Paintings that look interesting if you're on mescalin

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Paintings that look interesting if you're on mescalin

Post  eddie on Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:19 am

Art in The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley – in pictures

The visual – in particular, paintings and flowers – plays a significant role in Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception. Here's a selection of the images that caught his eye while under the influence of mescalin – along with what he had to say about them ...

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 19 January 2012 12.15 GMT





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Re: Paintings that look interesting if you're on mescalin

Post  eddie on Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:20 am


Chair, by Vincent Van Gogh

“It was on Van Gogh, and the picture at which the book opened was 'The Chair' - that astounding portrait of a Ding an Sich, which the mad painter saw, with a kind of adoring terror, and tried to render on his canvas. But it was a task to which the power even of genius proved wholly inadequate. The chair Van Gogh had seen was obviously the same in essence as the chair I had seen. But, though incomparably more real than the chairs of ordinary perception, the chair in his picture remained no more than an unusually expressive symbol of the fact ... ”Photograph: Corbis

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Re: Paintings that look interesting if you're on mescalin

Post  eddie on Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:23 am


Carnations

“I took my pill at eleven. An hour and a half later, I was sitting in my study, looking intently at a small glass vase. The vase contained only three flowers - a full-blown Belle of Portugal rose, shell pink with a hint at every petal's base of a hotter, flamier hue; a large magenta and cream-colored carnation; and, pale purple at the end of its broken stalk, the bold heraldic blossom of an iris. Fortuitous and provisional, the little nosegay broke all the rules of traditional good taste. At breakfast that morning I had been struck by the lively dissonance of its colors. But that was no longer the point. I was not looking now at an unusual flower arrangement. I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation - the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence ... ”Photograph: Dragan Todorovic/Getty Images/Flickr RF

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Re: Paintings that look interesting if you're on mescalin

Post  eddie on Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:25 am


The Embarkation for Cythera by Jean-Antoine Watteau

"Consider Watteau; his men and women play lutes, get ready for balls and harlequinades, embark, on velvet lawns and under noble trees, for the Cythera of every lover's dream; their enormous melancholy and the flayed, excruciating sensibility of their creator find expression, not in the actions recorded, not in the gestures and the faces portrayed, but in the relief and texture of their taffeta skirts, their satin capes and doublets ... "

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Re: Paintings that look interesting if you're on mescalin

Post  eddie on Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:28 am


Red hot pokers

“A moment later a clump of Red Hot Pokers, in full bloom, had exploded into my field of vision. So passionately alive that they seemed to be standing on the very brink of utterance, the flowers strained upwards into the blue. Like the chair under the laths, they protected too much. I looked down at the leaves and discovered a cavernous intricacy of the most delicate green lights and shadows, pulsing with undecipherable mystery ... ” Photograph: Maxine Adcock.GAP Photos/Getty

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Re: Paintings that look interesting if you're on mescalin

Post  eddie on Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:31 am


The Judgement of Adam and Eve by William Blake

“I was convinced in advance that the drug would admit me, at least for a few hours, into the kind of inner world described by Blake ... The untalented visionary may perceive an inner reality no less tremendous, beautiful and significant than the world beheld by Blake; but he lacks altogether the ability to express, in literary or plastic symbols, what he has seen ... ” Photograph: Burstein Collection/CORBIS

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Re: Paintings that look interesting if you're on mescalin

Post  eddie on Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:34 am


Hampstead Heath by John Constable

"One day towards the end of his life, Blake met Constable at Hampstead and was shown one of the younger artist's sketches. In spite of his contempt for naturalistic art, the old visionary knew a good thing when be saw it - except of course, when it was by Rubens. 'This is not drawing,' he cried, 'this is inspiration!' 'I had meant it to be drawing,' was Constable's characteristic answer. Both men were right ... "Photograph: Burstein Collection/CORBIS

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Re: Paintings that look interesting if you're on mescalin

