50th Anniversary of the coming of la conscience du surhomme on 1 January 1969
50 years ago, on the morning of 1 January 1969, a powerful New Consciousness descended into the earth atmosphere. The Mother described it in Notes on the Way, pp.148-160. The following are some extracts.
1 January 1969
In the night it came slowly and on waking up this morning, there was as though a golden dawn, and the atmosphere was so light. The body felt: “Well, it is truly, truly new.” A golden light, transparent and… benevolent. “Benevolent” in the sense of a certainty — a harmonious certainty. It was new.
There you are.
And when I say “Bonne année” to people, it is this which I pass on to them. And this morning, I have passed my time like this, spontaneously, saying: “Bonne année, Bonne année.” So…
4 January 1969
On the first, something truly strange happened…. And I was not the only one to feel it, some others also have felt it. It was just after midnight, but I felt it at two o’clock and the others at four o’clock in the morning…It was something very material, I mean it was very external — very external—and it was luminous, with a golden light. It was very strong, very powerful; but even so, its character was a smiling benevolence, a peaceful delight and a kind of opening out into delight and light. And it was like a “Bonne année”, like a greeting. It took me by surprise…But I told you a word or two about it and I spoke of it also to two or three persons: they all had felt it. That is to say, it was very material. They all had felt it, like this, a kind of joy, but a joy friendly, powerful and… oh! very, very gentle, very smiling, very benevolent…. I do not know what it is. I do not know what it is, but it is a kind of benevolence, therefore it was something very close to the human. And it was so concrete, so concrete!
My own impression was that of an immense personality — immense, that is to say, for it the earth was small, small like this (gesture, as though holding a small ball in her palm), like a ball — an immense personality, very, very benevolent, which came for… (Mother seems to lift this ball gently from the hollow of her hands). It gave the impression of a personal divinity (and yet it was… I do not know) who comes to help, and so strong, so strong and at the same time so gentle, so all- embracing.
And it was very external: the body felt it everywhere, everywhere (Mother touches her face, her hands), everywhere.
It was luminous, smiling, and so benevolent through powerfulness; that is to say, generally in the human being benevolence is something a little weak, in this sense that it does not like battle, it does not like fight; but this is nothing of the kind! A benevolence that imposes itself (Mother brings her fists down upon the arms of her chair).
It has interested me because it is altogether new. And so concrete! Concrete like this (Mother touches the arms of her chair), like what the physical consciousness usually considers as “others”, concrete like that. That is to say, it did not pass through an inner being, through the psychic being, it came directly upon the body.
What is it?… Yes, perhaps it is this… Since it came, the feeling of the body is a kind of certitude, a certitude as though now it was no longer in anxiety or uncertainty to know: “What will it be? What will the Supramental be like? Physically, what will it be physically?” The body used to ask itself. Now it does not think of it any more, it is contented.
Is it something that will suffuse the bodies that are ready?
Yes, I believe so, yes. I have the feeling that it is the formation which is going to enter, going to express itself — to enter and express itself — in the bodies… that will be the bodies of the supramental.
Or perhaps… perhaps the superman (surhomme), I do not know. The intermediary between the two. Perhaps the superman: it was very human, but a human in divine proportions, I must say.
A human without weaknesses and without shadows: it was all light — all light and smiling and… sweetness at the same time.
Yes, perhaps the superman.
8 January 1969
It is the descent of the superman consciousness (la conscience du surhomme) ….
It was the first of January after midnight. I woke up at two in the morning, surrounded by a consciousness, so concrete, and new in the sense that I had never felt it before. And it lasted, absolutely concrete, present, for two or three hours, and afterwards it spread out and went about to find people who could receive it. And I knew that it was the consciousness of the superman (la surhomme), that is to say, the intermediary between man and the supramental being.
18 January 1969
It came as a “mentor”, it was practical, quite practical: “This thing must be rejected, that must be accepted; this must be made general, that…”; all the inner movements. And it even becomes very material in the sense that it says with regard to some vibrations: “This you must encourage”, to others: “That must be canalised”, to others again: “This must be removed.” Little indications like that.
