"Farcical History of Richard Greenow" (109)
I have frequently been accused, by reviewers in public and by unprofessional readers in private correspondence, both of vulgarity and wickedness--on the grounds, so far as I have been able to discover, that I reported my investigations into certain phenomena in plain English and in a novel. The fact that many people should be shocked by what he writes practically imposes it as a duty upon the writer to go on shocking them. For those who are shocked by truth are not only stupid, but morally reprehensible as well; the stupid should be educated, the wicked punished and reformed.
Vulgarity in Literature (21)
Many people know the name Aldous Huxley in connection with his landmark 1932 novel Brave New World. Few know much more than this and that at one time Huxley was one of the most revered and respected figures in twentieth-century literature and philosophy. An irony of his present neglect can be found by noting that the day he died--22 November 1963--was the day John F. Kennedy was murdered; hence, Huxley's passing was ignored. On any other day, his death would have likely been acknowledged with front-page articles and a retrospective of his life and work. The highlight of this work, Brave New World, is often selected as one of the greatest novels in all of literature, but there was much, much more to Huxley as a writer, philosopher, and influence.
There is not a writer who came after Huxley who does not owe to him directly or indirectly the new tangent in the history of the novel that his work impelled. There is not a person who learned about Eastern philosophy in the 1960s who is not directly or indirectly indebted to Huxley the philosopher. Anyone who admires the philosophy of Horkheimer and Adorno, particularly their essay "The Culture Industry," is actually influenced by Huxley, as these two German refugees from Hitler acknowledged that their ideas came from Huxley. There is an academic Aldous Huxley Society with a home base in Munster, Germany, that does appreciate his impact on our world and spreads the gospel of Huxley through a book-length Huxley Annual and a conference every year so that he will not be forgotten. His friend and fellow philosopher Gerald Heard called Huxley "The Poignant Prophet" (101), and he was certainly a godfather of the New Age. And with all of his accomplishments, perhaps the most enduring was how endearing he was to those who knew him and adored his wit, his kindness, and, finally, his profound humanity.
Aldous Leonard Huxley was born on 26 July 1894 to Leonard Huxley and Julia Francis Arnold Huxley. He was the third child of four--two elder brothers, Julian and Trevenen, and a younger sister, Margaret. His father was the son of the great scientist and disseminator of Darwin, T. H. Huxley; Julia was the great-niece of the Victorian era's preeminent man of letters, poet-philosopher Matthew Arnold. Hence, it was unlikely that Aldous would not be born clever; just how clever, however, no one could have foreseen. His childhood was advantaged, and he took the most advantage of it, achieving a classical education in the public schools. In Britain the misnomer "public" really means private schools where anyone among the "public" who can afford them is allowed to attend. On 29 November 1908 his mother died from cancer; she was forty-seven. Aldous adored her and was devastated. In a final letter to her son written on her deathbed, she told him, "Don't be too critical of people and love much" (qtd. in Huxley, Letters 83). Huxley later added in 1915, "... I have come to see more and more how wise that advice was. It's her warning against a rather conceited and selfish fault of my own and it's a whole philosophy of life" (Letters 83). In the 1920s his cynicism prevailed, but, indeed, in the 1930s he began to formulize this "philosophy of life."
In the spring of 1911 Aldous contracted the eye ailment keratitis punctata and was blinded for over a year. His father and doctors feared that he might never recover his sight. Tutors were engaged, one for Braille, one for his schoolwork. During this period, his older brother Trevenen was his greatest comfort, sitting with him frequently and reading to him. His vision improved ever so slightly enough for him to function in the world. In 1913 Aldous stayed with Trevenen in Oxford. Trev, as he was called, was the most outgoing of the Huxley brothers and very popular with his school chums although he had a stammer. Perhaps the fact of dealing with it good-naturedly had encouraged his more effusive personality. In August 1914, after a very difficult year at school, the sensitive Trev had an affair with a young woman he cared for but who was not of his social class, which was then still an impossible barrier. Filled with guilt, Trev went missing. After seven terrible days, he was found in a wood, hanging dead from a tree.
Aldous endured tragedy once again, and thus began his abhorrence for the strictures of class divisions, which would become the main target for his relentless pen through fiction and essays. Aldous felt somewhat adrift. His father had remarried in 1912 and was leading his own life. In 1915 seventeen-year-old Maria Nys and her family, emigres from Belgium fleeing the war, came to England to stay at Garsington, the celebrated estate of Philip and Ottoline Morrell. Garsington was a first or second home to artists, intellectuals, and conscientious objectors who had officially received alternative work deferments and "worked" on the manor. Here, Aldous met Maria and fell in love; they married on 10 July 1919 in her home of Bellem, Belgium. Their only child, Matthew, would be born 19 April 1920. (1)
For the next eight years, Huxley lived the life of the struggling writer. He worked as an editor and contributing essayist for periodicals that ranged from the very literary Athenaeum to the less literary House & Garden. His more serious essays were in the manner of the devastating Prejudices written by the American social commentator H. L. Mencken, with whom Huxley corresponded. He often worked at more than one position, for example, editing H & G all day while attending the theater at night to write reviews for the Westminster Gazette. Meanwhile he published poems and short stories, leading to his first book of stories, Limbo, and his first widely published book of poems, Leda, both in 1920 for Chatto & Windus. More poems and short stories followed and in 1921 his first novel, Crome Yellow. This novel's sharply satiric look at his Garsington days attracted the attention of a small but arch readership that enjoyed the darts Huxley threw at the pretensions of the upper class. Lady Ottoline did not speak to him for a long time.
This limited success encouraged Chatto to give Huxley his first three-year contract, one that included, of all things for a struggling writer, yearly advances, albeit small ones. The Huxleys packed their bags and traveled to Florence, Italy, where they could stretch that advance more than in England and where they saw the emergence of Mussolini's fascists and the tools of media propaganda. Huxley now would write only what he wanted to write. From 1922 to 1928 he wrote four more volumes of short stories (Brief Candles, Two or Three Graces, Little Mexican, Mortal Coils), two more novels (Antic Hay, Those Barren Leaves), two philosophical travel books (Along the Road, Jesting Pilate), and many essays collected in numerous volumes.
Huxley slowly increased his devoted following. Sales were modest, but steady; reviews were either full of praise from those who welcomed his savage wit or full of hate from the traditional critics who were among those Huxley pierced with his sharp darts. As the twenties progressed and the postwar era began to see changes in British traditions, he gained new readers from the young intellectuals who were adolescents in 1920 but who were now rebellious iconoclasts at Oxford and Cambridge. Huxley's targets were the same masters and dons, the same parents, the same aristocrats, the same bourgeois element that the university intellectuals raged against. With his 1928 novel, Point Counter Point, an international success, Huxley reached a much wider readership. His fifth novel, Brave New World (1932), while well received, was not quite so revered at that time as it became after World War II, precisely because there had never been anything like it before and some critics didn't know what to make of it. Who could believe in such a future--one that is already upon us?
Huxley's novels have been called "novels of ideas," and they certainly cover a wide range of literary, social, political, cultural, and philosophic topics. In 1936 Huxley published Eyeless in Gaza, with its complex alternating time shifts in the life of the main character, Anthony Beavis; in it Huxley advocated his pacifist beliefs. His title was, in part, homage to author Conrad Aiken, who had written a time-shifting novel, Great Circle, in 1933, in which he twice used Milton's line "eyeless in Gaza."
Huxley relocated to Los Angeles in 1937 with his family and best friend, the philosopher Gerald Heard. Huxley's writing in America became increasingly philosophical, and fiction works became extensions of his nonfiction books and essays. His 1939 novel, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, tackles a William Randolph Hearst-like character and influenced Orson Welles's 1941 film classic Citizen Kane. In 1945 Huxley's anthology with commentary, The Perennial Philosophy, helped popularize mysticism in the United States and abroad. His 1944 novel Time Must Have a Stop incorporated the Perennial Philosophy into its narrative.
Huxley's wife, Maria, died in 1955. A year later Huxley married concert violinist Laura Archera. His novel The Genius and the Goddess was published in 1955. Huxley developed throat cancer in 1960. On 4 November 1963 Christopher Isherwood saw Huxley for the last time: "Aldous was in obvious discomfort, but there was nothing poignant or desperate in his manner, and he clearly didn't want to talk about death.... I touched on subject after subject, at random. Each time I did so, Aldous commented acutely, or remembered an appropriate quotation. I came away with the picture of a great noble vessel sinking quietly into the deep; many of its delicate marvelous mechanisms still in perfect order, all its lights still shining" (My Guru 259-60).
Huxley died of throat cancer on 22 November 1963. His ashes were initially buried in California but were later interred in Britain with his parents. In 1968, his 1962 utopian novel of ideas, Island, was reprinted and became a best-seller of over a million copies. Huxley wrote a great deal of nonfiction that far exceeded his creative writing. This writer has fully examined the nonfiction in his study, Aldous Huxley and W. H. Auden on Language.
Huxley was The Man in British Literature in the 1920s, much more so than Eliot was, although Eliot's reputation has fared better since then. His influence was enormous directly or indirectly in the United Kingdom and the United States. Undergraduates made sure to read him in the 1920s. When Christopher Isherwood was a student at Cambridge, his mid-1920s Mortmere story, "Prefatory Epistle to My Godson on the Study of History," has a Mr. Starn proclaim, sounding Huxleyesque, that "man is the sole and supreme irrelevance. He is without method, without order, without proportion. His childish passions, enthusiasms, and beliefs are unsightly protuberances in the surface of the Universal Curve.... [H]ow perfect would be the evolutions of nature in a world unpeopled" (Isherwood and Upward 171). Starn also warns his godson to be skeptical of the New Testament saying, "I refer to this exploded forgery with all due reference to Professor Pillard, who has, by the Historical Method, clearly proved that it is the work of Mr. Aldous Huxley" (171).
The cult of Aldous Huxley was afoot as he dared to write down what other artists and intellectuals would have loved to have said, particularly regarding class pretension and snobbishness. Indeed, his subject matter itself was innovative--and widely imitated. Isherwood's first two novels in 1928 and 1932 are Huxleyesque attacks on the bourgeois middle and upper classes or, as Isherwood called them, The Others. Later, in Isherwood and Auden's 1935 satirical play The Dog beneath the Skin, it is clear from the following lines that they had read Brave New World: "No family love. Sons would inform against their fathers, cheerfully send them to the execution cellars. No romance. Even the peasant must beget that standard child under laboratory conditions. Motherhood would be by license. Truth and Beauty would be proscribed as dangerously obstructive. No books, no art, no music" (167). Huxley in the 1920s and 1930s was a marked man by The Others, who considered him the most cynical of the postwar cynics. As the epigraph from Vulgarity in Literature makes quite clear, someone needed to tell the truth and puncture complacent bubbles. If he needed to get personal, so be it.
The nihilistic tone of T. S. Eliot's, The Waste Land (1922) is the tone of Huxley's essays, his first novel, and the early short stories, which had preceded the poem that is now much more remembered. Huxley's own nihilism matches in vitriol any post-World War II writers, or angry young men as they were labeled. One can also point out that even if autobiographical fiction became more prevalent after World War II, it was far from unprecedented. Huxley's first novel, the satire Crome Yellow, is based on his days at Garsington Manor. Huxley's breakthrough best-seller Point Counter Point featured, with fictitious names, D. H. Lawrence, the British fascist Sir Oswald Mosley, shipbuilding heiress Nancy Cunard, and Huxley himself as Philip Quarles, the aloof, too intellectual author who drives his wife into the arms of the Mosley surrogate (which did not happen in real life). Philip's son, the same age, seven, as Huxley's son Matthew, becomes horribly ill and dies--punishment for the illicit affair (which in fact is planned but never consummated). Huxley's wife Maria was not pleased. Eyeless in Gaza features another Huxley surrogate, Anthony Beavis, whose father (Huxley's father) does not come off very well. There is also a detailed account of Anthony's best friend who has a stammer and is very fragile, as was Huxley's brother Trevenen. The character, as did Trevenen, kills himself, causing more woe among Huxley family members. This would be Huxley's last roman a clef, and perhaps his switch to less familiar and familial subjects, starting with Brave New World, was not accidental.
Brave New World in 1932 was the first of two "before/after" dividing lines in Huxley's career. The second was his emigration from Britain to America in 1937. Brave New World followed four parlor satires of the upper class that largely took place in people's drawing rooms and preceded his more directly philosophical novels of ideas, which is not to say that the parlor satires were not full of ideas, but they were presented more discretely within the novel format than Huxley would choose to do later. The move to the United States and sunny California opened his eyes to a world much different from Europe and, through his initial interest in the Vedanta Society of Southern California, enhanced and codified his already existing predilection for mysticism.
