The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell

By Aldous Huxley

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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
mr 5x5
Rather two essays... subject linked and roughly contemporary.

Doors takes us on a mescaline trip in the early fifties that was witnessed and noted... almost a diary. Questions asked and recorded. A big emphasis on color and light. Infused and coming from within objects... very bright and punctuated by an imperceptible breathing as if the inanimate had become animate. The room objects became "itness" as red books become bright emerald like slabs and flowers glow like marble scupture.

Huxley tells us that mescaline deprives the brain of sugar and that things previously useless become prominent. Time and space become secondary to itness and color thus giving us a glimpse to the Other World or the Mind at Large which is normally blocked. Are we able to peak into the infinite from the finite or is this Other World predicated on biology?

In the East, the Other World was represented by colorful landscapes and yet in the West the Fall made that impossible despite the fact that the Logos was in fact a union of the finite with the infinite. The West never did or does see the Logos.

Heaven and Hell is a rambling walk between spirituality and art. Heaven focuses on CO2 deprivation rather than lack of sugar. CO2 intoxication comes from mystic chanting and music. Stroboscopic lamps and by implication the Dream Machines of the sixties also open the "Door in the Wall" of altered reality. Stained glass gave the West a glimpse into the Other World when society was dominated by the dull shades of medieval life and yet we are left wondering about the nexus between matter and spirit and ultimately Huxley's cosmology. I remember seeing an account of Hell in an medieval Japanese mural. The mural was printed in a tract by a group who did not believe in Hell, yet why was the depiction so like the western version replete with demons and flames? Is there a common reality that lies inside the doors of perception?

Was this book somehow related to government interest in mescaline and mind altering drugs in the early fifties? BZ gas and MK Ultra records hint that elites had many reasons to be interested in drug experiences.

Could the collective unconsciousness of Jung be a common color heritage? Is the common view of the colorful Other World an old memory of a creation or is it just biology or is it both? Huxley mused in Doors that Christians should have seen the Other World in the Incarnation. The Logos should have been seen as a bridge, yet it is one that Huxley himself did not cross.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I first read this book when I was a senior in high school, and gave an oral presentation of it before the class. As I had read Huxley's classic work Brave New World the previous year, this book seemed a natural choice, and may have been the first book that was the second book by an author that I had read. I was in "way over my head," sort of realized it, but I did have that school assignment to complete, and so I did. I can remember that the English teacher was somewhat anxious about what I was saying, but when I assured him that of course I would never actually try to do what Huxley did, he seemed relieved, and gave me an "A" for the presentation.

Decided to give it a re-read now, a book that was written in the `50's, so that I might understand what he was trying to say, as well as to see how the book "aged." At one level, it is a paean to the drug mescaline. Huxley took a measured dose, under supervision, and describes what he felt and saw. And it was a lot, including an intensity of colors. Huxley posits that the brain has a "filter" which normally eliminates much of what is available from our perceptions since it has no "survival" value. Mescaline, which derived from the peyote cactus, was, and I'm sure is still used by American Indians in their religious ceremonies. The author points out that other religions have similar mechanisms that might induce a similar state of increased perception... including obtaining "visions"... by fasting and repetitious chanting, for example, both of which make the brain "less efficient" in its filtering function.

It should be no surprise that Huxley referenced the work of that famed "visionary," William Blake. And he could have been a precursor for the rock band "The Doors," and the song "Break on through, to the other side." The author in sections would use the metaphor of a "Door in the Wall" that we could open, and experience another dimension. Later, and who knows what the Aussies and the Kiwis would think of this, his metaphor was the antipodes, where there were platypuses and kangaroos, and all sorts of strange things.

In terms of the impact of mescaline on the body, he notes that there have been no long-term trials, but also notes that the American Indians had been using it for many years, on appropriate occasions, without apparent addiction. He also compares it with many of the other drugs that are used, legal and illegal, and speculates that it is almost certainly among the less harmful, and cites, for example, the rites of self-flagellation that occur in numerous world religions (for which I ALWAYS had a hard time understanding, since there seems to be enough pain in the world already.)

Huxley could riff into some wild polemics, and random associations. With the polemics, often he was "preaching to the converted." In terms of formal education, does the following sound like what Paul Goodman would write 10 years later: "Instead of transforming children into fully developed adults, it turns out students of the natural sciences who are completely unaware of Nature as the primary fact of experience, it inflicts upon the world students of the humanities who know nothing of humanity, their own or anyone else's." Or a slap at the "groves of academia": "...learned foolery of research into what, for scholars, is the all-important problem: who influenced whom to say what when?"

As for those random associations, well, they do often occur when one is not "being in one's right mind," either induced by drugs, or a number of natural means. It also involves those who literally are never in one's right mind, insane, in other words, and Huxley does discuss this issue as well. Sometimes the random associations would "hit on all cylinders," at other times, it seemed like the ramblings of one who is, well, on drugs, and can be tedious to tolerate. Overall though, there is much of value in this book, and will help alter your perceptions, even if you are in that proverbial "right mind." 4-stars.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kathy smith
Aldous Leonard Huxley (1894-1963) was an English writer. He wrote in this 1954 book, "Administered in suitable doses, [mescalin] changes the quality of consciousness more profoundly and yet is less toxic any other substance in the pharmacologist's repertory." (Pg. 9-10) He added, "the sleuths---biochemists, psychiatrists, psychologists---are on the trail... I found myself, in the spring of 1953, squarely athwart that trail. One of the sleuths had come on business to California... I was on the spot and willing, indeed eager, to be a guinea pig. Thus it came about that ... I swallowed four-tenths of a gram of mescalin dissolved in half a glass of water and sat down to wait for the results." (Pg. 12)

He records, "what happens to the majority ... who have taken mescalin under supervision can be summarized as follows: (1) The ability to remember and to 'think straight' is little if at all reduced... (2) Visual impressions are greatly intensified and the eye recovers some of the perpetual innocence of childhood... (3)... the will suffers a profound change for the worse. The mescalin taker sees no reason for doing anything in particular and finds most... causes... profoundly uninteresting... he has better things to think about. (4) ... That they ARE better seems to be self-evident to all mescalin takers who come to the drug with a sound liver and an untroubled mind." (Pg. 25-26)

He observes, "The outer world is what we wake up to every morning of our lives, is the place where, willy-nilly, we must try to make our living. In the inner world there is neither work nor monotony. We visit it only in dreams and musings, and its strangeness is such that we never find the same world on two successive occasions. What wonder, then, if human beings in their search for the divine have generally preferred to look within!" (Pg. 46-47)

He concludes, "But the man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less cocksure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend." (Pg. 79)

This book (along with Alan Watts' The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness) is one of the "classics" in the serious study of psychedelic chemicals.
The Bonfire of the Vanities :: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge A Radical History of Plants :: The Crows of Pearblossom :: Heaven and Hell (Thinking Classics) by Aldous Huxley (2011-04-22) :: The Perennial Philosophy
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
I had always wanted to read Aldous Huxley and especially Doors of Perception. Today, when marijuana is legal in a number of states, this book may be an anachronism, but it was interesting. Huxley eats mescaline, the active principle of peyote, a root used by Native Americans, under supervision. This is his account of his perceptions of color, space, objects and music - all of which were enhanced and he could enjoy and appreciate their being-ness.
He goes on to suggest that society approves the use of alcohol and tobacco, though alcohol-related deaths and abuse for the user and others are well documented, as is health-related problems for tobacco users. Mescaline users, on the other hand, do not exhibit either violent tendencies nor is t harmful to the user.
Huxley goes on to say that our perception of the world is filtered by our brain and nervous system to prevent overload. That, in schizophrenics, this filtering is faulty with the result that they are typically overwhelmed by the bombardment of experiences and this causes paranoia.
The book is interesting and is an easy read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
clinton king
Opening with an epigraph from William Blake ("If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite"), writer Aldous Huxley captures the essence of the effects of an hallucinogen -- in this case, four-tenths of a gram of mescaline dissolved in a glass of water and ingested in May 1953.
Essentially, Huxley writes that our conscious mind act as a reducing valve, filtering all but the most essential information necessary to survive, and what's left is relatively unexplored and basically infinite. Some of his observations are as simple as noting how people consciously or unconsciously put on a self-pleasing countenance while they pose for a photograph -- in short, they adopt an identity they wish to present to the world.
Chemically armed for his journey into his own prodigious mind, the well-read Huxley brings the reader along for the ride, tripping on religion, self-identity, self-awareness, and man's place -- both individually and collectively -- in this reality we call life.
And the reality is that each drug-fueled trip is subjective and filled with an intense degree of euphoria and paranoia after one takes a bite from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden (probably no different from the mandrakes Adam and Eve consumed as they became aware of their nakedness). The end result could be temporary (or permanent) madness, or contrarily a lifelong acquisition of self-awareness and insight.
If you're looking for pregnant prose a la Jim Morrison, this book is not for you. Instead, it is a scholarly treatise from a great mind. Having fried my brain like an egg on LSD and mushrooms to get to the same place as Huxley, I'd recommend saving your neurons and picking up a dictionary before taking a safe, paranoid-free trip with Huxley, who shares many insights during his "trip." A short read, but a useful book for those in search of whatever is out there -- or "in there."
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
deeann smith
When I first read The Doors of Perception / Heaven and Hell, most of it was lost on me, and I assumed this was because at the time I lacked any experience with psychedelics. The second time I read the book — many years and many psychedelics later — I still found myself struggling to follow along. I generally don't write negative reviews, but I think this book offers at least two valuable lessons to writers.

Lesson One: don't alienate the reader.

I'm not sure who Huxley's intended audience might have been, but it certainly was not the casual reader, regardless of psychedelic experience. Below is a list of the names that Huxley casually references without any explanation, seemingly under the assumption that the reader is already well familiar with each:

Pickwick, Sir John Falstaff, Joe Louis, Lungarno, Meister Eckhart, Suzuki, Braque, Juan Gris, Bergson, Wordsworth, St. John of the Cross, Hakuin, Hui-neng, William Law, Laurent Tailhade, Botticelli, Ruskin, Piero, El Greco, Cosimo Tura, Watteau, Cythera, Ingres, Mme. Moitessier, Cezanne, Arnold Bennett, Vermeer, The Le Nain brothers, Vuillard

That's just from the first forty pages or so. I gave up and stopped writing them down after that.

Lesson Two: be clear and concise.

In the passage below, Huxley describes a chair that caught his attention during his mescaline experience:

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.

Under the influence of psychedelics, I too have felt entranced by common household objects, toiled over the distinction between self & not-self, etc., so I can relate to the sentiment, but the passage above (along with many others) struck me as rather confusing.

Huxley was clearly a pretty smart dude, and the book contains interesting ideas (some more believable than others), but overall the book simply left me scratching my head.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jenny bannock
The mystery of how Mrs. Crow's eggs are disappearing is solved : it's that sneaky Rattlesnake who lives in the cottonwood tree; he's been eating them all before they can hatch. Poor Mrs. Crow is hysterical. Poor Mrs. Crow turns to her staidly (and very rude) Mr. Crow to solve the problem. Mr. Crow turns to his good friend Mr. Owl to do the smart thinking for him. And as smart as any owl is supposed to be, Mr. Owl hatches a crafty plan to save the unhatched eggs. He bakes mud to look like eggs, and he paints them, and into the empty nest they go. Mud eggs are NOT digestible! Poor Rattlesnake. He thrashes about in pain and all his thrashing gets him tied into knots around the branches of the cottonwood - a nice neat ending for Mrs. Crow, who uses him as a handy-dandy clothesline for all of her babies' diapers.

THE CROWS OF PEARBLOSSOM was written by Huxley in 1944 as a Christmas gift for his lucky, lucky niece, Olivia. And it seems to be an either you love it or hate it kind of book. Many may take issue with Mr. Crow's reproachable attitude toward his wife (politeness is not his strong suit), but it's a piece of writing history, written at a time when the `nagging, annoying wife' stereotype was commonplace and for that reason I will more or less (no pun intended) swallow it.

If you're going to read this story to your kids you may want to have a discussion about what is not ok. It may be good to explain about respectful husband-wife interactions and how they've evolved since, and that can be another kind of education.

But because of its plain good writing and because I love its illustrations and am being sentimental about it's old-fashioned feel, this is a 5 star book for me.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
nardin haikl
Since I first read The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda in 1998, I've wanted to experience peyote. The Doors of Perception is Aldous Huxley's account of taking mescaline (the active ingredient in the peyote cactus). It's a controlled experiment in which he is interviewed, given objects, played music, taken on a ride, fed, etc.

Some of the passages are a thrilling record of euphoria, intensity, and the shifting of perception. Some of them are bewildering.

"To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and the inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large - this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual."

But was he seeing reality as it actually is (if that is indeed possible), or was he simply experiencing the physical effects of his brain depleted of sugar?

Natasha Holme
Author of 'Lesbian Crushes and Bulimia: A Diary on How I Acquired my Eating Disorder'
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
judy zarifian
This is Huxley's paean to hallucinogenics, particularly mescaline and LSD. He presents their use in the most inviting and entertaining manner and downplays what he calls the purgatorial and hellish aspects of their use. He describes the perceptions he had on mescaline enthusiastically as an enhanced reality, even going so far as to claim he's seen the Beatific Vision. He claims many great artists and thinkers as his forebears without much basis except for his own say so. Cheap Mysticism through pharmacology is his gospel. He can't seem to consider that his experiences and perceptions may have been drug induced illusions. I wonder if he ever visited any people committed to psych wards due to LSD use? I did. Don't be fooled by Huxley's propaganda.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
anuj goel
If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. - William Blake.

This book, _The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell_, first published in 1954, consists of two books written by Aldous Huxley which reveal his investigations into the human mind and human consciousness as well as his experiences with psychedelic substances. Huxley delves deeply into the experiences of the artists and the mystics as well as the experience of madness and schizophrenia (mimicked he believed by certain states induced through hallucinogens such as mescaline or LSD-25). This book was particularly popular during the 1960s and with the counter-culture. Aldous Huxley (1894 - 1963) was a British born author and thinker who explored regions of human consciousness, and examined spiritual and mystical experience. Huxley is perhaps best known for his novel _Brave New World_ which examined the rise of the modern totalitarian and scientifically managed state. Huxley lived for a time in the United States in southern California where he had dealings with the American Indians there and in New Mexico. This book offers a study of some of his own experiences with altered states of consciousness induced partially by hallucinogenic drugs and their relationship to the experiences of the artists and mystics.

