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The Doors of Perception is a book by Aldous Huxley. Published init details his taking mescaline in May Huxley recalls the insights he experienced, which range from the “purely aesthetic” to “sacramental vision”. Mescaline is the principal active psychedelic agent of the peyote and San Pedro cacti, which have been used in Native American religious ceremonies for thousands of years. These included mescaline, which he showed through a combination of animal and self-experiments was hixley compound responsible for the psychoactive properties of the plant.
The book stated that the drug could be used to research the unconscious mind. In the s, an American anthropologist Weston La Barrepublished The Peyote Cultthe first study of the ritual use of peyote as an entheogen drug amongst the Huichol people of western Mexico.
La Barre noted that the Indian users of the cactus took it to obtain visions for prophecy, healing and inner strength. In the early s, when Huxley wrote his book, mescaline was still regarded as a research chemical rather than a drug and was listed in the Parke-Davis catalogue with no controls. Most notable, William S.
Lidia Sautto (Translator of Le porte della percezione – Paradiso e Inferno)
Burroughs,  Jack Kerouac,  and Allen Ginsberg  —all of whom were respected contemporary beat artists  of their generation. Theirs and many other contemporary artists works were heavily influenced by over the counter forms of mescaline during this time due to its potency and attainability. Huxley had been interested in spiritual matters and had used alternative therapies for some time. In he told TS Eliot that he was starting to meditate and he used other therapies too; the Alexander Technique and the Bates Method of seeing had particular importance in guiding him through personal crises.
He had known for some time of visionary experience hudley by taking drugs in certain non-Christian religions. Huxley had first heard of peyote use in ceremonies of the Native Yuxley Church in New Mexico soon after coming to the United States in Osmond’s paper set out results from his research into schizophrenia using mescaline that he had been undertaking with colleagues, doctors Abram Hoffer and John Smythies. After reading Osmond ‘s paper, Huxley sent him a oe on Thursday, 10 Aprilexpressing interest in the research and putting himself forward as an experimental subject.
His letter explained his motivations as being rooted in an idea that the brain is a reducing valve that restricts consciousness and hoping mescaline might help access a greater degree of awareness an idea he later included in the book. He hoped drugs might also break down the barriers of dellla ego, and both draw him closer to spiritual enlightenment and satisfy his quest as a seeker of porfe.
Osmond arrived at Huxley’s house in West Hollywood on Sunday, 3 Portwand recorded his impressions of the famous author as a tolerant and kind man, although he had expected otherwise.
The psychiatrist had misgivings about giving the dlela to Huxley, and wrote, “I did not relish the possibility, however remote, of being the man who drove Aldous Huxley mad,” but instead found him an ideal subject.
Huxley was “shrewd, matter-of-fact and to the point” and his wife Maria “eminently sensible”. The mescaline was slow to take effect, but Osmond saw that after two and a half hours the drug was working and after three hours Huxley was responding well. Huxley was particularly fond of the shop and the large variety of products available there in stark contrast to the much smaller selection in English chemist’s shops.
There he considered a variety of paintings in guxley books. For one of his friends, Huxley’s poor eyesight manifested in both a great desire to see and a strong interest in painting, which influenced the strong visual and artistic nature of his experience. After returning home to listen to music, eat, and walk in the garden, a friend drove the threesome to the hills overlooking the city. Photographs show Huxley ld, alternately arms on hips and outstretched with a grin on his face.
Finally, they returned home and to ordinary consciousness. Huxley admitted to having changed the fabric as Maria thought he should be better dressed for his readers.
After Osmond’s departure, Huxley and Maria left to go potte a three-week, 5,mile 8,kilometre car trip huzley the national parks of the North West of the USA. After returning to Los Angeles, he took a month to write the book. If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: For man has closed himself up, till lle sees all things thro’ narrow chinks percezinoe his cavern.
Huxley had used Blake’s metaphor in The Doors of Perception while discussing the paintings of Vermeer and the Nain brothers, and previously in The Perennial Philosophyonce in relation to the use dela mortification as a means to remove persistent spiritual myopia and secondly to refer to the absence of separation in spiritual vision.
This increased his concern for his already poor eyesight and much of his work in the early part of the decade had featured metaphors of vision and sight. Dwlla writes that he hoped to gain insight into extraordinary states of mind and expected to see brightly coloured visionary landscapes. When he only sees lights and shapes, he puts this down to being a bad visualiser; however, he experiences a great change in his perception of the external world.
The experience, he asserts, is neither agreeable nor disagreeable, but simply “is”.
The Doors of Perception – Wikipedia
He likens it to Meister Eckhart ‘s “istigheit” or “is-ness”, and Plato ‘s “Being” but not separated from “Becoming”. He feels he understands the Hindu concept of Satchitanandaas well as the Zen koan that, “the dharma body of the Buddha is in the hedge” and Buddhist suchness. In this state, Huxley explains he didn’t have an “I”, but instead a “not-I”.
Meaning and existence, pattern and colour become more significant than spatial relationships and time. Duration is replaced by a perpetual present. Reflecting on the experience afterwards, Huxley finds himself in agreement with philosopher C. Broad that to enable us to live, the brain and nervous system eliminate unessential information from the totality of the ‘ Mind at Large ‘. In summary, Huxley writes that the ability to think straight is not reduced while under the influence of mescaline, visual impressions are intensified, and the human experimenter will see no reason for action because the experience is so fascinating.
Temporarily leaving the chronological flow, he mentions that four or five hours into the experience he was taken to the World’s Biggest Drug Store WBDSwhere he was presented with books on art. In one book, the dress in Botticelli ‘s Judith provokes a reflection on drapery as a major artistic theme as it allows painters to include the abstract in representational art, to create mood, and also to represent the mystery of perceione being.
