Alfassa (1878-1973), later known to some of her followers
as "The Mother" is considered a Hindu spiritual
leader by a large group of followers in India. In this
essay, I will explain the history of this distant relative
of mine. I will explain that she was a Jew, a lost Jew.
was born in Paris on Thursday, February 21, 1878 at
about 1015 in the morning. Mirra was the third child
of her parents, Maurice Alfassa, born 1843 at Adrianople
[modern Edirne] and Mathilde Ismaloun, born 1857 at
Alexandria, Egypt, both locations that were then part
of the Ottoman Empire. At some point Maurice traveled
from Adrianople to Egypt. There he met his wife and
in 1876 they had a son named Matteo
at Alexandria. During the period, it as not uncommon
for Sephardic Jews to holiday in Alexandria which was
an Egyptian gem. The relationship between Sephardim
in the Ottoman Empire and France lends itself to the
educational institution known as the Alliance Israélite
Universelle (AIU) which brought the modern French
educational system to Jewish children throughout the
Mediterranean and beyond. After many of the families
learned French, it was not uncommon for some to migrate
to France and other French speaking locations.
family emigrated to France in 1877 and Mirra was born
the following year. She was reported to be born on the,
"boulevard Haussmann near the Opera" located
in the heart of Paris. Purportedly, Mirra once stated
that when she and her brother were children, her mother:
her time dinning into our hearts that one is not on
earth to have a good time, that it is constant hell,
but one has to put up with it, and the only satisfaction
to be got out of life is in doing one's duty
had a father who loved the circus, and he came and
told me, 'Come with me, I am going to the circus on
Sunday.' I said, No, I am doing something much more
interesting than going to the circus!
1888 Alfassa joined an "exclusive school for the
rich," a formal academic education. "I never
went to a public school," she said , "because
my mother considered it unfitting for a girl to be in
a public school." "She was not interested
in learning for the sake of 'having a knowing air'.
She wanted to understand all that she did and it was
understanding that brought her great joy." "
all my studies were like that, the whole time. I enjoyed
myself-enjoyed, enjoyed, enjoyed... it was all enjoyable."
Mirra once wrote that between eleven and thirteen, she
said, a series of psychic and spiritual experiences
revealed to her the existence of God and man's possibility
of uniting with Him. In 1893 she traveled to Italy with
her mother. While at the Palazzo Ducale in Venice she
recalled a scene from a past life where she was strangled
and thrown out into the canal.
age 16 in 1894 Mirra Alfassa joined the Ecole des Beaux
Arts where she acquired the nickname, "the Sphinx".
There she studied drawing as a student of the French
painter Gustave Moreau and was said to have exhibited
at the Paris Salon. During her career as a painter,
she was said to associate with Rodin, Monet and other
(now) famous artists.
age 19 she married Henri Morisset, the couple had a
child in 1898, Andre (of which nothing else is known
except that in 1945 he visited India to see her). She
dabbled in the occult and eastern religions, and traveled
to North African to more formally investigate these
interests. Between 1905 and 1906 she studied in Tlemcen,
Algeria with an Ashkenazi Jew calling himself "Max
Theon" whose Arab name was Aia Aziz, a man who
once said his father was Rabbi Judes L. Bimstein of
Warsaw. Max, an interesting character, was a man whose
long hair never once touched a pair of scissors. It
was from Louis M. Themanlys (a Jew), Matteo's
college friend, that Mirra first heard about Max and
his Cosmic Philosophy.
of a Guru
was said to have given "rational explanation of
the spontaneous experiences she had had since her childhood."
