Heaven and Hell (essay)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Heaven and Hell is a philosophical work by Aldous Huxley, published in 1956. The title is derived from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake. The essay discusses the relationship between bright, colorful objects, geometric designs, psychoactives, art, and profound experience. The reference to Heaven and Hell brings out the two possible sides of mystical experience. When one opens the doors of perception one can experience both extremes. But the import of the essay does not confine itself to a further explication of mystical experience (one that continues from the earlier essay, The Doors of Perception), but it points us to the reality that can be Heaven and Hell in ordinary lived experience. The text is usually published in a volume combined with Huxley's companion work The Doors of Perception.

Huxley uses the term antipodes to describe the "regions of the mind" that one can reach by meditation, vitamin deficiencies, self-flagellation, fasting, or (most effectively, he says) with the aide of certain chemical substances like LSD or mescaline. Essentially, Huxley defines these "antipodes" of the mind as mental states that one may reach when one's brain is disabled (from a biological point of view) and can then be conscious of certain "regions of the mind" that one would otherwise never be able to pay attention to, due to the lack of biological/utilitarian usefulness. Huxley states that while these states of mind are biologically useless, they are nonetheless spiritually significant, and furthermore, are the singular 'regions' of the mind from which all religions are derived. For example, he says that the Medieval Christians frequently experienced "visions" of Heaven and Hell during the winter, when their diets were severely hampered by lack of critical nutrients in their food supplies (vitamin B, vitamin C)--these people frequently contracted Scurvy and other deficiencies, causing them to hallucinate. He also said that Christians and other religions fast in order to make themselves delirious, thus inducing visions and views of these "antipodes of the mind". Today, Huxley says people can reach these states of mind without harm to their bodies with the aid of certain drugs. Essentially, Huxley says this state of mind allows a person to be conscious of things that would not normally concern him because they have nothing to do with the typical concerns of the world.

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