Mirra Alfassa - Early Life

Early Life

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother

Books
Collected Works · Life Divine · Synthesis of Yoga · Savitri · Agenda ·
Teachings
Involution/Involution · Evolution · Integral education · Integral psychology · Integral yoga · Intermediate zone · Supermind
Places
Matrimandir · Pondicherry
Communities
Sri Aurobindo Ashram · Auroville
Disciples
Champaklal · N.K.Gupta · Amal Kiran · Nirodbaran · Pavitra · M.P.Pandit · Pranab · A.B.Purani · D.K.Roy · Satprem · Indra Sen · Kapali Shastri
Journals and Forums
Arya · Mother India · Collaboration

Mirra (or Mira) Alfassa was born in Paris in 1878, of a Turkish Jewish father, Maurice, and an Egyptian Jewish mother, Mathilde. She had an elder brother named Matteo. The family migrated to France the year before she was born. For the first eight years of her life she lived at 62 boulevard Haussmann.

Alfassa describes experiences she had as a child in Paris. She says that at age five she realised she did not belong in this world, and her sadhana (spiritual discipline) began then. She claims that she would lapse into bliss and go into a trance sometimes when she was placed in an easy chair or during a meal, much to the annoyance of her mother, who regarded this behaviour as a social embarrassment.

Between eleven and thirteen, she claims, a series of psychic and spiritual experiences revealed to her the existence of God, and man's possibility of uniting with Him. At age 12 she was practicing occultism and claimed to be travelling out of her body.

One of the experiences she claims she had, at the age of 13 for nearly a year every night, was of going out of her body and rising straight above the city:

I used to see myself clad in a magnificent golden robe...and as I rose higher, the robe would stretch...to form a kind of immense roof over the city. Then I would see men, women, children...coming out from every side; they would gather under the outspread robe, begging for help, telling their miseries... In reply, the robe... would extend towards each one of them individually, and as soon as they had touched it they were comforted or healed, and went back to their bodies happier and stronger... Nothing seemed more beautiful to me.... and all the activities of the day seemed dull and colourless... beside this activity of the night...

At age 14 Alfassa was sent to a studio to learn art, and a year later she wrote as a school essay a mystical treatise named The Path of Later On (Alfassa 1893). In 1893 she travelled to Italy with her mother. While at the Doge's Palace in Venice she recalled a scene from a past life where she was strangled and thrown out into the canal (The Mother – Some dates). (Later, for instance in Agenda, she would describe other incarnations, but she alternately describes these past lives as emanations.) At 16 she joined the Ecole des Beaux Arts where she acquired the nickname "the Sphinx", and later exhibited at the Paris Salon.

In 1897 she married Henri Morisset, a student of Gustave Moreau. They lived at Atelier, 15 rue Lemercier, Paris, and Alfassa became a part of the Paris artistic circles, befriending the likes of Auguste Rodin and Monet.

Madame Alfassa recounts that between nineteen and twenty she had achieved a conscious and constant union with the Divine Presence, without the help of books or teachers. Soon after, she discovered Vivekananda's Raja Yoga, which enabled her to make further rapid progress. She says about a year or two later she met an Indian in Paris who advised her to read the Bhagavad-Gita, taking Krishna as a symbol of the inner or immanent Divine. She obtained a French translation which—she relates— was quite poor but still enabled her to understand the substance of it. Madame Alfassa recounts that in her meditations she saw several spiritual figures, all of whom offered her help of one type or another.

In 1898 she and Morisset had a son, André.

Around 1904 she encountered in her dreams a dark Asiatic figure whom she called ‘Krishna’. She said that this figure guided her in her inner journey. She came to have total implicit faith in Krishna, and was hoping to meet him one day in real life (Karmayogi no date). Around 1905 she met the occultist Max Théon, who explained her psychic experiences to her. She paid two extended visits (on the second one she was accompanied by or later joined by Morisset) to Théon's estate at Tlemcen, Algeria, to live with and learn occultism firsthand from Théon and his wife, Alma Theon. Madame Alfassa had a very high regard for Madame Théon, whom she describes as having exceptional psychokinetic powers. Later, when she had become known as "The Mother", she would often relate some of the extraordinary experiences she had at Tlemcen.

In 1908 Madame Alfassa separated with Morisset, and moved to 49 rue de Lévis, Paris.

Around this time Madame Alfassa had regular meetings with students and seekers who were attracted to psychical phenomena or to mysticism. In 1906, with her brother Matteo, she founded in Paris a group named l'Idée Nouvelle ("The New Idea"), which met at her home on Wednesday evenings, first at rue Lemercier and then at rue des Lévis, and later at 9 Rue du Val de Grace. Her book "Words of Long Ago" (vol.2 of the Collected Works) is the account of one of these meetings, along with talks she gave to the L'Union de Pensée Féminine, which was a new study group she had established. In a conversation with Prithwindra Mukherjee, one of the members of this group, Alexandra David-Néel, recalled those meetings and of Madame Alfassa: "We spent marvellous evenings together with friends, believing in a great future. At times we went to the Bois de Boulogne gardens, and watched the grasshopper-like early aeroplanes take off. 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 of making herself forgotten after achieving some noble deed, she couldn't manage to hide very well the tremendous force she bore within herself."

In 1912 Madame Alfassa organised a group of around 20 people named Cosmique, who had the aim of gaining self-knowledge and self-mastery. Although she had not yet met Sri Aurobindo, some of her ideas at the time paralleled his. These were later included at the start of her small book, Conversations.

In 1910 she had what she described as an experience of a reversal of consciousness in which she realised the Divine Will at the very center of her being, and from that moment onwards was no longer motivated by personal desire, but only wanted to do the Divine Will.

Around this time she married Paul Richard. Richard had travelled to India, seeking election to the French Senate from Pondicherry, and while there had met Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry in mid-April 1910. Richard informed Madame Alfassa of Sri Aurobindo and Sri Aurobindo remained in "material and spiritual correspondence" with the Richards for the next four years.

In 1912 she wrote her first Prayers and Meditations (the original entry probably dating to the previous year). These would later be published as part of the Collected Works (Mother's Birth Centenary Edition vol. 1).

Read more about this topic:  Mirra Alfassa

Famous quotes containing the words early life, early and/or life:

    ... business training in early life should not be regarded solely as insurance against destitution in the case of an emergency. For from business experience women can gain, too, knowledge of the world and of human beings, which should be of immeasurable value to their marriage careers. Self-discipline, co-operation, adaptability, efficiency, economic management,—if she learns these in her business life she is liable for many less heartbreaks and disappointments in her married life.
    Hortense Odlum (1892–?)

    Probably more than youngsters at any age, early adolescents expect the adults they care about to demonstrate the virtues they want demonstrated. They also tend to expect adults they admire to be absolutely perfect. When adults disappoint them, they can be critical and intolerant.
    —The Lions Clubs International and the Quest Nation. The Surprising Years, I, ch.4 (1985)

    Saving one human life is better than building a seven story pagoda to the Buddha.
    Chinese proverb.