The Mother (Mirra Ismaloun Alfassa, 1878-1973), oil, 48" 24," $600
From The Journals, Boston, MA, 1985-1986
The most memorable event of the five days spent at my Harvard 25th Reunion had nothing to do with Harvard and something perhaps to do with the supernatural. During the past few weeks I have been involved obsessively with Sri Aurobindo, the Mother, and Satprem. Though I have been reading Sri Aurobindo off and on since 1973, I had decided by the reunion that he was the greatest intellect ever to have addressed itself to the phenomenon of consciousness. Of the various allegations of Sri Aurobindo's supernatural powers I say nothing. These are a matter of record or a subject of skepticism. Whether he himself embodied the first mutation of mankind into supramental consciousness is not a subject upon which I can speak with authority-- or knowledge. Be that as it may, on Monday when I arrived at Widener Library twenty minutes early for a cocktail party in honor of the class of '60 writers (I was represented by two offprints in glass cases) I made a beeline to the catalogue room to investigate which of Sri Aurobindo's books were in the card catalogue. This was of great interest because the previous evening I had found to my disbelief that Satprem had only one and the Mother only a few books in the Harvard Library. I had found the Aurobindo tray which I was examining on a table and was delighted to see how well-represented he was in the library when my eye strayed for a second to the young couple next to me, who were obviously French, and to their pile of books. This pile consisted of about ten Aurobindo volumes.
I was in a state of mild shock. Had I been looking for books on Charles DeGaulle and the people next to me had a pile of DeGaulle books, I would have dismissed the incident as mere coincidence. But that I should have been examining the Aurobindo catalogue at Harvard and that at the same moment a French couple should have had at least ten Aurobindo books on the nearby table-- what is the mathematical probability of this happening even at Harvard where the number of those who have even heard of Aurobindo must be minuscule? On any other subject except Aurobindo I would regard this event as "mere" coincidence. But that this event should have happened in relation to the supreme master of consciousness is something too perplexing to dismiss. I do not know the meaning of this event nor why it happened. I can only accept it as an omen, a sign from Aurobindo himself to plunge ahead, to fear nothing.
Had this incident not occurred the reunion would already have been memorable if only because of a lunch at Lowell House an hour before where I entertained the class with the reading of a letter sent to me in Jerusalem in 1971 by Elliott Perkins, the former master. I enjoyed the sense of returning to my roots. And later as I entered the Widener Room of Widener Library for the cocktail party I was to have an experience even more delicious since it was so unanticipated. I was examining some rare books when I noticed my old professor, Harry Levin. Always known as an academic prima donna, whose clothes, at least in my day, always seemed a bit too pressed, a bit too starched, Harry Levin now seemed gray and stooped, his hair somewhat unfashionably long, his clothes in no way the epitome of fashion. I introduced myself and was surprised to learn that he had actually read my Symonds essay which I had submitted to the exhibition. For a full hour Harry Levin and I conversed. It was the type of literary conversation that was once my daily reality.
"Well, Professor Levin, my essay because of the recent publication of Symonds' long-suppressed autobiography is somewhat out of date. I considered rewriting it, but haven't gotten around to it though I recently read the memoir."
Harry Levin smiled. I remembered his 1963 seminar on English 19th century comic writers, which was memorable not for its literary discussions but for its silver tea set and cookies wheeled in entr'acte by his secretary. Harry Levin's Boylston Hall tea set has remained ever since a fixture in my mind, an emblem of his stylistic pretensions. Once while the tea things were being served I headed for the men's room where I found Professor Levin staring in the mirror at his bloody gums.
"Been to the dentist?" I asked.
"No, I suffer from hemophilia. Harry Levin was a legend in his own time, silver tea set and hemophilia being only two items in a list which seemed always to lengthen whenever gossips enumerated their latest anecdotes about him.
"I have been illustrating Shakespeare, Professor Levin. Are you familiar with any other artists who have done this?"
Professor Levin looked around meditatively, his encyclopedic intellect checking all of its historical associations. I recalled his Shakespeare course in 1959, a course so infinitely dull that I dropped it mid-term. The discrepancy between the tedium of Harry Levin's early morning Shakespearean discourses and the urbanity of his scholarly tomes never ceased to infuriate me as if I had been taken in by false advertising. It was once stated in "the Times Literary Supplement" that Harry Levin was the last Oxford don. This may have been an exaggeration since Harry Levin's type of scholarship, though seemingly unique, hearkened back not to medieval scholasticism, as the TLS suggested, but to Santayana. Harry Levin, however improbable such a lineage sounds, was Santayana's offspring. Who Harry Levin's other progenitor was I shall not venture to guess.
"Yes, you know, in the 18th century it was fashionable to illustrate Shakespeare. Fuseli comes to mind..."
"I should like to talk about your books. In my earlier years they meant a great deal to me. Though not your best book, your volume on James Joyce was, I think, your most epoch-making."
"Yes, I was very much the right man at the right time then."
"You were perhaps the first person to understand Joyce. Tell me, what do you think of Burroughs? Have you read much of William Burroughs? I ask this because his son Billy was my housemate for six months in 1978 in Boulder and because of his three suicide attempts I got to know his father who lived a few streets away."
