Andy came to Auroville in 1974. After a short spell in Aspiration bakery he worked for two years in the Matrimandir outer gardens before moving on to the main structure. In 1993, when the chamber was completed, he left Matrimandir and took up other work. In 2003 he returned as part of the new Matrimandir management team, with special responsibility for organizing the workforce.
AVTODAY: Has your understanding of the significance of the Matrimandir changed over the years?
Everything has changed. I've changed, my perceptions of Matrimandir have changed. When we first went to work there, some of us were convinced that the supramental manifestation would occur in our lifetime – and that Matrimandir would be a focal point in this. Now, I'm more pragmatic – obviously another timetable has come into effect – although my original enthusiasm remains.
It's sometimes said that building Matrimandir is as much about building people as about putting up a structure. I'm absolutely convinced of this: although I can't map it exactly, I know I'm a different person because I worked there.
As to the significance of the Matrimandir, it's very hard to say, it's so complex. Clearly the physical structure is only the tip of the iceberg. Even now I'm discovering new aspects, although these are fleeting glimpses which are often forgotten. What is clear, however, is that it is a very living and very strong presence which, once it has hold of you, doesn't let go.
Take me, I was brought back here almost against my will. I had been working elsewhere for ten years and when I was asked if I wanted to join the new Matrimandir management group my head said ‘no'. But I found myself saying ‘yes'!
Around that time you talked of wanting to become an ‘instrument' of Matrimandir rather than of any faction or group. What did you mean by that?
You're leading me on to thin ice here: I don't want to go on record with statements like ‘This is what it means to be a willing servitor of the Divine consciousness'! But I think it's something to do with this adventure of consciousness that we came here for. In other words, if you can get to the point where you are not only working for personal gain but are connecting with the essence of the work you do – and I think this could be anything in Auroville, it's not limited to the Matrimandir – then I think you are participating more fully in this adventure.
Matrimandir seems to have its own agenda. It's interesting to see, for example, how much power Mother seems to have invested in that original model. There it is now, almost complete, in spite of all the conflicts and opposition – and I was among those who opposed the disks and petals. Somewhere Mother says that even against their own will people will be pushed towards the right place. I guess that happened with me.
So are the controversies a thing of the past?
I think there has been a moving on. At least we got out of the stalemate [when the previous Matrimandir management team had serious differences with the architect] as is evidenced by the fact that the work is proceeding well and many of the Aurovilians who used to work here have returned. How we got out of that impasse I don't exactly know; it happened imperceptibly. Anyway, now there's an unspoken understanding on site that we don't discuss design details as anything can be changed if it doesn't prove functional. There's no longer a sense that everything we build is there for eternity. This is particularly true for the gardens. Roger keeps insisting on this, he uses the word ‘ephemeral'.
As a way of proceeding we've agreed on the need to set up a panel to oversee and, eventually, decide on the design on the twelve gardens. But right now the gardens are not a priority; we're focussing on completing the inside of the structure by February 21st, which will, by no means, be an ‘inauguration'. Instead, it could be considered an ‘unveiling' – and I think this will be a very strong experience for everybody, including those of us who work there.
I still remember when we were finishing the chamber. There was this final, intense period of three weeks when the work space we had been working in, joking in, for many years changed. When everything was cleaned and the coverings removed, suddenly it was something very, very strong. I think it will be the same next February and I'm looking forward to it.
Do you think the completion of the structure will have an effect upon the rest of Auroville?
These things are very complex: most of us don't know because we just don't operate on these levels. But I don't expect some kind of sudden epiphany. What can be said is that the completed structure will be proof that we have transcended a long, dry period of confrontation and that we have managed to complete something which is very central to all of us. And that's a very major point.
What's also remarkable is how much Matrimandir has touched people outside Auroville. We spend a lot of money here – we have over 300 workers on site – but the amazing thing is that over the last three years there's never been any lack of funds. People keep coming and offering: clearly there's a wide and deeply-held belief that completing Matrimandir is something very important.