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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.

The Major Ordeals of the Mind and the Countless Minor Ones

Michaux, Henri (1974).
New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

ISBN: 0-15-155720-9 hardcover
0-15-655250-7 paperback

Description: First American hardcover edition, vi + 170.

Contents: 9 chapters, comments.

Note: Originally published as Les grandes epreuves de l'espirit et les innombrables petites by Editions Gallimard. Translated by Richard Howard.


4. Divestment Through Space

For some time I had intended taking c.i., [footnote: 1, One of the psychedelic substances, among the oldest known] at a high altitude, to contemplate a mountain sky line. I had come for that reason to this place, to see if there would be any effect, and what it would be . ...

Finally, before going back inside I raise my head. A black sky filled with stars stretched out all around me. I plunged into it. It was extraordinary. Instantaneously stripped of everything as though of an overcoat, I passed into space. I was projected into it, I was hurled into it, I flowed into it. I was violently seized by it, irresistibly . ...

What I was experiencing was very different from admiration, an entirely different scale of response.

What exactly? It is not easy to grasp. As though torn from the earth, feeling myself carried irresistibly upward, borne ever farther by a marvelous invisible levitation, into an endless space, which could not end, which was incommensurable with myself, which kept drawing me into it, I soared up, higher and higher, inexplicably inspired, though without, of course, ever being able to reach any destination. Besides, what destination?

It could have been awful. It was an effulgence.

The static, the finite, the solid had seen their day. There was nothing left of them, or almost nothing. Divested, I rose, propelled; stripped of possessions and attributes, stripped even of all recourse to the earth, all sense of place being lost — an unimaginable divestment, which seemed almost absolute, since I was unable to find anything it would not have taken from me. (pages 91-92)

Space, space beyond everything. Contemplation. Face to face and not only face to face. Everywhere I coincided with it, meeting it on all sides. Untranscendable and with no salient feature, nothing the mind could take hold of. Yet there was constant exchange. To contemplate, I realized, was not what I had thought. Contemplation is being received. (pages 94-95)

How much space I received during those hours! And not to be able to say anything about it! My basic physical unworthiness had abandoned me, leaving me acceptable to space. By allowing me this divestment, space had yielded itself up to me. Divestment: through this mysteriously opened breach space rushed into me. And I into it. Mysterious interpenetration. Opposing actions which corresponded to one another, not excluding each other.

Which exalted one another. (pages 95-96)

I no longer had to renounce. I had not had to renounce.

The renunciation was over and done before I could have anticipated it. Within the instant, I had been stripped, without having been consulted, without having had time to face it, to be given a choice, necessarily treated as a blind person whose opinion is not asked, who in matters of transcendence is and always will be ignorant, muddle-headed, vociferous, inevitably misinformed, invariably inadequate to the occasion. But to this operation, which I had been unable to understand, which ended before I could examine it, I gave my impassioned approval, grateful, ever more rapturous, in unparalleled enthusiasm, in a fervor which only the miraculous dissipation of "weight" can give.

Relieved of all surroundings, cleansed of all consistency, of all property, of all sense of ownership, incapable of conceiving any possession around me and lacking the preliminary minimum necessary to any attachment, I was in an ecstasy of space.

He who does not know what to believe in had just received — I see no other word for it — something like a sacrament, the spatial sacrament. (pages 96-97)

How wrong I had been in the past to seek transcendence in closed, narrow places, confronting objects, people, images of the limited world, over which, it is true, "it" triumphed for the moment, and quite marvelously, releasing them comically at times from the fetters of their limits . . . . .

The sky, then, by its very nature proceeds in the direction of expansion, of transcendence, of the limitless. Lacking anything reductive, anything weighty, once the barrier is crossed in a single leap, there is no longer any obstacle or any tendency to fall back later, to lapse, to distraction.

Without change, without incident, without analogy (which might create recollection, hence change) one remains plunged within. To the rapture experienced it answers with a total acceptance that makes it needless to look for anything else — an immediate infinity which, to achieve transcendence, does not first have to rid itself of the finite.

Space is received as a purification.

