Journey To Skambha - Home of Supramental Yogi Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet
by Lori Tompkins ©2003*
IN SEPTEMBER OF 2002, I found myself saying good bye to family, friends, and a hatha yoga studio in Pacific Grove, California that I sold in July of 2002. Most of them scratched their heads as to what India could possibly offer that would pull me away from owning a successful studio, teaching hatha yoga, the comforts of home, friends and family. I tried to convey to them the strange story, the progression of coincidences that pointed me towards selling most of my few belongings and catching a plane to Madras, another to Madurai, and a taxi to Perumalmalai (12 kilometers outside Kodaikanal), where I would make a telephone call and hopefully be met and escorted to my final destination - a farm called Skambha (meaning Cosmic Pillar).
All I knew of this farm was that it was the home of Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet and her non-profit organization Aeon Center of Cosmology, as well as Caroselle Cheese Factory; and various horses and cows and dogs. I told my friends and family that the farm was the field of some extraordinary Yoga, a world-altering Work towards illuminating the dark corners of our nature and revealing the inherent wholeness that exists beyond the grasp of the dualistic mind which splits us all asunder. They still scratched their heads.
I had visited India in the winter of 1999-2000. It proved to be a difficult trip that had a mind of its own. In the first leg I was led from the unbelievably noisy and polluted New Delhi to the unbelievably noisy and polluted Bodhgaya where the Dali Lama happened to be arriving for a week's darshan along with twenty thousand or so Buddhists and pilgrims. Within hours of stepping onto Mother India, my eyes and lungs burned. I canceled a 3-week vippasana meditation retreat in Bodhgaya thinking, "How can I meditate in a place where I can't even breath." Barred from flying into Nepal by a Taliban hijacking of an Indian airline, I decided to head south for my escape. A train ticketeer sent me to Puri, Orrisa. It was the only train not booked for the New Year's holiday due to the recent super-cyclone that had hit the area. In Puri I plopped into The Z Hotel on the beautiful Bay of Bengal, on a beach cluttered by human feces and dead sea turtles; and waged a grim battle with an intestinal bacterial infection. From there I traveled on to Pondicherry, knowing it was the home of the brilliant sage-yogi Sri Aurobindo & his divine counterpart, the Mother, and hoping to have some less-chaotic, less polluted; more "spiritual" experience.
At some early age, I spontaneously began practicing various pranayamas, calling up massive currents of energy into my body; and so have long known that there is more to being human than meets the eye. When I was 19, my father, a medical doctor, committed suicide, propelling me forcefully and instantaneously into a different level of awareness that was irreversible. That awareness was a heightened sensitivity to the emptiness and shallowness of the human race and all its concerns and effects, and to the impending annihilation such shallowness of consciousness would manifest. I became painfully aware that the full Truth of Being was not yet here, on this planet; meaning the Soul, the Heart at full-flame was yet Unborn, hidden and repressed by the current conditions of matter and mind. In addition to being heart sick in my 20s, my body's immune system was somewhat compromised. It seemed that no relationships, no medicines, no University degrees, athletic endeavors, worthy occupations, or any amount of reading other people's spiritual realizations had enough power or truth to hold back my heart (my soul's) gradual but noticeable retreat from the world of matter. Nearing 28, I contracted giardia and bronchitis and my ten-month old kitten was run over and found frozen to death in a snow bank. I realized then that if I did not wake up (out of my own snow-bank) and change course, I might not make it to age 30.
Within months of that realization, the necessary elements arranged themselves for my survival. I quit my job in Boulder, Colorado assisting developmentally disabled adults which helped pay the bills while I wrote un-publishable stories, and moved to my mother's empty condominium in the ski resort of Aspen. There I started religiously practicing hatha yoga, became involved with an astrologer and teacher who was masterful at helping people change course, and landed a job working as an editorial assistant of a local newspaper.
