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The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell Paperback – Abridged, 1963

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First read by millions worldwide in The New York Times. Gratitude brings together four essays written over the last two years of Sacks' life. Check out "Gratitude". | See more by Oliver Sacks

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 185 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Colophon Books (1963)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8087888006
  • ISBN-13: 978-8087888001
  • ASIN: B000GX05RO
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (200 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #577,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

257 of 265 people found the following review helpful By Michael R Gates VINE VOICE on March 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
In the first half of the book, DOORS OF PERCEPTION--originally a separate volume--Huxley offers a cogent and erudite argument for the use hallucinogens (specifically, mescaline) as a means for opening up the thinking mind to new ideas and perceptions, or even as a method for jumpstarting human creativity in the common man. Not only does he offer compelling historical precedents and sound medical research, but he also reveals positive details about his own personal experimentation with the drug. As is always the case with Huxley's essays, his various hypotheses are very articulately expressed and not easily dismissed.
The second part of the book, HEAVEN AND HELL--also originally published separately--Huxley introduces the idea that spiritual insight and personal revelation can also be achieved through the use of hallucinogens. (By the time he had written this volume, Huxley had added LSD to his psychedelic repertoire.) While just as articulately written and researched as the first volume, the idea that religious insight can be gained through drugs may offend some readers (theists and atheists alike), and the premise seems odd and contrived or expedient (was he trying to gain support of the clergy?) coming from a generally non-theist thinker-philosopher such as Huxley. Nevertheless, it is still thought-provoking reading for both professionals and amateurs interested in the positive potential of mind-altering drugs.
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141 of 151 people found the following review helpful By Steven W. Cooper on March 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
Huxley's `experiment' in The Doors of Perception was a right of passage for many in my generation, and it's interesting to have such an intelligent analysis of the experience. He does waste a lot of words on something that is indescribable, but it seems to have been written in the first blush of excitement. And Huxley makes some very sound observations, as well, that have probably helped many people reconcile their own indescribable experiences.

His conclusion that Mescalin and Lysergic Acid are relatively harmless for people in good health with an untroubled mind is probably objectionable today, especially among people who have never tried them. Looked at objectively, however, I wonder how this conclusion has stood the test of time. For myself, I believe he underestimated the long-term psychological challenges that cleansing those doors poses.

I remember something I read long ago from Philip K. Dick saying how difficult life is after you've seen God's face. The realization afterwards that you'd been forced back to a colorless, banal existence - a prison, if I recall the sense of what Dick wrote - must surely be considered one of the long-term psychological challenges that Huxley could not have fully appreciated when he wrote this book.

The feeling of being a prisoner in the normal world of perceptions might conceivably result in a hunger to return often to that `Antipodes of the mind' which, if felt too keenly, could cause permanent damage to be done to the mind's function as a `limiting valve.
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Esther Nebenzahl on September 5, 2002
Format: 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?
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 20, 2002
Format: 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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