Hello. Today I’d like to describe for you a few hallucinations. This sort of thing being difficult to represent, I’m going to use a few images and a lexical field presented and analyzed in the excellent book “Dedalus, mythology of the artisan in Ancient Greece”, by Françoise Frontisi Ducroux. I will also speak of the context in which these hallucinations occurred.
The semantic scope of the term Daidala was used in Ancient Greek poetic texts to describe or qualify for example: shields, crowns, earrings, clasps, lighting effects, tripods, cloth, ships, coffers, zithers, robes, fabric, veils, helmets, chariots, buckles, lovemaking chambers, armor, beds, broaches, bracelets, rosettes, presents of all sorts, daggers and swords, luxury furniture as well as jewelers’ work, sculptures, inventions, tools and innovations. In short, precious things, both extremely beautiful and sometimes perfectly terrifying.
This lexical network, deriving from the name of Dedalus, the patron of the ensemble of artisans and their savoir-faire in ancient Greece, seemed to me to be particularly apt and practical for describing certain hallucinations that I had in the Mexican desert, after having eaten a few pieces of Hikuri, the medicinal cactus of the Huichol Indians, which the Nahuatl also call Peyote :
Even today, it seems to me that a part of these hallucinations emerged less from a magical or mystical thought, than from an extremely powerful technical (or technicized) thought, that we could also call “creative intelligence” or “artistic thought”, in any case, something the ancient Greeks, not yet philosophers, sometimes named “metis”.
Metis is neither an idea, nor a notion or concept, but a sort of mental category, a flight of the spirit, which, and I quote Jean-Pierre Vernant: “implies a complex but very coherent ensemble of intellectual behavior combining flair, sagacity, prediction, suppleness of mind, feint, resourcefulness, vigilant attention, the sense of opportunity, diverse qualities and great acquired experience.” In any case, this “metis” thought is applied to ephemeral, moving, disconcerting and ambiguous realities that lend themselves neither to precise measure, exact calculation or rigorous reasoning.
From the mythological point of view, the Greek goddess Metis is a character of the “deceiving” kind, a trickster who appears in a great many peoples, even today, for example with the Huichol of the Mexican desert, who call Kayumari the small, bounding deer, who figures, laughing on most of their bracelets.
But, before beginning the description of these hallucinations, I’d like to quickly recount the legend of Dedalus because, besides being humorous and revelatory of a certain state of mind, a certain mentality, it is also in my opinion too little known in comparison to the much less interesting story of his son Icarus.
The prototype of the artist and artisan, creator of the first divine images, inventor of carpentry and the technical instruments indispensable for its practice (the saw, the ax, the plumb line and the auger) and a reputed engineer, Dedalus was an Athenian who fled the city after having thrown his nephew Talos, a genial and precocious artisan of whom he was jealous, from the top of the Acropolis.
A fugitive murderer, Dedalus arrives at the court of the king of Crete, Minos, who accepts to receive him, obliged by the laws of hospitality that, at the time, still protected all emigrants. Dedalus soon integrates himself into the life of his new country, and it seems that he spends his time in the kitchens, in training with the female staff. One day, Pasiphaë, the wife of King Minos, reveals to him that she has fallen in love with a bull.
Dedalus offers her his services to help her satiate her passion and creates a cow costume : she will merely have to slip into the costume once the bull has been lured by the incredible verisimilitude of the costumed subterfuge.
And that is how Pasiphaë became pregnant by the beautiful bull and, several months later, gave birth to the Minotaur, the bull-son of King Minos. This latter, both horrified and fascinated, cannot resolve himself to kill the monster, and he asks Dedalus to find a solution to the problem he had created (let it be said in passing that Minos was not yet informed of his Artisan’s ruse and he took his monstrous pseudo-son for a sort of talisman that appeared by magic in his wife’s stomach). Dedalus then builds his famous labyrinth
in which the Minotaur would be enclosed, and it was only at the end of his work that Minos understood the role Dedalus had played in the fabrication of his bastard son-monster-talisman.
