Paul Richard

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Drawing by Mother of Paul Richard detail 1918.jpg

(Mother:) “Well, my relationship with Richard was on an occult plane, you see, and it's difficult to touch upon. What happened was far more exciting than any novel imaginable.”[1]

“Anyway, when I met him I knew who he was and I decided to convert him — the whole story revolves around that.”[2]

(Mother:) “The mind is an instrument of organisation. On the outer plane, some people have an organised mind. They have organised their own ideas — note that this is not a very common occurrence! — their own thoughts. But if you look inside yourself, you will see that you have the most contradictory thoughts and if you have not taken care to organise them, they dwell side by side in your head, so to say, and create utter disorder.
         For instance, I used to know someone who was able to hold the most mystical ideas in his mind together with the most positivist ideas, that is, the most materialistic ideas, the negation of everything that is not purely matter. It was all unorganised and this person was constantly tossed this way and that in a perpetual confusion. Note that I don’t disapprove of your having all these ideas: it is good to be able to look at things from all sides at once and, as we were saying the other day, there is a way to reconcile the most contrary ideas. But you must take the trouble to do it, you have to organise them in your mind, otherwise you live in a chaos. I have noticed something else: people whose minds are in disorder keep their rooms and their belongings in a similar state of disorder. I have seen people who had no order in their minds and if you open their chest of drawers or their cupboards, you will find an awful mess — everything is in a jumble. There are people who are intelligent and have slips of paper on which they jot things down — authors, for example — but if by chance they need one of these notes, they have to spend an hour hunting it out and turning everything upside down! They either find the paper in the waste-paper basket or in the drawer where they put their handkerchiefs. Well, that’s how it is, isn’t it?”[3]

(Sri Aurobindo letter to Motilal Roy, April 1914:)
“Dear M.
         I send you today the electoral declaration of M. Paul Richard, one of the candidates at the approaching election for the French Chamber. This election is of some importance to us; for there are two of the candidates who represent our views to a great extent, Laporte & Richard. Richard is not only a personal friend of mine and a brother in the Yoga, but he wishes, like myself, & in his own way works for a general renovation of the world by which the present European civilisation shall be replaced by a spiritual civilisation. In that change the resurrection of the Asiatic races & especially of India is an essential point. He & Madame Richard are rare examples of European Yogins who have not been led away by Theosophical and other aberrations. I have been in material and spiritual correspondence with them for the last four years. Of course, they know nothing of Tantric Yoga [our revolutionary activities]. It is only in the Vedantic that we meet. If Richard were to become deputy for French India, that would practically mean the same thing as myself being deputy for French India. Laporte is a Swadeshi with personal ambitions; his success would not mean the same but at any rate it would mean a strong and, I believe, a faithful ally in power in this country and holding a voice in France.
         Of course, there is no chance, humanly speaking, of their being elected this time. ... Still, it is necessary, if it can at all be done, to stir things a little at the present moment and form a nucleus of tendency &, if possible, of active result which would be a foundation for the future & enable us at the next election to present one or other of these candidates with a fair chance of success.
         I want to know whether it is possible, without your exposing yourself, to have the idea spread in Chandernagore, especially among the younger men, of the desirability of these candidatures & the abandonment of the old parochial & rotten politics of French India, with its following of interested local Europeans & subservience to their petty ambitions in favour of a politics of principles which will support one of our own men or a European like Richard who is practically an Indian in beliefs, in personal culture, in sympathies & aspirations, one of the Nivedita type. If also a certain number of votes can be recorded for Richard in Chandernagore so much the better; for that will mean a practical beginning, a tendency from the sukshma world materialised initially in the sthula. If you think this can be done, please get it done — always taking care not to expose yourself. For your main work is not political, but spiritual. If there can be a Bengali translation of Richard’s manifesto, or much better, a statement of the situation & the desirability of his candidature succeeding, — always steering clear of extremism and British Indian politics, — it should be done & distributed. I lay stress on these things because it is necessary that the conditions of Chandernagore & Pondicherry should be changed, the repetition of recent events rendered impossible and the cession of French territory put out of the question. There would be other & more positive gains by the change, but these I need not emphasise now.”[4]

