descended in India, as well as the new Language. But why was India able to be this channel? It is because the truth-seeing has ever been present and preserved in this land. India’s vision of cosmic harmonies has always been a measure of 9, the measure, in fact, of our present-day enhanced solar system. This resulted from an incorporation of the lunar nodes (Rahu and Ketu) into the measure from very ancient times, – not as planets properly speaking, but as powers or notes, to use the Gnostic Circle terminology. One must bear in mind that the Indian school of imagery is concerned pre-eminently with capturing living powers, or cosmic forces, if you will, in the idol (or the temple). It is not a question of aesthetics at all, or even sacred art or architecture as such. These may be present, or they may not. The emphasis lies rather on content, on ‘essence’. The purpose in India is to bring into the Earth atmosphere the living power of what the idol or temple represents or proposes to capture from the higher planes. A Ganesh, for example, with his elephant head, does this superbly when the deity’s particular form and measure are respected in the fashioning. (In the same light, the zodiac was seen in the form of certain animal figures, insofar as these bore a relation to particular ‘essences’ that in our material world of name and form could be conveyed by the figures of those determined forms. The Horse and the Cow served the same purpose in ancient Vedic times.)
Now, it is evident that the question of enhancement of the System introduces something entirely new, and, I would add, revolutionary. There is a sort of displacement. The focus shifts to a higher poise; but this does not negate the former. When that previous seeing is faithful and true to the essence on the subtle plane and perfectly representative of the cosmic harmony as perceivable by the human ‘eye’, and therefore consonant with the level of consciousness of the species at that particular point in evolution, the former vision is integrated into the higher and finds its place in the new harmony of the fuller vision. This is what has happened in India because of the Supramental Manifestation. And already having a basic measure of 9 as its formula of cosmic harmonies, it has been possible to carry out this integrating, synthesising action in India, once the solar system increased to 9 planets in this century.
In the Mother’s Temple we have the new Name and Form. The Core of the Temple (see the frontispiece of The New Way, Volume 1&2), including the descending solar Ray, is the form that describes the supramental truth-seeing. This displaces the traditional Hindu idols from a central position; but it does not negate their truth and place in the new dispensation. Their truth remains a valid ingredient, and indeed it assists us in fully understanding the new and higher vision and the new Forms. Thus the supramental Creation becomes truly a gradation from truth to greater truth. There is increase, in the light, no longer a blind fumbling in darkness, with only faint sporadic glimpses of the truth to bear us along. And for this reason in my written works I have continuously referred to the Hindu Overmental Godheads, as well as to the myths from the Puranic period which superbly describe the nature and action of those powers on Earth. This has helped to prove the above statement that those former truths enhance our new experience significantly, without which its richness would not be so appreciable. We build on those foundations, as it were. And in this way the past is redeemed, the time-energy it hoards is released and thereby becomes the fuel for the rise to new and more all-encompassing heights.
However, this can come about only when the forms of the past are products of truth-seeing, and hence bear intrinsically the features of objective art. This tradition still lives in India, and the sanatana dharma (the eternal Truth) that is Hinduism provides for a continuous process of renewal in accordance with the cosmic harmonies and the demands of the Time-Spirit in any Age. An example of this renewing mechanism is presented in the Hindu line of the Ten Avatars, each of whom represents a stage in the evolutionary work in accordance with the conditions prevailing in any Manifestation.
Such a time of renewal is upon us, in this age of the last Avatar. Thus the core of the Mother’s Temple is, as she herself described it so wonderfully, ‘the symbol of the future realisation’. But the ears upon which those words fell were deaf, representing as they did (and do) the realistic conditions of the present which has been propelled into the new future – a leap it finds difficult to make because first it needs to disengage itself from the accumulation of distorted forms and names that the past has consolidated.
