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The Doors of Perception/Heaven and Hell

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  34,050 ratings  ·  1,117 reviews
As only he can, Aldous Huxley explores the mind's remote frontiers and the unmapped areas of human consciousness. These two astounding essays are among the most profound studies of the effects of mind-expanding drugs written in this century. Contains the complete texts of The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell , both of which became essential for the counterculture ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published 1959 by Penguin Books (first published 1956)
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3.92  · 
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Generally, I greatly prefer to read books in the dead-trees format—actual paper in my hand. This was the first I've read in a long time where I found myself desperately longing, not only for an electronic edition, but for a fully hypertextual version, rich with links. Over the two months I spent on this volume, on and off, I believe two-thirds of my time was spent on the Internet looking up references. At the very least, this book would benefit greatly from extensive illustration: the range of a ...more
Sam Quixote
Apr 07, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever had to be the designated driver while your buddies got wasted? Watching them laugh at nothing and behave like asses while you’re (unfortunately) stone cold sober is a pretty miserable experience as your mind hasn’t been altered by chemicals. Reading “The Doors of Perception” is like this - Aldous Huxley does mescaline and then describes it extensively to the bored reader who is probably not on mescaline. And it’s not nearly as fascinating as Huxley believes it to be - because we’re ...more
Men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty billows of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, and pass themselves by.

- St. Augustine, from Confessions

If you are like me, you have some reservations about trying drugs -- even psychedelic ones. I know one of the people that I look up to -- Carl Sagan -- was a fairly regular marijuana smoker. I know Richard Feynman, another one of my 'heroes', tried some drugs, but stopped at s
Mar 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Who want to break on through ( to the other side).
Recommended to Sumati by: Motivated to read by Jim Morrison
'There are things known
and there are things unknown
and in between are the doors'; The Doors of Perception.

Why should you read it?

1. If you want to question the mind.
2. If you want an insight into psychedelics. (i.e. if you haven't already tried any form of hallucinogens yet)
3. If you want to know about the 'unknown' and its difference with the 'known'.
4. If you want to know what is the difference between a deranged ( schizophrenic) and a normal brain and what defines a brain, normal and labe
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Feb 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Teenage Kicks

I read this book in the early 70's in my early teenage years.
The first thing about "The Doors of Perception" is that it was the source of the name of the band, "The Doors".
The second is that it shaped the views of many people about drugs for 20 years.
Aldous Huxley came from a scientific as well as a creative background. For me, it gave him some level of credibility when assessing the merits of psychedelic drugs.
Basically, (I think) he argued that the psychedelic experience could
Erik Graff
Apr 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all interested in psychedelics or in Huxley
Recommended to Erik by: John O'Reilly
Shelves: psychology
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 dat
Jun 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Doors of Perception is a deeply interesting short essay by the famous author Aldous Huxley. In 1953 he was involved in a controlled experiment into the psychological effects of the drug mescalin.
What he describes is less a mere hallucinatory experience and more an opening of his ability to percieve, and to see himself as part of the Oneness of the universe. He argues (quite correctly) that a massive part of the function of the brain is to selectively discard sensory input, keeping only what is
Nov 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Based on his own experience with mescalin, Huxley informs us about the true nature of reality, that is, the sheer scope of it. He doesn't stop at great works of art, shizophrenia or religion, but freely connects his intake of this drug to an ambitious bundle of themes in order to supplement them all and to prescribe some more of the same, or at least similar, medicine. Drugs and transcendence/life in general had always have much in common, but his way of preaching is exactly like what his drug e ...more
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brilliance
Aldous Huxley munches on some Mescaline (four tenths of a gram, means nothing to me as a clean living soul) as a guinea pig, experimenting for a friend. He expects some kind of visionary experience, a la Blake, but as he admits, he is a “poor visualiser” and experiences less than the visions described and painted by artists, because gifted artists, according to him, have a “little pipeline to the Mind At Large which by-passes the brain valve and the ego-filter”. Unlike gifted artists, “by an eff ...more
Mar 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book consists of two essays by Aldous Huxley.

Short philosophical essays. The main one is Huxley's description about his Mescaline trip and his reaction to various forms of pictures paintings while he is on Peyote.