…Well, I have first had the experience for this body: it came like a rampart, and it was mighty! It was a mighty power! Altogether out of proportion to the apparent action.
…There is a very marked change in those who have been touched on the first of January: it is particularly… indeed a precision and a certitude that has entered into their way of thinking.
It was there (Mother looks at the region of the heart). It is curious, as though I was given the charge of putting it into contact with all those who come near me.
15 February 1969
Never, never had the body been so happy; there was the complete Presence, absolute freedom, and a certitude…During these few hours (three or four), I understood absolutely what it was to have the divine consciousness in the body…
But that state, which lasted for several hours, nothing similar to that happiness has this body ever felt during the ninety-one years it has been here upon earth: freedom, absolute power and no limits (gesture here and there, everywhere), no limits, no impossibilities, nothing. It was… all other bodies were itself. There was no difference, it was only a play of consciousness (gesture as of a great Rhythm) going about.
That is all.
…All the human excuses appear as childishness.
It is something very strange, all the qualities and all the defects of man appear as childishness — foolishness. It is curious. And it is not a thought, it is a concrete sensation. It is like a substance without life; all ordinary things are like a substance lacking life — the true life. Artificial and false. It is strange.
The special character of this new consciousness is: no half measures, no approximations. That is its character. The idea “Oh yes, we shall do it, and little by little we…” — no, no, not like that; it is Yes or No, either you can or you cannot.
Truly it is a Grace, you see, as if: not to lose time — not to lose time. It must be done or…
But this tremendous Power, it is that above all; and it is with a compassion! a gentleness!… No, there are no words, we have no words to describe that, something… Nothing but just to be attentive and… it is blissfulness. Nothing but just to turn one’s attention towards that side, immediately there is the bliss. And I understand (that has made me understand certain things), we have heard of people who in the midst of torture enjoyed bliss — it is like that. A beatitude.
There you are, it is that (Mother hands out a white hibiscus, which she has named “Grace”).
Reflections on 1 January 1969
‘Very material…very external’
On 29 February 1956, during the first manifestation of the supramental consciousness at the Playground meditation, apparently nobody besides the Mother herself was conscious of what had happened. As K.D. Sethna (Amal Kiran) wrote in Aspects of Sri Aurobindo:
‘When I came back from the Supermind [i.e. after she had shattered the Golden Door] I thought that, since the outpour was so stupendous, everybody would be lying prostrate. But when I opened my eyes I found everybody sitting quietly and perfectly unconscious of what had happened.’ (p.20)
The Mother later told Sethna:
‘What I said was not that four people knew it to be the supramental Manifestation, but that when the Manifestation took place they had some unusual experiences because of it, even if they didn’t understand why…’ (pp.117-8)
Indeed, the Mother had predicted in 1951: ‘It may very well happen that at a given moment the supramental Force manifests, that it is conscious here, that it acts on Matter, but that those who don’t consciously participate in its vibration are incapable of perceiving it. People say: “When the supramental force manifests, we shall know it quite well. It will be seen.” Not necessarily. They will not feel it any more than those people of little sensitivity who may pass through this place [the Sri Aurobindo Ashram], even live here, without feeling that the atmosphere is different from elsewhere’ (CWM, 4, p.223). Indeed, the tremendous outpouring of the supramental force that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo had sought to achieve since the beginning went unnoticed even by the sadhaks closest to them.
It was all the more remarkable that in 1969, the Mother avowed that ‘I was not the only one to feel it [the New Consciousness], some others also have felt it’. Indeed, ‘it spread out and went about to find people who could receive it’. Many disciples had remarkable experiences in the coming months:
Of late, I am constantly feeling, flowing in my system from above, a Force which I concretely experience like a sweet fluid. It flows continuously in my whole system and, from time to time, I feel completely drenched and saturated with it. It gives a very pleasant and soothing sensation. It is as if some sort of Ananda is flowing in me from above. It gives a sweet taste in the mouth.
I do not know what exactly this experience means. Is it the New Consciousness which You have said came on the 1st January this year? Or is it some new descent which has recently occurred? Or is it something personal to me only?
It is the Consciousness that is at work since January. But its action has become much more intense.
