Mind at Large
Mind at Large is a concept from the philosophical book-essay The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley. Influenced by the ideas of C. D. Broad, it postulates that psychedelic substances act to disable filters which inhibit or quell signals vital to mundane, everyday functions from reaching the conscious mind. It is an early example of 1950s and 60s countercultural intellectuals using their newfound psychedelic experiences in order to explore and re-think age-old questions in science and spirituality.
|“||If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is: infinite||”|
|— William Blake|
In The Doors of Perception, Huxley explores the idea that the human mind act as a filter to a larger stream of reality as opposed to actively constructing it. This epiphany occurs to Huxley while on Mescaline. The main function of the brain and nervous system "is eliminative rather than productive." This is in part because handling the details of all of the impressions and images coming in would be unbearable and also because it has conditioned to do so. He reasons that psychoactive substances can temporarily remove parts of this filter, which leaves the user exposed to what he calls "Mind at Large".
History and culture
In 1953, Huxley was experimentally administered mescaline by the British psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond. He was then prompted by Osmond to comment on the various stimuli around him, such as books and flowers and general environment. The conversation that was recorded in Huxley’s book mainly concerned his thoughts on what he said in the recordings. He observed that everyday objects seemed to lose their defining functionality, suddenly existing “as such”. The experience of space and dimension become irrelevant, with perceptions seemingly being enlarged, and at times even overwhelming.
|“||Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. 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, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment, and leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful. According to such a theory, each one of us is potentially Mind at Large.||”|
|— Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception|
In the same work, he also states: "In the final stage of egolessness there is an 'obscure knowledge' that All is in all—that All is actually each. This is as near, I take it, as a finite mind can ever come to 'perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe."
The title "The Doors of Perception" was inspired by the influential 18th-century artist William Blake. The Doors of Perception was originally a metaphor written by Blake that was used to represent Blake's feelings about mankind's limited perception of the reality around them, particularly in the context of his Christian beliefs.
This book was the influence behind Jim Morrison's naming his band "The Doors" in 1965.
- "The Psychedelic Experience FAQ". Erowid. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
- Huxley, Aldous (1954). The Doors of Perception (PDF). Perennial Classics. p. 6. ISBN 0-06-059518-3.
- Simmonds, Jeremy (2008). The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns, and Ham Sandwiches. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. p. 45. ISBN 1-55652-754-3.