Huxley's critical reception first generated immense praise among progressive critics when he was a wunderkind in the 1920s. These were the same critics who supported Forster, Joyce, Eliot, Woolf, and their peers in critiquing post-World War I society. With Point Counter Point Huxley graduated from an avant-garde darling to international acclaim as a writer and thinker. His subsequent books were highly anticipated, with the 1930s and 1940s perhaps a peak of esteem. The 1950s began to see him as a revered old master who was still quite interesting but not quite up to pre-World-War II standards. Huxley's reputation took a bit of a hit in the 1950s when he experimented with LSD and mescaline, which were then legal--he did so under Dr. Humphrey Osmond's scrutiny. He described these experiences in The Doors of Perception (1954) (from which the 1960s rock band The Doors took its name) and Heaven and Hell (1956). Indeed, even as late as 18 October 1958, the very sedate and respected Saturday Evening Post featured Huxley's front-page headlined essay, "Drugs that Shape Men's Minds." Had Huxley lived past 1963, he would have enjoyed a second coming with his best-selling utopian novel Island, considered a handbook for New Age thought. Through the 1960s and 1970s Huxley remained an iconic figure for his New Age thinking, which had preceded the actual New Age. In the 1980s, with the 1960s no longer such a strong influence, the conservative wave that took over from the New Age found Huxley's reputation and direct influence waning in terms of cultural appreciation, even while his indirect influence was--and is--as strong as ever. This waning engendered an article by John Derbyshire in London's New Criterion of 21 February 2000, titled, "What Happened to Aldous Huxley?" Derbyshire wrote:</p> <pre> Metaphysics is out of fashion.... Living as we do in such an unmetaphysical age, we are in a poor frame of mind to approach the writer [Huxley] who said the following thing, and who took it as a premise for his work through most of a long literary career. It is impossible to live without a metaphysic. The choice that is given us is not between some kind of metaphysic and no metaphysic; it is always between a good metaphysic and a bad metaphysic. </pre> <p>Derbyshire is correct. As early as 1916, in a letter to his brother Julian, Huxley wrote, "I have come to agree with Thomas Aquinas that individuality in the animal kingdom if you like is nothing more than a question of mere matter. We are potentially at least, though the habit of matter has separated us, unanimous. One cannot escape mysticism; it positively thrusts itself, the only possibility, upon one" (Letters 88). And in 1925, "I love the inner world as much or more than the outer. When the outer vexes me, I retire to the rational simplicities of the spirit" (Along the Road 110). The quest for choosing between a "good metaphysic and a bad metaphysic" and forming a way to live around the good metaphysic is the fulcrum from which Huxley's entire body of fiction and nonfiction was launched. Even when he was at his most cynical and satirically sarcastic, this was a cry by an angry young man who depicted the worst so that one could try to imagine something better to take its place. He spent his entire life seeking the "something better" and knew it would be found in the world of the metaphysic over the physic. This itself from 1920 to 1963 was the major innovation of his work only the presentations changed, as Huxley grew older, wiser--and less angry.
Huxley's novels of ideas are always about moral dilemmas that need to be sorted out. In the 1920s his characters wallow in the philosophy of meaninglessness with sarcasm as their defense veiling a prevalent despair. The other side of a cynical man is a fallen hero--or an aspiring hero. The characters secretly--or openly--seek a vehicle that can give meaning to a world that has realized that science, technology, and industry are not the answers. Huxley's protagonists evolve as either upward seekers of the Perennial Philosophy of mysticism or they devolve downward into an even greater disaffected nihilism.
Crome Yellow (1921)
Since its initial publication in 1921, Huxley's first roman a clef, Crome Yellow, has delighted readers with its ironic wit aimed at a diverse carnival of pretentious upper-class characters. Crome Yellow was Huxley's first novel, and it will receive here a full discussion as it presents in nascent form both his new approach to the novel and the thematic concerns that would evolve through the rest of his career. Crome Yellow exposes the social hypocrisy of a rigidly class-conscious British establishment that was trying to forget World War I had ever happened and thus ensure that the circumstances would repeat themselves, as it turns out they did in World War II. His characters hide their insecurities behind masks of pseudo-intellectuality. Even the book's title is a clever metaphor implying the stark differences between appearance and reality. The personas depicted by Huxley are not what they seem at first glance, but they do represent human nature's duality of public and private faces.
Since human nature does not change, Crome Yellow's humor is just as relevant today as it was in 1921 when the novel earned Huxley a deserved reputation as a sharp-tongued social commentator. He was compared to H. L. Mencken, a writer Huxley admired and corresponded with. As for essays, Huxley wrote them copiously during the 1920s, and his inspiration for their acerbic, take-no-prisoners style resulted directly from Mencken's famous commentaries, or, as Mencken called them, Prejudices, which indicates their pointed intentions. In a review of 2 January 1920 Huxley wrote of Mencken, "we have sore need of critics who hate humbug, who are not afraid of putting out their tongues at pretentiousness however noble an aspect it may wear, who do not mind being vulgar at need, and who, finally, know not only how to make us think, but how to make us laugh as well" (qtd. in Bradshaw, Aldous Huxley 3). This became the guideline for Huxley's technique in his first four novels culminating in Point Counter Point. Before Huxley became a cult-hero on his own, he had a correspondence with Mencken to express his approval of the Baltimore sage's attitude, one which Huxley emulated in the early to mid-twenties when he made his living much more from writing essays than art. In his first letter to Mencken, of 10 January 1920, he wrote, "May I be allowed, as a humble fellow critic, to express my great admiration for 'Prejudices' which I had the pleasure of reviewing recently for 'The Athenaeum.' I only wish we had a few more people in this country capable of producing anything as good and, at need, as destructive in the way of criticism" (qtd. in Bradshaw, Aldous Huxley 3).
Mencken's manner became Huxley's, and the tone of these biting essays continued in his fiction. Crome Yellow created a stir among intellectuals. Upon its publication, U.S. critic Malcolm Cowley would say, "the Aldous Huxley craze starts quietly" (243). The novel's title, which refers to the fictitious estate called Crome where the story takes place, is itself a bit of subversive wit. The term "crome yellow" describes a yellow pigment that has an initial brightness that tends to fade when exposed to sunlight and turns brown or green over time. Hence, the title symbolically refers to the novel's characters, who at first appear flashy but will soon turn dark or fade away into a yellowish green hue. As Peter Bowering has said of the novel, "the 'yellow' of Crome is more than a little jaundiced" (35).
The novel is plotless: things happen, but there is no particular conflict needing to be resolved at novel's end. Crome Yellow is like life--just characters randomly talking--and its randomness is a shared innovation for 1920. There is no linear inevitability of plot; instead there are evocations of "streams of consciousness," with thoughts tumbling one after another. In this, Huxley joined Joyce, Woolf, and others as modern practitioners. Randomization is the inverse of routine. The former defines the latter by its absence. For Huxley routine is established so that randomization can assert itself. In melodramatic fiction, interruptions of already tragic lives are not quite so abrupt and affecting to readers as the interruptions that disturb the commonplace of realistic, Wholly Truthful lives.
The characters in Crome are a bit sick under their superficial surface sheen. They are a bizarre group, especially when observed secretly by Denis, the pseudo-poet: "Denis peeped at them discretely from the window.... His eyes were suddenly become innocent, childlike, unprejudiced. They seemed, these people, inconceivably fantastic. And yet they really existed, they functioned by themselves, they were conscious, they had minds. Moreover, he was like them. Could one believe it? But the evidence of the red notebook was conclusive" (131). The red notebook belongs to Jenny, an almost deaf (or is she really?), nearly mute young woman who records her contempt for everyone at Crome in it. Denis opens Jenny's red notebook surreptitiously and sees the nastily accurate caricatured drawings and vicious verbal descriptions of him and the others: "And so this, he reflected, was how Jenny employed the leisure hours in her ivory tower apart. And he had thought her a simple-minded, uncritical creature" (121). Foolishness is exactly what Huxley wishes to expose.
Huxley's main theme is like the distorting and fading colors of crome yellow pigment. First impressions do not last. He depicts men who indulge in exercises of intellectual futility and women who are Freudian moderns or Victorian predators or both. Huxley views the Crome estate as a microcosm of the much larger macrocosm that was Great Britain. He also sees in the characters that populate Crome personalities that are recognizable in any society past or present. His characters exhibit humanity's foibles and follies that we can all recognize and laugh over. Readers will perceive the more serious and painful repercussions of their behaviors that the satire implies between the lines.
The characters are vividly drawn from Huxley's experiences. Denis exemplifies the man who agonizingly analyzes every action and reaction while trying to imagine what others are thinking. He is a hopeless romantic who feels and thinks too much to ever relax and be happy, saying, "I can take nothing for granted, I can enjoy nothing as it comes along. Beauty, pleasure, art, women--I have to invent an excuse, a justification for everything that's delightful" (18). Anne is the "liberated" but cynical femme fatale who responds to Denis's equivocations with matter-of-fact smugness: "One enjoys the pleasant things, avoids the nasty ones. There's nothing more to be said" (18). Of course, there is much more to be said, but being rich and spoiled simplifies Anne's view of reality. Mary is also "liberated" and a reader of Freud and Havelock Ellis, the then-shocking sex researcher. She is an amateur psychologist who analyzes her own subconscious: "I constantly dream that I'm falling down wells; and sometimes I even dream that I'm climbing ladders.... The symptoms are only too clear.... One may become a nymphomaniac if one's not careful" (31). What actually seems clear is that Mary is not sure if she's coming or going. Mr. Barbecue-Smith is the pseudo-mystic who has won over Mrs. Wimbush, Crome's owner, with his books of saccharine aphorisms with titles like Humble Heroisms and Pipe Lines to the Infinite. He repeats to Denis such "gems" of wisdom as, "The flame of a candle gives Light but it also Burns," and "The Things that Really Matter happen in the Heart" (28). It is hard to imagine that anyone could take Mr. Barbecue-Smith seriously, but Huxley's point is exactly that he is taken seriously. Huxley disapproved of fake mystics because they diverted truth-seekers from real mysticism.
Huxley's superficial idealists are contrasted with the equally superficial pessimists Mr. Wimbush, Mr. Bodiham, and Mr. Scogan. Wimbush makes memorials of the past because his present is such a bore. Bodiham is the fire-and-brimstone rector of Crome who believes in an angry God. His God is also spiteful, vindictive, and wants everyone to burn in hell. Finally, Mr. Scogan is the cold rationalist who is the forecaster of a Brave New World. In Scogan's future there will be three cloned types of humans: "Directing Intelligences," who will con the "Men of Faith" into convincing the remaining "Herd" to follow blindly. Scogan argues that the "men of intelligence must combine, must conspire, and seize power from the imbeciles and maniacs who now direct us. They must found the Rational State" (113). Through Scogan, Huxley hints at the coming of fascism, as well as his future novel.
In the 1920s Huxley's books were sharply attacked by those who resented his criticisms of British society. Huxley was also criticized for his then unprecedented discussion of previously unmentioned topics such as British traditions, upper-class arrogance, class divisions, religion, psychoanalysis, and especially sex. He considered it his duty to respond to these critics. He did not hesitate to challenge the complacency of post-World War I England. There has to be a tearing down of the old to the point that there is a vacuum that needs to be filled. The cynical void Huxley creates points out the complete folly to readers who then intuitively want--if often subconsciously--to fill the vacuum with antithetical solutions. In Lord Jim Conrad called this the Destructive Element into which one must immerse oneself and confront the demons of past and present until he has no choice but to either re-create himself or drown. The re-creation comes after a tearing-down of past influences so one can begin a building up of a better future. In Crome Yellow Huxley introduces a group of character types that will reprise their roles in his later work with just the names and nuances changing and their complexities developing with greater intricacy and depth.
Shortly after Crome Yellow's publication, Eliot published The Waste Land, now considered the landmark definition of modern post-World War I despair and alienation. Crome's satirical cynicism set the tone that helped prepare readers for Eliot's verse rendition of angst-ridden nihilism. Many authors in the 1920s, including Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, and Conrad Aiken, followed Huxley with their own fiction that was critical of British society.
Huxley's influence in the 1920s cannot be understated. Besides fiction, Huxley also expressed his opinions in essays. After World War I, he wrote that authors should tell the truth in a simple and realistic way that emphasized substance over style rather than style over substance that was a leftover from the fin de siecle floridity exemplified in Oscar Wilde. In essays such as "The Subject-Matter of Poetry" and "Tragedy and the Whole Truth," Huxley made two assertions: 1) everything and anything between the mundane and the magnificent could and should be suitable subject matter for literature if the artist writes about it as sincere truth; 2) the artist's striving for reality in art is not new but a mode that is as old as classical antiquity. Writing in 1923, Huxley said,</p> <pre> [Writers today] are at liberty to do what Homer did--to write freely about the immediately moving facts of everyday life. Where Homer wrote of horses and tamers of horses [we] write of trains, automobiles, and the various species of ... bohunks who control the horse-power. Much too much stress has been laid on the newness of the new poetry; its newness is simply a return from the jeweled exquisiteness of the eighteen-nineties to the facts and feelings of ordinary life. There is nothing intrinsically novel or surprising in the introduction into poetry of machinery and industrialism, of labour unrest and modern psychology: these things belong to us,
they affect us daily as enjoying and suffering beings; they are
part of our lives, just as the kings, the warriors, the horses and chariots, the picturesque were part of Homer's life.... The critics who would have us believe that there is something essentially unpoetical about a bohunk (whatever a bohunk may be) and something essentially poetical about Sir Lancelot of the Lake are, of course, simply negligible.... ("The Subject-Matter of Poetry" 32-34) </pre> <p>(The poet who used "bohunk" was Carl Sandburg.)
Of the "ordinary, everyday things," Huxley writes that the commonplace and the tragic can be combined into a synthesis he called "Wholly Truthful" art:</p> <pre> What are the values of Wholly Truthful art? ... Wholly Truthful art overflows the limits of tragedy and shows us,
if only by hints and implications, what happened before the tragic story began, what will happen after it is over, what is happening simultaneously elsewhere (and "elsewhere" includes all those parts of the minds and bodies of the protagonists not immediately engaged in the tragic struggle). Tragedy is an isolated eddy on the surface of a vast river that flows majestically, irresistibly, around, beneath, and to either side of it. Wholly Truthful art contrives to imply the existence of the entire river as well as the eddy.... Consequently, Wholly Truthful art produces in us an effect quite different from that produced by tragedy. Our mood when we have read a Wholly Truthful book is never one of heroic exultation; it is one of resignation, of acceptance. (Acceptance can also be heroic.)... The catharsis of tragedy is violent and apocalyptic; but the milder catharsis of Wholly Truthful literature is more lasting.... There is no reason why the two kinds of literature should not exist simultaneously.... The human spirit has need of both. ("Tragedy and the Whole Truth" 14-15) </pre> <p>Wholly Truthful art reflects the "tea-tabling" technique of writing. To tea-table is to reveal important and even emotional information without resorting to a traditionally histrionic tragic scene--but to do so instead over afternoon tea or during some other mundane moment. Jane Austen had mastered tea-tabling a century earlier. Huxley recognized that much of life occurs, however emotional the situation, quietly more often than loudly. In Crome Yellow Denis reads the apocalyptic red notebook in complete silence but with profound shock. No one else finds out that Denis has read it. Yet even if someone had seen him read the notebook, he or she would have simply witnessed him engaged in the quite ordinary act of reading a book. Nonetheless, in this act the commonplace and the tragic are combined. In Crome Yellow the tragedy of Crome's cursed past is conveyed in a dry, matter-of-fact manner. The cold, unemotional tone with which Sir Henry Wimbush tells the story renders the terrible details even more horrible (and they will not be revealed here).