And so it went, and upon my 30th birthday, I found myself studying to become a hatha yoga instructor under the tutelage of Calcuttan-born Bikram Choudhury in Beverly Hills, California. And nearing my 31st birthday I found myself visiting Pondicherry, India, home of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Before traveling to India, I had read perhaps two books by Sri Aurobindo, and several books about him and the Mother of Pondicherry. The books told of an Integral Yoga and a consciousness yet to grace the human race called the Supramental Truth-Consciousness. Upon entering Pondicherry, I read my way through the Ashram's Visitor Center and at the end of the visual presentation (which ended with the last portraits taken of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother before they passed) I unexpectedly broke down in tears at the realization that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were somehow the Father and Mother of the Truth-Consciousness that was laboriously and methodically being born in me, and on the planet. In addition to tears of joy, I simultaneously felt waves of deep grief, seemingly out of the blue, knowing somehow then and there that there was a third phase of the yoga that needed to happen, a third phase of the descent of higher knowledge was going to have a hard time to say the least. I intuited that the Ashram was quite fossilized around the story of the TWO great yogis (Sri Aurobindo and the Mother), and that any expansion of this story would meet with great resistance. For weeks I remained in Pondicherry and read on and on, filled with great inspiration that this planet was destined to house a greater creation, an evolution beyond what we are capable of now, and that we are indeed in a transition from a smaller truth and expression of Life and Love to some larger truth and expression of Life and Love. Central to this evolutionary shift is the sloughing off of the small concerns of the individual ego, the separate self. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother called this massive shift, the Supramental Manifestation. They indicated that it is a transition comparable to the magnitude of the shift from animal consciousness to mental human consciousness and that this transition is immanent.
After Pondicherry, still not well enough physically or psychologically to face the pollution, noise and chaos of mainstream India, I retreated to the hill station of Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu. There I had various beautiful revelations about the course of my life and the mental blockages that held me back from surrendering to my true nature and living the Truth of my being at any given moment. Many pieces of seemingly random life fell into place and made a coherent whole. Kodaikanal was the only place I had been in India, where I actually imagined I could live happily for some time. From that grace, I proceeded to the Vivekananda Yoga Center outside Bangalore for a month. I then stepped onto a plane in New Delhi, headed homeward with the certainty that I would never be inclined to return to India, and a bad feeling in my stomach that translated into, "This country is asphyxiating itself, slowly killing itself. This country is doomed."
Days later in New York, in one phone call, I miraculously landed a full-time job teaching hatha yoga in Mill Valley, California. I was soon in San Francisco browsing my sister's bookshelf, to find a book called The Gnostic Circle, by a woman named Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet.
Reading the book, I quickly realized that I had stumbled directly upon an extension of same Truth-Consciousness possessed by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. In the book, Ms. Norelli-Bachelet poured out yogic realizations that were unparalleled in my experience. She offered up many direct keys to understanding the supramental consciousness behind all form and movement ... direct keys to seeing that there is a sublime consciousness coordinating, in Time, all the parts of the whole, towards a full birth of the soul, spirit or the truth-consciousness in matter, on Earth. The master key of this integral seeing/yoga, is, as the title of the book suggests, the Gnostic Circle, which is of course a circle, but one that contains both the 12 signs of the zodiac and the 9 numbers of our number system (and 9 planets of our solar system), superimposed upon each other.
Norelli-Bachelet uses this key to demonstrate that the flow of the zodiac and our numeric system reveals the pattern by which all things grow or evolve, whether a cell, a person, a country, a race, a planet, a solar system, etc. From reading and studying The Gnostic Circle, I began to understand that there was an orderly unfolding of the hidden core of energy in all matter, powered by the steady march of time. By this understanding, Norelli-Bachelet notes, time can be known as a tangible ally in the journey of life on Earth. Time powers the yoga by which a part ˗ initially separated from its whole self by veils of physical, emotional, and mental darkness ˗ becomes conscious of what it is part of ... becomes aware of its source, its wholeness. And so I started seeing life in a very new way. I began to see that the individual and collective journey is orchestrated by a consciousness-force that is far superior to the best plots the mind can offer.