Interesting counterculture book that I can see the aspect of why it was a popular book in the 1960s.
Dang Ole' Dan Can Dangle
Apr 17, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in altered mind-states and psychedelics
Going into this I had very high hopes, which were somewhat let down. A book about hallucinogenic drugs and altered mind-states written by author of famed science fiction novel Brave New World (which, as of writing, I have yet to read). Being that I have dabbled in the use of psychedelics and studied countless writings on hallucinogens and alteration of mind-states, a topic that greatly fascinates me, not to mention my love for sci-fi, I really expected more from this.

I was deeply disappointed..
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first from Huxley and I imagine he represents the best of what a liberal education used to teach, a broad and deep knowledge of the humanities, art and psychology. His knowledge and visceral love of art is astonishing and made me long for all the greatness I never have known. Consequently I learned a great deal. His main thesis is that the our consciousness is absolutely stifled by the narrow window through which we learn, created by our educational system and the reductionist thinking of mod ...more
Dec 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Woah. First time reading anything like this.
It makes a lot of sense for the most part,
although the part where he says we like
shiny things because they take us to ''The Other World''
is a bit ''meh, no.'' it most certainly
makes you see the whole thing from a very
different angle. It also made me want to try
psychedelics even more and Mescalin is now
on my Drugs-To-Take list. I will have to re-read
it though.
Phoenix Rises
A terrific book about perceiving things as they actually are: Kant's noumena, the thing in itself. The book is a fascinating treatise on raw perception, on an experience of seeing things in real time. The question is, can we handle understanding what is happening around us all at once in its entirety? Huxley compared the taking of the drug mescaline to the experience of schizophrenia: whereas the drug fades and you are no longer bombarded with perceiving all of existence, the schizophrenic perce ...more
Pete daPixie
Jan 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Open the doors, step inside and float downstream. The philosophy of chemical nirvana through mescalin and LSD.
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*** Re-read September 2016
Audio version, less structured notes.
How to experience the "other", the lives of others such as great artists and writers? Interestingly, Huxley did not have a visualization talent. Is that mental world "a poor thing"? With Mescalin, he was able to see the "being" -- the is-ness -- of flowers and things around him.

**** Notes from July 2014
This book contains Doors of Perception, which is by far the most important and best-written one among this slim collection. Heave
This book contained two essays Huxley wrote about the experience of taking Mescalin (LSD) and his journey to understand his inner self. I only read the first essay The Doors of Perception and to be honest I found it to be pretty boring. Huxley talks about watching flowers in a vase for hours, or studying old paintings in a new light. He does however make a few interesting concluding remarks, including my favourite quote from the essay: "Systematic reasoning is something we could not, as a specie ...more
I liked this much more when I read it a few years ago. But I am a different person now, though not different enough to not still think Huxley's writing w/r/t the infamous Chair is, alone, worth the price of admission.

The truth is that this essay is neither *woah mindblowing maan* nor stupid drug-addled drivel. Both positions reflect, I think, biases brought to the reading of the essays.

The latter species of reactionary dismisses without much consideration the possibility that certain chemical
Michael Kress
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1950s
This book narrates one of Aldous Huxley's mescaline trips. Taking this drug allows his consciousness to walk through "doors" and perceive things in a different way. When he comes back through the doors, he is enlightened and changed forever. The subject material of this book is similar to much of the Zen literature that I've been reading lately. A problem with Eastern thought is that you can understand "oneness" intellectually but still feel isolated. Huxley claims that mescaline can help the su ...more
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a big fan of Huxley, and "Brave New World" (along with the follow-up "Brave New World Revisited") is one of my favourite books in the dystopian genre and overall too. Among his lesser known works are his non-fiction writings where he explores the mind.

I came across this book when I read that the world-renowned band "The Doors" named themselves as a homage to this book by Huxley. The description seemed interesting enough for me to give it a shot and it was a good experience.

