André Morisset (23.8.1898—29.3.1982) was the Mother’s only son. His father Henri Morisset (6.4.1870—15.11.1956) was a noted French artist. Having received his early education at Lycee Chaptal School, André joined the army in October 1916 as an artillery officer and participated in the First World War. He received, as a reward for his bravery and contribution, several titles of honour which included the Cross of the War 1914-1918 (which he received just after the War), the Cross of the Voluntary Fighters and Chevalier of the Legion of Honour (these were received after 1935). In December 1919, he joined École Polytechnique and obtained the title of Ancien éléve de l’ecole polytechnique in August 1921, after which he joined Le Carbone-Lorraine. He was the director of a factory making batteries and other electrical materials for Le Carbone-Lorraine from 1926 to 1939. Later he joined the Industrial Company of Battery Cells and became the honorary President of the company. He was also associated with several foreign and international organizations and established himself very well in the elite society of Paris. On 10 September 1923, he married Wanda and was blessed with two daughters Janine (7.11.1924 — 13.6.2018) and Francoise (19.6.1931—15.3.2008) who was better known as Pournaprema. He visited Sri Aurobindo Ashram for the first time in 1949 and met the Mother after a gap of thirty-three years. In 1956, André established the Sri Aurobindo Study Centre; this organization sent teaching materials, class textbooks and other objects to the Ashram School. In that very year, he established the Franco-Indian Union Association with the view of developing commercial, industrial and technological exchanges between France and India. As the Mother wanted India and France to collaborate with each other and show the rest of the world what they are capable of achieving, André worked to realize her dreams. After the demise of Pavitra in 1969, André became the de facto Director of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education and the Mother gave all Her directions through him. When Auroville was established in 1968, he became a channel of communication between Auroville and the Mother.
We take the opportunity to publish the texts of three talks delivered by André Morisset—two at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education and one at Sri Aurobindo Pathamandir, Kolkata—in the website of Overman Foundation. The texts of the said talks were gifted to our Archives by the late Pournaprema, André Morisset’s youngest daughter.
With warm regards,
My earliest remembrances date back to the very beginning of this century and lack clearness. They centre round two spots. One is Beaugency, a little town on the river Loire, where I lived with two aunts (my father’s sisters), my grandfather and my nurse. The other is 15 rue Lemercier in Paris where my mother and father had a flat and their painters’ studio which I considered the most wonderful place in the world.
Beaugency is still in my mind for the garden which was at the back of the house and separated from it by a small courtyard. I also have a recollection of my foster sister, Geneviève; but what struck me most were the visits which mother and father paid to us in their motor car. It was a Richard Brazier and had not to bear a number plate because it could not do more than thirty kilometers per hour. I cannot remember if I took this fact as a big advantage or, on the contrary, the sign of an irretrievable inferiority. My parents used to carry with them a couple of bicycles “just in case”. As a matter of fact, on the first hundred-and-fifty kilometers trip to Beaugency, the steering gear broke after fifty kilometers, at Etampes, and the car stopped inside a bakery. They stayed there overnight, used the cycles to visit the place and left the next day, the car having been repaired by the local blacksmith.
In Paris, my parents leased a flat on the first storey of the house, a fairly large garden at the back of it and a big studio in the garden. The studio had a glass roof high enough for a foot-bridge to link the flat and the studio at first storey level. An inside staircase climbed from the studio ground level to the foot-bridge. It was therefore possible to reach the studio from the outside either through the hall of the house and the garden or by climbing to the first floor of the house and getting into the flat, crossing a small drawing room and catching the foot-bridge. It was in this drawing room that Mother introduced me to Madame Fraya who was to become a very renowned seer. She appeared to me a very pretty lady with a very big hat and a pleasant way of talking. While Mother was still living at 15 rue Lemercier, I was brought to Lausanne, in Switzerland, to meet my great-grandmother: Mirra Ismalun. My grandmother, Mathilde Alfassa, was to introduce me to her and I was rather impressed by the “service” given to Mirra Ismalun at Grancy Villas, a good residence in Lausanne. I was duly introduced to my great-grandmother who then addressed me more or less like this: “Bonjour, mon petit André, tu me trouves bien vieille, n’est ce pas?” (“Good morning, my little André, you find me very old, do you not?”), to which I replied with all truth in my voice: “Oh! oui!” (“Oh! Yes!”). The interview did not go much further.
Later, my father and mother divorced, and mother married Paul Richard. They came to live at rue du Val de Grace and I used to go and have lunch with them every Sunday. After lunch, specially when the weather was bad, we went to the studio, Paul Richard stretched on a couch, lit his pipe, and they started working. That is, my mother wrote in her own handwriting what he dictated. This small house, at the back of a garden, or more precisely of a fairly large courtyard, with a few trees, stretching in front of a big apartment house, was strikingly cosy and very comfortable.