"I was on the committee awarding the National Book Award the year William Burroughs was nominated. I did not vote for him. I thought his cut-up innovations to be facile and mechanical. I don't find him interesting and haven't continued to read him."
My memory of Harry Levin's bibliography stopped around 1965. Fortunately two academics joined us and got me off the hook. The first, Charles Maier, a classmate and professor of history at Harvard, was icy and aloof, whereas Robert Darnton, another classmate and a Princeton professor, was quite ingratiating and initiated a long conversation with Levin about scholarly matters. Levin complained that to create space Widener had been retiring from its stacks old editions of the French Academy Dictionary and that knowledge of the French language was thus quite simply disappearing. Darnton agreed. They traded appropriate references. I looked around. The Widener Room was filling up.
"I just returned from Berkeley where I gave a series of lectures," Harry Levin said, "Six of my students are in the English department there. More so than my honorary degrees I cherish the fact that sixteen of my former students have dedicated books to me."
I did not volunteer to ask Harry Levin how many honorary degrees he possessed. Darnton and Maier excused themselves. Once again I was left alone with Harry Levin. We sipped iced tea and discussed Charles Dickens' illustrators.
"You know," replied Levin, "Dickens must have been rather difficult to work for. His first illustrator killed himself and henceforth he always took complete control, especially over Phiz and Cruikshank."
"Are you familiar, Professor Levin, with Sri Aurobindo or Satprem?"
"Can't say I am."
The fact that two of the most important writers of century were unfamiliar to Harry Levin, the most erudite of Harvard professors, indicated once again that I am living a surrealistic world, and I left Professor Levin even more determined to press on ahead in my investigations.
The overriding impression of Micky Finn's living room is dinginess. The walls have not been painted in decades. The air of poverty was unmistakable, and the only decoration is about a dozen photographs of Aurobindo and the Mother. Present also were his girlfriend, Angel, and three others, all of whom were in the process of reading in rotation from Aurobindo's massive epic poem Savitri. Conversation afterwards was animated. I pointed out to Micky Finn that even though I had just read an Aurobindo book I couldn't really say what it was about. Reading Aurobindo is like listening to Bruckner. Its billowing abstractions are almost irreducible to summary. Micky Finn acknowledged that after having read all of Aurobindo many times he suffered a similar intellectual paralysis.
"But," he added, "if I had to summarize all of Aurobindo in one sentence, I would quote from the conclusion of the Bhagavad-Gita that the gist of yoga is an entire self-giving and surrender to the Divine."
"I can read about five pages an hour of Aurobindo and understand only a fraction of what I read. And yet he himself claimed that he was no philosopher, that his writings came not from his mind but from the overmind."
Micky Finn smiled to himself, delighted that he had perhaps picked up a convert. There is about Micky Finn an inner glow, the evidence of twenty years association with the yoga and writings.
Indeed, the yoga of Aurobindo is elusive. Whereas in Kundalini yoga or hatha yoga the student has the benefit of exact exercises to follow, in the case of Aurobindo's Integral Yoga such is not the case. By claiming that all of life and its activities are yoga, Aurobindo left the door open for sloppiness of thought and action. Yet to read the Synthesis of Yoga is to realize that Aurobindo was the most profound of thinkers and the most illuminated of souls. Surrender to the Divine by transcending the ego is the key to Integral Yoga. But how does one go about this? To speak of focusing the mind on the One, on Brahman-- this may be clear to an Indian culturally aware of the subtleties of Vedanta but to myself the ideas of concentration and consecration yet remain elusive. But I continue an a daily basis. Aurobindo is the greatest challenge I have encountered in years. As it says in the Kartha Upanishad: "To many it is not given to hear of the Self. Many, though they hear of it, do not understand it. Wonderful is he who speaks of it. Intelligent is he who learns of it. Blessed is he who, taught by a good teacher, is able to understand it."
Micky Finn's Wednesday night ritual follows certain standard procedures. After a reading from Savitri the host puts on a cassette with some music and the voice of the Mother. This is followed by ten minutes of meditation and then talk. This week Micky Finn talked-- almost non-stop once I gained his confidence. Would it be far-fetched to suggest that the sooted walls are an accumulation of years upon years of dope smoke?
