Erik Graff's Reviews > The Doors of Perception/Heaven and Hell

The Doors of Perception/Heaven and Hell by Aldous Huxley
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's review
Apr 06, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: psychology
Recommended to Erik by: John O'Reilly
Recommended for: all interested in psychedelics or in Huxley
Read in September, 1969 , read count: 1

Towards the end of his life Aldous Huxley was introduced to psychedelics, still legal at that time. His analyses of the phenomenon are detailed in these two essays here combined in one volume. For further reading about his relationship to such drugs see, of course, the various biographies about Huxley, particularly Huxley in Hollywood, and his wife's collection of essays by and about him and these drugs entitled Moksha. For his use of his experiences in literature see his novel Island.

Though dated, much of what Huxley surmises about the way psychedelics work still corresponds in a general way with contemporary theory and all of what he writes in describing the psychedelic experience is quite well done.

Note that Huxley was legally blind throughout most of his life--a reason for his fascination with his pelucid inner vision?
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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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message 1: by Max (new) - rated it 5 stars

Max Nemtsov dear Erik, probably you could clarify one point for me, regarding this book.

did you have any special grudge against its russian translation, so you apparently deleted it 1 day ago, 12:13AM, when combining editions? or was there anything wrong with it?


Erik Graff No, just following the posted rules for librarians. If there was a review of that translated edition it would have been taken up into the reviews listed under the most reviewed edition. If you object to this practice, inform the site administrators thru the link they provide. They are good at responding within forty-eight hours.

message 3: by Max (new) - rated it 5 stars

Max Nemtsov right, i just don't get why was there a need to delete a foreign language legitimate edition with an isbn and stuff in the first place. is there a trend to purge non-english-language books we don't know about?

Erik Graff Since most participants appear to be English speakers there would be a tendency for foreign editions to be absorbed into more commonly reported & reviewed English language editions under GoodReads' current policies. Mere librarians like myself, as opposed to superlibrarians & GoodReads staff, are only able to delete editions with less than ten reviews. Personally, if I see non-English reviews for several editions in a common language, I combine them if they will total ten or more in aggregate so that they cannot be deleted by mere librarians like myself.

Note that for popular books there may be hundreds of individual editions listed with reviews pegged to many of them. One can understand why GoodReads does not want that, particularly because many of such editions are not clearly distinguished from one another--some are even duplicates.

Again, I suggest you contact GoodReads and give them your recommendations. If you are not a librarian yet, then I further suggest you get your fifty reviews in and become one so you can see how their system works for yourself.

message 5: by Max (new) - rated it 5 stars

Max Nemtsov i'm sorry but it seems to me that you misunderstand the rules. i quote (

If a particular book is listed twice, it may be helpful to merge the two editions into one. Note that this is different from combining editions, which notes that one version of a book is the same as another. Books should only be merged if they have the exact same ISBN and cover images.

1. make sure the books are combined
2. edit the book you'd like to merge into the other one
3. click 'delete this book' at the bottom. Note that this only works for books with less than 15 member reviews.
4. the book and all its reviews will be merged into the most popular edition

it doesn't say anywhere that you can and should delete a legitimate foreign-language edition with a different isbn, cover, etc. i'd appreciate if you pointed me to the page that states clearly that goodreads is NOT the place for any books but in english.
and yes, if you evade the simple question, i'll have to ask other people, sure. thank you.

Erik Graff Thanks for sending the text from GoodReads. Here's another, the one that pops up in the margin when you click "combine editions":

"do combine:
Different publications of the same book.
Different formats of the book (hardcover, paperback, audio).
Editions/translations of the book in other languages. Even though many translations differ significantly, we've made the decision to combine them all, and have people note the differences in their reviews.

don't combine:
2-in-1 books or boxed sets that include the given book.
Cliff notes or other works about the given book."

Obviously, there is a major contradiction here. We should both contact the GoodReads staff, point this out to them and have them revise their instructions.

Erik Graff Max,

I have sent GoodReads both texts and asked them to resolve the contradiction.

