Read The Doors of Perception: Heaven and Hell (Thinking Classics) by Aldous Huxley Robbie McCallum Online


In 1953, in the presence of an investigator, Aldous Huxley took four-tenths of a gramme of mescalin, sat down and waited to see what would happen. Huxley described his experience in 'The Doors of Perception' and its sequel 'Heaven and Hell'....

Title : The Doors of Perception: Heaven and Hell (Thinking Classics)
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ISBN : 9781907590092
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 91 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Doors of Perception: Heaven and Hell (Thinking Classics) Reviews

  • Keith
    2018-11-23 11:08

    Generally, I greatly prefer to read books in the dead-trees format—actual paper in my hand. This was the first I've read in a long time where I found myself desperately longing, not only for an electronic edition, but for a fully hypertextual version, rich with links. Over the two months I spent on this volume, on and off, I believe two-thirds of my time was spent on the Internet looking up references. At the very least, this book would benefit greatly from extensive illustration: the range of artistic works referenced, from Caravaggio to Millais to Vermeer, is sure to baffle most modern readers without a degree in Art History. Remember Laurent Tailhade? Yeah, me neither.Frankly, with the state of Liberal Arts education today, I have a hard time believing that much of anyone who has read this in the last 30-40 years has understood but a fraction of it—and reading over the reviews I can find bears this out. Both essays are often seen as little more than an apologia for "drug experimentation." While that is certainly an element of both, it can hardly be taken as Huxley's central point. It was rather Dr. Leary who much later reduced the matter to such a simple and simplistic premise, and even he had more than that to say to those who were willing and able to delve beneath the surface.Instead, while making the case for the legitimacy of drug use, Doors offers a hypothesis for the mechanism of the experience via the well known reference to Blake and the then-current state of neuro-biological research; to wit, that ordinary perception is a matter of the mind filtering data for survival, while transformed or visionary experience—whether achieved through asceticism, art, or chemistry—opens the mind to all the data available, regardless of its mere survival value, thus allowing one to see through the ordinary to a truer vision of reality. Why, after all, should one need to starve or abase oneself for months and years to achieve such states when the same experience, or a reasonable simulacrum, can be had for the cost of a drug and perhaps a mild hangover?Heaven and Hell goes on to develop this thesis by comparing the visions induced by exogenous chemicals to the more visionary pieces of art throughout history, as well as elaborating on the religio-spiritual theme. This is where, I believe, a majority of readers are likely to get lost, and thus explains why there are far more extant reviews of the former essay than of the latter. Even with handy art references, the latter is still the more difficult read, with its several tangential appendices and textual digressions. One might almost suppose that the drugs had not yet worn off while he wrote this one. Still, for the persistent, this is a worthwhile sequel, and it is readily obvious why the two are so often packaged together. But keep your browser near at hand, because many of his points are utterly lost without knowing the art to which he refers.Finally, it is this very lack of illustration, and internal referencing for the modern reader, that prompts me to deduct one star from what would otherwise be a truly stellar recommendation. I continue to hope that the Huxley estate, or whoever controls the copyrights, will consider reissuing this with the necessary supplemental material, perhaps even in a definitive scholarly "critical edition." Were it in the public domain, I might take on such a project myself.

  • Stian
    2018-11-22 18:21

    Men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty billows of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, and pass themselves by.- St. Augustine, from ConfessionsIf you are like me, you have some reservations about trying drugs -- even psychedelic ones. I know one of the people that I look up to -- Carl Sagan -- was a fairly regular marijuana smoker. I know Richard Feynman, another one of my 'heroes', tried some drugs, but stopped at some point as he grew afraid of damaging his brain somehow and losing his abilities in mathematics and physics. But the allure is there. Like Ishmael in Moby Dick I have an "everlasting itch for things remote", but for me it's not remote, but rather quite the opposite: it's an itch to explore my own mind. It's an enticing idea, you must admit: to fully delve into your own consciousnes, to see everything everywhere at once without even moving; to feel at peace with everything; quite possibly to feel that you've figured out the riddle that is human existence. I can't help but think that it would be a mistake never to have such an experience during this very short and most likely only experience of consciousness I'll have. Huxley, in his Doors of Perception essay doesn't make it seem like any less of a mistake.Early in May 1953, Aldous Huxley volunteered to trip on mescaline in the name of science. The Doors of Perception consists, in its first part, of Huxley recounting his experiences on the drug, and in its second, shorter half of an argument for the usage of psychedelic drugs in order to "ooze past the reducing valve of brain and ego, into consciousness." It's an incredibly fascinating essay. There is in particular one remarkably cool idea brought up, quoting the philosopher C.D. Broad, "that we should do well to consider much more seriously than we have hitherto been inclined to do the type of theory which [Henri] Bergson put forward in connection with memory and sense perception. The suggestion is that the function of the brain and nervous system and sense organs is in the main eliminative and not productive. Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. The function of the brain and the nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment, and leaving only very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful."As such, the consciousness we experience has gone through a "reducing valve", so that our experience of consciousness does not overwhelm us. However, with drugs, you can let some more consciousness seep through the no longer watertight valve of the brain and nervous system. It is then that there is an "obscure knowledge that All is in all -- that All is actually each." And this is, writes Huxley, just about "as near, I take it, as a finite mind can ever come to "perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe."" This essay was extremely fascinating. I'll skip writing anything about Heaven and Hell, as, honestly, I found it to be pretty boring. But read The Doors of Perception. It's brilliant.

