THE MAJOR ORDEALS OF THE MIND by Henri Michaux

THE MAJOR ORDEALS OF THE MIND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A turgid introspection on the effects of hashish, mescaline, and other hallucinogens in an attempt to ""track down, . . to overtake. . ."" the ""micro-investigations, micro-manipulations, micro-stages, the very texture and fabric of the mind."" Normally, Michaux argues, the mind distinguishes among perceptions, fantasies and ideas, organizing them into patterns based on genre and meaning. In the drug-induced state, such images pass unqualified, uncoordinated and confused. An image which is normally discarded from consciousness becomes oppressive: a disconcerting, ubiquitous sound; animated presences in the environment; the sensation of floating or expanding in the body; the detachment of consciousness. Moreover, the sense of gestalt is lost, and the user becomes preoccupied with unintegrated details. Such experiences can be frightening, but, according to Michaux, they can also offer a euphoric growth through a hierarchy of ""exalted eroticism, exalted fearlessness, exalted love, and exalted contemplation."" Michaux's contorted prose demands strenuous reading, and what it delivers is surely hackneyed. As Michaux himself says, ""There exists a certain banality of the visionary world. . . ."" Only his suggestion that the detached, disorganized world of the schizophrenic may be illuminated by the study of drug-induced states is significant. Michaux has written some superior poetry, but his speculations on the structure of the mind are pretentious.

Pub Date: March 6th, 1974
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich