Review of The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I bought this book a long time ago and only recently started reading it. Initially it caught my eye as something that might be interesting from a psychology perspective. Doors of Perception is difficult to define in terms of who will like it. It deals with how we perceive images and colour, and how we understand reality around us. It tries to analyse what makes perception vivid for some people while lacking for others. The author also covers the use of drugs such as Mescalin and the effects that such drugs have on our perception. He takes the drug as part of an experiment on himself, and undergoes an interview with a practical session to see how the drug has affected his vision and thinking.
The book also covers many aspects of paintings by various artists, and touches on spiritual experiences. It talks about a valve that filters the world so that our brains can cope with the overwhelming level of information, and how a person can open that valve to allow more information into their brains to experience something beyond the normal realm of reality. Think of having how it would be to have a volume dial on your own perception and be able to dial it up or down as required.
Large parts of the book are quite rambling and lack focus. The author uses the word 'preternatural' more times than you will find anywhere else on earth. Probably a more oppressive editor could have done wonders for this book, though dealing with an author who takes mind-changing substances cannot be easy.
There is some good content in the Doors of Perception, largely in the latter sections of the book. Some of the appendices are interesting in their own right, but you'll need a fair amount of stamina to dig out the occasional gold nugget from Huxley's clearly intelligent but rambling discourse. If the author had found someone to help shape his thoughts into a more concise and structured book it might have been easier to chew. Still, if you have an interest in perception, hallucinations, or mind altering substances and experiences, you may well find some insight here. Artists with an interest in how we perceive and render colours and objects may also enjoy this book.
[Posted by: Peter James West, author of the science fiction series: Tales of Cinnamon City.]
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