Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) was an influential Indian guru, poet, and nationalist. He founded an ashram in Pondicherry which is still active today. The community's history has largely been peaceful and uneventful, with the exception of one period in the 1920s. The following narrative, taken from M.P. Pandit's biography of Sri Aurobindo, describes what modern observers would call a classic poltergeist case, but in centuries past, it would be labeled as "witchcraft"--with a vengeful cook as the responsible party. It is somewhat reminiscent of the more famous case of the 17th century "Phantom Drummer of Tedworth."
[Note: "The Mother" was Mirra Alfassa, an occultist who was Sri Aurobindo's most important collaborator.]
About of December 1921 a curious incident took place which was witnessed by a number of people--a poltergeist happening. It was one of those phenomena that constantly occur and baffle the empirical mind of physical science but are easily explicable to those who have some knowledge of the occult side of life, who are aware of the fact that the physical state is not the only state of existence. There are other states, other levels of being and consciousness and there is an interchange, interaction between one plane and another. It is possible to cause things to happen on the physical plane by action on or from the subtler, occult planes.
There are many accounts of this bizarre incident that took place in the house where Sri Aurobindo and his associates lived. The Mother’s recollection to the Ashram children throws more light and touches upon more details than others and we may quote her in full:
“We had a cook called Vatel. This cook was rather bad-tempered and didn’t like being reproved about his work, Moreover, he was in contact with some Mussulmans who had, it seems, magical powers--they had a book of magic and ability to practise magic. One day, this cook had done something very bad and had been scolded, and he was furious. He had threatened us, saying, ‘You will see, you will be compelled to leave this house.’ We had taken no notice of it.
"Two or three days later, I think, someone came and told me that stones had fallen in the courtyard--a few stones, three or four: bits of brick. We wondered who was throwing stones from the next house. We did exactly what we forbid children to do: we went round on the walls and roofs to see if we could find someone or the stones or something, we found nothing.
"That happened, I believe, between four and five in the afternoon. As the day declined, the number of stones increased. The next day, there were still more. They started striking the door of the kitchen specially and one of them struck Datta’s (an inmate) arm as she was going to the courtyard. The number increased very much. The interest was growing. And as the interest grew, it produced a kind of effect of multiplication. And the stones began falling in several directions at the same time, in places where there were neither doors nor windows; there was a staircase, but it had no opening in those days: there was only a small bull’s eye. And the stones were falling in the staircase this way (vertically); if they had come through the bull’s eye, they would have come like this (sideways), but they were falling straight down. So I think they all began to become truly interested. I must tell you that this Vatel had informed us that he was ill and for the last two days (since the stones had started falling) he hadn’t come. But he had left his undercook, a young boy of about thirteen or fourteen, quite fat, somewhat lifeless and a little quiet, perhaps a little stupid. And we noticed that when this boy moved around, wherever he went the stones increased. The young men who were there shut the boy up in a room, with all the doors and windows closed; they started making the experiments the spiritists make, ‘Close all the doors, close all the windows.’ And there was the boy sitting there inside and the stones began falling, with all the doors and windows closed! And more and more fell, and finally the boy was wounded in the leg. Then they started feeling the thing was going too far.
"I was with Sri Aurobindo: quietly we were working, meditating together. The boys cast a furtive glance to see what was going on and began warning us, for it was perhaps time to tell us that the thing was taking pretty serious proportions. I understood immediately what the matter was.
"I must tell you that we had made an attempt earlier to exhaust all possibilities of an ordinary, physical explanation. We had called in the police, informed them that there was somebody throwing stones at us, and they wanted very much to come and see what was happening. So a policeman--who was a fine good fellow--immediately told us: ‘Oh! you have Vatel as your cook! Yes, yes, we know what it is!’ He had a loaded pistol and stood waiting there in the courtyard--not a stone! I was on the terrace with Sri Aurobindo; I said to Sri Aurobindo: ‘That’s a bit too bad, we call the police and just then the stones stop falling! But that is very annoying, in this way he will think we haven’t told the truth for no stones are falling. Instantaneously the stones began falling again. You should note that the stones were falling quite a way off from the terrace and not one of them came anywhere near us. So the policeman said: ‘It is not worthwhile, my staying here. I know what it is, it is Vatel who has done this against you. I am going’.