Crome Yellow is a satire of understated comic efficiency that evokes from its readers sly smiles rather than loud laughter. Even so, the novel's pervasive slyness becomes more penetrating in its cumulative effect as it demonstrates for the reader the oddities of human relations. Crome Yellow is a wry, allusive, and masterfully erudite novel that displays the lengths to which people will go to escape reality by hiding behind various neuroses and psychoses.
Behind the satire and the cynicism, Huxley was attempting to understand the human spirit so that he could learn how to improve himself and influence others to improve themselves. Huxley's questing after spirit in his art and essays is now a major font of study in Europe, particularly in Germany, where metaphysical approaches to literature resonate with great importance. Throughout his life, Huxley belied the cynicism of his fiction by actually being a thoughtful, kind, and generous soul who thought that the money he earned was meant to help others, and he gave it away to good causes and good people.
Christopher Isherwood joined Huxley in America in 1939. Isherwood and Huxley became very close, with Huxley seeing Isherwood as an occasionally wayward younger brother. Isherwood adored Huxley, as is seen in his diaries, and did not tolerate others' criticism of Huxley. In a diary entry of 1943 he recounts a meeting with Bertolt Brecht and notes Brecht's disparagement of the Perennial Philosophy, which he endures as funny until Brecht attacks Huxley: "I was so angry I nearly got up and the left the house at once. I did leave shortly afterwards.... What I object to is his claim to be more honest than a man like Aldous" (Diaries 318-19). And what kind of man was he? Isherwood wrote of Huxley in 1939, "How kind, how shy he is--searching painfully through the darkness of this world's ignorance with his blind, mild, deep-sea eye. He has a pained, bewildered smile of despair at all human activity. 'It's inconceivable,' he repeatedly begins, 'how anyone in their senses could possibly imagine--' But they do imagine--and Aldous is very, very sorry" (Diaries 77).
In this light Crome Yellow is written with the very tone that Isherwood describes, and its bitter wit is just as relevant now as it was when Huxley wrote it. Haves and have-nots still exist. Corrupt politicians still thrive. Pretentious artists and intellectuals still sell their recycled ideas as if they were new. Wars still happen. Huxley hopes to instruct us while we laugh--even if through tears--and Crome Yellow is, in its final lesson, just as humane as Huxley himself.
From Crome Yellow forward, Huxley wished to expose human nature in order to change it. Crome Yellow was the first of the 1920s novels that were pointed satires of British bourgeois life, and it was followed by Antic Hay and These Barren Leaves. In these novels following Crome the satire inveighed more serious social concerns, and with each, the serious themes became more pronounced and the satire more deadly. The zenith--and last--of these drawing room novels is Point Counter Point.
Point Counter Point (1928)</p> <pre> Huxley was ... equipped with the scientist's tireless curiosity and passion for classifying. Point Counter Point, the best of his literary novels, is almost comically a "novel of types" the equivalent of Ponchielli's opera La Gioconda, which has six precisely equiponderant roles, one for each major vocal category. --John Derbyshire Novel of ideas. The character of each personage must be implied, as far as possible, in the ideas of which he is the mouthpiece. In so far as theories are rationalizations, of sentiments, instincts, dispositions of soul, this is feasible. The chief defect of the novel of ideas is that you must write about people who have ideas to express--which excludes all but .01 percent of the human race. Hence the real, the congenital novelists don't write such books. But then, I never pretended to be a congenital novelist.... The great defect of the novel of ideas is that it is a made-up affair. Necessarily; for people who can reel off neatly formulated notions aren't quite real; they're slightly monstrous. --Huxley (as the character Philip Quarles), Point Counter Point (294-95) </pre> <p>In 1936 Malcolm Cowley said of the literary world of 1928 that "Point Counter Point ... [was] compulsory reading" (247). One could say that prior to Point Counter Point Huxley's fiction and essays were cumulative steps up a ladder that, as Huxley climbed higher, gave him the fullest perspective from which he could culminate his criticisms of upper-class British society. This novel of ideas can be read correlatively with Huxley's nonfiction of the preceding years, and one sees these essays "fictionalized" so that this novel of ideas deeply resonates with Huxley's social concerns. Prior to writing Point Counter Point, Huxley had made an extended sojourn to the Far East, which became his "travel" book Jesting Pilate, in which much philosophy is derived from his experiences. In Point Counter Point the Huxley surrogate, Philip Quarles, is just returning from a trip to India. Through Philip, Huxley expresses his own views on diverse subjects, particularly his friendship with D. H. Lawrence.
The notorious Lawrence, the working-class scholarship lad who had married an aristocrat--unheard of--had a great influence on Huxley from 1926 until his death from tuberculosis in 1930. Lawrence is Mark Rampion in Point Counter Point, and he is the spokesperson for ending class divisions and living life with intuitive feelings rather than British stiff-upper-lip constraint. As a contrast, the leading British fascist, Sir Oswald Mosley, is portrayed with his name barely changed to Sir Everard Webley. No doubt, in Huxley's book Webley is vivisected in public. Others make the cut as well: Lawrence as Rampion, Katherine Mansfield, her husband John Middleton Murray, and Nancy Cunard as Lucy Tantamount, with her name not too subtly implying that Lucy was tantamount to Cunard, the shipbuilding heiress and a femme fatale who had once thrown Huxley over to be heaped upon a stack of other bodies trampled in her wake.
In his novel Huxley spared no one, including himself. He is the novel's novelist, Philip Quarles, who, with his aloof detachment and otherworldly perambulation into esoteric abstraction, pushes his wife Elinor into the arms of--yes, of all people--Webley. (Maria Huxley, one can be assured, is not Elinor, although she wouldn't disagree that Aldous was sometimes Philip, but a tamed version under her pragmatic Belgian earth-mother spirit that matched in quiet fire her husband's ice cool brilliance.)
In 1928 Point Counter Point shocked readers with the then unheard of portrayals of infidelity, sexuality, and the pretensions of artists and intellectuals. Marjorie Carling leaves her husband to live with--and get pregnant by--her lover Walter Bidlake who becomes bored with Marjorie and pursues Lucy, the voracious "modern woman" who seeks constant stimulation with no thought to the pain she causes, since other people's desires are not her responsibility. The "characters" are the same types as in Crome Yellow, but they are more rounded, detailed, and complex. The satire here is less humorous and more angst-ridden. The analysis of the motives behind the characters is profoundly current, as Huxley makes clear in this 1929 essay:</p> <pre> Human nature does not change, or, at any rate, history is too short for any changes to be perceptible. The earliest known specimens of art and literature are still comprehensible. The fact that we can understand them all and can recognize in some of them an unsurpassed artistic excellence is proof enough that not only men's feelings and instincts, but their intellectual and imaginative powers, were in remotest times precisely what they are now. In the fine arts, it is only the convention, the form, the incidentals that change: the fundamentals of passion, of intellect and imagination remain unaltered. It is the same with the arts of life as with the fine arts. Conventions and traditions, prejudices and ideals and religious beliefs, moral systems, and codes of good manners, varying according to the geographical and historical circumstances, mould into different forms the unchanging material of human instinct, passion, and desire. At any given moment human behaviour is a compromise (enforced from without by law and custom, from within by belief in religious or philosophical myths) between the raw instinct on the one hand and the unattainable ideal on the other. (Do What You Will 130) </pre> <p>Raw vs. ideal, body vs. mind, intuition vs. reason, science vs. spirit--ultimately, these cause enormous conflict in the human psyche; yet, if these oppositions could be balanced in a perfect harmony of an undifferentiated unity (mystical unity) then humanity would strive and not just survive. The novel opens with this epigraph:</p> <pre> Oh, wearisome conditions of humanity! Born under one law, to another bound, Vainly begot and yet forbidden vanity: Created sick, commanded to be sound.
What meaneth Nature by these diverse laws-- Passion and reason, self-division's cause? --Fulke-Greville </pre> <p>Huxley is clear that this novel will be about the albatross of duality in human nature, which is an invention of the individual ego. Language itself in the sense of "I am I; you are not I" is a great separator, for each person uses language to proclaim his or her uniqueness more than to nurture unanimity. It is not accidental that mystics meditate in silence or chant in unison to achieve a sense of undifferentiated unity. As Huxley puts it, "For in spite of language, in spite of intelligence and intuition and sympathy, one can never really communicate anything to anybody. The essential substance of every thought and feeling remains incommunicable, locked up in the impenetrable strong-room of the individual soul and body. Our life is a sentence of perpetual solitary confinement" ("Sermons in Cats" 211).
No one really knows what another person is really thinking. Words are an inadequate outcome of a lifetime's accumulation of experiences and emotions. Words are outcomes that are meant to protect one's ego from vulnerability. In Point Counter Point the incommensurateness of two people really connecting is a theme and a technique. Huxley depicts minds in opposition, as each mind will not say what it really means so that each person is dancing a pas de deux of misinformation that leads to greater confusion and separation. For Huxley this ineffability is aggravated by the British stiff-upper-lip constraint that will not discuss inner emotions. With this ineffectual exchange of misinformation there is a constant slippage between what is said and what is meant--and this does not even begin to account for the deceptions of deliberate lies. Huxley wrote copiously on the nature of personal language and language used for propaganda--see Brave New World. Art, Huxley believed, was one of the vehicles by which people sought to bridge the gap of ineffability. Another bridge was the very recent development of psychoanalysis. In the 1920s, Virginia and Leonard Woolf's Hogarth Press had begun translating Freud into English and intellectuals read him avidly, learning that everything is about sex and that sexual repression was a bad thing; hence, lots of people, married or not, were having open relationships long before the 1960s.
In addition to Freud, another influence on Huxley's views of art and language was Nietzsche, and in a novel of ideas Huxley borrowed some from the very best. Nietzsche wrote, concerning the formative power of opposition and the role of language coextensive with opposition, that,</p> <pre> To demand of strength that it should not express itself as strength, that it should not be a desire to overcome, a desire to throw down, a desire to become a master, a thirst for enemies and resistances and triumphs is just as absurd as to demand of weakness that it should express itself as strength. A quantum of force is equivalent to a quantum of drive, will, effect--more, it is nothing other than precisely this driving, willing, effecting,
and only owing to the seduction of language (and of the fundamental
errors of reason that are petrified in it) which conceives and
misconceives all effects as conditioned by something that causes
effects, by a "subject," can it appear otherwise.... There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective "knowing"; and the more effects we allow to speak about one thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will be our "concept" of this thing, our "objectivity," be. (25, 79). </pre> <p>Huxley, as Philip Quarles, extrapolates Nietzsche, "the essence of the new way of looking is multiplicity. Multiplicity of eyes and multiplicity of aspects seen. For instance, one person interprets events in terms of bishops.... And then there's the biologist, the chemist, the physicist, the historian. Each sees ... a different aspect of the event, a different layer of reality. What I want to do is to look with all those eyes at once" (192).
Many of the conceptions and misconceptions of language and, by extension, extrapolation and evolution, the life experiences that are strongly influenced by language's pervasively collective subjectivity, are the result of conflict and opposition between "strong" and "weak." For Nietzsche, these terms of "strong" and "weak," just like "good" and "evil," are among the "fundamental errors" pervasive within the isness of language and life. (The isness is not in error because it just is; only acts of cognition can err or seek to overcome error.) Any value of the words strong, weak, good, evil cannot be understood through static definition, which, for these words, is an impossibility. These words can only be understood in terms of causation and opposition. These words cause opposition by the very fact that they are intangibly subjective concepts, and their interpretation depends on which end of the power structure the perspectival eye of the beholder is looking out from. Language "conceives and misconceives" with the inevitable conflicts of what is meant and what is said in perpetual opposition.
For example, Walter Bidlake is chasing Lucy Tantamount and forsaking Marjorie Carling who has left her husband and become pregnant via Walter. Remember, this was a far different era from ours, where such things are commonplace. Marjorie's choices were considered scandalous; thus she had sacrificed her reputation for Walter's sake. Walter, the aspiring writer, tells Marjorie he is going out to see an editor--not true and she knows it. He is going to see Lucy. She whiningly asks him not to go. Walter is ashamed but undeterred:</p> <pre> "Don't go," he heard her repeating. How that refined and drawling shrillness got on his nerves! "Please don't go, Walter." There was a sob in her voice. More blackmail. Ah, how could he be so base? And yet, in spite of his shame and, in a sense, because of it, he continued to feel the shameful emotions with an intensity that seemed to increase rather than diminish. His dislike of her grew because he was ashamed of it; the painful feelings of shame and self-hatred, which she caused him to feel, constituted for him yet another ground of dislike. Resentment bred shame, and shame in its turn bred more resentment. (4) </pre> <p>Huxley does not mean mere resentment; he meant what Nietzsche called ressentiment:</p> <pre> The slave revolt in morality begins when ressentiment itself becomes creative and gives birth to values: the ressentiment of natures that are denied the true reaction, that of deeds, and compensate themselves with an imaginary revenge. While every noble morality develops from triumphant affirmation of itself, slave morality from the outset says No to what is "outside," what is "different," what is not "itself": and this No is its creative deed. This inversion of the value-positing eye--this need to direct one's view outward instead of back on oneself--is of the essence of ressentiment. (19) </pre> <p>Walter is a slave to his desire for Lucy and his "inversion of the value-positing eye--this need to direct one's view outward instead of back on itself," is what he does by his ressentiment of the shame he feels by turning this inner shame outward toward Marjorie (or others) in the form of resentful anger. This also applies to his role as a book reviewer: "On paper Walter was all he failed to be in life. His reviews were epigrammatically ruthless. Poor earnest spinsters, when they read what he had written of their heartfelt poems about God and Passion and the Beauties of Nature, were cut to the quick by his brutal contempt" (162). These poor poets get the wrath he wants to direct at Marjorie. Ressentiment can be an individual subjectivity but even more so a collective subjectivity as per Mr. Sita Ram whom Philip Quarles meets in India: "Dere is one law for the English," he said, "and anoder for de Indians, one for the oppressors and anoder for the oppressed. De word justice has eider disappeared from your vocab'lary, or else it has changed its meaning" (69-70). In Nietzsche's purview, words like "justice" are not so much defined by any intrinsic logic but by who is in power at any given time.