For Huxley, the reconciliation of these cleansed perceptions with humanity reflects the age old debate between active and contemplative life, known as the way of Martha and dellq way of Mary. As Huxley believes that contemplation should also include action and charity, he concludes that the experience represents contemplation at its height, but not its fullness.
Correct behaviour and alertness are needed. Nonetheless, Huxley maintains that even quietistic contemplation has an ethical value, because it is concerned with negative virtues and acts to channel the transcendent perfezione the world.
Outside, the garden chairs take on such an immense intensity that he fears being overwhelmed; this gives him an insight into madness.
Huxley speculates that schizophrenia is the inability to escape from this reality into the world of common sense and thus help would be essential. After lunch and the drive to the WBDS he returns home and to his ordinary state of mind. His final insight is taken from Buddhist scripture: The book finishes with Huxley’s final reflections on the meaning of his experience. Firstly, the urge to transcend one’s self is universal through times and cultures and was characterised by H.
Wells as The Door in the Wall. Mescaline has the advantage of not provoking violence in takers, but its effects last an inconveniently long time and some users can have negative reactions. Ideally, self-transcendence would be found in religion, but Huxley feels that it is unlikely that this will ever happen. Christianity and mescaline seem well-suited for each other; the Native American Church for instance uses the drug as a sacrament, where its use combines religious feeling with decorum.
Huxley concludes that mescaline is not enlightenment or the Beatific visionbut a “gratuitous grace” a term taken from Thomas Aquinas ‘ Summa Theologica. Although systematic reasoning is important, direct perception has intrinsic value too. Finally, Huxley maintains that the person who has this experience will be transformed for the better. The book met with a variety of responses, both positive and negative,  from writers in the fields of literature, psychiatry, philosophy and religion.
These included a symposium published in The Saturday Review magazine with the unlikely title of, Mescalin — An Answer to Cigarettesincluding contributions from Huxley; J. Slotkin, a professor of Anthropology; and a physician, Dr. He thought that while escapism found in mysticism might be honourable, drugs were not.
Le Porte Della Percezione-paradiso E Inferno by Aldous Huxley
Huxley’s ‘aesthetic self-indulgence’ and indifference portr humanity would lead to suffering or stupidity, and he concluded the book was irresponsible, if not quite immoral, to encourage young people to try the drug.
For Huxley’s biographer and friend, the author Sybille Bedfordthe book combined sincerity with simplicity, passion with detachment. The Doors is a quiet book. It is also one that postulates a goodwill — the choice once more of the nobler hypothesis. It turned out, for certain temperaments, a seductive book.
Psychiatric responses included those of William Sargantthe controversial British psychiatrist, who reviewed the book for The British Medical Journal and particularly focused on Huxley’s reflections on schizophrenia.
He wrote that the book brought to life the mental suffering of schizophrenics, which should make psychiatrists uneasy about their failure to relieve this. Also, he hoped that the book would encourage the investigation of the physiological, rather than psychological, aspects of psychiatry.
The book contained “99 percent Aldous Huxley and only one half gram mescaline” according to Roland Fisher. Meerloo found Huxley’s reactions “not necessarily the same as Novak, The Doors Of Perception and ” Heaven and Hell ” redefined taking mescaline and LSDalthough Huxley had not taken it until after he had written both books as a mystical experience with possible psychotherapeutic benefits, where physicians had previously thought of the drug in terms of mimicking a psychotic episode, known as psychotomimetic.
PhilosophicallyBuber believed the drug experiences to be holidays “from the person participating in the community of logos and cosmos—holidays from the very uncomfortable reminder to verify oneself as such a person.
It was probably the criticisms of The Doors of Perception put forward by Robert Charles Zaehnera professor at Oxford Universitythat formed the fullest and earliest critiques from a religious and philosophical perspective. InZaehner published an article called The Menace of Mescalinein which he asserted that “artificial interference with consciousness” could have nothing to do with the Christian “Beatific Vision”. Although he acknowledged the importance of The Doors of Perception as a challenge to people interested in religious experience,  he pointed out what he saw as inconsistencies and self-contradictions.
So the experience may not be the same for others who take the drug and do not have this background, although they will undoubtedly experience a transformation of sensation. That the longing to transcend oneself is “one of the principal appetites of the soul”  is questioned by Zaehner. There are still people who do not feel this desire to escape themselves,  and religion itself need not mean escaping from the ego.
Holding that there are similarities between the experience on mescaline, the mania in a manic-depressive psychosis and the visions of God of a mystical saint suggests, for Zaehner, that the saint’s visions must be the same as those of a lunatic. The appendices to Mysticism Sacred and Profane include three accounts of mescaline experiences, including those of Zaehner himself. He writes that he was transported into a world of farcical meaninglessness and notes that the experience was interesting and funny, but not religious.
Chesterton wrote the praises of alcohol they were still considered good Christians, while anyone who suggested other routes to self-transcendence was accused of being a drug addict and perverter of mankind.
Zaehner, the author of Mysticism, Sacred and Profanetheir deliberate induction is regarded as immoral. To which his colleague, Professor Priceretorts in effect, ‘Speak for yourself! Professor of religion and philosophy Huston Smith took issue with the belief that Mysticism Sacred and Profane had fully examined and refuted Huxley’s claims made in The Doors of Perception. Acknowledging that personality, preparation and environment all play a role in the effects of the drugs, Huston Smith draws attention to evidence that suggests that a religious outcome of the experience may not be restricted to one of Huxley’s temperament.
Further, because Zaehner’s experience was not religious, does not prove that none will be. Contrary to Zaehner, Huston Smith draws attention to evidence suggesting that these drugs can facilitate theistic mystical experience.