Thanks for bringing it to attention.


message 8: by Max (new) - rated it 5 stars

Max Nemtsov thank you, i'm aware of it, too, and apparently "combine" does _not_ mean "delete" it only because it's not in english. the idea of combining books (translations in particular) serves to better identify a work and offer a selection of options to choose from for the readers. there's no need to interpret it from a one-language-supremacy point of view. it would lead us to purge everything in, say, arabic, only because the "majority" of users does not understand what is written there. i doubt it was otis's idea in the first place.

message 9: by rivka (new)

rivka I'm not employed by GoodReads, but I am one of the moderators in the Librarians group.

Max is right: combine does NOT mean delete! The rules you cited are for combining books. The only editions that should be deleted are those which lack additional information -- another ISBN, cover image, publication date and/or publisher -- that distinguish them from the other editions. Translations of a book should be combined, but should not be deleted.

message 10: by Erik (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erik Graff Before Max pointed out the Help file I had only seen the text that comes up when you hit the "combine editions" button which I interpreted in a strong sense. I've written the GoodReads' staff for clarification, but in the meantime, suspecting you two are correct, I'm being more conservative. Hopefully they'll change the text so that no one else will be able to interpret it as I did.

message 11: by Otis (new)

Otis Chandler Message I sent to Erik:

There is no contradiction there, just a lot of words that admittedly might be confusing.

Merging a book is for when someone has entered that exact version (same ISBN) twice in the system. Those versions can and should be merged, and all reviews associated with just one of them.

Combining books is for the same book that exists under different ISBN's (paperback, hardcover, various languages, etc). There are functions on the site to combine these books into one logical entity or "work" for the pursposes of viewing all reviews/ratings in one place.

We cleaned up the language in our help section a bit, so hopefully this avoids confusion:


message 12: by Erik (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erik Graff This is the email I sent Otis in response: Thanks, Otis. Suggest you also clarify the language in the margin which appears with the "combine editions" button under "Other Editions", viz.:

"do combine:
Different publications of the same book.
Different formats of the book (hardcover, paperback, audio).
Editions/translations of the book in other languages. Even though many translations differ significantly, we've made the decision to combine them all, and have people note the differences in their reviews.
don't combine:
2-in-1 books or boxed sets that include the given book.
Cliff notes or other works about the given book."

I interpreted "combine", as the dictionary at hand initially defines it, as "to mix together" and have, unfortunately, done so by merging different editions (in the sense of ISBN numbers) of the same book when it seemed clear that the contents of the different editions were identical. I thought, while doing this, that your policy was a bit extreme as regard various translations of the same text, but your writing (above) that people ought "note the differences in their reviews" seemed to confirm my understanding which was you were concerned about having all the related reviews referenced to the particular text they addressed. Presumably, others may misinterpret this also and since it pops up in the normal course of things it would seem that clarifying it is important lest someone else misunderstand their duties.

As ever, I appreciate your promptness in answering questions.

message 13: by Max (new) - rated it 5 stars

Max Nemtsov oh great, we're on the same wavelength and it's still a wonderful world ))

message 14: by Dr. Carl Ludwig Dorsch (last edited Apr 10, 2008 04:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dr. Carl Ludwig Dorsch

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite.

For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.

William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 14

message 15: by Max (new) - rated it 5 stars

Max Nemtsov right. they _were_ cleansed and i saw the infinity

message 16: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg Erik, 'surmise' is a surprising word to use to describe Huxley's investigations. He was scrupulous in questioning anything and everything, and with his unique way of correlating his vast base of knowledge to arrive at a view (that seems to me was never a final absolute viewpoint), and put it in print, both in his essays and novels. I think 'Surmise' imparts a connotation.

Also, I've read Doors of Perception/Heaven and Hell several times, although not for some years, my interest being in visual perception, the book is mostly about aspects of perception, not just hallucinogens.

message 17: by Erik (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erik Graff Given the state of neuroscience at the time he couldn't do much more than surmise.

Having recently read his Art of Seeing, I am now more appreciative of how very important the visual aspect of the experiences were to him.

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