This pattern of individual and collective ressentiment will evolve throughout the novel for many of the characters, who, like Walter, feel guilt. Some, however, feel no guilt at all, particularly Maurice Spandrell and Lucy; she, as well as other "modern" women, enjoys the opportunity to turn the tables on men by acting as they believe men act toward them:</p> <pre> "Do you enjoy tormenting him?" Spandrell enquired.... "Tormenting whom?" said Lucy. "Walter? But I don't."
"But you don't let him sleep with you?" ... Lucy shook her head.
"And then you say you don't torment him! Poor wretch!" "But why should I have him, if I don't want to?" "Why indeed? Meanwhile, however, keeping him dangling's mere torture." "... I assure you, I don't torment him. He torments himself...."
"Still, he only gets what's due to him.... He's the real type of
murderee.... It takes two to make a murder. There are born victims.
... Walter's the obvious victim; he fairly invites maltreatment....
And it's one's duty ... to see that he gets it." (150-51) </pre> <p>This is sport for the idle rich who have too much time on their hands. Yet even Spandrell knows there could be a reckoning. Huxley here invokes the Destructive Element as well as earlier novels, J. K. Huysman's A Rebours and Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. (2) For Spandrell,</p> <pre> Time and habit had taken the wrongness out of all the acts he had once thought sinful. He performed them as unenthusiastically as he would have performed the act of catching the morning train to the city. "Some people ... can only realize goodness by offending against it." But when the old offences have ceased to be felt as offences, what then? The argument pursued itself internally. The only solution seemed to be to commit new and progressively more serious offences, to have all the experiences, as Lucy would say in her jargon. "One way of knowing God" he concluded slowly, is to deny him.... [I]f you're equally unaware of goodness and
offence against goodness, what is the point of having the sort of experiences the police interfere with?" Lucy shrugged her shoulders. "Curiosity. One's bored." (155) </pre> <p>Everyone's bored. That is, everyone's bored who has the money to be idle and bored: "Yes, yes. There's something peculiarly base and ignoble and diseased about the rich. Money breeds a kind of gangrened insensitiveness. It's inevitable. Jesus understood. The bit about the camel and the needle's eye is a mere statement of fact. And remember that other bit about loving your neighbours" (53).
Conversely, the poor and working class chafe at the insensitiveness of the rich's attitude of condescending noblesse oblige. Illidge is the working-class assistant to Lord Edward Tantamount, the scientist who conducts experiments that may be clever but are ultimately of no service to humanity: "But being unpleasant to and about the rich, besides being a pleasure, was also, in Illidge's eyes, a sacred duty. He owed it to his class, to society at large, to the future, to the cause of justice.... He thought of his brother Tom, who had weak lungs and worked a ... machine in a motor factory.... He remembered washing days and the pink crinkled skin of his mother's water-sodden hands" (59-60). Indeed, Huxley from Crome Yellow forward, and peaking with Point Counter Point, castigates the rich for selfish behavior. He equally attacks the world of science that had objectified humanity to serve the ends of science and industry instead of being the means by which humanity could be served and improved. Certainly ameliorating the squalid conditions of the working class, like Illidge's brother Tom, would be an end worth scientific means.
Not all is negative in Point Counter Point. One can listen to Bach and feel something good:</p> <pre> There are grand things in the world.... John Sebastian puts the case. The Rondeau begins, exquisitely and simply melodious, almost a folk song.... His [Bach's] is a slow and lovely meditation on the beauty (in spite of squalor and stupidity),
the profound goodness (in spite of all the evil), the oneness (in
spite of such bewildering diversity) of the world. It is a beauty,
a goodness, a unity that no intellectual research can discover, that analysis dispels, but of whose reality the spirit is from time to time suddenly and overwhelmingly convinced.... The music was infinitely sad; and yet it consoled.... [I]t was able to affirm--deliberately, quietly ... that everything was in some way right, acceptable. It included the sadness within some vaster, more comprehensive happiness. (23-25) </pre> <p>Early in the novel Huxley introduces his duality of a mystically spiritual basis that is juxtaposed to the physical reality of pain and sadness. The spirit cannot be gained by intellectuality, by trying to codify it and rationalize it. The spirit must be gained intuitively, without discursive reasoning. In Point Counter Point the exemplar of balanced reason and intuition is Rampion who is also the spokesperson for ending class divisions so that a meritocracy would be favored over an aristocracy.
Huxley's characters are not too happy and not too likable except for the happily married Mark and Mary Rampion, who provide the book's moral clarity of reason and passion in a workable balance. The others suffer from too much of one or the other, leading to failed love, envy, class hatred, infidelity, and murder, as Huxley juxtaposes one point of view against another. Through the surrogate of Mark Rampion, Huxley portrays D. H. Lawrence's personality and his ideas in this novel of ideas. Rampion says what he thinks and means what he says as a deliberate confutation of British restraint, which he considers a tourniquet against the flow of honest feelings. He says, "I don't suffer fools gladly" (94). In this mode he is the novel's conscience. He also echoes Illidge: "For Rampion there was also a kind of moral compulsion to live the life of the poor. Even when he was making quite a reasonable income.... To live like the rich, in a comfortable abstraction from material cares would be, he felt, a kind of betrayal of his class, of his own people. If he sat still and paid servants to work for him he would somehow be insulting his mother's memory, he would be posthumously telling her that he was too good to lead the life she had led" (110-11). And Huxley as Quarles thinks, "After a few hours in Mark Rampion's company he really believed in noble savagery; he felt convinced that the proudly conscious intellect ought to humble itself a little and admit the claims of the heart--aye, and the bowels, the loins, the bones and skin and muscles--to a fair share of life. The heart again!" (195).
Lidan Lin writes: "Huxley shared Lawrence's rejection ... of being subservient to the order of mind and his espousal of the Dionysian mode of being that responds to the spontaneous impulses of the blood and the flesh. Both men agreed that things were going wrong, and neither Christianity nor a philosophy that was to replace it could offer solutions. Both men felt the need to return to a more immediate experience of being by connecting the self to the dark mystery of the Other surrounding us. But Huxley did not agree with Lawrence that science and intellect were wholly useless since Huxley believed that both could be made to serve the good of the world."
In this novel of ideas the very concept of a "novel of ideas" is an innovation that was and still is imitated. Recent examples include Don DeLillo's Underworld--as close to Point Counter Point in essaying ideas as is possible--and Paul Auster's City of Glass. Huxley's perspectives on politics, ecology, art, science, language, and much more are profoundly prescient. Lucy's father, Lord Edward Tantamount, the scientist (in part J. B. S. Haldane), discusses finite natural resources with the fascist Webley, who wants to take over Britain: "'No doubt,' he said, 'you think you can make good the loss with phosphate rocks. But what'll you do when the deposits are exhausted?' He poked Everard in the shirt front. 'What then? Only two hundred years and they'll be finished. You think we're being progressive because we're living on our capital Phosphates, coal, petroleum, nitre--squander them all. That's your policy. And meanwhile you go round trying to make our flesh creep with talk about revolutions'" (57). When Webley asks Lord Edward if he wants a revolution, Tantamount wants to know if this would reduce the population, which would then use fewer resources. Assured it would, Tantamount responds, "'Then certainly I want a revolution.' The Old Man thought in terms of geology and was not afraid of logical conclusions" (57-58).
Huxley's lifelong concern with the duality between passion and reason is fully explored in Point Counter Point. Multiple aspects of experience are juxtaposed--point counterpointed in the musical sense--to achieve the clearest depiction of what happens when passion and reason are not in accord. Huxley believed as early as age twenty-one that the path to true balance and an end of duality would in some way be found through a mystical consciousness, which he discusses at length in his 1931 anthology of poetry Texts and Pretexts, but not yet in the formula that he would embrace after he came to America. In Brave New World, however, Huxley would not yet end his discussion of conflicted duality, but he would use his future dystopia as the ultimate argument of how a cold scientific reasoning without human passion would be the end of human progress, even while this science mistakenly believed it had acted for human progress.</p> <pre> Brave New World (1932) [I have been writing] a comic, or at least satirical, novel about the future, showing the appallingness (at any rate by our standards) of Utopia and adumbrating the effects on thought and feeling of such quite possible biological inventions as the production of children in bottles (with consequent abolition of the family and of all the Freudian "complexes" for which family relationships are responsible),
the prolongation of youth, the devising of some harmless but effective substitute for alcohol, cocaine, opium, etc--and also the effects of sociological reforms as Pavlovian con- ditioning of all children from and before birth, universal peace, security and stability. --Huxley, in a letter to his father, 24 August 1931
"God," said St. Augustine, "who made us without our help will not save us without our consent." Propaganda, like the sword, attempts to eliminate consent or dissent and, in our age magical language, has to a great extent replaced the sword. I can imagine, though I know, thank God, that it will never happen, the following situation. A group of pious multi-millionaires buy time on radio and TV at a moment when the Church happens to have at its disposal a number
of brilliant demagogic evangelists, who know all the tricks of appeal. Bombarded by sermons, religious movies and musicals, the public are persuaded that to go to church is to be with it, so presently all the churches are full every Sunday. What will this signify? Neither more nor less than the forcible conversions of the Barbarians in the eighth and ninth centuries. --W. H. Auden (129-30) O, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! 0 brave new world, That has such people in't! --Shakespeare, The Tempest </pre> <p>How influential is Huxley's 1932 novel Brave New World? The title, while originally from Shakespeare's The Tempest, is recognized from Huxley's novel, and today these three words are a catch phrase for any person or idea that is cutting edge and may have a possible positive/negative duality.
If one Googles "brave new world" (as of 11 May 2005) there are 953,000 hits and the majority are not about Huxley's novel. Examples: "The Brave New World of Customer Centricity," "Mental Health Review, Brave New World," "Iraq embraces a brave new world of democracy," "Brave New World Astrology Alive!," "The Brave New World of E-Showbiz," "Computer Intelligence: A Brave New World," "Politics in a Brave New World," "Koreans Discover Brave New World of Blog," "Brave New World Surf Shop." No other twentieth-century novel title has become such a ubiquitous term. The meaning of the phrase as Huxley intended is now both ubiquitous and threatening, as can be seen in an essay written in 2000:</p> <pre> Human nature itself lies on the operating table, ready for
alteration, "enhancement," and wholesale redesign. Some transforming powers are already here. The pill. In vitro fertilization. Bottled embryos. Surrogate wombs. Cloning. Genetic screening. Organ harvests. Mechanical spare parts. Chimeras. Brain implants. Ritalin for the young, Viagra for the old, and Prozac for everyone. And, to leave this vale of tears, a little extra morphine accompanied by Muzak. What? You still have troubles? Not to worry. As the vaudevillians used to say, "You ain't seen nothin' yet!" Years ago Aldous Huxley saw it coming. More important, he knew what it meant and, in his charming but disturbing novel, Brave New World, Huxley made it strikingly visible for all to see. Brave New World's ... power increases with each rereading, and coming generations of readers should--and I hope will--find it still more compelling. For unlike other frightening futuristic novels of the past century, such as Orwell's already dated Nineteen Eighty-four, Huxley shows us a dystopia that goes with, rather than against, the human grain--indeed, it is animated by modernity's most humane and progressive aspirations. Following those aspirations to their ultimate realization, Huxley enables us to recognize those less obvious but often more pernicious evils that are inextricably linked to successful attainment of partial goods. And he strongly suggests that we must choose: either our misery-ridden but still richly human world, or the squalid happiness of the biotechnical world to come. In this satirical novel, Huxley paints human life seven centuries hence, living under the gentle hand of a compassionate humanitarianism that has been rendered fully competent by genetic manipulation, psychopharmacology, hypnopeaedia, and high-tech amusements. At long last, mankind has succeeded in
eliminating disease, aggression, war, pain, anxiety, suffering,
hatred, guilt, envy, and grief. But this victory comes at a heavy
price: homogenization, mediocrity, pacification, spurious contentment, trivial pursuits, shallow attachments, debasement of tastes, and souls without loves or longings. (Kass 51-52) </pre> <p>Huxley's world of "human life seven centuries hence" is already upon us. Huxley himself recognized it long before the year 2000, first in his introduction to the 1946 edition of Brave New World and then in book-length form for 1958's nonfiction evaluation Brave New World Revisited. This novel, the precursor for the modern genre of science fiction, (3) is still telling the future, and as Kass signifies, the threats it depicts are now more reality than fantasy: "brave new man will be cursed to acquire precisely what he wished for only to discover--painfully and too late--that what he wished for is not exactly what he wanted. Or, Huxley implies ... he may be so dehumanized that he will not even recognize that in aspiring to be perfect he is no longer even human (52).
In Huxley's Brave New World the duality of reason and passion is explicitly out of balance. There is no emotional passion whatsoever; the world is run by Mustapha Mond. John the Savage enters this world and almost turns it upside down. The novel shows us the two squaring off. Mond argues, "The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get. They're well off; they're safe; they're never ill; they're not afraid of death; they're blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they're plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they're so conditioned that they practically can't help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there's soma" (220). Soma is the all-purpose feel good drug that fixes everything; a populace in a stupor is not inclined to be rebellious. John the Savage counters,</p> <pre> "But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin." "In fact," said Mustapha Mond, "you're claiming the right to be unhappy." "All right then," said the Savage defiantly, "I'm claiming the right to be unhappy." (240) </pre> <p>John is actually claiming the right to have free will, choices, initiative, and spiritual freedom. In this world the people are the types that Huxley first had Scogan describe in Crome Yellow. They are conditioned to fill and accept certain roles genetically and with "educational" conditioning that amounts to brainwashing. The masses are pacified to believe they want for nothing. All is good--so they believe--nothing is bad. There is no sense of comparison. They are lazy, not just of body but also of mind--their ability to think independently has nearly disappeared. While the collective body of the people was pacified, the collective mind was falling into apathy and ignorance. The world was becoming soulless, and without soul and sprit, in Huxley's vision, there would be no progress toward the evolution of consciousness--and that is much more important than being pacified by the constant sensuous satiety of food, sex, and drugs.