Post  eddie on Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:37 am


Girl With A Pearl Earring by Vermeer

"Yes, a Vermeer. For that mysterious artist was truly gifted - with the vision that perceives the Dharma-Body as the hedge at the bottom of the garden, with the talent to render as much of that vision as the limitations of human capacity permit, and with the prudence to confine himself in his paintings to the more manageable aspects of reality; for though Vermeer represented human beings, he was always a painter of still life ... Vermeer never asked his girls to look like apples. On the contrary, he insisted on their being girls to the very limit - but always with the proviso that they refrain from behaving girlishly ... "Photograph: Corbis

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Re: Paintings that look interesting if you're on mescalin

Post  eddie on Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:41 am


Calumny by Botticelli

“Marvelously rich and intricate ... ” Photograph: Summerfield Press/CORBIS

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Post  eddie on Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:44 am


The Birth of Venus by Botticelli

“Never one of my favourites.” Photograph: Summerfield Press/CORBIS

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Re: Paintings that look interesting if you're on mescalin

Post  eddie on Mon Feb 06, 2012 8:38 pm

The Doors of Perception: What did Huxley see in mescaline?

Given his damaged sight, the book's emphasis on the visual is all the more piquant, complicating the question of how much its visions reveal

Sam Jordison

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 26 January 2012 15.18 GMT


Aldous Huxley in 1956, aged 61, days after he married Laura. Photograph: AP

Disconcertingly, given the detailed discussions of art and the visual world in The Doors Of Perception, Aldous Huxley was almost blind. Or, at least, some people said he was. Like much else in Huxley's life, the state of his vision was a source of considerable controversy and speculation.


The Doors of Perception: And Heaven and Hell
by Aldous Huxley

The known facts are these: in 1911, while this scion of one of the UK's foremost intellectual families was studying at Eton, he suffered from a very unpleasant illness called keratatis, which left him blind for several years. Huxley's vision recovered enough for him to study at Oxford, with the aid of thick glasses and a magnifying glass, but further deteriorated over the next 20 or so years.

It's in 1939 that things become murky. Desperate for help, Huxley was persuaded to pursue the Bates Method, a controversial theory (now largely debunked) suggesting, among other things, that glasses shouldn't be worn, natural sunlight could be beneficial and a series of exercises and techniques could help improve vision. He claimed impressive results: "Within a couple of months I was reading without spectacles and, what was better still, without strain and fatigue … At the present time, my vision, though very far from normal, is about twice as good as it used to be when I wore spectacles."

That quote comes from The Art Of Seeing, the book he published about his experiences with The Bates Method in 1942. Reviews, were mixed at best. The British Medical Journal review declared: "For the simple neurotic who has abundance of time to play with, Huxley's antics of palming, shifting, flashing, and the rest are probably as good treatment as any other system of Yogi or Couéism. To these the book may be of value. It is hardly possible that it will impress anyone endowed with common sense and a critical faculty."

In the same article the author suggested that Huxley's vision may actually have improved naturally with time as some conditions move in cycles. Others, meanwhile, doubted that he could see much at all. Wikipedia cites a Saturday Review column from Bennett Cerf published in 1952, just two years before The Doors Of Perception, describes Huxley speaking at a Hollywood banquet, wearing no glasses and seemingly reading from his notes with ease: "Then suddenly he faltered — and the disturbing truth became obvious. He wasn't reading his address at all. He had learned it by heart. To refresh his memory he brought the paper closer and closer to his eyes. When it was only an inch or so away he still couldn't read it, and had to fish for a magnifying glass in his pocket to make the typing visible to him. It was an agonising moment."

In Huxley's defence, he always admitted he still needed a magnifying glass, but whichever way you look at all these arguments, they add an edge to the writer's enthusiastic artistic criticism in The Doors Of Perception. Was he protesting too much? Alternatively, was his delight and concern for the visual world all the more heightened because he had fought so hard to retain his sight – and knew what it means to lose it. Given that The Art Of Seeing had aroused such anger and doubt, was he perhaps using the Doors Of Perception as a way to answer his critics? Is it possible that Huxley's subconscious was operating in ways he didn't care to acknowledge?

Well, maybe. But now I'm in the realm of speculation. Just before I leave, one more conjecture: Huxley wouldn't be entirely delighted at the suggestion the book is somehow about his eye trouble. For him, it was all about mescaline. The message was the drug and its astonishing potential. It marked (forgive me) the high point in a lifelong obsession.