  • KamRun
    2018-12-16 18:31

    درباره ی کتاب - ویرایش شدبسیاری با آلدوس هاکسلی به واسطه کتاب دنیای قشنگ نو آشنا هستند. اما این نویسنده معروف اثر جنجالی دیگری دارد که در ایران ناشناخته است: درهای ادراک دوزخ و برزخ. هاکسلی در بخش اول این کتاب تحت عنوان درهای ادراک، تجربیات خود را از مصرف روانگردان مسکالین شرح داده است. همانطور که از نام کتاب مشخص است، پس از مصرف، جهان برای هاکسلی همان جهان است، اما کیفیت ادراک وی در مواجهه با طبیعت و همچنین صنایع دست انسان، نظیر موسیقی و نقاشی دچار تغییرات وسیعی شده استتوصیفات هاکسلی از شفافیت و درخشش مناظر و نور در این کتاب، با بخشی از توصیفات مربوط به بهشت در مسیحیت و اسلام شباهت زیادی داردبخش دوم کتاب، بهشت و دوزخ، علمی و به قدر کافی مستند به نظر نمی رسد.نویسنده در این بخش به تشریح قسمتی از ناخوداگاه انسان که با تجربیات عرفانی و رویابینی ها در ارتباط است می پردازد. وی تجربیات عرفانی عرفا، مرتاض ها، و پیروان ادیان ابراهیمی را معادل رویابینی حاصل از مصرف مسکالین می داند. با اینکه این رویابینی به دلیل بنیان بیوشیمیایی خود یک تجربه ی عرفانی محسوب نمی شود، اما از کیفیتی به مراتب بیشتر از تجربه عرفا برخوردار است. هرچند که هاکسلی در ادامه، تجربه عرفانی و رویابینی مذهبی را هم مردود اعلام کرده و تحت تاثیر عوامل زیست- شیمیایی بدن می داند. به عنوان مثال می گوید ریاضت، روزه، دعاهای طولانی و خودزنی های مذهبی باعث آزاد شدن مواد شیمیایی مختلف در بدن نظیر هیستامین و آدرنالین از یک سو و افزایش دی اکسید کربن در مویرگ های مغزی از سویی دیگر می شود و از این طریق کارایی مغز، به عنوان "سوپاپ کاهش دهنده" مختل شده و درهای ادراک ناخوداگاه برای فرد گشوده می شودنظریه ارتباط بهشت و دوزخ توضیف شده در ادیان ابراهیمی و رویاهای حاصل از مسکالین جالب و درخور توجه است. در ادیان ابراهیمی، به وجود سنگ های قیمتی، طلا و جواهرات در بهشت اشارات زیادی شده است.به عنوان مثال توصیف اورشلیم آسمانی در مکاشفه یوحنا بدین صورت است:آنگاه مرا در روح، به كوهي بزرگ بلند برد و شهر مقدس اورشليم را به من نمود كه از آسمان از جانب خدا نازل مي شود و جلال خدا را دارد و نورش مانند جواهر گرانبها، چون يشم بلورين. بناي ديوار آن از يشم بود و شهر از زر خالص چون شيشه مصفي بود و بنياد ديوار شهر به هر نوع جواهر گرانبها مزين بود كه بنياد اول، يشم و دوم، ياقوت كبود و سوم، عقيق سفيد و چهارم، زمرد و پنجم ، جزع عقيقي و ششم، عقيق و هفتم، زبرجد و هشتم، زمرد سِلقي و نهم، طوپاز و دهم، عقيق اخضر و يازدهم، آسمانجوني و دوازدهم، ياقوت بود. و دوازده دروازه، دوازده مرواريد بود، هر دروازه از يک مرواريد و شارع عام شهر، از زر خالص چون شيشه شفاف. و در آن هيچ قدس نديدم زيرا خداوند خداي قادر مطلق و بره قدس آن است و شهر احتياج ندارد كه آفتاب يا ماه آن را روشنايي دهد زيرا كه جلال خدا آن را منور مي سازد و چراغش بره است و امت ها در نورش سالک خواهند بود و پادشاهان جهان، جلال و اكرام خود را به آن خواهند درآورد در بهشت توصیف شده توسط هاکسلی نیز همه چیز بشدت درخشان اند و رنگ ها شفافیت زیادی دارند. اما چرا باید برای توصیف سرزمینی که پول در آن معنایی ندارد، از این سنگ های گرانبها و نایاب استفاده کرد؟ علت های زیادی برای این موضوع وجود دارد، اما هاکسلی مشخصا به این اشاره می کند که علت، جادوی نور و شفافیت جادویی رنگ و تاثیری است که انسان در رویابینی از ناخوداگاه خویش می گیرددرباره مسکالین کاکتوس سن پدرو یا پیوت ، گیاهی خودرو در نواحی بیابانی و کوهستانی آمریکای جنوبی است که خواص روانگردانی دارد. مصرف آن به سه هزار و ششصد سال قبل از میلاد مسیح باز می گردد. بومیان آمریکای جنوبی و سرخپوست ها برای مصارف درمانی و یا آیین های مذهبی و پیشگویی از پیوت به صورت تدخینی و خوراکی(معجون) استفاده می کردند. قوانین قضایی در ارتباط با پیوت در کشورهای مختلف متفاوت است،اما بر اساس طبقه بندی سازمان مبارزه با موادمخدر آمریکا، مسکالین جز مواد مخدر روانگردان کلاس یک (مواد مخدری که در حال حاضر استفاده ی پزشکی نداشته، قابلیت سومصرف زیادی داشته و پتانسیل ایجاد وابستگی شدید روانی یا جسمی دارند) قرار دارددوز کشنده ی مسکالین (ال دی پنجاه) 315 میلی گرم بر کیلوگرم وزن است. هرچند گزارش مرگ مستقیم در اثر سومصرف این روانگردان تا کنون نادر استتجربه ی شخصی منهاکسلی با مسکالین، بهشت رویایی خویش را تجربه کرد. اما همانگونه که هاکسلی هم هشدار داده، بخشی از مصرف کنندگان مسکالین، به جای بهشت، وارد شاهراه شیزوفرن دوزخی می شوند.وی در این باره می گوید شیزوفرن، بهشت خود را در کنار برزخ و دوزخ هایش دارد. بیشتر مصرف کنندگان مسکالین تنها بخش آسمانی شیزوفرن را تجربه می کنند. دارو برزخ و دوزخ را فقط برای کسانی که اخیرا مواردی از کج بینی داشته یا دچار افسردگی و اضطراب مزمن بوده اند به همراه می آورد. بنابراین اگر در راه غلط قدم برداری، تمام وقایعی که رخ می دهد، مدرکی از توطئه علیه تو خواهد بود. اگر به سمت پایین جاده دوزخی عازم شوی، هرگز نمی توانی توقف کنیدر یک رویای دوزخی، رویابین با نوری بدون سایه که تهدید آمیز است روبرو شده، سپس وحشت لایتناهی فرا می رسد. مکانیسم هستی بی رحمانه آشکار می شود و تنها چیزی را که به یاد می آورد، گناهان، دردها و تنهایی کیهانی است. جهان تغییر شکل می دهد، اما به بدترین وضعیت ممکن. هرچیز درون آن از ستارگان تا گرد و خاک زیر پایشان به طور غیرقابل توصیفی شوم و منزجز کننده است. هر سوژه ای حضور یک وحشت ساکن بی نهایت قدرتمند ابدی را معنی می کند تجربه من هم سفری دوزخی بود. دروازه ای که از آن عبور کردم، مطمئنا دروازه بهشت نبود. چیز زیادی از آن چند ساعت را به خاطر نمی آورم. طی چند هفته بعد از مصرف، به صورت آنی چیزهایی از آن شب به خاطرم آمد که همه را مکتوب کردم. این نوشته ها گسسته اند، مانند رویای شان. جزئیات بیشتری به خاطر نمی آورمافزایش ضربان قلب (168) و فشار خون ( فشار دیاستولی 11، فشار سیستولی 19)، احساس گرگرفتگی، سبکی سر، اختلال دید، گیجی و تهوع (در اثر مشکلات ریوی پیشین) چند دقیقه بعد از مصرف. به تصور خودم،مصرف مسکالین در دقایق ابتدایی تاثیری بر من نداشت. پرسید خوبی؟ متوجه شدم قادر به تکلم نیستم. به صورت بریده بریده بعد از تلاشی نسبتا طولانی به زبانی بیگانه توانستم بگویم خوبمشروع شد. قلب بیرون از سینه می تپد. در تاریکی شب ، درخشش و شفافیتی عجیب. برگ های درختان در نور چراغ ،ابعاد را نمی بینم، لمس می کنم.سگ به نزدیکم آمد، مرا بویید و رفت. زن قرمز پوش وحشت زده فرار کرد.گم می شوم، بی هدف به راه می افتم، رفتن، بدون تصمیم گیری. ناخوداگاهم کنترل را بدست گرفته. می خواهد مجازاتم کند؟ درهای جهنم را برایشان باز کرده امترسی الیم، بدون علت. به عمق وجودم رخنه کرده و به هرچیزی که می نگرم سرایت می کد. شخص رداپوشی در تعقیبم است. نه اینکه صرفا حس باشد، از تمام جنبه ها عین واقعیت است. از گوشه چشم می بینم، صدای کشیده شدن کفش هایش روی زمین را می شنوم. به محض اینکه برمی گردم و عقب را نگاه می کنم، ناپدید می شود. دچار بی مکانی و بی زمانی شده ام. ناگهان در آبادان م، زیر نور مشعل های پالایشگاه. دو دقیقه گذشت، ساعت را نگاه می کنم، عقربه های ساعت نشان می دهند که حدودا دو ساعت گذشته است. با سردرگمی تمام چند بار مسیری طولانی را می روم و بازمی گردمآدم ها را می بینم، صورت ها مثل نقاب، زیر نقاب ها تنها تاریکی. با مردی روبرو می شوم که دهانش لب ندارد. اسکلتی که رویش پوست کشیده اند. صورتک با دهانی بدون لب به طور وحشتناکی خندان به من خیره شده. سعی می کنم از نگاهش فرار کنم، اما راهی نیست. خودم را پشت یکی از عابرین پنهان می کنم و دور می شوم. دندان ها از شدن سرما به هم می خورد. بدنم زیر فشار قرار دارد. توصیف دقیقی از جهنم، فشار دندان بر دندان. می فهمم که سرما نیست که بدن را می لرزاند، خودم هستم. لرزش متوقف می شود و حس سرما و فشار می روداکنون با شروع این قطعه موسیقی ، وارد سطح بالاتری از آگاهی می شوم. ترس می رود و جایش را سکون و حزن می گیرد.دیگر من نیستم، فاعل نیستم، تنها یک نظاره گرم. ابدیت بر من مکشوف می شود. تنهایی مان را می بینم، زمینی سترون، وسیع و تاریک.سایه است یا گودال؟نمی توانم تشخصی دهم. اندوه و غم را می بینم (تداخل احساسات و ادراک) . از لای درزها به بیرون می خزند. غم رنگ دارد، نارنجی و سرخ و بنفش. هیچ را می بینم،یک نقطه است، سطح می شود و حالا دارد حجم پیدا می کند.ای هیچ عظیم! بر من ترحم فرما! تطهیرم کن! باید گریست.پر از هیچ، اینچنین. تمام ناراحتی های دنیا را می بینم، هرچه می بینم، هرچه که می شناسیم، حقیقت اندوه، یک کوه یخ است. قسمت بزرگترش آن زیر پنهان شده و هنوز با آن روبرو نشده ایم. دست آویزی نیست، امیدی نیست، رهایی ممکن نیستبه کالبد دیگری می خزم. خودم را با نگاهی جدید می بینم. از چشم هایش می بینم و از دهانش حرف می زنم.از درون او بی رحمانه به خودم حمله می کنم. حیوانی حقیر و به دام افتاده. ظهور این خویشتن مهلک من! رحم نمی کنم، تازیانه کلمات یکی پس از دیگری. تمام منظومه ی شخصیتی ام فرو می ریزد. به گریه می افتم. تنها می مانم و به تابلویی که می چرخد نگاه می کنم. کز می کنم درون خودبه هرچه که نگاه می کنم، قبل از اینکه تصمیم به فکر کردن بگیرم، طوفان ذهنی شروع می شود. ابدیت هرچیزی در همان چیز است،در همان لحظه، همان آن.می بینمشخودم را می بینم، با قامتی راست. موهایم به سرعت سفید می شود. پیر می شوم. نزدیک تر می روم، این پیر شدن نیست، این سفید شدن مو نیست، دارم از سر می سوزم. تبدیل به یک کبریت بزرگ می شوم، سرم شعله گرفته و دارد به پایین سرایت می کند، خمیده و چروک می شوم، خاکستری رنگ. شعله خاموش می شود. ضربه ای وارد می شود و تبدیل به توده ای خاکستر می شوم.ستونی از نمکدختری از ماشین پیاده می شود. بندهای کفشش را روی جوراب و قسمتی از پایش گره زده. ترکیب جوراب و بند کفش روی پوست سفیدش تبدیل به یک پنجره می شود. از پنجره به درون نگاه می کنم.پنجره ای به درون زندگی دختر. تمام زندگی دختر را می بینم، شادی و ناراحتی اش، لذت و درد اش، تمام زندگی اش در کسری از ثانیه از جلوی چشم هایم می گذرداو را می بینم. کوتاه. یک تلائلو. رایحه ی عطری گرم و غریب. دستش را می گیرم، محو می شود.عمیق ترین رویاهای این خویشتن بی خرد. پروازی بی بال از این من درون.اکنون سرزمینم ناپدید گشته و زندگی آزاد شده است