If there is no dark, one cannot truly appreciate the light and think about why the light and dark need to be compared. Light and dark, strong and weak, good and evil have no meaning without contrast, and it is from thinking on their meanings that the collective mind moves toward an evolving spiritual consciousness. The mystics call this the Reconciliation of Opposites. The friction and fission of these opposites rubbing against each other create the energy needed for consciousness to evolve. Without a Reconciliation of Opposites the body may be satisfied, but the spirit knows nothing of what it means to be good, to be strong, to be heroic and noble. And without this knowledge life has no meaning. Moreover, the Reconciliation of Opposites explains the force of what Huxley would later call upward transcendence, the desire to move toward the world of spirit. Downward transcendence occurs when one thinks too much of oneself and not for the good of the whole. If all good is given instead of chosen, there would be no effort to learn the difference and no progress toward the evolution of consciousness.
This is Huxley's first novel to have a plot. The novel was written relatively quickly to fulfill a contractual obligation to his publisher. Huxley had been having difficulties with another social novel and knew he wouldn't complete it on time. The novel opens 600 years hence in 2632 A.F. (which means After Ford, as in Henry Ford, the father of mass production and the god of the New World), and after civilization was largely destroyed by a world war. Dictatorship by the tyranny of the boot-on-the-neck approach did not work--repression through force eventually collapses under its own effort to maintain it, as it did in the Soviet Union in 1989. A second war follows, and the formation of the Brave New World begins; it achieves stability through pleasure instead of fear, conditioning the mass to believe it is happy. Society has a scientifically engineered and cloned caste system. The five highest castes are Scogan's superior beings, while the rest perform the drudgework. Ten Controllers run the world, and stability is enforced by brainwashing minds from infancy to accept their roles and by tranquilizing adults with soma. Feelings of passion and the expiation of passion are limited to a permitted sexual promiscuity; strong feelings for any single individual are in no way encouraged. Independent thinking is repressed. Any sign of it means exile for the thinker. Science and "reason" exert control. Marriage and normal childbirth are not even remembered except as barbaric rites conducted long ago by primitive savages.
The novel begins with students being given a guided tour through the London Hatcheries that clone castes. Henry Foster and Lenina Crowne, who work there, have been seeing each other too regularly, which is against state rules. Emotional attachments are not in the state's best interests. Lenina's friend Fanny warns her to be careful and display a more socially acceptable promiscuity. Lenina follows Fanny's advice and decides to see Bernard Marx, who is very intelligent but a bit quirky and slightly nonconformist compared to the others of his caste. Lenina and Bernard go on a vacation to a Savage Reservation in New Mexico. (Huxley had been to New Mexico to visit D. H. Lawrence.) There, the inhabitants live primitively and engage in those barbaric practices of marriage and childbirth. Before Bernard leaves, he is warned by the Director of Hatcheries, Tomakin, that his eccentricities could get him exiled to Iceland.
In New Mexico, Lenina and Bernard meet Linda and her son, John the Savage. Bernard learns that long ago Linda had come to the Reservation with Tomakin, who had abandoned her there. Linda, pregnant by Tomakin, knew that she could not return to the "normal" world in such a disgraced state; she stayed on the Reservation and raised John. Bernard brings Linda and John back to Utopia. Tomakin, stunned, humiliated, and ridiculed, resigns. Bernard believes he has eluded exile to Iceland.
With Bernard as his keeper, John becomes a popular curiosity and amusement, and Bernard enjoys the attention that John brings him along with the women who had previously not been interested in him. John is repulsed by the ways of the New World. He will not take soma, because he knows it is a fool's cure. Lenina is attracted to John and tries to seduce him--which is normal in her world. John, who read Shakespeare on the Reservation and believes in the plays' noble ideals, particularly romantic love over sexual promiscuity, resists his sexual attraction and rejects her advances. This scene is replete with a then unheard of striptease that Huxley implies by the repetition of "zip," as in Lenina undoing her zippered up outfit.
When his mother dies from a soma overdose--she had no qualms about taking it--John rebels. He tries to convert the others to his romantic ideals and briefly causes a stir that must be repressed. Bernard and his friend Helmholtz Watson are blamed for the small rebellion. When the two of them, along with John, are taken to Mustapha Mond, Bernard and Helmholtz are exiled, and John is retained for further experimentation. He resists and tries to flee into solitude, but the citizens of Utopia continue to hound him. In a fit of misery and depression, John hangs himself (as did Huxley's brother Trevenen when he too could not abide the world he lived in).
John the Savage is no more savage than Queequeg in Melville's Moby-Dick, which Huxley had read, as noted in a 1923 letter. Among his supposedly civilized crewmates, Queequeg, the Pacific Islander, was, in Ishmael's (and Melville's) view, more spiritually advanced. Queequeg and John the "Savage" are both looking for a balance of passion and reason.
D. H. Lawrence was the life force that inhabited Point Counter Point, and he is the spirit force that suffuses Brave New World. Lawrence died in 1930. He died in the presence of his wife Frieda and Aldous and Maria Huxley, whom he had asked to be with him. Lidan Lin writes, in reviewing Dana Sawyer's Aldous Huxley: A Biography, "Lawrence's influence contributed to the composition of the novel.... Huxley shared Lawrence's aversion for the process of industrialization that turns humans into mechanical objects.... As Sawyer writes, ... 'Both Huxley and Lawrence believed that work ... can cause us to shirk our first duty to life, which is to live.' Sawyer also illuminates the extent to which Huxley's disapproval of H. G. Wells' utopian novel Men Like Gods, and Henry Ford's autobiography My Life and Work spurred the composition of the novel."
Huxley, who had hoped to be a scientist like his grandfather and his brother Julian, could not because of his poor vision. This did not deter him from learning about science, which he did enthusiastically. With Julian's help he had access to the most cutting edge ideas, which included eugenics, the potential for conditioning humans through biological means. The research fascinated him but alarmed him as well. After the rise of Mussolini and Hitler, Huxley understood that dictators would use any means to subjugate a populace.
In 1929 Huxley met Gerald Heard, who would replace Lawrence as his best friend. Heard was already deeply involved with his philosophy of humanity being actually a spiritual species that had gone astray from its spiritual underpinnings. He affirmed Huxley's deepening interest in mysticism, and together they explored the potential for rejuvenating the latent spirit in human beings. Lawrence's lasting influence and Heard's living influence sustained the rest of Huxley's life.
In Brave New World spirit is absent. There is no need for God. Mustapha Mond quotes from the philosopher Maine de Biran (which means this is an idea that Huxley wants his readers to see):</p> <pre> "the religious sentiment tends to develop as we grow older; to develop because, as the passions grow calm, as the fancy and sensibilities are less excited and less excitable, our reason becomes less troubled in its working ... whereupon God emerges as from behind a cloud; our soul feels, sees, turns towards the source of all light; turns naturally and inevitably; for now that all that gave to the world of sensations its life and charm has begun to leak away from us ... we feel the need to lean on something that abides, something that will never play us false--a reality, an absolute and everlasting truth. Yes, we inevitably turn to God; for this religious sentiment is of its nature so pure, so delightful to the soul that experiences it, that it makes up to us for all our other losses." (274-75) </pre> <p>Peter Bowering writes of this passage, "For the citizens of the World-State there are no losses to compensate for; there is no need for a substitute for youthful desires when youthful desires remain to the end, therefore religious sentiment is rendered superfluous. And, if there is no need for God, then the values which human beings normally reverence are likewise irrelevant; self-denial and chastity, nobility and patience are also superfluous. There is no need for any civilized man to bear anything that is unpleasant. God and moral values are incompatible with machinery, scientific medicine and universal happiness" (110).
In Wholly Truthful art, tragedy is in conflict with routine; this gives everyday life its perspective about what is truly important. In a Brave New World of ceaseless pacification and sensual pleasure, there is no basis for comparison; stability is maintained, but the spirit's evolution toward consciousness is stalled. Only when individuals, then small groups, then larger groups, then towns, etc., seek to renew the life of the spirit can humanity reach its destiny--which is union with the divine ground of all being. This became Huxley's motivation thereafter in fiction and nonfiction, leading up to his most profound novel of the spirit, Time Must Have a Stop.
Time Must Have a Stop (1944)
Like Brave New World, Time Must Have Stop has a plot. Sebastian Barnack is the young man at the human center of Huxley's novel, but the search for a spiritual center is the novel's quest. The time frame is early Mussolini. Sebastian is a talented poet in his teens. He is very handsome, but he regrets his baby-faced looks, because they are in conflict with the serious, aspiring genius he wishes to be. His father is a humorously stern, stiff-upper-lip Briton and an uncompromising lawyer who talks a good game of socialist politics that he does not act on whatsoever. He silently resents how Sebastian looks like his late mother, a beauty of more outgoing but cheerful eccentricities. The father unconsciously (or is it consciously?) withholds from Sebastian material advantages, such as an evening suit suitable to his station, claiming that luxuries will spoil the boy. Sebastian must endure being with his wealthy British public school peers wearing hand-me-downs.
Consequently, Sebastian is thrilled when he is sent to Italy to visit Uncle Eustace, a courtly man who gives rather than withholds life's finer things and ideas, including a gift of a Degas painting and a promise of new clothes. Sebastian falls in love with a down-to-earth but mischievous caretaker at Eustace's mansion and is seduced by her. Eustace suddenly dies, and Sebastian, realizing he will not get his evening clothes, decides to swap the Degas for a new tuxedo, being greatly cheated in the process. An audit of the estate notes the missing Degas, and employees are accused. Sebastian says nothing; he knows he must get the Degas back. Unable to do so himself, he enlists the help of Uncle Bruno Rontini, a "flighty" spiritual enthusiast.
Uncle Bruno retrieves the painting, but by calling on certain friends for help, he inadvertently makes himself an enemy of the Italian Fascisti. The Fascist police imprison and mistreat him, thus hastening his declining health. When Bruno is released, a guilty and chastened Sebastian takes care of his dying uncle and is profoundly moved by the old man's spirituality, which is now no longer seen as flighty but essential. Bruno's spirituality begins a transformation in Sebastian toward a spiritual upward transcendence that teaches him awareness, maturity, love, and compassion for others. In his adulthood Bruno's effect on Sebastian is still felt, as an epilogue indicates. Years after World War II, and missing a leg, a mature Sebastian still writes poetry. This is the story, but what's innovative here is how Huxley writes a spiritual novel espousing a particular spiritual context, the Perennial Philosophy of mysticism.
Thus far, mysticism has been the intrinsic weave permeating Huxley's thought. At first it was unformed, just as Huxley was in his progress toward maturity. After Brave New World his next novel, Eyeless in Gaza (1936), was a study in the spiritual progress of Anthony Beavis, which included the pacifism Huxley embraced in the early-to-mid-1930s. Beavis knew, as Huxley knew, that pacifism was aligned with spirituality, but neither could define precisely how they were aligned. After coming to America in 1937 and moving to Hollywood in 1938, Huxley and Gerald Heard studied Vedanta, based on the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Bhagavad-Gita and Upanishads. Vedanta is the oldest known scripture by centuries and was based in an intuitive belief in human beings' integral mystical spirituality, which remains dormant until each individual chooses to awaken it. Huxley's first American novel, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (1939), began to incorporate a more studied mysticism through the character of Mr. Propter (based on Heard) who explains it to others. In 1945 Huxley published his anthology The Perennial Philosophy, in which he correlated mystical writings from all eras and origins and showed, with his brilliant commentary, how they all expressed the same beliefs despite great separations of time and distance.
The plot of Time Must Have a Stop sounds simple, almost mundane; however, the philosophy in this novel of ideas is perhaps the most profound that was ever attempted to be conveyed in a fiction. One can appreciate the novel without being an expert in the Perennial Philosophy, but one will be awed by it through understanding the Perennial Philosophy. One can even point to at least one conversion of a reader in a book titled How I Became a Hindu:</p> <pre> I was born a Hindu. But I had ceased to be one by the time I came out of college at the age of 22 [in 1946]. I had become a Marxist and a militant atheist. I had come to believe that Hindu scriptures should be burnt in a bonfire if India was to be saved.... I was heading full steam into Communism when I received a severe jolt. It was a novel by Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have A Stop.... I had never read a book by Huxley so far. This one was quite a revelation of his unique genius. I was enraptured by one of its characters, Bruno, contemplating the dark destiny of an erudite scholar with great compassion. But what almost broke my Marxist spell was his demolition of the dogma of inevitable progress which was the bedrock of all Western thought, including Marxism, during the nineteenth century. He also questioned as a "manipulative fallacy" the repeated reconstruction of social, economic and political institutions to achieve a more equitable order of things. His conclusion was that the roots of social evils lay ultimately in human nature itself.... This book shook me very badly and its influence was to surface two years later. Meanwhile, I took to reading Huxley and finished his major novels as well as ... Ends and Means and the Perennial Philosophy. I was preparing myself to dwell on a different dimension of thought and feeling. (Goel) </pre> <p>In a Huxleyan irony, a Briton taught an Indian how to be a Hindu, although not a modern ritualistic Hindu, rather, the Vedantic, mystical Hindu. Many more converts to mysticism would follow. Yet in 1945 mysticism was still a new venue for philosophy and more so for literature. Time Must Have a Stop and Isherwood's novel Prater Violet (1945) were philosophic parables. Few critics could grasp this because they had no clue about the underlying philosophical intentions of the authors. Bowering writes, "The critical reception of Time Must Have a Stop was largely one of unqualified mystification: one reviewer spoke of 'this immensely interesting, rather confusing, rather confused book'; another referred to 'the baffling mystical abstractions of Mr. Huxley's new faith,' concluding that 'much of its mystic message is incomprehensible' " (160-61). In today's post-1960s, post-New Age world, the message is no longer a mystery to the many who have learned the Perennial Philosophy, which will here be summarized as a necessary framework for understanding how Huxley's mystical predilection found its clearest voice in his work from 1945 forward.</p> <pre> But thought's the slave of life, and life's time fool, And time, that takes survey of all the world, Must have a stop. --Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I Now there are some things we all know but we don't take'm out and look at'm very often. We all know something is eternal. And it ain't houses and it ain't names, and it ain't earth, and it ain't even stars--everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you'd be surprised how many people are always letting go of that fact. There's something way down deep that's eternal about every human being. [People are] waitin' for something they
feel is comin" Something important and great ... waitin" for the eternal part of them to come out.... --Thornton Wilder, Our Town (44). </pre> <p>Huxley, despite his being called godless in the 1920s and 1930s, was far from being unspiritual. His cynical fiction was meant to display a world that was falling far short of the human potentiality that the mind, seeking rather than rejecting an intuitive spirituality, could fulfill in a world where spirit would overcome materialism. Since much less has been written about Huxley's American writings after 1939 than his British writings before 1939, the full importance of his belief in the Perennial Philosophy and this philosophy's meaning has been given little coverage, which means that his American work cannot be fully understood and appreciated. One cannot do justice to Huxley without a proper account of his mystical beliefs.