Therefore, what is the situation we are faced with in the episode of the Mother’s Temple, the only living example of objective art, and the element which can link the material planes with the Supramental? The past exerted its pull, its inertia, and succeeded in distorting those forms, thus carrying the structure that is coming up in India into the dimension of ‘man’s own image’ rather than the Divine’s. But the interesting aspect to this difficult labour has always been to observe how truth is ever present, even in those distortions. We have, for example, Italian architects in charge of the project in Auroville, – Florentines, to be even more precise. To these fell the task of overseeing and deciding what was to be built in the final analysis. I have always considered it extremely interesting that Italy, the centre of the Age of Pisces, should have been brought into that ‘cauldron’ wherein those old things are done away with and the ‘new brew’ is concocted, in this manner. This bears with the essential truth of the supramental yoga that the individual is extremely important in the process; but unlike former times in the West, his/her instrumentation is impersonal and represents a cosmic process and global conditions, rather than any personal furthering or importance. Needless to say, it is rare to find instruments conscious of this extended scope. Usually the consciousness is too closed in the confines of the personal and fails to appreciate this larger extension and collaboration.
Thus the key feature of the Florentine Renaissance, that extreme focus on Individualism, was carried into a central position in the question of the execution of this fundamental piece of objective art, going against what is held as most sacred in India: respect for the vision of the Seer. And that Renaissance consciousness is a great obstacle to the successful accomplishment of this type of execution, not to speak of its significance regarding the evolution of consciousness in the species and the egocentric poise that has to be superseded now.
These subtleties are not easily appreciated by the uninitiated. As I pointed out in the example of the Government of India and its efforts to foster and honour craftsmen and thereby encourage a renewal in the nation’s cultural and artistic traditions, when no clear-seeing is present these acts of goodwill can produce contrary results. In Auroville we have a perfect example of this situation insofar as there are no people of Knowledge guiding affairs. I refer to the fact that the Government of India was obliged to take over the project a number of years ago, because of the disputes over ownership and control that arose in the community in the course of its development. In this part of the discussion I will provide an example of the uselessness of goodwill when one is dealing with matters of higher vision and purpose.
The Government of India is ‘paranoid’, to use Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s own expression, about foreign missionaries and the corroding influence they have on the national culture and religious heritage. This is certainly a fact which any objective observer can affirm, and it is understandable that the Government should seek to tackle this problem and curb this influence in some way. This it has been doing, sometimes ‘paranoically’. But the Government, not being a body influenced by higher knowledge, as all governments throughout the world, can only act in this matter according to these limitations. Added to this, being ignorant of the real root cause of the decay, it often ends up by supporting those very elements it believes itself to be nobly combating for the good of the nation it serves.
Therefore, what is the position in Auroville? The Government is in control of the project, by a decision of the India Supreme Court. Under its benevolent aegis the city grows and the distorted temple under construction there comes up. And ironically that structure is consolidating on Indian soil the corrosive influences and forces that the Government believes it is successfully ridding the country of in its campaign against the infiltration of foreign elements which undermine the nation’s cultural heritage! Can there be any more serious undermining to that heritage than a ‘temple’ coming up with government patronage that strikes at the very roots of all that the Sanatana Dharma has held sacred throughout thousands of years? The elements in the human consciousness that resulted in an overpowering exaltation of the individual instrument and hence the exaltation of the human consciousness and seeing rather than the Divine’s, are what has been brought into India and given a pre-eminent place at the centre of Auroville.
But the Government, being a body that functions on the external strata, cannot appreciate this condition. And so, it fosters in one place what it condemns in another. The seeds of the Age of Pisces have been brought into India and given a secure position on its soil, and in astrological tradition the inferior aspect of that sign is self-undoing. Surely this is a prime example.
Let me quote an interesting portion from Reshad Field’s book, The Last Barrier (Harper & Rarper ow, USA, 1976), in this context, when his Sufi teacher declares, ‘…what will come about will be like nothing that has even been seen before. I am speaking of a completely new way of life, and it is those with knowledge of Unity who must forge the way now. It is those people who can make decisions stemming from real knowledge and will breathe life and order into the New Age.’
