I have been reading Aldous Huxley's Doors of Perception, which is a book from 1963 about his participating in research on the effects of mescaline, though it is actually about the arts and human consciousness. The title of the book comes from a William Blake quotation, "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite."
Huxley quotes Cambridge philosopher Dr. C. D. Broad,
"The suggestion is that the function of the brain and nervous system and sense organs is in the main eliminative and not productive. 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."
Of his experience on mescaline, Huxley wrote
"What the rest of us see only under the influences of mescalin, the artist is congenitally equipped to see all the time. His perception is not limited to what is biologically or socially useful. A little of the knowledge belonging to Mind at Large oozes past the reducing valve of brain and ego, into his consciousness."And so, I ask, what can the hands offer to our educational experience? Do we limit our children's educational experience to those things that are biologically or socially useful, or do we open the doors full width through the arts. Can hands make the experience of learning both more proficient and more profound? When we act upon the world, with real tools, and real hands, a full real world is discovered.
The image above is Botticelli's "Judith", one of many images that captured Huxley's attention during his mescaline experience. The work led him into the depths of the artist's exploration of drapery folds. Huxley states,
"Artists, it is obvious, have always loved drapery for its own sake--or rather for their own. When you paint or carve drapery, you are painting or carving forms which, for all practical purposes, are non-representational--the kind of unconditioned forms on which artists even in the mast naturalistic tradition like to let themselves go."And so, can we create schooling in which students, like artists, let themselves go and enjoy learning for its own sake?
UU World Magazine,
as shown at left.
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