"It was after this we made the experiment of shutting up the boy, and the stones began to fall in the closed room and I was informed that the boy had been wounded. Then I said: ‘All right, send the boy out of the house immediately. Send him to another house, anywhere, and let him be looked after, but don’t keep him here, and that’s all. Keep quiet and don’t be afraid.’ I was in the room with Sri Aurobindo and I thought: ‘We’ll see what it is.’ 1 went into meditation and gave a little call. I said: ‘Let us see, who is throwing stones at us now! You must come and tell us who is throwing stones.’
"I saw three little entities of the vital, those small entities which have no strength and just enough consciousness confined to one action--it is nothing at all: but these entities are at the service of people practising magic. When people practise magic, they order them to come and they are compelled to obey. There are signs, there are words. So, they came, they were frightened--they were terribly frightened! I said: ‘But why do you fling stones like that! What does it mean, this bad joke?’ They replied: ‘We are compelled. We are compelled...It is not our fault. We have been ordered to do it, it is not our fault.’
"I really felt so much like laughing, but still I kept a serious face and told them: ‘Well, you must stop this, you understand!’ Then they told me: ’Don’t you want to keep us? We shall do all that you ask.’ ‘Ah!’ I thought, ‘let us see, this is perhaps going to be interesting.’ I said to them, ‘But what can you do?’ ‘We know how to throw stones.’--‘That doesn’t interest me at all, I don’t want to throw stones at anyone...But could you perchance bring me some flowers? Can you bring some roses?’ Then they looked at each other in great dismay and answered: ‘No, we are not made for that, we don’t know how to do it.’ I said: ‘1 don’t need you, go away, and take care specially never to come back for otherwise it will be disastrous!’ They ran away and never came back.
"There was one thing I had noticed: it was only at the level of the roof that the stones were seen--from the roof, downwards, we saw the stones; just till the roof, above it there were no stones. That meant it was like an automatic formation. In the air nothing could be seen: they materialised in the atmosphere of the house and fell.
And to complete the movement, the next morning (all that happened in the evening), I came down to pay a visit to the kitchen--there were pillars in the kitchen--and upon one of the pillars I found some signs with numbers as though made with a bit of charcoal, very roughly drawn, and also words in Tamil. Then I rubbed out everything carefully and made an invocation, and so it was finished, the comedy came to an end.
"However, not quite. Vatel’s daughter was ‘ayah’ in the house, the maidservant. She came early in the afternoon in a state of intense fright saying: ‘My father is in the hospital he is dying; this morning something happened to him; suddenly he felt very ill and he is dying, he has been taken to the hospital, I am terribly frightened.’ I knew what it was. I went to Sri Aurobindo and said to him: ‘You know Vatel is in the hospital, he is dying.’ Then Sri Aurobindo looked at me, he smiled; ‘Oh! just for a few stones!’
"That very evening Vatel was cured. But he never started anything again.”
Answering the question, how the stones could be seen, Mother explains: “That’s what is remarkable. There are beings that have the power of dematerialising and rematerialising objects. These were quite ordinary pieces of bricks, but these pieces materialised only in the field where the magic acted. The magic was practised for this house, specially for its courtyard, and the action of vital forces worked only there. That is why when I sent away the boy and he went to another house, not a single stone hit him any more. The magical formation was made specially for this house and the stones materialised in the courtyard. And as it was something specially directed against Datta, she was hit on her arm. There was yet something else. We came to know later to which magician Vatel had gone. He had gone to a magician who, it seems, is very well known here and had said that he wanted definitely to make us leave that house--I don’t know why. He was furious. And so he asked the magician to make stones fall there. The magician told him: ‘But that’s the house Sri Aurobindo lives in!’ He said: ‘Yes.’--‘Ah, no, I am not going to meddle in this business: you manage it, I am not getting involved.’ Then Vatel insisted very much; he even promised him a greater reward, a little more money. The magician said: ‘Well, look here; we are going to make a rule. In a circle of twenty-five metres around Sri Aurobindo the stones will not fall. Always there will have to be twenty-five metres’ distance between the stones and Sri Aurobindo.’ And that was why never did a single stone come anywhere near us, never. They fell at the other end of the courtyard.”