Icy Skies


Visage. Henri Michaux

It is important to know whether the world is one or not. On this difficult matter Henri Michaux is quite assertive: « There are four worlds (apart from the natural world and the alienated world). Only one appears at a time. These worlds categorically exclude the normal world, and exclude each other. Each of them has a clear, unique correspondence with a place in your body, which is taken to another level of energy, and receives instantaneous nourishment, rejuvenation and warmth.”i

Why only four worlds then, and not many more ?

The human body possesses, in several precise points within the spinal cord, energy nodes, moose nests, areas of illumination, seats of pleasure, sacred vertebrae, unfolded plexuses, where perhaps some special and subtle gateways, wirelessly connected to other worlds, are initiated. In India, these points are known as chakras.

The spinal column is not alone, moreover, in concealing mysteries (in this case medullary ones). The human brain welcomes other secrets, lodged between the medulla oblongata and the thalamus. But there is not enough room to describe them here, and the words are too worn and connoted.

Misunderstood, Michaux the poet is too much elsewhere, dilated, honest. He is really elsewhere than in an Orient or an Occident of paper. He pays with his person, takes risks, puts himself in danger.

Michaux has taken drugs like a taxi. How can one go higher than the stars when the meter is running, when time is running out, when the arteries are congested?

How to describe what has never been put into words, the unstoppable?

There are undoubtedly other ways than spinal or synaptic, freer, less congested.

Michaux knew this, in a sense. He kept a cool head when the force rose. He went very far, very high, and came back. He wandered for a long time in the tangled infinity, slipped into the sealed space. Others would have perished, got lost. He drew some maps of it. He thickened his blood, he marked his trace, accumulated reminiscence, then came back to lay down his nights on paper.

« There are still two other ‘beyond’, equally exclusive, closed, where one only enters thanks to a kind of cyclone, and to arrive at a world that is itself a cyclone, but the center of a cyclone, where it is liveable and where even it is Life par excellence. You get there by transport, by trance.”ii

One transport for two ‘beyond’. What a masterstroke.

The « cyclone » is a meteorological phenomenon whose characteristic feature is the whirlwind.

« Life » is a biological phenomenon whose image is the spiral, such as that of DNA, or the kundalini.

« Trance » is a psychological phenomenon whose trajectory can take the form of a parable, hyperbola or ellipse, among others. These mathematical figures are also figures of speech. This leads to a more difficult question: what is the trance itself the figure of?

Trance is a ‘transport’, Michaux asserts.

Every expanse requires a means of transport. Trance meets this need. It is a means of transport, a figure of tension towards transcendence. « If the expanse is one of the characters of the divine, much more so is the tension.”iii

It’s a desire to see the truth, to see the whole of nothingness. « The insignificance of the constructions of the mind appears. Contemplation without mixing. We no longer think about affiliations, designations, determinations, we can do without them; the wind has passed over them, a psychic wind that undoes them before determinations, categories are born. “iv

A finding of sarcastic impotence. The spirit means nothing by itself. It is free like a whip antenna.

A « wind » passes far above the human brain, undoing everything that is not born, everything that is content with the static. In exchange, without mixing, what Michaux calls « contemplation ». Undoing rather than doing, the lot of the poet on the hunt.

« Every man is a « yes » with « no ». After the unheard of and somehow unnatural acceptances, one must expect returns of « no », while something continues to act, which cannot be erased, nor can it go back, living in the shadows of the Unforgettable. Ongoing evolution… »v

Man is a « yes », with « no », and perhaps with « maybe », and no doubt with doubts. But surely there is something else again, that neither « yes » nor « no » can say, and « perhaps » even less so, and doubt, not at all.

Man is also, without knowing it, that « something » living in secret.

This living « something » separated from the unforgettable.

That unforgettable, which we have never seen, and which we have forgotten, and which is alive.

In close order, on the white sheet of paper, many small pieces of black diamonds. Badly cut, they vibrate in obtrusive variations, they play with accents and margins. This is all that remains of « mescaline speed »:

« Drugs, let us remember, are more revealing than creative.”vi

The poet dreams alone, but we can think, being many.