To punish him, he locked the artisan in his own trap, but, with his son Icarus, the two managed to escape from the labyrinth by manufacturing wings for themselves with feathers and beeswax. Unfortunately Icarus, who was not as clever as his father, did not understand he should fly neither too high nor too low, but to fly exactly as he should, in a word, and he fell into the sea and its cunning currents, where he died a stupid and precipitous death, which responded strangely to the precipitation from the top of the Acropolis of Dedalus’ nephew Talos, assassinated a few years previously by jealousy.
It was finally in Sicily, at the court of Kig Cocalos, that Dedalus found a new refuge, as well as new employment. He became the chief of plumbing for the king’s baths and constructed a thermal center that Cocolas loved. But Minos had not renounced obtaining vengeance. He pursued Dedalus through all the archipelago, armed with a snail’s shell
and a challenge : whoever succeeded in passing a thread in the snail’s shell would receive a recompense of several golden coins. Clever Minos, he knew that only the inventor of the labyrinth could solve such a spiraling challenge. And Dedalus, when he heard of the challenge, and even if he knew it was a trap, couldn’t resist the pleasure of solving this technical problem. He made a hole in the snail’s shell, attached a thread to an ant and the ant escaped through the pearly spiral, trailing the thread behind. In the end, the Sicilian king Cocalos, obliged by the laws of hospitality to protect his guest, refused to hand over Dedalus to King Minos. Instead, he invited Minos to take a bath in his brand new thermal center and Dedalus, the king of plumbing, took advantage of this opportunity to burn him alive.
And that was a quick look at the mytho-biographical aspect of our artisan (we don’t know how he died [if he died]).
In a word, in his genre Dedalus was a polished mechanic, a man with a thousand tricks, a thousand schemes, always able to save himself and also to put himself in the worst situations.
In terms of legend, in the Ancient World Dedalus was the patron of technicians, the man who was the first to be able to bring dead matter to life. And in Plato’s time, Dedalus was still considered to be the inventor of sculptures so lifelike that they had to be chained down to keep them from escaping.
This sort of sculptures:
which were painted like this :
or like this :
were not made only in the quest for beauty.
And in passing, I’d like to invite you to perhaps see more of this sort of thing :
this time more as a sort of machine, a mechanical object, a sort of potential robot, an automaton for the present asleep and which, still half-broken today, needs to be attached or unplugged so it doesn’t escape.
To be brief, maybe we’ll revisit this ancient artisan, as a sort of attempt to manufacture artificial intelligence.
In a word, we could describe the tale like this : from between the hands of an artisan and the brain of a perverse and cunning computer, appeared a god with the brain of a perverse and cunning computer.
To illustrate this idea a bit more clearly, we could also think of Hephaistos’ tripods which, on their own—automatons—traveled to the assembly of gods :
So, lets move on now to the description of those hallucinations.
I was, then, in the desert, north of Mexico City, somewhere in those parts :
The ambience was cowboy, with knots on the radiators :
There were dwarf palm trees :
spicy chicks :
palm pricks :
a whole family of twisted cacti :
and a shifty crew :
Also, yellow cars :
spider cactus :
flowered tombs :
mud walls :
stone walls :
almost silver roads :
and a giant horizon :
After hitchhiking a ride with a shaman from Saint-Etienne, I found myself, through his invitation, in a sort of free country hospital, a center for ocular care, an operating room for anyone, who from near or far, resembled that :
In this hospital it was a question of “celebrating traditional medicines” (from acupuncture to sobadas (Mexican massages), by way of Japanese Reiki (magnetic massage) as well as the sort of intervention for which I don’t know the name :
But, besides offering alternative and free care to the surrounding population, there was also question of trying to take the time to talk with them. In fact, in this region a Canadian mining corporation (First Majestic Silver Corp.) has (even today), the means of re-exploiting the abandoned silver mines in Quémado mountain where, according to the Huichol cosmogony, the Sun, Hikuri and Kayumari (the little deer I mentioned earlier, crafty and bounding) were born.
And when you’re on top of it, you see this :
So. Quémado is full of energy, everyone agrees about that. But the Wixarica and the Canadians don’t share the same sort of Cosmogony, or the same way of interpreting the word “energy”.
The problem is that only a few Huichol live here. They’re dispersed between the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Zacatecas and Durango and are very difficult to reunite. Every year, they make a month-long pilgrimage on foot, through the desert, to come here and harvest their sacred medicine (in fact Hikouri, the other name for Peyote, means “medicine” in Huichol). But they don’t live here.
