On March 6th, 2016, Eric Hughes passed away after suffering a stroke. He was 84 years old.
Eric was well-known as the caretaker of Matagiri (meaning Mother’s Mountain), a 42-acre retreat in Woodstock, New York, which he co-founded with his life-long partner Sam Spanier who he had met over fifty years ago. Sam, an accomplished painter, had become a disciple of the Mother. Both went to Pondicherry and met with her, meetings which led to profound spiritual experiences which changed the course of their lives.
Winner of the Edward Albee award for his play The Empty Room, Eric had a deep love of theatre and the opera. He worked as a copy editor for many years both in Manhattan and later in upstate New York. Eric translated the 13 Volumes of Mother’s Agenda of the Supramental Action Upon Earth from the original French into English for the Matagiri community. His work contributed to the final official translation. He also edited a book entitled On Collective Yoga containing quotes from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
Over the years, Sam and Eric received thousands of people at Matagiri. After Sam’s death in January of 2008, Eric continued to greet visitors and share insights until his passing. He will not only be remembered as someone who had the wealth of Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s wisdom at his fingertips, but also for his quick and acerbic wit. He did not suffer fools easily, but was inspired to meet any true seeker.
Matagiri, which is now incorporated as a non-profit organization, will continue under a Board of Trustees including Julian and Wendy Lines, whom Eric named as his successors. They both have been students of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga since the early ’70s.
Eric Hughes: A Tribute by Julian and Wendy Lines
Dear Friend of Matagiri,
I write you with an ache in my heart over the news of Eric’s passing. He was the co-founder of Matagiri and an extraordinary friend and mentor.
The wealth of Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s wisdom was at his fingertips. He had an acerbic wit and did not suffer fools easily but was inspired to meet a true seeker.
Please find below an account of the circumstances of his passing and a short obituary for the Woodstock Times. Both he and Sam had numerous local friends.
With love and prayers for his soul’s journey,
Julian and Wendy Lines
Eric passed away in Kingston Hospital at 6:43 pm EST Sunday evening (the beginning of Shivaratri in India).
Wendy and I were informed by Maryanne Buchele (who was housesitting and looking in on Eric with her husband, Klaus) that he had fallen Friday morning. He managed to call her cell and she was at Matagiri within ten minutes.
As he could not get up she called 911. The Woodstock Rescue squad came and really felt that given indications of a stroke, he should go to the hospital. Maryanne rode in the ambulance.
Fairly quickly his speech became less slurred and he was making steady progress (both praising and sniping at the nurses).
Close friend Lucy Barbera, Matagiri Board member Brian Nagle and Maryanne visited him Saturday in Kingston Hospital and all had good reports.
We all thought he would be home after making sure his balance and walking were secure again.
When Wendy and I called, she quipped that he had decided to take a vacation while we were away.
We had previously had a few emails and phone calls and told him of the lovely ceremony linking the Peace Tables in Auroville and Moscow and New York and how Maddye, Miriam’s daughter, had read so well. When he saw her photo from the event, he said “she has something to contribute” and suggested I convey his message to her, which I did.
During Brian’s visit on Sunday morning Eric was agitated as he had been earlier when Melissa de Madeiros (a former resident) called him. She emailed me in India and I spoke with the nurses, then with Eric, then with Melissa. He was concerned they were giving him a test he did not want or authorize but the nurses assured me they were only taking a blood sample.
When Maryanne came in Sunday afternoon he was still agitated but calmed down enough to have a simple test to measure his blood flow. With her reassurance he agreed to the test.
They talked and he drifted in and out of awareness and was seeing a light on the ceiling and tried to use a packet of tissue as a remote (to change the cosmic channel). He was looking up and not at the TV on the wall.
Maryanne told him to remember Mother and to receive all the love people were sending him. He calmed down considerably and was peaceful.
The doctor said he fell asleep after she left and passed in his sleep not long afterwards. All of us, including the doctor, were shocked at the sudden turn of events.
Eric was very ready to go since Sam’s passing and I can’t help but feel Sam was coming for him through that light in the ceiling.
It is all so sudden, but then Eric’s nickname was “The Flash” and he always acted quickly.
It is very hard for Wendy and me to be so far away as we were when Sam passed, yet it gave us the opportunity to remember Sam at the Ashram then. We gathered with Anie Nunnally, one of his oldest friends, who recently moved to the Ashram from the Sri Aurobindo Center of Los Angeles, and shared memories of Eric and Sam…