Let’s go back for a moment: « I would like to unveil the ‘normal’, the unknown, the unsuspected, the incredible, the enormous normal. The abnormal has made it known to me (…) I would like to unveil the complex mechanisms that make man above all an operator.”vii

« Normal »… « Operator »… « Mechanisms »…

How do these standard, normal words fit in with the mescaline experience?

« It was always about going beyond, superhumanizing, transmuting, transubstantiating everything, sometimes opening up to the sacred, the sacred is a mode, the one according to which we receive.”viii

The poet is a mystery to himself and to others. He opens doors and worlds, takes away their veils from the heavens, strips the spirit from his herds, fills the books with black and ochre battalions, and sets up his fame as an ascetic. And yet nothing, really nothing of what really matters, shows through the tidy fog of the pages.

Man, poet or not, still has a long way to go, before reaching parallel universes, which are far beyond « icy skies »ix, and which no language has ever touched.

—–

iHenri Michaux Les Grandes Épreuves de l’Esprit. Œuvres complètes, tome III .Gallimard, 2004. p.418

ii« Il existe encore deux autres « au-delà », tout aussi exclusifs, fermés, où l’on n’entre que grâce à une sorte de cyclone, et pour arriver à un monde qui est lui-même un cyclone, mais centre de cyclone, là où c’est vivable et où même c’est par excellence la Vie. On y accède par transport, par transe. » Henri Michaux Les Grandes Épreuves de l’Esprit, et les innombrables petites. Œuvres complètes, III .Gallimard, 2004. p.422

iiiIbid. p.425

ivIbid. p.425-426

vIbid. p.428

viIbid. p.327

viiIbid. p.313

viiiHenri Michaux Émergences-résurgences. Œuvres complètes, tome III .Gallimard, 2004. p.682

ixHenri Michaux Déplacements, dégagements. Œuvres complètes, tome III .Gallimard, 2004. p.1322

The Abyss and the Mountain


Henri Michaux

Not only prophets have visions. Poets also are « seers ». Thus, Henri Michaux. He has gone up to the « silent theater of the heights (…) towards the beyond that appears, disappears and reappears.”i

But what did Michaux really « see »?

The afterlife is not within everyone’s reach. One needs calm eyes, gentle nerves. Rare are the direct witnesses, those who have seen the beyond of the world, the infinite, acute, nascent, initial abyss, rising straight up beyond the heavens, effortlessly eluding all known peaks.

The effort is above all in coming back. The memory is overwhelmed. Intelligence wavers in its doubt. Faith is blind. Returning, whoever has seen it recognizes it here and there, in obscure verses, heard silences, allusive sentences.

In the middle of a page, a word, an echo perhaps, an infinitesimal resonance.

« Perhaps the heavens are opening up.”ii This is not a hypothesis, it is an observation. « An Auguste Presence came to the destitute.” The following question is not formal:

« For the daughter of the mountain

secret, reserved

the apparition was a person,

a goddess? » iii

Then comes the answer:

« especially light,

only light

as light it remained ».

Only word, only light. It’s not much, but it’s everything. Without end, this key opens all doors. Millions of doors.

« Simultaneously

as the ground on the slopes of an awakening volcano tears away

the general unzipping inside and around it took place.

singular retrenchment, unknown

that can’t be compared to anything

……..……………………………… » iv

Michaux, who knows the weight of words, finally gives up and multiplies the « suspension points », as many points as it takes to equal the last line.

Perhaps they are more suitable than ‘unzipping’?

The poet takes the risk of words. He tries to say what he may not have seen, what he may have sensed. He embarks on a narrow path, in the Paris of the avenues, the city of lights. He calls for his help, the skilful writer, words in capital letters:

« In the young and pure face, the initiated gaze,

Mirror of Knowledge

contemplation of the True, ignored by others ».v

The ‘True’! The ‘Knowledge’!