"For I was into dope. From the age of eight I was into dope and I am sixty-one and I kicked the habit only in January- -pot and cigarettes, too. For years I shot up heroin. Fear of needles? Look, every junkie initially fears needles. I knew that every time I smoked pot I was betraying the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. People would come here for the Wednesday night session and you could see that they couldn't wait for the end of the meditation period so that they could roll up a joint. But I knew. I knew all the time that pot and yoga are incompatible. So I just stopped. Just like that. The same thing happened with heroin. I kicked the habit in one day without going cold turkey, without methadone, without withdrawal symptoms. That's how strong this yoga is. In the '40s and '50s how did I get pot, you ask. I'll tell you, there were so few potheads in those days that we all knew each other. It was a nation-wide circuit. All you had to do was go to a racetrack. That's right. In the old days Suffolk Downs in Revere. I was a hustler at the racetrack. But I have stopped it all-- pot, cigarettes , even booze. For years before I got on heroin I was a bottle-a-day man. But this yoga is so powerful-- you wouldn't believe how many wrecks have come in here and have been straightened out by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I remember this woman, a zombie, she couldn't even walk straight, and I focused her on the lower chakras. This was before I even went to Pondicherry in 1971. I then didn't know what I was doing. I spoke to M. P. Pandit at the ashram and he said, 'You're crazy. You're doing it all wrong. Of course I was doing it all wrong. What did people in those days know of Aurobindo? Who had ever heard of him? But the yoga still worked. People were cured, healed, brought back to life just by hearing about the yoga. You don't start at the bottom chakras as you do in the other yogas. You start at the top, at the Sarasrara chakra, and then the cleansing process works its way down to the lower chakras, to the vital centers. When I first got involved with this yoga-- it was in New York in the late '50s-- I was sitting in a park stoned out of my mind and I saw this beautiful woman. She was from France. I followed her across the street to a yoga center. Devi had been a hero of the French Underground during the War and she had gone then to Pondicherry but she left because she didn't accept the Mother. This I didn't know when I met her in New York. I never knew the Mother even existed until I got to India. So Devi came to America and opened the first Aurobindo Center in New York. Look, I'm going to tell you something. In this yoga it is all a question of doing everything for the Divine. When you eat you are eating for the Divine. When you are working it is for the Divine. Our whole life has to be a total consecration to the Divine. If you keep this thought always in mind, everything will fall into place. Everything!"
I arrived late. The members of the Aurobindo Circle, their faces corrugated into eerie formations by the candles, sat silently meditating. When they finally opened their eyes Micky cried, "I've got your book for you! " and he handed me Volume I of Mother's Agenda, the first of thirteen volumes. It was large, over 500 pages, and after telling me a little about it Micky asked, "Has anyone ever heard of A Course in Miracles? A friend is reading it and his transformation is incredible."
I smiled to myself and replied, "Yes, it purports to be a revelation given to the late Helen Schuchman, a New York psychologist."
"She heard a voice."
"Like the Prophet Mohammed. For 12 years she heard the voice which commanded her to write down its message. It is difficult to speak of A Course in Miracles with detachment. It is a work of such lofty genius and-such amazing perception and lucidity ....... "
"But, Richard, have you taken the course?"
"Let me continue. In 1983 in Cedar Key I burned my set in a book-burning ritual."
"What the hell did you do that for?"
"I went crazy. But after my accident last November I purchased a second set. I am still on page 400 of the Text but I have not done the Course exercises."
"Richard, you amaze me by the strength of your intellectual involvement and by the poverty of your practical application."
"But what does A Course in Miracles say? What's it all about?"
"There are certain similarities to Aurobindo."
"In all the higher reaches of the Spirit there are similarities."
"It's very much a post-Christian vision. At first I thought the Course was written in the corridors of the Vatican, but this is impossible because the Course does away with such classic Christian concepts as sin and the Devil. The Course is based on the idea of primeval unity which creation itself catapulted into multiplicity. The aim of creation is to bring back into the Unity of the Sonship all life on the planet. The redemption of man, first signaled by Christ, who is the role model, is possible only when the primordial unity has been reestablished by the Sonship."
Micky Finn replied, "You know, I am older than all of you here and the longer I live the more I see that the whole of life is a unity. Every piece of creation has been put in place perfectly by the Creator so that nothing is out of place."
Really!" I answered, "I have been reading a depressing book which I cannot put down about Kissinger. Reading it is like eating candy, but I feel I am being poisoned. Kissinger was such a scoundrel He was almost as odious as Nixon."
"He was worse!" cried Micky Finn, "He was Nixon's Svengali. I remember the first time I saw Kissinger on TV. around 1968. I had never heard of him. I didn't know who he was, but as he spoke my flesh crawled. He was like a sludge out of a swamp without a spark of life."
"No soul. A slip of life, a kind of ghoul."
"But where, Micky, does Kissinger fit into your unity, into your divine perfection? Is Kissinger some sort of lubricant to keep the mechanism going?"
Micky Finn stood up as if called to center stage by my question. All the scattered ligaments of his mind seemed focused on one point. "The Mother teaches one important thing: that every obstacle is a blessing in disguise. Even when I have been cast down into the abyss in retrospect I see these experiences as challenges to make me stronger in the yoga. If everything were perfect, there would be no need for the yoga. Furthermore, we are all Kissingers. Kissinger is in each of us in varying degrees. It is very important to realize this. We are evolving beings who contain all past consciousness, that of the minerals, the plants, the insects, the animals."
