Out of bounds
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During the 1950s and 60s, Belgian-born poet and painter Henri Michaux (1899-1984) performed what was probably the most controversial of his consistently-experimental works: a series of five books derived from and surrounding his use of Mescaline and other hallucinogens. Strangely, however, in 1972, the first book of the cycle, <<Misérable Miracle>>, also became the last book, when, it was re-issued with a four-part Addenda that completely recalibrated the significance of the drug experiments and their relationship with India and Hinduism, in particular. Yet the out-of-the-blue shift was not arbitrary: in the two years preceding the commitment of the Addenda to paper, Michaux re-visited India and worked with the editor of the journal Hermès on a special issue focusing on their mutual, deceased friend, the Sanskrit scholar and writer René Daumal. In this paper, I will examine how Daumal’s own carbon tetrachloride experiences, recorded in the work “Une expérience fondamentale” (which I is also re-translated here along with a poem by Michaux, “Vers la complétude (Saisie et Dessaisies)”), and his interpretation of them through his Orientalism, as well as the philosophical system he developed on his own, became a focal point for Michaux—a sounding board, both harmonious and dissonant—as he negotiated his own relationship with science, religion, Orientalism, and art.