Medhananda, 1908 - 1994, was born in Pforzheim, Germany. He learnt
Latin and Greek and became fluent in English and French. Despite his
early interest in ancient cultures and their symbols and spirituality
he followed the wishes of his father and studied law at Munich, Heidelberg,
and Paris. During this time he was privileged to study Chinese under
the distinguished scholar Richard Wilhelm, translator of the Chinese
I Ching, Tao Te Ching and many other ancient texts.
In 1934, although already launched on a promising legal career, he
left Germany with his French wife to escape the rise of Nazism. They
went to Tahiti in French Polynesia, settled on its sister island Moorea
where they could buy 200 hectares of virgin forest, build a small
house and establish themselves as farmers, cultivating vanilla and
coffee. Their three children grew up in that paradise. In the radiant
silence of that forest, Medhananda started to explore the levels of
consciousness accessible to his self-awareness. He also had plenty
of opportunity to explore the pre-Christian culture, the age-old gnosis
of Polynesia. During the second world war he was interned near Tahiti
as an enemy alien.
After his release in 1946 he came across the writings of the Indian
philosopher and sage Sri Aurobindo, and in 1952 joined the Sri Aurobindo
Ashram in Pondicherry (India) where he was put in charge of the Sri
Aurobindo Library. For many years he taught History of Religions at
the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, a position he
was well-qualified for by his life-long interest in and study of the
spiritual cultures of different ages and parts of the world. In 1965
he became editor of the quarterly journal "Equals One",
for which he wrote numerous articles.
In 1978 he founded together with Yvonne Artaud, his collaborator,
the Identity Research Institute, a non-profit foundation for psychological
research. It was from about 1970 onwards, that he started an in-depth
exploration of the symbology of the hieroglyphs and pictorial imagery
of ancient Egypt, using the psychological approach that his teacher
Sri Aurobindo had initiated for the interpretation of the Indian Vedas
(the ancient spiritual texts of India). Medhanada writes: Our work
cannot be separated from the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and what we
have been able to experience of them, nor from his research into the
deepest meaning of Vedic symbols.
The name Medhananda has been given to him by Mira Alfassa of the Sri
Aurobindo Ashram, also called The Mother. What does the name Medhananda
mean? It is a program, an exercise, a transformation process: To let
Ananda (felicity, bliss) flow into Medha, the mind.
Yvonne Artaud, Medhananda's collaborator, was born 1924 in Lyon, France,
was a dental surgeon for young children in Paris before she joined
the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1952. There she became an educator and
an artist. She painted and wrote poetry and plays.
From 1963 onwards she has been involved in research on the psychology
of self-awareness, especially in pre-school children and South Indian
primates. Author of numerous studies on animal psychology, as well
as early childhood education, she is the creator of several innovative
teaching-learning materials including the 'Aurograms', a symbol-language
to be used as a means of self-expression and communication with very
young children from different linguistic backgrounds. Her symbol games
like 'The Tasks of Heracles' or 'The Great House' have proved to be
of great psychological help in the development of children. Yvonne
Artaud was Medhananda's amanuensis and editor and his partner in all
his Egyptian research.