Letter of the Mother, dated 26 November 1969
It was no accident the Mother described this Consciousness as being very ‘external…material…concrete’. It is something that acts ‘directly on the body’, bypassing the psychic and inner being. Being something that works directly on the external consciousness of humanity, many more were conscious of its action than during the invisible outpouring of 1956. The Force has practically a physical presence.
This is an astonishing fact. The New Consciousness, as Van Vrekhem has argued, is almost certainly a formation of the same supramental consciousness that came in 1956 and not an ‘inferior’ emanation. There are many reasons for this—not least was the Mother viewing this Force as a ‘mentor’ when she had been collaborating with the supramental consciousness in her yoga for many years. There was also her explicit description of the Consciousness as la conscience du surhomme. The nature of the New Consciousness indicated just how quickly things had moved in the 13 years since the supramental manifestation. Instead of working invisibly behind many layers of the human consciousness, the Work of the Mother had allowed the supramental force to touch the body, and not just her body, directly. The New Consciousness is the supramental, made accessible.
The Mentor of the Body
‘To this end, all the [supramental] consciousness which is in these cells has to assemble, to organize itself and to form a conscious being which is able to be conscious of Matter and at the same time of the Supramental. This is what is being done. How far will we be able to go? I don’t know. I do not say that this body will be able to transform itself, I see no sign of this. But there is the consciousness, the physical consciousness, the material consciousness which becomes supramentalized. This is the work that is going on. This is what is important.’
Mother’s Agenda, 26 April 1972
In the 1960s and 1970s in particular, and as recorded extensively in the Agenda, the Mother was engaging in the ‘yoga of the cells’, the supramentalisation of her body consciousness. This, in other words, constitute her effort to form the ‘prototype of the supramental body’—the first New Body constituted of a supramental/material substance that is conscious of both Matter and the supramental (Georges Van Vrekhem, Overman: The intermediary between the human and the supramental being, p.165). Naturally, this body will first exist in what Sri Aurobindo has called the ‘subtle physical’, the plane that is the direct source and archetype of physical realities.
As the Mother’s adventure of consciousness was unprecedented, she had no guide and she had to go through enormous sufferings and struggles. The importance of 1 Jan 1969 is that the New Consciousness, a formation of the supramental, became her ‘mentor’ and ‘guide’ in this Work. We can justly believe that the Descent helped her work immensely, and 3 years later, she gave a description of what appears to be the formed New Body (Notes on the Way, 25 March 1972):
‘It was for the first time. It was at four o’clock in the morning, I believe. It was quite natural — I did not look in a mirror, I was quite natural. I remember only what I saw (gesture from the chest to the waist). I had only a veil on me, so I saw only… it was the trunk that was quite different from the chest down to the waist: neither man nor woman.
And it was pretty. I had a form very, very slim, very slender — very slender but not thin….
Simply, it was neither the body of a woman nor the body of a man — that is clear. And the “outline”, the silhouette, was almost the same as that of a very, very young person. There was a sort of semblance to human forms (Mother sketches it in the air), there was a shoulder and a figure. As though the semblance of a form.
It must be like that in the subtle physical.
The two things very, very different: first, procreation, of which there was no possibility there; secondly, the food….Evidently, what will change very much, which had become very important, was breathing. It is upon this that this being greatly depended.’
By the Mother’s tremendous efforts, and the empowering descent of 1969, the first subtle body of the ‘new species’ that Sri Aurobindo spoke of had been created. We can trust that this momentous and yet mostly unknown achievement will greatly help the world transformation that is ongoing – for its physical manifestation is only a matter of time:
A few shall see what none yet understands;
God shall grow up while the wise men talk and sleep;
For man shall not know the coming till its hour
And belief shall be not till the work is done.
The Overman : The Intermediary Species
From the new race would be recruited the race of supramental beings who would appear as the leaders of the evolution in earth-nature.
Sri Aurobindo: Essays in Philosophy and Yoga, p. 585.
