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Theon's house Zarif

Theon's House "Zarif". Theon is seen with his dog. This picture is from Pascal Themanlys' collection. Oil on board ? 1906. From Paintings and Pictures of the Mother

Zarif, and life at Tlemcen

Zarif, where Mirra was to stay for three months - from 14 July to 15 October to be exact - was Théon's property on the road to the Cascades. The building was set against a green sloping hillside. It looked down on the road and the far-off town. Painted coral red, resembling somewhat a Moorish manor, the house rose in tiers of small courtyards and terraces, covered or open, from where the eye could see clear to the distant horizon. From the house and from the garden equally, the view to the west stretched to where Tlemcen stood out, then beyond to the valleys and the plains that extended away to the faraway sea - which, it was said, could be glimpsed on a clear day. To the east also the eye could see a good ways off to where the Atlas mountain's crisscrossing peaks lay. But behind, the mountain formed a high background, like a barrier standing almost perpendicular and ending down at the road to the caves, the springs and the vast lawns of Zarif which were shaded by centuries-old olive trees behind the house. From there, as the house was built on a hillside, the top floor could be reached through the large doors of the sitting-room which opened on to the lawns. But the windows of the guest-room overlooked the yard in front. Laid in mosaic, the courtyard was surrounded by high walls set with ogival doors decorated with huge amphores. The waters in the square basin sang ceaselessly below the yard. The spring was reputed to be miraculous. The Arabs, who came and went freely on certain paths, stopped to bathe their feet in its water.

A little beyond the top left of the park was the shrine of an ancient marabout, Sidi Boumedine. He had lived there a long, long time ago. Over seven hundred years back a mosque was built over the site, and it has some fine mosaic works. The pilgrims came every day by the top road to burn special incense on the Mohammedan hermit's tomb; that scent mingled with those of the roses.

The rose garden of Zarif! It was a masterpiece by Aia Aziz. He took care of the whole estate, but the rose garden engaged his special attention. The best varieties of roses were planted by him, selected and grafted, made to bloom - the rarest of roses vied with each other in exuberant profusion and charm.
The Garden at Tlemcen, painted by Mirra

Theon's Garden. This picture is from Pascal Themanlys' collection. Oil on board. 1906-7. From Paintings and Pictures of the Mother

Under his expert care, fruit-bearing trees-cherry and apple and pomegranate, to name a few - flourished. And, of course, the sizable vegetable garden was a treat. As he worked with Nature he studied her and she became a fecund book yielding up to him her rich secrets. He was wont to say that "everything depends on the plane one has attained and the width of one's horizon; for the worm in the radish, the radish is its whole cosmos - most people live like the worm in the radish."

The dexterity of his hands was not limited to gardening alone. He was a skilled workman, proficient as a mason, as a house painter, a locksmith or a carpenter, as the need arose. He was fond of repeating that all the sages in ancient times knew and practised a manual craft; it reposes the mind, and also it forces one to some degree of precision. He would add: One must come into direct contact with matter, which can be had only through work. "You know the story of the Initiate, who refused to impart knowledge to the young aspirant who would not cultivate his garden? There is a profound teaching in the story."

With the long, fine fingers his hands played the piano. He sang songs and practised other arts. His sensitive hands made him a talented sculptor. But he was most clever with his hand in fashioning his cigarettes, which he did with disconcerting rapidity.
Mirra the Occultist

Mirra had been in Zarif a month when her husband of the time Henri Morisset came to join her. He went sightseeing with Mirra and Théon. The following account of life at Tlemcen is somewhat instructive and amusing:

There were, and still are, many picturesque spots around Tlemcen. For example, the Cascades d'EI Ourit are seven kilometres from the town and the road to them skirted Théon's park; a metal bridge that still clings to a mountain-side is said to have been constructed by none other than Eiffel! Another notable place they went to was the Cork Forest - the 'Forest of Ahrif ' to give it its local name. It was some 30 kilometres away on a motorable road. Teresa, who sometimes joined the group, went this time with the other three, in spite of knowing what an unreliable driver Théon was! He rarely returned, without upsetting the cab or the car he was driving. So, when they returned safe from their outing, she noted the event in her diary: "September 13, 1906 - Went with Théon & M. & Madame Morisset to the Cork Forest."
Mirra the Occultist

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page by M.Alan Kazlev
originally uploaded 4 October 2000 as part of Theon page, uploaded as separate page 9 September 2005