I was absolutely astounded by the information in the book and what it implied. I had finally, in all my years of study, stumbled onto someone who had profound, direct and all-inclusive knowledge of how our Cosmos operates as a conscious, living system and where we are within that Living System. I felt no less than as if I had stumbled upon the Holy Grail. And with this alchemical key, I began to unlock and open many doors of perception that had been closed to my mind. I marveled and wondered who this person was, where she lived. To my absolute amazement I found that she lived in Kodaikanal, India. I was also surprised that the book had been published in 1975 and that, despite my searching and my interest in Sri Aurobindo, the Mother, astrology, the enneagram, and transformational yogas, I had never once heard anything of this woman. I proceeded to read everything I could get my hands on that she had written, including The Magical Carousel & Commentaries, The New Way, Volumes I and II, Signs and the Symbols of Unity, The Hidden Manna, and The Vishaal Newsletters. In October of 2001, 8 months after opening the Pacific Grove yoga studio, I sent Ms. Norelli-Bachelet some of my writings including an unpublished autobiography written when I was 25 that revolved around the collapse of my father, my family ... the collapse of my little world. We began emailing back and forth and a few days after the studio's one-year anniversary, I began to feel that yet another little world was starting to crumble. The hatha yoga that had helped pull me out of frightening depths, was no longer sufficient to satisfy my soul's ongoing quest to be fully here with no impositions. My whispering soul wanted to go on a trip ... A Big Trip, wide open with as many cords cut as possible and nothing demanding my return.
And so it went, and on October 14, 2002 I got off a bus in Perumalmalai and was escorted to Skambha and into the presence of Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet. In that peaceful, lush little nook, many battles are being fought by a hand-full of American women and many Indian workers, led by Ms. Norelli-Bachelet, also known by students as Thea, which translates into 'Daughter of God'.
The Cow and the Horse, central figures in the Vedas representing the eternal axis of Consciousness-Force, are also central to Ms. Norelli-Bachelet's cosmology and yoga. Her work with the Cow led her into the business of making and marketing exquisite farm-cheeses ˗ a business that is severely handicapped by subsidized cheeses arriving from foreign distributors who keep prices artificially low. And her work with the Horse, the essence of which is speed, led her into racing ˗ a sport which has been severely handicapped by corruption. The result of her yoga and her presence in the racing arena has been a less corrupt, more humane environment for horses, owners, trainers and jockeys. She recently received a letter from the authorities governing the sport, acknowledging and thanking her for her contributions towards cleaning up the sport. Such is the surface of her work with the Horse. The deeper, Vedic levels have been recorded in a document entitled The Yoga of the Horse (partly chronicled in The Vishaal Newsletters).
The larger struggles are of such a nature that, in my mind, it is a miracle that Ms. Norelli-Bachelet, now 65 years old, has survived 32 years in India and is still alive to continue her work. The more I read and see, the more I know why this woman has been brushed off, bad-mouthed, attacked and why her work is not copiously distributed and read throughout India and the world. Many people in India and beyond do seem to be searching for a better perspective, a higher vision and answers to the impending doom we are all facing if we keep ignorantly heading full force in the same direction. But when a truly higher perspective comes along, proposing a new way of thinking, being and seeing, it becomes a natural enemy to well-established belief systems that have no interest in transformation. In most of the world, the idea of taking the zodiac and number-values seriously is enough to make people yawn or run for the cover of their old beliefs.
The wisdom that Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet has put forth in her works can be labeled as Cosmology or a New Astrology but from what I see, it is extremely relevant to all aspects of modern society ˗ history, current affairs, science, spirituality, mathematics, health, geography, government, astronomy, art, music, politics, sports, reproduction, quantum physics, architecture, etc. All this begins to fit neatly under the same vast subject of Self Knowledge, and nothing can be left out. One can see that Knowledge of the Big Self (the World and Cosmos) is in no way different from the pursuit of individual self knowledge.
