Michaux, Drugs, & Miracles

Capturing any moment with words is a difficult, possibly impossible thing to do. This idea is described by Iris Murdoch’s Hugo Belfounder, Wittgenstein in his later years, and critics in their criticisms of how effectively an artist has conveyed his or her intentions. I feel that Henri Michaux’s Miserable Miracle is in a sense, an attempt to convey a phenomenon through language, to convey his experience with psychedelic substances through words. In his experience with not one but two hallucinogenic substances, Michaux’s recounting seems like a dialogue on so many levels and different manners in trying to accurately re-explain his original, “tangible” text (Michaux 5).
This conveyance seemed to be clearest when Michaux tries to describe for the reader such things as “what you see when you keep your eyes open”, “mad, “indefatigable urgency”, and “current fatal” to thoughts (Michaux 30, 38, 128). In fact, the entire book reads so jarringly with Michaux’s intense descriptions of hallucinations, with illustrated writings to boot, that a sharp sense of disorientation is constantly present.
The fact that Michaux was a poet does not make any kind of unifying comprehension of this work any easier. Michaux’s animated descriptions of mescaline allow the reader to vicariously imagine “a blow in the face” that causes “a thousand candles or a thousand stars” (Michaux 58). However, these vivid descriptions are often followed by abstract notions, specifically in this case the crystallization of “any amount of crystals”; this is one way in which I am often left grasping (or gasping) for a semblance of logic or reason in Michaux’s recounting (Michaux 58).
Reading this work is a wonderful experience or a nightmare, depending on the purpose of reading required. On the one hand, as a highly descriptive account of a personal experience of the drug mescaline, Michaux’s work seems a masterpiece. With three works written over the course of three years, a psychoanalyst might consider...