When he came to America in 1939 with Gerald Heard, (4) they both had been interested in the nature of evolving consciousness for many years. Heard and Huxley began attending the lectures at The Vedanta Society of Southern California. Vedanta, a mystical philosophy, is the basis for all subsequent mystical branches of the Hindu, Greek, Roman, Judaic, Islamic, and Christian religions. In 1945 Huxley anthologized the mystical writings of all religions in his book The Perennial Philosophy, augmented with his brilliant commentary. This book would lead to the booming renewal of interest in Eastern and mystical philosophy that is still prominent, with the 1960-1970s perhaps the zenith and with translations of the Vedas selling in the millions. The following elucidation of mystical philosophy is derived from Huxley's writings and from the original sources that he was writing about.
The Perennial Philosophy (5) (the philosophy of mysticism) has its seminal beginnings in the ancient Hindu sacred texts that are the first enunciations/elucidations of mysticism as an integral, continuous, contiguous, atomized essence within and without all existence, physically and psychically. Atoms move, but we can't see them; nevertheless, they exist. Consciousness evolves, but we can't see it; yet mystical philosophers believe it--beginning with the ancient texts. These texts--the Vedas--made their way from India to inform the East, then the West, through the derivatively evolving disciplines of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Platonism, Zen, Christian mysticism, German transcendentalism, British romanticism, American transcendentalism, Theosophy, and on the eve of the twentieth century came full circle in the revitalization and dissemination of the Vedas through the worldwide Vedanta Society. The Greeks may have been the cradle of Western civilization, but the Vedas are the womb of world civilization. The links in the chain are definitive and strong. This wisdom is perennial from some amorphous, indefinable beginning to some future, as yet indefinable end--and then it will start all over again in an endless cyclical regeneration. The Vedas' impetus of creation is exactly the big bang theory of an initial first cause that evolves as an ascending, widening spiral of the expanding universe, which scientists see as a physical process. The Vedas see it as both physical and metaphysical, that there is a corresponding, concurrent psychical expansion/evolution.
According to the Perennial Philosophy there are immutable constructs that change constantly in appearance but remain constant in their essence; yet, the changes are distinct and recognizable to nonmystically inclined perceivers, which causes these perceivers to see only flux as defined by the five senses. These senses and the individuals using them feel a separateness devised by eye and ear that assumes that one is never part of a whole because one cannot see oneself included with others without the aid of a picture or mirror--relatively recent methods--that have not yet quite caught up with the thousands of years of "I am I; you are not I." Indeed, the revelation of a primal group standing over their reflection in still water must have been as astounding as thunder and lightning. Separateness is man's physical condition; alienation is his assumption inculcated from his inability to see himself with others. Thus Vico theorized that humans created language to explain the disturbances to their senses (thunder, lightning), and the language, from which they developed fables, was initially inspired by their awe/fear of the natural world. Language was a creation that attempted to overcome both nature and separateness but in its development further separated individuals, as no two people interpret language in exactly the same way. Vico believed that these awe-sociations became fables, then became poetic wisdom, then became esoteric wisdom (philosophy) in an ever-ascending and widening spiral of complexity that became so far removed from the initial feelings of awe-sociation that individuals can no longer intimate feelings of awe solely from the natural world, as their childlike primitive ancestors did.
Feelings of awe are transcendent; the concentration upon the feeling of awe is systematic transcendence. Mystics meditate; artists create. Both are intuitive concentrations that hope and often succeed in evoking awesome transcendent feelings. The Katha Upanishad (1.2.22-24) explains the importance of intuiting the undifferentiated unity of the self: "The wise who knows the Self as bodiless within the bodies, as unchanging among changing things, as great and omnipresent, does never grieve. That self cannot be gained by the Veda, nor by understanding, nor by much learning. He whom the Self chooses, by him the Self can be gained. The Self chooses him (his body) as his own. But he who has not first turned away from his wickedness, who is not tranquil, and subdued, or whose mind is not at rest, he can never obtain the Self (even) by knowledge." Plainly, intuition is paramount; yet, spiritual intuition is less likely for the many that do not have any clue about achieving some form of inner self-understanding. Mystics and artists choose to pursue self-understanding.
Disciples or audiences wish to share in the awe-sociations of the mystic and artist. This desire has not changed since the earliest fable-makers created Viconian "fabula." The essence of awe has not changed either; the wise artist knows he is reflecting new images that are updated versions derived from the same long-evolving spiral begun by his ancestors. Fables to poetry to philosophy--all the same. Flux is a process, not the chaos that is seen in the material world; dialectics is a process, not an end. Consciousness evolves from the reconciliation of opposites as described in the Isha Upanishad and in the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita.
The Isha Upanishad teaches that evolving consciousness comes through the reconciliation of opposites, by the perception of essential Unity, of the apparently incompatible opposites, God and the world, renunciation and enjoyment, action and internal freedom, the one and the many, being and its becomings, the passive divine impersonality and the active divine personality, the knowledge and the ignorance, the becoming and the not-becoming. The Gita teaches that only the discerning man who chooses to be a calm center to life's hurricane and understands the reconciliation of opposites can hope to see the undifferentiated unity of the Ultimate Reality.</p> <pre> He who regards With an eye that is equal Friends and comrades, The foe and the kinsman,
The vile, the wicked, The men who judge him, And those who belong To neither faction: ... He is the greatest. (81-82) </pre> <p>Through the fission of the reconciliation of opposites, activity creates graduated resolutions that proceed to another moment of the eternal now of "isness," which is described by the Vedanta-influenced T. S. Eliot in "Burnt Norton" when Eliot echoes the Vedas and concludes, "And all is always now" (112).
The resolutions that graduate from the reconciliation of opposites exist in the eternal now and move fluidly without interruption to become the next sources of opposites needing to be reconciled while consciousness continues to move up the ascending spiral. The movement is fluid and imperceptible. The senses may see, hear, feel, touch, or taste the outcomes of these resolutions, but these physical outcomes are static. The outcomes are the residue of a movement after a particular movement is over. One drinks water, eats food, touches silk only after the process of their becoming reaches its material end; one is rarely conscious of the process and becomes focused only on the results. For the many, awareness of process, whether of an apple or consciousness, is rarely and barely thought about unless an aspect of process becomes an expedient necessity such as drought or famine. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but for the many, "mother" often doesn't speak until necessity is expedient and mandatory. Throughout history farsightedness has been in short supply and the barn door has been closed after the animals escaped. (Or a need to cut oil consumption is not seen as a necessity until chaos is recognized.) The many cannot grasp the hidden allness of the bigger picture. What is misperceived to be linear, to be before/after, cause/effect, is finite and confined to an expedient present disconnected from the process of evolution. To the misperceiving majority events are dots on a line and the majority cannot see the continuity and contiguity of the present dots and how they are related to previous dots. The previous dots are forgotten or they are only memories or histories. The majority also cannot see the future that is ahead and too far off to consider or imagine. Conversely, to artists and mystics time is only a man-made construct to which we adhere slavishly and detrimentally.
Thornton Wilder wrote, "It is only in appearance that time is a river. It is a vast landscape, and it is only the eye of the beholder that moves" (Eighth Day 395). If one throws a rock into a pond, one can watch the process from the initial splash to the expanding circular ripples. If one could stand back far enough and see the big bang, one could see the first cause and follow the oval expansion of the universe moment-to-moment, istgeist to istgeist (isness to isness) and see the cause and effect of how each isness ripples into the next isness. From the expanding ripples in the pond to an expanding universe, these images--one real based on visible nature, one "metaphorized" as an extrapolation of invisible nature--help one's actual eyes to "see" an idea, like atoms, that the mind's eye can understand only by a leap of the imagination, even though atoms are real, not imagined. To imagine connotes "seeing" what isn't there; but atoms are there, spinning in a circle that is the ultimate microcosm of the larger microcosm of the pond, and both the atom and the pond are within the ultimate macrocosm of the expanding universe. All the sense-perceived microcosms seem differentiated, but if one sees as the mystic sees, then Ultimate Reality is both isness and process. One sees a cloud that is made up of condensed water, from which drops of rain merge into an ocean. The drops are a process, a moment of isness that flows from one isness (cloud) to another isness (ocean).
From the eye of the beholder who sees the vast landscape, one can see both the isness and the process simultaneously and Time Stops:</p>
<pre> Any given event in any part of the universe has as its
determining conditions all previous and contemporary events in all parts of the universe. </pre> <p>Imagination (intuition) can allow us to see the timeless interrelations. But imagination is not just about seeing what isn't real; it is equally about "seeing" what is real--atoms. Imagination leads to the discovery of what is physically real and can be measured (science). Imagination also leads to the discovery of what is metaphysically real and can be "metaphorized" (art). Science and art are about seeing what previously was not seen but was imagined (intuited), after which the scientist and artist take what was imagined and make it into an outcome that can be seen or heard. Michael Polanyi said, "We know much more than we can tell" (25). (6) Telling is an outcome of what is already known, even when that telling might be imagining what is not yet known. (A science-fiction writer takes the known to imagine what an unknown future might be like. He or she wishes to transcend the known through the creative impulse.) Art is one vehicle for transcendence. Humans have a compelling desire for transcendence, which for most is an unconscious need without a cognitive, let alone a philosophical, basis. There are forms of upward transcendence and downward transcendence, (7) Upward transcendence is more conscious of its own ambitions; downward transcendence is often crudely unconscious. Upward: mysticism, art, spirituality, love (mystic love for the individual as eros then transformed to the transcendently awesome love for all existence of agape). Downward: addictions (drugs, alcohol, sex, religious dogma and fanaticism, nationalistic fanaticism).
Transcendence, conscious or unconscious, is the desire of humanity; transcendence is the design of the Perennial Philosophy, first recorded in the Vedas. Still, long before the 3,000-year-old Vedas, awe-sociations were recorded by the primitive fabulists described in Vico's New Science. The creative impulse of art/literature is the reflective dialectical synthesis of moments in space. These moments re-create awe and evoke a sense of unicity that seeks to overcome feelings of separation. Unity with the Ultimate Reality is the goal of the Perennial Philosophy. The continuum of the statement above starting "any given event" includes the evolution of man's consciousness. The metaphysical basis for the quotation and its assertion of an overall perpetual continuum of existence is contained within the Perennial Philosophy.
Within this philosophy is the concept of an Ultimate Reality or Ground of Being (perhaps divine) that is both the first cause of the continuum and the continuum itself. An artistic perspective as grounded in the Perennial Philosophy is just now becoming a view that some critics, particularly in Europe and Russia--and Satya Mohanty in America--have begun to apply to literature, seeing certain writers as exponents who have consciously or unconsciously incorporated this philosophy into their art.
The vast literature of mysticism that reflects the Perennial Philosophy has been given an encapsulated form by Huxley. The "any given event" aphorism is a good basis for understanding what Huxley called The Minimum Working Hypothesis, which summarizes the common denominators of the Perennial Philosophy into four basic tenets that were first stated in his introduction to the 1944 Isherwood/Prabhavananda translation of The Bhagavad Gita. To consider these tenets as a prelude to the American Huxley is to make the same metaphysical leap that philosophers and writers have made in their careers. If the reader is also able to make this leap even temporarily, then Huxley's American fiction and nonfiction will fit into a much clearer context:
Minimum Working Hypothesis
1. the phenomenal world of matter and of individualized consciousness--the world of things and animals and even gods--is the manifestation of a Divine Ground within which all partial realities have their being, and apart from which they would be non-existent.
2. human beings are capable not merely of knowing about the Divine Ground by inference [intimating the awe-sociations]; they can also realize its existence by a direct intuition [i.e., meditation, art] superior to discursive reasoning. This immediate knowledge unites the knower with that which is known.
3. man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul. It is possible for a man, if he so desires, to identify himself with this spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.