As anyone familiar with Brave New World will know, Huxley's most famous novel also shows the influence of drugs. The citizens of the future are nearly all hopped up on Soma, a powerful hallucinogen that allows "a holiday" from reality, imparts a tremendous feeling of well-being, softens up the mind and poisons the body. In the climactic scene in the book, when John the Savage rebels against Fordist society, his anger is concentrated on Soma, which has come to symbolise all that is rotten in this future-state.

It's fascinating to re-read this earlier book in the light of The Doors Of Perception – especially since, in it, Huxley frequently suggests that Soma is very similar to mescaline in its effects. Back in the 1930s, he even described mescaline as a worse poison than Soma, rendering poor Linda vomitous and even dumber than usual.

Clearly, in the 22 years between the publication of the two books Huxley revised his opinions about the drug. By the time he finally sampled mescaline he was convinced it would offer him insight rather than the distraction from reality offered by Soma. As The Doors Of Perception demonstrates the drug exceeded his expectations. Huxley was to remain a dedicated psychonaut for the rest of his life.

On Christmas Eve 1955, he took his first dose of LSD, an experience he was to repeat often and he claimed allowed him to plumb even greater depths than mescaline. The literary culmination of this self-medication can be seen in Island, the 1962 novel, which can be viewed as an answer to Brave New World. It describes a utopia rather than a dystopia, and this time around drugs perform an entirely beneficial function, providing serenity and understanding. They are as the book puts it, "medicine".

Ironically, Pala, Huxley's utopia sounds even worse than the alternative future Huxley describes in Brave New World. The Palanese are crashing bores. They are the kind of people who (in one of the most inadvertently hilarious passages I've read) think it's OK to rewrite the climax of Oedipus Rex with a lecture from some Palanese children, who inform the luckless mother-lover that he is being "silly" and ought to follow their philosophy rather than tear his eyes out … But never mind that. Although it is awful in many regards, Island still holds the charm of Huxley's cultured prose and fertile mind. The knowledge that he wrote the book shortly after his first wife died from cancer and he himself had received a terminal diagnosis also adds real poignancy to the book's many passages about coping with disease. One of his ideas is that tripping may ease the passage into that good night – advice he famously took on 22 November 1963 when he asked his wife second wife Laura Huxley to give him LSD. "Light and free you let go, darling; forward and up," she whispered to him as he drifted away. "You are going forward and up; you are going toward the light."

We'll never know how Huxley's final trip went, but we do know that his psychedelic experiments had a remarkable afterlife. (Psychedelic, incidentally, was a word Huxley helped coin along with Humphry Osmond. Huxley can lay considerable claim to kick-starting the 1960s revolution in the head. It wasn't just the fact that The Doors Of Perception was so influential. He was also personally instrumental in introducing luminaries like Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary to the possibilities of psychedelic experimentation (as described in the early pages of Martin Lee and Bruce Shlain's Acid Dreams, the definitive story of the way LSD swept through America in the 1960s – thanks to the many contributors Reading group who recommended that).

It's safe to say that Huxley changed the world. Without him there might have been no turn on, tune in, drop out, no Merry Pranksters, no Sergeant Pepper, no Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, no Focus.

I scoffed when I read JG Ballard's introduction to my edition of The Doors Of Perception and he said that the book was "even more prophetic" than Brave New World (and also, incidentally, that Brave New World is more prophetic than Orwell's 1984). As this Reading group month draws to a close, I can see that – as usual – Ballard was quite right. The book didn't just point the way to the future (or one potential version of it), it changed it. The big question now is whether it has opened any doors for you? Has Huxley changed your view of mescaline and/or reality? And are you tempted to follow in his footsteps?

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Re: Paintings that look interesting if you're on mescalin

Post  Aladdin on Sat Nov 16, 2013 9:52 pm


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Re: Paintings that look interesting if you're on mescalin

Post  Aladdin on Sat Nov 16, 2013 9:56 pm


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Post  Aladdin on Sat Nov 16, 2013 9:57 pm


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Re: Paintings that look interesting if you're on mescalin

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