How daring to say these words in a nominalist time!

Capital letters are used to dot the page:

LAMP vi

How could Michaux, with his capital letters, have lived in « modern » times? There is so much inaudibility, so much darkness in the false lights.

And who is this « daughter of the mountain »?

Perhaps it is Pârvatî, daughter of Himavân (the Himalayas), and wife of Çiva? Indeed, in Sanskrit Pârvatâ means « of the mountain ».

Perhaps Lokenath Bhattacharya had spoken about her to Michaux?

Or, more likely, was it Rita of Cascia, born in Umbria in the Middle Ages, and beatified by Urban VIII?

The end of the text is in fact hagiographical, and includes some elements from the life of the saint:

« Near the inert stranger

became helpful

we come for LIFE.”vii

Capital letters, again, this is a serious matter. Michaux found his mistress in vision, without mescaline, — and he asks questions:

« To whom does the supernatural appear?

Commonly to children, not at all brilliant, far from the cities, from the walls. Not very enviable, one would not distinguish them, neither too studious, nor very pious, without any special quality, from a modest environment, knowing especially the discomfort, in a small lost village. They are not liars.”viii

But the appearance does not stop there. The vision is only a step. There is the rest. The healing, which strikes the crowds, and even the devious clergymen:

« And who heals? In whom does the supernatural healing take place? »

We are no longer in the realm of convention. Already in their afterlife.

« In a multi-religious country, while many pious people pray in vain near the tomb of a Catholic monk, as they themselves are, a Shiite woman who knows nothing about the Christian religion is healed in the moment (but does not convert). She had confidence and a faith as one should have it, overwhelming, a rare, exceptional treasure.”ix

Michaux wonders: « In whom exactly did she have faith? Secret.”x

Can « modern » people help to see things clearly?

« What about scientists?

One day perhaps, taking the embarrassing problem from another angle, science will find in the brain, thanks to a more precise location of a point in the organism that controls a self-healing function (under the effect of intense emotion), and will in turn approach the miracle with its own means and will even want to produce it coldly, in some cases replacing in its own way the exaltation of faith. Spoiling here, improving there in the unexpected, opening the door to new mysteries.”xi

Miracle, exaltation, unexpected, mystery: all the words point to still other questions. There is never an end to it. It’s better this way. The victories (in this case putative) of science would be, in this matter, pyrrhic. Or a miracle point nested at the bottom of the pineal gland. What if it is? Why does this point activate? Under the effect of an « intense emotion »? But where does this emotion come from? What creates it, what gives it its energy? The body is not an island. The soul is linked to the body, a little, and to the beyond, even more so, if we believe the « daughter of the mountain ».

Not that she said anything later. She discouraged questions. She avoided declarations of faith. Her silence still speaks.

« If she doesn’t speak any more,

it is out of respect

for Unknown Beauty

from the sight of which she was gratified

to which it was united, conjugated

Beauty as knowledge

a higher degree of knowledge. »xii

Michaux. Pârvâti. Rita.

An improbable line linking worlds, times. This great poet, lost in the century, wanders for a long time in « abysses », and recognizes the strength of what is born of the mountain.

_____

iHenri Michaux. Fille de la montagne. (1984) [Text dedicated to Lokenath Bhattacharya]. (in Œuvres complètes, t.3, Gallimard, 2004, p.1290)

iiIbid. p.1291

iiiIbid. p.1291

ivIbid.p.1291

vIbid.p.1292

viIbid.p.1292

viiIbid.p.1293

viiiIbid.p.1298

ixIbid.p.1299

xIbid.p.1299

xiIbid.p.1299

xiiIbid.p.1292

Lonely trances and shared dreams


All religions have their bearings, their symbols. Their numbers. One for an absolute monotheism, three for a Trinitarian monotheism. For religions of the divine immanence, a few million or even billions. For others still, intermediaries, it will be seven or twelve.

The poet, who is neither rabbi nor pope or imam, may rather choose four or six.