4. man's life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify himself with his eternal self and so come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground of all existence. (7)
The key to Huxley's hypothesis is the role of intuition as a guide to knowledge that cannot be otherwise found empirically:</p> <pre>
It is the task of philosophy to try to translate and understand
analytically in terms of thought or conceptual thinking what has been presented in the living experience of intuition. It must start from experience and it must recognize experience to be the goal of all philosophy. Philosophy cannot give us an experience of the
actual--it attempts to show what is possible, not what is but what
may be. The merely possible demands verification or rather an actualization in concrete experience. This is supplied by intuition. A philosophy that does not base itself on this solid footing of perfect experience is a merely barren speculation that moves in the sphere of ideas alone, detached from Reality. This is what distinguishes Hegel's Idea from Sankara's Brahman. The latter is a concrete experience in ecstatic intuition, while the former is only the highest achievement of reason. (Brahma 167) </pre> <p>Intuition drives the inspiration of the creative impulse even if hard work follows to see that impulse through to the art's completion. Art is a means to the end for the artist and his audience to intimate the awe-sociations that are harbored in the unconscious in order to identify with and come to "unitive knowledge" of the "Divine Ground of all existence."
In Time Must Have a Stop Huxley intends to introduce the Perennial Philosophy to readers and also to write of Uncle Eustace's dying in terms of the Tibetan Book of the Dead (the Bardo Thodol), a Mayahana Buddhist text that describes the transitional state between the death of one body and the spirit of that body having a rebirth in a new body. A body is a suitcase that carries the spirit around; suit-cases may wear down or change, but the spiritual contents remain. The fact that Sebastian loses a leg is meant to signify that while his body has changed; his spirit has grown and this is what measures his existence, not his body.
The first half of the novel sets the stage for the second half. Huxley as narrator very early indicates where he is heading in this passage on Sebastian, "he had read Nietzsche, and since then had known that he must Love his Fate. Amor fati--but tempered with a healthy cynicism" (2). At seventeen, one can intellectualize amor fati, but its reality requires trials more severe than just teenage angst. Huxley introduces Nietzsche here but is also nodding at Nietzsche's mentor, Schopenhauer, who was the first notable Western philosopher to be thoroughly guided by Vedanta philosophy. To love fate is to accept that one's finite corporeal existence and that existence's travails are secondary to one's infinite spiritual existence. Hence, immediately in the novel, Huxley in an incidental way foreshadows the very serious considerations of fate and spirituality that are forthcoming.
Readers first learn of Bruno Rontini in a conversation about him while he is not yet present. Eustace says that "Bruno's the last person to gossip about a man when his back is turned.... There's nothing that so effectively ruins conversation as charitableness. After all, no one can be amusing about other people's virtues" (70). Bruno's good nature is here explained; he is in fact, an exemplar of Vedanta's two simple rules of ethical conduct: do no harm and compassion for all. Two pages later Eustace reads aloud a passage from a book he just purchased:</p>
<pre> "'Grace did not fail thee, but thou wast wanting to grace. God did not deprive thee of the operation of his love, but thou didst deprive his love of thy co-operation. God would never have
rejected thee, if thou hadst not rejected him.' Golly!" He turned
back to the title page. "Treatise of the Love of God by St. Francois
de Sales," he read. "Pity it isn't de Sade." (72) </pre> <p>Eustace's pithy cynicism dots the text, which is counterpoint to his spiritual experience in the novel's second half. The message that Eustace reads in de Sales is that one chooses to intuit God and seek upward transcendence; however, one may, like de Sade, choose downward transcendence away from God. One rejects God; God rejects no one.
Another character, Paul De Vries, an American from New England, (home of Vedanta-inspired American transcendentalism) is fascinated by Einstein (Huxley's reminder of the space-time possibilities that Einstein introduced) and seeks any evidence of an undifferentiated unity. He was hoping, "that some day one might get a hunch, an illuminating intuition of the greater synthesis. For a synthesis there undoubtedly must be, a thought-bridge that would permit the mind to march discursively and logically from telepathy to the four-dimensional continuum.... There was the ultimate all-embracing field--the Brahma of Sankara [Vedanta], the One of Plotinus, the Ground of Eckhart and Boehme [German mystics] ..." (79). Huxley is giving readers an introduction to the Perennial Philosophy, which will be continued in Bruno's bookshop. A young man comes in and asks for a book on comparative religion. Bruno shows him the standard didactic selections, which the aspiring young philosopher buys. Bruno adds, "'if ever you should get tired of this ...' He hesitated; in their deep sockets the blue eyes twinkled with an almost mischievous light. '... This kind of learned frivolity ..., remember, I've got quite a considerable stock of really serious books on the subject.... Scupoli, the Bhagavatam, the Tao Teh Ching, the Theologica Germanica, the Graces of Interior Prayer ..." (86). Thus does Huxley suggest texts if readers are so inclined to learn more.
Bruno becomes a source for felicitous thoughts that also teach; often, these thoughts come as pas de deux with the cynical Eustace, such as one on goodness. Bruno says,</p> <pre> "if only people would realize that moral principles are like measles ..." The soft voice trailed away into silence and a sigh. "Like measles?"
"They have to be caught. And only the people who've got them can
pass on the contagion.... One doesn't have to catch the infection
of goodness, if one doesn't want to. The will is always free....
If only you could forgive the Good [that refutes Eustace's cynicism].... Then you might allow yourself to be forgiven." "For what?" Eustace enquired. "For being what you are. For being a human being. Yes, God can forgive you even that, if you really want it. Can forgive your separateness so completely that you can be made one with him" (89). </pre> <p>The verbal duets between Eustace and Bruno are discussions of oppositions that need to be reconciled. Bruno's importuning to Eustace that he drop his cynicism and seriously consider his spiritual future takes on great significance when later Eustace is dying. Throughout the novel, passages both serious and lighthearted speak of the nature of the Perennial Philosophy and names many of its advocates, thinkers who are in Huxley's anthology, which would be published the year after Time Must Have a Stop, as if the latter was meant to introduce the former, which, in fact, it was.
The second half of the novel mainly concerns Eustace's dying. Bowering writes of this:</p> <pre> The second half ... is divided into three parts.... [T]he Chikhai Bardo which describes the happenings immediately after death; then, the Chonyid Bardo which deals with karmic visions and hallucinations; and, finally, the Sidpa Bardo which is concerned with the events leading up to reincarnation. In the Chikhai Bardo the deceased is faced with the ... Dharma-Kaya, or the Clear Light of the Void. This is symbolic of the purest and highest state of spiritual being which Huxley identifies with the Divine Ground or immanent Godhead of the Christian mystics. If, through a lack of spiritual insight, the dead person is unable to recognize the light as the manifestation of his own spiritual consciousness, karmic illusions begin to cloud his vision, the light is obscured and he enters into the second Bardo. In the Chonyid Bardo he is subjected to what Evans-Wentz calls "a solemn and mighty panorama" of "the consciousness-content of his personality." This will vary according to the life and religious beliefs of the individual concerned.... [I]f the deceased is spiritually immature and unable to recognize the fantasy world confronting him as the product of his own consciousness he will pass into ... the Sipa Bardo ]and] the dead person becomes aware that he no longer has a corporeal body and the desire for a new incarnation begins to dominate his consciousness.... As Jung points out ... "freed from all illusion of genesis and decay ... [l]ife in the Bardo brings no eternal rewards or punishments, but merely a descent into a new life which shall bear the individual nearer to his final goal [a final complete merging into spiritual
consciousness].... This ... goal is what he himself brings to birth as the last and highest fruit of the labours and aspirations
of earthly existence." This is the essential teaching of Time Must
Have a Stop. (Bowering 167-68) </pre> <p>In the novel Huxley describes the death of Uncle Eustace:</p> <pre> And through ever-lengthening durations the light kept brightening from beauty into beauty. And the joy of knowing, the joy of being known, increased with every increment of that embracing and interpenetrating beauty. Brighter, brighter, through succeeding durations, that expanded at last into an eternity of joy. An eternity of radiant knowledge, of bliss unchanging in its ultimate intensity. For ever, for ever. (118). </pre> <p>Eustace was, just as Bruno knew, "spiritually immature at the time of his death." Sebastian, after learning mysticism from Uncle Bruno, is more advanced spiritually and further along in the path of evolving spiritual consciousness and union with the Divine Ground of all existence. In the epilogue Sebastian is looking through his notebook of thoughts and quotations concerning mystical spirituality. This notebook had its real counterpart, as Huxley was accumulating material for The Perennial Philosophy. Sebastian reads from his notebooks and readers lean more about mysticism.
Sebastian also remembers taking care of Bruno when he was dying of throat cancer and gradually lost his speech. There is great irony here as Huxley would die of throat cancer eighteen years later. Sebastian remembers Bruno's suffering: "But there had also been the spectacle of Bruno's joyful serenity, and even, at one remove, a kind of participation in the knowledge, of which that joy was the natural and inevitable expression--the knowledge of a timeless and infinite presence; the intuition, direct and infallible, that apart from the desire to be separate there was no separation, but an essential identity" (241). The last pages of Sebastian's notebook concern how time must have a stop in the mystical sense of the "vast landscape." These ruminations are followed by the Minimum Working Hypothesis, which by this juncture of the reader's mystical education resonates with the full import and impact of this spiritual novel.
In 1954 when Maria Huxley was dying and had reached the predeath state of unconsciousness, Huxley read to her from the Bardo.
Huxley's last novel is a summation of his vast study in the ways that humanity might use science rather than abuse science and forsake a rabid capitalism for more of a spiritually motivated semisocialistic society. This novel of ideas has IDEAS writ large and the novel is merely a device for giving readers a look at a positive utopia rather than the dystopia of Brave New World. The innovation in this novel is in the ideas, rather than in the telling. In its way, Island is a refutation of Brave New World.
Will Farnaby works for industrialist Lord Joseph Aldehyde (formaldehyde); he deliberately crashes his small boat on the south sea island of Pala. The society on Pala seeks happiness as its goal rather than material success. Nearby, Rendang is scheming to take over the island for its untapped oil reserves. Crashing his boat, Will injures his knee and is left unconscious. He is found by two island children: Mary Sarojini and Tom Krishna MacPhail. They are the grandchildren of Dr. Robert MacPhail, Pala's co-founder with the Old Raja, who arrives with his assistant Vijaya Bhattacharya and Murugan Mailendra, a student. Will recognizes Murugan from his earlier visit with Colonel Dipa, the military dictator of Rendang, but Murugan seems to not want that information known, so Will played along. They carry him to the Dr. Robert's bungalow where he is bandaged. Susila MacPhail, Dr. Robert's daughter-in-law, and Mary Sarojini and Tom Krishna's mother treat him there for the pain by hypnotically transporting him to an internal place of rest. When he awakes he reads several chapters of the Old Rajas philosophical book, Notes on What's What. The Raja bears resemblance to Bruno Rontini in Time Must Have a Stop. Will is similar to Sebastian Barnack as he begins as a capitalist but is won over by Pala's joy and common sense approach to life. This is a New Age world where many of the ideas Huxley describes have since been developed and written about. In his conversion Will is taken, chapter by chapter, into Huxley's polemical descriptions of a potential paradise. So are readers. The novel's conflict is between a selfless utopia and selfish capitalist greed.
Will is shown around the island. He compares his own sad life with life on Pala, so readers feel the contrast between the failures of Will's world and the success of Pala's world. One must not dwell on guilt and remorse; one must live in the here and now, the eternal now. The island's mynah birds repeat, "Attention!" "Karuna, karuna." Be aware and care! Unlike the brainwashing of Brave New World, the repetitions on Pala are positive learning.
Western science works with the arts and education for a balanced equation of body and mind. Huxley details theory and practice based on his lifelong study. There is an Agricultural Experimental Station to breed better crops so that no one should go hungry. The educational and health care systems include the best of the East and West. Organized religion is not dogmatic but is based in mystical intuitive logic and self-experience. God is not an angry God used for propaganda as in the outside world, but a loving God who wishes all of his creation to love and be loved. Huxley's belief that human nature itself would need to be fundamentally reoriented through education is paramount in Island. Yet Huxley knew that the entrenched human nature that already existed would resist a common cause of universal love because the ego is self-serving and self-preserving rather than a vehicle for collective goodwill. There is an unhappy ending to the novel as Rendang invades Pala to take its oil.
Alex McDonald notes in a 2002 essay,</p> <pre> The well-known etymology of "utopia" expresses a central problem in the interpretation of Island. Eu + topos means good place, and it is arguable that Pala is a good place which represents a triumphant positive conclusion to Huxley's life-long battle with dualism, that Will Farnaby's conversion from cynicism to utopian faith is the culmination of the progression of the earlier novels. On the other hand, ou + topos means no place, and it is equally arguable that Island, especially its horrific ending, represents the return of Huxley's profound pessimism, as David Bradshaw has claimed: "Island is perhaps Huxley's most pessimistic book.... [That] Pala's 'oasis of happiness' has little hope of survival"
(viii.), in the real world. (75) </pre> <p>Bradshaw, as have many critics, do not understand Huxley's mysticism, and McDonald is overstating the case by saying "Huxley's lifelong battle with dualism." To a mystic there is no dualism. McDonald does say that in Huxley's 1935 novel, Eyeless in Gaza, "Anthony Beavis reaches a state of spiritual calm, suggesting the mystical experience, which can transcend the duality of the world. The basis for the leap beyond satire [of the novels up to and including Brave New World] to positive vision was elaborated in Huxley's spiritual anthology, The Perennial Philosophy" (75).
Many critics have misunderstood Huxley because they did not know of or did not understand the Perennial Philosophy and subsequently could not follow Huxley's logic. Bradshaw would have readers believe that Pala's positive experimentation with ways of living was a waste and a failure because the novel ends with the invasion. This is far from true. In a linear perception of time, it is imagined that Pala "ends" and something else begins. But when time is seen as the "vast landscape" within which all actions and reactions follow this dictum--Any given event in any part of the universe has as its determining conditions all previous and contemporary events in all parts of the universe--then the lessons learned on Pala have not ended or been wasted but have just been interrupted. Each person on Pala will take those lessons and in some form will affect others who will affect others. In the perpetual continuum there may yet be a future--even if eons hence--when the Pala experience can still be an impetus for change--who can say? Huxley's ending is a warning that only readers themselves can seek a better future and deter greed and selfishness. This is not the same as being pessimistic. Person by person, group, by group, society by society, change can take place. Time is humanity's enemy because humans can only consider their individual finite existences as the reality. Despite protestations otherwise about concern for the future, people see existence as that which begins and ends with their corporeal duration. People will say they love their children, but few parents consider how to take steps to insure a better world after they are gone. If they did, energy conservation and a clean environment would be front-burner issues so that their children and grandchildren will not face fuel rationing and pollution. This is why time must have a stop. When people begin to consider the totality of before and after as included with their present existence, when they do not limit their vision of existence to their own existences and see the vast landscape of eternity where time has stopped and they can include themselves in an encompassing vision of an eternal now, then we will care about the future of the collective spirit and not just care about our individual selves. Huxley believed in mysticism early and sustained this belief to the end of his own corporeal suitcase containing an ennobled spirit. His life itself is proof that he was right. He influenced countless people to believe in what he believed and to tell others who will tell others on and on.
