The Mother in Paris

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The Mother at age 24 (1902).jpg

(Amal Kiran:) “In her sixteenth year she joined a Studio to learn painting. It was one of the biggest studios in Paris. She happened to be the youngest there. All the other people used to talk and quarrel among themselves, but she never took part in these things – she was always grave and busy with her work. They called her the Sphinx. Whenever they had any trouble or wrangle, they would come to her to settle their affairs. She could read their thoughts and, as she replied more often to their thoughts than to her words, they felt very uncomfortable. She would also make her decisions without the least fear, even if the authorities were concerned.”[1]

(Amal Kiran:) “The Sphinx of the Studio was also the same serious self at home. She rarely smiled or laughed. And for this, once when she was about twenty, she got a scolding from her mother. She simply replied that she had to bear all the sorrows of the world. Her mother thought she had gone crazy. On another occasion she was scolded by her for not listening to what she had been ordered to do. Then she answered that no earthly power could command her obedience. ...
         Before this time, she had already arrived at a fairly precise idea of her mission. Between the ages of eleven and thirteen, a series of psychic and spiritual experiences revealed to her not only the existence of God but man's possibility of uniting with Him, of realising Him integrally in consciousness and action, of manifesting Him upon earth in a life divine. And during her body's sleep occult instructions were given to her by several teachers, some of whom she met afterwards on the physical plane. Later on, as the inner and outer development proceeded, a psychic and spiritual relation with one of these beings became more and more clear and frequent and, although she knew little of the Indian philosophies and religions at that time, she was led to call him Krishna and henceforth she was aware that it was with him, whom she knew she would meet on earth some day, that the divine work was do be done.”[2]

(Mother:) “I had all this preparation. And I am giving you these details simply to tell you it all began with consciousness (I knew very well what consciousness was, even before I had any word or idea to explain it), consciousness and its force – its force of action, its force of execution. Next, a detailed study and thorough development of the vital. After that, mental development taken to its uppermost limit, where you can juggle with all ideas; a developmental stage where it's already understood that all ideas are true and that there's a synthesis to be made, and that beyond the synthesis lies something luminous and true. And behind it all, a continual consciousness. Such was my state when I came here [to Pondicherry]: I'd had a world of experiences and had already attained conscious union with the Divine above and within – all of it consciously realized, carefully noted and so forth – when I came to Sri Aurobindo.
          From the standpoint of shakti, this is the normal course: consciousness, vital, mental and spiritual.
         Is it different for men? I don't know. Sri Aurobindo's case was quite special, and apart from him I don't see any convincing example. But generally speaking, what is most developed in a man, along with the mind, is the physical consciousness; the vital is very impulsive, practically ungoverned. That's my experience of the hundreds and hundreds of men I have met. There's normally a physical strength built up through games and exercises, and side by side a more or less advanced, but primarily mental development, very mental. The vital is terribly impulsive and barely organized, except in artists, and even there.... I lived among artists for ten years and found this ground to be mostly fallow. I mingled with all the great artists of the time, I was like a kid sister to them (it was at the turn of the century, with the Universal Exposition in 1900; and these were the leading artists of the epoch); so I was by far the youngest, much younger than any of them – they were all thirty, thirty-five, forty years old, while I was nineteen or twenty. Well I was much more advanced in their own field – not in what I was producing (I was a perfectly ordinary artist), but from the viewpoint of consciousness: observations, experiences, studies.”[3]

(André Morisset:) “My earliest remembrances date back to the very beginning of this century and lack clearness. They centre round two spots. One is Beaugency, a little town on the river Loire, where I lived with two aunts (my father’s sisters), my grandfather and my nurse. The other is 15 rue Lemercier in Paris where my mother and father had a flat and their painters’ studio which I considered the most wonderful place in the world.”[4]