Then the Richards went to Pondicherry and came back in 1915, Paul Richard having been called as a reservist at Lunel, in the South of France. When he was freed from military service, they settled nearby, at Marsillargues, where I came to stay during the school holidays in July and August. There I heard of Sri Aurobindo for the first time and I learned to play chess with Paul Richard.
The First World War was going on; in the spring of 1916 the Richards went to Japan and I joined the army in October. From then on I always felt protected and the continuous play of “luck” was amazing. Letters from my mother came regularly from Japan but the military rule forced me to destroy them soon after they were received. Otherwise they would now be a priceless collection. I shall only mention two cases of this amazing “luck” which are probably important as regards their consequences but are only two cases out of many.
First, I caught the flu in May 1918 and was treated, as several others, with a heavy dose of aspirin, and we all fully recovered after forty-eight hours of rather high fever. None of us caught later the Spanish Flu for which aspirin was not any more a cure. It seemed that we had been more or less vaccinated by the first attack of what was not yet called the Spanish Flu.
The second case is more directly linked with the War. During the night of the 15th July 1918 the battery of 6″ howitzer in which I was serving was submitted to a very heavy gunfire. The way from the Command post to the battery was limited to a narrow footpath by rolls of barbed wire. While I was walking there I was caught in one of the rolls which had been thrown on me by the explosion of a shell. As I was trying to extricate myself from the mess a further roll, thrown by another shell, was dropped on me, then some more, during about two hours. Three months later, when we were progressing some two hundred and fifty kilometers on the North-West of our 15th July site, we found a German battery which had obviously been left in a hurry. In a batch of maps I found one of La Main de Massiges — where we were in July — and the location of our battery shown as a target, but with a mistake, the four guns being shown at both ends of the footpath so that the very place where I had been pinned to the ground was shown as the actual target.
Then there was a period of at once high relaxation and heavy intellectual work. I was admitted to the École Polytechnique and stayed there from December 1919 to August 1921 and started my industrial career immediately after.
In the meantime, my mother went back to Pondicherry and resumed her real work with Sri Aurobindo. She kept me regularly aware of the development of the Ashram and of their Sadhana. I was thus more and more interested until the Second World War broke out and the collapse of France cut all relations between the Mother and me… and this lasted until the liberation of Paris.
Then the opportunity arose for me, in 1949, to make a round trip to India which the Mother monitored through Bombay, Delhi, Agra, Calcutta and Madras, eventually greeting me at the room 3EI at Golconde.
After this, my recollections are more or less one with the life of the Ashram.
A Visit to Sri Aurobindo Ashram
When my trip to India was decided during the summer of 1949 Mother instructed me to make arrangements for staying at Pondicherry from November 20th to December 2nd. I would thus be present for the November Darshan and also for the anniversary of the Ashram school. Soon after my arrival in India, Mother wrote to me and stated that I was to drive with Mahadeolal Dalmia from Madras to Pondicherry and arrive at the Ashram at 5 p.m. on the 21st. She explained that she had all set to be able to spend then a little time alone with me. Mahadeolal and myself were therefore quite perturbed when, due to some delay in getting my papers in order at the Madras police station, we were not able to leave before 2.30 instead of 1 o’clock as was intended. Though the car made quite a good speed and in spite of the courtesy of the Customs officials who had been asked not to delay us, the sun was setting when we arrived at the Ashram. There Pavitra told me that Mother was expecting me at Golconde in the room where I was to live for a few days. It was quite dark when I arrived at Golconde, I hastily climbed two storeys and then, in the dim light of the corridor, I saw a white shape with her back against the door in a very familiar attitude.
Though we had not seen each other since Mother left France in 1915, we were at once in full understanding and I had the strong impression of being still a small boy seeking safety in his mother’s lap.
During my trip through India I had often heard the opinion expressed that Sri Aurobindo’s Ashram was somewhat of a puzzle as it seemed against all common ideas to combine spiritual life and comfort. This is undoubtedly the Mother’s achievement. What strikes one first in the Ashram is the perfect harmony of the whole. All details fit together and it is impossible to imagine them fitting so well without the Mother’s presence in all of them. Vice versa, the spiritual leadership of Sri Aurobindo through the Mother cannot be imagined without the total surrender of all disciples to the Mother in the most minute details of their life.
This surrender does not, of course, mean the abdication of one’s own will; on the contrary, it is the way for each one towards the fulfilment of his own self, means by which he gets a clearer view of his goal. For anyone who would feel disheartened or even only hesitating between different ways, the Mother’s blessing is the greatest help.
That the Mother is always present, that she knows everything which happens in the Ashram, every preoccupation of each disciple, is probably the fact most striking to the new-comer. Another fact is that anyone who is totally devoted to the Mother very quickly acquires an ability of better understanding and a clearer view of his own aspirations.
