Aldous Huxley Essay Knowledge And Understanding

Aldous Leonard Huxley (26 July1894 – 22 November1963) was a British author, most famous for his novel Brave New World. He was the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley and younger brother of Julian Huxley.

See also:
Brave New World.


  • The proper study of mankind is books.
    • Crome Yellow (1921), Ch. XXVIII.
  • Ours is an industrial civilization, in which no society can prosper unless it possesses an elite of highly trained scientists and a considerable army of engineers and technicians. The possession and wide dissemination of a great deal of correct, specialized knowledge has become a prime condition of national survival. In the United States, during the last twenty or thirty years, this fact seems to have been forgotten. Professional educationists have taken John Dewey's theories of ‘learning through doing’ and of ‘education as life adjustment,’ and have applied them in such a way that, in many American schools, there is now doing without learning, along with courses in adjustment to everything except the basic twentieth-century fact that we live in a world where ignorance of science and its methods is the surest, shortest road to national disaster. During the past half century every other nation has made great efforts to impart more knowledge to more young people. In the United States professional educationists have chosen the opposite course.”
    • from "Knowledge and Understanding" in Collected Essays (1958)
  • When will you women understand that one isn’t insanely in love? All one asks for is a quiet life, which you won’t allow one to have.
  • 'There are quiet places also in the mind', he said meditatively. 'But we build bandstands and factories on them. Deliberately — to put a stop to the quietness. … All the thoughts, all the preoccupations in my head — round and round, continually What's it for? What's it all for? To put an end to the quiet, to break it up and disperse it, to pretend at any cost that it isn't there. Ah, but it is; it is there, in spite of everything, at the back of everything. Lying awake at night — not restlessly, but serenely, waiting for sleep — the quiet re-establishes itself, piece by piece; all the broken bits … we've been so busily dispersing all day long. It re-establishes itself, an inward quiet, like the outward quiet of grass and trees. It fills one, it grows — a crystal quiet, a growing, expanding crystal. It grows, it becomes more perfect; it is beautiful and terrifying … For one's alone in the crystal, and there's no support from the outside, there is nothing external and important, nothing external and trivial to pull oneself up by or stand on … There is nothing to laugh at or feel enthusiast about. But the quiet grows and grows. Beautifully and unbearably. And at last you are conscious of something approaching; it is almost a faint sound of footsteps. Something inexpressively lovely and wonderful advances through the crystal, nearer, nearer. And, oh, inexpressively terrifying. For if it were to touch you, if it were to seize you and engulf you, you'd die; all the regular, habitual daily part of you would die … one would have to begin living arduously in the quiet, arduously in some strange, unheard of manner.
  • I'm afraid of losing my obscurity. Genuineness only thrives in the dark. Like celery.
  • What the cinema can do better than literature or the spoken drama is to be fantastic.
    • "Where are the Movies Moving?" in Essays Old and New (1926).
  • Too much consistency is as bad for the mind as it is for the body. Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead. Consistent intellectualism and spirituality may be socially valuable, up to a point; but they make, gradually, for individual death.
    • "Wordsworth in the Tropics" in Do What You Will (1929).
  • Single-mindedness is all very well in cows or baboons; in an animal claiming to belong to the same species as Shakespeare it is simply disgraceful.
  • The poet is, etymologically, the maker. Like all makers, he requires a stock of raw materials — in his case, experience. Now experience is not a matter of having actually swum the Hellespont, or danced with the dervishes, or slept in a doss-house. It is a matter of sensibility and intuition, of seeing and hearing the significant things, of paying attention at the right moments, of understanding and co-ordinating. Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him. It is a gift for dealing with the accidents of existence, not the accidents themselves. By a happy dispensation of nature, the poet generally possesses the gift of experience in conjunction with that of expression.
    • Texts and Pretexts (1932), p. 5.
  • It is man's intelligence that makes him so often behave more stupidly than the beasts. … Man is impelled to invent theories to account for what happens in the world. Unfortunately, he is not quite intelligent enough, in most cases, to find correct explanations. So that when he acts on his theories, he behaves very often like a lunatic. Thus, no animal is clever enough, when there is a drought, to imagine that the rain is being withheld by evil spirits, or as punishment for its transgressions. Therefore you never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion. No horse, for example would kill one of its foals to make the wind change direction. Dogs do not ritually urinate in the hope of persuading heaven to do the same and send down rain. Asses do not bray a liturgy to cloudless skies. Nor do cats attempt, by abstinence from cat's meat, to wheedle the feline spirits into benevolence. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, intelligent enough.
    • Texts and Pretexts (1932), p. 270.
  • To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs.
  • Death is the only thing we haven't succeeded in completely vulgarizing.
  • The propagandist's purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.
  • History teaches us that war is not inevitable. Once again, it is for us to choose whether we use war or some other method of settling the ordinary and unavoidable conflicts between groups of men.
    • What Are You Going To Do About It? The case for constructive peace (1936).
  • All war propaganda consists, in the last resort, in substituting diabolical abstractions for human beings. Similarly, those who defend war have invented a pleasant sounding vocabulary of abstractions in which to describe the process of mass murder.
    • "Pacifism and Philosophy" (1936).
  • My sympathies are, of course, with the Government side, especially the Anarchists; for Anarchism seems to me more likely to lead to desirable social change than highly centralized, dictatorial Communism.
    • Authors Take Sides on the Spanish War (1937) edited by Nancy Cunard and publisehd by the Left Review.
  • As for 'taking sides' — the choice, it seems to me, is no longer between two users of violence, two systems of dictatorship. Violence and dictatorship cannot produce peace and liberty; they can only produce the results of violence and dictatorship, results with which history has made us only too sickeningly familiar. The choice now is between militarism and pacifism. To me, the necessity of pacifism seems absolutely clear.