As a result, for those who live here, the great majority non-Huichol, the Canadian corporation promises salaries, work, Internet and telephone lines (although there already is Internet and telephones), money for schools, hospitals, and bla, bla, bla, like a side order to their mines tunneling into the Sacred Quémado.
The arguments of the organizers of this militant country hospital, arguments they’ll try to slip in between two massages or as they give a diagnosis or whatever it was they were doing (it was rather discreet and delicate, their propaganda), plead that the Canadian enterprise is going to give work to 600 locals, cleaning up the area and installing machines that, in the end, only a few Canadians will be able to operate. Soon there will be nothing left for anyone here, a trained Canadian will be able to do the work of 50 untrained Mexicans and, more importantly, mercury waste products will pollute the little green valley all around the river, which allows people to live off the profits of their vegetable gardens, selling a few avocados, etc.
And so, accessorily, in the place of a highly sacred Huichol site, there will be a silver mine.
All this hospital compound was, in part, a sort of Love Jihad, where they delicately tried to warn peasants who were planted in a semi-arid desert and were seriously susceptible of finding an interest (not counting that the mine was part of their history) :
seriously susceptible of finding an interest in the reopening of silver mines in the mountains and the regions they inhabit. It was a question (for the hospital organizers [of whom my shaman from Saint Etienne was part]) of warning them of the carrot that was waiting for them, with a subtle strategy of persuasion: free massages and acupuncture for everyone :
And the hospital will always be full of old ladies in socks like this :
of men in hats like this :
Of young people with swollen legs that look ready to explode, all used to traditional medicines and decoctions, at any rate, believers, open to or used to the idea of looking in their back gardens for a plant to treat a sore throat.
In brief. So much for the general context.
The afternoon after my arrival, I was watching an acupuncture session, sitting there, discussing things with people, when I was invited to attend an all night vigil, without eating, outside at the edge of a Sacred Fire, for a Reiki initiation.
That very evening, we sang Hindu tunes, borderline Hare Krishna and Vanetta, who’d been jumping about from camp to camp for a year, turned out to be a veritable jukebox of more or less sacred songs. I realized that never before in my life had I spent so much time sitting cross-legged.
Then we sang :
Somos lune circulo,
Dentro oune circulo,
Somos oune circulo,
Dentro oune circulo,
and we sang, again and again, thanks to the girls with the broken fingernails :
always ready to shake maracas and tambourines :
Then I learned how to be responsible for the unification of the two worlds (according to my Mayan astral theme, I’m a Monkey, in other words my essence is play, but I’m also Cardinal, which means that even if I remain Monkey, I change forms every year (this year I’m a Dragon, for example)).
And at regular intervals, we made offerings. To turn anguish into an act is a very agreeable thing (we should do it more often), I said to myself, after having given a cigarette (without a filter) to the Sacred Fire, while praying for, in no particular order, Bonita Troccoli, my wife, myself, my mother, my friends, the Huichol, the camp — whoever came to mind.
And then, just like that, lying on the blankets, it got colder and colder under a moonless but starry sky, some people fell asleep like dogs with their muzzles to the ground, others in Powerful-Fish posture, still others like Eagles, or children, or in Grasshopper half-posture and from the bottom of the night, our shaman friend from Saint Etienne cleaned several of us with his magic feathers and his incredible Ayawaska songs, powerful like great trees.
When the Sun began to rise :
We oriented the Sacred Fire towards Him.
And when, from behind the Mountain, He was born again, we greeted Him and thanked him :
After about an hour, a gentle warmth replaced the glacial cold of the night and we went back to working in the hospital, as the first patients were already in the waiting room :
(to be exact, I was only really watching, I didn’t know what to do [I’m far from being an acupuncturist] [I was floating there, high from a lack of sleep and hunger]). At noon there was a break in care-giving and we all joined in a circle for a new ceremony, a new Sacred Fire, songs, a ritual cleaning with Feathers, the opening of the Chakra, and a glass of Water that broke our little fast.
