The Doors of Perception Summary
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The Doors of Perception Summary and Review | Aldous Huxley

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About Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley was a post-war intellectual elite born in 1894. He studied English literature at Oxford University. He wrote almost 50 books and was nominated for nine Nobel Prizes in Literature. Huxley’s first novel was Crome Yellow (1921), an exposition of the futility of the lifestyle of many privileged intellectuals in the 1920s. He later wrote Antic Hay (1923), which satirizes modern society’s preoccupation with sex, business, and consumerism. Huxley was a respected philosopher. Intrigued by how we perceive things, he famously wrote Brave New World, a dystopian vision of society, in 1932. Brave New World is about using mind-altering drugs. The characters take a drug called Soma, which allows them to break from reality. 

Huxley was a pacifist. His interest in philosophical mysticism and universalism led him to produce The Perennial Philosophy, which illustrates the similarities between Western and Eastern mysticism, and The Doors of Perception, which explores his psychedelic experience with mescaline.

Introduction

Published in 1954, The Doors of Perception is about Aldous Huxley’s first psychedelic experience. The book is an account of his trip on Mescaline, the insights he experienced, and the esthetic beauty he saw. Huxley’s psychedelic experience helped him develop psychological and philosophical ideas around perception. He believed we live in a narrow field of perception. We need to open our minds to a broader perceptual experience to improve our lives. Because of his experience, Huxley recommended Mescaline to others. 

Similar to Brave New World, The Doors of Perception also describes how we can break away from normal perception and uniquely experience the world. 

Back in the 1930s, Huxley called Mescaline a poison worse than Soma. So it’s interesting to see how his perception of the drug changed within the 22 years of writing the two books.

“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.”

— Aldous Huxley

StoryShot #1: Learning About The Extract

Although Huxley didn’t have a mystic background, he was interested in higher cognitive states. Individuals like Blake, Swedenborg and Eastern mystics influenced his decision to take Mescaline. He wanted to encourage more heightened awareness. 

Mescaline is a root extract of the Mexican peyote cactus. Indigenous Mexicans have eaten this root for thousands of years. They often use it in spiritual rituals. Mescaline works by inhibiting the production of enzymes that regulate the supply of glucose to brain cells. In other words, it heightens awareness by removing our evolutionary filters. Those who take it report seeing parts of the world for the first time. 

Huxley first became familiar with the extract when he read a paper by Humphry Osmond. Osmond worked at Weyburn Mental Hospital, where he researched treatments for Schizophrenia. Mescaline mimicked the symptoms of Schizophrenia, so it was a big part of his research. 

Rating

We rate The Doors of Perception 4/5.

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