(Sri Aurobindo letter to Motilal Roy, 5 May 1914:)
Dear M —
         The election is over — or what they call an election — with the result that the man who had the fewer real votes has got the majority. As for M. Richard’s votes, they got rid of them in Pondicherry & Karikal by the simple process of reading Paul Bluysen wherever Paul Richard was printed. Even where he brought his voters in Karikal to the poll himself, the results were published “Richard — 0”. At Villenur people were simply prevented from voting for him or anyone else. As for the results they had been arranged on the evening before the election by M. Gaebelé & were made to fit in with his figures. The extent to which this was done you can imagine from the fact that at Nandagopal’s village where there is no single Bluysenite, there were only 13 ‘votes’ for Lemaire and all the rest for Bluysen. … Of course protests are being prepared from every side, & if Bluysen is not supported by the Cabinet which is likely to come in after the elections in France, the election may be invalidated. Otherwise, for some time, he may reign in spite of the hatred & contempt of the whole population by the terror of the administration and the police. This Madrasi population is so deficient in even the rudiments of moral courage that one cannot hope very much from it.
         Meanwhile Richard intends to remain in India for 2 years & work for the people. He is trying to start an Association of the young men of Pondicherry & Karikal as a sort of training ground from which men can be chosen for the Vedantic Yoga. Everything is a little nebulous as yet. I shall write to you about it when things are more definite.”[5]

(Mother:) “The first issue [of the Arya] began with ‘The Wherefore of the Worlds’ (the English following the French), and in it Richard attributed the origin of the world to Desire. They were in perpetual disagreement on this subject, Richard saying, “It is Desire,” and Sri Aurobindo, “The initial force of the Manifestation is Joy.” Then Richard would say, “God DESIRED to know Himself,” and Sri Aurobindo, “No, God had the joy of knowing Himself.” And it went on and on like that!”[6]

“All this is playing with words, you understand, but it turns out that in one case the world is reprehensible and in the other it is adorable! And that makes all the difference.”[7]

(Automatic writing by Sri Aurobindo, name noted in margin by the Mother, c.1920:)
         To define your case is difficult. A Deva above, a strong Jnana Deva able to communicate with the higher planes, an Asura below representing the development of many lives, a Rakshasa force behind constantly weakened and fading, but not yet cast away by the drawing up of the vital being by the others, also several other minor deva kinds in the psychic being, that is the best I can manage.”[8]

The Lord of the Nations
by Paul Richard

Paul Richard - The Lord of the Nations.jpg

“Nirodbaran: It [the Being behind Hitler] doesn't believe in any descent of the Divine?

Sri Aurobindo: It believes in its own descent and is too self-confident about it.

Nirodbaran: But surely it knows that the work here is against its own interests?

Sri Aurobindo (laughing): Of course.

Purani: Is it only one Being or a troop?

There are more than one, but this is a very powerful Being. Have you read Paul Richard's Lord of the Nations?

Purani: No.

I believe it was not published. He was in communion with this Being and the plans and methods he has written of in the book are the same as those carried out now. He said there that the present civilisation was to be destroyed, but really it is the destruction of the whole human civilisation that is aimed at, and already in Germany Hitler has done it: there is no civilisation left there. What reigns there is barbarism supported by science — science meaning physical science. And Hitler has destroyed human civilisation wherever he has gone — as in Poland.

Purani: Christianity and all religion seem to be his targets.

Yes. What he may want is Ludendorf's religion — the Norse religion of a primitive type where primitive instincts are worshipped.

Purani: Do these Beings recognise that there are higher divine powers?

It depends on the type of Being. For example, some know that there are Gods but they won't admit that they are greater than themselves.”[9]

(Sri Aurobindo:) “When the vital forces or beings throw an influence, they give it certain forms of thought-action and put them in the minds and vital of people so that they feel, think, act, speak in a particular way.”[10]

Michael P. Richard (ed.)
Without Passport: The life and work of Paul Richard
Michael P. Richard - Without Passport, the life and work of Paul Richard 1987.jpg
PDF (142 pages)

