Room with a View|Jun 6, 2007 6:48 AM| by:

My Burning Heart

Satprem was born Bernard Enginger  in 1923 in Paris. At twenty, he was arrested by the Gestapo and spent one and a half years in concentration camps. Broken in his heart and body, he travelled to Egypt, then to India, where he served in the French government of Pondicherry. There he discovered the “new evolution” envisioned by Sri Aurobindo—”Man is a transitional being”—handed in his resignation and left for the Amazon jungle, ever in search of the “true adventure.”

Upon his return to India in 1953, at the age of thirty, he became a mendicant Sannyasi, practiced Tantrism, finally to abandon all these paths to put himself at the service of Mother and Sri Aurobindo, to whom he dedicated his first nonfiction work, Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness, then a second nonfiction work, On the Way to Supermanhood. He stayed beside Mother for 19 years, becoming her confidant and witness, and recording numerous personal conversations that form Mother’s Agenda. This adventure with her who was seeking the secret of the transition to the next species gave rise to a trilogy on Mother (The Divine Materialism, The New Species, The Mutation of Death), then to a fable, Gringo, and finally to The Mind of the Cells, his latest nonfiction work, which distills the essence of Mother’s discovery: a change in the genetic program and a different view of death. After a period of complete withdrawal from public life, he wrote Life without Death, The Revolt of the Earth, Evolution II and Letters of a Rebel which are two volumes of autobiographical correspondence. In 1995 he wrote The Tragedy of the Earth – From Sophocles to Sri Aurobindo, followed by The Key of Tales, The Neanderthal Looks On, The Legend of the Future, and finally published 5 volumes of Notebooks of an Apocalypse. Satprem passed away on April 9, 2007.

Fredric De Towarnicki, a French journalist known for his in-depth interviews with the great philosophers and scientists of our time, visited Satprem in India, where these conversations were taped, from April 29 to May 5,1980, and later broadcast on French radio. These are a few excerpts from the book My Burning Heart.


This is the real mystery… that we exist. And not in the manner of an animal, not in the manner of an inanimate object, but in a special manner. As if there were a special design in man-which doesn’t take anything away from the tree, the stone or the animal­

But of course, there is a design! . . .

-but which imparts to man a special destiny in the whole.

Of course, he has a very special destiny! Of all the species, he’s the only one capable of going beyond the law of his particular bowl.

Every species. . . The matter of a fish and the matter of a man are quite similar, as you know. There is no fundamental difference between them, except for the fact that the fish are the prisoners of a certain habit, and they are quite content in their habit. In fact, every species is quite content–except ours. Why?

Precisely because we are CAPABLE of doing what no other species can do: go down to the bottom of our bowl to see what it’s made of, and BREAK the habit.

A fish can’t get out of its habit of being a fish.

But a human being can get out of his habit of being a human being.

And that’s exactly what the path of Mother and Sri Aurobindo is: Instead of getting out above, on an apex of the Spirit, they went down to the bottom of the bowl to see what was there. And they found that the bowl was merely the product of a certain habit, and that one could break through it and come out into another “being” or “mode of being.”

And that’s probably why we are being asphyxiated and our human life is so painful—to FORCE us to find the real KEY.

Other species do not need a key-they are content.

And I think that all the suffering of our time, in which everything is so stifling and seems on the verge of collapse, is evidence that we are nearing the point when we will be COLLECTIVELY able to break the fishbowl.

And emerge where?

In the human being, really. Something we are not yet at all.

You mean at present?

We are an aggregate of habits that thinks it is human, thinks it is philosophical, and this and that. But this is not really the human being.

We don’t yet know the real human being. We are just apprentice humans.


What is Sri Aurobindo’s position, and perhaps Mother’s, with regard to Zen?

That I don’t know. They didn’t specifically say anything about it.