(André Morisset:) “Later, my father and mother divorced, and mother married Paul Richard. They came to live at rue du Val de Grace and I used to go and have lunch with them every Sunday. After lunch, specially when the weather was bad, we went to the studio, Paul Richard stretched on a couch, lit his pipe, and they started working. That is, my mother wrote in her own handwriting what he dictated. This small house, at the back of a garden, or more precisely of a fairly large courtyard, with a few trees, stretching in front of a big apartment house, was strikingly cosy and very comfortable.”[5]

(Pavitra shows Mother a photograph of the house in which She lived in Paris, rue du Val de Grâce)

(Mother:) “Well, well! The house on Val de Grâce! It looks inhabited, the windows have curtains in them. I lived there — a small house, really very small, with a bedroom upstairs.
         Here, this is the kitchen; here is the living room, this is the studio. And then behind the kitchen there was a small room that I used as the dining room, and it opened onto a courtyard. Between the dining room and the kitchen there was a bathroom and a small hallway. The kitchen is here; you went up three steps and then there was this small hallway with the stairs leading up to the bedroom. Next to the bedroom was a bathroom about as big as a thimble.
         It is part of a huge house. There's a seven-story apartment building on each side, and the street is here.
         It wasn't very big. The studio was rather large — a beautiful room ... That's where I received Madame David-Neel — we saw each other nearly every evening.
         There was a considerable library in the studio; one whole end was given over to the library — more than two thousand books belonging to my brother. There were even the complete works of several classical writers. And I had my entire collection of the Revue Cosmique, and my post card collection (it was down below) — mainly post cards of Algeria, Tlemcen, nearly 200 of them.”[6]

Words of Long Ago
“Part 2 – Meetings”
Words of Long Ago - Part 2, Meetings 1912.jpg
PDF (27 pages)

(Alexandra David-Neel:) “We spent marvellous evenings together with friends, believing in a grand future... I remember her elegance, her accomplishments, her intellect endowed with mystical tendencies.
         In spite of her great love and sweetness, in spite even of her inherent ease in making herself forgotten after achieving some noble deed, she couldn't manage to hide very well the tremendous force she bore within herself.”[7]

(Mother:) “When I had gatherings in Paris and followed Théon's system (he didn't call them meditations but ‘repose’: ‘having repose together’), at the time, during our gatherings a kind of vibration of light would flow out of my fingers (it was visible to the naked eye), but it was like electricity. And that was a concentrated vital force. It was visible as a vibration of light flowing out of my fingers.”[8]

(Paul Richard:) “My life with Mira during this period was one of harmony on every level of work, thoughts and feelings. She was, at this time, undergoing an intense mystic and spiritual development. Every morning, before sunrise, was devoted to meditation. During the day she took care of household affairs, and in the evenings before retiring, she wrote in her diary. The pages in her diary, which she did not keep secret from me, read like an uninterrupted oblation to her God. Her concept of God at that time combined her see of an inner Presence with an external deity derived from our Judeo-Christian tradition. However, she also used her powers of vision and imagination to wander off into a world of doubtful forms and fictitious beings. As she had been taught by her former ‘Master’, she enlisted the support of friendly spirits and fought with fire against ‘the hostile one’. I did my best to discourage this misuse of her gifts and tried to impress upon her a sense of good will towards every living being, visible or invisible, recognizing no enemy in this or any other world.”[9]

(Mother:) “Ah! that again is another story.... I heard the Ramayana from a man called Pandit, and he was the son of a pandit and had come to Paris to study Law. But he had remained orthodox, as orthodox as one could be, it was tremendous! And he had with him a Ramayana translated into English, with pictures, and he showed it to me. And he told me the story. And then, when he came to the end he told me that [Sita was swallowed up in the earth because she was not innocent]. So I said: “What do you mean?” He told me: “You understand, for an Indian, if a woman has lived even for a few hours in another man’s house, she is impure....” Oh! it is terrible... So, it was because she was impure that she was swallowed up.... I remember, he was quite short. He was from a Bombay family — not Bombay proper but from that side. He was a Gujarati. I believe he spoke Gujarati.”[10]

“Sweet Mother, it is said that if one sees a shooting star and at that moment one aspires for something, that aspiration is fulfilled within the year. Is this true?

