Thea’s response to questions from her group
on the current economic crisis
In these matters it is necessary to provide practical examples, and certainly speculative theory has never satisfied me, nor is it an accepted aspect of the New Way. My point was made in Part 1 that ‘doles’ or schemes for the poor that are simply hand-outs, be this either from government or charitable organisations, is not the way to build a strong, self-reliant society – which should be the aim of all political ideologies. To provide the example, I will describe the creation of Skambha, the small piece of land where the Centre was built because this is where theory was put into practice.
The location of Skambha was not a haphazard choice. The land was ‘discovered’ after a major yogic breakthrough in 1983-4, a breakthrough which changed the entire course of the Work and made it possible even to write these lines today. With that breakthrough the transformation entered a new phase, central to which was the specific location of the Centre. However, when the land was actually discovered its geo-cosmological relevance was not known; this came shortly after. Thus was born a real and true power point. There are many theories about such places on Earth, but what is not appreciated is that in order to establish or to discover or to unveil such a location on the globe, the yogic process is required beforehand; then the spatial position can be discovered. The one without the other is impossible.
To be brief, the first stage of the breakthrough occurred on 17 April 1983. It was a part of what I called the Yoga of the Chamber. In 1983 perfect alignment with its resultant centring occurred; this made it possible to locate the place on the globe that would provide the spatial coordinate in harmony with that particular date. Thus, in December 1985 this did come to pass. As could be expected, the location where this perfect synchronisation of time and space occurred, based on the prior yogic breakthrough, was a totally backward area. There were no roads, and certainly no electricity or telephones. It was, in addition, a completely virgin field which seemed in keeping with the third level of the Supramental Manifestation that was taking shape on this planet and which required a new field, distinct from the laboratory Sri Aurobindo and the Mother required for the first two stages of the transformation. Everything about the location revealed the newness we were dealing with and that the ‘construction’ both physically and yogically, had to be from scratch.
The area in question was sparsely populated. There was a small village nearby, populated entirely by migrant workers – that is, they served the needs of the small coffee estates nestled here and there across the landscape. This meant that they were employed only seasonally when coffee beans needed to be collected, or else pruning was required or fertilising, and so forth. This meant that for the better part of the year the local population had no earning possibility. Hardly any of the estate owners lived on their small coffee plantations. Thus there was not even domestic employment available. The village was not a traditional one with its naturally-formed hierarchy and the usual administration set up by the villagers themselves to attend to their needs, as one finds in the older and more traditional villages on the plains across India. Moreover, there was a migrant worker mentality prevailing throughout, which centrally meant that there was no concept or desire for permanent work. The idea was to work for several months and then enjoy a long period of layoff, during which time working members of the households had to seek employment elsewhere; some would descend onto the plains during these periods but for the most part they preferred to wait it out.
When we entered the scene it was obvious that the local population was weak and sickly. Clearly the inhabitants were not even getting one solid meal a day. The children of these house-holds were underfed and emaciated, as were their parents. But most distressing of all was the mental attitude of the labour force – such as it was – that did not understand the benefit of steady employment. They were used to doles from either missionaries in quest of conversions, or other forces that in some way could exploit this backwardness. My policy from the beginning was not to feed this arrangement in any way; obviously this would create problems initially when it was expected of Aeon Trust that more doles would be forthcoming. When this was not the case, rebellion was the first response; later on this frustration was used by certain unsavoury elements that sought to occupy the land we had acquired when development was on its way and the prospect of an easy occupation was enticing. In such a fertile soil the local population could be manipulated into believing that exploitation was the name of the game, since ignorance was widespread and the locals did not initially realise that Aeon Trust was actually providing an avenue out of the extreme poverty and backwardness that they had come to accept as their way of life. But this is another story that can be told at a later date for it reveals the method of true exploitation of power of many hues that seek to take advantage of backwardness and ignorance for their own designs.
