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Auroville Adventure

April 2005

“A massive paradigm shift is underway”

- from a conversation with Alan

Dr. Marc Luyckx Ghisi is a theologian and researcher in global cultural transformation and has been advisor to two Presidents of the European Commission. He is also a new member of the International Advisory Council.

Here he gives his views on a global paradigm change and how this may affect Auroville .

“Samuel Huntingdon wrote an influential book postulating that the biggest problem that will face the modern world is a clash between civilizations. He's wrong. The vast majority of inter-religious and inter-civilizational dialogues are a complete waste of time because the clash today is not between different civilizations or religions, but between different paradigms or world views which are held within the same religion or society.

“There are three radically different paradigms that are operating in the world today, and they can be termed the ‘pre-modern', the ‘modern' and the ‘transmodern'. If we take religion as an example, the pre-moderns or fundamentalists in every religion say the same – ‘the women are the problem', ‘we are against abortion' etc. – while the moderns want a rational religion which is separated from politics and state affairs (one of the dangerous consequences of this separation is that in ‘official' politics today there are no ethics, only facts). Then you have the transmoderns – that's where you find the majority of women, the young – who are actually looking for spirituality rather than religion. The difficulty comes when you mix moderns with pre-moderns – there is an immediate clash. The transmoderns are tolerant, but they are completely ignored by the other two positions who continue to fight. That's the situation, not only in religion but in all fields of life.

“While fundamentalism is still strong in certain areas, the dominant paradigm of the past 200-300 years has been modernism. Modernity was a fantastic liberation movement from obscurantism; we used reason to free human creativity and we invented science and technology. However, this liberation movement has become a prison. Why? Because now we see that this modern approach is also intolerant, and, like the pre-moderns, it has a clergy. The modern clergy, who are listened to by all governments, are the economists and the technocrats. And what blocks modernity now is a secular religion, with its Pope, cardinals, priests and Inquisition, called Free Trade.

“So that's modernity, which is no more than a rational form of fundamentalism. It's very serious, but it's also coming to an end. Why? Because a massive paradigm shift is underway. Studies reveal that about 20% of the population of the West realize that if we continue along this path we will destroy ourselves and our environment, so they are silently changing their values. These ‘cultural creatives', as the American sociologist Paul H. Ray calls them, watch less TV and read far more than the average citizen, they prefer homeopathy and other alternative medicines to allopathic treatment, and they are seriously concerned about ecology, climate change and the challenge of sustainable development. They are also very interested in alternative economic thinking, sustainable economics and knowledge economics. Many have forsaken “workoholism” and decided to devote more time to their families and communities. Significantly, two thirds of cultural creatives are women. Now, the 19th century writer on political economy, Arnold Toynbee, says that at every moment of cultural change 5% of the citizens silently prepare the new culture. When you see that this time it may be 20%, it means that this time the change will be bigger, deeper and more drastic than ever before. And this is why the patriarchs and, to a lesser extent, the ‘moderns' are becoming so aggressive: they sense that their time is over.

“The paradigm shift is happening in many different fields. For example, the traditional relationship between men and women is now being replaced by egalitarian models. This had to happen as the male, patriarchal values only work in an ‘infinite' situation where there don't seem to be any boundaries, but not in the closed system which we now realize is the situation of our planet. Now it is the values of caring and conservation rather than aggressive colonialism that are needed, and that is why women worldwide are leading the change.

“Another area of change is business. Recent surveys suggest that 5% of business people are no longer interested in just making big profits. Many business people come to me and say, ‘I'm successful, rich, but I've gone through a personal transformation. From now on I have decided to care for the common good of humanity, to invest a portion of my money and skills in this because I see that governments are not taking up their responsibility'. And what happens? Because of this new spirit, the intangible value of their companies soars. Interestingly, they continue to make excellent profits, although it's no longer the first consideration of their leaders..

“Transmodernity is also post-industrial. In other words, we are entering a post-capitalist society where financial capital is less important than human capital, where the brain and not the machine is the most important tool of production. Adieu Marx, c'est fini! Not everyone understands this. There were those who invested massively in the dotcom phenomenon thinking that just having new tools of production meant they would make huge profits. But the only survivors of the dotcom crash were those who understood that they had to change their whole way of operating – to change the vision of their company and the way it relates to the stakeholders and the larger community.

“Another area of global transformation is politics. The founders of the European Union created the first transmodern political animal which is actually post-state, a zone of absolute non-violence between States. This is a great achievement. The problem is that the constituent States have still got the old mentality. They do not understand that they have created an eagle; they want a chicken! So they keep reproducing the image that the EU is a super-chicken, a super-state, and they all keep on trying to get the biggest piece of the pie. Stupid!

“So the paradigm shift is everywhere – in relationships, business, the economy, politics, the new sciences, psychology etc. Now let's look at spirituality. Barbara Marx Hubbard, who is President of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution, says that transmodernity is about the universal man, about homo universalis rather than homo sapiens. And homo universalis wants a personal involvement in the spiritual search, not to have a priest tell him, ‘I know God, trust me, I am his intermediary' (I know all about this ‘religious transfer': I was a priest for 12 years and we were told how to make people dependent upon us, not to make them free).

“This generation does not want to be put in any club or religion; what they want to discover is the authentic spiritual path. And what Sri Aurobindo and The Mother propose is exactly that. They even go further and say it is possible to have a city where everyone is engaged in that search, a city with no religious authority or guru. This makes people spiritually responsible because, among other things, it means that everyone is obliged to refer to his or her own shadow if something goes wrong.