The first book included in this book is _The Doors of Perception_ (1954) which details Huxley's experiences with the psychedelic and consciousness altering drug mescaline. The title for this book comes from the poem by William Blake. To begin with Huxley notes that in 1886, the German pharmacologist Louis Lewin published his study on the cactus Anhalonium Lewinii which has been used extensively by the Indians of the American Southwest. Huxley relates the experience of the drug to that of schizophrenia and madness as understood by the "alienists". Huxley then relates how in 1953 he came to take mescaline and explains the altered states of consciousness it induced. Huxley relates these experiences to those of the mystics such as Meister Eckhart, the Buddhist concept of the Dharma-Body and Zen Buddhism, Platonic philosophy, as well as the notion of the "Mind at Large". Huxley also relates his experiences to those of the artists, such as Vermeer and Cezanne, and to those of musicians such as Mozart. Huxley explains how the ability to "think straight" is not altered under the influence of the drug, but how visualization and visual imagery is greatly improved. Huxley ends by relating his experiences to those of some of the other drugs and the peyote cultists, as well as the angelology of for example St. Thomas Aquinas.

The second book included in this book is _Heaven and Hell_ (1956) which is a philosophical work detailing the relationship between bright colors and the artists as well as psychoactive substances and mystical philosophy. Huxley examines the "antipodes" or regions of the mind that can be reached through the use of psychoactive substances, vitamin deficiencies, meditation, self-flagellation, or fasting. Huxley begins by relating the vast regions of the human mind to be discovered to those of the zoologist and the geographer. He notes that the mind still has its dark continents like Africa which have yet been discovered. Huxley relates mystical experiences within Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam to bright colors found amongst the artists. In particular, Huxley notes the influence of the Platonic philosophy. Huxley relates much of this to art, ranging from medieval cathedrals to Rembrandts to Chinese paintings. The book ends relating this to madness and schizophrenia as well as mystical experience and modern spiritualism. The book follows by several appendices focusing on such things as visionary experience induced through carbon dioxide and the stroboscopic lamp, medieval Christian theology and the importance of mystical experience in the life of the medieval individual, the "Mind at Large", the importance of art in various forms and the importance of color, painting in particular and the Renaissance use of fireworks, the use of mescaline and LSD-25, schizophrenia and madness, and the novel _Sartor Resartus_ by Carlyle.

This book offers two interesting and beautifully written essays in the study of human consciousness and the human mind. Indeed, Huxley's work was to have an important influence on later explorers of the human mind particularly with the rise of the counter-culture. Huxley's experiments in mysticism and with psychoactive substances were to prove highly detailed and interesting for the study of the relationship of the human being to God and the spiritual nature of man.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lenny husen
There is no doubt that Aldous Huxley's Doors of Perception was, and remains, one of the most impressive and lucid descriptions of the psychedelic experience. There is also no doubt that Huxley was profoundly impacted by his own personal experiences with both Mescaline and LSD, so much so that as he was dying, he asked his wife Laura to give him an injection of 100 micrograms of LSD, which she did. (This is documented in a letter she wrote.)
Regardless of what you may feel about psychedelic drugs, this thin little book is the definitive expression of an inner experience which profoundly changed American culture in the 1960's.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
christopher higgins
In the oft cited counter-culture staple, "The Doors of Perception", Aldous Huxley explores the almost intangible areas of human perception and the vehicles that he believes will allow us to arrive there. Rather than relying on dry scientific research, Huxley delves deeper explaining the expansion of his own perception through his experimentation with mescaline. In describing his own activities and thoughts while under the influence of mescaline, he highlights its potential and boundaries. Rather than focusing simply on the psychedelic effects of his rendezvous with mescaline, Huxley uses his own state of mind to explore the mentality of others he believes to be toying with the boundaries of human perception (largely musicians and artists). Huxley proposes that the human mind is limited by a "reducing valve" that slows the flow of information in order to prevent being overwhelmed by the sensory experience of humanity.

Perhaps the most profound aspect of "The Doors of Perception" is Huxley's position on the use of mescaline as a means of allowing a wider array of people to experience a fully realized perception of the human existence. Huxley's writing is intriguing and opens up a line of thought as it clarifies the edges of the human experience. He is waxing poetic as he describes his own experience and highlights the importance of deviations from our daily state of our mind. "The Doors of Perception" is a cult classic for a reason. Huxley describes elements of the human mind that are still controversial. His ability to link expanded human consciousness with experiences that we have at least touched upon briefly makes his writing easy to relate to.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
The account by Huxley in Doors of Perception as he explores human perception of reality, regarding space-time and qualia. Huxley explains how space-time does not cease to be percieved, but instead becomes secondary to certain qualia. This has several implications, the largest of which is that humans are not thinking about which sensory input to pay attention to, but rather which to ignore, and in what hierarchy. Mescaline removes this filtration and function of the mind, the overwhelming sensory input debilitates the mind rather than stimulates. Thus, one can conclude the existential crisis of man is one of inability to correctly and consistently process stimulus in an infinitely complex environment; and life then becomes a Piagetian game of ignoring the proper things so to pay attention to the valuable and life saving things.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Though Aldous Huxley is best known for his fiction, he has a certain cult following for his research and experiences in hallucinogenics. This book is a collection of the two most prominent essay, originally published separately, "The Doors of Perception" and "Heaven and Hell".

In "Doors of Perception", Huxley presents his experiences as an argument for the use hallucinogens as a means for opening the mind with previously unavailable experiences. Though it is the shortest of the two volumes, it presents more action. The narrator visits locations under the influences, and even becomes transfixed by the creases in his trousers.

In "Heaven and Hell", Huxley introduces the idea that spiritual insight and personal revelation can also be achieved through the use of hallucinogens. Explorations of arts is the primary means through which this line of thinking is explored. This book is sectioned into chapters, which makes it seems somewhat choppy.

I do not see this book as an endorsement of hallucinogenics, but a documentation of the experience. It is what is possible under measured circumstances. I do not suspect all readers will feel a yearning for the experience after reading the book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jeffrey baker
In 1962 I was 20 years old, confused by my upbringing and not knowing whether to rebel or submit to the social pressures that weighed heavily on women at that time. I read this book and it changed my life. I went out and took peyote, and I have been grateful ever since. I was in the desert for the 12 hour trip, and I started noticing that nature could look heavenly and loving or it could look hellish and menacing. Eventually it occurred to me that what I was seeing was a projection of my own inner state. I realized that I had discovered the secret of life--that what we perceive is really a projection of our inner state, although it's not as obvious when we are not on psychedelic drugs. I have not always known how to act on this insight, but i never forgot it, and I would say that it has been responsible for the happiness and success I have had in the following 50+ years. . Thank you, Aldous.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
hamid zemzami
Wish I had read the review with the pic and the warning about the publisher Important Books. There are errors in the book alluding to it just basically being a pdf printed out with a shiny cover (which is pixelated and low quality). How this publisher gets away with this, I have no idea.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
andrew k
I've always felt that Aldous Huxley was the most versatile thinker of England the last century, Without forget obviously the presence of Bertrand Russell. His huge culture allowed him to explore all the known items. I must recognize that with the astonishing exception of a "Brave new world", as novelist, he doesn't have much to offer. I'd rather prefer his meticulous essays in multiple directions.
This book, in particular may be a good star for all who pretend to get into the Huxley's world.
I read that book in the middle of the seventies, and the first you acknowledge is the visible enchantment that gives to every note. In fact, Huxley was a fan of William Blake, and that explains the title "The doors of perception" (Jim Morrison was too a fervent reader of Blake).
The approach given for Huxley in The doors... is like he and us were in an opened conference with no restrictions of any subject.
The explanations above the different ways you may reach of reducing the efficiency of the "third eye" is ravishing. You read page after with anxiety for absorbing every little commentary or observation. The links inmediatly leads you to Loudun's demons (which served to Ken Russell for making a film entitled The demons, with Oliver Reed) (in my point of view his most complete work),
Heaven and hell is an autobiografical experience, in which he is under the effects of the mescaline, a plant used in Mexico. This mind journey is supported by recordings made in company with his wife and a friend of them. So this reading is just an overlapping of all the process.
In the seventies, too many things shocked the world. The end of Vietnam's war, The Watergate affair, the prizes of oil established by the OPEC in 1973. Those were the days in which Marcuse and Erich Fromm hold a wide audience all around the world.
And in this sense, this book became a landmark, because the huge amount of items that troubled to Huxley , such he refers us in a "New visit to a brave new world", The island (the other side of the coin respect a New brave world), Huxley added it no limits territories, a true example of what you may define like a reinassance man. In this category, you can include thinkers and writers like Bertrand Russell, Ortega and Gasset, Ernesto Sabato, Jorge Luis Borges, Joseph Campbell, Mircea Eliade, Paul Diel, Jean marie Domenach, just to name a few.
This book, if you're really are interested for knowing the essential facts that happens in your mind when you are disturbed by your own choice, will offer a crude but enriched analysis. Don't be afraid just thinking the information may be dated.
I'm talking about the first step you may climb in order to follow you bliss in this sense. The links you can do have no ending. All depends about your inner convictions and interest areas, like investigator, universitary student, common reader or mythology investigator . The sky is the limit.
You will be always rewarded.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
What does Zen, Hindu and various forms of meditation have in common with poor diet, fasting and starvation, with self inflicted body wounds that bring on infection, with chanting songs and poems that hyperventilate, with yogic breathing exercises? Cerebral Infarction, or as Huxley words as inhibiting the brain's cerebral reduction valve, draining the required glucose to maintain a filtered, that is a reduced amount, of reality to be perceived for the survival of the human species. Whether this science is empirically true or not, the connection is most certainly there. One can find such revelatory and hallucinogenic experiences in the Hindu Upishads and Vedas, the Old and New Testaments and all cultures which have mystical experiences. The Catholic mystics called this experience the "gratuitous grace."

Anotherwards, these various forms of ancient religious exercises were designed to allow greater portions of reality to be perceived "Mind at Large," by otherwise a limited and filtered human mind that only perceives limited amounts of reality. And both in ancient times with the use of etheogenic/hallucinogenic plants, and now in modern times with laboratory extraction and use of such plants this opening of perception (doors of perception) of the human mind, are opened to allow such beneficial observation.

According to Huxley, this is not an escape to utopia, nor an ultimate answer, however it is an experience that will ever change the human in a most beneficial way, where he will never quite be the same but will have a newer and deeper understanding of art, creativity and perception as never before. Not as a simple recreational tool, but an advancement for the intellectual.

I agree with his assessment.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I had not read this book before and was amazed at the depth and clarity of Huxley's insights. His description of the brain as a reducing valve that compresses our perceptual field down to the cartoon needed for survival influenced all the psychedelic writers after him, from Leary to Pichbeck. Huxley is cool, factual and humble. His comments about art on psychedelics are truly spiritual, his perception of the unconditioned in draperies and landscapes is a wonderful illumination that changes my perception of art. Heaven and Hell is a very different essay than Doors of Perception, but equally original and enlightening. Having read most of The Perennial Philosophy, I was aware of Huxley's encyclopedic knowledge of mysticism and his deep spiritual insight, but The Doors of Perception is almost better than TPP as a spiritual handbook, partly because it is so much less ambitious. Huxley is a genuinely brilliant person, the fine-grain of his vision makes this a book to read and re-read over a lifetime.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
ethan deragon
In The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley chronicles his experience with mescaline, the active ingredient in peyote. Huxley ingests mescaline as a test subject and he describes the experience as he is interviewed by the experimenter and presented with various objects. To me, it seems as if the style he wrote this in mimics the high he gained from taking mescaline.

He begins the book with various pieces of background information, explaining the current state of mescaline research at the time. This is written in a very straightforward and coherent manner. He then "swallowed four-tenths of a gram of mescalin dissolved in half a glass of water and sat down to wait for the results." At this point, his writing becomes difficult to follow as he writes in a stream of consciousness style. He recounts his observations when presented with various works of art and everyday objects. Huxley explains first that he has always been a "poor visualizer," that " not evoke pictures in my mind." As the drug effects begin to manifest themselves, Huxley's vision changes. He fixates on objects such as a vase of flowers, noticing the colors in greater detail and the overall beauty. From the flowers he moves onto an essay he remembers reading and then to the books lining his study walls, describing each in excruciating detail. This is all in an attempt to show the reader what the drug has forced him to fixate on.

Looking around the room, he notices that spatial relationships have changed. In his mescaline-drugged state, Huxley explains that "Place and distance cease to be of much interest...position and the three dimensions were beside the point...the mind was primarily concerned, not with measures and locations, but with being and meaning." He no longer cares for an object's position and instead focuses on minute details. For example, when he is directed to look at some furniture, he sees the lines and patterns that make up the furniture. He describes himself as "the pure aesthete whose concern is only with forms and their relationships within the field of vision or the picture space." It's very interesting in that he no longer sees a chair as an object he sits on or a desk as an object he writes on, but instead he notices the smoothness of the chair legs and the shapes that make up the desk. Later in the experiment, he notices the folds in his pants and thoroughly explains drapery to the reader. He, as well as other mescaline users, fixates on minutiae of the three-dimensional objects.
Something that was very interesting is his response when given a self-portrait of Cezanne. Huxley describes the drawing as taking on a "third dimension" and coming to life as a "small goblin-like man looking out through a window in the page before me." With three dimensional objects, he notices the colors and small details, but with two dimensional pictures, his vision creates a third dimension.

Neurologically speaking, Huxley then explains that mescaline inhibits the production of certain enzymes that regulate glucose supply to brain cells. Memory and the ability to "think straight" are not affected or are to very small degrees. Huxley describes listening to recordings of his conversations later and says, "I cannot discover that I was then any stupider than I am at ordinary times." Vision, though, is improved and some of the perceptual innocence of childhood is brought back. However, mescaline users lose the motivation to do things. They lose interest in time and space and carrying out tasks they would normally do. Another interesting point about this book is that Huxley continuously describes his visual observations in great detail throughout the experiment, but when music is played he experiences nothing of great interest. The music does not evoke the same experiences aurally as pictures and objects do visually. If anything, he explains, "instrumental music...left me rather cold" and he wonders "Would a naturally gifted musician hear the revelations which, for me, had been exclusively visual?"

Huxley later compares the effects of mescaline to schizophrenia. He explains that patients living with schizophrenia experience "its heavens as well as its hells and purgatories." He describes a friend whose wife suffered from the disease and how she would interrupt conversations to point out the beauty of the patterns her husband would make in his jacket every time he moved. Mescaline users generally only experience the "heavenly part of schizophrenia." The drug's effects pass after eight to ten hours with no hangover or cravings. Huxley then makes an interesting discovery, stating that if one had started the high "in the wrong way, everything that happened would be a proof of the conspiracy against you." In other words, if Huxley had started the experiment with a different attitude, he would have likely experienced the "hells of schizophrenia" instead of experiencing the positive revelations, or "heavens", that he did.
As the effects of mescaline wear off, Huxley begins to examine the general attitude towards other vices. Drinking and smoking, he explains, continues to hurt and kill people, we still joke about and treat them as normal and natural parts of our lives. He then explains that simply prohibiting alcohol and tobacco will not solve the problems they cause and that, instead, people should be provided with different and better "doors" or alternatives. These alternatives should be ones that entice people to "exchange their old bad habits for new and less harmful ones." Huxley points out that regardless of what these "doors" are, the "need for frequent chemical vacations from intolerable selfhood and repulsive surroundings will undoubtedly remain." He explains that a drug that is potent in small doses but does not create long-term problems is necessary for this reason. Mescaline, he points out, would be an almost ideal drug for this purpose. It does not drive people to perform crimes or become involved in traffic accidents, but influences users to sit quietly and experience enlightening thoughts. These observations he makes once the effects of mescaline have worn off are perhaps the most interesting in that he suggests the adoption of mescaline.


