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Expanding the Gates of Perception, Christopher Johns

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Chapter 1

Expanding the Gates of Perception
Christopher Johns

Aldous Huxley (1959) reflected on his experience of taking mescalin and its impact in enabling him to access the greater ‘mind at large’ and in doing so to circumvent the brain and nervous system as some sort of reducing valve. In other words, taking mescalin blew fuses and opened Huxley’s mind to perceive things in new and different ways. Hence the title of his book, The Doors of Perception. As we go about our everyday business we take the world largely for granted and respond habitually. Meaning is projected into events that enable us to take things in our stride, and in doing so, reinforce our sense of self. Thus the multiple doors of possibility are not always visible: instead, existing knowledge and experience are defended as if the ego itself is threatened. The more we know, the more threatened we become when that knowing is challenged. A certain degree of anxiety and fear is useful for learning (see Joyce 1984; Casement 1985; Freshwater 2000). However, too much fear and anxiety is not conducive to learning. Perhaps we all need mescalin in the morning to heighten our perceptions, to lower our defences and open ourselves to possibility. From a Buddhist perspective we are caught in a world of samsara, depicted by the cock, the snake and the pig – craving, aversion and delusion respectively – who chase one another around and around, locked into a world of greed, hate and ignorance. It is a restless world of seeking pleasure to avoid pain: what Freshwater (2003) refers to as ‘toxic speed sickness’. We cling to what we know, for the small pleasures that we have, lest we lose even them. Yet, as Huxley (1959, p. 55) notes: ‘the urge to transcend self-conscious selfhood is, as I have said, a principal appetite of the soul’. This message is reinforced by transpersonal philosophers such as Ken Wilber...

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