However, all is not lost. Indeed, just the contrary. India is merely playing her role of “Mother of the Supramental Age’. For it was necessary to draw those elements into the nation at this centremost point, in order to deal with the root cause of the decay. At the same time and in conjunction with this, India establishes the new. Hence, while the construction continues in Auroville of the representative model of the dying past Age, the true Temple has been ‘built’, its Knowledge has been brought down and the process it fosters has carried the integral yoga into the dimensions of the supramental. The Sanatana Dharma has been renewed, revitalized, re-poised on fuller foundations, in accordance with the new cosmic harmonies.
What happens to the old in this case? It goes on, drawing its momentum from inertia, from the dead past. And it provides a choice to seekers: the old or the new.
At this point, let me refer to another related ‘symbol’ development, which also reveals that truth is indeed present even in the distortions of itself. For while at the centre of Auroville the Government of India fosters the rise of the disfigured temple, which perfectly symbolizes that purposeless world that is dying and which arose out of the consciousness of Europe’s dark Age, what do we find in Pondicherry, at the centre of the ashram Sri Aurobindo and the Mother founded? There too we have a symbol, but not of the failed future; rather it is of the old creation. The focus of life in the Ashram is a tomb, – the Samadhi, as it is called, or the place where the bodies of both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother lie.
How can this be, one asks? It is simply that when the new Form was provided by the Mother in 1970 and this was rejected, the logical follow-up was the complete split between the Ashram and Auroville. And each one, in isolation of the other, consolidates at its centre a symbol of this failure to integrate and harmonise. The Indian factor has been largely equated with the Ashram, and the Western with Auroville. This too is accurately conveyed in the symbols central to each organization. For the Indian impasse is clearly demonstrated by the fact that no new forms manifested in the Ashram to capture the living essence of the Supramental Truth that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother brought down on Indian soil. The Mother did indeed provide the new imagery with its truth-measure, thereby elevating the world of sacred and objective Form and Name to the truth-conscious plane. But this was not understood, and in the Ashram the weight of the past impeded any embracing of this radical newness. At that point the Ashram cut itself off from any meaningful involvement with the future of their work, and the symbol of this truncated process is the Samadhi.
We have then, relics of the old creation as the most important symbols of that institution. Though the idols of Hinduism capture by their measure and design the living forces of the Gods and Goddesses of the planes they bore relation to – something the western missionary could never appreciate and hence his constant harangue about ‘paganism’ – , the Ashram never graduated beyond and to a higher expression, to that ‘symbol of the future realization’.
A ‘tomb’, no matter how venerable, sacred, meaningful for devotees, can never be the focal point or the key symbol of that future realisation in the Supramental Manifestation. Nolini Kanta Gupta, one of Sri Aurobindo’s closer disciples, who until his death in 1984 was the senior-most member of the Ashram and by far its most respected, perceived this when at the time of the Mother’s passing he gave out a statement to the effect that her body ‘belonged to the old creation’ and that ‘the new one would come’, this statement, which was meant to adorn the Samadhi where her body was laid to rest along with Sri Aurobindo’s, caused a tremendous uproar among ashramites at the time; and he was virtually obliged to withdraw it. Yet Nolini Kanta Gupta’s seeing was accurate.
In an ordinary ashram a situation of this nature would be natural: the Guru leaves his body and the tomb where the body is placed, or the urn containing his ashes, is thereafter venerated. If the Power has not been passed on to one of the surviving disciples, the locale becomes simply a holy place, frequented by pilgrims ever after. But in this case we are not dealing with an ashram in the traditional sense of the word. This was rather a centre, a sort of laboratory for the working out and the establishment of the spirit of the new Age, the Age of the Supermind. And in view of the unique and very special characteristics of Supermind, a development such as the one we find in Pondicherry becomes even more significant. The Divine Maya, or the Supreme’s fashioning Power in matter, is a central feature of the new Creation; and by consequence new symbols and forms are intrinsic parts of the manifestation. In addition, underlying the truth of Supermind is the principle of Immortality. Hence, the new Symbol and Forms which are capable of conveying this essential quality must accurately reflect that principle. It cannot be otherwise. A tomb, no matter how charged it may be with the Master’s force, is and always will remain a tomb. And this is fundamental to bear in mind in a work in which ‘the symbol is the thing symbolised’, to paraphrase Sri Aurobindo (see introductory quotation).