  • Sam Quixote
    2018-11-21 11:21

    Have you ever had to be the designated driver while your buddies got wasted? Watching them laugh at nothing and behave like asses while you’re (unfortunately) stone cold sober is a pretty miserable experience as your mind hasn’t been altered by chemicals. Reading “The Doors of Perception” is like this - Aldous Huxley does mescaline and then describes it extensively to the bored reader who is probably not on mescaline. And it’s not nearly as fascinating as Huxley believes it to be - because we’re probably not on mescaline (I know I wasn’t when reading this crap). “The Doors of Perception” is a 50 page essay and it’s sequel, “Heaven and Hell”, a 33 page essay, read like far longer works because they’re so unreadable. The point of the essays is that Huxley believes there is more to human nature than the base level of survival and that it’s because of how our species has developed that has made us forget ways in which we can perceive things beyond the ordinary. He wants to allow people to experience mescaline in order to see things he believes are there but beyond our reach without the help of hallucinogenics. And here’s the big problem I have with this view - it’s that assuming that what you experience while high is worth more and is more real than what you experience everyday. I mean, what you’re experiencing is simulated with the aid of chemicals - why would it be more “real” than reality? A problem endemic to this book is that Huxley is talking about experiences that are purely visceral and “beyond man-made constructs” such as language and are therefore indescribable - yet he’s trying to describe them with language. Which is why you get drivel like this: “I spent several minutes - or was it several centuries? - not merely gazing at those bamboo legs, but actually being them - or rather being myself in them; or, to be still more accurate (for “I” was not involved in the case, nor in a certain sense were “they”) being my Not-self in the Not-self which was the chair.” p.10“Confronted by a chair which looked like the Last Judgement - or, to be more accurate, by a Last Judgement which, after a long time and with considerable difficulty, I recognized as a chair - I found myself all at once on the brink of panic.” p.33Good lord, this crap goes on and on for nearly a 100 pages and it doesn’t help that he’s not a very good writer to start with. His rambling style fused with a dry, almost academic, vernacular makes reading this book of insubstantial observations and half-formed ideas all the more insufferable. All he proves is that drugs make intelligent people sound like morons.He feebly attempts to make the argument that researchers and scientists don’t take “spiritual” experiences seriously because they can’t see it, measure it, rationalise it, in any scientific way. Duh. He bewails methods (eg. taking mescaline) that allegedly “make you more perceptive, more intensely aware of inward and outward reality, and more open to the spirit” which constitute the “non-verbal humanities” aren’t taken more seriously. Well, when you put it like that, Aldous...He attempts to rectify this by constantly referencing William Blake, Homer, and Goethe in an effort to make the essay appear academic and therefore substantial and worthy of consideration. It’s truly pretentious and pathetic in its ineffectiveness. This quote basically sums up the essays:“Those folds in the trousers - what a labyrinth of endlessly significant complexity! And the texture of the grey flannel - how rich, how deeply, mysteriously sumptuous!” p.16Wooaaaah, Aldous got fucked up on mescaline!

  • Frona
    2018-12-11 10:35

    Based on his own experience with mescalin, Huxley informs us about the true nature of reality, that is, the sheer scope of it. He doesn't stop at great works of art, shizophrenia or religion, but freely connects his intake of this drug to an ambitious bundle of themes in order to supplement them all and to prescribe some more of the same, or at least similar, medicine. Drugs and transcendence/life in general had always have much in common, but his way of preaching is exactly like what his drug encounter warns him against.The description of his adventure would be much more revealing, if it hadn't elevate into a lecture about two ancient categories of being, one experienced through our everyday life, where language represents a barrier between us and the world, and the other one of true essence that can be reached only through some transcendental activity such as taking drugs. Although his expedition to the sphere of pure perception shows him the limitations of words and all of our classifications, it seems he identifies his trip with as many concepts and theories as he possibly can. He makes a paradigm of pure being out of it, which selfless as it is, is based on one sole experiment of his humble self. Little is left of this experiment but widespread doctrines, which just fit too neatly. I wonder how much previous knowledge affected his experience or how much posterior interpretations transversed it and I got the feeling he didn't quite catch its uniqness, or as he would said, suchness.Or perhaps it was just his forceful implications I have troubles with. When he doesn't generalize, he does his best; his charachterisation of draperies in the baroque paintings is just beautiful.

