Remembering Gene



by Jan Maslow

A notice about Gene's passing in Auroville Today paid homage to his life as an Aurovilian but, understandably, did not address his life as an artist. And Gene Maslow was quintessentially artist. The Mother once said to him, "I have always seen you painting and doing other artistic things." I knew him as a font of creative force -- burgeoning with inventive ideas, and making of life an aesthetic work-in-progress.

To the delight of many an artistic spirit (and the chagrin of some not so inclined), Gene could rapturize at great length about the particular play of light and shadow around an object or grove of trees, making palpable the subtle presences housed therein. An aesthetic sensibility was so at the fore of his being that even transient stays in the likes of a roadside motel would see him rearranging furniture to allow Beauty her fullest possible reign.

In our little loft on East 21st Street in Manhattan, four times a year the space would be revisioned and reconfigured to greet and graciously accommodate the spirit of each new season. And one spring, I feared for his life as he hung out the window rigging up an elaborate branch he'd found, determined to create an aesthetic and vibrational hedge between the sanctuary of home and the streets of the city.

For better than 20 years, art was Gene's yoga. He walked away from a promising career with MCA, a major talent agency, to pursue it. And later, when Mother appeared to him in the subtle physical during a meditation, he left a nascent career on the New York art scene to head for the Ashram. Although he had previously been accustomed to working on a large scale, while in the Ashram he created bookmarks -- little hand-painted gems of birds and natural things -- the fineness and delicacy of which stunned those Ashramites who knew him by his large Western vital.

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In 1967, Mother sent him to Auroville to help pioneer a new city. While in the throes of building some of Auroville's first dwellings, his good friend Amal (K.D. Sethna), who had previously published some of Gene's poetry in Mother India, asked why he wasn't writing lately. Gene responded with this letter, which Amal published in Mother India under the title "A Poet's Letter from Auroville":


I will write poetry, --
but not yet awhile . . . the fields of peace
from which much future poetry must spring
to reach the hearts of men are not yet quite laid.

I will write that poetry
and perhaps now that poetry of the future
prepares itself . . .
in the experience of events never before encountered
on the face of the earth . . . or, perhaps
now that poetry of the future is being etched on some
far-guided heart and by another's hand it will be written
once it finds a place of love to come to rest --
a poetry then that will be a torch of truth
calling the world to the arms of Her love and unity.

That place must be a bed prepared for a bride
of the new morning . . . some place above the horizons of life
where the poet of the future may be opened to dream only
of the sacred delight for which he was especially born.

That poetry is to be . . . but to be and live and mature,
to reach its destined heights, a place must be made
for its birth, a cradle of consciousness prepared
from the new stuff of heaven and earth.

I will write poetry, --
but not yet awhile . . .
for the future of poetry and the world depends now on
the nature of something She is establishing here in Auroville,
and for that to become more concretely sure
the hands of action are called foremost.

Now the building must take place; a progressive seeding
of the green fields of consciousness to grow more deeply
than the proliferative weeds of chaos are growing widely,
a preparation for the bloom of peace in a life lucid,
filled with the opportunity for faith and cheerfulness
and the ways divine.

So I will write poetry, but first the plowing, the growing
and the tending of the fields divine. Is that not better
left to the artists, than to the businessmen alone or to
the uninitiated? If the artists do not care enough for the substance
of the matter how can we expect the roots and the tree
to grow with the poise of a natural harmony, a dynamic
integrality, a touch or spark of something from beyond?

Something more than practical conveniences devised
only for the ease of mind and body. Something more
than getting stopped short, caught in the charmed net of transient
pleasures lost in Prakriti's round of passions.

To you, Amal, I can say that, Ôthat something' is tangibly
related to the poet of the future, and whether he is in
my breast or another's, I dedicate myself to preparing the ground
upon which he can be born, in the name of Sri Aurobindo,
who, above all his work and ways, enjoyed knowing
himself as The Poet.

I will write poetry . . . or perhaps I am trying to help
create a poetry in Life, whatever, it is not quite yet awhile,
O Lord, not until the waters flow over these harsh desert
and a garden grow with an air on which may cling
all love's responsive things.

Thank you for enquiring,

--Yours, Gene


A fter returning to the States in 1972 at Mother's behest, Gene poured the force of his being into sharing the yoga and his experiences in Auroville with "those who are ready" according to Her charge. Many lives were touched and changed by his "Adventure into the New Consciousness" series at the New School.

That was where I first encountered Gene in 1975, and mine was one of the lives he touched and changed. Those talks were spontaneous offerings which invited one to partake in an act of creation, as his intuitive nature painted a multidimensional tableau of subtle realms of truth and beauty.

It was as if being completely absorbed in the texture and intensity of pigment as it sought and found its inevitable place upon a canvas, not knowing what picture was taking form, but not caring because the process itself was so engaging. And then, at the end of an hour or two, by dint of some magic inaccessible to the intellect, the painting was complete, and an indelible experience of some new possibility had been had.

Lest I sound overly laudatory, let me acknowledge that Gene also had his hefty share of human nonsense. And when that large force that made his positive presence so compelling aligned itself behind his frailties, he could be one very difficult human being.

* * *

That said, I choose to celebrate the gifts of beauty and delight that he brought us and has left us, along with the spirit of enchantment by whose power he believed we would be transformed, whose instrument he aspired to be, and which at his heights, he embodied. Thank you Gene -- and may Mother hold you ever tenderly.

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