It is therefore not surprising to find out that anything which is done or made at the Ashram is pretty near to perfection. Those who have freely chosen to contribute in manual work do it with the will to satisfy the Mother. If they are skilled workers they find out that their skill has improved. If the job is new to them they make it a point to master it thoroughly. All work is done with an evident pleasure and not as a necessary duty. This is also true of the physical education which is now an important part of the Ashram life. The marching which takes place every evening in the Mother’s presence and is followed by a concentration brings to all who take part in it a wonderful feeling of physical and mental relaxation. The children too are susceptible to the atmosphere and look strikingly happy.
The various displays which took place on the sixth anniversary of the Ashram school were remarkable achievements. There was nothing amateurish in the theatrical show and the display of physical education was surprisingly athletic if one takes into account the comparatively small number of people who received the training.
The most extraordinary experience which one can get at the Ashram is however the luck of being present at the Darshan. No words can describe the overwhelming impression of benevolence, knowledge and strength which radiates from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother sitting on their thrones. It is not at all surprising that so many people undertake long journeys in order to have the privilege of paying their tribute of devotion. What they get in return is a glimpse of a higher and truer life which responds to the most innate aspiration of human nature.
Many things have been written since the withdrawal of Sri Aurobindo about two years ago. In Europe emphasis was put on the idea that he was a link between East and West, and very likely the only real one for centuries. In fact, Sri Aurobindo is not a bridge between the two mentalities but rather a tree with its roots extending eastward as well as westwards, its top towering over the two sides and its foliage breathing from the uppermost strata.
Some people in the West have tried to express Sri Aurobindo’s views by explaining what Indian spirituality is. On the other hand, Indians are frequently surprised to see all western conveniences and comforts linked in his Ashram with the high spirituality of the Master’s teachings. They both forget that Sri Aurobindo is not a compromise and no tendency is entirely wrong or entirely true. Whenever two opinions contradict each other on any level, the truth lies at a higher level and embodies both opinions.
In spite of all its deficiencies western civilization has brought in achievements which cannot be overlooked. Nor is it advisable to ignore the fact that religions fulfil their scope only as long as they retain their Divine inspiration and do not degenerate into mere rites. All that has been said of the drying-up effect of reason when unduly considered as the highest human faculty applies equally to religious teaching if it is not aimed at making man conscious of his higher and diviner self. To consider that there is a Divine law enforced upon the human individual under penalties either before or after death, that the Divine is nothing more than, so to speak, a super-policeman as well as a super-lawmaker, may be useful to a certain extent, but only to a very limited extent. It can help in checking, at least partly, the evil effects of an unethical use of the power which Science has given to man. But the egoistic trend of the individual is thus left unchecked and his inner conscience therefore by no means awakened. If, on the other hand, the inner consciousness is awakened in such a way that the individual neglects entirely the physical plane and even despises his body, withdraws from the community and takes no part in its activity, devotes all his energy to the somehow selfish cultivation of his soul, this will be of no help in the running of the social and technical machinery. On the contrary, any assumption that to attain spirituality one has to reject everything of the physical plane, tends to put the powerful scientific machinery more under the control of evil forces.
Is there any hope for humanity to get out of this deadlock? To this question, as well as to many others, Sri Aurobindo’s message provides an answer, and very likely the only satisfactory one. The ever stumbling and apparently erratic progress of humanity through the ages takes its full significance if it is looked at as the preparation for the descent of the Supramental. The present state of chaos, the great peril of complete destruction which threatens humanity through its recent scientific discoveries, have to be considered as signs that the descent is imminent. There remains to be seen whether the human race will be prepared to receive the Supramental. If the Supramental is not recognised and accepted, there will be very little hope for humanity to carry on in its present form, the human race would have missed the opportunity it was offered of ascending a step further towards its realization.
The best way of preparing for the descent is the spreading of Sri Aurobindo’s teachings. But they have to be correctly understood, because misunderstandings would do more than harm than good. If the Master’s message is considered as “another philosophy” and subjected to rational analysis, or if it is accepted merely as a convenient creed without the full aspiration of the inner consciousness, very little headway will have been made.
Here comes the University Centre. By awakening in the child the various faculties of observation, judgment, self-respect as well as those of analysis and reasoning, by making the adolescent discover the various parts of human knowledge instead of imposing on him the absorption of a standardized concoction of magisterial statements, the Centre will prepare the students for a more complete realization. No doubt many of them will not go all the way to Yoga, but they will have acquired an understanding of the real meaning of Sri Aurobindo’s message.
That is why the University Centre is linked with the Ashram. The presence of Sri Aurobindo and of the Mother is an absolute necessity for the Centre to fulfil its scope and the Centre itself is essential to prepare humanity for the descent of the Supramental.