(Mother:) Do you know what that means? — The aspiration must be formulated during the time the star is visible; and that doesn’t last long, does it? Well, if an aspiration can be formulated while the star is visible, this means that it is all the time there, present, in the forefront of the consciousness … I had the opportunity to make this experiment. Exactly this.”[11]

“Just as the shooting star flashed past, there sprang from my consciousness: ‘To realize the divine union, for my body!’ And before twelve months were out, it was done.
         I remember, it was at the door of our studio in Paris. I can still see it. That’s how I always remember – the picture simply comes to me.”[12]

(Satprem:) “Ever since I was very young, I have always thirsted for the same thing: I have always wanted to be conscious. So what makes me furious is that I am not conscious – it infuriates me.

(Mother:) For a long, long time, that was also the one thing I felt was worth living for – Consciousness. When I met Théon and came to understand the mechanism, I also understood why I wasn't conscious at a certain level. I think I've told you how I spent ten months one year working to connect two layers – two layers of consciousness; the contact wasn't established and so I couldn't have the spontaneous experience of a whole spectrum of things. Madame Théon told me, “It's because there's an undeveloped layer between this part and that part.” I was very conscious of all the gradations: Théon had explained it all in the simplest terms, so you didn't need to be, as I said, a genius to understand. He had made a quadruple division, and each of them was divided into four, and then again into four, making innumerable divisions of the being; but with that mental simplification you could make in-depth psychological studies of your own being. And so by observation and elimination I eventually discovered that between this and that (gesture indicating two levels of Mother's consciousness), there was an undeveloped layer – it wasn't conscious. So I worked for ten months on nothing but that: absolutely no results. I didn't care, I kept right on, telling myself, “Well, it may take me fifty years to get anywhere, who knows.” And then I left for the country (I was living in Paris at the time). I lay down on the grass, and all at once, with the contact of earth and grass, poof! There was a sort of inner explosion – the link was established, and full consciousness came, along with all the ensuing experiences. “Well,” I said to myself, “it was worth all the trouble!”
         And I am sure that's how the work is done, slowly, imperceptibly, like a chick being formed in the egg: you see the shell, you see only the shell, you don't know what's inside, whether it's just an egg or a chick (normally, I mean – of course, you could see through with special instruments) and then the beak goes peck-peck! And then cheep! Out comes the chick, just like that. It's the same thing exactly for the contact with the psychic being. For months on end, sometimes years, you may be sitting before a closed door, push, push, pushing, and feeling, feeling the pressure (it hurts!), and there's nothing, no results. Then all at once, you don't know why or how, you sit down and poof! Everything bursts wide open, everything is ready, everything is done – it's over, you emerge into a full psychic consciousness and become intimate with your psychic being. Then everything changes – everything changes – your life completely changes, it's a total reversal of your whole existence.”[13]

  1. Amal Kiran, The Mother: Past, Present, Future, p.4, “The Mother: Some general truths and personal facts”
  2. Ibid.,p.5
  3. Mother's Agenda 1962, 25 July 1962
  4. Three Talks by André Morisset, the Mother's Son – “Remembrances”
  5. Ibid.
  6. Mother's Agenda 1951-1960, 22 October 1960
  7. Glimpses of the Mother's Life, p.50-51
  8. Mother's Agenda 1967, 17 May 1967
  9. Michael P. Richard (ed.), Without Passport: The life and work of Paul Richard, p.62
  10. Questions and Answers 1953, p.328
  11. Questions and Answers 1956, 4 July 1956
  12. Mother's Agenda 1951-1960, 11 October 1960
  13. Mother's Agenda 1962, 5 September 1962

See also