  • Sumati
    2018-12-12 16:15

    'There are things known and there are things unknownand in between are the doors'; The Doors of Perception. Why should you read it? 1. If you want to question the mind. 2. If you want an insight into psychedelics. (i.e. if you haven't already tried any form of hallucinogens yet)3. If you want to know about the 'unknown' and its difference with the 'known'.4. If you want to know what is the difference between a deranged ( schizophrenic) and a normal brain and what defines a brain, normal and labels a visionary, mad? 5. If you want to read the richness of the text used to describe the philosophical treatment of the mystical experience. 6. If you are a Morrison fan. 7. Lastly, If you want toBREAK ON THROUGH (TO THE OTHER SIDE); Please use theDOORS OF PERCEPTION

  • Dang Ole' Dan Can Dangle
    2018-12-02 12:32

    Going into this I had very high hopes, which were somewhat let down. A book about hallucinogenic drugs and altered mind-states written by author of famed science fiction novel Brave New World (which, as of writing, I have yet to read). Being that I have dabbled in the use of psychedelics and studied countless writings on hallucinogens and alteration of mind-states, a topic that greatly fascinates me, not to mention my love for sci-fi, I really expected more from this. I was deeply disappointed... mostly. Contained within the book are two parts: The Doors of Perception and Heaven & Hell, as the title informs. The Doors of Perception focuses on the author's experience with mescaline. I did not like it.It comes off as preachy and even pretentious. Pretentious being a word I don't use loosely, seeing as how I feel it is often misused/misinterpreted and wrongly attributed to some truly great artistic and intellectual people. There's not even much psychology in here, and even less science. The author just goes on about there being a correct way of seeing the world and a layman's way. The former only achieved by a special certain few, such as artists or those who achieve said "vision" through drug-use. It's all boring and, to simply put it, fairly stupid. Psychedelics, or drugs in general for that matter, do not unlock or expand parts of your mind. They merely allow you to look at things in a new, different way. They do not make you any smarter, save for the things learned through the experience of taking them. This is why many great musicians or artists are greatly, even directly, influenced by drugs, because with drugs they see things in a new light that many people never noticed before due to the routine of conventional thinking, which makes their art appear to be fresh and unique. Artistic even. The second part is basically the same. However, what makes this book worth reading is the forty or so pages at the end of Heaven and Hell, entitled "Appendices". I found these pages to be the best and most fascinating. The author talks about pattern inducing stroboscopic lamps (something I was not very knowledgeable on), potential affects hallucinations had on religions in the past, the affect technology has had on art, and schizophrenia, among other things. So yes, the appendices are better than the actual book. There wasn't really much in here that I wasn't already aware of, but even with the bulk of it being mediocre with the rest really shining, I can easily recommend this. Especially to those interested in altered mind-states or psychedelics, or even surrealism.

  • Toby
    2018-12-01 13:33

    Doors of Perception is a deeply interesting short essay by the famous author Aldous Huxley. In 1953 he was involved in a controlled experiment into the psychological effects of the drug mescalin. What he describes is less a mere hallucinatory experience and more an opening of his ability to percieve, and to see himself as part of the Oneness of the universe. He argues (quite correctly) that a massive part of the function of the brain is to selectively discard sensory input, keeping only what is important in the here and now and relates to our immediate survival ability. The effect of mescalin, as also felt through sensory deprivation, oxygen starvation, hypnosis, and other sources, is to bypass the "brain valve" and receive more of the "useless information". And it is through that that we can perceive ourselves as we truly are, part of the All.In Heaven and Hell, the follow up essay to Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley revisits the topic of visions in the context of the social and spiritual import of these experiences. Through the essay (which is a considerably tougher read than Doors of Perception) Huxley discusses the history of vision-creating stimulus and how as time has progressed we have become desensitised to a lot of the vision-inspiring beauty that was used to such great extent in the religions of the past.

  • Ammar
    2018-11-29 14:32

    This book consists of two essays by Aldous Huxley. Short philosophical essays. The main one is Huxley's description about his Mescaline trip and his reaction to various forms of pictures paintings while he is on Peyote. Interesting counterculture book that I can see the aspect of why it was a popular book in the 1960s.

  • Ian
    2018-11-30 10:28

    Teenage KicksI read this book in the early 70's in my early teenage years. The first thing about "The Doors of Perception" is that it was the source of the name of the band. The second is that it shaped the views of many people about drugs for 20 years.Aldous Huxley came from a scientific as well as a creative background. For me, it gave him some level of credibility when assessing the merits of psychedelic drugs. Basically, (I think) he argued that the psychedelic experience could open the doors of additional powers of perception, over and above the rational. I can't remember anything about Heaven and Hell, but in retrospect you could build an argument that drugs opened the door to Hell, just as much as anyone could have argued that they opened the door to Heaven.No matter what your views about drugs, you have to acknowledge that the drugs of that period are different to today.In those days, they were probably more natural, but more impure.Nowadays, they are industrial, concentrated, focussed, powerful, dangerous, unless it suits someone in the supply chain to introduce impurities, in which case they are even more dangerous.You can't afford to be romantic about some back to nature experience.Nowadays, you are wrestling with a whole other beast.

  • Erik Graff
    2018-11-23 17:29

    Towards the end of his life Aldous Huxley was introduced to psychedelics, still legal at that time. His analyses of the phenomenon are detailed in these two essays here combined in one volume. For further reading about his relationship to such drugs see, of course, the various biographies about Huxley, particularly Huxley in Hollywood, and his wife's collection of essays by and about him and these drugs entitled Moksha. For his use of his experiences in literature see his novel Island.Though dated, much of what Huxley surmises about the way psychedelics work still corresponds in a general way with contemporary theory and all of what he writes in describing the psychedelic experience is quite well done.Note that Huxley was legally blind throughout most of his life--a reason for his fascination with his pelucid inner vision?

  • Ned
    2018-11-29 14:34

    My first from Huxley and I imagine he represents the best of what a liberal education used to teach, a broad and deep knowledge of the humanities, art and psychology. His knowledge and visceral love of art is astonishing and made me long for all the greatness I never have known. Consequently I learned a great deal. His main thesis is that the our consciousness is absolutely stifled by the narrow window through which we learn, created by our educational system and the reductionist thinking of modern science. To get beyond this narrowness (the portal), he studied the ancient practices of native Americans (and others) of using hallucinogens. Huxley details his experiences after consuming peyote, and comes up with rather startling observations, primarily through the enhancement of “seeing” without preconceptions (or abstract reasoning, as we normally comprehend visual perceptions, constricted by words and ideas). He experiences people and man-made objects suddenly as ludicrous and grossly insensitive creations that pale compared to the “true” essence of matter, objects, animals and the world. Fascinating stuff. A hero for Huxley is William Blake, one of the few who naturally achieve this, almost as religiously inspired. Theology, and the conception of god is enhanced, and he comments on the purity of ascetics and mystics, who achieve “chemically induced” perception through practice and various physiological techniques to obliterate comfort and conformity. This is one of those books that I found largely happenstance: (1) I’ve always liked the band (The Doors) who took their name from this book; (2) it was staring me down in an airport; (3) I was aware of “Brave New World”, his most popular book; and (4) a general interest in hallucinogens and how I might personally achieve transcendence.The writing was uneven, repetitive, even rambling. But the genius shines through and the educational aspect was immense. A truly “enlightening” experience, I recommend this. He’s written broadly on many topics, and I know little about the man. It is not even clear his country or nationality, so I’ll be looking into that as well.

