Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bringing Down the Light: Mirra Alfassa

Mirra at age 7 (Wikipedia)

Part One
     Before she was recognized by Indian Philosopher Sri Aurobindo as an incarnation of the Goddess, ”The Divine Mother”, Mirra Alfassa was a mystic, artist, wife, mother, and Hermeticist. The philosophical foundation of alchemy comes from the teachings of Hermes and Thoth (1). The basis of these teachings is the Emerald Tablet of Hermes (see below).

   Mirra’s journey began in 1878 when she born in Paris to an Egyptian mother and Jewish/Turkish father. Both were from banking families, so Mirra had an affluent childhood. Yet her destiny lies not with materialism, but as mediator between earthly and subtle realms. Her full name at birth was Blanche Rachel Miriam (Mirra) Alfassa. She had one brother: Matteo Maurice Alfassa.

      At age five she had an experience with a consciousness which manifested as a luminous force around her head. That brilliance remained with her the rest of her life (2). She became a visionary mystic, developed pronounced empathetic qualities, and a strong bond with Nature. She could feel the pain and joys of others acutely. She was often visit by non-corporeal beings. Her extreme introversion caused her family to consider her as “retarded” (3). Though she had started formal education later than other children, by age ten she had advanced to the head of her class.  She excelled in academics, music, art, and tennis.  At 12 she started spontaneously practicing yoga. By age thirteen, she had dedicated herself to the service of humanity. At fifteen, she entered the Academie Julien, an art school in Paris.

      Through her teens and early twenties, she continued having mystical experiences. Searching, she studied Eastern Philosophies and the spiritual aspects of occultism.  From 1896-1907, she became part of the Paris art circle with artists Rodin, Matisse & Monet, and writer Emile Zola. Six of her own paintings were exhibited in the Salon de la Societe Nationale de Beaux-Arts, Paris from 1903-1906(4).During this period, she also met and married painter Henri Morriset, a student of Symbolist Gustave Dore. Together, they painted murals on the altar of the Church of St. James of Compostelia in 1898 (5). She gave birth to her only child this same year: Andre Morriset.
The House at Tlemcen

   She did not connect with a spiritual group until she was 20, when she joined a group founded by Hermeticist Max Theon: Groupe Cosmique. (Theon was also a well respected member of of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor.) Mirra was with Groupe Cosmique almost 3 years before she  visited the Theon estate in Tlemcen, Algeria (which borders the Shahara) in 1906. She became an apprentice to both Max & Alma Theon.  Mirra continued studying with the Theons until 1907. She was 27. At this point, it was recognized that she had mastered the techniques of her teachers. In 1908, she and Morriset divorced. 

       In 1910,Mirra attended a talk given by author & adventurer Alexandria David-Neel (Magic and Mystery in Tibet, among others)  and they became close friends.  In a 1969 interview, Alexandria David-Neel said this about Mirra; In spite of her great love and sweetness, in spite even of her inherent ease of making herself forgotten after achieving some noble deed, she couldn't manage to hide very well the tremendous force she bore within herself. (6)

         Mirra’s home became a salon for Spiritual seekers from all over the world. Alexandria David-Neel was there often. Mirra founded a group called I’Idee’ Novelle (The New Idea).
       In 1911, Mirra married lawyer Paul Richard, whom she had met while in Groupe Cosmique. Paul had already been working with Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry, and it is through him that Mirra would meet the man that would declare her an incarnation of the Divine mother. In PART TWO we will explore Mirra’s life with Sri Aurobindo and her amazing legacy.

Sources and Credits
     (1) The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy by Dennis William Hauck/2006 page 22
     (2) On The Mother: the chronicle of a manifestation and ministry, by K. R. Srinivas Iyengar/1994         page 5
     (3) IBID page 6
     (4) IBID page 847
     (5) IBID page 847

Article; India’s (Jewish) Mother, Michelle Goldberg:
House at Tlemcen:

The Emerald Tablet of Thoth
  1. [It is] true, without error, certain and most true,
  2. That which is below is as that which is above, and that which is above is as that which is below, to perform the miracles of the one thing.
  3. And as all things were from the one, by means of the meditation of the one, thus all things were born from the one, by means of adaptation.
  4. Its father is the Sun, its mother is the Moon, the Wind carried it in its belly, its nurse is the earth.
  5. The father of the whole world [or "of all of the initiates"?] is here.
  6. Its power is whole if it has been turned into earth.
  7. You will separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the dense, sweetly, with great skill.
  8. It ascends from earth into heaven and again it descends to the earth, and receives the power of higher and of lower things.
  9. Thus you will have the Glory of the whole world.
  10. Therefore will all obscurity flee from you.
  11. Of all strength this is true strength, because it will conquer all that is subtle, and penetrate all that is solid.
  12. Thus was the world created.
  13. From this were wonderful adaptations, of which this is the means. Therefore am I named Thrice-Great Hermes, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.
  14. It is finished, what I have said about the working[s] of the Sun.


Nancy said...

She sounds like a fascinating woman - especially for her time. Or maybe we were much more in tune to life then, than we are now with our mechanistic view.

Can't wait to hear more...

d page said...


She definitely was misunderstood as a child. As an adult, she went against social conventions. She was fortunate to be accepted by the artists, who were very progressive in their time. Yesterday, i was shocked to learn that her Father's Jewish descendants view her with dismay and will have nothing to do with her legacy.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Wow, this is fascinating. I'm reading magic and mystery in tibet, too, so this post resonates for me. If this is your book idea, Debra, I think you're on to something!

T said...

Hope you get to post your new discovery about the reindeer motif!