Though very interesting, reading this book was much like speaking to someone under the influence. Sentences are not always strung together in a cohesive and logical manner, making this book a little difficult to follow at times. Huxley has written this narrative in a way that the reader can vicariously experience the high; taking the reader through pre-drugged, drug-induced, and post-drugged phases. The bottom line is, I would recommend this book but the reader must understand the context of this writing in order to be able to follow it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I didn't know what to expect when I saw this book at my local library, but what a fun and interesting book to find. Reading through the reviews, I see that it may have been written as an allegory to World War II, which is something I would not have guessed. It is a bit dark, but for whatever reason my 4 year old twins love it and have asked me to read it 4 times already this week. The combination of the text and the new illustrations are comical, and at times, weird and hilarious. The owl is wearing bunny slippers, Mrs. Crow's shopping basket includes a dozen little eggs, the snake's dentures, complete with fangs, are soaking in a cup on his nightstand. Mrs. Crow and the Snake are the funniest characters in the book. Mr. Crow is a bit of a jerk when he tells his wife that "her ideas are seldom good" but then you see that he's no intellectual giant himself when he has to ask his friend the owl for help and hears the same words from Mr. Owl. I enjoy this book because it is out of the ordinary and has details that leave me chuckling.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
On that fateful day, 4 May 1953, Aldous Huxley, novelist, philosopher, poet and world famous intellectual, drank a glass of water mixed with silvery white mescalin. As Humphrey Osmond, a Canadian psychiatrist, specializing in schizophrenia, wrote, "It was a delicious May morning in Hollywood, no hint of smog to make the eyes smart, not too hot." Osmond had supplied the drug to Huxley for the experiment, and acted as 'observing recorder' of the historical event.
Huxley had high hopes for the experience, and believed that the drug would in fact admit him into the world that Blake painted and tried to describe in his poetry; and also possibly transport him into the mystical world of Meister Eckhart. The reality of the situation exceeded his hopes - as Huxley wrote in ~The Doors of Perception~, "I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation - the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence."
~The Doors of Perception~ is an important commentary from a man of rationality and science, attempting to investigate what some call 'Intuitive knowledge'. As a researcher and writer, he knew second hand these reported heightened states of awareness, had observed and dimly 'felt' these states through painting, architecture and art in general, but wanted desperately to experience them first hand. The book describes his feelings, perceptions and thoughts about the experiment.
Huxley writes that one of our basic universal human needs is to transcend our, at times, banal consciousness, "...the urge to transcend self conscious self-hood is...a principal appetite of the soul." (P.54) We have been doing it and continue to do it since time immemorial. Our methods, however, particularly in modern times, has been destructive. He writes, "When, for whatever reason, men and women fail to transcend themselves by means of worship, good works and spiritual exercises, they are apt to resort to religion's chemical surrogates - alcohol and 'goof-pills' in the modern West, alcohol and opium in the East, hashish in the Mohammedan world, alcohol and marijuana in Central America..." (P.54) Unfortunately these sad and destructive alternatives have mounted since this writing, but the central message is the same. He goes on to say, "Ideally, everyone should be able to find self-transcendence in some form of pure or applied religion." But, for the most part, "...the hungry sheep look up and are not fed."
~Heaven and Hell~ is a sequel to ~The Doors of Perception~ describing or more so reflecting on the visionary experience through various means. Huxley also explores the understandings of other minds in their perceptions and cosmological notions expressed through art, and why they are impelled to express these notions. He also describes the dark side to spiritual insight of the divine nature: the dark, empty journey of the soul when overwhelmed by such experiences, manifested in mental illness such as schizophrenia.
This important book was first published in 1954, and has become a classic that continues to communicate the plight and experince of the human condition: concise and easy to read - an absolute must.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
matt smith
The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell were two separate publications originally. Doors of Perception was a first person account of Huxley's mescalin trip with a scientist who wanted to record the effects. Because the session was recorded, he was able to review the tapes and put together a very coherent account of a non-rational event.

In both essays, Huxley argues for the use of hallucinogens for expanding consciousness in ordinary people and not reserving the experience of the "Mind-at-Large" (Doors of Perception) or "Other World" (Heaven and Hell). He warns in Heaven and Hell that unfortunately we haven't discovered a drug that can produce a positive experience in every person, that is eliminate the bad trip. In Heaven and Hell, he denigrates the use of non-pharmacological approaches to reaching the same psychic state, because he assumes that all methods use some sort of self-mortification, and that the mechanism for their efficacy is shock, starvation, or hypoxia. I am not sure that there is any scientific evidence to support such a claim. It appears to be speculation unsubstantiated with any evidence.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
heather currie markle
"the doors of perception" is an obscure little book by aldous huxley that, in my opinion, is one of his best. it is obvious that huxley is really reaching, however, and perhaps looking for metaphysical meaning where there really is none, although as a great man once said i am too skeptical to deny the possibility of anything. the beautiful and unique thing about this book is that you can practically feel huxley's passionate search for the underlying essence of the universe, and it is a real privilege to be allowed a peek into the mind of a man of genius in an altered and stimulated state. along with gerard de nerval's "aurelia", this book is probably the best 'hallucinatory' work ever written. references to blake, coleridge, and many of the other 'mystical poets' abound, and one can practically feel the author's near desperation for attainment of ultimate truth. for a short time during the book he becomes what the surly schopenhauer would have called "the free willless subject of knowledge" and is more interested in the magic and wonder of pure perception than that of engaged being. huxley's honesty is at times almost disconcerting, and he admits several times that for people of abnormally abundant intellect such as himself, the world becomes more of a symbolic concept than a lived reality and experience, and his drug experimentation was an attempt to temporarily escape this mental deadening and sterility. it is probably true that this book may have helped to inspire some illicit and destructive drug use, but the blame for that hardly lies with huxley himself. if i remember correctly he published an essay that discouraged recreational drug use a few years after writing this book, although i could be thinking of someone else. there is no similarity whatsoever between a self controlled, brilliant man like huxley attempting a fleeting transformation of consciousness for creative purposes and a perpetually stoned young hippie trying to 'get the on the magic carpet ride' for a few hours. his more hasty readers should read a book entitled "beyond the outsider" by scholar/philosopher colin wilson before they start popping mescaline or taking psychedelic drugs that they are not experienced with. wilson describes in agonizing detail his horrific experience with mescaline and makes the astute and accurate observation that most people are too neurotic and fearful to have a positive experience with the drug. all of that said, however, this is an absolute must read for anyone even mildly interested in philosophy, poetry, or mysticism.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Until recently I had no idea Huxley had authored a children's book. But when I stumbled onto a listing for it, I knew I had to have it. I found an old 70's Weekly Reader copy with the original Barbara Cooney illustrations, which are exquisite, memorable, and remind me in a nostalgic sort of way of the black and white illustrations of Garth Williams in the Tall Book of Make Believe, my all-time favorite children's book.

The story is a well-written, fun-to-read fable. In some reviews it's judged as being harsh and gruesome, and if you're the sort who is liable to find older (pre-70's) children's literature and the themes within to be disagreeable, this one will likely disturb. There are a lot of really 'safe' books out there, and this one - no - does not fall into that category.

The story is that of a crow couple, the wife of whom has been losing her newly laid eggs and one day stumbles onto the smug culprit in the act. She is devastated, and there is a little tiff between husband and wife when he arrives home that I, personally, found to be rather amusing. Mr. Crow resolves to fix this problem by consulting with his wiser friend and neighbor - the owl. And while I agree with another reviewer that there are sexist overtones to the story, the owl treats both Mr. and Mrs. Crow as hysterical, so it's not so neatly in that camp as I had feared having read that review previous to purchasing. In any case, the owl's plan to replace Mrs. Crow's eggs with hard-baked clay look-alikes works marvelously, and when Mrs. Crow returns home the following day, the snake, having devoured the eggs rather grossly (he has no manners, we are told - and this does give him an odd sort of appeal), has developed a bellyache and thrashed about so that he has tied each of his ends to opposite branches of the tree. The Crow family takes advantage of the snake's well-deserved misfortune and uses him as a clothesline and go on to bear many children now that the threat has been eliminated.

Is that morbid? Oh, I suppose. It's also a bit amusing and repulsive and odd enough to be memorable. It's not scary. If you want to scare the wits out of a kid, get Galdone's version of Tailypo. That gives me the creeps and I'm an adult. It's the only book I've ever vanquished to a high shelf for later. Much later.

The Crows of Pearblossom isn't scary. It's a fable with a bad guy who meets a bad end. There's really something that's just solid about the whole tale. It works, it's likable, Huxley's chosen words and phrases and various scenes carefully, and the accompanying illustrations for each carry the story along beautifully.

Personally, I'd snap up a copy of this before Disney discovers it and has the whole lot of 'em singing and dancing and becoming fast friends and learning to share in the end, with the snake loaning himself out as a clothesline willingly, encouraging the book police to begin a chant that the original should be gentrified to contain values relevant to our modern society. Just what are those values anyway?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
michael dalton
Like Douglas Hofstadter three generations later, Aldous Huxley is in awe of the complexities of the human mind. Just like Hofstadter, he too is a compassionate and astute observer of what the mind can accomplish when given full and free-reign. He is also a teacher like Hofstadter with the single purpose of conveying what he has learned to later generations. But unlike Hofstadter whose writings seek to soothe our fears, Huxley perhaps unwittingly, heightens them.

Huxley's writings have shocked and informed us for the better part of a century. His relaxed, clear, almost laconic style can be disarming. Yet, lurking behind this easygoing persona and writing style are always truths so devastating that we ordinary "socially adjusted" humans still have great difficulty getting our minds around their full implications. As was true in his most famous novel, "A Brave New World," here in two of his non-fiction works, Huxley continues his exploration into the implications of expanding the dimensions of the mind; or conversely, exploring why we continue to maintain a world in which the mind remains closed, shutoff, rendered static and limited. Using his own self-administered experiments with drugs, the author directs his fire at how cultural limitations and misuse of the mind have often diminished rather than enhanced the richness of man's life as well as affected his survival chances negatively.

The first book in this two-book volume is called "The doors of Perception." It is an all but clinical reporting on the effects of a self-administered experiment with the mind-expanding drug, Peyote. (I will review the second book, "Heaven and Hell," separately.)

Long before the neuro-scientists had confirmed that it was so, Huxley had reported that the brain and its nervous system are primarily a "data-reduction machine." That is to say, since in principle each person is capable of taking in vast amounts of data, including being able to remember all that has ever happened to him, and is capable of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere else in the universe, the primary function of the brain and nervous system is to "reduce" or "abstract from" this universe of infinite complexity and possible perceptions, only those data that might be useful in enhancing survival. This "reducing function," accomplishes its task by allowing us to discriminate between a mass of overwhelmingly irrelevant and useless stimuli, and those that are perceived to be useful to survival. Importantly, the residue that remains is what we have come to know as conscious awareness.

In order to communicate the content of consciousness we have invented symbol systems such as languages, which in themselves have become a mixed blessing: since, at the same time that they allow inter-subjective sharing of accumulated information (usually of survival value), they also erroneously confirm the fact that reality itself is the same as our "reduced" version of it. That is to say, languages teach us that the reality we have constructed to make the world save for our survival, is the only reality. Further, through language, we have also learned to mistake for "real data," the very "concepts" we invent as their substitutes. And likewise, we have learned to mistake "words" for the "things we have assigned them to represent." Thus the world we see is a severely "tapered-down" version of the wider universe. It is one of limited, reduced awareness: a "symbolic playground" that is a mere fragment of the larger, much richer reality: It remains one that is etched and ossified into our brains through language.

Huxley claims here that by depriving the brain of its primary fuel, sugar, drugs such as mescalin, the active ingredient in Peyote, can allow us to bypass the brain's "data reduction function," making it possible for man to see well beyond the narrowly constricted world created only for purposes of advancing survival. Bypassing the brain's data reduction function, mescalin opens up a whole new world of "cleansed or virgin perceptions." It does this by relaxing the constraints and inhibitions perceived necessary for survival: things such as our dependence on time, space and having a need for a goal or a purpose. Without the need for a survival purpose, many ordinary utilitarian concerns simply just become uninteresting.

What become infinitely more interesting are details previously left unattended to: things that artists see naturally and are conditioned to take for granted, such as intensified visual beauty and impressions, form and structure as inherent qualities, the absence of a dependence on time and space, discursive ego-free thinking, the apprehension of new orders of reality, extra-sensory perceptions, awareness at a distance, awareness of un-conceptualized and un-verbalizable events, perceptions of "being one with the universe," simultaneously perceiving everything that is happening within the body (both physically and mentally), and everywhere outside it in the universe at large; a conceptual world that is free of moral judgments, the pursuit of power and control, and all other petty utilitarian concerns that go with them; in short, being able to get beyond the ego-filter allows us to forget the need for self-esteem, ego-relevance, and self-assertion. And most of all it opens the door to transcendental experiences.

The beauty of this expanded dimension of psychic reality is that by existing above "ego-ness," it necessarily also lies beyond good and evil; indeed beyond a preoccupation with power and self-assertion. The problem with this expanded psychic worldview, however, is that it is incompatible with action-based reality. It gives us access to pure contemplation but not to action itself: It cannot bring the contemplative realm down from the clouds and into phase with the realm of action, in the present. This is so because this wider world of inner contemplation is itself acting as a "stand-in" for feelings and ideas. As a result, it reduces to a kind of intuited "proto-language of the mind" of its own: one in which the mind devises its own internal set of psychic symbols, operations and dynamics; symbols and dynamics that interplay among themselves well above our conventional paradigms of how the mind is supposed to function. Schizophrenics use the same self-constructed internal language and in a real sense represent the extreme end, or "worse-case" example of this enlightened "exterior point of view."

Yet, Huxley makes a strong case for exploring this broader "deeper internal" (and "superior external") point of view. It, for instance, allows us to be aware, always, of total reality in its immanent otherness -- arguably, the very definition of awareness. And yet it also allows us to be able to think and feel as an animal and as a human being; that is to say, it does not preclude the possibility of resorting, whenever expedient to systematic survival-based reasoning.