In The Supramental Manifestation on Earth, a collection of Sri Aurobindo’s final essays, he wrote about the need of intermediary beings between man and the supramental being. The defining feature of this ‘intermediary’ is that while they will have an illumined consciousness (of various degrees up to the supramental) they would have ‘a body still human and indeed animal in its origin and fundamental character and this would impose its own inevitable limitations on the higher parts of the embodied being.’ (Sri Aurobindo: Essays in Philosophy and Yoga, p. 537). This will thus be ‘a first sketch of super- manhood, of a supramental living in the circumstances of the earth-nature’ (p.537).
The Mother confirmed this:
It can be affirmed with certainty that there will be an intermediate specimen between the mental and the supramental being, a kind of overman who will still have the qualities and in part the nature of man, which means that he will still belong in his most external form to the human being of animal origin, but that he will transform his consciousness sufficiently to belong, in his realisation and activity, to a new race, a race of overmen.
The Mother: Questions and Answers 1957-58, p. 277, Van Vrekhem’s translation
Thus, on 4 January 1969, when the Mother mentioned that the New Consciousness is that of the surhomme, the ‘intermediary between man and the supramental being’—she was saying that the Consciousness of this transitional species had descended and was powerfully acting. Van Vrekhem is surely right in consistently translating surhomme as ‘overman’, instead of ‘superman’, as found in most other editions (including The Notes on the Way cited above). The surhomme is not the fully formed supramental being in a supramental body. The surhomme or overman is the human species perfected, and at its highest, supramentalised. Or, as the Mother described it in 1969, ‘a human in divine proportions..a human without weaknesses and without shadows’.
The need for this intermediary species stems primarily from the vast difference in nature and physiology between humanity and the supramental species. Discussing the constitution of the supramental being, the Mother said on 30 September 1966: “This would be a transformation infinitely greater than that from the animal to man; this would be a passage from man to a being who would not be built in the same manner, who would no longer function in the same manner, who would be like the condensation and concretisation of “something”…. Up to now, that corresponds to nothing we have yet seen physically, unless the scientists have found something I do not know about….It seems to me that between what exists at present, the way we are, and that other form of life, many intermediary stages will be needed.’ In their other works (e.g. The Supramental Manifestation on Earth, Notes on the Way ), the Mother and Sri Aurobindo gave tantalizing hints on the nature of this Body and indeed, the Mother gave a description of her prototypical supramental body in the subtle physical. Without going into details here, the constituting supramental material substance and the radically different functioning and structure of the body of the supramental species make it very likely that this body may need to be directly ‘materialized’, instead of being born through the normal animal way. Sri Aurobindo wrote about such a method in his last writings:
It should be possible and it is believed to be possible for an object formed in this subtle physical substance to make a transit from its subtlety into the state of gross Matter directly by the intervention of an occult force and process, whether with or even without the assistance or intervention of some gross material procedure. A soul wishing to enter into a body or form for itself a body and take part in a divine life upon earth might be assisted to do so or even provided with such a form by this method of direct transmutation, without passing through birth by the sex process or undergoing any degradation or any of the heavy limitations in the growth and development of its mind and material body inevitable to our present way of existence. It might then assume at once the structure and greater powers and functionings of the truly divine material body which must one day emerge in a progressive evolution to a totally transformed existence both of life and form in a divinised earth-nature.
Sri Aurobindo: Essays in Philosophy and Yoga, p. 549.
It is this direct materialization of the Mother’s prototypical body and substance that is one of the cardinal challenges that the intermediary species must address. Doubtless, there are many other issues, both individual and social, that must be solved before the superman can ‘reign as king of life’. It will be the future collectives of overmen and over-women, the nations of the dawn, who will prepare the way for the final transition.
‘There are Some’
We can trust that the New Consciousness of 1969 has prepared this consummation and new creation for 50 years, and that the overman is not a far ideal of the future. Indeed, they are living among us right now. The Mother said in April 1972, “The change from the human into the supramental being is being achieved … through the overman. It may be that there will be some overmen – there are some – who will make the transition possible.” (Mother’s Agenda). After all, this intermediary new humanity is still fully human. It is in their consciousness that they differ—and that is as good as invisible to the majority of mankind. It takes the like to recognize the like.