We can take Christianity as an example of the symbol being the thing symbolised. The major symbol of Christianity, worshipped by every one of its adherents and prominent in all its places of worship, is the cross bearing the crucified Jesus. Now, no matter how much we seek to philosophise the matter, it reveals that there is a symbol of Death central to all Christian worship. The theologians will explain that this was the way in which man’s sins were expiated, by the blood of God’s only begotten Son, and that the Resurrection is the real issue. But where is the symbol of that resurrection? It certainly never became to focal symbol of that religion, comparable to the Cross. Rather, we are faced with the clear facts, just as in the Pondicherry Ashram: the central focus of worship displays, in terms of the symbol being the thing symbolised, that the work is incomplete; and demonstrating this is a symbol of the old creation, just as Nolini Kanta Gupta had described.
However, if the Mother had not completed her mission as the incarnate Formative Power of the Supreme and given out that Divine Maya or Measure, then the state prevailing in the Ashram would be legitimate. But she did complete her mission, and therefore it is an aberration. Not only did she give the new Symbol and Form, as well as lay the foundation for the new Name (the new language) just before her passing, she also specified that it was indeed the ‘symbol of the future realisation’. She has never said this about the Samadhi, to my knowledge, nor of anything else she left. In addition, she stated specifically that in the Chamber of the Future Realisation there should be no photographs of herself and Sri Aurobindo; only their symbols. Indeed, those symbols are the essential features of the new Language and the only elements of the past and that ‘old creation’ that are to be legitimately carried over and to form an integral and intrinsic part of the new Symbol-Word. Not a tomb, symbol of Death. Nor even their physical features which have now become so representative of the past forms. Rather, their symbols at the heart of the Temple provide us with the fundaments of the Supramental Gnosis. And the Core of the Chamber can be described in two ways: the symbol of the new Heaven and the new Earth, or the symbol of Immortality.
But of course, if one has no understanding of Symbols and the role they play in all higher knowledge, and particularly regarding the Supramental Manifestation where the question of Symbols has reached a perfection and an apotheosis never before attained, then it is impossible to appreciate what it is that the Mother meant by her injunctions. Indeed, all the developments connected with that ‘symbol of the future realisation’ are simply incomprehensible mysteries to the uninitiated. And lamentably, there is hardly a person involved with the Mother’s work in the Ashram or in Auroville who has even the remotest idea of these essential elements of the New Creation. Not only are they lacking any Knowledge in this area, but they combat vigorously anyone who might have this special insight.
What I have written you above is sure to vex the devotees and all the people who are pouring money and energy into the construction of the Matrimandir. But fortunately when one has attained the higher Seeing through the laborious travails of the Integral Yoga and crossed the threshold into the Supramental Yoga in this pioneering stage, it is clear that one has earned the right to make use of our much tooted ‘freedom of expression’. And since you seem to be sincerely seeking real insights into these matters, it has been entirely necessary to provide concrete examples of the statements I have made, without which we would still be in the realm of the theoretical and the abstract, features which have lined the path of Knowledge with many corpses in the course of history. ‘The symbol is the thing symbolised’, must be the aphorism to bear in mind in these matters. This is something the seeker all too easily forgets in his quest. Indeed, nowhere can it be better applied than in questions of higher knowledge and more especially in the realm of the supramental Gnosis which, I repeat, has drawn this aphorism to a peak of unparalleled refinement.