During this time, newcomers had arrived, among them Butremovic Pennigton, who we can see here doing a handstand :
Pruner of giant trees, mason of pastures, living in his truck, accessorily a surfer and accompanied by two women, a tall, dark Mexican and a small blonde from Iceland, in the desert while he finished a thesis on punk, if I understood correctly. They watched the ceremony and then Butremovic stayed on while the women went back to the mountain. We wound up having a light lunch.
In the evening, there was the initiation to the Reiki thing, about which I’d known nothing yesterday, not even what it was called. And again Alfredo, the head shaman, Sicilian in origin, spoke from his seat :
and sometimes he made an effort to translate a few phrases in English for me, but for the most part, I was in a corner observing. It was night, we were gathered in the central house, near the dispensary, more or less in a circle and all of us more or less sitting in the chained Lotus position wearing colorful, woven clothes :
On the ground was a blanket on which volunteers offered their services as guinea pig bodies. Then Alfredo laid out a small red cloth on which he placed medicinal bits, Hikuri or peyote, and he said: “pura energia, whoever wants any, please take it” (he also made sure to set out notes about dosage, specifying in particular important counter-indications for people with psychotic tendencies). I ate a very small piece (it’s extremely bitter) and I concentrated. Reiki is an electric massage. You massage magnetically. The idea is to feel the heat zones on a body and to concentrate on them. As for the gestures: first, you rub your hands against each other, to liberate energy and concentrate. Then you pass over a body, either touching it or not, it depends, a bit like a metal detector over a body of sand. When something or other in our head or our body or, both, lights up, blinks, rings out or chirps, and we feel a heat, an intensity, an energy : we connect ourselves to it, attach ourselves, maintain it until it goes out (the energy, heat, intensity). Each in turn, we massaged or were massaged on the blanket laid out on the floor. Once or twice I felt warm things coming from a rib or a thigh, but also sometimes nothing at all. Then we dined lightly and went to bed.
And then, when I had shut my eyes and to my great surprise, things appeared violently behind my closed eyelids.
Things that were gleaming, supple, infinite, undulating, brilliant, smooth, colorful, interwoven, sparkling, moiré, luxurious, dazzling, ingenious, glimmering, resplendent, marvelous, graceful, frightening, unnameable, precious, paralyzing, moving, mobile, intangible, closely fitting, sinuous, wandering, ornate, insoluble, curbed, unstable and as if perfectly alive.
Swirling like a bird of prey, carefully crafted work, where all the assemblages joined together the way they should, a well made thing, solid, polished.
A sort of technology or living machine. Circuits moving past in straight lines, more or less long, with more or less curbs, inclines more or less steep. From a black abyss spurted circuits: multi-colored, translucent, phosphorescent, veined with colors. Circuits made of a single thing. A circle, for example. A motif. A basic thing and the repetition of a motif. A circuit repeats a motif. Like a honeycomb repeats hexagons :
I imagine there are a lot of motifs possible, you’d just have to type in motif or pattern in Google images to get an idea :
In any case, at the beginning you don’t choose your motifs. The first motif I remember clearly was links, rings linked one to the other, that formed a chain, a chain of rings unfolding before my eyes :
This unfolding composed a very powerful flux, very absorbing, very hypnotic. The circuits of chains, of vanishing and dancing lines of series of rings, perfectly smooth and polished like precious gems weaving a weft which was sometimes quite tight :
sometimes distended :
A complex and omnicolored interweaving, a living network of intertwinings, like the tentacles of an octopus :
the spires and curves of a serpent :
or like mazes :
The tangle of rooms and corridors of a labyrinth in full expansion.
Elusive, with neither before or after, a net of chains :
confusing within itself all directions, rolling, unrolling and rolling together, as if it were stretching itself out, twisting and braiding itself into a complex braid impossible to undo.
Follow these chains of polychrome rings :
seeing them unfold behind my eyelids, it was a circuit, that is to say a passage, that is to say a path, or a sort of sliding in weightlessness, a sinuous trajectory like a brain, swift like an elusive sparkle that reforms itself a second later, always in movement, an inexhaustible resource, both identical and changing, haunting and unexpected, glittering like stars, shimmering like the skin of a viper :
From light to brilliance, from shimmering to sparkling, all the nuances of light had been convoked :
A convoluted amalgam, gaudy, interwoven, embossed, ingenious and assembled.