Tonight at the Boston Aurobindo Circle when I handed Micky Finn $50 for four more volumes of Mother's Agenda I said, "If I had only $50 left in the world I would spend it on these books." The last week has been one of feverish absorption in Volume I of Mother's Agenda. Skepticism might argue that the Mother was a crazy old lady, but for once skepticism has no voice in the presence of the magisterial phenomenon of the Mother. That Mother's Agenda cannot be purchased in bookstores, that virtually no one has ever heard of it, that financial or other difficulties have held up the translation of eight more volumes from the original French, that to obtain the volumes one must almost procure them by hand, as if they were some sort of samizdat in the Eastern Gulag-- how telling a commentary on the triviality of the culture of capitalism is this series of appositions. "And Micky," I added, "I am peeved at you because when I first spoke to you in May about Mother's Agenda you claimed that after Satprem's biography reading it would be redundant. Mother's Agenda is one of the necessary utterances of the 20th century. You have deprived me for four months of the opportunity to expose myself to this most extraordinary work." Micky Finn disclaimed any recollection of discouraging my reading of the Agenda and moreover insisted that the Agenda cured him of cigarette smoking which he had been doing for 58 years.
Mother's Agenda, at least in its first 500 pages-- and I have at this point no reason to doubt that the next 5500 pages will differ in quality-- stands unique in the annals of humanity. That the Agenda is not an imaginative concoction on the part of Satprem is proved by the fact that the entire Agenda except for the first hundred or so pages and the inclusion of letters exists on tapes one of which I heard last night. With the dismissal of any suspicion of fraud one is left with the evidence of the Agenda itself, perhaps the most important statement made about evolution since the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859. This coupling with Darwin, however far-fetched it might sound, immediately raises central issues. Darwin was an empirical scientist, plodding, exact, meticulous, possessed by a theory first perceived as legitimate in the Galapagos Islands which he spent decades gathering data to prove. Darwin's methodology is sacrosanct. Only Creationists and other Yahoos would regard Darwin as unworthy of consideration. The Mother is not a scientist. She is herself the laboratory experiment for the evolution of the race into another species by means of cellular mutation. The Mother is a seer. Like Sri Ramakrishna, she enters into trances and has visions. These visions she describes and analyzes with the articulations of one gifted with the most profound of perceptions and aided with the immense intellectual categorizations of Sri Aurobindo. But whereas Aurobindo's stance is abstraction-- a skeptic might argue unprovable theory--the Mother's voice is that of concrete experience. What Aurobindo points to the Mother describes-- in a voice of pain, suffering, anxiety, exaltation, joy. As a seer, the Mother SEES. She sees what is invisible to the rest of humanity. She possesses prodigious powers of healing. Her consciousness, not confined to her body, constantly travels to other dimensions and communicates with other beings. The Mother is the archetype of the psychic. Telepathy, clairvoyance, prophesy-- these are grist for her mill, preliminary powers to aid her in her monumental work of forging the bridge between terrestrial and supramental existence. Again and again the Mother enters into the Supramental, describing its constituent elements. The Mother is the Swedenborg of the Supramental and the Agenda is her Spiritual Diary. Like Swedenborg the Mother communicates with demons and spirits. That type of mentality called animism which anthropologists designate as the essence of primitive man characterizes the Mother's mind. The Mother is a primitive primeval force which entered into Nature at the beginning of creation and which has reincarnated successively to aid, accelerate, and generate the evolutionary process. The Mother is the incarnation of that which early man worshipped as the Divine Mother, the Mater Magna. Before her wisdom and her perception and her utterance in the Agenda we can only bow our heads in gratitude and thanksgiving.
Walking through the Fenway area to the Boston Aurobindo Circle Wednesday nights usually elicits from my memory scenes of my residence on Keswick St. in 1974. But tonight all my wistfulness was overshadowed by my preoccupation with the Mother. During the past two weeks I have read the first three volumes of Mother's Agenda with a rapture, a passion and an excitement that I have felt for no written document in the last 20 years. The Boston Aurobindo Circle has had, or at least is on the point of being given, a financial shot in the arm. Apparently there lived in New York a wealthy old woman, a disciple of Aurobindo, who established a foundation and when she died this foundation passed into the hands of trustees who have now greeted with some favor Micky Finn's proposal to start an Aurobindo Center in Boston or Cambridge. Thus upon my arrival there existed a certain electricity in the air and my enthusiasm about the Mother did not diminish the charged atmosphere.
Micky Finn, sunk in his usual chair, commented that he himself would not recommend the Agenda as an introduction to the yoga, a remark that elicited questions from all sides.
"Listen," I volunteered, "There are parts of the Agenda that lack credibility. The Agenda is a work of literary magic. In reading it one enters a reality so different from our mundane world that one is obliged to ask certain basic questions. Is the Mother putting us on? Is she suffering from delusions? I have made a list of about twenty items that I find highly unbelievable. For example, the Mother claims that when Aurobindo died his consciousness entered into her body as a means of direct communication with the material world. Nightly the Mother who slept only two hours communes with Aurobindo in another dimension and in fact when Satprem on numerous occasions brings his manuscript of the book on Aurobindo to the Mother for her comments it is Aurobindo through the Mother who criticizes Satpremis writings. Not only that but once when the disciples sat meditating in the courtyard an enlarged form of Aurobindo pressed down and sat upon them. There exists in the Mother's world a recognizable mythos and cosmology. Thus, according to the Mother, there are four Asuras or satanic forces on the planet, two of whom have been neutralized or converted. One of the other two, the Lord of Death, gave of f an emanation, Max Theon, who was the Mother's teacher in Tlemcon, Algeria at the beginning of the century. The Mother has much to say about Theon, far more than about her ex-husband, Paul Richard, himself an emanation of the Lord of Nations or Falsehood. At one point the Mother literally threw me off the couch by her statement that it was she who by disguising herself as the Lord of Nations persuaded Hitler to invade Russia in order to insure Hitler's ultimate defeat and that it was she by means of a hovering force who saved Paris from destruction. In fact, the Mother claims that World War II was an attempt on the part of the Asuras to thwart the WORK, the Supramental Manifestation. In addition, in 1962 when China invaded India and suddenly, despite its seemingly imminent victory, withdrew, the Mother claims that it was her force that caused Peking's sudden about- face."