As but one example, Huxley compares religions that are "talk therapy based" -- that is Christianity for instance -- with those that include drugs as part of their sacramental rituals, for instance most Native American religions. Huxley argues rather convincingly that if the purpose of religion is to share a transcendental experience, where the soul knows itself as unconditioned and is of one with nature and with the divine, then Christian bible reading, prayer, hymnal singing and sermonizing, go together to constitute a kind of "talk therapy:" a living abstraction away form both deep feelings and about as far from "true" religious needs as one can get. True religion demands a deep shared psychological experience with the universe and with the divine. All religions strive for this kind of oneness that transcends the bounds of selfness. Yet, Christianity is based on having a "personal God" as man's personal servant, constantly at the very "beck and call" of every religionist's ego.

Huxley suggest that Christians might well learn from our Native American brothers, who took the best of Christianity and married their inherent religious needs with their own self-transcendent experiences, using Peyote. Thus in one religious rite, they satisfied the two appetites of the soul: the urge to independence and self-determination, and the urge to become one with God through self-transcendence.

However, for contradictory cultural reasons, drugs, it seems have no place in the Judeao-Christian Church, even when "sacramentized use" could expand religious understanding, address psychological yearning that can only be satisfied through transcendent experiences, and vastly enrich the religious experience. In order for Christians to have a true religious experience they are required to turn to the drug of alcohol, outside of the walls of the Church, Mosque or Temple.

1000 stars
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
liesbeth van
Says Huxley, "The urge to escape from selfhood and the environment is in almost everyone almost all the time... That humanity at large will ever be able to dispense with Artificial Paradise seems very unlikely. Most men
and women lead lives at the worst so painful, at the best so monotonous, poor and limited that the urge to escape, the longing to transcend themselves if only for a few moments, is and has always been one of the principal appetites of the soul."

Huxley goes on to describe how some mediums help to "open the doors" of the soul, such as art, music, religion, etc. Still, the worst things for the human race are what are available to us, and no matter how many drunk driving accidents occur or how many cases of lung cancer exist, people will keep partaking in each of these vices because it provides temporary release. Still, mankind needs better doors to open in order to flourish.


★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Doors of Perception

This book is written in the form of an essay and recounts the experiences of the author after taking mescalin for the first time. It is a fairly short read, about 80 pages, but the philosophical reflections require time to fully grasp. Huxley volunteers to be the guinea pig in a controlled experiment to observe the effects of mescalin. The resulting experience gave cause for Huxley to reflect deeply on the nature of reality and how humans shape this reality through perception. What is perceived in one state of consciousness as real can indeed become something altogether different in another. Huxley explores this intertwined relationship and places it in a larger historical context recalling the works and deeds of the visionaries and mystics of the past.

This work is a must for anyone interested in boundless possibilities that arise from hallucinogenic substances. The fact that Huxley is a very intelligent scholar as well as a gifted writer allow him to tackle a difficult subject and tell it in words that lend themselves to the initiated. Those interested in the remote frontiers and the unmapped areas of human consciousness would do well to read this.

*Side note: The band the Doors took their name from the book. The title of the book actually refers to a line in the poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, written by William Blake in 1793. "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite."

Heaven and Hell

Another rather short essay (about 100 p.) from Huxley in the vain of The Doors of Perception. In it Huxley takes on the fast unknowns of Mind at Large, examining the basic properties and functions of visionary experience. This essay is basically a philosophical discourse on the possibilities that exist for visionary experience. The contrast between the positive and negative experience are characterized in the contrasting realms of Heaven and Hell. What makes this an incredibly interesting read is that all arguments made are based on plausible grounds and quite often on scientifically sound grounds. Although written over a half century ago, this work has proved a classic that stands out in a field that is still insufficiently investigated. Together with The Doors of Perception, Heaven and Hell shows that Huxley is as much a force in the world of nonfiction thought as he is in fiction. Read what this man has to say and think about it. There is a lot there to digest.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lisa cooley
While these two slim volumes, collected here under one cover, will always be associated with the 1960s, they shouldn't be thought of as dated or period pieces by any stretch of the imagination. And that's a key phrase here, because stretching the imagination is precisely what they're about, and what they can do for you -- if you're willing to read them with an open mind.

Certainly they belong in the library of thoughtful, deeply considered books on mind-altering drugs & experience. But let's be clear on this: Huxley wasn't interested in cheap, easy highs, or simple escapism. He saw the use of such drugs as a useful & potentially powerful tool for exploring the depths of the psyche, the "Antipodes of the Unconscious," as he phrased it so well.

And so we not only get Huxley's own account of his controlled experiments, offered in vivid detail, always observed by his keen & penetrating intellect -- but we also get a history of the visionary experience in culture & art. Some might find this extraneous, even boring; but it's of vital import to his inward explorations.

Century after century, culture after culture, Huxley shows us that the visionary experience is essentially the same for all of humanity. The minute, superficial particulars may vary, but the essence is the same. And as he points out, drugs are not necessary for such an experience -- although he's fascinated by & intellectually curious about their possibilities as an entrance to them, and sees no reason not to utilize them under the proper conditions.

In fact, Huxley is reminding us that such visionary experience is the common, rightful inheritance & treasure of all who live. Moreover, now that we live in a culture impoverished by a lack of such experience, with an official contempt & fear of it, he asserts that we need it more than ever. And this was written in the late 1950s!

Yes, there were abuses & mistakes in the drug culture of the 1960s -- some of them dreadful. But much of this was due to an immature, basically hedonistic approach to the visionary world. There were many people hungry for a living visionary experience, but they didn't have the proper knowledge & preparation for it, and wound up plunging into the very deep end ... where some drowned.

Today we have a culture in which the "the only war that counts, the war against the Imagination" (poet Diane DiPrima) is still in full force. We're offered mass-produced substitutes for visionary experience, but they're only empty, glossy sensation, shoddy goods & special effects, with no substance or depth.

Huxley's wise words offer another approach, one that might yield real rewards for the sincere seeker. Again, while this might entail the use of mind-altering drugs for some, they're not a necessity. And if they are used, then they should be used knowledgeably & judiciously. More importantly, Huxley reminds us not to sacrifice the possibilities of rapture & transcendence out of fear. At best, this volume should lead the reader to art, to poetry, to the wisdom of the perennial philosophy. For the honest seeker with honest questions, this is highly recommended!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lynn dyet
If you were a bird, and a snake that lives in the same tree where you do eats your eggs for a snack each day, what would you do? Mr. and Mrs. Crow have a nest in a cottonwood tree at Pearblossom. A rattlesnake lives in a hole at the bottom of the same tree. Most of the time he sleeps, but every afternoon at half past three, when Mrs. Crow is away doing her shopping, he climbs up the tree and eat her egg. She wonders what is happening, but one day, she returns home early and sees the snake. When Mr. Crow comes home that evening from Palmdale, where he works as an Assistant Manager in the drugstore, his wife tells him what has been going on.
Mrs. Crow wants her husband to go down immediately into the snake's hole and kill him. However, Mr. Crow doesn't think that this is a good idea. He isn't scared, but he probably knows how dangerous it would be. So he flies over to the tall poplar in Mr. Yost's garden where Old Man Owl lives and explains the situation. What kind of plan will Old Man Owl and Mr. Crow devise to solve the Crows' problem? And will it work? Aldous Huxley, who lived from 1894 to 1963, is best remembered for his dystopian novel Brave New World (1932). The Crows of Pearblossom is his only children's story. He wrote in 1944 and gave it to his niece, Olivia, as a Christmas present. After the Huxley's had moved to the Antelope Valley of California's Mojave Desert in 1937, Olivia's family followed and lived in the nearby town of Pearblossom. The original manuscript, returned to Huxley to be illustrated, was destroyed in a fire.
Fortunately, the Huxley's neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Yost (who owned the tall poplar in which Old Man Owl lived), had kept a copy of the story. It was not published until 1967, when it came out in a small-format edition illustrated with black and white drawings by Barbara Cooney, but that version has long been out of print. Olivia desired to create a new, full-color edition to realize more fully the potential of her uncle's story. Stephanie Blackall's wonderfully detailed illustrations bring the witty animal characters to life. On one level the book is a charming story for children to read. Then on a deeper level, we see the negative example of Rattlesnake's greed, the positive example of Mr. Crow's discretion, and the general example of how good can triumph over evil. I am glad that it is once again available for young people today.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kirk rueckmann
Aldous Huxley was ahead of his time. And yet, he was right where he needed to be. In a time when modern society had not quite caught on to the mind-expanding powers of psycho-active drugs, psychology was still interested in how they might be used in a beneficial way. Thus, Huxley, one of the most dedicated thinkers of a generation, was able to participate in and produce feedback for, a controlled psychological experiment in which he used mescalin to produce an altered state of consciousness. That anyone could participate in such an experiment today and go on to write candidly about it seems unthinkable.

Today our lust for political correctness has rendered such ideas as the ones expressed in "The Doors of Perception" and "Heaven and Hell" to be nearly unspeakable. These two short books are combined in one book, and complement each other. I believe it is only Huxley's reputation as a creative author, poet, philosopher and thinker that has allowed this work to be taken seriously at all, and to remain part of our collective past.

Certainly, one cannot read his lucid chronicle of his mescalin experience in "The Doors of Perception" or his evaluation of it in the remainder of that book or in the book "Heaven and Hell" which follows it, and believe he saw no merit in the judicious use of psycho-active substances. Huxley describes both psycho-active drugs and hypnosis as tools for accessing what he calls the "antipodes" of the mind. And yet, society has such a social stigma about trying to do that by whatever means.

As a certified hypnotherapist, I can say that society is still mostly in ignorance of the usefulness of hypnosis as a profound tool for accessing realms of the mind that are typically unaccessible. The use of a mind-altering drug for such a purpose has fallen into deep disfavor, with the anti-drug advocates lumping psychadelic drugs in the same category as narcotics and other dangerous drugs. And yet, indigenous cultures have used them for attaining spiritual visions and experiences for as long as they have been available to use, and continue to use them to this day.

The desire to transcend the human mind is as old as humanity. It is the natural result of enlightenment, often achieved only after many years of meditation and intense spiritual practice. And yet, Huxley himself was able to achieve this, at least temporarily, through the use of mescalin. In his own words: "For the moment that interfering neurotic who, in waking hours, tries to run the show, was blessedly out of the way."

I believe Huxley saw the use of psychadelic drugs as a useful tool for opening the normally very filtered awareness of the conscious mind to perceptions that are usually inaccessible. While they have great power, they should also be respected. Yes, there may have been excessive use and misuse of it in the 1960s and 70s, but that is also the period that produced some of the greatest social and creative breakthroughs we take for granted today: things like civil rights, women's liberation and music legends. It is good to step back once in a while and take in the big picture.

Huxley experienced the ability of a psycho-active drug to take its user to much more expanded and profound levels of consciousness, levels rich with possibility, long before the social activism of the 1960s. And yet, his book most likely influenced the willingness of that generation to experiment with such substances, a generation that demanded change as a result of its shared vision and experience.

I was surprised to note as I was preparing this review that this copy, which is at least 30 years old, was printed on 100% recycled paper. This was long before it became fashionable for the publishing industry to be "green" and "earth friendly". Again, this book was ahead of its time. The pages of my copy of this classic are thoroughly yellowed. Unfortunately, at that time recycled paper was not also available as acid-free, so the pages have weathered with time.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
This is such an odd review. I have before me a children's book that I enjoy for the pictures but I can't recommend it for young kids. My version of THE CROWS OF PEARBLOSSOM is the 1967 copyright hardback with Barbara Cooney as the illustrator. The pictures are done in shades of black, white, gray and green. They are pleasant to look at. I would recommend this older version to any mixed media artists who need motivation with nature.

In some ways it reminds me of a fable from long ago. The story is meant to teach you a lesson. THE CROWS OF PEARBLOSSOM is the only children's story ever written by Aldous Huxley, the famous English novelist, essayist and critic. He wrote it for his five-year-old niece, Olivia, during a Christmas holiday in 1944. Her brother Siggy is mentioned in the story, too. As an adult I can appreciate his writing but IMHO he is not a children's author. There is a reason he did not write other books for kids.