He introduced Mirra to a man born in India, Sri Aurobindo
(1872-1950) whose cult-like leadership captured both
of their imaginations. Max studied and lead a program
called Cosmic Philosophy which according to Mirra (and
others) was based on Jewish practices of kabbalah. Aurobindo
liked Jews. He once pointed out that "the contribution
of the Jews towards the world's progress in every branch
the Jewish race has produced not only prophets like
Elijah or philosophers like Spinoza, but also the greatest
of our modern scientists, Albert Einstein, born one
year after Mirra. Besides, my acquaintances of that
race are all people of refinement.
once said that in 1904 at age 26 she met during a dream,
a dark Asiatic figure whom she called Krishna. She said
that Krishna guided her in her inner journey. She came
to have total implicit faith in Krishna, and was hoping
to meet him one day in real life. She returned to France
where she expanded her study on various Hindu practices
and soon would give over her life to the study. She
is quoted as saying about Judaism, that God is basically
"depicted as the Judge of mankind, and not its
Lover as in Hinduism." Perhaps it was also against
this sense of severity that Christ rebelled?" From
these thoughts, we can get a glimpse of Mirra's thoughts,
we can see that they were inconsistent with Judaism.
1906 she founded a group of spiritual seekers in Paris
which was named l'Idée Nouvelle. This group met
at her home on Wednesday evenings, first at Rue Lemercier
and then at rue des Lévis. In 1908 she divorced
Henri and abandoned her sons to his sisters, marrying
a lawyer and former Christian pastor, Paul Richard of
Lille, France. Paul and Mirra lived at Rue du Val de
Grace, in a small house at the back of a garden or courtyard.
Andre, then around twelve, was a regular visitor who
came around to see his mother. Paul had an interest
in Hinduism and went to India in search of meeting a
Hindu leader. He met a man named Aurobindo who had just
been released from prison for revolutionary activities
against the British. Aurobindo had just given up on
politics and entered the Hindu spiritual world. After
Paul returned from India, he introduced his wife to
the teachings of Aurobindo.
7 March 1914, Mirra and Paul embarked for India aboard
the steamer Kaga Maru, reaching Pondicherry on the 29th.
There, Paul founded a Hindu publication called Arya.
Paul eventually went back to serve in the French Army
during WWI. Mirra left because of the war, but returned
in 1920. Sometime during this decade they had moved
to Japan where they stayed for four years. Eventually
they went back to Pondicherry, where Mira would stay
until her death in 1973. Her marriage would fall apart,
and Mira became close to Aurobindo who then called her
Mirra Devi (goddess Mirra). She eventually was
put in charge of the community and followers became
left two ex-husbands and a young son in Paris, Mirra
Alfassa settled permanently in India in 1921 and was
soon declared a Hindu goddess. Renamed "the Mother",
she spent the next 50 years as a spiritual leader (a
guru). In 1926 Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa
founded the location of their spiritual base, an ashram
in Pondicherry, India. As the ashram grew, many departments
sprang up including an office, library, dining room,
press, workshops, playground, art gallery, dispensary,
farms, dairies, flower gardens, guest houses, legal
department. In the 1920s the daughter of Woodrow Wilson,
the US President, came to the ashram and chose to remain
there for the rest of her life. In later years Mirra
met with other individuals, including the king of Nepal.
She had a significant meeting with the Dalai Lama
who had recently escaped from Chinese occupation of
Tibet. In 1950 Aurobindo died and in the next decade
Mirra and her followers would dedicate Auroville
(i.e. town of Sri Aurobindo) in his name. Indira Gandhi
and Mirra had a close relationship; Indira Gandhi was
a devotee of Mirra and often sought her counsel on various
1951 Mirra founded the Sri
Aurobindo International University to modernize
and expand the scope of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in
Pondicherry. Today in 2005, the Center's subjects include
English, French, Sanskrit, Mathematics, Physical Sciences,
Life Sciences, Applied Sciences, Computer Science, History,
Geography, Indian languages, foreign languages, Music,
Dance, Drawing, Painting and Handwork.
of the people who "follow" Mirra have been
in denial that she was Jewish, some of her followers
have taken the time to invent a story and circulate
it that she was "A Parisian of Egyptian descent"
when in fact she was solely Jewish.
followers write of her:
after her birth, she was Christened by her father
as Mirra Alfassa. And the nurse in the maternity clinic
wrote at the corner of the cloth, M.A. Her nick name
became 'Ma' which was liked by her father. Ma
means mother in many languages. So she became mother
right from her birth."