    • Authors Take Sides on the Spanish War (1937) edited by Nancy Cunard and published by the Left Review.
  • The Quaestor turned back the pages until he found himself among the Pensées. “We are not satisfied,” he read, “with the life we have in ourselves and our own being; we want to live an imaginary life in other people’s idea of us. Hence all our efforts are directed to seeming what we are not. We labor incessantly to preserve and embellish this imaginary being, and neglect that which is really ours.” The Quaestor put down the book, … and ruefully reflected that all his own troubles had arisen from this desire to seem what in fact he was not. To seem a man of action, when in fact he was a contemplative; to seem a politician, when nature had made him an introspective psychologist; to seem a wit, which God had intended him for a sage.
    • “Variations on a Philosopher” in Themes and Variations (1943), p. 2.
  • Facts are ventriloquists' dummies. Sitting on a wise man's knee they may be made to utter words of wisdom; elsewhere, they say nothing, or talk nonsense, or indulge in sheer diabolism.
    • "Bruno Rontini" in Time Must Have A Stop (1944).
  • There's only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self.
    • Time Must Have a Stop (1944).
  • Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.
  • Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.
    • "Variations on a Philosopher" in Themes and Variations (1950).
  • A belief in hell and the knowledge that every ambition is doomed to frustration at the hands of a skeleton have never prevented the majority of human beings from behaving as though death were no more than an unfounded rumour, and survival a thing beyond the bounds of possibility.
    • Themes and Variations (1950).
  • At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice, and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols.
    • Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (1952).
  • The trouble with fiction… is that it makes too much sense. Reality never makes sense.
    • "John Rivers" in The Genius and the Goddess (1955).
  • You can't worship a spirit in spirit, unless you do it now. Wallowing in the past may be good literature. As wisdom, it's hopeless. Time Regained is Paradise Lost, and Time Lost is Paradise Regained. Let the dead bury their dead. If you want to live at every moment as it presents itself, you've got to die to every other moment.
    • John Rivers in The Genius and the Goddess (1955).
  • Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.
    • "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow" in Adonis and the Alphabet (1956); later in Collected Essays (1959), p. 293.
  • We may not appreciate the fact; but a fact nevertheless it remains: we are living in a Golden Age, the most gilded Golden Age of human history — not only of past history, but of future history. For, as Sir Charles Darwin and many others before him have pointed out, we are living like drunken sailors, like the irresponsible heirs of a millionaire uncle. At an ever accelerating rate we are now squandering the capital of metallic ores and fossil fuels accumulated in the earth’s crust during hundreds of millions of years. How long can this spending spree go on? Estimates vary. But all are agreed that within a few centuries or at most a few millennia, Man will have run through his capital and will be compelled to live, for the remaining nine thousand nine hundred and seventy or eighty centuries of his career as Homo sapiens, strictly on income. Sir Charles is of the opinion that Man will successfully make the transition from rich ores to poor ores and even sea water, from coal, oil, uranium and thorium to solar energy and alcohol derived from plants. About as much energy as is now available can be derived from the new sources — but with a far greater expense in man hours, a much larger capital investment in machinery. And the same holds true of the raw materials on which industrial civilization depends. By doing a great deal more work than they are doing now, men will contrive to extract the diluted dregs of the planet’s metallic wealth or will fabricate non-metallic substitutes for the elements they have completely used up. In such an event, some human beings will still live fairly well, but not in the style to which we, the squanderers of planetary capital, are accustomed.
    • "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow" in Adonis and the Alphabet (1956); later in Collected Essays (1959), p. 293.
  • That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.
  • Of course I base my characters partly on the people I know—one can’t escape it—but fictional characters are oversimplified; they’re much less complex than the people one knows.
  • All gods are homemade, and it is we who pull their strings, and so, give them the power to pull ours.
  • One Folk, One Realm, One Leader. Union with the unity of an insect swarm. Knowledgeless understanding of nonsense and diabolism. And then the newsreel camera had cut back to the serried ranks, the swastikas, the brass bands, the yelling hypnotist on the rostrum. And here once again, in the glare of his inner light, was the brown insectlike column, marching endlessly to the tunes of this rococo horror-music. Onward Nazi soldiers, onward Christian soldiers, onward Marxists and Muslims, onward every chosen People, every Crusader and Holy War-maker. Onward into misery, into all wickedness, into death!
  • Never give children a chance of imagining that anything exists in isolation. Make it plain from the very beginning that all living is relationship. Show them relationships in the woods, in the fields, in the ponds and streams, in the village and in the country around it. Rub it in.
  • Words are good servants but bad masters.
    • As quoted by Laura Huxley, in conversation with Alan Watts about her memoir This Timeless Moment (1968), in Pacifica Archives #BB2037 [sometime between 1968-1973])
  • Maybe this world is another planet's Hell.
    • As quoted in Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time (1979) by Laurence J. Peter, p. 239.
  • It's a bit embarrassing... to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'Try to be a little kinder.'
    • As quoted in Huston Smith, "Aldous Huxley--A Tribute," The Psychedelic Review, (1964) Vol I, No.3, (Aldous Huxley Memorial Issue), p. 264-5.
  • Who lives longer? the man who takes heroin for two years and dies, or a man who lives on roast beef, water and potatoes 'till 95? One passes his 24 months in eternity. All the years of the beefeater are lived only in time.
    • The Shortcut: 20 Stories To Get You From Here To There (2006) by Kevin A Fabiano, p. 179.
  • Music is an ocean, but the repertory is hardly even a lake; it is a pond.
    • Interview, Time magazine, December 1957.