A believer in th
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Huxley goes on an acid trip and validates buddhist conceptions of ego. I read this because Michael Pollan kept citing to it in his new book about psychadelics. This is really well-written and fascinating. Well worth the read.
If hallucinogens have any utility, then at least some of it surely stems from their capacity to shake up our belief systems, to present reality in a strange, new way—in short, to unlock the doors of our perception. Yet if this is so, why do so many hallucinogenically-minded writers (see: Huxley, Castaneda, et. al.) attempt to force the psychedelic experience through the narrow categories of "truth" and "certainty"?

The Doors of Perception is admittedly one of the better works in the drug-lit cano
Huxley's eloquent little essay is the precursor to the modern position on drug use - resentment that tobacco and alcohol, which are plainly harmful, are legal, and yet other illegal drugs, which are ambiguous, are not. Such drugs, as unknown as they are to those in policy, need more scientific analysis. Huxley's own personal experience, his own data point is well-written, but we need more. In his case, he uses mescaline, derived from peyote, used in Native American religious rituals to this day, ...more
Laura Noggle
“Familiarity breeds indifference.”

Underwhelming after Michael Pollan’s scientific approach to the same subject.

Pollan quoted this book multiple times in “How to Change Your Mind” — amping my excitement to read it, but my expectations were too high ... (heh).

This book is akin to being the sober man out, while your friend is having the time of their life.

Entertaining at points, but also kind of a rant.

Full review to come.
Robert Day
Finished it all in a rush and was glad to rid. Much of this is speculation about the meaning of art rather than the description of transcendental experience that I had hoped for.
Some flashes of brilliance, but too rare to be of lasting effect.
Dec 12, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
i give doors of perception 3 stars, and heaven and hell 1. overall, there was just not much interesting material in these books. i found two ideas in "the doors" that were interesting to me.

first, the idea that the primary function of the brain is as a filter, to reduce the massive amount of incoming information that comes into a smaller set that is useful for survival and propagation. in itself, this is not much, but the implications as to what that unfiltered set looks like, is. this does not
"The urge to escape from selfhood and the environment is in almost everyone almost all the time." Sad but somewhat undeniably true. There are so many forms of escape that people try to utilise in order to "cope" with their mundane lifestyles. I've never quite understood it myself, and I've never quite understood the need to turn to narcotics in order to feel satisfied. Even now, after having read Huxley's account of his time as a spontaneous Mescaline user, I feel no closer to understanding.

It a
Tim Pendry
Although much-lauded, especially by those looking for a literary advocate for the re-integration of altered states of consciousness into our society and culture (a cause I tend to support on principle), this book has not stood the test of time very well.

This edition contains, in fact, two works – ‘The Doors of Perception’, an account of Huxley’s experience taking mescalin and ‘Heaven and Hell’, a somewhat rambling view of art from a somewhat self-appointed cultural Pontifex Maximus.

‘Heaven and H
May 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first chapter of this book of two chapters is very good, being an account of what Huxley experienced when he was given mescaline. He recounts the loss of self, the vividness of colors and textures, the general feeling of things being as they should be, the fascination with what is routinely ignored during normal consciousness and the loss of the will to act in favor of endless contemplation of the visions seen.

Then, in the second chapter, Huxley attempts to give meaning to the visions right
Tracy Reilly
I'm not sure what to think of this book. I "saved" reading it for some reason for many years--mostly because I didn't have a copy. Maybe it feels a little dated now, but I was somewhat underwhelmed in some ways. However, it was definitely interesting to discover the I suppose scientific descriptions of what happens to a person under the influence of hallucinogenics. The emphasis on colors and patterns is sort of cliche, but this was explained in context. The most interesting element I found was ...more
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Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. He spent the latter part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death in 1963. Best known for his novels and wide-ranging output of essays, he also published short stories, poetry, travel writing, and film stories and scripts. Through his novels and es ...more
“We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies - all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes. Most island universes are sufficiently like one another to Permit of inferential understanding or even of mutual empathy or "feeling into." Thus, remembering our own bereavements and humiliations, we can condole with others in analogous circumstances, can put ourselves (always, of course, in a slightly Pickwickian sense) in their places. But in certain cases communication between universes is incomplete or even nonexistent. 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.” 129 likes
“The course of every intellectual, if he pursues his journey long and unflinchingly enough, ends in the obvious, from which the non-intellectuals have never stirred.” 78 likes
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