This many-limbed, yet unified perspective sends many people fleeing, reminding me of the part in the Bhagavad Gita when Arjun begs Krishna to return to his normal form after having revealed his true multidimensional form as the Time-Spirit. He simply cannot take the multidimensional vision. Some are so threatened by Ms. Norelli-Bachelet's perspective that they have actively interfered with the circulation of her work and ideas. But mostly I have found that people just can't understand what she is seeing, what she is writing. It is either totally incomprehensible, like a foreign language, or just a few steps past their immediate reach and it doesn't seem worth their energy to make the stretch to learn something new.
It seems to be in keeping with the nature of a Seer to make people squirm. Light exposes darkness and ignorances that are not always ready to give way to the light. Such resistance is currently part of our nature. And hence, she makes many people MAD. Including people in Sri Aurobindo's Ashram and in Auroville, including some of the Orthodox churches and religious fundamentalists and seekers that search for salvation or release from sin and suffering in a heavenly or nirvanic beyond and do not consider the Earth Mother, our material creation, to be capable of Divinity or to even be real. Ms. Norelli-Bachelet also engenders wrath from Vedic and Western historians, and especially from modern Vedic astrologers.
What, specifically, does she see that makes these people mad?
First off, she is a white woman living in India, proclaimed to be a Vedic Seer (Truth Seer), and to be a part of a Divine Trinity along with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. She has seen how Consciousness moves in Time and Space, by the hour and throughout the Ages and writes that Sri Aurobindo, not Guatam the Buddha, is the 9th Avatar in the Hindu line of Ten Avatars and that Sri Aurobindo has reincarnated as the 10th Avatar and is alive on the planet today. She has repeatedly protested to the effect that the Mother's Temple, built in Auroville (Tamil Nadu) by western architects, is a gross distortion of the Temple the Mother saw on the occult plane and for which she drew up a detailed plan with an engineer in 1970. In the course of the past three decades, her illuminations on the issue have been repressed and distorted as well as plagiarized. She writes that the Temple as seen by the Mother should have been off-limits to mental-creative interpretation, as her plans outlined the highest accomplishment of sacred geometry known to man, handed down by a true Seer, an accomplishment on par with the sacred design of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Patrizia understood that the Temple was meant to be a crucial bridge ... a direct link between consciousness and matter, rooted firmly on Indian soil. She writes that the temple in Auroville is a "shadow" of the true Temple as seen by the Mother, making it an accomplishment not of truth-consciousness, but rather of the dualistic, off-centered, mental-human consciousness that continues to create division and death-bound forms.
As well Patrizia sees profound meaning in the Zodiac, revealing it to be a 12-stage evolutionary journey by which modern civilization can gain an enlightened understanding of our individual and collective life here on Earth, and thereby shift into a higher consciousness. This flies hard in the face of science and religion and all factions of academia that have completely negated the value of this ancient key of wisdom. This ancient science of Astrology is now largely viewed as archaic ignorant superstition at best. To consider that there was ever an intelligent civilization which had access to higher Laws or Truth about life on this planet in this Universe and recorded it in a circle of signs is somehow not a possibility. Norelli-Bachelet's astrological wisdom might at first be interpreted as good news for modern Astrologers, until she further explains that modern Astrologers have also lost the true essence and relevance of this ancient art and science. To further fan the fire, she has found the signs of the Zodiac in the New Testament and in the Rig Veda ˗ a historical and religious impossibility or blasphemy for many.
She also sees a great and humorous irony that in India (the only county that by and large takes astrology seriously) astrologers are using the wrong zodiac to measure horoscopes, festivals, etc. By using the Sidereal Zodiac instead of the Tropical, these astrologers throw India's time-axis or calendar currently off kilter by about 23 days/degrees. This mis-alignment will grow with the passage of each year. This would mean that the events planned and celebrated (such as festivals that were originally meant to be tied to solstices and equinoxes) are not actually justified or based in their right Time frame. And of course this has ramifications upon the correct assessment of the Astrological Ages. Ms. Norelli-Bachelet identifies the start of the Aquarian Age as 1926, whereas so-called 'Vedic' Astrolgers still contend that we are in the Piscean Age and will be for five or so more centuries. So again here is the bind. Most peoples of the world could not give a hoot about the correct determination of the Astrological Ages, and the people that do give a hoot are firmly entrenched in their professional or spiritual beliefs which are, according to Norelli-Bachelet, increasingly off-center.
