Seyril Schochen

In the first part of her life, Seyril had been a playwright of considerable reputation, a college teacher, and an advisor to the International Yoga College. Her life changed when she saw a picture of Sri Aurobindo. Later she travelled to India where she met the Mother. She stayed for nearly eight years, working on the Matrimandir and being on her spiritual path. When she returned she set up SALC (Sri Aurobindo Learning Centre, Crestone, Colorado). Seyril passed peacefully while listening to Pavita reading Mother’s “Prayers and Meditations.” Some of her ashes have been brought to Auroville, but part are buried in Crestone underneath the large grandmother tree which overlooks the main house at SALC.

In the words of Constance, “‘Truuuuth!’ was Seyril Schochen’s familiar salutation – always accompanied by a broad smile. January 7 is her 101 birthday. She passed almost a decade ago.

Gilles’ history project on Matrimandir corresponds with a stirring in my own life. Today, among the memories that are stirring, here are two of Seyril that bubbled up. In my mind, she, among many others, is inseparable from the history of MM.

In 1969 I was living in Peace at the Pumphouse. This was next to the first well in the area. (Mother had placed a pin in a map and asked Nava to walk north from there until he was more light-headed than usual.) One late afternoon near dusk, I saw Seyril standing in front of the hut. It was her first visit to Auroville. Saying nothing, she was simply smiling and looking about. I hailed her. “Everything is soooo beautiful,” she said dramatically. I thought I should probably go out and take a look. At first, the red earth and palmyras seemed normal enough. Then unexpectedly that barren field in South India transformed into a Great Wonder! We stood together silently for a long time. Both hearts aching at the experience and the realization that we were actually There!

17 November, 1973. We were concreting the Mahasaraswati pillar. There was a constant bustle of activity in an effort to sustain a seamless process. Unsnapping the full wheelbarrows from the cable. Tipping and emptying them into the form. Pulling out the concrete with mumptis – accompanied by the music of scraping and metal on metal. I took a turn with the needle vibrator. Dropping it into the slurry, I visualized the aggregate and cement flowing around steel reinforcement, the smooth surface of the pillar when the forms would be removed (no voids) and, for some reason, the massive walls of ancient temples. At the end, people seemed to disappear rather quickly. Tools were gathered and cleaned. The wheelbarrows and mixer were washed. Lights were being turned off. A hush fell. Only one other person remained on the structure. I watched Seyril as she continued to work. It seemed that the vast universal night was watching her. All was silent except for the continuous chip, chipping of her hammer.”

Sujata

SUJATA NAHAR, born in Calcutta in 1925, spent her early childhood in Santiniketan’s cultural atmosphere under poet Rabindranath Tagore. At the age of seven she lost her mother. Her father, his world shattered, searched for another dimension to his life. He found Sri Aurobindo and Mother at Pondicherry. His children followed him there one by one. Thus Sujata, who first came to Sri Aurobindo in 1935, at the age of nine, decided to remain near him in May 1938. She lived in Pondicherry for forty-three years. At first, she received private tutoring, became secretary to Pavitra, an eminent French mathematician, chemist and engineer, who was Mother’s right-hand man. Sujata also worked with him in his laboratory, where she made a variety of preparations for Mother. She was very actively involved in the new physical education devised by Mother. Satprem arrived at the beginning of 1954. A young man just turned thirty, he taught the top students and assisted Pavitra with the correspondence. Thus Satprem and Sujata came together. Eventually Mother started to make him the confidant of her experiences and asked him to help her with the French translation of Sri Aurobindo’s books. Mother then entrusted Sujata with the typing of her private conversations with Satprem, the Agenda. From 1965 onwards Sujata regularly accompanied Satprem to his meetings with Mother.
After 1973, when Mother left her body, the Ashram changed from a living experiment to a stereotyped institution. In 1978 — Mother’s centenary year — the Ashram trustees expelled Satprem, because of the trilogy he had written on Mother’s life and experiment.
From 1978 onwards, Satprem and Sujata lived far away from Pondicherry, devoting themselves exclusively to Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s work and experiment in the cellular consciousness of the body.
Sujata Nahar is the author of Mother’s Chronicles, a biography of Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

Satprem

A sailor and a Breton, though born in Paris in 1923. A member of the French Resistance, Satprem was arrested by the Gestapo when he was twenty and spent a year and a half in concentration camps. Devastated, he journeyed first to Upper Egypt, then to India, where he served in the French colonial government of Pondicherry. There he discovered Sri Aurobindo and Mother. Their Message — Man is a transitional being” — struck a deep chord. He resigned his post and left for Guiana, where he spent an adventurous year in the middle of Amazonian jungle, then wandered on to Brazil, Africa….
In 1953, at thirty, Satprem returned to India for good to be near Her who was in search of the secret of the passage to the next species” — Mother, whose confidant and witness he became for some twenty years. His first essay was dedicated to Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness and followed a few years later by On the Way to Supermanhood.
At the age of fifty, he edited and published the fabulous logbook of Mother’s exploration, Mother’s Agenda, in 13 volumes, while at the same time writing a trilogy — The Divine MaterialismThe New SpeciesThe Mutation of Death — followed by an essay, The Mind of the Cells.
In 1982, with his companion Sujata, Satprem withdrew completely to embark on the last adventure: the search for the great passage in the evolution beyond Man. In 1989, after seven years spent digging in the body,” he wrote a brief autobiographical account, The Revolt of the Earth, in which he took stock of Man’s present situation. Three years later came Evolution II, a pithy record of Satprem’s journey through our human and terrestrial grave: After Man, who? But the question is: After Man, how?
In 1994, Satprem edited Letters of a Rebel, two volumes of autobiographical correspondence. The next year, he wrote The Tragedy of the Earth – From Sophocles to Sri Aurobindo, which draws a curve from the Vedic and pre-Socratic era to our Iron Age and to Sri Aurobindo, who embodies the last turning point of our human destiny. The Key of Tales appeared in 1998, followed in 2000 by The Legend of the Future. In 1999, Satprem also started the publication of his Notebooks of an Apocalypse (in French, seven volumes published so far, and in English, one volume available), the record of his work in the depths of the body consciousness, in which he was brutally plunged after Mother’s departure in 1973.