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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reading, but too spculative at the end.
I liked this book right from the start, maybe because it supports my views upon life, but at the same time it challenges my view upon drugs through my views upon life.
Aldous Huxley describes a state of Suchness as a state where everything just exists, there is no real value in this state of mind except that there is beauty in everything, it's a kind of objective...
Published on Jan. 26 2004 by Frederik Gr°n Schack

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2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
This is an interesting book -- it is really two books in one -- "The Doors of Perception", in which Huxely recalls his first experience using mescalin, and "Heaven and Hell", which is considerably more speculative. Of the two, the latter is by far the better book. The former deals mainly with the mescalin experience itself, which I can assure you,...
Published on Sept. 12 2000 by gsibbery


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reading, but too spculative at the end., Jan. 26 2004
This review is from: Doors Of Perception (Paperback)
I liked this book right from the start, maybe because it supports my views upon life, but at the same time it challenges my view upon drugs through my views upon life.
Aldous Huxley describes a state of Suchness as a state where everything just exists, there is no real value in this state of mind except that there is beauty in everything, it's a kind of objective state distanced from the beholders self. To Aldous Huxley this is a state he reaches with mescalin, and the attainment of this state is the argument for drugs, because as he says, this is the way that people ought to see things. Huxley believes that we would be better human beeings if we reach into to this Other World, this state of distance from our own egos, and I believe he is right. We would probably be more peaceful, more open minded, more accepting and more forgiving, but as he points out, this is also a state of inactivity. This mind at large is a very observative and percieving state, and the beholder might even forget or ignore even his/her own basic needs like food. We aren't productive enough to sustain our own living in this condition.
I think that I know this state of mind well, with all it's blessings and pittfalls, even though I don't take any drugs (except from beer). Anyway I have started to wonder if I could extend this state of mind with mescalin, and wether it would be any good? My principal standing is that no drugs are needed in order to extend the experience of life, that's why I almost never have taken any kind of medication, even though I might suffer from pain. Also freedom is very valuable to me, so addiction scares me away form drugs. But if we had a perfect drug with no addiction, why not have this expereience? Why not once in a while? And why not all the time?
I think that Huxley himself answers this question very well in his book Brave New World, although its a long tim ago that I read it (6-7 years). I definitly need a brush-up on it. I read this as a critique of the ignorant state of mind of all the inhabitants in the Bave New World. I loved this book by all my heart and would recommend that you read it after reading Doors of Perception.
Another book that I will recommend highly is "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by Neil Postman. This book is about another kind, but omnipresent drug, called television. This book might give you an idea of why drugs/television are no good solution. Drugs are just a too simple push-a-button-and-be-happy solution, the good has no proportions without the harsh to put it into perspective. Personally many of my great Mind at Large experiences have come to me after climbing a volcano, after walking 80 km in 14 hours or just by experiencing an extremely beautiful landscape while travelling.
Some of us might be more prdisposed to this Mind at Large than others, but I believe in David Keirseys theory that each of us are in fact satisfied with beeing the kind of person we are. Maybe we envy traits of others, but if the trade-off is our own abilities, we would rather like to be ourselves. "Please Understand Me II" by David Keirsey is a phenomenal book.
The reason for only giving this book 4 stars is that it get's a little too speculative towards the end.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting viewpoints from a different perspective, May 28 2003
By 
Robert Anderson (Pacific Northwest) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doors Of Perception (Paperback)
"The Doors of Perception" is essentially a commentary by Huxley describing his experience with Mescaline. What I found most interesting was that it is written from the perspective of a very well-educated intellectual who, while high on Mescaline, observes and waxes mystical and philosophical on art (paintings), of all things. This was funny in an odd sort of way, reading an obviously passionate art appreciator discuss the merits of various artists and works of art while using a hallucinagenic drug, - however not understanding a lot myself about the history of painted artwork I think much of his commentary was lost on me. In addition to criticizing art he also commented in general on the nature of the mind and the connection between the mind, hallucinagens and mystical experience, etc.
In "Heaven and Hell", Huxley discusses the nature and history of mystical experience, or as he tends to refer to it "visionary experience". Again, he focuses strongly on the role of art (mostly painting) throughout history as being evocative of mystical visions and it's almost as if he is discussing the mystical implications of art throughout history as much as he is discussing the mystical experience itself.
While interesting, I found his approach a bit too intellectual for my tastes, and his fixation with art a bit beyond my reach considering I know little of art and had no frame of reference with which to personally evaluate his examples and comparisons (not being familiar with the specific works and artists that he was using for examples). Also, compared to the wealth of written material and research available today on the subjects of hallucinagens, mysticism, and transpersonal psychology I felt that his material was a bit outdated.