How can one be sure of seeing clearly in these floating, lofty domains?

« There are four worlds (apart from the natural world and the alienated world). Only one appears at a time. These worlds categorically exclude the normal world, and they exclude each other. Each of them has a clear, unique correspondence with a place in your body, which is taken to another energy level, and receives instantaneous replenishment, rejuvenation and warming. »i

The human body has several specific points, which are nodes of passage, zones of convergence. At these points special bridges are initiated, connecting to these four worlds.

This is not here a question of shakra. The poet is elsewhere, dilated, honest, entrenched. He does not orientalize, he does not indianize. He pays with his person, takes risks, and puts himself in danger.

Michaux took drugs like a taxi.

How can you visit the stars when the meter’s running?

How to do what has never been done, how to know what has never been learned, how to tell what can’t be told?

It’s not given to everyone.

But Michaux knew. He knew how to keep a cool head when the brain melts.

Michaux goes, far, high, and he always comes back, from his tours in the turbulent, from his jaunts in the dilated, the incompressible. Others would have perished, gone mad. But not him. He thickens his blood, marks his tracks, accumulates a whole memory, which he comes to put down on paper.

Laying it down? With the hurricane?

« There are still two other « beyond », equally exclusive, closed, where one only enters thanks to a kind of cyclone, and to arrive at a world that is itself a cyclone, but the centre of a cyclone, where it is liveable and where even it is Life par excellence. You get there by transport, by trance. »ii

The cyclone: a weather phenomenon whose characteristic is the whirlwind.

Life: an organic phenomenon whose image is the spiral, popularized by DNA and kundalini.

Trance: a psychological phenomenon whose trajectory is the parabola, or perhaps the ellipse. These mathematical figures are indeed figures of speech.

But what is trance itself the figure of?

Trance is probably a figure of tension towards transcendence; a tense pole, an extended life, a wisdom heard.

« The insignificance of the constructions of the mind appears. Contemplation without mixture. One no longer thinks about affiliations, designations, determinations, one does without them; the wind has passed over them, a psychic wind that undoes them before they are born, before determinations, categories are born. »iii

It is sarcastic finding about the impotence of the mind. The mind is meaningless in its turns, detours and categories.

Weather report again: a « wind » passes over, undoing what has not yet been born. In exchange, without mixing, « contemplation ».

Undoing rather than doing, the poet’s lot on the hunt.

« Every man is a « yes » with many « no ». After the unheard-of and in some way unnatural acceptances, one must expect returns of « no », while something continues to act, which cannot be erased, nor can it go back, living on the sly of the Unforgettable. Ongoing evolution… »iv

Man is a « yes » with « no », – and maybe with « maybe ». But surely he is something else again, which neither « yes » nor « no » can grasp, and « perhaps » even less so. It is that « something » that continues to act. That « something » that is stolen, that is forgotten, that is alive.

Pieces of black diamonds, placed on the white sheet of paper, vibrate in variations, with colours and shadows.

One can live through a trance alone. But many can think in shared dreams.

iHenri Michaux Les Grandes Épreuves de l’Esprit. Gallimard, Paris, 1986.

iiIbid.

iiiIbid.

ivIbid.

The True Insider


We can rely on Michaux, he won’t give in. He’s resisting.

He has a plastic soul. The afterlife appears to him, disappears, then reappears, – he reports.

He knows a lot about the afterlife. Appeared, bearing, acute, powerful, acid, placid, allied, folded, ridden day and night, brushing against the abysses, eluding the peaks.

On returning, for a long time we look for an image, an echo. We never find it, to tell the truth. But tracks open up, in obscure verses, in tense words, in opaque silences, in heard allusions.

Decades go by. By ricochet, I perceive a faint voice perhaps, a resonance in a few lines of Michaux.

« For the girl from the mountain

secret, reserved

the apparition was a person,

a goddess? »

He then gives a straight answer to his own question:

« especially light,

only light

as light it remained ».i

The next verse makes another string sing.

