The gates of perception

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The Doors of Perception (The Doors of Perception), also published together with the follow-up band Heaven and Hell (Heaven and Hell) is the title of an essay by British writer Aldous Huxley . In this work, published in 1954, Huxley describes the effects of the psychedelic mescaline on his consciousness and raises some philosophical questions that lead to thoughts about art, ideas of paradise and much more.


Huxley first describes his impressions after taking mescaline, which was made available to him by Humphry Osmond in 1953 . The sensual perception of a bouquet of flowers became so intense that Huxley felt it in its "istigkeit" (in the original German) and words like "grace" or "transfiguration" came to mind. Time lost its meaning - when asked about it, he briefly replied to the experimenter: "It seems to be abundant." He then comes to the following theoretical considerations:

“When I reflect on my experience, I have to agree with the philosopher CD Broad in Cambridge that“ we would do well, much more seriously than we have been inclined to do so far, to consider the theory that Bergson had in connection with the Memory and the sensory perception established that the functions of the brain, the nervous system and the sensory organs are mainly eliminating and are by no means productive. Every person is able at every moment to remember everything that has ever happened to him and to perceive everything that is happening somewhere in the universe. It is the job of the brain and nervous system to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this amount of mostly useless and inconsequential knowledge, and they accomplish this job by absorbing most of the information that we in any moment or moment that we would remember, and leave only the very small and carefully chosen choices that are likely to be of practical use. ”According to such a theory, potentially each of us has the greatest possible awareness (in the original: '… is potentially Mind at Large ' ). "

In this view, the function of the “reduction filters” is to enable our everyday consciousness to focus on the vital information; at the same time, however, we are led to confuse the reduced version of the world that results in our minds with the actual universe.

Furthermore, Huxley describes the impressions that some works of visual art and pieces of music caused in him. Finally, he goes into the possibilities and risks that the use of hallucinogens could have for society - such as use in psychotherapy or their use instead of the usual drugs . He points out that the Native American Church uses peyote in its rituals and thus sets itself apart from the “civilized” peoples, for whom the consumption of intoxicating substances has no spiritual significance.

Successor volume

In 1956 Huxley published Heaven and Hell , in which he delved into the topics raised in The Portals of Perception .


The two books also influenced the debate about LSD , although Huxley only experimented with this substance after it was published. While LSD was classified as psychotomimetic , simulating a psychosis, up to this point in time , numerous scientists now saw it as the trigger for a potentially therapeutically useful mystical experience . Almost all governments around the world countered the rapid spread of the drug, which, according to its discoverer Albert Hofmann, should only be taken under medical supervision and after careful psychological preparation.

The title of the book alludes to a quote from William Blake :

"If the doors of perception were cleansed
everything would appear to man as it is, infinite."

The title of the follow-up volume also refers to Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell .

Musician Jim Morrison is said to have been inspired by the book to name his newly formed band The Doors .


Individual evidence

  1. Michael Pollan: How Does a Writer Put a Drug Trip Into Words? In: The New York Times . December 24, 2018, ISSN  0362-4331 ( [accessed April 4, 2019]).
  2. Is psychedelics research closer to theology than to science? - Jules Evans | Aeon essays. Accessed April 4, 2019 .
  3. Roland R Griffiths, Matthew W Johnson, William A Richards, Brian D Richards, Robert Jesse: Psilocybin-occasioned mystical-type experience in combination with meditation and other spiritual practices produces enduring positive changes in psychological functioning and in trait measures of prosocial attitudes and behaviors . In: Journal of Psychopharmacology . tape 32 , no. 1 , ISSN  0269-8811 , p. 49-69 , doi : 10.1177 / 0269881117731279 , PMID 29020861 , PMC 5772431 (free full text) - ( [accessed April 4, 2019]).
  4. S. Haggarty, J. Mee: Blake and Conflict . Palgrave Macmillan UK, November 28, 2008, ISBN 978-0-230-58428-0 , p. 155.