Nevertheless, these books are worth reading and he makes many interesting points.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Groundbreaking Work, Feb. 28 2003
By 
Ross James Browne "Ross" (Atlanta, Georgia United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Doors Of Perception (Paperback)
The only reason I gave this book only 4 stars instead of five is that the second essay, _Heaven and Hell_, struck me as rather weak. Taken by itself, _Doors of Perception_ is definitely a 5 star work. This book is a watershed moment in the psychedelic literature movement. It is beautifully written, with a clear and understandable style. Huxley has a particular knack for knowing when he has come up against the unknowable, and is able to recognize the unknowable for what it really is. He sort of maps out the edges of the unknowable, highlighting what is within the grasp of our knowledge, while defining a clear boundary demarcating the realms of knowledge that can only become known in another life. This, of course, was the book that inspired the great philosopher Terrance McKenna, and after reading it, you might also become inspired to try to become the next great philosopher. _Doors of Perception_ is notable in that it triggers a desire for knowledge rather than simply expounding data. This is definitely a good thing, and the reader can't help but be infected with a love for the astonishment and wonder that philosophy can provide.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic classic!, Dec 20 2002
By 
"majnoon_" (Santa Fe, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Doors Of Perception (Paperback)
This book is truly a classic. It has a timeless quality and youth-like enthusiasm. Mr. Huxley does such a superb job at capturing the "feel" of the whole experience. He weaves wonderful prose with intriguing ideas. Not being an avid art aficionado, I was left a bit daunted with the numerous art references, but overall he has left me with a newfound interest in art.
Huxley touches on some good questions concerning psychoactive substances (and general "chemical vacations") and perception. I am intrigued with his idea of the brain acting as a sort of "reducing valve" for the whole of what could be perceived (experiencing "mind at large"). It is surely a quick read, but still packed full of philosophy, little tidbits, history and a myriad of other such though provoking ideas.
A great quote: "The need for frequent chemical vacations from intolerable selfhood and repulsive surroundings will undoubtedly remain." And Huxley does a wonderful job at explaining why this is so. This is a must read for anyone trying to understand the whole why and what for of hallucinogens, or for the aspiring philosopher, the general curious about life, mystery, etc. It is a necessary read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mind-at-Large, Sept. 5 2002
This review is from: Doors Of Perception (Paperback)
"The Doors of Perception" is probably the most popular non-fiction work on the subject of psychedelic experiences; it is based on first account records of the author's decision to experiment the consequences of intake of small amounts of mescalin, in an attempt to reach enlightenment and escape world's boredom. Being who he was, the result is a very interesting narrative in which the author expands on his not only scientific but also philosophical, religious, and artistic ideas.
The philosopher C.D.Broad suggested that our brains are genetically programmed to screen perceptions, selecting only those that are necessary for survival. By doing so, humans close the doors to what Huxley calls "Mind-at-Large," thereby loosing access to the world of unconsciousness and wonder. Only through the use of chemical substances can a human being free himself from his inherited limitations, experience the realms of supernaturally brilliant visionary experiences, and obtain total freedom from the ego. In this new stage of consciousness, spatial and time relationships cease to exist, whilst intensity, profundity of significance are augmented. Our everyday reliance on language petrifies perception because "however expressive, symbols can never be the things they stand for." There is a need for a less exclusively verbal system of education and "an occasional trip through some chemical Door in the Wall!"
Huxley's work is highly controversial and paradoxical. How are we to develop a science of perception if our language is not equipped to express that same perception? How are we to explain the differences in reaction to mescalin intake, ranging from peaceful and mystical to schizophrenic behavior? How are we to define individuals "with open minds and sound lives" who would be normally allowed to use chemical substances (drugs) with no risk involved? Let the reader keep in mind that this book was published back in 1954 and nowadays science is till dealing with these issues.
In order to give an anwer as to why individuals react differently to drug intake, Huxley worte "Heaven and Hell." According to him, for some "the ego doesn't melt like an iceberg in tropical waters, but expands to the point of suffocation;" only those who are free from negative emotions (fear, hatred, anger) have the door opened to visionary experience.
Aldous Huxley raises a number of interesting issues, not be taken as "chicken-soup for drugs," but rather as intellectual exercise for further thought and consideration as to what we most commonly refer to as "reality." His opinions and explanations may sometimes be considered "naive" and not fully elaborated, but merit goes to his audacity in exploring an area which to this day remains open to further understanding.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Transcending self...principal appetite of the soul., Aug. 28 2002
By 
C. Middleton (Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doors Of Perception (Paperback)
On that fateful day, 4 May 1953, Aldous Huxley, novelist, philosopher, poet and world famous intellectual, drank a glass of water mixed with silvery white mescalin. As Humphrey Osmond, a Canadian psychiatrist, specializing in schizophrenia, wrote, "It was a delicious May morning in Hollywood, no hint of smog to make the eyes smart, not too hot." Osmond had supplied the drug to Huxley for the experiment, and acted as 'observing recorder' of the historical event.
