From Book 5. AUROVILLE DREAMS
For the first few months after my return from Anastasia's, I intensively collected and studied information on eco-settlements. Most sources spoke about foreign analogs. Altogether, I collected information on this topic for about eighty-six settlements in nineteen countries—Belgium, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, India, and others. But the information was no particular cause for rejoicing. No country had a sufficiently broad movement, and there were no settlements capable of wielding significant influence on the social situation in those countries. One of the largest and best-known settlements was in India, the town of Auroville. I will speak about it in a little more detail.
Auroville was founded in 1968 by Mirra Richard, the wife of integral yoga founder Sri Aurobindo. It was proposed that on lands set aside by the Indian government not far from Pondicherry, where the Sri Aurobindo ashram—a center for integral yoga devotees—had been operating since the 1940s, a settlement would appear and a city of fifty thousand would rise up. "Auroville"—which means "City of the Dawn," or "City of the Morning Dawn—was supposed to bring to life the idea of unifying people connected by a common goal of building a harmonious material world that is not in contradiction with the world of the spirit. In the charter she wrote, Mirra Richard said, "Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity."
The idea of creating a city where people would live in harmony with the world of nature, in harmony with spirit and love, was approved by the Indian government, Indira Gandhi personally, and UNESCO, and received financial support from the Indian government and many sponsors. Representatives from 121 countries and 23 Indian states attended the founding ceremony. A beautiful city—the dream of probably the majority of the world's "spiritual" people—began to be built.
However, after Mirra Richard's death in 1973, Aurobindo's pupil, Satprem, came out harshly against Auroville, calling it nothing but a "commercial enterprise." The Sri Aurobindo ashram, which controlled the majority of the "enterprise's" finances, laid claim to power over everything that went on in the city, but the settlers felt that their commune belonged to the whole world and the Ashram could not give it orders. An acute confrontation began between the spiritual ashram and the spiritual Aurovillians. The confrontation was not only on the spiritual level but kept moving more and more onto the physical. In 1980, the Indian government was forced to issue a decision on removing Auroville from the control of the Sri Aurobindo Society. A permanent police station appeared in the settlement. The Auroville situation contributed to the general crisis in Sri Aurobindo's movement and teaching.
Today, about 1200 people live in Auroville, not the more than 50,000 the organizers proposed. The entire region counts 13 villages, 30,000 people, along with the local residents. The reason for the Auroville dream's failure may lie in the following situation. If an Aurovillian has permission, he has the right to build himself a house, but legally the land it stands on will belong to Auroville. The land is acquired with the Aurovillian's funds, but in the name of Auroville. In this way, Auroville is given complete confidence but none of its residents has its complete confidence. Each resident is dependent. But after all, the project was the work of people who considered themselves highly spiritual. Evidently there is another side to the spirituality coin.
Auroville's present-day status has seriously upset and depressed me. No doubts have arisen concerning Anastasia's project; however, negative thoughts have entered my mind. If they can't make a normal settlement in India work, a country considered practically the leader in its spiritual understanding of human existence, if this couldn't be made to work with financial support from the Indian government, UNESCO, and sponsors from different countries, then how could Anastasia alone foresee all the snags? Even if she was not alone, even if a mass of readers sharing her views attempted to plan everything, think it through, foresee, it might not be made to work by all of them together because no one has experience.
If anyone knew the cornerstone on which a happy existence can be built for the individual person and a community as a whole, then a happy community could probably be built somewhere. But it hasn't been, not in a single country. We have only negative experience. Where are we to find positive experience?
"In Russia!" Anastasia replied.
Книга: Book V: Who Are We?