Therefore in Pondicherry, which is where the Master did his initial tapasya and broke through the many crusts in the atmosphere to allow the supramental Light to penetrate our world, we have as the focal symbol a womb/tomb of the Past. In astrological tradition this would be represented by the sign Cancer (the womb and the tomb), corresponding to Diti of the Vedic tradition. To illustrate this connection, let me draw your attention to the Puranic stories concerning Diti, as the sister of Aditi.
In one particular tale, both were married to Kasyapa, son of Daksha, and bore him a host of children. Aditi is reported to have given birth to the Gods, twelve in number, who became known as the Adityas, while Diti gave birth to the Asuras, the Titans. There is something very revealing in this story about the birth of those powers known as the Maruts, which were the helpers of Indra. This tale displays the important symbolism of Diti with regard to the ‘womb’ and the divisive aspect of her nature, for she is known as the Mother of Disunity, of Division.
To be brief, Indra came to know that Diti was carrying in her womb a son who when born would be capable of slaying him. To avoid this, by a ruse he entered her womb and therein cut the embryo to pieces, in stages of seven so as to make 49 in all. And these later became the Maruts, his helpers in the divine labour.
In modern psychology, Diti would be the personality in contrast to the individuality; Prakriti (Mother Nature) in contrast to the Adya Shakti, the Supreme Mother. And regarding the tomb at the centre of the Ashram, the connection with Diti would also be indicated by the fact that there the Mother has become largely associated with a personal force and symbol of worship. The situation has reached such revealing proportions that in certain circles it has virtually become a sin to refer to her as the Mother, using the article. This is another indication of the personal tone that has been adopted and the loss of the vision of the Divine Maya, that Aditi of Vedic tradition. In a development of this nature, one would expect mature disciples to question first of all why it was that Sri Aurobindo always wrote of her as the Mother; and then, what it is that is compelling people to join this cult of ‘Mother’ that has now become so prominent.
Concerning this question of a ‘tomb’, I would like to bring this letter to a close by relating an interesting anecdote which can also provide another example of how truth is ever present, even in its distortion, provided one has ‘eyes with which to see’, and the will to do so. This episode occurred when I was living in the Ashram and holding classes in cosmic harmonies in the early 1970s. It so happened that during one of the courses it became necessary to demonstrate what exactly a horoscope was, because the students were ignorant of the actual mechanics of the System and how a horoscope evolves out of the cosmic harmony. Therefore I decided to select an item as an example that would be of some universal significance for all and draw up a chart for that event. I chose, therefore, the time the Mother gave for the work to begin on the Matrimandir. What developed in that class was extremely interesting in the light of what I have written above regarding tombs and wombs and symbols! I should also mention that at the time I was holding these classes, I had little or no connection with what was transpiring in Auroville around the Mother’s Temple. It was not until two years later that I discovered her original plan and realized that it had been changed by the architects.
To draw up any horoscope the exact time is required. This was provided by one of the students, a resident, if I recall, of Auroville. I drew up the chart, instructing the students in the method step by step. When the horoscope of the Matrimandir was complete, I proceeded to illustrate how traditional astrology ‘reads’ or interprets a chart. As I recall, the first item on the agenda was a discussion of the Ascendant, or the point of the zodiac on the eastern horizon which is determined by the exact hour and minute of an event. It is called the lagna in Sanskrit and sets the tone for the entire reading. But, to my astonishment, according to the traditional interpretation, the analysis of this item would indicate that the Matrimandir was a tomb! Perhaps to house ultimately the bodies of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother? What else?
I was rather shocked and I expressed this to the students. But from that point onward what happened provided a most interesting finale to this symbol-anecdote.
A person entered the room then who had actually been present at the ceremony for which we were drawing up a chart. He emphatically stated that the time provided by the student was wrong. It was incorrect by ten minutes (I believe). This was vivid in his memory because Nolini Kanta Gupta, who was presiding over the ceremony, had to improvise by reading certain passages from Sri Aurobindo’s writing in order to ‘kill time’, as the saying goes, so that the moment of inauguration would be exactly the one stipulated by the Mother. His improvised reading lasted for some time, and the ceremony was thus carried out according to her precise instructions as to the auspicious moment.