Huxley had high hopes for the experience, and believed that the drug would in fact admit him into the world that Blake painted and tried to describe in his poetry; and also possibly transport him into the mystical world of Meister Eckhart. The reality of the situation exceeded his hopes - as Huxley wrote in ~The Doors of Perception~, "I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation - the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence."
~The Doors of Perception~ is an important commentary from a man of rationality and science, attempting to investigate what some call 'Intuitive knowledge'. As a researcher and writer, he knew second hand these reported heightened states of awareness, had observed and dimly 'felt' these states through painting, architecture and art in general, but wanted desperately to experience them first hand. The book describes his feelings, perceptions and thoughts about the experiment.
Huxley writes that one of our basic universal human needs is to transcend our, at times, banal consciousness, "...the urge to transcend self conscious self-hood is...a principal appetite of the soul." (P.54) We have been doing it and continue to do it since time immemorial. Our methods, however, particularly in modern times, has been destructive. He writes, "When, for whatever reason, men and women fail to transcend themselves by means of worship, good works and spiritual exercises, they are apt to resort to religion's chemical surrogates - alcohol and 'goof-pills' in the modern West, alcohol and opium in the East, hashish in the Mohammedan world, alcohol and marijuana in Central America..." (P.54) Unfortunately these sad and destructive alternatives have mounted since this writing, but the central message is the same. He goes on to say, "Ideally, everyone should be able to find self-transcendence in some form of pure or applied religion." But, for the most part, "...the hungry sheep look up and are not fed."
~Heaven and Hell~ is a sequel to ~The Doors of Perception~ describing or more so reflecting on the visionary experience through various means. Huxley also explores the understandings of other minds in their perceptions and cosmological notions expressed through art, and why they are impelled to express these notions. He also describes the dark side to spiritual insight of the divine nature: the dark, empty journey of the soul when overwhelmed by such experiences, manifested in mental illness such as schizophrenia.
This important book was first published in 1954, and has become a classic that continues to communicate the plight and experince of the human condition: concise and easy to read - an absolute must.
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5.0 out of 5 stars aldous tripping out on the big M - utterly fascinating, Dec 5 2001
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This review is from: Doors Of Perception (Paperback)
"the doors of perception" is an obscure little book by aldous huxley that, in my opinion, is one of his best. it is obvious that huxley is really reaching, however, and perhaps looking for metaphysical meaning where there really is none, although as a great man once said i am too skeptical to deny the possibility of anything. the beautiful and unique thing about this book is that you can practically feel huxley's passionate search for the underlying essence of the universe, and it is a real privilege to be allowed a peek into the mind of a man of genius in an altered and stimulated state. along with gerard de nerval's "aurelia", this book is probably the best 'hallucinatory' work ever written. references to blake, coleridge, and many of the other 'mystical poets' abound, and one can practically feel the author's near desperation for attainment of ultimate truth. for a short time during the book he becomes what the surly schopenhauer would have called "the free willless subject of knowledge" and is more interested in the magic and wonder of pure perception than that of engaged being. huxley's honesty is at times almost disconcerting, and he admits several times that for people of abnormally abundant intellect such as himself, the world becomes more of a symbolic concept than a lived reality and experience, and his drug experimentation was an attempt to temporarily escape this mental deadening and sterility. it is probably true that this book may have helped to inspire some illicit and destructive drug use, but the blame for that hardly lies with huxley himself. if i remember correctly he published an essay that discouraged recreational drug use a few years after writing this book, although i could be thinking of someone else. there is no similarity whatsoever between a self controlled, brilliant man like huxley attempting a fleeting transformation of consciousness for creative purposes and a perpetually stoned young hippie trying to 'get the on the magic carpet ride' for a few hours. his more hasty readers should read a book entitled "beyond the outsider" by scholar/philosopher colin wilson before they start popping mescaline or taking psychedelic drugs that they are not experienced with. wilson describes in agonizing detail his horrific experience with mescaline and makes the astute and accurate observation that most people are too neurotic and fearful to have a positive experience with the drug. all of that said, however, this is an absolute must read for anyone even mildly interested in philosophy, poetry, or mysticism.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Huxley was incapable of writing a bad sentence., Nov. 23 2001
By 
S. McDuffie (Pueblo, CO) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doors Of Perception (Paperback)
This wonderfully written work, by one of the last century's most original, brilliant, articulate, eloquent and UNDERated writers and thinkers, did not inspire me to try mescaline, but I was intrigued by his experience and I enjoyed the drug vicariously through him.
