22: Sat-tchit-ananda



... all problems of existence are essentially problems of harmony. They arise from the perception of an unsolved discord and the instinct of an undiscovered agreement or unity...



One may get along with one’s ignorance tolerably well for much of the time. Wanting to know everything is a kind of affliction that leaves one restless even when weary, and unsatisfied even when overstuffed. When I was younger, I wasn’t hungry to know more about a writer or artist than they were willing to tell me. I knew some of Giraud’s work, mainly as Mœbius, but I didn’t know Giraud.

     Well, obviously I still don’t know him. But I know his work better than I did. And I know more about him.

     Inside Mœbius is a prolonged exercise in self-caricature, with one eye on the reader—and the reader’s relation to the work—at nearly all times. But how revealing is it? I enjoyed it greatly, but my first impression was that it was more an exercise in playful self-expression than self-revelation. I wasn’t sure Giraud was telling me a great deal.

     Yet, fooling around with his fourth-wall gags and characters talking about the lack of a script, he was also doing something more interesting than telling me about himself. He was showing me how Mœbius worked. It got me interested enough to take a fresh look, and I looked with more alertness.

     I mean, back in 1978, what did I care if episode 6 was credited to “AUROB ET MŒBiUS”? Maybe Aurob was some European comic artist. The Warren magazines had been printing some interesting stuff by Spanish artists in the seventies. I remember taking a particular interest in José Bea and Fernando Fernandez. There was also somebody called Aureleon. Was it possible that...?

     Well, anything’s possible. But Aurob wasn’t Aureleon.



Episode 6 of the Garage, at least outwardly, is an entirely comic piece of mischief, featuring an unexpected reprise of the noodle-legged, bigfoot Major Grubert who appeared in the short “adventure” in Metal Hurlant #2. The résumé explains that he’s set off in search of J. Cornelius: “RiDiNG ON A MALRO, HE SOON ENTERS SCHWANS COUNTRY WHERE HE HOPES TO FiND HELP...

     Not at all clear what kind of aid or assistance he’s looking for. Doesn’t matter. He’s sufficiently concerned with his mental poise as to be determinedly detached from his surroundings.


The outer nature has to undergo a change of poise, a quieting, a purification and fine mutation of its substance and energy by which the many obstacles in it rarefy, drop away or otherwise disappear; it then becomes possible to pass through to the depths of our being and from the depths so reached a new consciousness can be formed...



I think I always supposed the stuff dropped on Grubert’s head represented some kind of hostility on the part of the inhabitants of this region; but I allow that Grubert’s mishap with the garbage may simply have been the result of inattention, and that the comment at the end of the first page might be understood as a rather baffled “? Damned tourist!?”

     Just a guess, of course. And your guess may be as good as mine.

     But, having become aware that Giraud had taken an interest in yoga and spiritual development in the mid-seventies, the identification of Aurob with Sri Aurobindo is surely more than a guess.

     Aurobindo (1872-1950), who had been active in the effort to advance the cause of Indian independence from British rule, in 1910 took refuge in the French enclave of Pondycherhi—a circumstance that supplies a small detail in the history of Grubert offered by the archer in episode 17. Aurobindo’s later life was devoted to yoga and spiritual evolution.

     In 1976, this nod to Aurobindo had a curious payoff. In the final panel of episode 6, where the magnificent steam train is crossing the great prairies of the second level, it was heading originally not toward Armjourth, but toward the capital, “SAT-TCHiT-ANANDA”. The name means “being-comprehension-delight”.



This personality envisaged as myself has come out of infinite being, lives in infinite being; enmeshed in the limitations of form & idea it seeks laboriously to recover itself as infinite being... seeks to become master of itself; enlarging always from the factor to the sum, from the particular to the general, from the form to the essence, it seeks to recover itself as the infinite self-comprehension. This will to be and know in myself is essentially the joy of being and the joy of comprehending... the particular delight in me is but a spark, a wave, a foam-crest of an infinite delight; fastened at first on partial, limited and transient pleasures, it seeks always to enlarge them, to combine, to intensify; it goes out seeking for new forms of happiness...


That’s a passage from Sri Aurobindo, Essays Divine and Human, on the concept of satchitananda. (The two preceding passages from Aurobindo in this note are from The Life Divine.)

     When the protagonist of Giraud’s Tueur de Monde (1979) acknowledges himself “AN ARTIST!.. ALWAYS IN SEARCH OF NEW SENSATIONS”, it would be easy to misread this as “always in search of novelty.” To reformulate this as a search for “new forms of happiness” would do nothing, in a society where novelties are commodified in order to be consumed, to lessen the possibility of misunderstanding. But it somewhat clarifies the extent to which Giraud considered his creative process bound up with an effort directed at personal evolution if we read this phrase in the light of Aurobindo’s remarks. If being and comprehension were largely for Giraud to attend and apply himself to, his effort to give over to something else—something beyond his conscious will—the responsibility for creation in his work as Mœbius may be viewed as an effort to open himself to the “infinite being” in which he (and all of us, in this framework) had a fuller reality.

     This, then, was Grubert’s original destination? More likely an arbitrary and whimsical reference derived from Giraud’s contemporary reading. Yet, even if the name of the capital, Sat-tchit-ananda, had later to be excised, for the sake of consistency, Grubert will undergo his own process of personal evolution, in order to attain the first level.

     The three levels of the Garage: being, comprehension, delight.