These words of the Mother, given by her as a public message at about the same time as the foundation of Auroville, were probably interpreted by most people at the time as a generalization referring to the crises dominant in the politics of the world at the time, such as the ‘cold war,’ the Vietnam War, and the escalation of nuclear weapons. She even mentioned that an occult purpose for Auroville was to prevent nuclear war by bringing together Russians and Americans, along with all the peoples and cultures of the world. This perspective is important historically for understanding the last line of the Charter of Auroville: “Auroville will be the site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.”
The emphasis at the time, especially evident at the foundation ceremony with participants representing all the member states of UNESCO, focused on the global situation of humanity. No one would have imagined that in just six years the SAS would claim ownership of Auroville and try to evict its residents for trespassing, necessitating the intervention of the Government of India, and eventually the Auroville Act, in order to secure progress according to the Charter. Equally unimaginable and unlikely, during the ensuing four decades, would have been the current interventions by appointees of the GOI that have caused the current disruptions and divisions within Auroville.
Without reiterating the details, I would like to focus on the aspect of “division” that has become so poignantly apparent in the differences expressed by members of the apex committee, known as the Working Committee (WC), and the Residents’ Assembly (RA), which is the collective body that the WC should be representing. These differences are clearly stated in published letters by the respective bodies and will therefore presumably be well-known to Aurovilians. My views on these communications are meant to emphasize the seriousness of the issues at hand as well as to analyze them, to some extent, with respect to my own experience and to the words of the Mother quoted in my title. For example, we read in a letter by some members of the WC a statement regarding the history of Auroville in which they allege that there “has been a strong resistance against the city… since the beginning, causing different stages of rupture” and “… after months of sustained discussions, and the never ending dissatisfaction from [a] section of foresters, youth and architects, Auroville’s Town Development Council (ATDC) finally issued a work order to commence clearing…Unfortunately, the anti-city and environmental hardliners gathered on Dec 4th morning to aggressively stop the work by putting small children in front of JCBs (bulldozers) and other abusive behaviour.”
The events of December are well-known by all and have been amply reported from the different and conflicting points of view in various local, national, and international media during the past four months. I am highlighting these statements to illustrate a certain narrative that wants to depict Aurovilians, and in particular those who actively associate with the RA, as “anti-city” and as “oppositional” and “disrespectful” toward the new Secretary and Governing Board (GB) of the Auroville Foundation (AF). As I have pointed out elsewhere, many of the public statements made by the new Secretary since December have entailed elaborate justifications for various destructive and invasive actions that have been taken under her authority, on the grounds that it is her mission to remove obstacles to progress and rectify what she refers to as a lack of commitment of Aurovilians to the ideals of Auroville. Residents have responded to the Working Committee members’ rhetoric in a letter which states:
“THERE IS NO RESISTANCE TO A CITY, we all want Auroville to grow. This lack of resistance to a city is in fact clearly evidenced by the enthusiastic and wide community support for the Dreamweaving project (a recently conducted seminar on planning attended by most architects, planners, and concerned individuals during several weeks) … On the other hand recent representation at community meetings … has indicated large vocal support for an harmonious and peaceful way forward.”
The letter also refers to the proposal currently moving through the community’s decision making process to remove the members of the WC that are not accurately representing its position. The polarization between the GB, its Secretary, and her collaborators on the one hand, and the RA, which is actually the decision making body of Auroville, on the other hand, could not be any clearer. The stark reality is also that the former is the aggressor and the latter is forced to take a defensive position in response to the series of offenses that it has endured with considerable integrity and fortitude.
And yet I am reminded of a situation that I have observed repeatedly in my career as an educator working with adolescents. The victims are always blamed by the perpetrator of the crime. And as a teacher of political science, I know of countless instances of authoritarian regimes and value systems that have used the alleged perversions and crimes committed against them by those who oppose them as justifications to insult, condemn and subjugate such “others,” subversives, heretics, and minorities, even to the point of genocides. These are the realities of human nature on the level of ethical and social development during the period of human evolution that it is our privilege to be a part of. We have seen the worst examples played out among the most developed nations in history during just the past hundred years.
This type of socio-political polarization is still being played out in communities, states, and nations everywhere in the world today, and it brings to the forefront of people’s lives in the starkest possible terms the choices that must be made if the future of humanity is to be different and we are to truly leap beyond the past that drags at our feet. This is what Auroville is really about, and it is why the Mother, in her calm but prescient wisdom, offered us the choice, “Truth or the Abyss”.
I too have written reports on Auroville’s development periodically through the years, often with respect to its measurable progress. The population has doubled three times since Auroville became self-governing under the Auroville Act, and the economy, doubling four or five times, has grown by a factor of at least 30, bringing with it schools, businesses, services, arts, and an indomitable spirit.
It knew that forests were essential in order to make the environment livable. It knew that beauty and harmony should shine in its structures. It created a nurturing society in which the youth of the future could learn and grow and become the leaders of their generation. It will now resist the forces of disharmony and division, leap the chasm, and build the beautiful city the Earth needs.
At least this is how it looks according to my notes.
4-22-2022 by Rod Hemsell