The Doors of Perception: Includes Heaven and Hell (P.S. Series)

The Doors of Perception: Includes Heaven and Hell (P.S. Series)

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by Aldous Huxley
     
 

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Half an hour after swallowing the drug I became aware of a slow dance of golden lights . . .

Among the most profound explorations of the effects of mind-expanding drugs ever written, here are two complete classic books—The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell—in which Aldous Huxley, author of the

Overview

Half an hour after swallowing the drug I became aware of a slow dance of golden lights . . .

Among the most profound explorations of the effects of mind-expanding drugs ever written, here are two complete classic books—The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell—in which Aldous Huxley, author of the bestselling Brave New World, reveals the mind's remote frontiers and the unmapped areas of human consciousness. This new edition also features an additional essay, "Drugs That Shape Men's Minds," which is now included for the first time.

Editorial Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle
Huxley's challenge is forcibly put...the ideas are freshly and prodigally presented.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061729072
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
07/28/2009
Series:
P.S. Series
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
56,854
Product dimensions:
5.28(w) x 8.04(h) x 0.52(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Doors of Perception

It was in 1886 that the German pharmacologist, Louis Lewin, published the first systematic study of the cactus, to which his own name was subsequently given. Anhalonium Lewinii was new to science. To primitive religion and the Indians of Mexico and the American Southwest it was a friend of immemorially long standing. Indeed, it was much more than a friend. In the words of one of the early Spanish visitors to the New World, "they eat a root which they call peyote, and which they venerate as though it were a deity."

Why they should have venerated it as a deity became apparent when such eminent psychologists as Jaensch, Havelock Ellis and Weir Mitchell began their experiments with mescalin, the active principle of peyote. True, they stopped short at a point well this side of idolatry; but all concurred in assigning to mescalin a position among drugs of unique distinction. Administered in suitable doses, it changes the quality of consciousness more profoundly and yet is less toxic than any other substance in the pharmacologist's repertory.

Mescalin research has been going on sporadically ever since the days of Lewin and Havelock Ellis. Chemists have not merely isolated the alkaloid; they have learned how to synthesize it, so that the supply no longer depends on the sparse and intermittent crop of a desert cactus. Alienists have dosed themselves with mescalin in the hope thereby of coming to a better, a first-hand, understanding of their patients' mental processes. Working unfortunately upon too few subjects within too narrow a range of circumstances,psychologists have observed and catalogued some of the drug's more striking effects. Neurologists and physiologists have found out something about the mechanism of its action upon the central nervous system. And at least one professional philosopher has taken mescalin for the light it may throw on such ancient, unsolved riddles as the place of mind in nature and the relationship between brain and consciousness.

There matters rested until, two or three years ago, a new and perhaps highly significant fact was observed. Actually the fact had been staring everyone in the face for several decades; but nobody, as it happened, had noticed it until a young English psychiatrist, at present working in Canada, was struck by the close similarity, in chemical composition, between mescalin and adrenalin. Further research revealed that lysergic acid, an extremely potent hallucinogen derived from ergot, has a structural biochemical relationship to the others. Then came the discovery that adrenochrome, which is a product of the decomposition of adrenalin, can produce many of the symptoms observed in mescalin intoxication. But adrenochrome probably occurs spontaneously in the human body. In other words, each one of us may be capable of manufacturing a chemical, minute doses of which are known to cause profound changes in consciousness. Certain of these changes are similar to those which occur in that most characteristic plague of the twentieth century, schizophrenia. Is the mental disorder due to a chemical disorder? And is the chemical disorder due, in its turn, to psychological distresses affecting the adrenals? It would be rash and premature to affirm it. The most we can say is that some kind of a prima facie case has been made out. Meanwhile the clue is being systematically followed, the sleuths — biochemists, psychiatrists, psychologists — are on the trail.

By a series of, for me, extremely fortunate circumstances I found myself, in the spring of 1953, squarely athwart that trail. One of the sleuths had come on business to California. In spite of seventy years of mescalin research, the psychological material at his disposal was still absurdly inadequate, and he was anxious to add to it. I was on the spot and willing, indeed eager, to be a guinea pig. Thus it came about that, one bright May morning, I swallowed four-tenths of a gram of mescalin dissolved in half a glass of water and sat down to wait for the results.

We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies — all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.

Most island universes are sufficiently like one another to permit of inferential understanding or even of mutual empathy or "feeling into." Thus, remembering our own bereavements and humiliations, we can condole with others in analogous circumstances, can put ourselves (always, of course, in a slightly Pickwickian sense) in their places. But in certain cases communication between universes is incomplete or even nonexistent. The mind is its own place, and the places inhabited by the insane and the exceptionally gifted are so different from the places where ordinary men and women live, that there is little or no common ground of memory to serve as a basis for understanding or fellow feeling. Words are uttered, but fail to enlighten. The things and events to which the symbols refer belong to mutually exclusive realms of experience.