(Paul Richard:) “One day I received an invitation from Max Théon, who had at one time been associated with Madame Blavatsky, to visit him in Tlemcen, North Africa. He had a circle of followers in Paris, including the woman who was to become a few years later, my second wife. Despite the mysterious tone of his letter, or perhaps because of it, I decided to accept the invitation. Leaving my family secure in le Vésinet, I boarded a ship for Tlemcen. There, in an Arabian style house on a hillside, I met the ‘Master’, as he was called. Certainly he looked the part, with his long hair, Jewish skull cap and monastic robe.
         My room was unheated, despite the fact that it was winter. That night I dreamt that I was trying to defend my children from a lion, and that he paralyzed my hand with one slap of his paw. The next morning I told Mrs. Théon about this dream which suggested to me that I was going to lose my children. “That is quite probable,” she answered quietly, and I felt a shudder running down my spine. She was right, for I had set foot on a path that was to take me far away from everything that was dear to me.
         For the next forty days I tried to understand the teachings of this ‘Master’. Actually, I did not learn anything special, except some kabalistic interpretations of the scriptures. For example, the first word in the Bible in Hebrew is ‘Breshit’, which is translated ‘In the beginning’. Breshit can be reduced to ‘B’ (the second letter of the alphabet) and ‘Resh’ (meaning the head) which translates into ‘duality, the fountainhead of everything’. So the first word in the Bible emphasizes the complementarity of opposites, just like the Chinese word ‘Tao’. This Chinese word is made up of two signs, one of which also means ‘the head’ and the other means ‘departing’. Together, they translate as ‘the way’.
         These arcane pursuits and the long hours of meditation in my freezing rooms were made bearable by the atmosphere of life and meaning which surrounded Mrs. Théon. Although she spoke little she struck me as a really spiritual person with great gifts of intuition. I never saw her again, but I heard later that she disappeared under mysterious circumstances while staying in a small town on the Northern coast of France. She simply walked, deliberately or not, right out into the ocean.
         When I got back to France I discovered that my wife, who was expecting the birth of our fifth child, had gone to Holland with the other children. I went to see her after the birth of our son André, and she promised to come back home as soon as she could. She did not come back, however, and in fact I did not see her again for seventeen years.”[11]

(Paul Richard:) “As soon as I arrived [in Pondicherry], I asked several people if they could direct me to a wise man, as that was what I had come to find. All of them laughed at the idea of finding a wise man in Pondicherry, but a few days later, two men visited my lodgings in great secrecy and said: “A wise man has come from the North. He is hiding in an Indian home. We have told him about you and he wishes to meet you.” So they brought me to the hideout of Aurobindo Ghose, and we began a friendship which would last twelve years.”[12]

Extract from Government of India, Home Political-B Proceedings, February 1915


7. Pondicherry affairs. — Paul Richard, to whose association with Arabindo Ghose I have referred in previous reports, has been ordered by the French Government to leave Pondicherry and return to France to serve as a reservist. The real reason of the order is that he has made himself obnoxious to the Governor by his association with political refugees and his anti-British intrigues.
         Paul Richard, accompanied by his wife, arrived in Pondicherry from Paris in March last. They held a written commission from Abdul Baha to preach Bahaism, but have shown little or no zeal in this matter. They are also reported to have brought letters of introduction from Shyamaji Krishna Varma to Arabindo Ghose and V.V.S. Aiyar. Paul Richard’s main object in coming to Pondicherry was to stand for election as Deputy. He enlisted all the extremists on his side and canvassed Pondicherry and Karaikal vigorously with their assistance. His election speeches were socialistic and violently anti-British; but he gained very little support, getting only some 300 votes out of total of 50,000 at the elections in May last. He tried to get the elections upset by bringing charges of corruption against the Governor. During his stay in Pondicherry he has been in daily association with members of the extremist party, in particular with Arabindo Ghose, with whom he collaborated in the production of the Arya. He put forward schemes for starting societies among young Hindus, but nothing even came of these projects, although the formation of a society called L’Idée Nouvelle was actually sanctioned by the French Government in June 1914.”[13]

  1. Mother's Agenda 1961, 5 November 1961
  2. Ibid.
  3. Words of the Mother – III, p.310
  4. Autobiographical Notes and Other Writings of Historical Interest, p.195
  5. Ibid., p.202
  6. Mother's Agenda 1961, 5 November 1961
  7. Ibid., 20 December 1961
  8. Record of Yoga, p.1427
  9. Talks with Sri Aurobindo (Vol. 2), p.648, 20 May 1940
  10. Letters on Yoga – IV, p.776
  11. Michael P. Richard (ed.), Without Passport: The life and work of Paul Richard, p.50
  12. Ibid., p.55
  13. National Archives of India, Extract from Government of India, Home Political-B Proceedings, February 1915, 777–80. Via

See also