Also, in a talk in 1957-58, the Mother offered a broad and inspiring criterion for what she called des apprentis-surhommes (apprentice overmen):
‘All those who make an effort to overcome their ordinary nature, all those who try to realise materially the profound experience that has brought them into contact with the divine Truth, all those who, instead of turning to the Hereafter or the On-high, try to realise physically, externally, the change of consciousness they have realised within themselves – all those are apprentice-overmen [des apprentis-surhommes]. Among them, there are countless variations according to the success of their efforts. Each time we try not to be an ordinary man, not to live the ordinary life, to express in our movements, our actions and reactions the divine Truth, when we are governed by that Truth instead of being governed by the general ignorance, we are apprentice-overmen, and according to the success of our efforts we are, well, more or less good apprentices, more or less advanced on the way.’
The Mother: Questions and Answers 1957-58, p. 411, Van Vrekhem’s translation
Half a century since the descent of the Overman consciousness and Grace—we can trust that humanity is much further along the journey. Indeed, a superficial look at the earth may detect little signs of that. As a disciple asked:
In 1919 Sri Aurobindo wrote that the chaos and the calamities were perhaps the pangs of the birth of a new creation. How long is this going to continue? In the Ashram, in India and eventually in the world?
It will continue until the world is ready and willing to receive the new creation; the consciousness of this new creation is already at work upon earth since the beginning of this year. If instead of resisting, people were collaborating, it would be quicker.
But stupidity and ignorance are very obstinate!
The Mother, 29 November 1969
‘Stupidity and ignorance’ seems to be so prevalent in our world: Our attitudes towards climate change, the dark waves of politics, the unstoppable and out of control growth of technology, and the hubristic rush of technologists towards ‘superhumanity’ and so on.
Yet, at the same time, it is equally foolish to expect only the ordinary – for we live in far from ordinary times. The darkness and problems of the present are lacking in ‘true life’, and are part of a world that is passing away (and in a sense, already passed away). Sri Aurobindo came to show the beauty of the future—and we can trust in five firm pillars for that. The first is the continuing presence and guidance of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The second is the supramental consciousness descended in 1956. The third is the overman consciousness of 1969, which is the supramental made accessible. Indeed, the Mother said she put those who come near her into contact with this Consciousness. The fourth is the protypical body of the supramental the Mother described in 1972. The fifth, often forgotten, is the unexpected action of the ‘forerunners’, the ‘architects of immortality’:
Forerunners of a divine multitude,
Out of the paths of the morning star they came
Into the little room of mortal life.
I saw them cross the twilight of an age,
The sun-eyed children of a marvellous dawn
The great creators with wide brows of calm,
The massive barrier-breakers of the world
And wrestlers with destiny in her lists of will,
The labourers in the quarries of the gods,
The messengers of the Incommunicable,
The architects of immortality.
The supramental change is the climax of the long spiritual effort of humanity. There have surely been many in the forgotten past, forerunners, who have attained a high spiritual consciousness far exceeding the norms of their time—and who stand ready to help in mankind’s great transition. Even more portentously, the extraordinary spiritual conditions made possible by the supramental descent imply that these forerunners can put forth their full power and being in this birth—and rise even higher. Indeed, the Mother spoke of the original integral tradition that predated and is the source of both the Vedic and the Chaldean. It is quite possible that the greatest adepts of this, and other traditions, could well have been unable to put forth their complete potential in human birth for thousands or even tens of thousands of years, because of unsuitable world conditions. The chains are now broken; the limits, surpassed. With their full power, what these barrier breakers and architects of immortality will collectively achieve shall be witnessed in the centuries ahead—and we should look forward to divine upheavals that will overturn the foundations of this world.
And we shall remember that in 1969, the Consciousness came that will shape, nurture and protect these communities of overmen and overwomen who will utterly change our world: “Their tread one day shall change the suffering earth/And justify the light on Nature’s face.” (Savitri, 3:4)—and ultimately their work will make possible the advent of the ‘high divine successor’.
In these extraordinary times, we should expect only the miraculous. It is certainly the time for those with faith to collaborate and do sincerely whatever is within our capacity. For all can be des apprentis-surhommes with sincerity and faith: ‘No half measures, no approximations’! The extraordinary Consciousness and Grace awaits.
Jared Quek, 2018