The Doors of Perception Reading Group - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities

The Doors of Perception Reading Group

The Doors of Perception Reading Group
Nov. 8 and 15, 2023, 6:30 p.m.
Sign up here.

To celebrate the installment of Inner Journeys, OCH will host a reading group discussing Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception (1954). The group will meet Nov. 8 and 15, 2023 in 101 Archer’s North Gallery, where the exhibit will be on display.

Aldous Huxley was a prolific English writer and philosopher, probably best known for his novel, Brave New World (1932). Huxley is also known for his involvement in the Bloomsbury Group, a set of renowned writers and intellectuals in early-twentieth-century London, which included Virginia and Leonard Woolf and E.M. Forster.

In 1953, Huxley ingested a synthesized form of mescaline, the psychoactive molecule naturally occurring in the peyote cactus. The cactus was and is a part of ritual practices of many American Indian nations as well as the NAC, or Native American Church. The Doors of Perception recounts Huxley’s experience with the substance, deftly describing its sensory and cognitive effects. It gestures to the lasting impact the experience had on Huxley’s later works, and even surveys the potential use of it and similar substances in psychiatry. Huxley theorizes the “doors” by which people may experience mystical, personal inner journeys similar to his own: self-hypnosis or meditation, guided hypnosis, and chemical influences, like mescaline, psilocybin mushrooms, or lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

Early scientific research into hallucinogens was halted in the United States as part of the effort of the War on Drugs, initiated by Richard Nixon’s Administration. Restrictions have been lessened in the past couple of decades (despite a sustained Schedule One status), paving the way for doctors, scientists, and researchers to explore potential psychiatric uses of hallucinogens. Recent studies gesture to hallucinogens’ effectiveness at treating psychiatric diseases, such as addiction and depression.

Huxley’s account comes from the perspective of an inquisitive researcher and scientist, and his skill as a writer demystifies hallucinogens, often leaden with popular connotations that consider them useless and dangerous.

The Doors of Perception reading group will meet to discuss how Huxley characterizes his own inner journey, the nature of his psychedelic experience, and the ways it recasts his interpretations of myriad artworks. Interested in joining the reading group? Sign up by filling out this Google form.