The mother crow's eggs have been eaten daily by a snake for a long time. When she approaches her husband about the situation and insinuates that he may be scared of going up against the snake he responds "your ideas are seldom good...I shall go and talk to my friend Owl....his ideas are always good." When Mr. Crow and Owl return to the upset Mrs. Crow the husband responds, "you talk too much. Keep your beak shut and get out of your nest". Somehow I just don't think this is something I would want young children to read. Mrs. Crow comes across as whiney and stupid. Owl is the brains and yet he and Mr. Crow are not mentioned after the fake eggs are put in the nest. There is nothing written to show children that the Owl and Mr. and Mrs. Crow can have a HEA. I know, I know, I am putting too much thought into this but there are so many better books out there for children to read. If you are looking for good children's entertainment try something else.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
daniel ward
The Doors of Perception is basically a short essay about how the author took mescaline, written in exceptionally rich prose that I think you will love to read. Huxley also makes a political case for hallucinogens at the end of his work, though many of these arguments are now dated a bit, and lack a lot of the science that has show up in the last four years (much of which would make his case even stronger!). -Ryan Mease
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
reid griffith
This book is truly a classic. It has a timeless quality and youth-like enthusiasm. Mr. Huxley does such a superb job at capturing the "feel" of the whole experience. He weaves wonderful prose with intriguing ideas. Not being an avid art aficionado, I was left a bit daunted with the numerous art references, but overall he has left me with a newfound interest in art.
Huxley touches on some good questions concerning psychoactive substances (and general "chemical vacations") and perception. I am intrigued with his idea of the brain acting as a sort of "reducing valve" for the whole of what could be perceived (experiencing "mind at large"). It is surely a quick read, but still packed full of philosophy, little tidbits, history and a myriad of other such though provoking ideas.
A great quote: "The need for frequent chemical vacations from intolerable selfhood and repulsive surroundings will undoubtedly remain." And Huxley does a wonderful job at explaining why this is so. This is a must read for anyone trying to understand the whole why and what for of hallucinogens, or for the aspiring philosopher, the general curious about life, mystery, etc. It is a necessary read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Aldous Huxley wrote one story for children, specifically for his niece Olivia (for the Christmas of 1944 though only published in 1967), and I was lucky enough to find a copy of it at a local library book sale. I found the work nostalgic, fond of the Barbara Cooney illustrations and the dour, rather than vibrant coloring, of books during my childhood. Would someone else find something in this today? I'm not sure, to be honest. It's hard for me to see this purely through the eyes of a child now. Mr. Abraham Crow gets a bit angry with his wife in a way that probably wouldn't fly in today's children's books: when Mrs. Crow gets emotional, he accuses her of "overeating again"; when Mrs. Crow can't understand a simple plan to fool the rattlesnake that has eaten all of her eggs for a decade or so, Abraham says, "Amelia . . . you talk too much. Keep your beak shut and get out of your nest." (Ironically this is the same accusation Old Man Owl had against Abraham.) Some people might find such moments offensive or not in the kind of taste that would allow them to be read to a child; some might, on the other hand, find them quite humorous. So I'll leave that up to you. Other than that, the tale is a simple tale of revenge on the baby-eating rattlesnake by coloring two stones exactly as Mrs. Crow's eggs, which the snake swallows in his gluttony, and then, in a fit of horrible nausea, manages to knot himself up lengthwise in a tree in such a way that makes it fully impossible to extricate himself. Forever after, he is a clothesline upon which Mrs. Crow hangs her hatchling baby's diapers. In hindsight, I'm glad that I have this text, and it gives me an interesting insight into one of the greatest minds of the modern period that I never knew about before. It's a nice little period piece. It's fun to know that books could be politically incorrect at one time and still cute and wholesome at the same time. I wouldn't pay collector's prices for this, but if it were found for a few quid, I'd definitely find it worth the price just for the whimsicality of it all.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
tom steinberg
"The Doors of Perception" is essentially a commentary by Huxley describing his experience with Mescaline. What I found most interesting was that it is written from the perspective of a very well-educated intellectual who, while high on Mescaline, observes and waxes mystical and philosophical on art (paintings), of all things. This was funny in an odd sort of way, reading an obviously passionate art appreciator discuss the merits of various artists and works of art while using a hallucinagenic drug, - however not understanding a lot myself about the history of painted artwork I think much of his commentary was lost on me. In addition to criticizing art he also commented in general on the nature of the mind and the connection between the mind, hallucinagens and mystical experience, etc.
In "Heaven and Hell", Huxley discusses the nature and history of mystical experience, or as he tends to refer to it "visionary experience". Again, he focuses strongly on the role of art (mostly painting) throughout history as being evocative of mystical visions and it's almost as if he is discussing the mystical implications of art throughout history as much as he is discussing the mystical experience itself.
While interesting, I found his approach a bit too intellectual for my tastes, and his fixation with art a bit beyond my reach considering I know little of art and had no frame of reference with which to personally evaluate his examples and comparisons (not being familiar with the specific works and artists that he was using for examples). Also, compared to the wealth of written material and research available today on the subjects of hallucinagens, mysticism, and transpersonal psychology I felt that his material was a bit outdated.
Nevertheless, these books are worth reading and he makes many interesting points.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
krisandra johnson
I love it when old men take drugs and then write about the experience. When they also happen to be extraordinarily eloquent, insightful and funny, it is Aldous Huxley doing the writing.

I'll take my mescaline straight up with a twist, barkeep. Pass the peanuts.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The first book of Huxley's that I ever read was Brave New World in high school. Ever since then have I been fascinated with Aldous Huxley's publications, I have numerous books of his and to this day enjoy reading them. This is a man who I dearly wish that have the opportunity to have a discussion with. One of the true books that have shaped my perception of reality and will always be a book that I return to.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sarah piccini
Written almost forty years ago, The Doors of Perception retains the freshness of its insights, carrying itself well through two major episodes of drug hysteria in this country. It is a brief work containing Huxley's reflections on an evening in which he took a dose of synthetic mescaline.
He immediately draws comparisons between the experience of drug-taking and religious awareness. He goes on to propose sacramental use of hallucinogens in the Christian church to reinstitute the mystical element.
He is dead-on in his characterization of the drugged mindset as less filtered and more meaningful, although his pseudomedical explanation of lowered brain sugar is laughable today. His writing is as lovely and precise as always, and he brings another voice of reason to the too-long, too-heated debate on drugs.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lyght jones
Since my earliest memories (app. ages 3 and 4) I have loved and treasured this book. Even before I could read, the animal characters within were well-beloved friends of mine, simply through the pictures. I was thrilled when my parents would read it to me, and when I learned to read myself I was proud to be able to get through it on my own. It was only much later, when I actually knew who Huxley was and realized he was the author of one of my favorite early childhood books, that I learned to love it for its historic context as well.
This book comes from an interesting background. Others have already commented on the time period Huxley wrote it in--during the second World War. It is his only children's book and he wrote it not for publication but for Olivia, the young daughter of his nextdoor neighbors (human characters who are actually referred to by name in the course of the book, further personalizing this effort of Huxley's.) There were only two copies, Huxley's and the one belonging to these neighbors. The first was destroyed in a fire that broke out in the Huxley home. The second was published following his death.
While I recognize the problem a previous reader had with this book, I must respectfully disagree. That "The Crows of Pearblossom" has a certain morbidity is in fact partly the point. Looking back on most successful children's stories, we see that they often have elements of the violent or morbid, since the first time the Big Bad Wolf ate Little Red Riding Hood and beyond. That children be acquainted by these means with some of the more unpleasant aspects of life is important. If they don't encounter them through a relatively harmless and provocative medium like a bed-time story, they can only become acquainted with them through other means, frequently personal experience, which can be infinitely more detrimental to the child than a story like Huxley's "Crows." Children need to be prepared to deal with life, and a story like this can provide a means for doing so.
All of this aside, "The Crows" also presents interesting and likeable animal characters, with the exception of the snake, (though as a child I actually rather got a kick out of him and the little song he sings) and is not without its humorous points. The idea of an owl shaving, for example, still makes me chuckle. The story itself teaches an important lesson about how not to accept an unacceptable situation, and how to use personal ingenuity and intelligence against brute strength, in an easily understood format. It also embraces a certain lighter-hearted, more fanciful spirit than readers of "Brave New World" may have known Huxley could posess.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This book or should I say these essays, are written in an adequate fashion, short straight to the point, and profoundly descriptive. He was ahead of his time. Heaven and hell is a cohesive addition to the idea and better distinctively separates good trips and bad trips. Great read for a psychonaut. His vocabulary can be extensive at times but that's what the dictionary is for. I read it in a day. I recommend this book for anyone inquiring about the psychedelic world. the essay in the back is worth reading too! Don't just read doors of perception, read the whole book and grasp the whole idea in its entirety.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Finally I got to read this famous book on mental states. Since the Doors were inspired by it (hence their name), I thought it would have a similar style--instead, the writer's erudition gets in the way of what would benefit from a freewheeling style.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Aldous Huxley is one of my favorite scientific-minded writers. In "Doors of Perception," he turns himself into an experimental subject to explore the nature of perception by way of experimenting with mescalin and having a note taker write down his every comment about the changes in perception that he experiences. Aldous' mindset and approach are very unfamiliar to todays thinkers. The way Aldous writes is, although unrefined, the very epitome of creative and clarity.

I found Heaven and Hell to be equally fascinating. In it, Aldous explores the possible relationship between concepts such as perceived brightness and supposed experiences of Heaven. He also touches upon the idea "altered states" of reality.

These are quick reads and are worthy reading for all.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kimberly lyn
"The Doors of Perception" is probably the most popular non-fiction work on the subject of psychedelic experiences; it is based on first account records of the author's decision to experiment the consequences of intake of small amounts of mescalin, in an attempt to reach enlightenment and escape world's boredom. Being who he was, the result is a very interesting narrative in which the author expands on his not only scientific but also philosophical, religious, and artistic ideas.
The philosopher C.D.Broad suggested that our brains are genetically programmed to screen perceptions, selecting only those that are necessary for survival. By doing so, humans close the doors to what Huxley calls "Mind-at-Large," thereby loosing access to the world of unconsciousness and wonder. Only through the use of chemical substances can a human being free himself from his inherited limitations, experience the realms of supernaturally brilliant visionary experiences, and obtain total freedom from the ego. In this new stage of consciousness, spatial and time relationships cease to exist, whilst intensity, profundity of significance are augmented. Our everyday reliance on language petrifies perception because "however expressive, symbols can never be the things they stand for." There is a need for a less exclusively verbal system of education and "an occasional trip through some chemical Door in the Wall!"
Huxley's work is highly controversial and paradoxical. How are we to develop a science of perception if our language is not equipped to express that same perception? How are we to explain the differences in reaction to mescalin intake, ranging from peaceful and mystical to schizophrenic behavior? How are we to define individuals "with open minds and sound lives" who would be normally allowed to use chemical substances (drugs) with no risk involved? Let the reader keep in mind that this book was published back in 1954 and nowadays science is till dealing with these issues.
In order to give an anwer as to why individuals react differently to drug intake, Huxley worte "Heaven and Hell." According to him, for some "the ego doesn't melt like an iceberg in tropical waters, but expands to the point of suffocation;" only those who are free from negative emotions (fear, hatred, anger) have the door opened to visionary experience.
Aldous Huxley raises a number of interesting issues, not be taken as "chicken-soup for drugs," but rather as intellectual exercise for further thought and consideration as to what we most commonly refer to as "reality." His opinions and explanations may sometimes be considered "naive" and not fully elaborated, but merit goes to his audacity in exploring an area which to this day remains open to further understanding.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rick smith
In the first half of the book, DOORS OF PERCEPTION--originally a separate volume--Huxley offers a cogent and erudite argument for the use hallucinogens (specifically, mescaline) as a means for opening up the thinking mind to new ideas and perceptions, or even as a method for jumpstarting human creativity in the common man. Not only does he offer compelling historical precedents and sound medical research, but he also reveals positive details about his own personal experimentation with the drug. As is always the case with Huxley's essays, his various hypotheses are very articulately expressed and not easily dismissed.
The second part of the book, HEAVEN AND HELL--also originally published separately--Huxley introduces the idea that spiritual insight and personal revelation can also be achieved through the use of hallucinogens. (By the time he had written this volume, Huxley had added LSD to his psychedelic repertoire.) While just as articulately written and researched as the first volume, the idea that religious insight can be gained through drugs may offend some readers (theists and atheists alike), and the premise seems odd and contrived or expedient (was he trying to gain support of the clergy?) coming from a generally non-theist thinker-philosopher such as Huxley. Nevertheless, it is still thought-provoking reading for both professionals and amateurs interested in the positive potential of mind-altering drugs.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Aldous may be a bit impressed with himself, and that comes across in the writing, but this short book is one of the better explanations and introductions to the power of hallucinogens, and their uses beyond simple recreation. He, in fact, makes a good case against recreational use.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jeff james
"Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell" is the first door into a variety of research topics including: Psychodelic drugs generally, the unethical research done by the C.I.A. during their MKULTRA project (see "In Search of the Manchurian Candidate" by John Marks) and the spiritual "trips" of Native traditions, (see "The Teachings of Don Juan" by Carlos Castaneda).Doors of Perception is an intelligently written work of art.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
fauzi zaky
This is such an odd review. I have before me a children's book that I enjoy for the pictures but I can't recommend it for young kids. My version of THE CROWS OF PEARBLOSSOM is the 1967 copyright hardback with Barbara Cooney as the illustrator. The pictures are done in shades of black, white, gray and green. They are pleasant to look at. I would recommend this older version to any mixed media artists who need motivation with nature.

THE CROWS OF PEARBLOSSOM is the only children's story ever written by Aldous Huxley, the famous English novelist, essayist and critic. He wrote it for his five-year-old niece, Olivia, during a Christmas holiday in 1944. Her brother Siggy is mentioned in the story, too. In some ways the story reminds me of a fable from long ago. The story is meant to teach you a lesson. As an adult I can appreciate his writing but IMHO he is not a children's author. There is a reason he did not write other stories for children.

The mother crow's eggs have been eaten daily by a snake for a long time. When she approaches her husband about the situation and insinuates that he may be scared of going up against the snake he responds "your ideas are seldom good...I shall go and talk to my friend Owl....his ideas are always good." When Mr. Crow and Owl return to the upset Mrs. Crow the husband responds, "you talk too much. Keep your beak shut and get out of your nest". Somehow I just don't think this is something I would want young children to read. Mrs. Crow comes across as whiney and stupid. Owl is the brains and yet he and Mr. Crow are not mentioned after the fake eggs are put in the nest. There is nothing written to show children that the Owl and Mr. and Mrs. Crow can have a HEA. I know, I know, I am putting too much thought into this but there are so many better books out there for children to read. If you are looking for good childrens' entertainment try something else.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jan degginger
There are other books which clearly portray hallucinogenic madness (Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass) but there's no wisdom, only obscurity. In this book, Aldous Huxley skillfully presents himself as the patient explorer at the beginning, with many big-picture questions. In his descriptions of visuals and sensations, he includes countless references to artists, composers and poets. If you are not familiar with them, his comparisons become difficult to appreciate. Regardless, it's inspiring and Aldous is successful in transmitting those elusive epiphanies.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jason r
As many others have said, this book is a classic. Huxley was, and is still to some degree, a very respected philosopher and thinker, so what you're basically doing is going on an acid trip with a genius at a time when very little was understood about psychedelics.

It's been years since I read it, but the very thought of it is still a bit overwhelming.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
amanda betts
Here is Huxley's famous and influential work on the use of mescaline. It consists of the record of a mescaline trip, where he was attended by a friend and his wife, and musings on the spiritual and historic uses of the drug.

For the reader today, the book will seem quite tame and matter-of-fact, but for someone like Huxley to speak out on this drug, in his time, was quite controversial. I did enjoy the essay though I think it suffers from a fatal flaw:

To the already initiated user of the drug, the book is unnecessary, as the effects he describes and the conclusions he reaches are nearly universal among users I have known. On the other hand, to the uninitiated reader, the book will read like so much nonsense.

It is not terribly different than to try to explain a personally transcendent experience of any kind to those who have not experienced one of their own. It was Huxley's goal to penetrate academia with this book and motivate research into what he considered a very important drug for mankind.

The second half of the book (more or less) is a second essay, "Heaven and Hell", which discusses, basically, the transcendent nature of art (mostly) and the draw toward certain mediums, themes, and materials in history. It is a study in philosophical idealism.