  • Lostaccount
    2018-11-25 11:36

    Aldous Huxley munches on some Mescaline (four tenths of a gram, means nothing to me as a clean living soul) as a guinea pig, experimenting for a friend. He expects some kind of visionary experience, a la Blake, but as he admits, he is a “poor visualiser” and experiences less than the visions described and painted by artists, because gifted artists, according to him, have a “little pipeline to the Mind At Large which by-passes the brain valve and the ego-filter”. Unlike gifted artists, “by an effort of will I can evoke a not very vivid image” says Huxley. What he sees are some golden lights, the intricacies of design in nature, trips out on the “Allness” and Infinity of folded cloth in his trousers (haha), is struck by lively dissonance of colours, experiences the “is-ness” of things, the Istigkeit, the “infinite value and meaningfulness of existence”, things quivering under the pressure of the significance with which they are charged, sees simple things charged with meaning and mystery of existence etc. etc., and comes to conclusion that brain is eliminative, not productive, filtering out what we don’t need in order to survive, protecting us from being overwhelmed and confused, or going insane, since we know all, remember all, about everything, everywhere in the universe. This is the finite mind, the “Mind at large".Huxley discusses the idea that we all crave the release from Reality ("the urge to transcend is a principal appetite of the soul"), through some kind of soma/drug, to reach these (what he calls) “antipodes” of the mind, the universal and ever-present urge for self-transcendence, (Wells) the door in the wall, the need for (chemical) vacations from intolerable selfhood. He later discusses how we achieve this through religious ceremony, drug taking, etc. In second part he discusses in more detail these antipodes of the mind, claiming that we dream in black and white, which is not true (may be true for Huxley, the “poor visualiser”), and the scintillating things we create to bring us the visionary experience, like vivid paintings, fireworks, lights, even theatre lights and costume jewellery (bit of a stretch!), and the resplendence of royal ceremonial dress (another bit of a stretch!), etc. etc. things which give us a reminder of those things we see in that “other world”, “whatever in nature or a work of art resembles one of those intensely significant inwardly flowing objects encountered at the mind’s antipodes is capable of inducing if only in partial attenuated form, the visionary experience”. He uses this to explain our “inexplicable passion” for gems, shiny objects, jewellery, vivid colours in painting, stained glass windows, glass, chrome, “the beauty of curved reflections and softly lustrous glazes” etc., things that transport the beholder, as a reminder of preternatural colours and intensity of the "other world".He bangs on about this for page after page, but where the book gets good is where he starts discussing the numinous quality of certain works of art, like landscape painting as a vision inducing art form, the distances and propinquity in same, things isolated from their utilitarian context, medieval art, renaissance art, things seen and rendered as living jewels, things of visionary intensity, transfigured and therefore transporting.Later he discusses schizophrenics as negative visionaries – “for a healthy person perception of the infinite in a finite particular is a revelation of divine immanence”, not so for the mentally ill. They are transfigured by their visions, but for the worse. He also discusses religious punishments, self-flagellation, hypnosis, fasting, vitamin deficiencies, Mortification of the body etc., as a means of reaching those antipodes of the mind by increasing the CO2 to lower efficiency of the brain as a reducing valve and permit the entry into that “other world”, to experience the visionary or mystical from “out there”, also including things like prolonged shouting, praying, chanting, etc. to experience the “intense significance of things that give us God’s immanence”, because, in a nutshell, the brain is “chemically controlled and therefore can be made permeable to the superfluous aspects of mind at large by modifying the normal chemistry of the body”.An important little book that warrants re-reading.

  • Faye
    2018-11-27 15:36

    This book contained two essays Huxley wrote about the experience of taking Mescalin (LSD) and his journey to understand his inner self. I only read the first essay The Doors of Perception and to be honest I found it to be pretty boring. Huxley talks about watching flowers in a vase for hours, or studying old paintings in a new light. He does however make a few interesting concluding remarks, including my favourite quote from the essay: "Systematic reasoning is something we could not, as a species or as individuals, possibly do without. But neither, if we are to remain sane, can we possibly do without direct perception, the more unsystematic the better, of the inner and outer worlds into which we have all been born." (pg 49)Overall rating: 2.5/5 stars (rounded up to 3/5 stars)

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    2018-11-17 18:31

    The Doors of Perception & Heaven and Hell, Aldous Huxley عنوان: درهای ادراک بهشت و دوزخ؛ نویسنده: آلدوس هاکسلی؛ پیشگفتار: جی.جی. بالارد؛ مترجم: مهناز دقیق نیا؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، میر کسری، 1381، در 128 ص، شابک: ایکس - 964744902؛ عنوان دیگر: بهشت و دوزخ؛ موضوع: داروهای توهمزا، مسکالین، رویت

  • Adam
    2018-11-26 12:23

    I liked this much more when I read it a few years ago. But I am a different person now, though not different enough to not still think Huxley's writing w/r/t the infamous Chair is, alone, worth the price of admission. The truth is that this essay is neither *woah mindblowing maan* nor stupid drug-addled drivel. Both positions reflect, I think, biases brought to the reading of the essays. The latter species of reactionary dismisses without much consideration the possibility that certain chemical substances might be useful and even important (one reviewer here compares the experience of reading Huxley's sober account of his experience with mescaline to the experience of being sober in a car full of drunks. One small problem: mescaline is not alcohol. Another problem with this general account of things, which usually makes the "lol he's chemically altered he's lost touch with reality" appeal, is that it fails to take account of how we are all a bundle of chemicals constantly being altered by our experience of the world, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the exercise we get or don't, etc. etc., and that the experiences possible through drugs are often possible without drugs and that individuals can experience reality in very, very different ways without being insane and without losing touch of some common ground on which to communicate... [I mean, as a depressive who until a couple of years ago spent much of his life mired in deep, dark, anhedonic unipolar MDD, I can assure you that the depressed person's experience of reality is absolutely and unequivocally not the not-depressed person's experience of reality]). The former species of reactionary probably read on some website that members of the Native American Church take peyote, and somehow believes it logical to transition from that assertion to the conclusion that mescaline has some inherent profundity. This type of person reads The Doors of Perception and goes: "right on, man." Probably. Huxley's actually not representative of either of these species, which unfortunately tend to dominate the discussion on synthetic, semi-synthetic, or naturally occurring substances in relation to the human brain. The reason why Huxley is not a member of the *woah maan* club is that he is primarily writing about potentialities and not about certainties. That's not to say he doesn't get a lot wrong and that there aren't problems with his argument in these essays. I would not present Huxley to anyone as a particularly good philosopher. I should also note that my present reading of Huxley's position probably has to do with my just having read his The Perennial Philosophy, which outlines his position on mysticism. Huxley has a point and he has a case. Sharp prose and a dry sense of humour give the essays a bit of an edge over most things of this kind, and Huxley's Oxford education and mid-20th-century-Englishmanness make the thing quite dramatically unlike most similar things in the drug-lit canon. Most similar? Maybe DeQuincey, except DeQuincey's just way more interesting [despite writing on a seemingly less interesting drug] and has a much more sophisticated account of what constitutes (at least) reality-for-the-individual attained through sensory and perceptive and cognitive faculties. His position on altered states of consciousness also appears to be quite different than Huxley's. But that is something not to be commented on at just this moment.

  • Sara Zovko
    2018-12-11 11:14

    Huxley je svijet za sebe, a njegovo poimanje svijeta i života jedinstveno je.

  • kaelan
    2018-12-08 11:23

    If hallucinogens have any utility, then at least some of it surely stems from their capacity to shake up our belief systems, to present reality in a strange, new way—in short, to unlock the doors of our perception. Yet if this is so, why do so many hallucinogenically-minded writers (see: Huxley, Castaneda, et. al.) attempt to force the psychedelic experience through the narrow categories of "truth" and "certainty"?The Doors of Perception is admittedly one of the better works in the drug-lit canon. But even still, Huxley often falls back on the familiar "two worlds" trope. As he explains it, psychotropic vehicles like mescalin and LSD grant us access to "the other world," they transport us to "the antipodes of the mind." And just like the ordinary world in which we typically spend our days, this drug-induced realm comes complete with its own set of intrinsic principles, along with its own standard of "truth."Hence, Huxley writes:Every mescalin experience, every vision arising under hypnosis, is unique; but all recognizably belong to the same species. The landscapes, the architectures, the clustering gems, the brilliant and intricate patterns—these, in their atmosphere of preternatural light, preternatural color and preternatural significance, are the stuff of which the mind's antipodes are made.This isn't problematic in itself. But Huxley also takes an almost Platonic stance regarding the ordinary and alternate worlds, with the first construed as a muted, pragmatic shadow of the second. As a result, he is led (in one lengthy section) to condemn all art as essentially a failure. Paul Cézanne, William Blake, Alban Berg—despite the awesome talent of these artists, they necessarily fall short of expressing the mystic sheen of pure being, the all-encompassing "is-ness" of "the Mind at Large."If you think about it hard enough, reality turns out to be a pretty weird thing. And as Huxley (successfully) argues, hallucinogenics offer us one way of unlocking its inherent strangeness. In one especially sage passage, he notes that the most profound effects of mescaline were (for him) objective in nature:The other world to which mescalin admitted me was not the world of visions; it existed out there, in what I could see with my eyes open. The great change was in the realm of objective fact. What had happened to my subjective universe was relatively unimportant.Yet when presented with conflicting views of reality, we can respond in one of two ways. First, we can accept that both—or neither—has a claim to "the truth." This is the way of agnosticism. Or second, we could believe that the strange, new one supersedes the old. Such is the way of dogma. For all his insight and erudition, Huxley takes the second path.

