Make us homepage
Add to Favorites
FAIL (the browser should render some flash content, not this).

Main page » Fiction literature » The Doors Of Perception by Aldous Huxley

The Doors Of Perception by Aldous Huxley


The Doors of Perception is a 1954 book by Aldous Huxley detailing his experiences when taking mescaline.


Criticisms by RC Zaehner

One of the earliest criticisms of The Doors of Perception was by RC Zaehner, a professor at Oxford University. Zaehner acknowledged the importance of the book’s challenge to people interested in religious experience, while pointing out what he saw as inconsistencies and self-contradictions.

Zaehner’s criticisms of The Doors of Perception were set out in his book Mysticism Sacred and Profane, which also acts as a theistic riposte to what he sees as the monism of Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy. Zaehner concludes that Huxley’s apprehensions under mescaline are affected by his deep familiarity with Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism. So, the experience may not be the same for others who take the drug and don’t have this background, although they will undoubtedly experience a transformation of sensation.

That the longing to transcend oneself is ‘one of the principal appetites of the soul’ is questioned by Zaehner. There are still people who do not feel this desire to escape themselves, and religion itself need not mean escaping from the ego.

Zaehner criticises what he sees as Huxley’s apparent call for all religion to use drugs (including alcohol) as part of their practices. Quoting St Paul’s proscriptions against drunkenness in church, in 1 Corinthians xi, he makes the point that artificial ecstatic states and spiritual union with God are not the same.

Holding that there are similarities between the experience on mescaline, of mania in a manic-depressive psychosis and of the visions of God of a mystical saint suggests, for Zaehner, that the saint’s visions must be the same as those of a lunatic. The personality is dissipated into the world, for Huxley on mescaline and people in a manic state, which is similar to the experience of nature mystics. However this experience is different from the theistic mystic who is absorbed into a God, who is quite different from the objective world.

The appendices to Mysticism Sacred and Profane include three accounts of mescaline experiences, including those of Zaehner himself. He writes that he was transported into a world of farcical meaninglessness and notes that the experience was interesting and funny, but not religious.

Professor of religion and philosophy, Huston Smith took issue with the belief that Mysticism Sacred and Profane had fully examined and refuted Huxley’s claims made in The Doors of Perception. Smith claims that consciousness-changing substances have been linked with religion both throughout history and across the world, and further it is possible that many religious perspectives had their origins in them, which were later forgotten.

Acknowledging that personality, preparation and environment all play a role in the effects of the drugs, Huston Smith draws attention to evidence that suggests that a religious outcome of the experience may not be restricted to one of Huxley’s temperament. Further, because Zaehner’s experience was not religious, does not prove that none will be. Contrary to Zaehner, Huston Smith draws attention to evidence suggesting that these drugs can facilitate theistic mystical experience.

As phenomenologically, the descriptions of naturally occurring and drug-stimulated mystical experiences cannot be distinguished, Huston Smith regards Zaehner’s position in Mysticism Sacred and Profane, as a product of the conflict between science and religion – that religion tends to ignore the findings of science. Nonetheless, although these drugs may produce a religious experience, they need not produce a religious life, unless set within a context of faith and discipline. Finally, he concludes that psychedelic drugs should not be forgotten in relation to religion because the phenomenon of religious awe, or the encounter with the holy, is declining and religion cannot survive long in its absence.


More about the Book:

Not registered yet? We'll like you more if you do!

New links added 09.02.2010:

Not registered yet? We'll like you more if you do!

Not registered yet? We'll like you more if you do!



Purchase The Doors Of Perception by Aldous Huxley from
Dear user! You need to be registered and logged in to fully enjoy We recommend registering or logging in.

Tags: experience, Doors, Huxley, mescaline, Perception