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Beyond the Human Species: The Life and Work of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother (Omega Books) Hardcover – July, 1998
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This book is a fitting ode to one of the greatest spiritual thinkers of our times. What makes it extremely valuable is the fact that it assembles documents which have never been presented before as a whole by other authors.
'Short takes', in Sunday, India
This book has gripped and deeply moved me from the first to the last page ... Van Vrekhem ... tries in ordinary language to bring a complex whole of experiences within the reach of the reader ... 'Beyond Man' is an important, encouraging book which stimulates and activates the reader ...
Lambert de Kwant, in Tattwa Bulletin, The Netherlands
A splendid book, richly documented and beautifully presented.
-- Marcel Messing, in Prana, The Netherlands
... The inclusion of interesting historical, philosophical and spiritual vistas drawn from other sources has resulted in a richly embroidered tapestry as a background to the exceptional life of the Two-in-One, 'the double-poled Avatar of the Supermind' as Van Vrekhem calls Sri Aurobindo and the Mother ...
Carel Thieme, in Mother India, India
... the book is based on documents never before presented as a whole and shows the history of this century in a new light ... Van Vrekhem does not recoil from interpreting developments in recent history and discoveries in the field of quantum mechanics, significative of great changes on the Earth ...
Simon Vinkenoog, in Bres, The Netherlands
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Dutch
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Where does one begin to learn about this "Rishi" in modern India and unravel the complexity of the thoughts, visions, and ideas of Sri Aurobindo? Is there a text that is at once engaging, authentic, and yet helps you to understand the philosophy and life of the Yogi? I recommend you start with this book. In one fell swoop, he takes you on a journey of the life of Sri Aurobindo and contemporary India and Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's philosophy and yoga.
Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) was a militant Indian revolutionary who eventually became a spiritual teacher, based in the then-French territory of Pondicherry in southern India. His closest associate Mirra Alfassa (1878-1973) was a French national and former occultist. After the death of Aurobindo, Alfassa succeeded him as the leader of their rapidly growing spiritual community in Pondicherry. In 1968, The Mother - as she was known to the devotees - founded the town of Auroville, which still exists and functions as the main centre of this particular new religious movement.
"Beyond the human species" is both a biography of Aurobindo and The Mother, and an exposition of their main ideas. Despite their Hindu-derived terminology, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother seem to have been heavily indebted to Theosophy, with its evolutionary perspective on the cosmos. The legend of Atlantis makes a brief guest appearance. Interestingly, Aurobindo was a modernist and liberal democrat, who opposed both Nazism and Communism (or at least Stalinism) in the name of a future liberal-democratic world federation. The Theosophists were also progressive, but perhaps in a more "alternative" fashion. The author never mentions the Theosophists, but Alfassa worked with two occultists based in Algeria, Max and Alma Théon, before she departed for India and met Aurobindo.
A large part of George van Vrekhem's book contains miracle stories about Aurobindo and The Mother. These are *very* hard to believe. The Mother stopped the Germans from taking Paris during World War I, and stopped them from destroying it during World War II. The fog at Dunkirk which stopped the Luftwaffe from destroying the Allies was Aurobindo's doing. The Russian revolution, the Spanish civil war and the war between Ethiopia and Italy were all influenced by Aurobindo. (He seems to have failed in these cases!) Winston Churchill was under Aurobindo's direct influence. Adolf Hitler was influenced by a demonic power known as The Lord of the Nations. At a decisive moment, The Mother used her occult powers, impersonated the demon and appeared to Hitler, inducing him to launch Operation Barbarossa. Of course, The Mother knew that Hitler would fail. The demon was extremely angry with her (she met him in the hall outside Hitler's study). As for Stalingrad, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother were somehow responsible for the decisive Soviet victory there. (Please note that they had the same tactic as the Western powers: a temporary alliance with Stalin against Hitler. In reality, neither of them liked Stalin. In fact, they didn't even consider him human. He was a *direct* incarnation of a demon, while Hitler was a normal human being influenced by demons from the outside.) To top it all off, our brave occult warriors created monsoon rains to thwart the Japanese invasion of India. Vrekhem also marvels at the large number of important historical events which seems to have taken place on Aurobindo's birthday, August 15.