is ridiculous! Her father was Jewish, and Jews don't
It was said about her parents that her father was
a secular Jew, a banker and a first-rate mathematician,
her mother was a disciple of Marx (a communist) until
the age of eighty-eight. Another account states he
knew German, English, Italian and Turkish, "He
liked very much birds and circus. His career of banker
was not fruitful."
her birth she was named - seemingly an Indian name-Mirra
Alfassa. Thus her initials were M.A., and all her
clothes and belongings carried the initials MA. So
she was called MA (Mother) even from her childhood!"
mother, Mathilde Ismaloun was from Egypt and she was
said to be descendent of the Egyptian pharaohs. The
father, Maurice Alfassa, was from Turkey, dominated
by the Islamic faith. Just a year before The Mother's
birth the parents had shifted from Egypt to Paris
- the heartcentre of Europe."
of an Egyptian Prince"
was an Egyptian but her father Maurice was a Turk.
Her parents migrated to France in 1877. Both her parents
were down-to-earth and practical. They did not care
for the existence of God."
Turkey was an Islamic country, but it had hundreds of
thousands of Spanish Jews living there. Alfassa is a
Sephardic Jewish surname, something they obviously do
not realize or maybe do not want to admit. The idea
that she is related to Egyptian pharaohs is preposterous
and probably perpetuated as a way to make her ancestry
more appealing to her cult followers. Research will
show the investigator that the relation to "Egyptian
pharaohs" comes from a story Mirra told her mother
while on a trip to Italy at age 15 in 1893.
means "one from Fes" (as in the city of Fes
in modern Morocco) however it is obvious these people
do not know this. Many Jews with the name Alfassa, DeFes
or Alfasi lived in Turkey, specifically Adrianople.
A common ancestor and one of the most important rabbis
in Jewish history was Isak
Alfassi (known as the RIF) came from Fes and moved
to Spain in the 11th century. Alfassi/Alfassa surnames
can be found in Spain since that time. With the bloody
carnage thrust upon the Jews in Spain by members of
the Catholic Church in the 14th and 15th century, thousands
of Jews fled to Turkey, later, hundreds of thousands
were forced out in 1492 and also went there.
father Maurice was said to have been, "born in
Adrianople" which was in Turkey. This is logical,
as there was a large group of Alfassas' living in Adrianople
in the early 20th century. The story of having roots
in both oriental and occidental countries is often exploited
by her followers to make her sound more interesting.
I guess they can't accept the account that she was born
Jewish, with plain Jewish roots. Her followers continue
with their propaganda saying she was born into a, "family
of mixed race and religion and nationality." This
is pure fabrication. Again, she was born a Jew to Jewish
parents who were Ottoman citizens. Mirra Alfassa's grandparents
were Mirra Pinto and Matteo Ismaloun who married in
Ottoman Alexandria. Mirra Pinto (daughter of Saïd
Pinto) was born in Ottoman Cairo. Pinto is a Sephardic
name, a name Spanish & Portuguese Jews brought with
them from Iberia in the 15th century to the Ottoman
Empire. It is an old surname, from Castile. In the Sephardic
Jewish tradition of naming children after the living,
both Mirra and her brother have first names which were
believe in life after death and that for every action
there is a reaction. Every action, even every thought
produces a reaction. Hindus believe that every thought
and every action is weighed on the scales of eternal
justice. Hindus believe that the body alone dies, the
soul never dies. The path the soul takes is decided
upon by the past actions. Sound familiar--these concepts
come straight out of Judaism. Even though these ideas
are similar, there is much which is definitely foreign
to Judaism and utterly opposed to it.
followers quote Mirra:
Jewish temples in Paris have such beautiful music. Oh,
what beautiful music! It was in a temple that I had
one of my first experiences. It was at a wedding. The
music was wonderful. I was up in the balcony with my
mother, and the music, I was later told, was music of
Saint-Saens, with an organ (it was the second best organ
in Paris - marvellous!) This music was being played,
and I was up there (I was fourteen) and there were some
leaded-glass windows - white windows, with no designs.
