Aldous Huxley: Don’t Mistake The Trickle For Ultimate Reality

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You are more than the mind occupying your body.

In fact, you have a tenuous connection with your Higher Self, a part of you that is connected to the rest of the universe.

It’s a common thread weaving through much spiritual literature. Some call it by different names, such as the Soul, the Buddha-Nature, or as Aldous Huxley made famous in his book The Doors of Perception, it is your Mind at Large.

The book details Huxley’s personal experiment with mescaline, a hallucinogenic drug naturally occurring in certain cacti. He discovered the drug has the effect of removing the mental filters our brain uses to shut out 99% of actual reality:

“Each one of us is potentially Mind at Large. 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. […]

But in so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive. To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet.”

The problem with the reducing valve, he writes, is that:

“Most people, most of the time, know only what comes through the reducing valve and is consecrated as genuinely real by the local language.”

People tend to eat the menu instead of the meal. They become enraptured with the finger, instead of the moon to which it’s pointing, as explained in a famous Zen parable:

“Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger, right?”

In an attempt to shake up a few world views, I wrote a piece recently title The Red Pill: 10 Films Guaranteed To Blow Your Mind. Looking back on the piece now, I see that all the films I chose make a valiant attempt to teach the audience that their “measly trickle” is not reality.

Judging by the comments it generated (currently 160+) I’d say (1) subjective lists always generate controversy, and (2) many people have a hard time letting go of what they think they know.

This begs the question: what truths do you hold to be reality?


  1. Conrgats on such a popular article. Stumble is great!

    Anyways, this reminds of a lot of zen buddhist stuff i’ve read. There is nothing. it’s all a product of the mind. I don’t go that.

  2. Jim Morrison took the Doors name from Huxley’s Doors of Perception and Break on Through may have been his satori though he never said. The Who’s Break The Mirror from ‘Tommy’ was also along the same lines, that deaf, dumb and blind kid (now who does that remind me of?) who sees again.

  3. Brian – I’d read that tidbit about Jim Morrison on Wikipedia. Makes a lot of sense.

  4. I’ve met many people who were self-aware but perhaps not enlightened. Are babies born self-aware and gradually lose it? Alan Watts is largely discredited now but he thought that language is inherently limiting. And that we have to lose ourselves in order to find ourselves. A tree stops being a tree the moment you call it a tree. And so we can say what reality is not, rather than what it is.

    Though I followed Rinzai Zen for many years, I think many roads lead to Rome if you’re allowed to think for yourself. Not all religions are happy with free thinkers and warn of devils leading you astray which is ironic since many of them work avidly at keeping you in the dark. The most glorious thing to me is to see someone feeling his way along a path all on his own, finding truths that are his, not something he read from a magazine. Even if I think he is misguided, who’s to say that I’m right? Knowledge is often faulty but wisdom is usually trustworthy.

  5. “Knowledge is often faulty but wisdom is usually trustworthy.” great quote Brian, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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