"When I was at the ashram in 1972," interrupted Micky Finn, "It was at the time of the last Indo-Pakistani War. The Russian and American fleets were headed for the Indian Ocean and a collision course. Some disciples went to the Mother's room and asked her to do something. The next day the Pakistanis who seemed to be on the point of sweeping through India surrendered a whole army."
I continued: "I don't mean to suggest that these incidents are all the Agenda. If the Agenda were only a couple of hundred pages long, one could dismiss it as the work of a kook. But the Agenda is 6000 pages and these items are only magical flashes contributing to its unique atmosphere. I am merely mentioning these paranormal items to get them out of the way. Another one is that while in Tlemcon the Mother was approached on separate occasions by the King of the Cats and the King of the Serpents, both spirits of their respective species and both wearing gold crowns, in order to make pacts. Whereas the Mother refused to enter into a pact with the King of the Serpents, she did so with the King of the Cats. There are entire pages concerning the Mother's relationship with her cats, one of whom she claimed was the reincarnation of a Russian aristocrat murdered by the Bolsheviks. And then there are other things. Theon taught the Mother how to turn aside lightening. The Lord of the Snow, a gnome, came to Madame Theon when she planted Norwegian spruce trees. The gods Shiva and Krishna used to attend meditation sessions in the courtyard at Pondicherry. On November 24, 1926 Krishna entered Sri Aurobindo's body. In Algeria the Mother discovered the Mantra of Life and buried it. In 1923 her body became that of an eighteen-year-old girl. You see, the details add up to strain our credibility. But the portrait of the Mother and her conversations are so much more vast than these incidental items."
Another problem we did not discuss is the composition of the Agenda and the relationship between Satprem and the ashram. Apparently six months before the Mother's death in 1973 Satprem, the Mother's closest confidant and for twenty years privy to weekly sessions to record the Agenda, was barred admission to Mother's room. Not only that, but after the Mother's death all their correspondence from 1962 to 1973 was confiscated by the ashram, Satprem was expelled from the ashram, and he escaped with the tapes of the Agenda to Auroville. To this day Satprem is persona non grata in the ashram. The entire Agenda stems from Satprem's tapes but these tapes, except for the one I heard, are apparently not available. Thus there is no way of knowing what Satprem edited or deleted or changed from the original tapes with the Mother.
There is about Micky Finn the air of a reformed roué and as he sat slumped in his chair confessing how his reading of the Agenda rid him of his lifelong interest in politics he manifested the single-mindedness of the incipient fanatic. To listen to Micky Finn discourse on the Mother and Aurobindo, especially on how adherence to their formulas will guarantee success and health, provokes images of fundamentalist hucksters. Not quite. I'm being unfair. But as Micky Finn rattled on I decided to interject a note of levity into the discussion.
"I went to Revere Beach yesterday to give Mr. Brown a walk and had a great idea. I am writing Rajneesh a letter on CIA stationery. Once when I wrote the CIA I received a reply on their stationery which I have Xeroxed and every now and then send to friends as a joke. The thing is that Rajneesh has no way of knowing that I, an ex-disciple, am not in the CIA. And Rajneesh, considering his dubious status as a resident alien applying for permanent residence and the presence now of six law enforcement agencies at Rajneeshpuram to investigate his claims of attempted murder, poisoning and peculation against the expelled hierarchy, must be desperate. The purpose of the letter is to tell him to sell his 92 Rolls-Royces because they have undermined his credibility."
"How, Richard, did you ever get involved with Rajneesh anyway?"
"It was 1978. I arrived in Boulder to study Tibetan art at the Naropa Institute. I was given a room in Yeshe House, a dilapidated mansion, where I set up my studio in the cellar. All the students in the cellar were into Rajneesh, not into Buddhism. So I started to go to the Rajneesh Center where dwelled Prema Soma, a woman who sat guzzling brandy all day and telling Tarot Cards. All she wanted to do was gnaw on my foot. It was her obsession. It freaked me out."
"I am told that they are sex fiends, that they are constantly having orgies."
"Listen, I'll tell you something. I've read thirty of Rajneesh's books. I own eighty of his tapes. I was involved with Rajneesh for four years and I can talk all night. In the fall of 1980 I arrived in Miami for the season and needing a place to stay I visited my friend Dr. Hastings, the prison doctor for Dade County. I knocked at the door and found Hastings on the point of suicide. He had just returned from India minus his wife, who had left him after being publicly raped as part of a meditation session at Rajneesh's ashram in Poona. So I moved in and nursed Hastings back to health."
