Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Inspired by Aldous Huxley’s book of the same name. A book about his experiences on mescaline, Doors of Perception reveals unseen dimensions of experience beyond our everyday reality. Raising questions about our hard materialist vision of our world.
More and more scientific study of the brain seems to show that so much of our perception takes place within the brain rather than simply emanating from the material world. The idea of a true reality that we all perceive in the same way has become a fiction. We all experience our world differently based upon our neurochemistry.
Certain conditions like synaesthesia allow the stimulation of added senses when taking in sensory information, for example being able to see or taste sounds or words. Also, on psychedelics the senses become harder to differentiate, sounds are experienced by all the senses creating a full body immersion in music.
Aldous Huxley believed that the brain acts a limiting valve on our experience of consciousness, filtering the overwhelming nature of sensory information down to the essential and allowing us to be able to successfully operate in our everyday lives. Dr Carhart-Harris and Dr Nutt’s studies seem to support this idea, showing that psilocybin reduces activity in certain parts of the brain associated with the thinking mind whilst allowing us to have increased sensory experiences. Our visual acuity also increases during these experiences, which perhaps suggests that in these states we are receiving a truer picture of the material world, whatever that may mean!
Equally in the quantum field the fabric of our material world seems stranger and more elusive. One in which photons seem to exist in multiple places at the same time and only have a fixed nature when being observed! (See double slit experiment).
We are far from understanding the true significance of these findings but I think psychologically it can be very freeing to consider that what we perceive may be illusory in some way. In Hindu and Buddhist religions this idea is common, sometimes termed maya. In Buddhism the emphasis lays in letting go of the illusion, seeing the dream like nature of everyday reality and connecting to pure awareness. In Hinduism Samadhi also describes a similar letting go of attachments and reconnection with the absolute.
Whatever your thoughts on the nature of reality, it’s hard to deny that these altered states seem to be a fundamental part of what it means to be human. They also seem to be consistently showing, in a clinical setting, that they are able to cure many of our modern ailments of the mind. In scientific studies on those with treatment resistant depression (unable to be cured by medicine) psilocybin has had such success that if it was a prescribable medicine it would have been hailed as a miracle cure producing a far higher success rate than any medicines currently available.
Many attribute these results to the mystical experience, the transcendence of the material. This could be the transcendence into the personal psyche, into the spiritual or something else yet incomprehensible but either way it is interesting to see that this lifting of the veil of reality whether through meditation, fasting or psychedelics seems to bring much liberation from mental suffering.