Of course I hastened to draw up the horoscope on the basis of the revised time, and this put the Ascendant and hence the ruling planet into a different section of the chart which bore an entirely different meaning. It cancelled the interpretation of a ‘tomb’. And this, I must add, is exactly what happened concerning the Mother’s original plan of that Temple.
This episode provided a forecast of the work I was later to be called upon to do, but of which in 1972 and 1973 I was still unaware. It involved rescuing the Mother’s vision and the new Symbol and Form from fossilization. Thus when I came upon the Mother’s original plan, prior to its alteration by the architects, I immediately discovered in it a womb of knowledge, of life, of living power. But for this, a respect for its exact measurements was demanded, as in the above episode a respect for the exact time was required in order to rescue the interpretation of the chart, and indeed to render it a faithful expression of her creative act. But there is more to the matter, and the incident was prophetic in a very essential area of the work that would soon begin but which at the time I ignored. It did concern Time, but in a very specific way.
The Mother’s contribution regarding the Temple was to give forth its space plan. This involved hence the Measure of 12, a fact which is made evident by her own symbol which consists of 4 inner petals and 12 outer. This, in effect, formed the basis of the Temple’s design.
My contribution centred entirely on the Temple’s time plan. The anecdote I have related was telling me what that future contribution was to be and warning me in the process that a respect for accuracy was needed. Indeed, had I not discovered the Mother’s original plan and seen only the altered version of the architects, I would never have been able to contribute that most essential time measure or plan; for it is only when the time plan comes into being that those measurements provide sense, meaning, knowledge, and they can then be ‘read’ like a book.
In due course of time I came to adopt a symbol for myself, following the realizations that allow for such an adoption, which is reproduced below. Beside it is the Mother’s of 12 petals. As you can see, mine consists of 3 inner petals and 9 outer. These two symbols represent the vertical-time dimension (9) and the horizontal-space (12), and their superimposition formed the valuable Gnostic Circle, the crucial key of Knowledge that made it possible to unravel the mysteries of that marvellous Temple of the New Age.
In The Life Divine Sri Aurobindo has written, ‘At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny’. What I find very interesting is that when his disciples or devotees or others connected with his work read a statement of this nature, automatically they consider that this choice pertains to others, – that ‘big bad world out there’ and that it has no relation to them. Having ‘chosen’ Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, they consider themselves to be exempt from the very difficult labour of facing the responsibility that accompanies this critical choosing at this evolutionary turning point. In addition, experience showed me that there was never present in those circles any understanding of what the nature of that choice was, nor what it demanded of them.
I see the matter quite differently. To me it is more than evident that that ‘choice’ is first and foremost a responsibility of HIS OWN PEOPLE, so to speak. The onus lies primarily on them, and it has very little to do with having ‘accepted’ Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. That would be too easy. But wasn’t a choice present in the adoption of the Mother’s original plan for the Matrimandir rather than the architects’? Or concerning the ‘burning at the stake’ of The New Way in the Ashram?
Of course, if people and governments wish to continue pouring money and energy into a construction that further exalts the ego of the architect, the choice is entirely theirs. Or if devotees and disciples insist on focusing their attention on symbols of the old creation, the choice too is entirely theirs. For together with that much tooted ‘freedom of expression’ goes that other favourite: freedom of choice.
A Future in chaos is the condition that plagues Auroville because its choice resulted in the loss of a ‘centre that holds’. Imprisonment in the Past has been the result of the Ashram’s choice, where inertia impedes an embracing of the new Future. But while these two centres of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s work stand as symbols of a dying Past and an inchoate Future, a third arises which is the bridge, harmoniously joining the past and the future and integrating those time-energies for the formation of a new Cosmos, a new creation of the Supermind, within which ‘the symbol is the thing symbolised’ and central to which stands that superb Symbol of the Future Realisation.
Aeon Centre of Cosmology
Deepavali, November 1986