"The guy next door is going blind and is a Rajneeshee. He goes to Oregon and it costs him $900 a week just to stay there. Could that be true?"
"Absolutely. Everything about Rajneesh is controversial. Why did he come to America anyway? His ashram in Poona was firebombed. I remember a letter to the Times of India which suggested that Rajneesh's tongue be cut out so that cannot speak and his hands be cut of f so that he cannot write. From the word Go Rajneesh believed in controversy, in keeping people in a state of chaos, so that his present antics are very much in character. I'll tell you, once in Miami Beach I went to see Muktananda in his newly acquired hotel."
"No kidding! What was Muktananda like?"
"Muktananda blessed me with his peacock feather from his throne. I went with another person who dropped dead the next morning on the front lawn. Only thirty years old. He went out in style-- blessed by Muktananda. At any rate, I shall never forget standing in the lobby of Muktananda's Miami Beach hotel. I was dressed in my full regalia of orange with a mala. In those days it was orange, not red. You have to realize that in India Rajneesh's sannyasins are regarded as blasphemous."
"There is nothing sannyasin-like about them. Sannyasins renounce the world. Rajneesh's sannyasins embrace the world. Rajneesh has used the terminology of traditional Hinduism in order to undermine it. Don't forget how puritanical Indians are. Thus the sight of Rajneesh's sannyasins embracing on the streets of India, not to mention the small cottage-industry of rumors about their sex habits, was scandalous to the extreme. So there I stood in the Miami Beach hotel, clearly an enemy on enemy territory. Not only that, but in his writings Rajneesh always referred to Muktananda condescendingly as Muktanand. Suddenly this disciple of Muktananda came at me like a hissing cat, fuming and fretting about Rajneesh, calling him a sex pervert, threatening to fetch a dossier of articles about him from upstairs. But Rajneesh, so I believe, is celibate. It's his belief that one should drop sex at the age of 44."
"But the 92 Rolls-Royces."
"A stunt to attract attention. Listen, Rajneesh is a master hypnotist. Why the mala with his picture? Why the incredible number of pictures of him in his books? He's a hypnotist. He hypnotized thousands to conduct a psychological experiment. In many ways Rajneesh is a kind of fascist. The enterprise at Rajneeshpuram is to set up what he calls a Buddhafield, something akin to what the Mother in the Agenda deems necessary to usher in the Supramental mutation in a communal way. In many ways my involvement with Rajneesh deflected me away from Aurobindo. Would Sri Aurobindo have had 92 Rolls-Royces?"
"So," asked Angel, Micky Finn's girlfriend at the Aurobindo Circle yesterday, "Did you send Rajneesh the letter?"
"I sent it off handwritten on CIA stationery. I told Rajneesh I thought his 92 Rolls-Royces were cheap and vulgar and that to reestablish his credibility he should sell them and give the money to charity."
"The Rajneeshees were on a TV. talk show the other night. They had this reporter who had been tracking Rajneesh for years."
"The truth about Rajneesh is clouded in obscurity. Rajneesh is a mystagogue. It's easier to pick up mercury with a fork than to get the correct facts so clouded have they become by layers of obfuscation."
"Years ago when I heard a couple of his tapes I knew he was a con-man," interjected Micky Finn slouched in his green chair.
"Rajneesh's great mistake, as far as I am concerned," I answered, "was his publication of the Rajneesh Bible, which were his lectures after breaking 1300 days of silence. Here he speaks, as he says, to his own people. He doesn't have to lie. In fact, Rajneesh claims here that his various illnesses arose from his need to soften his opinions over the years about the world's religious figures. Rajneesh's 150 books are all derived from lectures. Rajneesh does not write; he merely speaks. One of the century's great raconteurs and intellects, Rajneesh for years held forth on the great religious figures of history, placing them all in apposition to himself. After a while I began to notice when I knew something about a subject that Rajneesh was making things up. He would say things about the Buddha that quite simply were not part of any historical record. He created a whole mythology about the Buddha. And Jesus too. That Jesus did not die in Jerusalem but escaped to India, dying at an advanced age in Kashmir where he is buried in a town called Bethlehem-- they still show tourists his tomb-- is one of Rajneesh's favorite stories Apparently Rajneesh collects rare watches and in India if you wanted to get a private audience with him you had to present him with a famous watch, one worn, let us say, by Queen Victoria or Louis XIV, so that only the very rich could see Rajneesh in private. When the number of disciples had reached into the tens of thousands it was impossible to see Rajneesh except at darshan. Here Rajneesh would present the new sannyasin with his black box."
"Every sannyasin received a little black box containing one of Rajneesh's hairs. He is told never to open his box except at a time of the greatest emergency whereupon it will lose its efficacy. The stories told about sannyasins' machinations at airport customs to hide their little black boxes is legion."
"Even though his secretary Sheela siphoned off 55 million into Swiss banks Rajneesh, it is claimed, still has 250 million. Where did he get all this money?"
"The genius of Rajneesh lies as much in himself as in his PR. At a certain point a coterie of very clever sannyasins put their heads together to promote Rajneesh. The one thing I remember Rajneesh saying about Aurobindo is that Aurobindo's defect is his inability to provide techniques."
