What is it about?

This paper explores some aspects of the teachings of Mirra Alfassa (1878–1973), better known as The Mother, Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual partner and co-founder of Integral Yoga, a global spiritual movement. It looks specifically at the interplay of the Mother's gendered spiritual power, and Alfassa's vision of a spiritually evolved humanity as essentially androgynous. While at surface level this may seem like a paradox, particularly given Alfassa's function within the movement as Universal Mother, or Shakti, who has ‘taken birth’ on earth in order to facilitate the spiritual and physical evolution of humanity. Alfassa’s complex attitudes towards gender and normative gender roles, this article argues, inform her teachings and self-positioning as The Mother. Specifically, the intersection of sex, gender and physical materiality is an important current in Alfassa’s thought, including her instructions to future residents of Auroville (a utopian intentional community), her reflections on the Matrimandir, as well as her teachings on the future supramental humanity, whose ‘luminous’ divinized bodies would be genderless or androgynous. This paper examines the tensions between the gendered creative and spiritual powers attributed to The Mother and Alfassa’s often ambivalent discourse around gender, embodiment and motherhood. These tensions, it is argued, are not only key to her articulation of Integral Yoga, but also raise broader, conceptual questions about persistent cultural and religious associations between gender and materiality.

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Why is it important?

This work is significant in that it explores the specific teachings of Mirra Alfassa as the Mother, and her specific contributions to and intellectual synthesis of the teachings of Integral Yoga, thus providing a much-needed balance to existing literature on this movement that tends to focus on Aurobindo and his writings.

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This page is a summary of: The life incarnate and the life divine: Spiritual evolution, androgyny and the grace of the goddess in the teachings of Mirra Alfassa, the Mother of Integral Yoga, Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses, May 2022, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/00084298221096327.
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