The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley

In this article, you will explore the brief summary of The Doors of perception written by Aldous Huxley. The text is critically interpreted subsequently. I hope, you will find something academic in this article.

My reflection on The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley

This is an essay about the experiment of mescaline by Aldous Huxley. He consumes four-tenths of a gram of mescaline in May 1953. He describes how he involves in this experiment process and explains every moment of experience while he is under the charge of mescaline in vivid detail. He brings the reference of religion, mythology, philosophy, psychology, painting, art, novel, and so forth to discuss his transcendental experience. He presents a series of details of the origin of mescaline and of what it is. He further explores why people take intoxicating drugs and how the mescaline is better than other drugs like opium, cocaine, marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol. To be precise, Huxley is justifying the use of mescaline by giving his personal account with positive self-evidence. He further makes a critical evaluation of the history of mescaline by bringing the intellectual figure’s article, ideas, researches documents, statements, and his own personal anecdotes. Therefore, Huxley is trying to articulate how comparatively the consumption of mescaline is more compatible, more spiritual, and more advantageous for the sake of religion and society than alcohol and tobacco.

According to Huxley, mescaline is a ritual fruit of the native Red Indian in the new world- Southwest America. They religiously call it peyote. They have been using it in religious practices for hundreds of years. It is a kind of cactus. They venerate mescaline as a deity. The experiences they have after taking the mescaline, are the divine experience gifted by their Gods. Taking mescaline for them is a way of getting a spiritual connection to the heavenly God. It is no more a drug for them. Rather they regard this cactus as the special gift granted by God to the Indians. Peyote, in 19953 is discovered to alter the mental state of its users which has no noticeable bad effects to health. Toward the end of the essay, Huxley explores the reasons for its use. He relates it to the religious significance of Native American. He argues that the mescaline is not harmful to the most of the people. It is comparatively less toxic than other drugs. The positive aspect of it is that it makes an interesting change in our consciousness. It is less inimical to our lungs and hearts than the nicotine of cigarette and tars. People are less likely to commit undesirable social and legal consequences. Huxley opines that when people fail to transcend themselves they are apt to have religious surrogate- alcohol and goof pills, hashish, opium, marijuana, barbiturates and so on in the modern world.  Arguing that Christianity and alcohol cannot mix and alcohol is bad for Christianity, he says there is a compatible between the two because it has been demonstrated by many tribes of Indians. They take slices of peyote for sacramental bread and wine.

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Huxley argues that our doors of perception are socially very conventional. We are not allowed to perceive the things in our own way. Rather, we are academically and culturally trained to take them for granted. To overcome such problem, he recommends going for the things like mescaline. He says that he can change his ordinary mode of consciousness by taking either an appropriate dose of the drug or by means of systematic meditation. He further explores that there is always an inside to experience as well as outside. To have experience of inside phenomena, he takes mescaline which transcends his ordinary perception about the outside world. He gets a unique and heavenly feeling while in the intoxication of mescaline. Huxley mentions that he hopes to attain an amazing state of mind. He hopes to see bright colored visions and sceneries. Though he, in initial stage does not get his expectation, eventually, he happens to have a great experience which changes his door of perception of the existing world.  To make the understanding on the door of perception more clear, Huxley brigs the quotation of one of the greatest poets, William Blake,  who has said, “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” This makes us think that there are some obstructions to perceive the things as they are. This is what, in Huxley term, can be avoided by the consumption of mescaline.

As Huxley gets into deeper intoxication of mescaline, he detects the flowers breathing without returning to the starting point. He sees the flowers transcending from beauty to heightened beauty, and from deeper to ever deeper meaning. He says words like “grace” and “transformation” come to his mind. This is the moment where he understands The Beatific vision, Sat Chit Ananda not at verbal level but precisely at a spiritual level which cannot verbally be communicated. When he reaches the most heightened stage of the hallucinogenic experience, he speaks about the “obscure knowledge” meaning that “all is in all”. This is what he calls the Mind at Large. This is the closet perception of Huxley. He argues that it cannot be understood as the true state of being at ordinary times.  At the heightened stage of inebriation of mescaline in which the perception becomes sublime and we come to perceive our true being like Huxley in this essay. This is where he takes the reference of Tibetan Buddhism and spirituality arguing that the state of being is perceptual spiritually.

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Similarly, Huxley feels like his visual impression is magnificently intensified. His eyes recovery the innocent perception of childhood. In our normal state of mind, we calculate, measure and make an analysis of the things around us. But Huxley, under the charge of mescaline, says that interest in space is diminished and interest in time falls to zero. He shares his experience of being Not-I. He is no more himself or has lost his “I” now. This insight comes to him from a saint, spirituality, mystic, philosophy, and genius who appeals us to become a human with transcended ego. We have to transcend our perception of reality. And when our ego vanishes from us, we truly stand with nature or God. This means we become a ‘Not-self’.

He says that the books he looked at, started glowing like the flowers, become brighter and brighter and its color is so intense, so intrinsically meaningful. When he looks at his own watch, he feels as though it is in the universe. At this moment, space and time lose their predominance. The mind is the primary focus regardless of location and measures. However, he becomes more concerns with the being and meaning. This means Huxley’s perception and vision are totally unique enough to cope up with philosophy and spirituality. For the first, he assimilates within the philosophy of Beingness which he had long read about Eastern religion. It was the bliss of truly living in the moment.

Huxley at the times of high trip of mescaline, he realizes why the religious literature talks about the experience of extreme fears and horrors as ecstasy. At the highest state, our mind cannot be able to cope up with the fearful situation. We happen to fail to maintain what we see and what we experience. There is a huge terror of being overcome. ,

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He relates this experience with ‘the incompatibility between man’s egotism and the divine purity.’

Huxley argues that mescaline can help the ego get weaker. He tells that, for the moment, mescaline made him feel like he was beyond the existing world. There is was no world of time, selves, overvalued words and self-assertion, cocksureness and so on.

Recapitulation: The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley

To sum up, Huxley puts his view “I’m learning that perception is far more complicated than I ever imagined”. This suggests that perception is difficult and it varies from person to person. We cannot perceive the things exactly the ways others do.  Similarly, the drug experiment of Huxley shows that most of the people of his time did not have a wider knowledge about the perception. They were confined to the narrow concept of perception. Although Huxley in this essay has given the arguments in favor of the consumption of mescaline, he has clearly declared that drugs like mescaline open up of our mind just for the time being. It is not permanent at all. This means, in one way or other, he is suggesting that taking drugs is not a good idea because it does not let us perceive the world as it always is. This is beyond the law of nature. The long consumption of drugs severely devastates our body and health. However, as a reader, I find his idea about the non-verbal education system is very interesting. As Huxley suggests the intellects, educationist researchers and others who concern with academic sectors should invest their time, money and energy in the study of non-verbal perceptive learning. But He expresses his bitter feeling that even in this present world of science and technology, we are ignoring the non-verbal education system. So, he wants the researchers to focus on how our children, grandchildren may become more perceptive, intensely aware of inward and outward reality. We also have to produce non-verbal humanities. They should be encouraged to open to their spirt and more capable of controlling their own nervous systems.


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