I found that it wandered, did not well support its case, and was over-long.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
tracy thomas
Aldous Huxley was one of the deepest and most profound thinkers to ever explore how various chemicals alter the state of one's thinking and being. His varying perceptions and thought processes are recorded in these two novellas with lucid clarity and thought that only Huxley could produce despite his mind-altering states. A fearless explorer and detractor of controlled societal construction, Huxley reveals with poignant depth the frequency and wavelengths of his various psychedelic induced experiences. A must read for those interested in chemical or meditatively induced mind expansion.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
carolyn gross
It's been a long time since I've touched any illicit drug. I remember in my teens I went through my Rimbaud phase of experimentation to see if I could write poetry under pot. But as with drunkenness, creative writing while you're high has little or no good effect. Often it's not even possible to create in such a state. The notion that you'll get all these visions and reach a higher creative reality is all, unfortunately, bullsh*t. However, in very moderate doses, drugs and alcohol can help stimulate an artist's creativity.
"The Doors of Perception" was the result of Aldous Huxley taking an hallucinogenic called mescaline to see what would happen to him. He sat down and closed his eyes, waiting for it to take effect. When he next opened his eyes, his perception of everything was completely altered. Even the flowers in the vase were different. Huxley referred to this mystical experience as a "sacramental vision of reality" and "the miracle, moment by moment, of naked reality."
David Rehak
author of "Love and Madness"
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
daniel escasa
This is a collection of two long essays by Aldous Huxley. The First one featured is the Doors of Perception. It argues that the primary purpose of the brain is to filter out irrelevant thought, rather than creating relevant thought. This has somewhat been confirmed by modern neuroscience. Through the use of hallucinogens one can remove the filtering mechanisms of the brain and explore new and uncharted areas of the brain. The arguments are made clearly and compellingly. For the doors of perception, I give 5-stars.

The Second Essay, Heaven and Hell, talks about using hallucinogens for the religious experience as a way of gaining insight. His focus is specifically on Christianity. I found these arguments to be less convincing. To Heaven and Hell, I give 3-stars.

These essays played an important role in counter-culture, so they have historical significance. They are also of significance to people searching for the psychedelic experience.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I liked this book right from the start, maybe because it supports my views upon life, but at the same time it challenges my view upon drugs through my views upon life.
Aldous Huxley describes a state of Suchness as a state where everything just exists, there is no real value in this state of mind except that there is beauty in everything, it's a kind of objective state distanced from the beholders self. To Aldous Huxley this is a state he reaches with mescalin, and the attainment of this state is the argument for drugs, because as he says, this is the way that people ought to see things. Huxley believes that we would be better human beeings if we reach into to this Other World, this state of distance from our own egos, and I believe he is right. We would probably be more peaceful, more open minded, more accepting and more forgiving, but as he points out, this is also a state of inactivity. This mind at large is a very observative and percieving state, and the beholder might even forget or ignore even his/her own basic needs like food. We aren't productive enough to sustain our own living in this condition.
I think that I know this state of mind well, with all it's blessings and pittfalls, even though I don't take any drugs (except from beer). Anyway I have started to wonder if I could extend this state of mind with mescalin, and wether it would be any good? My principal standing is that no drugs are needed in order to extend the experience of life, that's why I almost never have taken any kind of medication, even though I might suffer from pain. Also freedom is very valuable to me, so addiction scares me away form drugs. But if we had a perfect drug with no addiction, why not have this expereience? Why not once in a while? And why not all the time?
I think that Huxley himself answers this question very well in his book Brave New World, although its a long tim ago that I read it (6-7 years). I definitly need a brush-up on it. I read this as a critique of the ignorant state of mind of all the inhabitants in the Bave New World. I loved this book by all my heart and would recommend that you read it after reading Doors of Perception.
Another book that I will recommend highly is "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by Neil Postman. This book is about another kind, but omnipresent drug, called television. This book might give you an idea of why drugs/television are no good solution. Drugs are just a too simple push-a-button-and-be-happy solution, the good has no proportions without the harsh to put it into perspective. Personally many of my great Mind at Large experiences have come to me after climbing a volcano, after walking 80 km in 14 hours or just by experiencing an extremely beautiful landscape while travelling.
Some of us might be more prdisposed to this Mind at Large than others, but I believe in David Keirseys theory that each of us are in fact satisfied with beeing the kind of person we are. Maybe we envy traits of others, but if the trade-off is our own abilities, we would rather like to be ourselves. "Please Understand Me II" by David Keirsey is a phenomenal book.
The reason for only giving this book 4 stars is that it get's a little too speculative towards the end.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
The essay The Doors of Perception is quite a fascinating read. Huxley does an excellent job conveying his mystical experience and inspiring his readers. For the most part, this essay is written very well and one can easily understand the widespread interest in it. But I wouldn't say this essay is quite that meaningful to people who are not interested in psychedelics or mystical religious practices.

The second essay, Heaven and Hell, is beyond mostly unintelligible to me. Sure, I could have researched the host of obscure and more well-know artists and art works that he mentions, but I had no care to. This essay is heavily laden with art history to get remotely-related points across about psychedelics and the significance of mystical religious practices. Some have mentioned this essay is more difficult to read, in comparison to the other main essay of this book, and that certain sections if not the whole essay need repeated read throughs. But I had absolutely no desire to read this dated, uninteresting, lofty, material. But I got through it, without much taken from it.

There is an included essay, Drugs that Shape Men's lives, and I would say this essay, and The Doors of Perception, are both very great essays if one is interested in the subject matter. They are probably worth the purchase of the book. I don't regret purchasing it, overall.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
emily mcfarland
I was turned onto Doors/Heaven and Hell by myPhilosophy/English Professor. Due to my extended research intodreaming and perception, this was as insightful as they come. This book goes beyond the use of drugs; identifying with religion, art, philosophies, etc., it explains that humans tend to be one sided, and are unable to look or percieve normalcy except by looking at things...normally. It's sad that it takes drug use to be able to percieve objects beyond what they really are, yet, Huxley explains, compares and vividly depicts, not only his experience with mescalin and LCD, but how and why people are not able to visualize things in ways other than they already are,(Out-There, In-Here). Huxley writes about experiences and perception when these drugs are being used--rationally, making Huxley a writer, and a "visionary." And he does so with panache.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kim mcrad
you don't need to take psychedelics to realize their importance in this world, especially when you have this book to tell the story from the mind of an intelligent writer...

aldous, like all psychedelic virigns, went into the experience of taking a psychedelic with his own ideas of what it would some ways he was right, in other ways he could never have predicted such wonderful things...

doors of perception is basically a campfire story about a man's journey on mescaline (found in peyote) translated into basic english...he does a fine job of explaining the unexplainable and keeps you interested all throughout the favorite part is how he describes being under the influence as the loss of survival mode....this is spot on and it is the same idea as ego death....there are plants on this earth that can kill you ego for a few hours so you can finally see the world from untainted eyes....finally a chair is just a chair...a tree is just a tree....the ground connects to your feet and to the tree and to the air and back again (reminds me of i am the walrus "i am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together")

if you are not going to take a psychedelic you could at least read this book!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nancy chadwick
Mr Huxly delivers a succint, utilitarian, and utterly descriptive account, of his attempt to unburden himself of humanity's mandatory rational restriveness. While often being guilty of referring superfluosly to artists, poets and the like, he more than compensates with an unrivaled genius, and command of the written word, that is simply a pleasure to savour. His vast knowledge on myriad subjects was revealed to the reader in all its grandiose splendour, with a shrewd and insightful profundity, to rival even that of the great Dostoyevsky. He states "Most people, most of the time, know only what comes through the reducing valve and is consecrated as genuinely real by the local language. Certain persons, however, seem to be born with a kind of by-pass that circumvents the reducing valve". This utilitarian usage of the word permeates this work, like the flashes of light, and beauty of flannel that it descibes, and is surely a reference to Plato's notion that the mind works as a calming device to the natural instincts of the body. Also, by refusing to be restricted to a Western discourse, he illumanites a far greater area of his experiment, which in its own right is a recondite philosophical statement. This book was plainly stated written by a genius.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I really love that this edition includes extra content like essays and interviews and you're getting 2 books for the price of one, a very affordable price at that. Regardless, this a must read that I recommend to anyone.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kimberly sanon
I'm not one for hardcore drug recreation, but I'm still very curious about it. I always ask people about their perceptions while under the influence and no one is able to articulate it. I think I have a pretty good understanding now when it comes to the effects of hallucenogenic drugs. I realize each individual has a different experience, but it takes an intellectual with an open mind to even begin to relate it to others.

Aldous Huxley is an amazing author, I'd recommed any of his writing to those who are curious about the not so obvious aspects of the world they live in. His method of study is the most intruiging and leads to observations that wouldn't have occured if he had taken a more traditional approach. He doesn't interview the person who takes the mescaline. He has someone interview him while HE'S high as a kite. The questions were pre-written by Huxley as to allow him more control over the experiment. If he were alive today I can't imagine what he'd have to say about the current state of the pursuit of information... or complete lack thereoof.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lorenzo sanyer
Quite apart from the dire, apocalyptic tone of Brave New World, Mr. and Mrs. Crow live in an idyllic world on the Mojave Desert of Southern California. Their domestic problem is an allegory for many of the problems we face in the adult world. I grew up in a small town just west of Pearblossom. When I was 8 or 9, a copy of the book was given to me by a close relative of Olivia's who still lived in Pearblossom. I will always thank Rose de Haulleville for giving me my first exposure to Huxley's writing. Of course it was many more years before I appreciated books like Brave New World or Antic Hay, however I have always remembered the crows in their nest in Pearblossom as my own form of non-pharmaceutical soma ;-)
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
chris hawker
The Doors of Perception is Huxley's narrated account of a time he took "four-tenths" of a gram of mescalin and tripped under the watch of an observant peer. Some of the text is a record of things he said and thought during the experience, some is commentary, elaboration, and interpretation. Some of his account is in plain English and serves to bridge the gap between what he was experiencing and what most of us experience daily. Other parts were more esoteric and, without having been there before, is tougher to comprehend. I particularly liked his reflection on humanity's appetite for self-transcendence that begins on pg. 62. He considers the various chemical modifiers of consciousness, focusing on both the mental effect and physiological price of each drug. He doesn't get explicitly political, but I imagine it leaves most USA readers a little indignant about the irrationality of our laws re: chemical modes of self-transcendence. For all the value that conscious altering drugs offer, which through his recounting of his experience + commentary, he has made a strong case for, one would think that the govt. would need a damn good reason to forbid them. Considering how dangerous tobacco and alcohol are, it must not be solely a matter of harm to humans. The most obvious implied explanation is that laws are intended to keep us away from the mind's antipodes. Could this be the case? If so, how inappropriate and kinda creepy.

Heaven and Hell is a study of the modes of accessing the mind's far corners of perception and experience. He focuses on art, colors, chemicals, objects and historical circumstances- ordered by most considered to least. He makes some compelling arguments linking humans' appreciation for certain things to their corresponding ability to bring us to visionary experience. Some of Heaven and Hell gets boring, but I think it's because I have a difficult time relating to the kinds of experiences that the various vision-inducing things can create.

The two short works plus the bonus material at the end of Harper's version all taken together made me appreciate the worth of alternative states of consciousness. It makes sense that we modern folk have a bias for normal waking consciousness because thus far it's been the most industrially productive (if we're counting effects of caffeine and not counting adderall etc.) Plus, most religious traditions that influence modern western thought are fairly conservative about which means of reaching spiritual experience are appropriate. If you approach this book with a willingness to reconsider your reasons for discounting alternative forms of consciousness, I think you'll understand why this book is considered a modern classic.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Lucy in the sky with diamonds.
It is not fashionable anymore to get there in that fashion. Peyote, LSD. And it is just as well.

Still I am happy super talented Aldous Huxley went and shared his travels with us.

It feels good to know it is there. I rejoice Huxley lived and wrote. Peace and love to him.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
valerie bouvier
This book is in the top three mind-expanding reads I've indulged in. The kind of book which made me question the reality I knew. And at the same time, it reminded me of my "oneness" with sights, sounds and ideas around me. Aldous Huxley's writing style took me to a place I'd been to before. And explained to me the beauty of it in a way which blew my mind.
I highly recommend it for fans of psychedelia and new age ideas.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This book is a testament of how some drugs can be used to probehuman conciousness in a humane and productive way, not as a cheapthrill. It is a mature and well-orchestrated document of a man exploring the limits of his conciousness through the aid of Mescaline. I found his accounts as poignant in that he uses the drug as an ally in his examination of himself and his perception of the world around him. END
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
eric holmes
This book gives insightful accounts of Huxley's psychedelic experiences and his personal philosophy that developed therefrom. He describes his trips with a detailed honesty that would be dangerous today. His visions and moods come alive under his gifted prose. A must read for any post modern or futuristic philosopher.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Huxley's now classic book which gave inspiration to the rock group, is curious in that you are reading the explorations of one mans mind on mescaline. However, I cant say I found it the most exciting book I have ever read. This book certainly has its place in ones philosophy library, perhaps psychology as well. Popular with those who like to experiement with mind drugs as well.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
taylor edwards
I have read the contents several times. I think this book should be read understanding that the author was encountering something fairly new and devoid of a complicated modern culture (unlike we have now). This is well written, but at time drags on with detail that perhaps needs some shared perspective to appreciate.

This is NOT a how-to book or a guide. It is an example of personal experiences.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
shira lee
An amazing book for a thinker/philosopher, Aldous Huxely is an amazing writer with the potential to talk you through all his pathways of an intellectual man.

This book touches on so many subjects, there are so many references to people that inspired him. Huxley brings so much knowledge aside from taking mescaline.

He describes the oneness and mind at large in this experience. What a fantastic book. I recommened this to anyone who thinks deep and is a modern philosopher, peace
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
janna sevilla
These days we are happy with our technology, and rightly so. We have Android phones that allow us to hold the net in the palm of our hand. Internet highways allow us to meet interesting people - the people I meet online are far more interesting than the people I meet in my home town-, and our computer games throw us all into wondrous realities; other worlds, with virtual galaxies that allow all, including the poorest among us, to be who the heck we want to be; without being judged by the authorities or nosey neighbours etc.

You get the picture; obviously, because this is our 21st century; lit up with neon lights. And it gets better; people like Ray Kurzweil promise that our techno-smarts is only the beginning, and some time soon, we will all be enjoying the equivalent of a technological orgasm; he calls this future state, the singularity. The singularity is the echatology with batteries (no sniggering at the back, please).

The eschaton is the imagined end state of evolution. God saw that the original people were cheeky enough to eat from the fruits of the tree, so he cast them out and shut the gates of paradise. This is The Fall, Original Sin and all the other buzz words from the benighted past, and this is why we are a ruinous species. The Fall from paradise explains our evil nature and our nostalgia for paradise. Even that barrel of laughs philosopher, Arthur Koestler, argued that "the ancient doctrine of original sin, variants of which occur independently in the mythologies of diverse cultures, could be a reflection of man's awareness of his own inadequacy, of the intuitive hunch that somewhere along the line of his ascent something has gone wrong" (p267). No problemo, argues Ray Kurzweil, we can move paradise into the future, and by doing so, cancel out The Fall. The singularity gives an optimistic spin to our wretched state, because paradise is now in the future, thus Original Sin gets canceled out too.

