Quotes By The Doors of Perception

“We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies—all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.”


“I am not so foolish as to equate what happens under the influence of mescalin 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 mescalin 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.”


“Art and religion, carnivals and saturnalia, dancing and listening to oratory - all these have served, in H. G. Wells's phrase, as Doors in the Wall.”


“The really important facts were that spatial relationships had ceased to matter very much and that my mind was perceiving the world in terms of other than spatial categories. At ordinary times the eye concerns itself with such problems as where? — how far? — how situated in relation to what? In the mescaline experience the implied questions to which the eye responds are of another order. Place and distance cease to be of much interest. The mind does its perceiving in terms of intensity of existence, profundity of significance, relationships within a pattern.”


“When we feel ourselves to be sole heirs of the universe, when "the sea flows in our veins...and the stars are our jewels," when all things are perceived as infinite and holy, what motive can we have for covetousness or self-assertion, for the pursuit of power or the drearier forms of pleasure?”


“The urge to transcend self-conscious selfhood is, as I have said, a principal appetite of the soul.”


“Art, I suppose, is only for beginners, or else for those resolute dead-enders, who have made up their minds to be content with the ersatz of Suchness, with symbols rather than with what they signify, with the elegantly composed recipe in lieu of actual dinner.”


“To rush headlong into the comforting darkness of selfhood as a reborn human being, or even as beast, an unhappy ghost, a denizen of hell. Anything rather than the burning brightness of unmitigated Reality.”


“I have always found that Angels have the vanity to speak of themselves as the only wise.”


“Half at least of all morality is negative and consists in keeping out of mischief.”


“We live together,we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand and hand into the arena; they are crucified alone.”


“And as I looked, it became very clear that this five-and-ten-cent ship was in some way connected with human pretensions. This suffocating interior of a dime-store ship was my own personal self; these gimcrack mobiles of tin and plastic were my personal contributions to the universe.”


“The fear, as I analyze it in retrospect, was of being overwhelmed, of disintegrating under a pressure of reality greater than a mind, accustomed to living most of the time in a cosy world of symbols, could possibly bear.”


“Mescalin opens up the way of Mary, but shuts the door on that of Martha.”


“I found myself all at once on the brink of panic. This, I suddenly felt, was going too far. Too far, even though the going was into intenser beauty, deeper significance. The fear, as I analyze it in retrospect, was of being overwhelmed, of disintegrating under a pressure of reality greater than a mind, accustomed to living most of the time in a cosy world of symbols, could possibly bear. The literature of religious experience abounds in references to the pains and terrors overwhelming those who have come, too suddenly, face to face with some manifestation of the Mysterium tremendum. In theological language, this fear is due to the in-compatibility between man's egotism and the divine purity, between man's self-aggravated separateness and the infinity of God. Following Boehme and William Law, we may say that, by unregenerate souls, the divine Light at its full blaze can be apprehended only as a burning, purgatorial fire. An almost identical doctrine is to be found in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, where the departed soul is described as shrinking in agony from the Pure Light of the Void, and even from the lesser, tempered Lights, in order to rush headlong into the comforting darkness of selfhood as a reborn human being, or even as a beast, an unhappy ghost, a denizen of hell. Anything rather than the burning brightness of unmitigated Reality—anything!”


“Space was still there; but it had lost its predominance. The mind was primarily concerned, not with measures and locations, but with being and meaning.”


“The Lord's Prayer is less than fifty words long, and six of those words are devoted to asking God not to lead us into temptation.”


“He can go about his business, so completely satisfied to see and be part of the divine Order of Things that he will never even be tempted. When all things are perceived as infinite and holy, what motive can we have for covetousness, for drearier forms of pleasure?”


“There seems to be plenty of it,' was all I would answer, when the investigator asked me to say what I felt about time.”


“So in a certain sense disintegration may have its advantages. But of course it's dangerous, horribly dangerous. Suppose you couldn't get back, out of the chaos...”


“All that the conscious ego can do is to formulate wishes, which are then carried out by forces which it controls very little and understands not at all. When it does anything more - when it tries too hard, for example, when it worries, when it becomes apprehensive about the future - it lowers the effectiveness of those forces and may even cause the devitalized body to fall ill. In my present state, awareness was not referred to as ego; it was, so to speak, on its own.”


“For Persons are selves and, in one respect at least, I was now a Not-
self, simultaneously perceiving and being the Not-self of the things around me. To this new-born Not-
self, the behavior, the appearance, the very thought of the self it had momentarily ceased to be, and of
other selves, its one-time fellows, seemed not indeed distasteful (for distastefulness was not one of the
categories in terms of which I was thinking), but enormously irrelevant.”