"Techniques!" screamed Micky Finn, "And what techniques does Rajneesh provide? Where do Rajneesh's techniques lead? To numbered Swiss bank accounts?"
"Rajneesh's greatness lies in his mastery of techniques."
"In this yoga all of life is a technique. All of life is divinized. All of life is seen as surrender to the Divine."
"I have now read," I replied, "2178 pages of Mother's Agenda and I am dizzy."
It is impossible to give any indication of the richness of these 2178 pages of Mother's Agenda, an experiment in consciousness, the consciousness of a mystic. To speak of another's mental state is ordinarily difficult enough that it has become the prerogative of the novelist. A great novelist, a Virginia Woolf, a Joyce, a Tolstoy, possesses the uncanny ability to empathize, to enter into the mental worlds of other people, to invent mental milieus by means of word and plot. But when the mental world is different in kind, when a mutation in consciousness itself takes place, perhaps one can only remain silent. Both in Greek and in Sanscrit a mystic is one who remains silent. But for 6000 pages the Mother never kept quiet, at least to Satprem, about her states of mind. To speak authoritatively about the Mother would presuppose a comprehensive knowledge of mystical literature, a familiarity with all the conflicting schools of modern psychology, and a literary finesse possessed only by a Satprem.
John, a member of the Aurobindo Circle, is about thirty and spent considerable time in the orient. There is about John an earnestness I associate with High Victorian Seriousness.
"John, last night I had a most unusual dream. I remember only small details. There was a white figure scarred with a Frankenstein-like face. He repeatedly leered at me insisting that he was a mutation. Only when he began to fly did I realize that he might be telling the truth. Then appeared a vision of a mammoth figure, Aurobindo-like, surrounded by luminous light. This vision was one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life. I felt that I had entered into the laboratory of nature to perceive some central archetype. I cannot explain its meaning but I shall never forget it."
"The Mother once came to me in a dream. We sat opposite each other on the f loor and she stared into my eyes and poured her knowledge into me. I cannot put into words what she said to me but I had the vivid experience of her pouring her consciousness into me. Then I woke up."
"Now that I have finished Volume XIII of the Agenda I feel sad. I mean that Satprem claims that Pranab murdered her."
"That's not true! He never says that. He claims that the Mother died as the result of negative forces in the environment. The point is that the people in the ashram didn't understand her or what she was doing. They thought she was this senile old woman."
"But she was! By 1973 she didn't even remember her mantra."
"You've got it all wrong. What you call senility is her childishness. She had to become childlike in order to mutate. She had gone so deep into her cellular consciousness that towards the end there was nothing to talk about. Part of her work was to prepare an environment for the Supramental but the occupants of the ashram themselves couldn't comprehend what she was doing So she left."
"But there's the whole business of drugs, how they drugged her at the end so that her exterior mind lost contact with the consciousness."
"Do you really think that a drug could have prevented the Mother from attaining her aim?"
"The Mother speaks of two types of mutation, one of the consciousness and one of the body She had already attained the mutation in consciousness."
"Exactly, and that mutation had already occurred a thousand times in others. There's nothing unusual about it. It's the record of man's spirituality. The whole point of the Work was to attain a mutation in the cells of the body. That's what the Mother was working on when she left. This emphasis on the body is what makes Aurobindo's yoga so different from all others."
Suddenly Micky Finn and Angel entered the room and I said, "Micky, tell me, what do you know about the relationship between Indira Gandhi and the mother? I have a photograph of them when Indira visited the ashram."
"Indira visited the Mother on six separate occasions. In the first visit a chair was placed next to the Mother for Indira Gandhi but in the next five visits she sat on the floor at the Mother's feet."
"In Indira's letters in the Agenda she addresses the Mother always as 'Reverend Mother"'
"Even until the end Aurobindo was involved in politics. Indira had a cabinet minister who was one of the original revolutionaries but who always consulted with Aurobindo."
"Micky," I said, "I have a problem. After I sold five paintings to two Harvard classmates, I decided to send 40 slides each to 15 other classmates. Ten returned the slides with notes that they were not interested. But two doctors and three lawyers refuse to send the slides back. I sent a letter to one of the lawyers yesterday saying, 'I find the spectacle of a State Street lawyer stealing an artist's slides and pocketing his postage stamps to be sleazy and reprehensible.'
"Try also sending them pizza at night and things like that."
"But it's eating me up. It has become an obsession."
"It's all the Divine. Think of it as all part of the Divine Plan."
Micky Finn suddenly became confessional "Look, I used to be a crook, a housebreaker, a safecracker, a con man. For twenty years I was on heroine and cocaine. I spent two years in the can for drugs. At forty I was a burnt-out case. I couldn't walk up three flights. I was finished. Kaput. And then I discovered this yoga."
"You say you were a thief, Micky. I mean what did you do?"
"Look, after the War-- and I did my part against Hitler-- I went to California where I joined the Longshoreman's Union. I was an idealist and believed we could end wars forever. I used to go to all the meetings of the Communists and socialists until I finally decided they were all frauds. I became cynical. I turned to crime. I broke into buildings and blew up safes. I was a house thief. For years I was a con man at the race tracks."