The birth-pangs of this ecstasy is already with us, all we need to do is hold steady and wait for our technology to carry on her speedy momentum, and wallah, she will give birth to super complex machines; god-like complexities even; a complexity that will allow us all an early retirement; a billion balconies looking to the sunset. Kurzweil assures us that the singularity will free our minds from our ingrained nihilism, awaken the slumbering unconscious, demolish the cultural pillars of Christian civilisation, kick start the apocalypse and batter down the gates of heaven and blow her rusty irons of its hinges; phew! Finally, the singularity will suck Ray's consciousness, via a technological straw, onto a silicon chip, where he will dance the eons away in the hallways of digital Nirvana.

This scenario won't only be for rich guys, as the singularity will be an egalitarian God that will suck us all into paradise; isn't it obvious, that electricity it is the holy ghost, descended to Earth with blue light? The holy intelligence will sort out our species with the benevolence of a thousand Buddhas. Who can argue with that? This is the expected singularity that is coming our way and those stick in the mud luddites better move out of our way!

Now, people like Aldous Huxley would call the singularity' a 'self transcendence' downwards'. In other words, he would not be impressed with the idea of transferring his consciousness into a silicon chip, to become immortal. Their is nothing upwards transcending about the singularity.

Why would he be so negative? We can't exactly call Aldous Huxley a Luddite, or as we Brits say, an old fart. These rightly placed badges are given to idiots who criticise our modern world, but Aldous Huxley was not an idiot. Why then would he call our world of technological bindging a `downward self transcendence'? Surely virtual reality will eventualty make good on its promise and great a muhammaden paradise for us lads to enjoy! The reason Aldous Huxley would call the not be impressed by a promised techno tea party is that, back in the 1940's, Huxley and many others had access to magical spells that make GGI graphics and virtual realities look like baby toys! That is, Huxley had access to the 'Other World', whatever that may mean, and a person who's been there will not be too impressed by Ray Kurzweil's singularitarian escape pod.
Now, if he wasn't dead, Aldous Huxley would tut at this of an upwards transcending techno elevator, via our brilliant technology, because he called this sort of thing 'self transcendence downwards' (rather than an upwards one, you see). In other words, Huxley would not be impressed with the idea of transferring his consciousness into a silicon chip, to be immortal. Why would he be so negative?

Only a truly lumpen person can tut tut at the singularity. But it's not like we can call Aldous a Luddite, or as we Brits say, an old fart. These rightly placed badges are given to idiots, who criticise our mad world, but Aldous Huxley was not an idiot. Why then would he call our technological progress a `self transcendence downward '? The reason was that Aldous Huxley had access to magical spells that allowed an upward elevator into the mystery, therefore making our high definition virtual realities look like baby toys. What I mean is, to a man whose eye balls have seen what Aldous Huxley's eye balls have seen, CGI movies, in 3D, look pants! They are pants because the fingerprints of the editors will always limit the experience to the knowable. Huxley had access to the 'Other World', whatever that may mean, and a person who's been there will not be too impressed by Ray Kurzweil's singularitarian wrap.

Now those who don't know that they are left in the dark, still lurking in a Platonic cave, like those pod people in the Matrix. We really believe that our Avataric selves are the cutting edge of ontology, but this is only because we don't believe that there is anything outside five sense reality and this is why we focus more and more on technology. Now this technology has been designed by fallible human beings and so no matter how good the picture quality, the architectonics of the thing is a mere puppet show, when compared to the eons and eons of time ahead of us. Not to belabour the point, but people never seem to make this point, that technology is really a nihilist's tea party at the end of time. Even `New Age' people, who criticise science, and are suspicious of materialism, fall into this downwards spiral of techno nihilism, because they also seem to be on an electronic consumer binge.

So I am arguing that the idea behind life is that your life is a gap between the two eternities where you actually have a chance of finding out what the hell is going on. But if you're consuming the pretty things, dangled before your startled eyes, or living your second life in a nerdish game, then you are living somebody else's idea of what is going on. A computer programmer, working for a huge corporation, is now designing the virtual reality your future kids will be living inside.

Are you not, after all, a citizen of the mystery of life, rather than a consumer of somebody else's idea of the mystery? Someone else has your transcendence already packaged for you and it resembles a flabby, de-caffeinated version of the mystery, were the shopping mall replaces the cathedral as the communities dwell point and instead of working on your fundamental ontology, to free you soul or build karma points, your mortgage becomes your mausoleum. (Yes mortgage is Latin for death grip or death pledge,mort means death in Latin). This was an arcane joke, years and years ago, when mortgages were first invented (most of our words are derived from long dead languages whose meanings have changed and so it was thought that, by sighing a death pledge with the estate agent, making a death pledge was one of those funny things, like those funny red guards who stand outside Buckingham palace with those tall fluffy black hats that cover their eyes. This is whay a death pledge was a humorous thing to take out, because our parents knew that it would be paid off in about 18 years. Fast forward about 30 years to the present, and you will indeed be dead before you pay off your dept. Who's laughing now!

Now the point of this free for haranguing is that you arrived from who knows where, you live for a few decades before departing to who knows where. Death is like the singularity the physicists talk about, a black hole is a singularity because no information can escape a black hole, you see. Our death then is like this; is the black hole of biology if you like, because no information can escape the after death state (forget all the clapping from the New Age section).

So while we exist in this Earth, we wonder the planet, bump into stuff, like drunken chimpanzees, clever stuff like Bach or fractal geography, or dumb stuff like consumerism, but it is all our choice, is what I'm struggling to say, rather than the choice of some marketing dude with a focus group. Now it is rumoured than millions of other lucky beings lived before our time and some went on the found empires and set armies marching but a select few became smart and attained enlightenment. You too can bump into the right stuff, follow the path of all those millions who never got the chance of getting it; you have the chance of getting it. But living as a consumer completely avoids the boat. Consumerism make you infantile and bleeds your individuallity dry.

Consumerism focuses' the mind on a downwards spiral of a beastly greed and feed ecstasy, and reduces the human animal to cravings for the baser things in life. This is called downwards transcendent, because there is the possibility of the upwards transcendence. Downwards transcendence is not really a new phenomenon because the ancient Gnostics also believed that we are spirits trapped in a material world. Though by upwards transcendence, I do not mean the worn out and completely discredited wine bottles of organised religion, or the old wine in new bottles me-me-me spiritualism. Neither do I mean menopausal mysticism or celebrity death-worship for dummies (Tibetan Buddhism).

But our grandparents, back in the 1940 to the early 1960's, would laugh at our looking at ourselves in our techno mirrors because they had LEGALLY sanctioned psychedelic drugs that allowed them a glimpse through the matrix. (The comedian, Doug Stanhope, has a very funny joke about old farts arguing that kids these days are boring because they don't take drugs)! It is all in this book and we young 'n's are left humbled by our naïve view of what escape really means. We watch movies in CGI and are impressed; Huxley will find that very funny indeed!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Doors of Perception is an account and dissertation in support of mind-expanding practices told in a way that only Aldous Huxley could. If you like Aldous Huxley's writing, his social agendas, and/or are generally curious about him and his counterparts of the 60s this is worth the read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
elisa mesiani
This is my three year old daughter's favorite book. She doesn't know that it was supposedly written as a allegory to World War II. She just likes the characters in the story. My wife and I get a kick out of it because it is just like life. "Why don't you go down into the snake's hole and kill him" (That's my job!) But I reply, "Somehow I don't think that's a good idea," and so the story goes.
Jordan likes this book so I'm not going to write in a lot of psycho-babble. Maybe she sees a problem within a family that has to be solved. And it is! Maybe she sees a threat to a family that the parents must solve. And they do! Perhaps she just doesn't like snakes and feels he got what he deserves. If you have this book, it is a classic in the true sense of the word, to be treasured.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
megan story
In The Doors of Perception, I found his research to be fairly decent but he seemed to consider what he say a true reality instead of an altered reality that will open doors for the true reality. I was thouroughly disappointed with this book and I give it three stars. It is okay to open a door of perception and peer out onto the other side, but to live there as Huxley claims everyone should is simply foolish and would lead directly to apathy.

In Heaven and Hell, I was sure that the experiment in The Doors of Perception had been done too many times. His ramblings are fairly pointless and foolish. Heres a piece: "precious stones are precious because they bear resemblance to the glowing marvels seen with the inner eye of the visionary." Just think about why you like precious stones. Perhaps because they refract light in a manner that is unusual or perhaps because you love things that are rare, that is human nature. But surely you don't agree with him.

He honestly thinks that if he can use enough big words people will believe his philosophy. If you will believe anything someone tells you or just like exploring people's thoughts then maybe you should read this, but I have not recommended it to anyone.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
qiana whitted
It is from this book that Jim Morrison's band's name was taken. Hopefully, that should be enough to garner the opening of pages.

If not, then the idea of a book that, at its essence, is an acid trip should draw at least a certain audience. Huxley's cutting edge ideas move well within the bound of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, but his presentation is fearless. The man does what few of his time dared to do...question the solidarity of human perspective. His vision is dynamic and psychadelic, and should be explored by anyone willing to peek through the keyhole of their own door to perception. Hopefully, some will open up.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
andre caldas
What you have here is Aldous Huxley describing his experiments with Mescaline and musing on psychedelics. Maybe its his background (he came from a high level British aristocratic family) but he just comes off in such a cold detached way in his thoughts on psychedelics being an enhancement of ones spiritual life. Not that I don't believe psychedelics can't be a spiritual enhancer or give one a deep glance into ones self or into other worlds but Huxley just does it in such a sterile heartless way I didn't get much out of this book. I loved Brave New World but this is a very overrated book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This book has shown me a way to place all my feelings and thoughts into a manifestation of intelligence that I can share with others. This book has also shown me a way to express feelings in word form, and has helped me to complete my own book, which is soon to be published.
For those who gave it low ratings: I would have to say you were too young, or too stupid (harsh but true) to get anything out of this book. Anyone who can't comprehend it can't get anything positive from it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"This is how one ought to see." In Huxley's essays on the mescalin experience, he stresses the need for one to wipe clear the door of perception. He dives into the mysticial experiences and practices of age old religions, and attempts to achieve a higher plane of perception "by taking the appropriate drug". An excellently written account of mescalin use as well as a philosophical argument as to what religion and reality are really all about.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
amy withers
Two stars for talented illustrations and some humor. This book is not for toddlers. I have a B.A. in English, so I know that fairytales in general have certain morbid details attached (i.e. Cinderella's stepsisters cutting their heels, The Little Mermaid's tail being split in half), but in this case it is black humor--sarcasm with a distinct overtone of sadism. One needs only to look at Mr and Mrs Crow to realize this: She is twice as big as he is. Why? Also, when Mrs. Crow flies back home from the store to find that her egg is missing, in her grocery basket there are a dozen eggs! Why? Then in the end, after the snake is defeated, Mrs. Crow has four families of seventeen crows each. Why?

The fact is, there isn't a real answer for any of these questions. If you try to answer them, you will get seriously messed up. For Heaven's sake, this is ALDOUS HUXLEY! Did you really expect him to write a legitimate children's book? It's almost like that dreadful children's book by Stephen King that nobody bought, or read, because who needs that kind of trauma in your life? That said, at least this book was able to masquerade as a children's book, and as I said at the beginning, there were some humorous parts.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
scott parker
I remember sitting outside with my brothers and siters snuggled with our mother while she read about the crows and their quest to have a nest full of children. It was a favorite of us all and now I can share the book with my daughter! I know she'll love it as much as I do!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rafael lopez
This book is superbly written. I was surprised at the amazing insughts of Huxley and the ways in which he was able to convey them to those of us not lucky enough to share in his experiences. It is understandable how this book inspired Jim Morrison.
This book is a must, not just for anyone wishing to know more about the mescaline experience, but also for anyone looking for a keen insight into the human mind. You won't be disappointed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
siu yan
Huxley's `experiment' in The Doors of Perception was a right of passage for many in my generation, and it's interesting to have such an intelligent analysis of the experience. He does waste a lot of words on something that is indescribable, but it seems to have been written in the first blush of excitement. And Huxley makes some very sound observations, as well, that have probably helped many people reconcile their own indescribable experiences.

His conclusion that Mescalin and Lysergic Acid are relatively harmless for people in good health with an untroubled mind is probably objectionable today, especially among people who have never tried them. Looked at objectively, however, I wonder how this conclusion has stood the test of time. For myself, I believe he underestimated the long-term psychological challenges that cleansing those doors poses.

I remember something I read long ago from Philip K. Dick saying how difficult life is after you've seen God's face. The realization afterwards that you'd been forced back to a colorless, banal existence - a prison, if I recall the sense of what Dick wrote - must surely be considered one of the long-term psychological challenges that Huxley could not have fully appreciated when he wrote this book.

The feeling of being a prisoner in the normal world of perceptions might conceivably result in a hunger to return often to that `Antipodes of the mind' which, if felt too keenly, could cause permanent damage to be done to the mind's function as a `limiting valve.' This suggests to me that blaming acid casualties on a `troubled mind' may not be wholly satisfactory: some people choose to pack up their belongings and move to an island in Huxley's Antipodes, and these people can't always continue to function in the society their bodies continue to inhabit.

But the situation is complex: whether these `immigrants to the Antipodes' can continue to cope in the normal world is surely also a function of the society they live in. An American Indian tribe in the 1800's or Amsterdam today probably offer the mental émigré more of a chance for social survival than Riyadh, for example. One of the strengths of this book is to provide a good line of reasoning that explains why this might be true.

Heaven and Hell follows the extended, and appropriate, Blake reference. But to me this essay feels more like a long article you'd find in a magazine written by a cocky critic. Sure, there's much erudition on display and many valid aesthetic points are made; but the spirit behind it feels naïve: like many of the new ideas and associations that had formed in his mind hadn't had a chance to mellow and mature.

On the other hand, what seem like random observations to me may form a pattern I just didn't pick up on. Huxley was a smart cookie, and I wouldn't presume to speak authoritatively on his shortcomings.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lois levy
I got this book as a child through some kind of book club. It is the only children's book I ever kept on my bookshelf. My version was illustrated by Barbara Cooney and was hard cover. It remains one of my fondest possesions...
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Our understanding of psychedelics is a reaction. We call it a drug and classify it as illegal. As humanity we slowly develop and take a very long time to be free from our old conditions while creating new ones.

Aldous Huxley is sharing, from his own experience, a way to understand these chemicals and the potential they hold as magnifying glass to the conditioned reality of self center and the truth of total union and realization.