  • Hadrian
    2018-11-24 12:37

    Huxley's eloquent little essay is the precursor to the modern position on drug use - resentment that tobacco and alcohol, which are plainly harmful, are legal, and yet other illegal drugs, which are ambiguous, are not. Such drugs, as unknown as they are to those in policy, need more scientific analysis. Huxley's own personal experience, his own data point is well-written, but we need more. In his case, he uses mescaline, derived from peyote, used in Native American religious rituals to this day, despite legal threats of action.Let drugs be tested and used responsibly, of course it is a fair sentiment. I see no reason why not. Let's just make sure we're not putting something too physically dangerous in people's hands here. I would not, if placed in a hypothetically policy position, knowingly legalize PCP or 'bath salts', etc. Let's do the research, and not go off of outdated studies. in point for what should be done. I trust the folks at JHU to do good medicine. For psilocybin, 72% had positive/mystical symptoms, 39% had heightened fear and anxiety. Not totally harmless stuff, but not pure evil as policy makes it out to be. Not all drugs are made equal, nor are all hallucinogens created evil. The further link between creativity, transcendence, and madness.The second essay, Heaven and Hell, refers to the means by which people attempt to escape the drudgery of daily existence and through mystical experiences attempt to reach a transcended state. May have been caused by lack of nutrition, contributed to 'visions', which may yet have been hallucinations. Can be simulated under modern conditions through, you guessed it, hallucinogens. An interesting book, although the ideas in the first part have become so disseminated in modern positions (at least to me!) that it only is his own experience which is still worth reading. The second part is also quite interesting, detailing the physiological basis of religious experiences.

  • Kristiana
    2018-11-29 10:38

    Woah. First time reading anything like this.It makes a lot of sense for the most part,although the part where he says we likeshiny things because they take us to ''The Other World'' is a bit ''meh, no.'' it most certainlymakes you see the whole thing from a verydifferent angle. It also made me want to try psychedelics even more and Mescalin is now on my Drugs-To-Take list. I will have to re-readit though.

  • Johnny
    2018-11-29 10:33

    i give doors of perception 3 stars, and heaven and hell 1. overall, there was just not much interesting material in these books. i found two ideas in "the doors" that were interesting to me.first, the idea that the primary function of the brain is as a filter, to reduce the massive amount of incoming information that comes into a smaller set that is useful for survival and propagation. in itself, this is not much, but the implications as to what that unfiltered set looks like, is. this does not mean that the data coming in from the five senses is filtered down. it means that the five senses also serve as part of the filtering mechanism, and the original source is the universe itself. this is quite agreeable to me - the bottom-up approach to consciousness taken by most western scientists is full of holes. (in western metaphysics, there seem to be two major categories of theories on this - the first agrees with that of western scientists, and the second posits a dualism, where the soul is somehow more-or-less completely separate from the physical body, but still informs conscious process. this position is, in my opinion, even more untenable than the materialist one - it is directly evident from our experience of the universe that everything is connected, and the idea of two separate but somehow-interacting universes is silly.)the second thing that turned me on in "the doors" was his description of tripping not as a vivid hallucinogenic experience, but as an exposure the the raw, true, nature of reality - that essentially, our survival filters fail to function. this is the most sympathetic description of tripping that i have ever heard - it matches my experience to a tee. most people who describe tripping either talk about wild hallucinogenic, or imagined, experiences, which never really happened to me at all, or they talk about the experience of one-ness with the universe in terms that are more or less opaque and seemingly ingenuine. bill hicks is a prime exception here, but his trippping story basically boils down to a single run-on sentence that he used to close his shows.both of these texts extremely annoyingly lacking in any visible structure - just one paragraph after the other, with no exposition of a thesis or anything like that. as if the thoughts that were running through this guys mind were enough, as is, to spark great insight into his readers. sorry aldous, just not there. "the doors" goes on for 70 pages without section or subsection, without a single "***" or "*****" between two paragraphs, and exactly one instance of a single blank line between two paragraphs. just awful! heaven and hell is more or less the same.maybe i should be more interested in art, but both these texts read more as poor art criticism than anything else.the idea that psychedelics function by cutting off oxygen to the brain seems incredibly silly and quaint here in 2007. the psychedelic experience is *not* on the order of sniffing glue or hyperventilating until we pass out. there is obviously something more going on here.anything else? i flipped through most of the pages in heaven and hell. actually reading it would have been a big waste of my time.

  • Phoenix_ Phoenix_
    2018-11-21 11:19

    A terrific book about perceiving things as they actually are: Kant's noumena, the thing in itself. The book is a fascinating treatise on raw perception, on an experience of seeing things in real time. The question is, can we handle understanding what is happening around us all at once in its entirety? Huxley compared the taking of the drug mescaline to the experience of schizophrenia: whereas the drug fades and you are no longer bombarded with perceiving all of existence, the schizophrenic perceives all existence indefinitely. This comparison sheds an interesting light on mental illness and its strengths. I appreciate this book a lot, and must ultimately agree with its conclusion that systematic thinking will ultimately miss the mark and flounder to explain the things that are most important, the things that give our life the most meaning.

  • Yasemin Şahin
    2018-12-10 18:34

    Algının düşsel/düşünsel doğasını canlandıran meskalin deneyi ve sonuçları. Cennet ve cehennem bildiğimiz tanımlarından çok uzaktalar aslında.

  • Andrei Tamaş
    2018-11-26 17:14

    Un studiu asupra consumului de mescalină. Lucrare care are mai degrabă un caracter științific decât beletristic.

  • Ashish
    2018-11-24 15:18

    I am a big fan of Huxley, and "Brave New World" (along with the follow-up "Brave New World Revisited") is one of my favourite books in the dystopian genre and overall too. Among his lesser known works are his non-fiction writings where he explores the mind. I came across this book when I read that the world-renowned band "The Doors" named themselves as a homage to this book by Huxley. The description seemed interesting enough for me to give it a shot and it was a good experience.A believer in the use of mind-altering chemicals (colloquially called "drugs") as a means to widen the mind (not literally), Huxley argues that the only way for the human mind to achieve its true potential is by seeing things above and beyond what we normally perceive. The book follows what he goes through after he experiments with a dose of mescaline, a stimulant that is well-known and has been widely-used since a very long by the Native Americans who extract it from a cactus. In doing so, he touches upon a number of topics: religion, mysticism and history as he tries to decode how the human mind acts while "tripping". He used the brain on mescaline to describe spiritualism and epiphany, to explain trance and the religious high as he bats for the use of such products as a way for humans to think beyond the preconceived notions of ideas and conduct, and approach life through the perspective of a person high. He argues towards the benefits and relative safety compared to alcohol and tobacco, the ability of it to affect human behaviour positively and delves into the approach that religions have towards the kind of feeling that it gives. I usually do not care much for the spiritual and mystical, but the approach of the book is interesting. A lot of arguments are what marijuana legalization activists give for its more open and free use. Since the book is quite dated, some of the science seems speculative and has been improved upon. However, it doesn't take away from what was radical thought and forward thinking for his time. All the arguments that the author pushes are geared towards the benefits of humanity and the improvement of the human race via the use of wider thought and open dialogue, something that we definitely could use in the present times.

