Aldous Huxley, known to be one of the great intellectuals of his time. With his ability to question the depths of human perception, and synthesize his findings into works of literature, inspires the art of contemplation through a psychedelic lens. To question our reality and the fabrics of our society are to open up the doors of perception.
Who is Aldous Huxley
Who is Aldous Huxley? If Aldous Huxley was still with us today, I can’t help but wonder with his satirical intellect, if he would laugh at such a question. To simply categorize such a complex and brilliant being, he was an author and a philosopher. He remains best known for his novel, Brave New World, a story based on a dystopian society that has become complacent through mass production and their own addictions to temporary and tasteless pleasures. Sounds familiar?
Huxley set the stage for the west to become more mindful and contemplative, with his work based on his spiritual practices and psychedelic experiments. These experiences were reflected in his later works, particularly The Doors of Perception.
Aldous Huxley, born July 26th, 1894, was an English writer and philosopher. Huxley was born into a prominent family of biologists, biographers, physiologists, and true intellects.
In his youth, Huxley contracted the eye disease keratitis punctata, which left him practically blind for two to three years. Huxley’s older brother, Julian writes about his blindness from an optimistic perspective.
“I believe his blindness was a blessing in disguise. For one thing, it put paid to his idea of taking up medicine as a career.. His uniqueness lay in his universalism. He was able to take all knowledge for his province.”
Huxley married first wife Maria Nys in 1899. They had one child together, Matthew Huxley, who also developed a love for the human condition just as his father, followed suit as an author, anthropologist, and prominent epidemiologist. Maria Nys passed away from cancer in 1955. Huxley met Laura Archera, an author, musician, and psychotherapist. Huxley and Archera married and till death did them part. Upon his death bed, Huxley wished to be assisted by LSD to help him transition which I touch on later in this article.
Huxley graduated from Balliol College, Oxford with an undergraduate degree in English Literature. Following graduation Huxley, indebted to his father, found work at a chemical plant. Although mundane and unstimulated by this work, the experience is the source of inspiration for his novel, Brave New World.
“An ordered universe in a world of planless incoherence.”
Huxley had many work experiences from mundane labor, contributing to Vanity Fair and British Vouge Magazines, to later moving to Los Angeles and working with Hollywood screenplays. He even worked with Walt Disney himself to help write a script based on Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland.
He seriously established himself as an author with his first two published satirical novels, Chrome Yellow and Antic Hay. His tone and career pivot with his novel Brave New World. He began to express his contemplative, philosophical, and mystical perspective on the human condition. This led him to his later writings such as The Perennial Philosophy and The Doors of Perception.
The Psychedelic and Mystical
The Doors of Perception set roots for the research and conversation we are allowed to have about Psychedelics today. The Doors of Perception is Huxley’s synthesis of his experience on the psychedelic drug mescaline, a derivative from the peyote cactus. The title was taken from William Blake’s poem The Marriage and Heaven and Hell.
“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything 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.”
He supplied a dose of mescaline from his well-trusted doctor, Humphry Osmond. After 8 hours of a supervised trip, followed by a 5-day reflective road trip The Doors of Perception was born.
By 12:30 pm, a vase of flowers becomes the “miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence”. The experience, he asserts, is neither agreeable nor disagreeable, but simply “is”.
He describes the simple beauty in the naked existence of being.
Huxley was a pacifist. Pacifism is opposition to war, militarism, or violence. Which highly influenced The Doors of Perception and his last work titled Island. After The Doors of Perception, he continued to experiment with psychedelics. This journey allowed him to recognize the potential we all have to go beyond conceptual thinking. He also got out of his head through somatic practices such as Tantra, Gestalt therapy, the Alexander technique, and even ecstatic dance. In such states, Huxley isn’t an “I,” but instead a “not-I.” Meaning and existence, pattern, and color become more significant than spatial relationships and time duration is replaced by a perpetual present.
Huxley spent his last years in California with his second wife Laura. Till he continued with spiritual, somatic, and psychedelic practice. His last work before his death bed was Island, which is based on a Utilitarian world where religion would be the conscious and intelligent pursuit of man’s Final End.
Huxley was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in the 1960’s. Unable to speak, he made a written request to his wife Laura to have an LSD assisted-death. Laura helped coach Huxley’s to the light. Others involved, such as the doctors and nurses claim to have never seen such an effortlessly and serene pass over such as his.
“Willing and consciously you are going, willingly and consciously, and you are doing this beautifully; you are doing this so beautifully.”
Top Aldous Huxley Quotes
“The urge to escape from selfhood and the environment is in almost everyone almost all the time.”
“Our goal is to discover we have always been where we ought to be. Unhappily we make the task exceedingly difficult for ourselves.”
“Mind at large” for every single one of us humans, is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and perceiving everything happening everywhere in the universe.”
“I am not so foolish as to equate what happens under the influence of mescaline or of any other drug, prepared or in the future preparable, with the realization of the end and ultimate purpose of human life: Enlightenment, the Beatific Vision. All I am suggesting is that the mescaline experience is what Catholic theologians call “a gratuitous grace,” not necessary to salvation but potentially helpful and to be accepted thankfully, if made available. To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and the inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large—this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual.”
― Aldous Huxley, The Doors Of Perception
Aldous Huxley In Culture
Top Aldous Huxley Novels:
In the Media
Aldous has left a big impression on our society. You can find subtle references to his work in popular culture. The Doors actually gave credit to naming their band after Huxley’s The Doors of Perception. You can also see references in the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Hunter S. Thompson performs an experiment with the infamous adrenochrome that is originally from The Doors of Perception. Aldous Huxley truly sets the groundwork for us to experiment and journey into the depths of our human potential.
RS Contributing Author: Niki Perlberg
Niki is a social and arts entrepreneur who specializes in project and creative production development. With her passion for social structures and the arts, she has been involved in the architecture of performance and festival culture around the country. In rapidly changing times she is now taking her passion for these sub-cultures and sharing them with us in our digital atmosphere through her writing and content development. Some of her favorite parts of life are coffee, campfires, and contemplating the mysteries of existence. Feel free to follow her on Insta @itsnikiperl