Psychedelic drugs and the literature of Aldous Huxley

Psychedelic drugs and the literature of Aldous Huxley

Psychedelic and mind-expending[1] drugs always had a great impact on people. They were used both in high and low developed cultures and influenced all kinds of art. Also literature and even architecture were affected by them. Because of their effects such drugs are called Phantastica or Hallucinogens. When you want to separate drugs into two main groups, you will have to distinguish Hallucinogens like pot, cannabis or synthetic products like LSD and Narcotica. The most dangerous drugs like cocaine and heroin, but also alcohol and nicotine belong to the group of Narcotica. The use of such drugs leads both to physical and psychical dependence. On the other hand the Phantastica lead definitely to no physical dependence, nor in most of all cases to psychical. This doesn't mean that these drugs are harmless. The danger is the damage of mind and soul when using them unprepared. So in nearly every country law makes no difference between these two main types and prohibits drugs in general.

Magic Plants
When Indians use Psychedelic drugs in their rites and ceremonies, they gain it mainly from seldom plants. The best known is the Mexican Mescal-Cactus or "Peyote" as the Indians call it. In the 19th century the science's interest in this plant grew. The first attempts to extract the active substance
weren't successful. But later it was managed to synthetisize the substance, called mescaline. Although this effort of chemistry soon fell in oblivion, it gave a little insight of the world of these drugs.

Acid (History)
In the 1930s the Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann worked on ergot
-alkaloids. He wanted to find a medicine to prevent cardiac infarction, but discovered by chance the derivation LyseracidDietHylamid D+ 25, short LSD or acid. First he didn't pay attention to his creation. But five years later he inhaled unintentionally a touch of it and so discovered its amazing effects. The effective dose for an 12 hour lasting intoxication is about 100 micrograms or one tenthousandth gram. Acid was in the 1940s and 50s used in medicine, especially in psychiatry. It was sent free to doctors and available on prescription. The mass-consume and so the abuse started in the 60s. The Flower-Power movement made taking acid "in"; Dr. Leary, a Harvard professor, who was later imprisoned, gave acid to his students and organised drug parties on the campus. These people didn't know much about the special effects and risks of this extraordinary drug. The result was that acid was banned by law and that mental hospitals had no possibility to proceed with encouraging therapies. Some members of Flower Power on the other hand soon got into illegality and  turned to far more dangerous drugs like heroine or cocaine.

Acid (Effects)
Acid is a odourless and tasteless
substance. A lethal dose for human doesn't exist. Characterising for an acid intoxication is that it always lasts 10 to 12 hours. The dose varies between 50 to 500 microgram. The more you take the, deeper your visions and mystical experiences will be. The intoxication of nearly ever Hallucinogen is divided into to phases.
A few minutes after taking the drug it can happen that a feeling like poisoning occurs. But quickly perceptions will be far more intensive than usually. People report that they are able to hear colours and see music. The borders of time and space seem to vanish and the world seems to exist in  dozens and hundreds of dimensions.
In the second phase Past, Presence and Future seem to be one - this effect is called "Akasha". The feeling of peace and unity is very strong. Paradoxa and miracles seem to can be solved, but not described in words. An important point is, that a lot of the people who tried acid were not able to put into adequate words, what has happened to them.
That is why the essays of writers like Aldous Huxley or Ernst Jünger are so rare pieces of literature. The greatest risk of this drug are its different effect on every person. It opens places of our consciousness and subconscious to which we normally never have entrance to. Nobody knows what there is hidden. The consume of acid intensifies the current mood. So this drug is not suitable to help against depression, because in such a case the drug won't bring euphoria. Instead, serious mental diseases like paranoia or schizophrenia can be the result.

Aldous Huxley
The British author Aldous Huxley is derived from a family of famous thinkers and scientists. He was always very sceptical to society and technology and wrote a lot of books and essays on this topic. In his later life he turned to philosophy. He occupied himself with mysticism and spiritism. That was why he was interested in mind-expanding substances. Huxley thought that this could help to find answers to certain religious and philosophical questions.

Doors of Perception
In May 1953 Huxley was offered the possibility to take part into an experiment with mescaline, which is very similar to acid. So he took - under medical control - half a gram of the substance. He describes his experiences in the essay "Doors of Perception", which became especially in the time of Flower-Power movement very famous. Although the author describes his visions and hallucinations very vivid, he has a sensible point of view. He knows the risk of this experiment and does everything to avoid drug abuse. The intention of the book is not to encourage people to take drugs. Two years later Huxley published a second book of the same topic. In "Heaven or Hell" he deals with the theory of transcendental experiences. He explains that psychedelic drugs can open our brains for stimulation, why usually never perceive. He compares the brain with a valve, that is closed to 90%. The 10% let through are important to survive, to recognise dangers and stay alive. But substances like mescaline or acid open this valve and let information through, we never knew before - they open the mind.

Brave New World
Also in Huxley's novels psychedelic drugs are an important part. In his famous book "Brave New World" scientists have invented the perfect drug. It makes people happy, without leading to addiction or any damages. But although the world is built upon happiness, it's rather hell then heaven. People are cloned and separated into five classes, alpha to epsilon. Education doesn't exist anymore. Knowledge is kept away from the masses, so most of the people are living in dullness. Only the drug, soma[9], provides for entertainment. In this society, where is no place for moral and religion, people are all satisfied, but nobody really knows any aims and meanings of life.

In a second novel "Island" Huxley a shipwrecked person is integrated in the society of the natives of an unknown island. The advantages of technology and spiritism are meaningful combined. The shipwrecked invents primitive constructions to make life easily. And the native give with their religion, including psychedelic drugs, a support and meaning to everybody's life. But in the end civilisation intervenes and destroys the island and kill its inhabitants.

Huxley's death
To come to an conclusion I want to tell the end of Huxley's biography, which is not mentioned in many books. Huxley suffered in his later life on cancer of the respiratory tracts
. In the last stadium of this disease it usually comes to unbearable pain and cramps. Doctors were helpless, because they knew no effective pain-killer . So Huxley was injected - on his own wish - a dose of acid. This didn't help against the pain, but parted mind and body from each other. The body still felt the pain, but the mind and so Huxley's personality were separated and died peacefully.

bewußtseinserweitern, psychoedelisch




geruch- und geschmacklos

tödliche Dosis



entw. griech. Körper oder lat. Schlaf

Krebs der Atemwege


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