A complex, dense and circular textile : like a text with a thousand drawings, or like the double meaning of the discourse of a crafty teller of a thousand fables.
To be short, a passage in a place as finely wrought as a Pazyryk tapestry :
vibrating like a bronze bell, buzzing like a Mantra with a ttun-ttun that went tic-tac-tic like a monotonous ping pong ball that would be a psalmody as complicated as a frame :
or like a net :
Briefly, knots :
hundreds and hundreds of knots :
In a word, a geometric structure both supple and rigid, extended in space like a sort of fireworks, projected onto my eyelids, toward or from a sort of completely obscure infinity that you could also call the Great Emptiness, the Great Gap or the Primordial Hole.
This structure, this circuit, this transport, this passage, this kinetic wandering in a colored plasticity (no sounds, no taste, no odor [but sensations of movements, forms and colors]), this movement with a single, repetitive motif, this evolution, this fluid with a striking aspect, this sort of labyrinthine dance, halfway between the concrete and the abstract, seemed to be built of a particular rhythm: a conjoined palpitation of rotation and uprightness.
In fact, a chain of rings is simply a line of loops :
A chain of rings is a combination of linearity and circularity :
A chain conjoins the straight and the curbed.
This may seem slightly esoteric, said in this way, but there are a lot of things that conjoin-the-straight-and-the-curbed in our world. Every day you can find yourself caught in something that conjoins the circle and the line.
For example, in a car, with your hands on a circular steering wheel, which offers all possible directions to the car which more or less literally traces, like a ball point pen, and whose tip, as it traces lines, conjoins-the-straight-and-the-curbed.
Or while reading a tale with a hundred adventures, whose cogs and springs link 99 problems and 100 solutions (each solution poses a new problem whose solution poses a new problem whose solution poses a new problem whose solution poses a new problem whose solution poses a new problem whose solution poses a new problem, etc.).
Or when you’re on vacation with your uncle in Nogent-le-Rotrou, in a tourist circuit where the point of departure in also the point of arrival :
Or when you paint a straight line on a vase (the straight line results necessarily in a curbed line) :
Or when jump-roping :
(the jump rope turns (that’s the circle) and you jump up and down (that’s the line or the pont)
Or hula-hoop :
Or when you do a rather dangerous motorcycle stunt :
Or just when you try to bite your own tail :
In short, the earth rotates around itself at the same time as it rotates around the sun, this helicoidal dynamic, well, we’ve usually got both feet inside.
And so it would seem that the fundamental structure of my little hallucinatory activity was a blend of uprightness and circularity, exactly like the spiral of a snail’s shell :
And so this species of vibration between the oblique and the straight, this scintillation, this ambiguity, this double maze, this cosmic labyrinth where space appears at the same time as it disappears — the famous paths of the path-making ant — this ecstatic cirucumambulation in polychrome meanders, all this has a relation to a certain definition of time, a stupendous present, always tensed between the past and the future, a time that we could also call time of action.
Also, and this is important, all of these visions seriously resemble illusion, a perfect imitation of the living.
But who is responsible ? Who hatched this weft ? Where is the technician of all this ? The great computer of phosphenes ?
In any case, this sort of growth which is both immobile and fluid, this chaos which is also a cosmos : it is inside us, I said to myself. And we are animals.
These things are in animals (in the spots of the panther) :
And so, we are vegetables (in the leaf of a tree) :
(in the nooks and crannies of peyote) :
It is in us, this thing, this circuit, these loops, circles, motifs, I thought, rather surprised by such a power.
Caught in a colorful, shimmering and stupendous net, sadly I can’t remember any other motifs :
Something a little like this :
but frequently it transformed itself, the motif changed :
Metamorphosis, the act of changing from one motif to another was along the lines of a brusque, interrupting transformation, wink of the eye, diaporama, appearance/disappearance. This transformation constituted a surprise, a discontinuity inside a continuous flux. The movement remained for the most part the same, I was pushed ahead (or behind (or up (or in x)) by I know not what, and sometimes the motif changed abruptly.
It was only after a moment that multi-colored skulls appeared, serrated, pierced through with thousands of minuscule holes, ornate and wrought with an infinity of openings, skulls that grew and shrank, phosphorescent and, in a way, hilarious. They formed a multi-colored chain of laughing skulls that went on forever in a sort of giant black hole.
