28 May 2005

The doors of perception

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” – Aldous Huxley

Jim Morrison chose the name of his rock-and-roll band, The Doors, from a book called “The Doors of Perception” by British author and essayist Aldous Huxley (1894-1963). The book deals with Mr Huxley’s experiments with mescalin – a hallucinogenic drug – and contains his commentary on the effects of this drug compared to the effects of art. He feels they are similar: both elevate the “viewer” to a state of ecstasy. In his book, Mr Huxley talks about a metaphysical subconscious landscape, The Outer World – a concept, which may also have been a result of his leaning towards Hindu philosophy.

Reportedly, Mr Huxley was an active participant of the 60’s movement, becoming some sort of a guru for Californian hippies. If this is true, and since The Doors of Perception was published in 1954, I guess the 60’s movement actually started in the early 1950s. Mind you, in those days, mind-altering drugs were used as an avenue for exploration – asking questions, challenging established notions, exploring spirituality. In fact, one of the most fascinating aspects of Mr Huxley’s book (and the ’60s movement, for that matter) was the attempt at finding the difference – and the relationship – between the mind and the body.

How did it all originate? More influence of Hindu philosophy?

Interestingly, Aldous Huxley chose the title of his book, The Doors of Perception, from a poem by William Blake (1757-1827):
“If the doors of perception were cleansed
everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”
(from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell)

[The second part of Mr Huxley’s book, The Doors of Perception, is called “Heaven And Hell”]

William Blake, a British poet, painter, engraver (apparently he illustrated and printed his own books) and visionary mystic, approved of free love, sympathised with the French revolutionaries, and believed imagination ruled supreme over the rationalism and materialism of the 18th century. Way-out thinking for 18th century society, wouldn’t you say? In “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” (engraved and printed in 1790), Blake is quite vocal about his feelings against the established values of his time:
“Prisons are built with stones of Law, brothels with bricks of Religion.”

William Blake, Aldous Huxley, Jim Morrison – and the doors of perception. Creative genius at work.

“To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and 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.”
(Aldous Huxley – The Doors of Perception)

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