I was gazing at one of them, feeling uplifted by the
music, when suddenly through the window came a flash
like a bolt of lightning. Just like lightning. It entered-my
eyes were open-it entered like this (Mother strikes
her chest forcefully), and then I... I had the feeling
of becoming vast and all-powerful. And it lasted for
lack of Judaism at home sent her searching for something.
In 1899 at the age of 21 she was proselytized by a Hindu,
"I met a man, an Indian... who told me about the
Gita... He gave me the key... The man said, 'Read the
Gita, and take Krishna as the symbol of the immanent
Divine, the inner Divine.'" Like most sincere converts,
she jumped into her newly found religion with full zeal.
Her story is no different than other apostates who because
of a lack of knowledge of their own religion became
Matteo Mathieu Maurice Alfassa (her brother) was born
13 July 1876 at Alexandria, Egypt. He graduated polytechnic
at Paris, and was said to have a library of some 2,000
books at home. There was a French politician with the
same name, and it can be concluded this is the same
person. Matteo Mathieu Maurice Alfassa (aka Governor
General Alfassa) held the following posts through out
French occupied lands:
Governor of Middle Congo and Congo (Brazzaville)
o August 1919 - August 1922
§ (Part of French Equatorial Africa, now known
as the People's Democratic Republic of Congo. Middle
Congo existed until 1960).
· Governors-general Congo (Brazzaville)
o July 1924 - October 1924
§ (French Equatorial Africa)
· Governor of [French] Martinique
· Governor of [French] Mali (Sudanese Republic)
o November 1935 - November 1936
the Embassy of France in Brazzaville, Congo is situated
on a street called "Rue Alfassa." The tourism
ministry of Martinique is located on "Alfassa Boulevard"
that skirts the edge of sea with greenery and flowered
alleys and beautiful large royal palm trees.
May 20, 1973 Mirra was struck down with chronic illness
and had to be visited by a physician each day for six
months. In November she asked for help to try to walk,
but she was too weak. On November 17 she went into cardiac
arrest and although CPR was given to her, she died at
the age of 95. Today, cultists from all over the world
visit Pondicherry, in South India to worship this Jewish
woman, a heretic to her religion, a woman deprived of
the legacy of her heritage.
her teachings are worshiped in Auroville which is called
an international city "dedicated to Human Unity."
It is said to be a growing and vibrant community of
about 1500-2000 persons from over 30 countries. In 1968
the center was moved to this location which is six miles
north of Pondicherry. A publication of the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization discussed
the center in India:
city was established on the principles set forth by
Aurobindo and French artist and visionary Mira Alfassa,
who worked in India for "a new creation, beginning
with a model town and ending with a perfect world."
According to its charter, Auroville belongs to humanity
as a whole, it is a place of unending education and
constant progress, it serves as a bridge between the
past and the future, and it is a site of material and
spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual
Human Unity. Today, 700 people from some 25 countries
live in Auroville, which has been transformed from a
bare wasteland into a thriving universal town characterized
by forests and grasslands, educational and scientific
research, community services, and cooperation among
1999, a reporter for The New York Times recommended
Auroville as a primary destination for tourists who
go to India. Money has no role to play in Auroville.
Cars are banned. No administration with authority over
the lives of the members is created. No one is appointed
as the head or leader whom all should obey. However,
there is a temple where Mirra is worshiped called the
Matrimandir. It is a 100 foot high imposing elliptical
sphere. Inside the upper portion of the huge structure
is the meditation chamber, a 12-sided room whose walls
are lined with white Italian marble. At the center of
the chamber is a sphere of pure crystal, illuminated
by sun light channeled from an opening at the top of
what do I make of all of this, well, not that much.
I had a great-great-aunt whom was sadly lost due to
assimilation. She was proselytized and led off by new
age Hindu thought which was popular in the early 20th
century among some in the French intellectual circles.
She had lost her ancestry, her religion, her culture
and her roots. She marginalized herself from her family,
and today has a following for she is still thought of
in the Hindu world as a spiritual leader. Today this
woman is worshipped by thousands in India. Imagine what
a woman like this could have done if she directed her
energies towards her own faith and culture.