I wouldn’t say that I was immediately frozen with fear, petrified, but I didn’t stay long in that world. After watching a short parade of jubilant skulls, I opened my eyes to leave. To avoid total stupefaction, a sort of obstacle — the perfidious and evil aspect, noxious and venomous — the cunning one in the affair :
Discovering that everything was still normal and static around me, I said to myself : Ok, I’m high.
Then I said : yes, I’m afraid of death but no, I’m not going to die here and I refused the trap I’d just invented (let me mention in passing, an octopus is mostly a living trap) :
So I waited a bit before closing my eyes again, and returning to teasing the teaser, I said : even if I’m pretty surprised that my brain can produce such complex images, your thingy-there, to be honest, looks like the screen saver of an I-pad :
Then I said: puff, it’s a waste, all these images, and I excused myself for arriving in a world already full of fractals-perfectly-rendered-by-I-don’t-know-what-amazing-software :
Then, respectfully, I more or less asked the screen saver in me to change all this.
Really, it could have, with no hesitation, taken me into other types of colored circles. A flat recursion, for example, there’s something that would interest me. An introspection that doesn’t give the impression of diving, but of sliding on a surface. The other day I went to see my dermatologist and I had a new condition : I’m demographic (apparently it’s due to nerves). Which means, you can write on me, I print. In short, the deepest thing is the skin :
that’s something that would interest me.
Not right away, but in the end, and in a single stroke, I landed on a yawning void of white :
punctuated by polychrome points that offered no perpectivist movement. A simple blinking, a thoroughly elegant alternation, a particular rhythm, always extremely undulating, fluid, in which were combined several times at the same time (where many things happened at the same time (a particular rhythm like a combination (or a twisting tracery (or a fold)) of divisions of time), in short, a sort of dotted alternation that gently accompanied me toward a sleep whose dreams I’ve forgotten :
A few days later, after other hallucinations I don’t have the time to describe, and that in this instance seemed to me to come from a very different register (I saw ancestors, pre-historic people marching in the night (and also standing on an enormous white rock, there were thousands of fireflies, green, red and blue, the primary colors of light, flying about me, a thousand seeds coming from the stars or going toward them, spurting out from my fingers, my arms, all of my body (and always on my right, walking quickly or slowly, people, old people, ancient, a sort of herd or gray-blue family, of stone, almost naked (and the lines of fireflies became more and more dense, a continual flux of tiny RGB dots that fell out of the sky (and I thought of the silver surfer and I laughed and said thank you (then in the far left corner of my eye(this time, my eyes were open) I saw a paleo-futurist female warrior, almost three meters tall, she too was pale gray and bluish, as if sculpted in a cube of stone, one knee flexed, a spear in her hand, standing at the left of the entrance to the Sacred site, behind me (I had no way of interpreting all this and, to be honest, I really don’t see the interest in trying to understand everything (but still, in the Huichol geography, the Wirikuta desert is the place of the ancestor-gods and I must have seen…their ancestors, amongst whom a three meter tall goddess (surely Athena (at the moment there was no problem (I was illuminated-fearful-distrustful-ready-to-play, the same sort of attitude a child has faced with ghosts)))), in short, a few days later, after having caught on to that pearly-gemmed precious floor :
and behind me, the headlights of a car that was never there when I turned around, as the coyotes barked in the distance, a few days later, a dance of the Bears with the obese Lakotas who’d come down from the United States in a new pickup, to try to preserve what they could of their massacred culture, then a fugue with an Argentinian, I had my purge and more importantly, I didn’t want to waste the use of the Great Cactus and one morning I went there; is anyone going there? And bricks of dried mud :
then the plain :
and other houses :
and yellow barriers :
and this gas station :
signaling you know what :
The beginning of civilization is above all purple :
pearled with the cadavers of cars :
and banana split houses :
in negotiation :
at the edge of the road :
huge empty billboards :
And to finish stone dragons :
and pink ridges and pink cubes :
on the night that falls :
on Mexico :
Recorded at the Espace Khiasma on Monday, September 28, 2013, as part of the Relectures 14 Festival
A transcript translated into Arabic will soon be available on the website