“What The Mother and Sri Aurobindo represent is one of the greatest spiritual and intellectual achievements of the 20th century: along with Teilhard, they are the great thinkers whom the 21st century will remember. In 1968, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother were voices in the wildernesss, but the world conversation is catching up with them. For what The Mother and Sri Aurobindo are proposing exactly corresponds to what the young transmodern generation is looking for.

“Auroville is still largely unknown. But be very careful, because you correspond exactly to what between 100-500 million people are seeking. The day they know about you, you will need the army here to protect you from being overwhelmed!”



The Pioneers of Consciousness

On returning to Europe after visiting Auroville, Marc Ghisi wrote an article, from which the following extracts are taken

Can you imagine a city where the average citizen you meet in the streets, after a short moment of contact, may be speaking about the necessity to take distance from one's ego in order to go towards one's deepest self where a spark of the divine has to be discovered? Is it possible to imagine a city, which for the last thirty years has been the process of being constructed, with the aim of raising the level of consciousness of Humanity?

You would probably say that this is pure utopia. And you are totally right. I would even go further saying that this is radically impossible. Because the very project of raising the level of Humanity's consciousness is basically aiming at transforming human nature, lifting human nature to another level. All people of common sense will agree that this project is crazy, totally impossible...

And yet this city exists, and I have visited it. And I am still in a state of shock.

After a lot of difficulties, as if fate was against this visit, I finally managed to arrive in Auroville on February 20th, 2005. Auroville is being constructed a few kilometres inland from the sea, north of Pondicherry , in the south-east of India . The city was founded on February 28th, 1968. In the years since then, the first pioneers succeeded in transforming the desert area into a sub-tropical forest full with birds. Access roads look more like forest roads than city entrance highways. There isn't even a sign board on the main entrance road. One has the impression of entering a construction site! And it is a construction site, but what kind of construction site!

It is a very authentic human construction site, but also a spiritual builder's yard! Indeed, there are problems and defects in this city and the Aurovilians don't shy away from openly discussing them. The growth of the city is too slow. There are too few citizens. There are many disagreements with regard to the city's future and to what the priorities are. Some residents criticize fellow citizens as being profiteers, or betraying Auroville's ideals. Others consider that the local, Tamil villages are not yet well enough integrated into the city.

And yet, despite all these defects, it is a unique place of individual and collective spiritual growth. This is the reason why the shadows are so visible, as they are proportional to the light and to the energy radiating from the place. The fact that those flaws and problems and challenges are so openly discussed has deeply reassured me. I had been afraid to encounter a sort of angelic pretension that everything was OK, and that there was no problem, possibly because everybody was already at another level of consciousness! This ‘angelism' would have been indicative of a false spirituality, and, potentially, of a sectarian movement.

What it boils down to, one of the residents told me, is that if you are not deeply, profoundly serious about this spiritual research and growth, both at the personal and collective level, you won't make it here, you just won't stay here, you will leave.

I have been deeply impressed by meeting with residents who have lived for thirty or almost forty years in the city. When listening to them, one gets the sense of the very genuine, widening experiences they have gone through, and of their persistent determination to build this city and to work on themselves. And one realizes that without this they just wouldn't have found the stamina to stay.

At the level of my own intellectual and spiritual reflection with regard to the actual paradigm shift towards transmodernity, I got the surprise of my life by discovering this very first transmodern city. Yes, the Aurovilians are in perfect accordance with everything I wrote in my book. I now can say: “Transmodernity exists; I have seen it in this city.” Although it was the first time I was visiting Auroville, I had a distinct feeling of being at home. And I think that this impression was also shared by the Aurovilians that I had the joy to meet. There was from both sides the strong impression of recognition, of being on the same wavelength. Amazing, fascinating and very stimulating indeed.

Coming back in Europe , the contrast is not so much the drastic change of temperature. No, the real contrast is the level of energy, which is so much higher in Auroville. I have seen this energy sparkling in the eyes of Paolo, a young boy, whose parents recently decided to join Auroville. He was full of inner joy. He told me that he was happy to be, for the first time, in a school he was enjoying. His creativity was bursting. He told me that he had learned to have a real contact with ponies, to familiarize with them, to have a real, living understanding with them. This boy was touching and beautiful.

Here in Brussels , I keenly sense the difference of energetic level. Residents of Auroville do not feel their energy level. But the foreign visitor does. This entire town, despite all its shadows, is at a higher energetic level. It's an extraordinary realization.

This very audacious project, this ‘superhuman' project, could not be launched but by two beings of exceptional spiritual power: Ms Mirra Alfassa, called “Mother” (1878-1973) and Aurobindo Ghose, called “Sri Aurobindo” (1872-1950). They consecrated an important part of their lives and certainly of their extraordinary spiritual energy to transform and raise the level of human consciousness. And Auroville is possible precisely because of the energetic breakthrough these two beings achieved, individually and together. Auroville is like the incarnation, the materialisation of this spiritual victory they won for the sake of Humanity.

At the personal level, one of the strongest experiences for me has been the visit to the ‘Matrimandir', this sacred space in the centre of the city, which has the shape of a golden flower. From the moment I entered that unique place, I sensed a very exceptional energy that didn't correspond to any religious or other place I visited in my life. I had the impression of being flooded by and connected with an enormously powerful cosmic energy. I had the inner sensation of being visited, connected, cleansed, energized. I was, briefly, transformed by something absolutely beyond my understanding. I have lost the control of my life, a bit.

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