Should one become detached from it, deliberately or not, each time, returning to it, one experiences a "rush of spirituality." (pages 97-98)

At such a point, the mind, receiving "self" and "nonself" equally, is within a veritable monism, and will experience its "revelation." But it may also experience the revelation of Maya, the Universal Illusion, whose manifestation here is obvious. And it may also experience the revelation of the Absolute, of the limitless Spirit. If it is of a loving nature, the mind can even experience the revelation of a love which is the unique universal reality. It may also experience the revelation of the rashly named "cosmic consciousness." (page 99)

From such an immersion one often returns with dogmas. The barriers of the physical so utterly overcome, the metaphysical alone remaining and realizable, it is for metaphysical nourishment that one hungers, instantly and unbelievably, it is a metaphysical response that one impatiently craves, it is a metaphysical world that one urgently needs in order to receive the revelation included within it.

As I see it, the revelation of divestment, the beatitude within divestment, the matchless expansion, that ineffable, incomparable nonduality, should be protected from accommodation by any system, no matter how tempting, protected from being distorted, prematurely, in controlled applications. How can one deal with fire as if those dealings would also satisfy earth?

But once the ordinary was restored, reality re-established itself, insistent in its plurality which constitutes, which begins reconstituting the contradictions, the absurdities, the thousand complications and inescapable inadequacies of behavior, the stumbling blocks of the future. Legion are the bonds, and legion they reassert themselves. The habitations of bondage are invisible, and strong are the fine meshings which constitute a man's life. FAR, far now is the One, untroubled, far the sovereign state of simplicity. (pages 100-101)

IX. The Four Worlds

The state of exalted eroticism, exalted fearlessness, exalted love, exalted contemplation — of these four states, who could fail to desire the last above all others?

Yet he who expected to be at home there does not reach it.

One cannot gain a footing in this territory in a natural fashion. The attitude of abandon is indispensable. Experts in religion subjected to the influence of these expansion-generating substances, squirmed and fidgeted like irreverent children. Others merely remained outside, unable to enter.

Even when prepared by meditation, some felt that they were lost and going mad; or, merely tormented, they sulked, became furious. Who can tell if he is prepared? If despite or because of a science of concentration, he is not actually unprepared?

One "expert" in mental discipline, initiated into the practices of Eastern meditation and Zen, remained lost completely for a long time, unable to find an center.

When he finally reached it, "it was through renunciation." And it is not easy to abandon oneself, even knowing that this is what is called for. Fear still amounts to a struggle, is the painful representation of a resistance ... an unhappy one.

Whichever path one takes, that is, whether one reaches this state directly, by natural inclination, or by passing first through the center situated lower down, but which is also stronger — once there, it is like lightening on a dark night, all illumination, but it is lightening that lasts. What has preceded is forgotten.

This, surely, is where the surge of unifiers has to lead, to Unity itself.

Unsought-for. The invasion of Unity has been accomplished without you, apparently without needing your convictions, a promethean operation, in an expanded consciousness.

Bliss by depersonalization.

If expansiveness is one of the characteristics of the divine, tension is much more so.

There are better things to do than oppose currents.

The dissociated, incoherent, and disruptive may have been a necessary impetus to its opposite, its exalted opposite. These turmoils, having become one transport, have reached their necessary destination.

No more happenings. No more episodes, calculations — no more plurality.

No more duality. Most strangely, it is ended; only after having recovered somewhat from the exalted state, is one able to realize the extreme strangeness of this.

Suddenly, duality no longer exists. Deliverance.

The insignificance of the mind's constructions stands revealed.

Pure contemplation. One no longer thinks in terms of qualities, designations, definitions, one does without them; a wind has passed overhead, a psychic wind which annuls the definitions, the categories before they are born.

Illumination: a radically non-appropriating contemplation, which only receives, absolutely non-conquering, absolutely tranquilizing, de-egoizing, blinding the minor discriminations in favor of a huge unprecedented insight.

The intelligence of distinctions finds itself stupefyingly supplanted.

The pursuit of evaluation is totally gone. Interest is disinterested. But the countless variety of the world must still be somewhere ... it is there only if one tries to seize, to classify, to delimit, to define.

One is beyond, now.

Within a non-profane, non-utilitarian wisdom.

The absolute: true non-violence. (pages 165 - 167)

This compilation by Thomas B. Roberts & Paula Jo Hruby

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