The shock waves run deep and disturb many other structures and belief systems. Obviously the mental-egoic consciousness of the human is deeply threatened by the prospect of a higher consciousness that will fully expose mankind's folly. This fearful mental-egoic structure is certainly not just an individual phenomenon, pertaining to a few of us humans. There is as well a fearful collective ego protecting and suppressing the gestating the higher consciousness of the collective soul. One way this collective egoic mind takes shape is rigid formations of scientific, religious, and historical information about who we are and what we have come from. Hence Ms. Norelli-Bachelet causes some commotion when she writes that the Rig Veda is not really a historical document but is more importantly a text describing the yogic and universal process of the evolution of consciousness in matter ˗ the process and journey of an individual or an entire race conquering darkness and death and entering the realm of Truth-Consciousness-Bliss ... the realm of Immortality. This commotion is exacerbated when one considers that, if the Rig Veda is not simply a historical document, telling of historical battles and such, then it in no way corroborates the Euro-centric Aryan Invasion Theory ˗ a theory which implies that neither the Hindu civilization or the Sanskrit language is native to India. In addition to asserting that the Rig Veda is a document explaining an eternal process rather than merely recording isolated historical events, she further confounds historians and their time lines and their life's work by saying that they are many millennia off in their dating of the sacred text ... And as well in their dating of the Sphinx and the Pyramids, which some modern archeologists are beginning to corroborate. Recent discoveries of ancient ruins off the coast of Poompuhur, Tamil Nadu, South India, are a further corroboration that Indian civilization is much older than currently known or taught. These submerged ruins have been tentatively dated as 11,000 BCE, making them the oldest known ruins in the world, and potentially, in the words of the discoverer, "the true cradle of civilization."
Ms. Norelli-Bachelet writes that throughout the Piscean Age (234 BCE - 1926 CE) waves of Buddhist and Judeo-Christian religious thought relegated and equated the feminine principles of the Divinity of Mother Earth, of Motion and of Material creation, to Maya, Illusion and Sin. She continues that this phenomenon effectively occulted the heart and soul of "Mother" India and ultimately left the country open to invasions and British rule, and to the subsequent tearing apart of its land mass upon its Independence. Norelli-Bachelet contends that the Indian continent and the Hindu civilization is the occult, struggling and dying heart of the planet; and that its wholeness and correct alignment with respect to Time is crucial to the redemption of our entire material creation on this planet.
That a woman born in America, with no formal training in the Vedic texts, in archeology, science, history and such, is coming up with these assertions due to a vision that somehow supersedes all known scientific methods is preposterous for most. And in religious or spiritual realms when that same vision challenges the foundations of modern faiths and interpretations of sacred texts and dogma, the result is worse than preposterous, it is an affront to God.
But, rather than getting involved in a struggle between opposites of religious-minded people who wanting to uphold Genesis of the Bible as the rightful creation story, and cientific-minded people wanting to uphold evolution theory as the truth, she writes that Genesis is clearly a parable of the evolution of man. To her seeing, Genesis is obviously the story of mental man arising out of a purely vital-animal man and that the crucifixion of Christ was indicative of the inevitable mortality inherent in our current stage of human evolution. This stage being the divisive mental human being still very much at battle with the vital forces of his being and world, symbolized in the Old Testament as the battle between Cain and Abel and continuing today in all our various wars.. And she sees, as Sri Aurobindo and the Mother did, that a divine consciousness is descending deeper and deeper into the heart of matter which will ultimately produce a race of immortal beings, conscious of and connected without pause to soul, source, core, heart of All that is ... on this planet, not in a heaven or nirvana beyond this seemingly very big mess that we have here. In her book The Hidden Manna, Norelli-Bachelet writes that St. John's Revelation, which she connects directly to Genesis, is a perfect foreseeing of the birth of this supramental creation as it is unfolding now in our lifetime. She shows that John used numerous astrological references to indicate the conditions of man and the time when the apocalypse of the mental-human creation and the birth of a supramental man equipped with a unified consciousness would unfold, establishing an immortal creation on Earth, in Matter, with direct access to its Divinity.