This writer is one of those people and he has been telling you now how much he learned from Aldous Huxley, and in the telling, how much you have learned from Aldous Huxley.
(1) Matthew Huxley had his own distinguished career in public health. He died at age eighty-four on 12 February 2005.
(2) J. K. Huysmans (1848-1907), a Dutchman who lived in Paris, wrote A Rebours (Against the Grain) in 1884. It is autobiographical and depicts a protagonist, Des Esseintes, who, bored with life, indulges every decadent whim he can think of, denying God, as Spandrell puts it, but finally, when he has run out of self-destructive acts, realizes that there is nothing left but God and returns to the church. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) took the story of A Rebours, a novel he greatly admired and, in fact, refers to, in his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), in which Gray, in an even more twisted path than Des Esseintes, pursues complete decadence. In his case, however, the ending is tragic.
(3) Examples: Orwell's 1984, Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, recent films such as Total Recall, Gattaca, and Equilibrium, and a 1998 TV miniseries of Huxley's Brave New World, that failed, as have previous versions, to get the point.
(4) Christopher Isherwood wrote in 1950 that "Gerald Heard is one of the very few who can properly be called philosophers; a man of brilliantly daring theory and devoted practice. I believe he has influenced the thought of our time, directly and indirectly, to an extent which will hardly be appreciated for another fifty years" (The Heard Collection, UCLA). Heard was an enormous influence on Isherwood, W. H. Auden, W. S. Maugham and many more. Of course, a principal figure among the "many more" is Aldous Huxley. In Heard, even more so than D. H. Lawrence, Huxley found a friend who was of a simpatico temperament and more so a train of thought that compelled them toward very similar approaches to what Heard called "intentional Living." That is, a way of living that took the part--the human mind--and integrated the individual mind with a world mind of evolving consciousness where each part acted in concert for the good of the whole. A tall order, but one that these two philosophical iconoclasts believed was the inevitable future of consciousness, if not in their lifetimes, in some future eon that would see the fruition of the impetus that they were a seminal factor in pushing forward. In Heard, Huxley found someone who agreed with much of his own thought, which allowed him to have a forum for further thought along the same lines. Heard befriended Huxley and Auden in 1929. Heard conveyed to Auden his theories on a universal evolving consciousness, which had won him a major prize from the British Academy that year for his breakthrough book The Ascent of Humanity. Books of fiction and nonfiction would follow almost yearly until his last in 1963 The Five Ages of Man. From 1929 to 1963, Heard was revered among an intellectual circle that would listen to and spread his ideas and then become better known than he was. There is compelling circumstantial evidence that Heard anonymously influenced the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, with the handbook Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, which became the basis for the now ubiquitous Twelve-Step Recovery program that is based in the abnegation of the individual ego to a spiritual source that Heard referred to as "this thing." (Heard's euphemism was meant to mean God without saying so.) Heard was a guru to gurus.
(5) The term philosophia perennis first appeared in the Renaissance although its intended meaning is much older. The term philosophia perennis is associated with the philosopher Leibniz, in whose writings it appears and whose thought aims at many characteristics essential to it; however, he himself found it in Augustinus Steuchius, a theologian of the sixteenth century who in 1540 published the De philosophia perenni sive veterum philosophorum cum theologia christiana consensu libri X, a work that quickly passed through several editions. The term has also been applied retroactively to the Scholastics. Steuch's work returns to a revealed absolute truth made known to man before his fall. Leibniz in the next century and in the later years of his life took the term for the philosophy he was developing. Leibniz had already known of Steuch, noting him and his work in his journals. In these journals Leibniz gives a brief sketch of the contributions of the major schools and also makes a reference to the East.
(6) Even science, that kingdom of supposed empirical objectivity, is dependent on language in order to learn it and make new discoveries about it. Since scientists are using language to explain discoveries and since language is a medium of subjective interpretation, science is not nearly so objective as might be assumed. Michael Polanyi, scientist and philosopher, makes this case in Personal Knowledge (an early salvo of postmodernism). All efforts to acquire knowledge are personal, meaning subjective, not objective. When Polanyi says that "we know more than we can say," he is asserting that language is merely the outcome or tip of a vast iceberg that is knowledge held both consciously and unconsciously in the mind and memory from which we reflexively make correlations that can be enunciated or acted upon. The above introduction to which this note refers is a synthesized outcome of much reading, research, and life experience that knows much more than it can say.</p> <pre>
We must conclude that the paradigmatic case of scientific knowledge, in which all faculties that are necessary for finding and holding scientific knowledge are fully developed, is the knowledge of approaching discovery. To hold such knowledge is an act deeply committed to the conviction that there is something there to be discovered. It is personal, in the sense of involving the personality of him who holds it, and also in the sense of being, as a rule, solitary; but there is no trace in it of self-indulgence. The discoverer is filled with a compelling sense of responsibility for the pursuit of a hidden truth, which demands his services for revealing it. His act of knowing exercises a personal judgment in relating evidence to an external reality, an aspect of which he is seeking to apprehend.
(Polanyi 24-25) </pre> <p>(7) Huxley discusses upward and downward transcendence in his book Grey Eminence (1941), a biography of Father Joseph, Cardinal Richelieu's spiritual advisor, a mystic who became corrupted by politics.
Auden, W. H. Secondary Worlds. New York: Random House, 1968.
Auden, W. H., and Christopher Isherwood. The Dog beneath the Skin. London: Faber & Faber, 1935.
The Bhagavad-Gita. Trans. Isherwood-Prabhavananda. Los Angeles: Marcel Rodd, 1944.
Bowering, Peter. Aldous Huxley: A Study of the Major Novels. London: Athlone Press, 1968.
Bradshaw, David. Aldous Huxley between the Wars: Essays and Letters. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1994.
--. Introduction. Island. By Aldous Huxley. London: Flamingo, 1994.
Brahma, N. K. Philosophy of Hindu Sadhana. London: Kegan Paul Trench, Trubner, 1932; rev. ed, 1999.
Cowley, Malcolm. After the Genteel Tradition. New York: Norton, 1936.
Derbyshire, John. "What Happened to Aldous Huxley." New Criterion. 21 February 2003 <www.newcriterion.com> 18 May 2005.
Eliot, T. S. The Complete Poems and Plays: 1909-1950. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1971.
Goel, Sita Ram. How I Became a Hindu. New Delhi, India: Voice of India, 2005. <voi.org/books/hibh/ch5.htm> 8 May 2005.
Heard, Gerald. "The Poignant Prophet." Aldous Huxley 1894-1963: A Memorial Volume. New York: Harper & Row, 1965.
Huxley, Aldous. Along the Road. London: Chatto & Windus, 1925.
--. Brave New World. London: Chatto & Windus, 1932.
--. Crome Yellow. 1921. Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 2001.
--. Do What You Will. London: Chatto & Windus, 1929.
--. "Farcical History of Richard Greenow." Limbo. London: Chatto & Windus, 1920. 1-115.
--. Grey Eminence: A Study in Religion and Politics. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1941.
--. Introduction. The Bhagavad-Gita. Trans. Isherwood-Prabhavananda. Los Angeles: Marcel Rodd, 1944.
--. Island. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.
--. Letters of Aldous Huxley. London: Chatto & Windus, 1969.
--. Point Counter Point. 1928. Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 1996.
--. "Sermons in Cats." Music at Night. London: Chatto & Windus, 1931. 258-69.
--. "The Subject-Matter of Poetry." On the Margin. London: Chatto & Windus, 1923. 26-38.
--. Time Must Have a Stop. 1944. Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 1998.
--. "Tragedy and the Whole Truth." Music at Night. London: Chatto & Windus, 1931. 3-18.
--. Vulgarity in Literature. London: Chatto & Windus, 1931.
Isherwood, Christopher. Diaries, 1939-1960. San Francisco: Harper, 1998.
--. My Guru and His Disciple. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1980.
Isherwood, Christopher, and Edward Upward. "Prefatory Epistle to My Godson on the Study of History." The Mortmere Stories. London: Enitharmon Press, 1994.
Kass, Leon. "Aldous Huxley: Brave New World." First Things 101 (March 2000): 51-52. <www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0003/articles/huxley.html> 11 May 2005.
Lin, Lidan. "Aldous Huxley in an Age of Global Literary Studies." International Fiction Review Jan. 2004: 78-92. <infotrac.galegroup.com>. 18 May 2005.
McDonald, Alex. "Choosing Utopia: An Existential Reading of Aldous Huxley's Island." Utopian Studies 12.2 (2001): 103-14.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morality. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998.
Polanyi, Michael. The Tacit Dimension, New York: Anchor, 1967.
Sawyer, Dana. Aldous Huxley: A Biography. New York: Crossroads, 2002.
--. "'What Kind of a Mystic Was Aldous Huxley Anyway?' A Brief Appraisal of His Mysticism." Aldous Huxley Annual 2 (2002): 207-18.
Upanishads. Trans. Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester. New York: New American Library, 1957.
Wilder, Thornton. The Eighth Day. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
--. Our Town. New York: Coward-McCann, 1939.
An Aldous Huxley Checklist
Crome Yellow. London: Chatto & Windus, 1921; Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 2001.
Antic Hay. London: Chatto & Windus, 1923; Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 1997.
Those Barren Leaves. London: Chatto & Windus, 1925; Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 1998.
Point Counter Point. London: Chatto & Windus, 1928; Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 1996.
Brave New World. London: Chatto & Windus, 1932; New York: Harper Collins, 2004.
Eyeless in Gaza. London: Chatto & Windus, 1936.
After Many a Summer Dies the Swan. New York: Harper, 1939; Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993.
Time Must Have a Stop. New York: Harper, 1944; Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 1998.
Ape and Essence. New York: Harper, 1948; Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1992.
The Genius and the Goddess. New York: Harper, 1955.
Island. New York: Harper & Row, 1962; New York: Perennial, 2002.
Jacob's Hands. With Christopher Isherwood. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.
Limbo. London: Chatto & Windus, 1920.
Mortal Coils. London: Chatto & Windus, 1922.
Little Mexican. London: Chatto & Windus, 1924. (American title, Young Archimedes and Other Stories.)
Two or Three Graces. London: Chatto & Windus, 1926.
Brief Candles. London: Chatto & Windus, 1930.
The Gioconda Smile. London: Chatto & Windus, 1938.
Collected Short Stories. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1992.
The Crows of Pearblossom. Illustrated by Barbara Cooney. New York: Random House, 1967.
The Burning Wheel. London: Blackwell, 1916.
The Defeat of Youth. Oxford: B. H. Blackwell, 1918.
Leda. London: Chatto & Windus, 1920.
Arabia Infelix. New York: The Fountain Press, 1929.
The Cicadas. London: Chatto & Windus, 1931.
Collected Poetry of Aldous Huxley. New York, Harper & Row, 1971.
The World of Light, a Comedy in Three Acts. London: Chatto & Windus, 1931.
The Gioconda Smile: A Play. London: Chatto & Windus, 1948.
Now More than Ever. Austin: U of Texas P, 2000.
Brave New World. Aldous Huxley Annual 3 (2003): 33-128.
The Genius and the Goddess. Aldous Huxley Annual 4 (2004): 37-161.
On the Margin. London, Chatto & Windus, 1923.
Along the Road. London: Chatto & Windus, 1925; New York: Ecco Press, 1989.
Jesting Pilate. London: Chatto & Windus, 1926; New York: Paragon House, 1991.
Proper Studies. London: Chatto & Windus, 1927.
Essays New and Old. New York: George H. Doran, 1927.
Do What You Will. London: Chatto & Windus, 1929.
Holy Face, and Other Essays. London: Fleuron, 1929; New York: Perennial, 2002.
Vulgarity in Literature. London: Chatto & Windus, 1931.
Music at Night, London: Chatto & Windus, 1931; Westport: Greenwood Press, 1975.
Texts and Pretexts. London: Chatto & Windus, 1932; Westport: Greenwood Press, 1976.
The Olive Tree. London: Chatto & Windus, 1936.
An Encyclopaedia of Pacifism. London, Chatto & Windus, 1937; New York, Garland, 1972.
What Are You Going to Do About It? The Case for Constructive Peace. London: Chatto & Windus, 1936.
Ends and Means. New York: Harper, 1937; New York: Greenwood Press, 1969.
The Elder Peter Bruegel. New York, Willey, 1938.
Words and Their Meanings. Los Angeles: Ward Ritchie, 1940.
Grey Eminence: A Study in Religion and Politics. New York: Harper, 1941; Westport: Greenwood Press, 1975.
The Art of Seeing. New York: Harper, 1942; Seattle: Montana Books, 1975.
The Perennial Philosophy. New York: Harper, 1945; New York: Perennial Classics, 2004.
Science, Liberty and Peace. New York: Harper, 1946.
Prisons: With the "Carceri" Etchings. Philadelphia: Grey Falcon Press, 1949.
Themes and Variations. New York: Harper, 1950.
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|Author:||Izzo, David Garrett|
|Publication:||The Review of Contemporary Fiction|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2005|
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|Next Article:||Peter Weiss. The Aesthetics of Resistance, Volume 1.|
|The Intellectual Behind Brave New World.|
|ViewpointsPrediction for future is now.|
|Remember When? July 1971.|
|Aldous Huxley; selected letters.|