Admittedly, it has been many years since I read this book, but recall that I was quite fond of it. I think I read it twice. While most people would enjoy it, I feel that the drug warriors would benefit most of all from this work as it clearly illustrates that many of the right's propaganda concerning recreational use of "hard" drugs is unfounded mythology.
I would read it again, which is much more than I can say for most books. Huxley was brilliant and I loved most of his work (he got a little too heavy into Indian mysticism later in life i.e. "Island"). Even his weaker books, such as "Point Counter Point", are masterfully written and brilliantly executed. Huxley is the reason that I cannot read the works of contemporary hacks like Stephen King, or Michael Crichton.
I gave it 4 stars because I could not give it 3.6 stars!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Doors of perception, May 5 2001
This review is from: Doors Of Perception (Paperback)
Mr Huxly delivers a succint, utilitarian, and utterly descriptive account, of his attempt to unburden himself of humanity's mandatory rational restriveness. While often being guilty of referring superfluosly to artists, poets and the like, he more than compensates with an unrivaled genius, and command of the written word, that is simply a pleasure to savour. His vast knowledge on myriad subjects was revealed to the reader in all its grandiose splendour, with a shrewd and insightful profundity, to rival even that of the great Dostoyevsky. He states "Most people, most of the time, know only what comes through the reducing valve and is consecrated as genuinely real by the local language. Certain persons, however, seem to be born with a kind of by-pass that circumvents the reducing valve". This utilitarian usage of the word permeates this work, like the flashes of light, and beauty of flannel that it descibes, and is surely a reference to Plato's notion that the mind works as a calming device to the natural instincts of the body. Also, by refusing to be restricted to a Western discourse, he illumanites a far greater area of his experiment, which in its own right is a recondite philosophical statement. This book was plainly stated written by a genius.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, Sept. 12 2000
This review is from: Doors Of Perception (Paperback)
This is an interesting book -- it is really two books in one -- "The Doors of Perception", in which Huxely recalls his first experience using mescalin, and "Heaven and Hell", which is considerably more speculative. Of the two, the latter is by far the better book. The former deals mainly with the mescalin experience itself, which I can assure you, is impossible to convey in print. One caveat here for potential psychonauts, however: Read Wilson's account of his own mescalin experiment in his "Beyond the Outsider" as well as Sartre's experiment with the drug. How one reacts to the chemical depends wildly upon one's own personality. Most people will not react the way that Huxely did, as he tended to intellectualise the whole world -- to think instead of doing. One cannot expect a simply blissful experience regardless of one's state of mind and personality -- these are factors in the trip. Huxely took a small dose and never suffered from ego dissolution common with higher doses. If he had, he may have had a greater insight into the ideas that he used in his "Perennial Philosophy". The Hindoos of India used to use soma (a undetermined psychoactive similar to mescalin in its effects) to achieve a sort of cosmic consciousness in which one regards oneself as being at one with the Brahman, the all-pervading universal spirit. What he did not mention is that mystics from many religious traditions mention that they can often get into states very similar to mescalin-induced ecstasies via meditation, something that is infinitely preferable to ingesting a foreign substance, as it is not of much use unless reproducible at will. His ideas in the latter volume are more along these lines, although he does mention some things that could be dangerous. He suggests that most people could benefit from a "mescalin holiday". I totally disagree. For the more indulgent, it could prove a disaster. Huxely was a man of exquisite self-control; others who do not possess such control may be in for problems if introduced to such a powerful drug (the "Beat" Poets come to mind). Also, to many it would be merely unsettling and disturbing, while for others a means of escape from the real world. His speculations about the brain being "Mind At Large", to use Broad's term, is intriguing, but offers no evidence in support of it. The notions that most religious experiences being closely related to the mescalin experience may prove insightful, but as for now, most use this book as an excuse for irresponsible recreational drug use. Comical, pathetic, even absurd at points, it nevertheless makes a point that many others fail to grasp, which he should have used to more effect in the "Perennial Philosophy" -- that at the heart of religion and human life, is an experience of reality which the conscious mind conceptualises until the world and life is less of an experience than a symbol. Zen students may find this perspective quite enlightening. For a more detailed look at psychoactive experimentation, see R. H. Ward's "A Drug Taker's Notes" and the notes from William James' experiment with Nitrous Oxide. Also, for information on reproducing the mescalin experience at will, look into research on Kundalini yoga and tantrism.
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The Doors of Perception: and Heaven and Hell
The Doors of Perception: and Heaven and Hell by Aldous Huxley (Paperback - Oct. 6 2004)
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