"What did you do?"
"Look, race tracks are always full of suckers. I developed a sixth sense for ferreting out suckers in a crowd. I could always sniff out suckers with money. I'd be standing near the window and a sucker might be standing next to me. You see, there was no cut-and-dry technique. It was always something different for each sucker. Each case was individual. I took in tens of thousands and I never got caught until the end So I'm near the window and I rush up to the sucker and I'd say, 'You know, that guy over there, he's had three wins in the last three bets.' I'd get the sucker's confidence. I'd tell him I knew the jockey. I'd get his money for a bet."
"But why would he give you money for a bet if you were right near the window?"
"Look, by the time I had finished with the sucker he was completely off-balance. I mean what was the sucker doing in the race track anyway? I'd have this partner. He'd rush up to me with a pile of winning tickets. There would be a scene. The sucker would give me money. I'd always pocket half of it. If I played the bet, the sucker might win or he might not If he won, he'd give me more money. And I'd pocket half of it or all of it But always I came out ahead. There was this guy, the Dean of the University of Miami. I'll never forget though it was 30 years ago. I took him for thousands, cleaned him out. And I never finished high school."
"The Dean! Micky, I lived right next to the University of Miami f or two years. I've exhibited there. They gave me a big award. What was the Dean doing with a con man at the race track?"
"Listen, I used to go to the Dean's office. And let me tell you how I got in with the Dean. There was a photograph on the front page of the Miami Herald of the Dean with a millionaire who had given the university $10 million. I said to myself, 'The Dean is my man!' In those days one of my aliases was Sedlick. Sedlick was a well-known horse trainer. I knew everything about Sedlick. I followed him around. I knew his every move and gesture. So I arrived at the Dean's pretending to be Sedlick. I talked the Dean into giving me $1000 for a horse in New York. So I went back to New York and played half the money on a bet and it won. So the Dean wired me more money Western Union. And more and more until I finally wiped the Dean out for $27,000."
"How did you get caught?"
"I'm sitting with my old Lady in a bar on 3rd Avenue in New York when this guy I know comes in and shows me a letter he's received from a town outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The letter says that the guy knows that he has fixed races and he'd be interested in placing a bet. I look at the letter and I say to myself, 'This can't be a cop. This has to be a sucker.' So I telephone the guy and tell him I am John Bailey, who was a well-known jockey, and I was sending Sedlick my trainer for a meeting. But there should be no one else at the meeting. So I drove from New York to Lancaster. I arrive and there's another guy there, Lombardi, a Mafia type. I was furious but I took Lombardi aside and told him I would fix the race. 'How much do you want to put on the horse?' I asked. '$500, ' he said. So I took his $500. I did the usual thing. The horse was disqualified. Lombardi then wired me $2500. It worked. He then wired $6000. Lombardi soon realized that he had been taken. Furious, he drove to New York to get Sedlick-- the real Sedlick. There was a scene of Lombardi jumping on top of Sedlick in his stall at the track. The cops came. A few days later I called my mother from a phone booth and she said the FBI had just left the house. They were looking for me. You see, in those days if you wired more than $4000 it was a Federal offense. So I called Silverstein my lawyer. You see, in those days I was always on the run. Even when I had large sums of money what could I do with it? I couldn't buy a house. If I bought a Cadillac, I'd be investigated by the IRS. So I just blew it. Like Spud. Spud was this Irishman whom I knew in the Combat Zone. One day I'm standing on Washington Street and Spud comes up to me with a package filled with money. Three months later Spud borrows $1 0 from me in a bar. So I called Silverstein and Silverstein says that the FBI has me wrapped in a package and they are going to put on the ribbon. So I said to Silverstein, 'Call the FBI. Ask them to give me a week to put my affairs in order and then I'll give myself up."'
"What did you need a week for?"
"To steal, to break open safes, to get enough money to disappear. What do you think for? A week later I called Silverstein again and asked him to ask the FBI for another week and they said okay. At this time I had just been introduced to the yoga by Devi. I went to see her. Suddenly she locked the door and said to me-- for years now I have been knocking my brains out trying to figure out how she knew--'The police are looking for you but don't worry. Nothing is going to happen to you.' I swear this is what Devi said. I called Silverstein and asked him to try for another week from the FBI and then I'd give myself up. Silverstein called back that the FBI was dropping the case. You see, in this yoga if you just open yourself to the Mother everything eventually comes out okay."
"Micky, it's getting late. Can I telephone my mother to tell her not to worry? " While telephoning I remembered the words of Jean-Paul Sartre: "One's never finished with one's family, it's like the smallpox that catches you as a child and leaves you marked for life." It was 10:00 and my mother screamed at the other end that I was staying out too late, that she was worried and couldn't sleep.
"Mother," I cried, "I am 46 years old. I have traveled through the jungles of Haiti, down the Nile, across the Sahara, through the Karroo. I have lived in Budapest and Tel-Aviv. I have camped with the Israeli Army in Sinai. I spent two years in Berkeley during the riots. I am quite capable of taking care of myself and of getting back to your house from the Fenway."