I thought: ‘I can go straight to Sri Aurobindo, I don’t have to go via the Mother.’
You also have to understand my life. I always have had an overdose of femininity – like many children after the war in Germany. The men were all dead, or lost in the war, or prisoners of war. I wanted Sri Aurobindo, the man. I wanted a father really; I can say it now, but I didn’t know it when I came to Pondicherry that first time, in 1960.
When I arrived, I heard that Sri Aurobindo was not there physically, there was only this old lady running the Ashram. I stayed for some days and I saw her regularly at the morning darshan and the Playground. It was okay. Then before leaving, I thought, ‘Well Frederick – you have a sense of courtesy and formality, you don’t just go like this. You have to say good bye properly, and thank her.’
So I came well-prepared, washed and cleaned, with my bags packed.
I come into this room, an empty room. I walk further in and I hear a high voice asking, ‘Yes?’ There she is, sitting; her legs don’t even reach the ground, so she has a little stool, her thin arms on the hard carved armrest. Everything looks so fragile. And obviously I have forgotten that I was supposed to kneel down, I had always though: ‘I am not kneeling down.’ But before I know it, my knees give in and I am kneeling. She looks at me and asks, ‘Do you want to be quiet or do you want to talk?’ I cannot say anything. Then her eyes become a very physical, almost tangible force, like a beam. I feel like being turned around, through her eyes I am looking into myself. It is like a torch, lighting up all the niches and the corners and the ground.
Suddenly I realize that I have never been looked at fully, without reservation. I have never felt that there is somebody who has seen me totally – not accepted, not approved – but looked at, and it is such a joy to be known. Then she creates a vision in front of me, she creates a long tube, a glass tube like they use in chemistry. At the bottom it shows a little bit of liquid, and then the outline from this empty glass tube is lit up quite clearly and very precisely. The message is: ‘Look, this is what you are now, and this whole empty column is what you could become, if you were to fulfil your role.’ Then the same tangible look takes me back again. Reality reappears, I am in front of her, she is looking at me and her face starts smiling.
On a very external level, she made me unable to just leave without fulfilling my sense of decorum, which is very strong in me actually. She used that. On a deeper level, she also made me get out of this ‘allergy’ against too much femininity. I fell in love with this woman. There was no femininity in this sense, it was just a loving person. She was maybe just Sri Aurobindo coming in through that very strong, very powerful woman. So much strength, the way she turned me around.
We were living in such an enchanted naivety when she was there, I was like a baby dreaming in a sand-box. That is how we all lived: our doubts, our mental movements, they were all gone. ‘We will build Auroville!’ It was like a chant.”
This is an excerpt from the book ‘Turning Points’ by Auroville Press.
To read more about Frederick’s journey, have a look at the book here.