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the doors of perception

January 1, 2009

in doors, huxley reminisces on his experience under the influence of mescaline, the active ingredient in peyote, to describe the possibilities of a society removed from restrictions on psychedelics. the west’s acceptance of alcohol and nicotine lie in circumstantial and geographic motivations. the west grew up with them, where as western governments associate drugs such as marijuana and peyotewith brown people and thus fear them.

some themes:

  1. the need for chemical catharsis
  2. the unique ability to truly recognize one’s surroundings
  3. the tendency to see others as irrelevant
  4. an alleged compatibility of the christianity and the mescalin “experience”

some quotes*:

art, i suppose, is only for beginners, or else for those resolute dead-enders, who have made up their minds to be content with suchness, with symbols rather than with what they signify, with the elegantly composed recipe in lieu of actual dinner.

what the rest of us see only under the influence of mescalin, the artist is congenitally equipped to see all the time. his perception is not limited to what is biologically or socially useful.

i was handed a large colored reproduction of the well-known self-portrait by cezanne…. [looking at it] i started to laugh. and when they asked me why, “what pretensions!” i kept repeating. “who on earth does he think he is?” the question was not addressed to cezanne in particular, but to the human species at large.

[mescalin] gives access to contemplation, but contemplation that is incompatible with action and even with the will to action

we got in the car and went for a drive. the effects of the mescalin were already on the decline: but the flowers in the gardens still trembled on the brink of being supernatural…. before us the cars were rolling by in a steady streams, thousands of them, all bright and shiny like an advertiser’s dream and each more ludicrous than the last. once again i convulsed with laughter.

that humanity at large will ever be able to dispense with artificial paradises [chemical vacations] 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.


*halfway through writing this i checked the wiki page and realized this is their strategy to summarize the book as well. i believe this route is most capable of communicating huxley’s ideas because his style is long-winded at times as he develops his points as if thinking to himself.
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