« Simultaneously

as the soil on the slopes of an erupting volcano is torn away…

the general unclipping inside and around it took place.

singular entrenchment, unknown

incomparable

……….. »

The suspension points in the text are original. But why this unusual word: ‘unclipping’?

From some obsolete corset, does it evoke strapped breasts that are suddenly released? How to apply this word inside the soul?

The poet takes his risk. He tells what he may not have seen, but has guessed. He goes down narrow paths, he the celebrated poet, turning his back on the Paris of avenues, of lights. He even dares to use capital letters:

« In the young and pure face, the initiated gaze…

Mirror of Knowledge

contemplation of the True, ignored by others. »ii

The True! Knowledge! Mirror ! No wonder Sartre and sarcastic others ignored him royally, that Michaux.

Today, there’s so much inaudibility that everything is so unpredictable. That’s what we can no longer expect, – the predictable, the True! Knowledge!

Luckily Michaux still talks to us about the True, as a true Insider.

iHenri Michaux. Text dedicated to Lokenath Bhattacharya. Gallimard, Paris, 1986.

iiIbid.

Transes singulières et songes partagés


 

Toutes les religions ont leurs repères, leurs condensations, leurs symboles. Leurs nombres mêmes. Un pour un monothéisme absolu, trois pour un monothéisme trinitaire. Pour des religions du divin immanent, quelques millions. Pour d’autres encore, intermédiaires, ce sera sept ou douze.

Le poète, qui n’est ni rabbin ni pape, choisit de dire quatre ou six.

Comment être sûr de voir clair, en ces domaines flottants, altiers?

« Il existe quatre mondes (en dehors du monde naturel et du monde aliéné). Un seul apparaît à la fois. Ces mondes excluent catégoriquement le monde normal, et s’excluent l’un l’autre. Chacun d’eux a une correspondance nette, unique, avec un endroit de votre corps, qui est porté à un autre niveau d’énergie, et qui reçoit un ravitaillement, un rajeunissement et un réchauffement instantané. » i

Le corps humain possède plusieurs points précis, qui sont des nœuds de passage, des zones de convergence. En ces points s’initient des passerelles spéciales, se reliant à ces quatre mondes.

Il n’est pas ici question de shakra. Le poète est ailleurs, dilaté, honnête, retranché. Il n’orientalise pas, il n’indianise pas. Il paye de sa personne, prend des risques, et se met en danger.

La drogue, Michaux l’a prise comme un taxi.

Comment visiter les étoiles quand le compteur tourne ?

Comment faire ce qui n’a jamais été fait, savoir ce qui n’a jamais été appris, dire ce qui n’est pas racontable ?

Ce n’est pas donné à tous.

Ce savoir, Michaux l’a su. Garder la tête froide quand le cerveau fond.

Michaux va, loin, haut, et il en revient toujours, de ses tournées dans le turbulent, de ses virées dans le dilaté, l’incompressible. D’autres auraient péri, seraient devenus fous. Lui non. Il épaissit son sang, marque ses traces, accumule toute une souvenance, qu’il vient coucher sur le papier.

Coucher ? Avec l’ouragan ?

« Il existe encore deux autres « au-delà », tout aussi exclusifs, fermés, où l’on n’entre que grâce à une sorte de cyclone, et pour arriver à un monde qui est lui-même un cyclone, mais centre de cyclone, là où c’est vivable et où même c’est par excellence la Vie. On y accède par transport, par transe. »ii

Le cyclone : un phénomène météo dont la caractéristique est le tourbillon.

La Vie : un phénomène bio dont une image est la spirale, popularisée par l’ADN et le kundalini.

La transe : un phénomène psychologique dont la trajectoire est la parabole, ou peut-être l’ellipse. Ces figures mathématiques sont aussi des figures du discours.

Mais de quoi la transe est-elle elle-même la figure ?

La transe est probablement une figure de la tension vers la transcendance ; elle est une figure de la transcendance, perche tendue, vie étendue, sagesse entendue.

