The Doors of Perception & Heaven and Hell

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

― Lewis Carroll Through the Looking-Glass

In 1954 Aldous Huxley published an essay called ‘The Doors of Perception’ followed two years later by ‘Heaven and Hell” in which he described his visionary experiences as user of mescaline, an ancient Mexican drug. He expected it to produce a different mode of consciousness but found out it resulted in an extraordinary heightened visual awareness which gave him ‘a sacramental vision on reality’. By experimenting with this drug Huxley explores ‘an unexplored New World of the mind, the antipodes of his normal conscious living, whose properties have a heightened significant pure intrinsic value. This world can have the characteristics of the Paradise or Fairyland of religion, but also negative emotions like fear, anger, hatred or malice which will turn this heaven into hell’.aldous-huxleyWhile Aldous Huxley is using drugs he experiences a new world and finds it difficult to describe what he experiences because ‘sensations, feelings, insights, fancies are all private and, except through symbols and second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human being is a society of island universes.’ This explains why we, living in the normal conscious world, can not understand what someone using drugs is experiencing, our communication tools are to limited to be able to describe and understand what a drugs user is experiencing. But somehow we are able to survive and communicate with each other using language, symbols and media which gives us a common ground for understanding the world around this.

With the introduction of social media the way we communicate with each other has changed significantly. We have created a new world next to our ‘Physical world’ and ‘Fantasy World’ which I call the ‘Online World’ which is always available for you when you want. Not having an internet connection is a real problem for a lot of people nowadays, deprived from a smartphone a lot of people become nervous and anxious having the same symptoms as drug addicts as described by Huxley. With the introduction of virtual reality and augmented reality, new tools will become available soon even impacting the way we communicate with our environment even more and enabling everybody to create his/her own world and communicate only with those he/she allows in his/her private space excluding people they don’t like.


IT companies developing social media tools should have more focus on the social impact of new technology they introduce, they are not only developing and introducing new technology but also influencing the way we communicate and society functions as a whole. The awareness of the negative impact on society off social media is now very low because this is a new development and everybody likes using this and being smart. But once in a while I also meet people who have turned off their device and start having a normal conversation with me, closing some doors of perception can also broaden your perspective on the world…

About Gerard Geerlings

Gerard Geerlings, socioloog en schrijver, schrijft online over wat er zoal aan de hand is op het terrein van de digitale samenleving, de troost van kunst, praktische levenskunst en de actuele politiek.
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