I readily admit that I don't believe a word of it.
As already mentioned, Sri Aurobindo's and The Mother's metaphysics are similar to those of Theosophy. However, their system does have one extremely curious trait, a trait its followers often regard as unique. They believed that humanity isn't the end-point of cosmic evolution. Humans are just a transitional species. The real goal of evolution is the calling down of the Supermind on Earth, the divinization of matter and the creation of a new race of supermen. Both Aurobindo and The Mother attempted to immortalize their own bodies, using various meditative and occult techniques.
I agree. This is indeed unique compared to Hinduism or Buddhism, where the goal is to *leave* this vale of tears, pierce through Maya and return to Godhead (or disappear into Nirvana). It's also different from Theosophy, since I suspect most Theosophists want to enter the astral world ASAP.
Even so, the idea of "the divinization of matter" does sound strangely familiar, doesn't it?
It is, of course, strikingly similar to ideas found in Judaism and Christianity. The real goal of Aurobindo's Integral Yoga was to create The Millennium and bring about the resurrection of the body. He and The Mother wanted to have the heavenly bodies described by Paul in the New Testament, a body the resurrected Jesus is also supposed to have had. In sharp contrast to Biblical religion, however, Aurobindo and The Mother wanted to bring about the divinization of matter *without* God or Christ. Their perspective was one of occult self-salvation. Vrekhem's book even closes with a remarkably outspoken quote from The Mother: "It is not a crucified but a glorified body that will save the world". This idea of occult self-salvation and earthly self-divinization is presumably taken from some strand of Hermetism and may have affinities with "spiritual" alchemy. While Gnostics wanted to leave the evil material world and re-unite with the Divine, at least some Hermetists seems to have had a quite different perspective: remain on Earth but become divine through magical techniques. A wild guess is that The Mother got this teaching from Max and Alma Théon in Algeria. Max Theón, apparently, was really a Jewish Kabbalist.
I think most people can immediately spot the problem with Aurobindo's and The Mother's vision. They are both dead! None of them were resurrected, and none of them transformed their bodies. I'm not a Christian, but this would obviously be the main Christian criticism of their activities. Even orthodox Hindus will be able to spot some problems. Aurobindo and The Mother claimed to a double-avatar of the Divine. Aurobindo was an incarnation of Krishna, while The Mother was The Great Mother or Goddess, the Creatrix of the entire universe (i.e. the Logos). She was also Mahakali. However, none of them acted as the classical avatars from Hindu mythology, a mythology which both of them accepted. They seem to have acted more like normal human beings. Aurobindo even broke his leg at one point...
George van Vrekhem has obvious problems with this. He does claim that Aurobindo's physical remains were in perfect mint condition still 111 hours after his death. That, however, is not the same thing as a resurrection. He also claims that The Mother really died already in 1962, but decided to re-enter her body again until her final departure in 1973. This he terms a "resurrection". Apparently, the Supramental Consciousness which will divinize matter was called down on Earth already on 29 February 1956 by The Mother. As for her death in 1973, she really was resurrected (again!) in a supramental body, but it was invisible. The only problem: nobody else noticed. I'm sorry, but this is sillier than the official Christian version, where the resurrected Jesus at least showed himself to his disciples, including one Doubting Thomas. It's also sillier than the constant resurrections, left and right, in Yogananda's book "Autobiography of a Yogi", where at least some were supposedly witnessed by more than one person. Vrekhem admits that even The Mother was shocked by Aurobindo's death, just as her disciples were shocked by hers. Many drew the conclusion that the work of supramentalization had been postponed. Auroville, however, still exists outside Pondicherry.
I don't doubt that Sri Aurobindo might have done positive things for India, or that his Theosophically-derived metaphysics are interesting. Perhaps he was also a good poet (I'm not the one to judge, I'm afraid). The more specifically Aurobindean vision, however, can be saved only by easily spotted ad hoc hypotheses. Whoever Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa might have been, they won't take us beyond the human species...