The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, 1954

For the glory and the wonder of pure existence belong to another order, beyond the power of even the highest art to express.  34

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Huxley describes his experiences using mescaline under a controlled setting (with knowledgeable people and his wife surrounding, observing, guiding, and interviewing him about his experience).  He describes an otherworldly vividity and sense of presence, of “pure existence”, “naked existence” that closely mirrors the descriptions of advanced meditators.

The book is short and sweet, and Huxley does a decent job of describing the indescribable—at least relative to other accounts I’ve heard of similar experiences.  Huxley has an impressive vocabulary and there were quite a few words that were new for me.

Ideas per Page:1 3/10 (low)

Related Books: Waking Up by Sam Harris; On Having No Head by Douglas Harding; Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, 1992

Recommend to Others:  If interested in meditation or psychedelics

Reread Personally:  No


13 The mind is its own place, and the places inhabited by the insane and the exceptionally gifted are so different from the places where ordinary men and women live, that there is little or no common ground of memory to serve as a basis for understanding or fellow feeling.  Words are uttered, but fail to enlighten.  The things and events to which the symbols refer belong to mutually exclusive realms of experience.

17 I was not looking now at an unusual flower arrangement.  I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation—the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence.

25-6 [on mescalin]:

The ability to remember and to “think straight” is little if at all reduced.

Visual impressions are greatly intensified and the eye recovers some of the perceptual innocence of childhood, when the sensum was not immediately and automatically subordinated to the concept.

The mescalin taker sees no reason for doing anything in particular and finds most of the causes for which, at ordinary times, he was prepared to act and suffer, profoundly uninteresting.

33 For the artist as for the mescalin taker draperies are living hieroglyphs that stand in some peculiarly expressive way for the unfathomable mystery of pure being.  More even than the chair, though less perhaps than those wholly supernatural flowers, the folds of my gray flannel trousers were charged with “is-ness”.  To what they owed this privileged status, I cannot say.  Is it, perhaps, because the forms of folded drapery are so strange and dramatic that they catch the eye and in this way force the miraculous fact of sheer existence upon the attention?

43 The sum of evil, Pascal remarked, would be much diminished if men could only learn to sit quietly in their rooms.  The contemplative whose perception has been cleansed does not have to stay in his room.  He can go about his business, so completely satisfied to see and be a part of the divine Order of Things that he will never even be tempted to indulge in what Traherne called “the dirty Devices of the world.”

53 For the moment that interfering neurotic who, in waking hours, tries to run the show, was blessedly out of the way.

53 Today the percept had swallowed up the concept.  I was so completely absorbed in looking, so thunderstruck by what I actually saw, that I could not be aware of anything else.

1 A measure of the number of new or distinct ideas introduced per page. 10/10 would be conceptually dense, like a textbook. 1/10 would be almost completely fluff.





2 thoughts on “The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, 1954

  1. I love Digital Sauna’s write ups. Even when I don’t make a comment, I still read them. Keep up the good work and do NOT do drugs!

    Regarding #43
    The point of Blaise Pascal’s statement was not to sit and stay in one’s room to effect less evil. Rather, to have the courage to sit with one’s self, to recognize the essence of self, our inseparableness and call out the illusional of “me.” Kind of like Gandhi’s point of recognizing the only devils are the ones running around in our own hearts and that is where all battles should be fought.

    I love people who read, wish I was one of them! Thanks for DS!


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