  • Ci
    2018-12-12 18:34

    *** Re-read September 2016 Audio version, less structured notes. How to experience the "other", the lives of others such as great artists and writers? Interestingly, Huxley did not have a visualization talent. Is that mental world "a poor thing"? With Mescalin, he was able to see the "being" -- the is-ness -- of flowers and things around him. **** Notes from July 2014This book contains Doors of Perception, which is by far the most important and best-written one among this slim collection. Heaven and Hell is a derivative work, largely a rumination. Doors of Perception deserves its place in thought-provoking literature by its sheer merit of writing quality. Science has advanced since his time, and much of his enthusiasm for conscious-altering drugs have darkened by experiential data, yet this book holds its own value in terms of understanding art, spirituality and religion.A few notes on this book:(1) Human being “embodied spirit” versus simply animated automatons which implies “by its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude.” The hard shell of “self” encrusts us to a mind with particular furnishing and setup, hence it is impossible to experience Other Minds even if we hypothesized wildly about ‘the theory of mind’. At best, just guess-work; at worst, we suffer uncommunicable pain and isolation.(2) Huxley thinks that humans are equipped with various degree of “Mind at Large”, ability to see the universal outside of self. Yet, because of survival needs, our mind has developed a filtering system to ignore data and “sensum” (sensed datum) that have no direct impact to our survival or other utilitarian purposes. What is being trimmed away is our cognition of the universal. Hence drugs such as mescalin reduces the efficiency of the filtering process (also reducing ego) by showing us the “doors of perception”.(3) Huxley clearly did not think such drugs (here is mescalin and LSD variety) have changed the universal “datum” or “sensum” but simply making the perception available through meddling with the brain’s physiological function. Lowering the surveillance, so to speak. But this assertion has been changed strongly in later science.(4) Huxley’s own experience under mescalin is masterfully described. His experience is a “good trip”, invoking generation of readers with a sense of wonder and envy.(5) The altered consciousness in sensing a grander universal is often in tandem with an indifference to Self and Other-self, hence in Huxley’s experience, there is a marked lack of interest in other human. The author has appropriately voiced concerns about such state for its apparent lack of motivation and will in engaging with human society.(6) The over-arching conclusion of this experiment leads to one’s understanding of transcending art forms, religious practices (language and symbol versus direct transporting experiences), other Doors on the Wall such as alcohol to escape the isolation in Self and banality of daily life, and even social policies in terms of legitimate substance usage. Heaven and Hell picks up one particular strand of the mescalin trip to discuss what may account for a beatific transcending vision versus horrifying hellish nightmare. Huxley believes that one’s current spirituality would determine whether the “trip” would be a good or bad one. He said: “The nature of the mind is such that the sinner who repents and makes an act of faith in a higher power is more likely to have a blissful visionary experience than is the self-satisfied pillar of society with his righteous indignations, his anxiety about possessions and pretensions, his ingrained habits of blaming, despising and condemning. Hence the enormous importance attached, in all the great religious traditions, to the state of mind at the moment of death.” Huxley here sounded exactly like a grim-faced preacher of the severer school of religious faith. But Huxley did not entirely get bogged down in his high-flung religiosity. Here is a good paragraph to summarize his work in this book:“We love ourselves to the point of idolatry; but we also intensely dislike ourselves—we find ourselves unutterably boring. Correlated with this distaste for the idolatrously worshiped self, there is in all of us a desire, sometimes latent, sometimes conscious and passionately expressed, to escape from the prison of our individuality, an urge to self-transcendence. It is to this urge that we owe mystical theology, spiritual exercises and yoga—to this, too, that we owe alcoholism and drug addiction.”We can certainly add on TV-watching and mindless consumerism as more modern forms of escapism. *** Notes done July 2014

  • Matt
    2018-12-04 12:31

    So I decided that, starting with 2012, I'm going to try to focus on one "great mind" each year and read as much as I can by and about that person. There will probably also be various other goofy events like celebrating the person's birthday and planning mini-vacations around the person, but that is really up in the air at this point. ANYWAY, for 2012 I decided to focus on Aldous Huxley, the great mind behind Brave New World. Sadly, that is pretty much the only book most people (including me) have read by AH, so without delay I set off to read The DoP and H&H.First off, DoP gets totally misrepresented in contemporary society (especially contemporary college-aged stoner black-light posters on the wall and lack of deodorant society). Huxley was not a druggie, in the traditional sense. Huxley was a curious person. Keep in mind, this book was written well before LSD experiments, hippie counter-culture, the Grateful Dead, and Adult Swim on Cartoon Network. Huxley, being a student of philosophy and religion, wanted to see what the deal was with all the Native Americans in his region rocking out on peyote. So he did that. While it's not what we would tell our children to do, it is admirable in the sense that the dude saw a mountain to climb and he climbed the darn thing. But the essay isn't the glorification of drugs. Far from it. Huxley systematically goes through all of the chemical "distractors" in our society (alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine, etc.) and elaborates on why they do more harm than good. What he does note, however, is that our society gives its citizens no logical option BUT to desperately search for an escape. From this point, he describes how he feels that peyote is the nearest to the ideal vessel for this escape. H&H is a reflection on the DoP experience. In this text, Huxley goes into far more detail on how throughout time, people searched for transcendence. It could be through chanting and prayer (increased CO2 expulsion...who knew?) vivid colors in art, etc. Huxley says that as long as our society is in the business of keeping us in line, people will always search for an escape. He goes into this societal control more in BNW Revisted, by the way. All in all, these two essays serve as an interesting and thought-provoking journey into the curious mind of a great thinker. Is AH advocating that we all start freaking out on peyote? Not at all. Does he want his readers to start exploring the world they live in as active, rather than passive participants? Absolutely.

  • Jessie
    2018-12-05 18:34

    "The urge to escape from selfhood and the environment is in almost everyone almost all the time." Sad but somewhat undeniably true. There are so many forms of escape that people try to utilise in order to "cope" with their mundane lifestyles. I've never quite understood it myself, and I've never quite understood the need to turn to narcotics in order to feel satisfied. Even now, after having read Huxley's account of his time as a spontaneous Mescaline user, I feel no closer to understanding.It appears to me that the most that can come out of this experience is that you become an unexpected fabric connoisseur. Seriously, Huxley was obsessed with material, both in solid and imaginary form. Apparently taking Mescaline will turn the creases into your trousers the next best thing to meeting your favourite religious deity. Other then that, all colourful objects seem to shine with an inner light and everything turns into a connection to everything else. Actually, that was my favourite thing about his account, how he described the connectivity, the oneness with every object. It would be like experiencing the ultimate form of transcendence. A surreal form of universal clarity. That's all I gathered from The Doors of Perception, now on to Heaven and Hell............I got nothing. I kind of got sick of the long windedness after the first essay. Colours are our closest depiction of "the other world". There you go, that's what I remember. He just started waffling, so I just started skimming and then I'm sure the author and I had this weird, virtual, frustrated argument about whatever it was that he meant, then I was suddenly on the last page and I put it down. I feel slightly guilty, but I just couldn't push through. And don't get me wrong, there were some real gold mines of philosophical discussion in there which will make excellent talking points, just not with Huxley. Never with him. If he were to ever rise from his grave and choose me to talk through his experience, I would punch him in the shnozz.It is worth a read though, despite my griping. And if you can handle his style then you may be able to gain a much more invaluable insight then I did. I will read a few more of his essays, but I think I will forever appreciate his novels much more.

  • Pete daPixie
    2018-11-18 18:22

    Open the doors, step inside and float downstream. The philosophy of chemical nirvana through mescalin and LSD.

