Updated: Feb 16, 2022
Questions have been raised about my use of the word “cult”. With its strong negative connotation, the word hits a bit too close to home here. There's too much similarity, and Auroville is believed by many in the world to be a cult. Already, long before I started using the word, and entirely, not just a portion of Auroville. In fact, I have generally defended Auroville against this allegation, as I had at that time another definition of a cult, with a much greater emphasis on collective rituals and actions. I suppose that the 5-part documentary series Wild Wild Country opened my eyes, and made me see Auroville in a much clearer way. Or rather: it made me redefine what a cult is, and recognise the existence of what I now call “Aurovillage”.
It should be very clear by now, but let me spell it out anyway: I do not consider Auroville, as Mother's project, dream and city, to be a cult. It should absolutely NOT be anything of the sort. We should all work towards growth in consciousness and find ways to express a living human unity. That should obviously be a personal journey, with no need to have collective rituals or collective narratives. And most of all: it should be the most joyous of undertakings, without any need for a rosy fake narrative: a life lived in happiness due to being able to work for collective harmony while being a unique individual. I do not mind that people would feel the need to look after a farm or a park in order to feel meaningful in their daily lives. But it should not be their property, and there should be a city that the farm or park belongs and caters to.
It will also greatly help if Auroville grows into its full population: 50,000 people is difficult to manage as a cult. The small scale is key. That is why there is this enormous energy that goes into keeping Auroville small and insular, as opposed to open and growing, while maintaining a thin facade of openness and positivity for the consumption of the world at large. The smaller the group, the easier to gather all in one place and keep each member spoon-fed with the “correct understanding” and in line.
Of course, there can be collective gatherings and activities, and if people feel good to participate, there's no issue. What these gatherings should not be is a regular, short, cover-up for a deep division and extreme selfishness, as they are now. A sort of indoctrination ritual in which we all have to get our dose of sedative by physically being together and reinforcing each other's vows to the cult narrative. I've thought recently that I could have chosen the term “mafia”. Aurovillage certainly has a lot of mafia-like features. However – in as far as I'm familiar with these things, which I will readily admit is very little – I do not consider a mafia to be primarily focused on enforcing a narrative. It seems more focused on simply establishing and maintaining the power situation. The story of how and why that power has to be where it is doesn't really matter. Whatever you say or think is unimportant, as long as you don't betray the clan. Maybe the differences are small, but I still feel that the constructs are based on different foundations. One has more to do with a belief system, the other is simply more a gang-power structure. And for all reasons, somehow “cult” fits much more here in Auroville. The belief in being “a new humanity”, the children being called “the golden generation”, all despicable actions being justified with “you don't understand, this is all far beyond mental and moral judgement”: all of that is the vocabulary of a cult and not of a mafia.
I chose the term Aurovillage first of all because of the endless talk of Auroville being an eco-village. (“Aucovillage”?) But also because of the small scale, and the contrast with a city. People have asked “who” these “Aurovillagers” are, who the members of the cult are. In episode 16 I've addressed that already, but it keeps coming up: name the names, Lieve. Even though I've mentioned a few names – because they singled themselves out by their public actions: they themselves put their names in the spotlight – I do not want to put too much focus on who these people actually are. My aim is to make people think about what really is happening, challenge them to think for themselves. The driving forces behind all of the cult narrative are at the moment digging their own graves, and it will all collapse in time. If I would give a list of names, the whole point of my writing would be completely overshadowed by the reactions to the names. It would be so much playing into their hands, that I don't even consider doing it. Whenever people put themselves in the middle of the action, I will mention them by name, but that will be their choice. Apart from that, I really consider that what is happening now cannot be detached from what has happened here over the past 5 decades. This means that people who were central at the early beginning, may no longer be here. Some absolutely are still here, and it will be very simple for Aurovilians to name them: they have remained central in the narrative and actions of Aurovillage throughout all these years. But they are now surrounded by their children and friends who have taken the place of many that have gone or died.
