Art Under The Influence: The Doors Of Perception

I accidentally got stoned. How does one accidentally get stoned you ask? Well, I was hungry, at a strange house party, and a plate of brownies was left unattended. I was ravenous, so I ate four of the delicious brownies. An hour and a half later and I was hearing secret codes and hidden meanings in Led Zeppelin’s Dazed And Confused.

What had happened to my brain? Was it possible that some part of my brain had opened up? Had a door been opened somewhere inside me, inside my brain, or inside my soul?

In 1790 William Blake wrote a book called The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell, in it he uses the term ‘The Doors Of Perception’ this term is a metaphor used to represent feelings about mankind’s limited perception of the reality around them.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.”– William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Some 164 years later, in 1954 Aldous Huxley wrote The Doors Of Perception – A philosophical essay detailing his experiences under the influence of mescaline. Huxley recalls the insights he experienced, which range from the “purely aesthetic” to “sacramental vision”.

“But the man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less cocksure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.”– Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception/Heaven and Hell

Was that what I had experienced? Did those laced brownies allow me to walk through the door n the wall? I had felt otherworldly and ethereal, like I had been let in on a secret, albeit Led Zeppelin’s secret.

In 1965, Aldous’ book influenced Jim Morrison’s band The Doors. I was always captivated by Riders On The Storm – one of the few songs that makes me feel, feel like I’ve been thrown into spiritual realm, takes me out of my body, and speaks to my soul, not my conscious machine.

In 1990 an advertisement for a movie about the well-known band titled simply “The Doors” displayed an instance of the saying attributed to Morrison:

“There are things known and things unknown and in between are The Doors”– Jim Morrison

Is it possible that drugs have an inherent ability to open our mind? In the same way a person with a vision impairment is given glasses, and can see clearly for the first time? Can drugs be a spiritual aid?

Bryan Lewis Saunders “Perception Of Self” in 2012 caused some traction when he decided to complete a series of self portraits, each taken while under the influence of different drugs. His works are fascinating, and provide evidence of the altering states of cognition, perception, and creativity.

“After experiencing drastic changes in my environment, I looked for other experiences that might profoundly affect my perception of self. So I came up with another experiment where everyday I took a different drug or intoxicant and drew myself under the influence. Within weeks I became lethargic and suffered mild brain damage that wasn’t irreparable. I am still conducting this experiment but over greater lapses of time and presently only take drugs that are prescribed to me by a doctor.”– Bryan Lewis Saunders

Fact and fiction – is this a false dichotomy? Can there be other categories to perception? I know that the song didn’t actually have hidden words in it, I’ve heard it seven thousand times in my life, but the brownies opened my mind, maybe not to actual reality, but to my perception of it.

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