Denunciations, beatings and book burnings: when a utopian dream turned sour – Telegraph.co.uk

Posted: July 27, 2021 at 1:57 am


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Auroville is an intentional community founded in 1968 by a French woman named Mirra Alfassa, known as the Mother, an occultist and tennis enthusiast, and the closest disciple and confidante of the Cambridge-educated, Indian freedom fighter turned spiritual teacher Sri Aurobindo.

Carved out on a desolate plateau near the southern Indian town of Pondicherry, and founded on the principles of the integral yoga devised by Aurobindo, which envisioned a cellular transformation of mankind, creating a supremental race of men and women, Auroville was designed to bring together people from all the worlds nations, united in the cause of universal harmony a tower of Babel in reverse as the Mother had it

It is now a thriving community of some 3,500 people from 59 countries arguably the most successful reforestation effort in India, Akash Kapur writes, and a global model for environmental conservation.

But it wasnt always so. Akash Kapur, whose father is Indian and mother American, grew up in Auroville, left to attend boarding-school in America and later went to Harvard, before returning to live in Auroville in 2004. This beautifully written and thought-provoking account of the communitys earliest days, a study of idealism and naivety and the conflict between reason and faith, follows the fortunes of three characters.

John Walker was American, the son of John Walker III, the director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and Lady Margaret Drummond, the daughter of Sir Eric Drummond, the first secretary to the League of Nations and British ambassador to Rome. After getting mixed up in the Timothy Leary LSD experiments at Harvard, and moving through Catholicism and Zen Buddhism, John arrived at Auroville in 1969.

It was there that he met Diane Maes, the daughter of a house-painter from a small town in Belgium, who, having rebelled against the constraints of her Catholic education, moved back and forth between Europe and India before finally settling in the community.

The third is the French writer Bernard Enginger, a former member of theFrench Resistance and a concentration-camp survivor who, after making his way to Auroville, became the Mothers most ardent disciple, taking the nameSatprem.

The modernist architect Roger Anger, who drew up the initial blueprint for Auroville, envisaged skyscrapers, moving sidewalks, an airport, a world trade centre a utopian city that would require $8bn to create and which, of course, would never be forthcoming. At ground level, the new settlers, mostly Western spiritual seekers, laboured without any mechanical equipment, digging out wells, irrigating saplings with jugs of water, and excavating an expanse of land in readiness for the building of the Matrimandir, the spiritual heart of Auroville, a massive sphere 118ft across and 97ft high, encrusted with gold discs and containing a huge, marble-lined meditation area the Divines answer to mans aspiration for perfection, as the Mother put it.

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Denunciations, beatings and book burnings: when a utopian dream turned sour - Telegraph.co.uk

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July 27th, 2021 at 1:57 am

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