One crucial point, in order to understand what I mean with this Aurovillage cult, is that there are many “factions” within Auroville, and within Aurovillage. People have different ideas about what an “ideal life” would be. Not everybody here dreams of living in tree-huts next to a block of composting toilets. Some of them don't give a damn about spirituality, the Mother or Sri Aurobindo. Some are really devoted, but claim to have the true understanding of what the Mother wanted, and turn everything into license. Without sincerity, everything can be covered with spiritual talk and quotations. The spiritual side is the most intangible, and it's really hard to say much about it. You can only point out that in the end, the actions are very, very ordinary, but then again they come with “you don't understand it all, this is not ordinary but super advanced spiritual new age progress that the world can't understand yet”. Some factions also actually WANT a city. Not a big city though. A very small one, on the scale of a village. But still something of a city – or shall we say, suburbia. So what brings all of these people together? At the core, one thing: the present situation (which is now in fact already the past situation). None of them dream of living together with loads of neighbours, in a densely populated area. Each of them has their fiefdom, bigger or smaller: the present reality is their dream. Or at least: the development of the Galaxy plan and a city with 50,000 inhabitants would totally destroy their present-day fiefdom, or their fiefdom-in-progress. It would take away their reasons for being here. THAT is what binds them together: a shared interest in continuing the nasty and abusive reality that Aurovillage is, and making sure that that damn city will never be built. At least not in their lifetime. Or that of their kids.
At the core, they are not that many. Something like 50 maybe. Then how did they get the support of the 753 other people who constantly agree with what the Aurovillagers put in front of them? Comfort. Wanting a piece of that cake. But also narrative. Belief. Ignorance. Not understanding what is REALLY happening here. Not even being interested in understanding. Life is difficult enough as it is, we don't need some angry, negative, rude, harsh and difficult analysis from Lieve to make it even more cumbersome.
But also fear. Loads of fear. This pillar of western society is so deeply rooted in white people, it will come up in nearly all situations, and take a life-time to get rid of. Fear is always our worst enemy: it makes us unable to rationally look at the situation and assess it based on what is HAPPENING. When in fear, almost everybody will believe the narrative, and not believe their eyes.
The successful spread of the “Violence Was Used” slogan helped them enormously. But that slogan would never have worked if people here would have any knowledge and understanding of the reality they lived in for so long. And that brings us back to the cult: people here have been living in a cult narrative bubble for so long, that they have lost the ability to believe that Aurovillage is built on nothing else BUT violence. How non-violent is it to claim land bought for Auroville as your property? How non-violent is it to shout at people that they are trespassing when they roam around in Auroville? How non-violent is it to treat visitors as nuisance, in Auroville, the city that belongs “to humanity as a whole”? How non-violent is it to abuse this location, that Mother planned as a city for 50,000, for personal comfort? How much real, physical violence has been done here in the 70s, 80s, 90s and probably still beyond 2000? It's apparently very easy to just ignore all that. And only look at what happened in December, as if that was something that fell from the sky. I have to repeat this again, as it is crucial to understand the situation of the reality we're in: the Aurovillagers have FROM THE VERY START taken physical possession of assets, that were given to Auroville for “humanity as a whole”. These assets have been taken as personal property, and anyone who wanted to change that ownership has been ignored. This means that the de-facto physical ownership can ONLY be challenged by removing the Aurovillagers BY FORCE. It seems as if most of the western Aurovilians are completely blind to this fact, and have no wish at all to see that the “violence” used was forced. The facts and details of the “no correct notice given” are not without importance, but in the larger picture, they can never be the justification for putting the full blame with the Secretary or the Foundation Office.
When a museum director takes an item of the exhibition home and then, after 50 years, his family refuses to give it back, because it now is “theirs”, they are still committing a theft and if they leave no other option but to use physical force for the museum to get the item back, well, then THEY are the ones responsible for the violence, as they simply did not give anybody any other option anymore. Ignoring this is being wilfully blind. It's a huge pity, because many lovely people here are now persuaded to jump off the cliff, and they don't even realise it. It's not going to be a nice spectacle, but they have only themselves to blame: what is really going on here is still out in the open, there for all to see. In spite of that, they choose to drink the kool-aid. That word “cult” really fits, doesn't it?