I survived ten weeks as a guest "Madam" at Skambha watching the play of it all. Six horses running about in one paddock, 60 cows grazing in another, a waterfall raging, dogs chasing cats, monkeys cavorting, birds chirping, wild pigs running about in the night, spiders weaving their webs and flies buzzing about. The cows made milk and the workers tended to the animals, to maintenance, to cooking and some to making cheese. Norelli-Bachelet's three permanent assistants managed everything and somehow all the workers got paid (not always on time), and all the animals and the people got fed. Ms. Norelli-Bachelet worked away in her abode.
To the naked eye it might not seem like she causes much trouble. But upon closer look, she is turning modern mankind on its collective head with what she has seen and understood and recorded. I for one am not upset by the idea that our human perceptions, as of yet, have only been perceptions of half-light and are therefore not entirely accurate. If we were currently at the peak of our capacity for Truth that would be very bad news for the Earth and its subjects in view of the suffering that our current modes of operation generate. To me Ms. Norelli-Bachelet's vision is deeply soothing. A big relief. Giving me a much more pleasant attitude than I have ever been able to muster up prior to my experience with her work. And, as my capacity for this vision increases, more and more life details and disturbances fall into place within the whole. And I come to see that nothing is irrelevant, nothing is dangling, nothing lost and random in space or time, nothing is wrong ... Nothing is void of purpose or energy. Even negative elements of self and other take on a valuable role, necessary and unavoidable, towards a certain collective victory.
I also have come to understand, more and more directly through life experience, what Sri Aurobindo's Integral Yoga was aiming toward and why Ms. Norelli-Bachelet's seeing is such a crucial extension of that yoga. It is a yoga , a process towards coming to see the purpose, the value and beauty of all parts of the whole. The idea is that the fragmented the multiple parts ˗ at risk and at odds at first because they have yet to discover the energy in their own core and their place in the whole ˗ in time become aware of their inner light and their proper place within the whole body; and thereby multiple parts become integrated in a conscious unity (a uni-verse or one song). What at first occurs as purposeless, random, chaotic and unconscious and maybe even dead, begins to occur as purposeful, precise, harmonious, conscious and very much alive.
Norelli-Bachelet points to a reality in which whether we are conscious or not of the process, everything is working towards the same inevitable victory or wholeness, regardless of what the mind thinks about it all. When one starts to see, experience and trust this reality, it is increasingly easier to appreciate the ever-unfolding moment that is always calling for our Love, or calling to Love through us.
And in difficult moments I find myself certain that Truth and Love are relentless and that Time is powering a great coup in nature ... organizing the birthing of a higher consciousness in matter. It is inevitable in the process of this divine coup, establishing a Truth-Consciousness on our planet, that many structures, beliefs, systems, organizations that are not based on Truth-Consciousness, will be exposed and dismantled. And that might look bad or feel bad to us in our half-lit consciousness ... like an Apocalyse. But in the end, once all the walls defending our own ignorance are down ... And the rest of the light pours in ... we will be eternally grateful for the tough love.
A Consciousness that knows not its own truth,
A vagrant hunter of misleading dawns,
Between the being's dark and luminous ends
Moves here in a half-light light that seems the whole:
An interregnum in Reality
Cuts off the integral Thought, the total Power...
... Turned on its axis in its own Inane.
Thus is the meaning of creation veiled;
For without context reads the cosmic page:
Its signs stare at us like an unknown script,
As if appeared screened by a foreign tongue
Or code of splendor signs without a key
A portion of a parable sublime.
It wears to the perishable creature's eyes
The grandeur of a useless miracle;
Wasting itself that it may last awhile,
A river that can never find its sea ...
.... A hyphen must connect Matter and Mind,
The narrow isthmus of the ascending soul:
We must renew the secret bond in things,
Our hearts recall the lost divine Idea,
Reconstitute the perfect word, unite.
Savriti, Book One, Canto IV
* Re-editted, 2013