« L’insignifiance des constructions de l’esprit apparaît. Contemplation sans mélange. Les appartenances, on n’y songe plus, les désignations, les déterminations, on s’en passe ; du vent est passé par-dessus, un vent psychique qui défait avant qu’elles ne naissent les déterminations, les catégories. »iii

Constat d’impuissance sarcastique. L’esprit ne signifie rien de signifiant dans ses tours, ses détours et ses catégories.

Météo encore: un « vent » passe au-dessus, défait ce qui n’est pas né encore. En échange, sans mélange, « contemplation ».

Défaire plutôt que faire, le lot du poète en chasse.

« Or tout homme est un « oui » avec des « non ». Après les acceptations inouïes et d’une certaine façon contre nature, il faut s’attendre à des retours de « non », cependant que quelque chose continue à agir, qui ne peut être effacé, ni revenir en arrière, vivant à la dérobée de l’Inoubliable.

Évolution en cours… »iv

L’homme est un « oui », avec des « non », – et peut-être avec des « peut-être ». Mais assurément il est bien autre chose encore, que ni le « oui » ni le « non » ne peuvent saisir, et le « peut-être », moins encore. Il est ce « quelque chose » qui continue à agir. Ce « quelque chose » qu’on dérobe, qu’on oublie, qui est vivant.

Des morceaux de diamants noirs, posés sur la feuille blanche, vibrent en variations, avec couleurs et ombres.

On peut rêver seul ; on peut réfléchir à plusieurs aux songes partagés.

iHenri Michaux Les Grandes Épreuves de l’Esprit. Gallimard, Paris, 1986.

iiIbid.

iiiIbid.

ivIbid.

Regard initié


 

On peut s’appuyer sur Michaux, il ne cède. Il résiste.

Il a l’âme plastique. L’au-delà lui apparaît, disparaît, puis reparaît, rapporte-t-il.

L’au-delà il en connaît un rayon. Apparu, portant, aigu, puissant, acide, placide, allié, plié, chevauché jour et nuit, en frôlant les gouffres, en éludant les cimes.

En revenant, longtemps on en cherche l’image. Jamais on ne la retrouve, à la vérité. Des pistes s’ouvrent, en vers obscurs, en mots tendus, en silences opaques, en allusions entendues.

Les décennies passent. Par ricochet, je perçois un écho peut-être, une résonance dans quelques lignes de Michaux.

« Pour la fille de la montagne

secrète, réservée

l’apparition fut-elle une personne,

une déesse ? »

Il répond sans fioriture à sa question :

« surtout lumière,

seulement lumière

comme lumière elle demeura ».i

Le couplet suivant fait chanter une autre corde.

« Simultanément

comme se déchire le sol des pentes d’un volcan qui se réveille

eut lieu le dégrafage général au-dedans d’elle et autour

retranchement singulier, inconnu

qui à rien ne se peut comparer

……….. »

Les points de suspension dans le texte sont d’origine. Mais pourquoi ce mot insolite: dégrafage ?

De quelque corset désuet, évoque-t-il des seins sanglés qu’on libère d’un coup ? Comment appliquer ce mot au-dedans de l’âme ?

Le poète prend son risque. Il raconte ce qu’il n’a peut-être pas vu, mais qu’il a deviné. Il s’engage dans des voies étroites, lui le poète célébré, tournant le dos au Paris des avenues, des lumières. Il ose même des mots à majuscules:

« Dans le jeune et pur visage, le regard initié,

Miroir d’un Savoir

contemplation du Vrai, ignoré des autres »

Le Vrai ! Le Savoir ! Pas étonnant que Sartre et d’autres l’aient royalement ignoré, ce Michaux-là.

Aujourd’hui, il y a tant d’inaudible que c’en est prévisible. Justement, c’est ce qu’on n’attend plus, le prévisible. Le Vrai ! Le Savoir ! Heureusement que l’on a encore Michaux qui parle d’un regard initié.

iHenri Michaux. Texte dédié à Lokenath Bhattacharya. Gallimard, Paris, 1986.