  • Tim Pendry
    2018-12-03 18:12

    Although much-lauded, especially by those looking for a literary advocate for the re-integration of altered states of consciousness into our society and culture (a cause I tend to support on principle), this book has not stood the test of time very well.This edition contains, in fact, two works – ‘The Doors of Perception’, an account of Huxley’s experience taking mescalin and ‘Heaven and Hell’, a somewhat rambling view of art from a somewhat self-appointed cultural Pontifex Maximus.‘Heaven and Hell’ betrays itself as something to be expected from a famous European belles-lettrist with a bee in his bonnet, most of which is opinionated nonsense.It is, nevertheless worth ploughing through (it is only forty pages) in order to reach and appreciate a curious set of ‘appendices’ on a variety of subjects that are genuinely informative and stimulating – albeit not really consciousness-changing.‘The Doors of Perception’ itself is only fifty pages long and it stands as an excellent and well written account of how an elite member of the British literary class responded to an experience otherwise undertaken by Amerindian shamans and peasants and academics.From that point of view, it is well worth reading although the responses are so embedded in the habits of Huxley’s class and expectations as to offer little insight other than that:-- a) the experience is enormously interesting and - b) there is cause to question the fear of it amongst our authoritarian bureaucrats (albeit with the caveat of caution as to its effects on the truly vulnerable).Where the account breaks down is in the lack of detachment. This is a man desperate to believe in something and it shows. The account in both texts is by a patrician who has already decided how he wishes to understand the plebeian and who is subliminally looking for a magical means of reasserting his cultural authority in a mosern age with which he self-evidently has little sympathy. His snobbery about the modern world and about ordinary folk is palpable. But let us step back because there are insights in the text even if the account demonstrates little of the validity of Huxley’s subsequent philosophical and spiritual claims about his experience.He also does rather go on a bit about art. Art is a 'thing' with the European intelligentsia but his comments, though interesting, do rather seem to appear like a set of non sequitors.If he wants to imply that European artists were as high as kites when they produced their great works, then the implication is daft. He experiences mescalin and then relates it to art but in a way that tells us a great deal about him (perhaps a taste for the magpie gaudy) but very little about art.He also tends to try and suggest that all meaningful experiences are ‘as one’. This is pure ideology, perhaps a forced assumption resulting from his naive ‘perennialism’. He asserts but does not demonstrate his points and thus by scattering his shot, he fails to make well the better single valid point that the common experience of taking drugs that alter mental states taps into very similar mental effects in all persons.He and others take this as meaning that there is some greater reality ‘out there’ but this is not logically necessary. It could (and probably does) equally mean that chemical processes trigger very similar perceptual and ordering processes and imageries in all or most persons.There is also a determined self-centredness in the account (which is reasonable enough as an account of the experience of taking mescalin) but not of its wider implications.There is a curious passage on dreaming in colour where you get the sense (I may be being unfair) that he rather resents not dreaming in colour (I do dream in colour and got bullied by a teacher for stating that fact once) and so must diminish it as having meaning.In this and in his comments on visualisation, you get the sense of his feeling disadvantaged, as if he was disabled, by being an intellectual. But Huxley is an intellectual even if he perhaps wants to be other than intellectual.Mescalin enables him to leap across to the category of spiritual on one bound. He wants to be a Platonist at a level that is more than intellectual – not merely to accept the existence of a world of forms as rational argument but to perceive them as ‘real’. Of course, the Platonic always was absurd except as belief but over two thousand years of Western cultural history have been in deep denial about this. Squaring Platonic reason and Platonic faith has been no less a task than squaring Christian revelation and reason itself.What Huxley, in his experience of mescalin, gets absolutely right is that the majority of the population, in their need to survive through maintaining social bonds, live in a constructed world of perception that is not necessarily ‘real’.Unfortunately, he assumes that the break-down of our tightly controlled perception of reality, that is required in order to survive in nature let alone in society, can, under the influence of drugs, result in access to a ‘true’ reality.The greater likelihood is that all we are seeing is the collapse of the controlling socialised and historically constructed reality in favour of contemplative stasis, not Reality but a new version of a reality because Reality is simply not available to us simply because of how we have evolved.The unreality of everyday reality does not require drugs or altered states of consciousness to expose it as such. Existentialist reasoning will take you to the same conclusion without needing you to adopt the illusion of seeing the universe in a grain of sand, lovely though such an experience might be.What Huxley is experiencing is as illusory as socialised or constructed habitual reality but he is grasping at it as ‘true reality’ (like so many before him) because he cannot live without meaning. Indeed, his elite status and education requires that the world have meaning. In this Huxley is in the same state of torment as his grandfather Thomas Huxley, ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’, in observing a world where the traditional Judaeo-Christian God has no credible role.Once you start questioning social and personal-historical reality, it is hard to stop and you are left with only three alternatives.You can accept the social and one’s own history pragmatically and make the best of it (or become grumpy and depressed), create a new self and so contribute to creating a new social reality (the way of the existentialist) or deny one reality and replace it with another (the way of religion).The ‘normal’ path has both self and meaning (though both are false in the sense of being constructed by others). The existentialist path retains self but contains no meaning other than the meaning inherent in the self he or she constructs – which is a tough path to follow for most people.The religious mentality in rejecting the forms of society or in seeking to change society (and, in this, communists are religious) in a collective way must retain meaning but can only do so by rejecting self. ‘Selflessness’ is a virtue to the social but not to the individual.In the 1930s, many elite middle class Englishmen who rejected the social ‘given’ might have chosen the new religion of Marxism-Leninism or discovered obedience to Rome or even (at a pinch) fascism but Huxley found his salvation in the perennial philosophy, loss of self and oneness in ‘nature’.Experience of mescalin, of religious ecstasy and of many other altered states that break down the conventional ordering of perception in the brain (and Huxley is no fool in his understanding that whatever is happening has a brain chemistry aspect) lead to the grand illusion of all illusions.A process which should be understood as permitting the illusion of universal consciousness is so powerful in its effects that the person who is not detached and who is sub-consciously searching for meaning must impose non-dualism on the experience, absolute and not contingent.From a sense of personal salvation (legitimate enough) through the insights given in altered states of consciousness, the mind slips into an assumption that the world out there is actually ‘like that’, imbued with consciousness or some meaning that exists outside the experiencing brain.Huxley gets into knots here because he does not want to depart too far from the social. He worries about detachment from society and lack of compassion and he argues (probably rightly) that use of altered states must in stable societies (he is a true conservative) enhances social virtues.In other words, context is all. He clearly fears that he might be confused with some radical anarchy of drug-taking that is not bound by conventions and belief systems. The book was written in 1954 and he died in 1963 so he was spared the worst of the hallucinogenic chaos of the later 1960s.In fact, existentialist thought also tends oddly to an engaged realignment with the social despite the equally dangerous misuse of the philosophy by the sort of libertarian who has not read or certainly not understood Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger or Sartre.If anyone is misaligned with the social – and there is every reason to be misaligned with the social since the social is always marginally misaligned with functional reality itself as its pragmatism catches up with itself ...... then an illusory non-dualistic search for meaning in the world and the phenomenological creation of meaning in oneself against the world are going to be eternally with us.In such responses to social reality, the illusory essentialism of taking the ‘reality’ of personal experiences of altered states as a greater reality will always compete with the colder, harder detached pragmatic observation of social reality as intrinsically absurd if pragmatically necessary.Perhaps Huxley most gives himself away at the very end of ‘Heaven and Hell’ where he pictures mental hell as a paranoid picture of human robots in a ‘system’. This is the madness he fears and it significantly make up the last paragraphs of the last Appendix. Believe or fear!Huxley’s short text still represents an entry point for those who are determined on ‘meaning’ no matter what –and no matter that, as he notes himself, the loss of self in this universal consciousness will almost certainly create a passive observing conservatism towards the world.But, then, an aging Englishman whose world was dying and who feared the philistinism of the masses, might naturally have been drawn to loss of self in a fantasy world induced by drugs.Yet this is not an argument against permitting those who are disconnected from the world, who are unable to take courage and be critics of the world and of themselves, to take substances that alter consciousness and create the illusion of spirituality.On the contrary, vast numbers of people are very uncomfortable in any given 'social reality’ (they may be in serious mental or physical pain) and most will not be in such a position that they can afford to revolt with any effect from their condition. Rather than live in misery, the solaces of religion and of ‘altered states’, with experienced guides concerned for the safety of their subjects, may be vital to the survival of society, pacifying a depressed and anxious population and allowing the energetic to move forward.So long as spiritual types are not significant as a class in the allocation of power and resources, and their guides, the shamanic and priestly class, do not become bureaucratised into agents of power as in Constantinian Rome, then the more spiritual paths that are permitted the better.Huxley is merely asking for the freedom to withdraw from society into ecstatic contemplation in order to cope with it … and that freedom should probably have been granted to all in the West a long time ago.