To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift. Hardly less important is the capacity to see others as they see themselves. But what if these others belong to a different species and inhabit a radically alien universe? For example, how can the sane get to know what it actually feels like to be mad? Or, short of being born again as a visionary, a medium, or a musical genius, how can we ever visit the worlds which, to Blake, to Swedenborg, to Johann Sebastian Bach, were home? And how can a man at the extreme limits...

Meet the Author

Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) is the author of the classic novels Brave New World, Island, Eyeless in Gaza, and The Genius and the Goddess, as well as such critically acclaimed nonfiction works as The Perennial Philosophy and The Doors of Perception. Born in Surrey, England, and educated at Oxford, he died in Los Angeles, California.

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The Doors of Perception Includes Heaven and Hell (P.S. Series) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Modern_Day_Philosopher More than 1 year ago
"There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception." (Aldous Huxley) The Doors of Perception was writing in the mid 50s by Aldous Huxley who is well known for the most popular work "A Brave New World". The Doors of Perception is actually a combination of two book one of which being "Heaven and Hell". Heaven and Hell is an eye opening book that explains the depth of our wanting or subconscious love for the astral world. It shows why we cause our selves to leave reality and how it effects the world around us. For centuries we have allowed ourselves in multiple ways to escape to our subconscious in view a world of beauty. From the John Lennon doing LSD to Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) fasting, everyone within themselves has a love for the astral world. It is theorized that in the subconscious part of our mind, also known as antipodes, we see colors so vivid and in its purest form that the world itself seen through this part of the mind glows like gems from the real world. Think for a moment about how and why we love gems so much like rubies, sapphires, amethyst, and topaz. It may very well be that it reminds our antipodes of the astral world. Furthermore, people of different areas began to find out ways to trigger these so called "trips" to the other world. Some people like the Indians would fast for days alone in the woods until they saw a vision from there antipodes. Artwork itself began to evolve around humanities love to this cerebral world. Stained glass was even put into churches in the 12 century to induce such thoughts. It effects everything we do in one way or another. Is a love for the out of body experience such a bad thing or is it just natural? This book is a highly intelligent read which would be best suited for anyone interested in our love for drugs and out of body experiences. I would give in an 8 out of 10 since it was such an interesting read, but got hard to follow at parts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heaven and Hell by Aldous Huxley: Written in 1954, Aldous Huxley’s Heaven and Hell has remained what I deem to be a controversial novel for now over 60 years. Comparable to Huxley’s own mescaline experiences documented in The Doors of Perception, Heaven and Hell is an informative essay that tells the reader, from quite an unbiased perspective, everything they need to know to have a complete basic knowledge of alternate states of consciousness. Huxley’s narratives on alternate states of consciousness in this book include not only those that are identified with psychedelic drugs, but also those that go along with natural body processes, or even otherwise average objects, such as precious stones and jewels, and the place they stand regarding these transendental experiences. Unlike other literature on the subject, especially from this time period of the mid-20th century Huxley’s novel sheds a new light on a newly-revitalized concept in the post-WWII western world. Huxley introduces this concept in its barest form, explaining in an easily digested tone to even the most reluctant of readers, how commonplace the idea of changing consciousness actually is—from sleep to the ingestion of substances such as coffee and cigarettes. Making acute reference to the archaic quality of the human quest to change their mode of consciousness—whether it be from the ingestion of plant compounds such is the custom in pre-Colombian cultures worldwide—or exploration of other realms through the alteration of the state of the mind along with that of the physical body. As he explains these procedures, Huxley not only encompasses the essence of these esoteric processes from a varied perspective, he reverts back to these concepts the respect and ardent fervor that has been lost to them through the trials of modern society. Huxley leads the reader through a regression of thinking, introducing and reintroducing concepts and beliefs that reoccur through the course of intellectual evolution. In this manner Huxley insinuates to the reader in multiple instances where upon that road we veered off course, resulting in the biased, corrupt, and naïve subjectivity that draws the line between what is and what is not socially acceptable—not only in the 1950s, but today as well. As long as the principles in Huxley’s novel remain repressed and unevaluated as serious additions to the broad cultural definitions of altered states of consciousness, the book itself will remain a vital standard of academia for all those interested in furthering their knowledge not only of the possibilities and limits of the human mind, but those looking to find a glimpse into the human condition that leaves our society in its ceaseless succession of decreasing morals and unfluctuating cause and effect.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is totally mind-blowing and gives good insight not just into the use of mescaline but into life itself.
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Good book for anyone who is curious about the interminable potential of the brain/mind, and ways/methods of accessing the many minds eyes.
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