I recommend this book to any one who feels courageous enough to take a step aside from the old taboo and travel.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I had an idea to find out about the use of drugs and its effect on the consiousness. I have found Aldous Huxley on the Wikipedia and bought this book. I am not native english, and it took me quite long to get through the book, because its language is so difficult to understand. It is obvious that Huxley is a writer with a very broad range of vocabulary to express things. If you are not native, prepare yourself with a huge dictionary to read the book However the contect was fabulous.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
joanne mahran
In the path to spiritual enlightenment, few works become more neccessary a read than those of Aldous Huxley. His views and ideas are timeless, as much as they are creative.. The doors he opens, or perhaps merely unlocks and leaves us to open, left me in awe of the possibilities he presented to me. These two books allow those who are prepared, to explore the most mysterious and least traveled territory known to us all; the human mind.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jill p
Aldous Huxley is definetly the right guy when it comes to making a point. If you are interested on TDOP & H&H you have first to consider what is it that you are looking for. The point is that as you read the book, all your veils and prejudice just happen to fall and you find your self flying in another dimension, wondering the adventures he has been through, the points of view, psychological, physical and mentally you seem to change and evolve.

It was my first door....
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
anthony larsen
There is nothing the pen of Huxley touches that it does not illuminate and as the record of a highly civilised, brilliantly articulate man under the influance of an astonishing drug, The Doors of Perception is a tour de force.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
meredith monke
Hmm Timothy Leary; Aldous Huxley; Robert Anton Wilson; David Icke; Terrance Mckenna; Aleister Crowley...


What do these people all have in common

Well other than Icke and wilsons (my self as well) obsession with fringe and humerous conspriacy theories that people mistake as paranoia; they have all taken brain change drugs.

Without going into detail; into Mckenna DMT experiences; Learys and Wilsons Trips on LSD; my own morning glory trips; Ickes Ayahuasca; and Huxleys Peyote extract mesaline. Dont know what Crowley Took other than coke...

Now for the book:

This book really brought me in touch with many different inter connected things. I had already read Brave New World in high school and then in 2005 as a refresh and found it enlightening. go and look at my other reviews on utopian / distopian novels. In particular the Handmaids Tale By Margaret Atwood.

But also the world of conspiracies that i have looked at over the years that Icke and Wilson have put forward. it was only a matter of time before i found out that huxley took a trip; into himself and became a shaman. or maybe one of the first neurologists. as talked about by learys 'Change Your Brain'.

I find it most exciting that these normal (well not so much leary and Mckenna with his High Voice) and dynamic people (leary and Mckenna are dynamic tho) are going against the system and the false war on psychedelic drugs and have made a stand.

'You will not go crazy; you will become awake'

When asked whether Buddha was enlightened he replied "I am awake"

I am not going to go into detail; but read this book.

It made me realise as i am studying ecology at the moment that indian hemp (W1) has a higher catagory than morning glory seeds do (W2). yet what morning glory contains... the seeds to the inner and true experience to enlighten your higher neurological circuits.

Get this book; hitch yourself for a ride on the brain change wagon and set yourself free from the system...

Do what thou wilt...

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
I expected to read extensively about Aldous trips.. That however only fills the first few pages after which he jumps into theories and conclusions on drug use based on having tried this one drug (mescaline)... There are some interesting ideas in there but be warned, they are only a few and it boils down to this:
- According to Aldous drugs "open the doors of perception" and let you perceive the world as it "really is"; as a baby would experience it.
- There are many cultures in which drugs have been used for centuries now.
- He thinks it would be beneficial if more people had a trip like his. He thus also dreams of the perfect drug that could be developed in the future. (though mescaline is not that bad he adds).
- Some long theories about art and why we find certain things beautiful (according to him: we find that which is "otherworldly" beautiful- i.e. what we can see during trips)

If you still wonder what his trip was like I will sum it up for you in one phrase:
He was content observing, saw immense beauty in simple things (like the structure of wood, or a flower) and could stare at them for for ever... + he lost interest in humans.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
susan grimshaw
Since this book was written, millions of people have taken...., mescaline, mushroooms, whatever. If you've never tried it, chances are you know somebody who has, and they could probably give you a far better story. Huxley's book is boring as hell. He goes on and on with endless descriptions of some work of art (which unless you are an art major, you've never seen) and is constantly referring to artist and people whom you've probably never heard of. Most the time, I had no idea what this guy was talking about. Maybe my drug addled brain just has a hard time with such high-falutin concepts such as 'Gesualdo's madrigals' . The rest is just a lot of big talk. Read it if you must. People will think your're hip and that's worth two stars I suppose.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
karen purvis kaplan
Very interesting positions with kind of scientific experiment form performed by a humanist. Various references to other researchers, works and history! Very important position to understand Huxley's retional point of view on mind :-)
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
This is an interesting book -- it is really two books in one -- "The Doors of Perception", in which Huxely recalls his first experience using mescalin, and "Heaven and Hell", which is considerably more speculative. Of the two, the latter is by far the better book. The former deals mainly with the mescalin experience itself, which I can assure you, is impossible to convey in print. One caveat here for potential psychonauts, however: Read Wilson's account of his own mescalin experiment in his "Beyond the Outsider" as well as Sartre's experiment with the drug. How one reacts to the chemical depends wildly upon one's own personality. Most people will not react the way that Huxely did, as he tended to intellectualise the whole world -- to think instead of doing. One cannot expect a simply blissful experience regardless of one's state of mind and personality -- these are factors in the trip. Huxely took a small dose and never suffered from ego dissolution common with higher doses. If he had, he may have had a greater insight into the ideas that he used in his "Perennial Philosophy". The Hindoos of India used to use soma (a undetermined psychoactive similar to mescalin in its effects) to achieve a sort of cosmic consciousness in which one regards oneself as being at one with the Brahman, the all-pervading universal spirit. What he did not mention is that mystics from many religious traditions mention that they can often get into states very similar to mescalin-induced ecstasies via meditation, something that is infinitely preferable to ingesting a foreign substance, as it is not of much use unless reproducible at will. His ideas in the latter volume are more along these lines, although he does mention some things that could be dangerous. He suggests that most people could benefit from a "mescalin holiday". I totally disagree. For the more indulgent, it could prove a disaster. Huxely was a man of exquisite self-control; others who do not possess such control may be in for problems if introduced to such a powerful drug (the "Beat" Poets come to mind). Also, to many it would be merely unsettling and disturbing, while for others a means of escape from the real world. His speculations about the brain being "Mind At Large", to use Broad's term, is intriguing, but offers no evidence in support of it. The notions that most religious experiences being closely related to the mescalin experience may prove insightful, but as for now, most use this book as an excuse for irresponsible recreational drug use. Comical, pathetic, even absurd at points, it nevertheless makes a point that many others fail to grasp, which he should have used to more effect in the "Perennial Philosophy" -- that at the heart of religion and human life, is an experience of reality which the conscious mind conceptualises until the world and life is less of an experience than a symbol. Zen students may find this perspective quite enlightening. For a more detailed look at psychoactive experimentation, see R. H. Ward's "A Drug Taker's Notes" and the notes from William James' experiment with Nitrous Oxide. Also, for information on reproducing the mescalin experience at will, look into research on Kundalini yoga and tantrism.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
This was a horrid little book written by Huxley in the darkest days of World War II for a young relative. Poor girl! The story is an obvious parable about Nazi Germany and the horrors of war. A nasty snake eats the babies of Mrs. Crow. So Mrs. Crow bands together with other animals and tortures the snake to death, using its corpse in a "funny" way at the end. Ha Ha. Complete with Barbara Cooney's graphic illustrations. Maybe this kind of heavy-handed stuff was "amusing" during the war, but it seems just grusome to the point of obscene today. This book scared the hell out of me as an 11 year old in 1973. It still does. Interesting for adult students of Huxley, and that's about it. Forget it for kids.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
This is an Aesop-type fable about crows and owls outwitting snakes, but it's rather gruesome, and sexist to boot--mother crow is made out to be a hysterical fool. The male crow and owl solve the problem of snakes eating crow eggs.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
I am shocked to see so many positive reviews on here. I was reading this to my daughter and spent most of the time making up new dialogue as I didn't want her hearing Mr. Crow ask his wife if she had been "overeating again" or telling her that her "ideas are seldom good" or to "keep your beak shut and get out of your nest." What a horrible example for children to see how Mr. Crow treats his wife! I'm getting rid of this book and frankly am reluctant to even donate it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
colleen besselievre
Anyone interested in the subject of mind-altering drugs, or what it means to see a mind-altered world, must read this classic self-examination.I Think, Therefore Who Am I?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cristal jatip
Children and adults both will enjoy or even love this book. The story is creative and the illustrations are delightful. Written for his grandchildren, Huxley addresses a problem they had observed. Get the book as a keepsake.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
I bought this for my daughter and she loves it--the illustrations are *beautiful*--but unfortunately I have to heavily edit the reading of it. I'm kind of stunned that whoever published it didn't notice or care how sexist the story is. It's also morbid and a little scary, as other reviewers have noted, but that seems more like a personal choice for each family than something that just shouldn't have seen the light of day. The Mrs. Crow character is a stereotypical nagging, foolish woman from another time, not suited to modern readers. In addition to the language that the other reviewers have noted about Mr. Crow telling Mrs. Crow to "shut your beak" and that her ideas are never good, he also accuses her of overeating, and in another spot tells her "you talk too much. Keep your beak shut and get out of your nest." And then in the last frame when the snake is finally subdued, she gives him "a very long lecture."

Abrams and Sophie Blackall should be ashamed of themselves cashing in on Huxley's name to put out a story that, while charming, is just not OK to read to kids anymore.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
juanma santiago
This book was handed in as a donation for a book drive. I threw it away. No child should read trash like this, and here's why:
Mr. Crow is a jerk who treats his wife like trash. He finds her in distress and asks her if she's forgotten not to eat too much, y'know, like a child that's had too much ice cream. When she has a good idea, he tells her it's a bad idea, then goes to his buddy's house to see how he can use his wife's idea and claim it as his own, but not before telling her to shut up about it. Twice.

Here's a play-by-play of the mean, sexist nonsense that runs through the whole book:

Mrs. Crow lays an egg every day, then goes to the store (she doesn't have a job) while her husband, Mr. Crow, goes to work as an assistant manager at a drug store.

WHY THE WEIRD DETAIL ABOUT HIS JOB? Good question. It never comes up again.

Whenever Mrs. Crow gets back from the store, the egg is gone. Turns out a rattlesnake has been eating her eggs every day for the past year while she's out. She discovers him doing this one day, and is in tears when Mr. Crow comes home. The first thing he says when he sees his wife in tears is, "What's wrong, did you over-eat?"

WHY WOULD HE SAY THAT? Good question. If you think he sounds like a jerk, you're right. Mr. Crow is a jerk.

Mrs. Crow explains that the snake has literally eaten hundreds of her eggs, killing all of their babies and making all the effort of laying all those eggs worthless. "Kill the snake," she says. Mr. Crow's response: "You don't have good ideas," and "Shut your beak."

WHY WOULD HE SAY THAT? Good question. If you're starting to think Mr. Crow is a wife-hating crazypants, you're probably right.

Then he goes to talk to Mr. Owl, who comes up with a plan to replace the real eggs with fake eggs, thereby killing the snake.

WASN'T THAT MRS. CROW'S IDEA LIKE THREE PAGES AGO? Yes. Yes it was. What is this guy's problem? Oh right, he's a jerk.

So the male birds fly back to the nest to find Mrs. Crow in bed reading NEST magazine with pink curlers in her hair.

WHY THE WEIRD DETAIL ABOUT CURLERS AND MAGAZINES? Because that's what all women do before bedtime, duh.

She "screams" at them to go kill the snake, which they refuse to do, knowing full well that that's what they fully intend to do.

WHY IS SHE SCREAMING? Because that's what all women do, duh.

They leave the fake eggs at home while Mrs. Crow goes to the store (because she still has no job). The snake eats the fake eggs and is incapacitated when Mrs. Crow gets home, at which point she gives him a very long lecture about eating other people's eggs before he dies. She then has a jillion baby crows and inexplicably uses the snake's corpse as a clothesline for all the clothes they don't wear.

So let's recap:
The only female character wears curlers to bed, reads magazines, screams at her husband, gives birth EVERY DAY, does the shopping, gives long lectures, does the laundry and cries.
The male character has a job, comes up with a plan, tells the woman to shut up, accuses the woman of overeating, tells the woman she has bad ideas, and kills the bad guy.

Other reviewers have complained that this book is "gruesome" because of the way animals eat each other (and the clothesline incident, which is pretty macabre). Kids are awesome weirdos who you should talk to about death and dying. They can handle it. It's not like talking to them about murder and genocide; death is inevitable and shouldn't feel like a taboo topic.
Having said that, DO NOT use this book as a jumping off point. All they'll get from this atrocity is that a woman does the shopping and FREAKS OUT when something legitimately goes wrong, but is made to feel ashamed by her emotions, and stupid for her good ideas by a man. THE END.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
These are two essays from Huxley (the brilliant mind that brought us Brave New World) about the psychadelic experience. BUt I found them to be ponderous and outdated. Important books in the sixties, manuals to counter culture even, but nothing more than a mere curiousity nowadays.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kim marshall
From /Wikipedia
"Following his education at Balliol, Huxley was financially indebted to his father and had to earn a living. He taught French for a year at Eton, where Eric Blair (later known by the pen name George Orwell) and Stephen Runciman were among his pupils, but was remembered by another as an incompetent and hopeless teacher who couldn't keep discipline. Nevertheless, Blair and others were impressed by his use of words."

Although "By the end of his life Huxley was considered, in some academic circles, a leader of modern thought and an intellectual of the highest rank," after taking a quick overall look at his life, I feel he was a limp sort of intellectual full of himself, his words, and his thoughts. I perceived this in the off topic ramblings and flowery prose that is interspersed between a few valid insights in "The Doors of Perception".
"Heaven and Hell" has even fewer and weaker insights. (I swear if he referred to the "antipodes of the mind" or "preternatural light" one more time I would've screamed.)

He was apparently born into a rich, privileged family and in fact he doesn't seem much different than the current generation of bored, aimless, youth that have everything handed to them and so turn to drugs as an antidote to their meaningless, apathetic existences.

I also don't think he lived long enough to gain perspective on the pros vs. cons of using "mind altering" drugs. And as with other drug deluded personalities clung to his artificially induced enlightenment above all else.

A much more modern look at psychedelic drugs and their overall effects on the body, mind, and spirit is documented in Jost Sauer's "Higher and Higher". A fascinating and compelling drug use odyssey.

One of the main problems with using drugs is that the user looses his ability to glean pleasure and joy from the mundane because he has tasted an artificial pleasure and so always yearns for that level of pleasure. I imagine it is hard to find that level of pleasure without the substance. Better to never have tasted it and to learn to find comparable levels of joy, peace and contentment in the world as it is.

Drugs are so like a mirage. The pleasure they bring is artificial and drains away as soon as the effects wear off. Wereas if a person learns to find joy and the profound in simple, utterly simple, everyday things there is no need for drugs. THIS IS A LEARNED THING, you learn it as you go through life and once you do drugs you stop learning this and go straight for the drug instead.
Please Rate The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell
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