Mirra Alfassa (21 February 1878 – 17 November 1973), known to her followers as The Mother, was the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo. Her full name at birth was Blanche Rachel Mirra Alfassa.
She came to Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual retreat on 29 March 1914 in Pondicherry, India. Having to leave Pondicherry during World War I, she spent most of her time in Japan where she met poet Rabindranath Tagore. Finally she returned to Pondicherry and settled there in 1920. After 24 November 1926, when Sri Aurobindo retired into seclusion, she founded her ashram (Sri Aurobindo Ashram), with a handful of disciples. She became the spiritual guide of the community.
The experiences of the last thirty years of Alfassa’s life were captured in the 13-volume work The Agenda. In those years she attempted the physical transformation of her body in order to become what she felt was the first of a new type of human individual by opening to the Supramental Truth Consciousness, a new power of spirit that Sri Aurobindo had allegedly discovered. Sri Aurobindo considered her an incarnation of the Mother Divine and called her by that name: “The Mother”.
Mirra Alfassa was born on 1878 in Paris to Moïse Maurice Alfassa a Turkish Jew father, and Mathilde Ismalun an Egyptian Jewish mother, a bourgeoisie family. She had an elder brother named Mattéo Mathieu Maurice Alfassa, who is later known to have held numerous French governmental posts in Africa. The family had just migrated to France, an year before she was born, the marriage fell apart and both Mathilde and Maurice were living separate lives at 62 Boulevard Haussmann in Paris, Mirra was close to her grandmother Mira Ismalum (née Pinto), who was one of the first women to travel outside Egypt alone and was also a neighbour.
Mirra had learnt to read at the age of seven and joined school very late at the age of nine; she is believed to have held interest in various fields of art, tennis, singing, etc. and was a concern to her mother who saw lack of apparent deeper, permanent concern over any matter in Mirra.By the age of 14 she had become a good reader and had read most of the books in her father’s collection, which is believed to have helped her achieve mastery over French.Her biographer Vrekhem notes that Mirra had various occult experiences in her childhood but knew nothing of the subject and their relevance, she kept these experiences to herself and did not share with anyone as her mother was believed to be atheist and any experiences were deemed to be a mental problem which had to be treated.Mirra especially recalls at the age of thirteen or fourteen having a dream of a dark figure which she used to call as Krishna whom she had never seen before in real life.
In 1893 after graduating from school, she joined Académie Julian to study art. Her grandmother Mira introduced her to Henri Morisset who was an ex-student of the Académie; they were married on 13 October 1897.Both were well off and worked as artists for the next ten years, during an era known for having many impressionist artists. Her son André was born on 23 August 1898. Some of her paintings were accepted by the jury of Salon d’Automne and were exhibited in 1903, 1904 and 1905.She recalls herself being a complete Atheist at this time and was against any religious claim on the existence of God, but was experiencing various memories which she found were not mental formations but were spontaneous experiences and never revealed this to anybody in her surroundings. She had developed an urge to know about such experiences and found Raja yoga by Swami Vivekananda was able to explain something about her experiences. She received a copy of loose translation of Bhagavad Gita in French which helped her a lot in learning about these experiences.
In the 1968, Alfassa helped create Auroville, a model universal township with a view to enhance the forces of evolution and to initiate a new renaissance in India and the world. At present, in 2015, Auroville is more of a large spread out community with a population of 2500 people from fifty countries. However, planning and development undercurrents are for outgrowing the present stage and emerge as a unique town envisioned by Alfassa.