But, you see, EVERYTHING is good. EVERYTHING is the “guru”—the liquor store down the street, and the Zen Mas­ter, and the bird or the. . . Absolutely everything—the bus you just missed. Everything is the guru. Everything HELPS. Yet, instead of realizing that each thing is an indication and a help, we usually walk right by, looking at it with custom­ary eyes. In other words, we see nothing.

So Zen is very good, Christianity is very good, the liquor store is very good—provided we know how to open our eyes and use what is in front of us to learn the lesson we are supposed to learn.

So nothing should be judged; nothing should be seen as high or low. Everything is a staff to help us walk on the road.

The mistake is to say: “Zen, and that’s it,” or Christianity. (As a matter off fact, I don’t even think Zen says such a thing.) To say “that’s it” about anything is the one deadly sin. We are already dead.


In fact, we are LED there, through that relentless pound­ing on all nations, all human consciousnesses, all churches, all groups. . . . One feels as if everything were being knead­ed, ground to powder in order to reach the bottom of it all. We are being shown how contradictory and ineffective all our human solutions are—how they lead nowhere.

… We are all up against a wall. Whether Marxist, Christian, Hindu or Chinese, we all end up against a wall.

So each person has to fight in his own way. If you are born Chinese, well, fight in your Chinese way. If you are born in Moscow, well, fight as a Muscovite. That’s perfectly fine.

But the solution doesn’t lie in any of those places.

That’s what human beings have to understand. Because to understand. . . is to call.

If the fish (to use the same metaphor) had not begun to asphyxiate, it would never have taken the necessary “step” to mutate-to become amphibian.

The world needs a certain degree of asphyxiation, and all of a sudden there’s a cry—a CRY.

Then everything becomes possible.

Then this fishbowl, which seems so formidable, becomes paper-thin, without any reality. It can suddenly burst, or melt away.

But there has to be a CRY. There has to be a CALL.


In an experience like Sri Aurobindo’s or Mother’s, or yours, what is the place for a belief in reincarnation?

First of all, it isn’t a belief. It’s a fact.

But so much fantasy has been mixed with it that it’s difficult to talk about.

Our technical and scientific civilization talks of atavism, of chromosomes, of grandfather and great grandfather—it’s another way of talking about “reincarnation.” But as always, we only grasp a very superficial aspect.

There is no doubt that a human being is not born into the world for the first time. Because, truly, if human expe­rience were limited to what he is for 40,60 or 37 years of his life, it would be a frightening absurdity: to open one’s eyes for so little experience and so little time. If really one keeled over at the end and that’s it, it would be rather monstrous.

But we have such a limited and short vision of things.

Though we do feel, in our own flesh, that certain things in our life that are so burning, so painful or contradictory must come from somewhere else.

Why do some beings have a greater intensity about them than others? Why do some beings have a heavier darkness to bear? Why do some beings cry out for the Light?

Is it because of the chromosomes of a grandfather, a mother or a great grandfather? Or is it not, rather, the continuation of a question they raised a long time ago? Or a difficulty they confronted a long time ago, which they could not resolve? Or a call they uttered a long time ago, which is starting to get an answer?

Talking of this is very difficult because people immedi­ately turn it into a soap opera, and they become the reincar­nation of Alexander the Great or Charlemagne or . . . All that is utterly childish.

We are the reincarnation of our hope.

We are the reincarnation of our prayer.

We have yearned a lot, hoped a lot, prayed for something to be realized-well, it doesn’t just end because you are put on a funeral pyre or into a hole. That prayer, that call, follows you. . . it follows you. Or that heavy darkness you experienced follows you.

If we could see the total picture, we would see the same story unfolding from one age to another, with different cloaks, different apparent circumstances. But behind all those appearances (whether in Egypt, Greece, Rome, Eu­rope, India), behind that setting we would see the same constant seeking—the same crying out for something. And then, from time to time, in that setting, in those particular clothes, we would suddenly be seized and immobilized by such a profound breath—something that makes all clothing fall away, that puts us in a great, great lineage, on a great, great road, which has been forever, and then…we feel: I will be forever.