The Spatial Perception Under the Effects of Mescaline

Braque, Still life with purple plums, 1935. From

In his book “ The Doors of Perception” (USA, edition 1970), the English writer Aldous Leonard Huxley (26 July 1894 – 22 November 1963), explained about his feelings and spatial sensations after swallowing four-tenths of a gram of mescalin –which is contained in the Peyote cactus, among other cactus-, dissolved in half a glass of water. This spring day of 1953, he was willing to be the guinea pig of a researcher; he sat down and waited for the results.

“Half an hour after swallowing the drug I became aware of a slow dance of golden lights. A little later there were sumptuous red surfaces swelling and expanding from bright nodes of energy that vibrated with a continuously changing, patterned life. At another time the closing of my eyes revealed a complex of gray structures, within which pale bluish spheres kept emerging into intense solidity and, having emerged, would slide noiselessly upwards, out of sight. But at no time were there faces or forms of men or animals. I saw no landscapes, no enormous spaces, no magical growth and metamorphosis of buildings,….
The perspective looked rather odd, and the walls of the room no longer seemed to meet in right angles…. 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 mescalin 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. I saw the books, but was not at all concerned with their positions in space…..Not of course the category of space had been abolished….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.
From the books the investigator directed my attention to the furniture…..The three pieces formed an intrincate pattern of horizontals, uprights and diagonals –a pattern all the more interesting for not being interpreted in terms of spatial 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 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.
Reflecting on my experience, I find myself agreeing with the eminent Cambridge philosopher, Dr. C. D. Borad….that the function of the brain and nervous system and sense organs is in the main eliminative and not productive….The function of the brain and nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge,….”
To read about the sacramentalization of the ingest of Peyote and the ritual of the Native American Church:
Braque. Still Life. From

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