The Doors of Perception is the title of a book about taking hallucinogenic drugs, especially LSD. It was written by Aldous Huxley almost 100 years ago, now. Jim Morrison, the late lead singer of The Doors read this book. It inspired the name he chose for his group. Timothy Leary read this book and became a prophet of LSD. I read the book back about 1966 or 1967. It took me until fall of 1968 to screw up the courage to try LSD. That first trip is an experience I will never forget, along with a few other memorable “trips.” “Trips” are what we called the experience of taking LSD.
The first trip was on a nice warm day in October, I think, as I was hanging around with some friends on the streets of Old Town in Chicago – the hippie district. The reason the trip was so memorable was that was when I called my father back in Furlong, Pennsylvania, to tell him that I was in Chicago and I was not coming back. A very interesting conversation, indeed.
About two years later, I was working at an auto parts store on the South Side of Chicago. I had recently moved in with the woman who became my second wife. We shared a large apartment on the North Side of Chicago, a couple blocks from an elevated train station. The reason that is important to this story is that I used public transportation, a bus and the elevated, to get back and forth to work. I had been there at the auto parts store for several months and had made friends with several of the guys who work there. One afternoon, when we were outside on a smoke break, one of the guys I knew handed me a little orange barrel shaped pill. I knew exactly what it was – a very, very good form of LSD called “orange sunshine.” It was recognized as one of the purest forms of acid available on the street. My friend said I should take this as I was leaving work and I would be tripping quite nicely by the time I got home an hour later.
Riding public transportation when you are high on acid is quite an experience. I shifted from a high state of paranoia back and forth with a high state of euphoria. When I got off the train at the station close to home, it was close to sunset but the sun was still warm and everything seemed so intense. I took the alley way home, coming in the apartment through the back door. When you are high on LSD, your pupils get very dilated. The other girl in the apartment turned to my girlfriend and said, “What’s wrong with John?” My girlfriend replied, “I think he is tripping.” All I could do was nod and give them a very silly grin.
The girls led me into the living room and sat me in my favorite chair. They put headphones on my head and stacked a bunch of albums (real vinyl albums) on the turntable spindle. Most of those albums were by my favorite group, the Grateful Dead. They handed me a big bag of my favorite snack at the time (Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookies) and a bottle of chilled white wine (Liebfarumilch) from the refrigerator. They knew I would be just fine, so they left and went shopping or whatever.
Several hours later, when the music finally ran out, the cookies ran out, and the white wine was gone, I got up and moved around a bit. You see, when I was tripping, like most people I knew who did that, we become semi-comatose. Drawing into ourselves. Tripping, when you do it right on good acid and not on some of the crap that is sold on the streets both then and now which is cut with all kinds of nasty stuff like strychnine, is a very mystical experience for some. That is what Huxley talked about in his book. That is what Timothy Leary talked about in his “tune in, turn on and drop out” campaign. That is what the Sgt. Pepper album is about. I went through the doors of perception and I have never returned to where I was after going through those doors, even though I stopped doing acid almost 40 years ago, now.
On the stories about people who were tripping doing weird things (like committing suicide, jumping out windows thinking they could fly, pretending they were an elf in Middle-Earth) are only reflecting what is already in their subconscious. Hallucinogenics, from my experience and my research, do not create conditions of instability or delusion. They only emphasize and bring to the forefront what is already there. I have never hallucinated anything on acid or any other hallucinogenic that was not already part of my mental/spiritual makeup. In fact, there has been, as far as I know, extensive use of hallucinogenics in the treatment of mental illness. I guess that the acid or whatever helps to bring some sense of reality to the forefront. Whatever the hell reality is!
I want to recount one final acid trip before I close this post. I have always had a very strong interest in religion and mysticism. The most dominant system of religious metaphors in my psyche and my spiritual self are from Christianity, especially early and medieval Christianity. Back in late 1969 or early 1970, I was at a rock concert in the Kinetic Playground in Chicago. The Playground was Chicago’s version of the Fillmore. There were no seats, only some carpeted plywood forms spaced around the floor. I forget who was playing that night.
Anyway, I was sitting on one of those forms tripping away. I managed to get into some form of elementary mystical trance and was transported to the time of the Christian martyrs. I actually experienced being crucified that night. I don’t think I thought of myself as Jesus Christ. Had I done that, first of all, I am pretty sure I would remember that, and second, I would agree to checking myself into a mental institution. (I later ended up doing something along those lines anyways! But that’s a story for another time, lol.) For someone with strong religious Christian sensibilities like myself to imagine themselves going through the same sort of experiences as early Christian martyrs is not a sign of insanity. Rather it is a sign of a strong mystical, spiritual sense of self. That is something I have had since I was a small boy. It is something that has stayed with me in one form or another for the last 60 some years and probably will stay with me for whatever time I have left. I am proud of that mystical/spiritual side of my psyche. The only problem I’ve ever had because of that is listening to what it tries to tell me. For various and sundry stupid reasons, I have chosen over the years to ignore it more often than I should have. Had I listened to it consistently from the beginning, I imagine my life story would be very different, although I suspect I would be someplace much like where I am now at this point in my life. I hope that made sense. It was a difficult idea to put into words.
(All links provided are to Wikipedia.org, the free online encyclopedia.)