The Centre had to be built from scratch. There was no proper road, as mentioned, therefore just getting supplies to the spot was a formidable task. But the means to uplift the local population was evident from the beginning: all that was required was steady work. However, this was not to the liking of the locals, perhaps because hardly any were in condition physically to sustain permanent construction employment; it was not long though before improvement was evident: there was food on the table on a regular basis, not through doles to the poor but by the constant work offered throughout the year and not merely seasonally as had been the case until then. Aeon Trust was the first new player in the field to introduce this practice. As it turned out, we had to sustain a lengthy period of education until the benefits of steady employment would produce results that doles could never do. This produced difficulties initially, but the results were so obviously beneficial that we realised it was just a question of time before acceptance would be forthcoming. In the meantime, there were those infamous ‘vested interests’ to contend with because these areas of backwardness were fertile grounds for manipulation of all sorts, to suit whatever the cause or ideology. If added to this was a policy of no bribing, our difficulties were compounded a hundredfold. Those groups, furthermore, were not lacking in funds at all, whereas Aeon Trust was operating on a shoestring budget. To begin with, we could not compete with the lavish amounts poured into the area to keep it backward and submissive – the ultimate goal, rather then to foment self-reliance and a thirst for self-respect and dignity. These questions were not even prominent in the minds of the locals; they were entirely accustomed to exploitation which they came to equate with generosity – i.e. a compassionate charity. It was evident from the earliest days that what we had been plummeted into was a classic case of exploitation of ignorance on many levels.
The problem we faced was to hold fast during the education period, which lasted almost a decade in fact, for the benefits of steady employment over doles to be appreciated. The result today after 27 years of maintaining the same policy is that the local population has changed entirely. The area is no longer considered backward, where before there were shacks as living habitation, we now see stone and brick houses with proper roofs, and the invariable motorcycle parked at the door, the ultimate sign of an increasing prosperity. We see the young all attending school where earlier they could not because of the extreme poverty of the household. Physically the change has been remarkable. In the beginning we were faced with a population that could hardly be called a work force because of its weak and sickly condition. Today this situation is a thing of the past that can hardly be remembered. The young are taller and stronger than their parents, school-going – and even working at Skambha on the weekends to earn pocket money or to help out their families. Had we given in to their demands for charity, to which they had been accustomed, we would have been simply feeding a monster that needs to be completely eradicated at the earliest.
Mention should be made of the smaller family norm that came with education and uplifting. While the older generation had families of four and five, all the youth who have grown up in the atmosphere of the Skambha initiative have families of no more than two offspring; not one of the many young couples who have come of age in this environment have broken this self-established formula. Government inducements were not required, simply education and better nutrition.
This makes it clear why doles are a convenient mechanism to enchain (enslave?) a population and to encourage weakness and lack of self-respect and dignity. The problem is that such hand-outs give immediate results. No one wants to wait out the long period required to change those wrong expectations. Truly it is an educative process with no shortcuts. One has to build up a new consciousness, not just of an elite that seeks God realisation but right from the grass roots level. If we wish to transform conditions on Earth that will allow the manifestation of higher principles to take hold, the entire population has to be made a part of the process, but each at its own level, each thing in its rightful place. Yet the methodology is always the same.
It was this foundational knowledge that lay at the heart of the ancient caste system: each thing in its place. Naturally over the years this structure degenerated, most probably when quick and easy exploitation became desirable. I do not buy the facile argument that the degeneration was to be laid at the feet of the Brahmin caste entirely; but certainly the ruling classes do bear the responsibility of allowing for the degeneration, and being the highest caste we naturally expect that corrective measures should have come from that section – but they did not. The reasons why have been treated extensively in the course of my exposition of the new cosmology and need not be repeated. Let it be stated simply that the degeneration did set in at the highest quarter but not as an exploitative measure; it was simply the wrong direction the spiritual endeavour took which left the field below, here on Earth, at the mercy of elements in the population that were only too happy to exploit this abandonment. Indeed, the degeneration we live in the midst of today has its roots in that wrong turn spirituality took in India at least two millennia ago.
There is no easy way out now. The structures protecting the old and deformed collective consciousness need to be dismantled. That requires warrior types and is not a labour for the faint hearted.