A Series of Huxley Quotes from The Doors of Perception: #2 “Naked Existence”

This is part of Huxley’s description of his experience while on mescaline…what he might label “cleansed perception”:

“The other world to which mescaline admitted me was not the world of visions; it existed out there, in what I could see with my eyes open.  The great change was in the realm of objective fact.  What had happened to my subjective universe was relatively unimportant.

I took my pill at eleven.  An hour and a half later, I was sitting in my study, looking intently at a small glass vase.  The vase contained only three flowers – a fullblown Belle of Portugal rose, shell pink with a hint at every petal’s base of a hotter, flamier hue; a large magenta and cream-colored carnation; and, pale purple at the end of its broken stalk, the bold heraldic blossom of an iris.  Fortuitous and provisional, the little nosegay broke all the rules of traditional good taste.  At breakfast that morning I had been struck by the lively dissonance of its colors.  But that was no longer the point.  I was not looking now at an unusual flower arrangement.  I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation – the miracle, moment my moment, of naked existence.

‘Is it agreeable?’ somebody asked.  (During this part of the experiment, all conversations were recorded on a dictating machine, and it has been possible for me to refresh my memory of what was said.)

‘Neither agreeable nor disagreeable,’ I answered.  ‘It just is.’

Istigkeit – wasn’t that the word Meister Eckhard liked to use? ‘Is-ness.’ The Being of Platonic philosophy – except that Plato seems to have made the enormous, the grotesque mistake of separating Being from becoming and identifying it with the mathematical abstraction of the Idea.  He could never, poor fellow, have seen a bunch of flowers shining with their own inner light and all but quivering under the pressure of the significance with which they were charged; could never have perceived that what rose and iris and carnation so intensely signified was nothing more, and nothing less, than what they were – a transience that was yet eternal life, a perpetual perishing that was at the same time pure Being, a bundle of minute, unique particulars in which, by some unspeakable and yet self-evident paradox, was to be seen the divine source of all existence.

I continued to look at the flowers, and in their living light I seemed to detect the qualitative equivalent of breathing – but of a breathing without returns to a starting point, with no recurrent ebbs but only a repeated flow from beauty to heightened beauty, from deeper to even deeper meaning.  Words like ‘grace’ and ‘transfiguration’ came to my mind, and this, of course, was what, among other things, they stood for…

…the investigator directed my attention to the furniture.  A small typing table stood in the center of the room; beyond it, from my point of view, was a wicker chair and beyond that a desk.  The three pieces formed an intricate pattern of horizontals, upright and diagonals – a pattern all the more interesting for not being interpreted in terms of spacial relationships.  Table, chair and desk came together in a composition that was like something by Braque or Juan Gris, a still life recognizably related to the objective world but rendered without depth, without any attempt at photographic realism.  I was looking at my furniture, not as the utilitarian who has to sit on chairs, to write at desks and tables, and not as the cameraman or scientific recorder, but as the pure aesthete whose concern is only with forms and their relationships within the field of vision or the picture space.  But as I looked, this purely aesthetic, Cubist’s-eye view gave place to what I can only describe as the sacramental vision of reality.  I was back where I had been when I was looking at the flowers – back in a world where everything shone with the Inner Light, and was infinite in its significance.  The legs, for example, of that chair- how miraculous their tubularity, how supernatural their polished smoothness!  I spent several minutes – or was it several centuries? – not merely gazing at those bamboo legs, but actually being them – or rather being myself in them; or to be still more accurate (for ‘I’ was not involved in the case, nor in a certain sense were ‘they’) being my Not-self in the Not-self which was the chair.”

-Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception

The Doors Of Perception: Heaven and Hell (thINKing Classics)

For more Doors excerpts check out #1 Island Universes, #3 Brain as Reducing Valve, #4 Over Against the Quietist, and #5 Back Through the Door.