Journeys into the abyss

Can hallucinogenic drugs lead to profound spiritual experiences? In an article published for the first time in the UK, the Nobel prizewinner Octavio Paz reflects on experiments with mescaline undertaken in the 1950s by the French poet and artist Henri Michaux


Miserable Miracle opens with this phrase: “This book is an exploration. By means of words, signs, drawings. Mescaline, the subject explored.” When I had read the last page, I asked myself whether the result of the experiment had not been precisely the opposite: the poet Michaux explored by mescaline. An exploration or an encounter? An encounter with mescaline: an encounter with our own selves, with the known-unknown. A great gift of the gods, mescaline is a window through which we look out upon endless distances where nothing ever meets our eye but our own gaze. There is no I: there is space, vibration, perpetual animation. Battles, terrors, elation, panic, delight: is it Michaux or mescaline? It was all already there in Michaux, in his previous books. Mescaline was a confirmation. Michaux can say: I left my life behind to catch a glimpse of life. Guardian UK

excerpts from i am writing to you from a far-off country


We have here, she said, only one sun in the month, and for only a little while. We rub our eyes days ahead. But to no purpose. Inexorable weather. Sunlight arrives only at its proper hour.

Then we have a world of things to do, so long as there is light, in fact we hardly have time to look at one another a bit.

The trouble is that nighttime is when we must work, and we really must: dwarfs are born constantly.


When you walk in the country, she further confided to him, you may chance to meet with substantial mases on your road. These are mountains and sooner or later you must bend the knee to them. resisting will do no good, you could go no farther, even by hurting yourself.

I do not say this in order to wound. I could say other things if i really wanted to wound.


I add one further word to you, a question rather. Does water flow in your country too? (I do not remember whether you have told me so) and it gives chills too, if it is the real thing.

Do I love it? I do not know. One feels so alone when it is cold. But quite otherwise when it is warm. Well then? How can I decide? How do you others decide, tell me, when you speak of it without disguise, with open heart?


I am writing to you from the end of the world. You must realize this. The trees often tremble. We collect the leaves. They have a ridiculous number of veins. But what for? There is nothing between them and the tree any more, and we go off troubled.

Could not life continue on earth without wind? Or must everything tremble, always, always?

There are subterranean disturbances, too, in the house as well, like angers which might come to face you, like stern beings who would like to wrest confessions.

We see nothing, except what is so unimportant to see. Nothing, and yet we tremble. why?

Nothing, and yet we tremble. Why?


She writes to him again:

You cannot imagine all that there is in the sky, you would have to see it to believe it. So now, the… but I am not going to tell you their name at once.

In spite of their air of weighing a great deal and of occupying almost all the sky, they do not weigh, huge though they are, as much as a newborn baby.

We call them clouds.

It is true that water comes out of them, but not by compressing them, or by pounding them. It would be useless, they have so little.

But, by reason of their occupying lengths and lengthsm widths and widths, deeps also and deeps, and of puffing themselves up, they succeed in the long run in making a few droplets of water fall, yes, of water. And we are good and wet. We run off furious at having been trapped; for nobody knows the moment when they are going to release their drops; sometimes they rest for days without releasing them. And one would stay home waiting for them in vain.

— Henri Michaux (5/24/1899 — 10/17/1984)

The Hygiene Hypothesis:

Is It Good to be Clean? “Although these results have no immediate clinical applicability, the hygiene hypothesis has emerged as a possible explanation for the increase in allergic disease. Increasingly, parents are becoming aware of this hypothesis and are asking pediatricians about it. If this provocative hypothesis is proven to be true, the implications for hygiene practices in developed countries are enormous.” Journal Watch: Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine

Le Nombril du Monde:

French Village Declares Itself Hub of the Universe: “Pougne-Hérisson, which last made history, briefly, in the 13th century when the English besieged the chateau in Hérisson (or maybe it was Pougne), declared itself 12 years ago to be a magical site on a footing with the Pyramids and Stonehenge. All the stories in the world, all the literature, all the jokes, all the fairy-tales, originated in Pougne-Hérisson, the village announced. What justification did it have for such a claim? None whatsoever.Independent UK [via New World Disorder]

Adopt kids, not roads:

‘In the universe of marketing tools for charitable causes, the ”adoption” concept has seen wild success. Since excess litter sparked the first Adopt-A-Highway program along a stretch of Texas highway 18 years ago, ”adopted” roads have sprung up in nearly every state, and people have adopted everything from killer whales to greyhounds to sewer pipes.

But a group of Massachusetts adoptees and their parents say the word adoption should be reserved for humans. Joining what some say is a growing national movement against the language of ”adopt-a-cause,” they have launched a drive to change the signs planted at frequent intervals along many roads.

”Adoption means something very different than what you do with a highway. It’s not about temporarily fixing something up…” ‘ Boston Globe

Protecting raptors from electrocution

Raptor electrocution is a particularly tenacious problem in the West and Southwest, where open landscapes make powerlines the most dominant and attractive feature on which birds choose to alight. It is tough to quantify the exact number of birds killed this way every year; many are scavenged immediately by other predators, and while U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents are able to investigate some of the cases that occur, they can’t possibly count them all due to the sheer magnitude….

The good news is that cost-effective technology is now available to make electrical equipment bird-friendly. Beginning in the mid 1970s, law enforcement agents in the Mountain-Prairie Region began an effort to work in partnership with power companies to identify and repair equipment that killed raptors.

There is no boilerplate solution. Increasing the distance between lines, installing insulation on wires and transponders, and providing perches away from wires are only three in an options cornucopia developed by private-sector engineers.”