Proper Studies (1927)[edit]

  • Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
  • Those who believe that they are exclusively in the right are generally those who achieve something.
  • That all men are equal is a proposition which at ordinary times no sane individual has ever given his assent.
  • The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.
  • Defined in psychological terms, a fanatic is a man who consciously over-compensates a secret doubt.
    • "The Substitutes for Religion, The Religion of Sex".

Do What You Will (1928)[edit]

  • There are many kinds of gods. Therefore there are many kinds of men.
  • To talk about religion except in terms of human psychology is an irrelevance.
  • Jehovah, Allah, the Trinity, Jesus, Buddha, are names for a great variety of human virtues, human mystical experiences, human remorses, human compensatory fantasies, human terrors, human cruelties. If all men were alike, all the world would worship the same God.
  • Confronted, when the weather is fine and I am in propitious emotional circumstances, with certain landscapes, certain works of art, certain human beings, I know, for the time being, that God's in his heaven and all's right with the world. On other occasions, skies and destiny being inclement, I am no less immediately certain of the malignant impersonality of an uncaring universe. Every human being has had similar experiences. This being so, the sensible thing to do would be to accept the facts and frame a metaphysic to fit them. But with that talent for doing the wrong thing, that genius for perversity, so characteristically human, men have preferred, especially in recent times, to take another course. They have either denied the existence of these psychological facts; or if they have admitted them, have done so only to condemn as evil all such experiences as cannot be reconciled in a logical system with whatever particular class of experiences they have chosen, arbitrarily, to regard as "true" and morally valuable. Every man tries to pretend that he is consistently one kind of person and does his best consistently to worship one kind of God. And this despite the fact that he experiences diversity and actually feels himself in contact with a variety of divinities.
  • Out psychological experiences are all equally facts.
  • From the internal reality, by which I means the totality of psychological experiences, it [science] actually separates us. Art, for example, deals with many more aspects of this internal reality than does science, which confines itself deliberately and by convention to the study of one very limited class of experiences—the experiences of sense.
  • To the gross senses the chair seems solid and substantial. But the gross senses and be refined by means of instruments. Closer observations are made, as the result of which we are forced to conclude that the chair is “really” a swarm of electric charges whizzing about in empty space. … While the substantial chair is an abstraction easily made from the memories of innumerable sensations of sight and touch, the electric charge chair is a difficult and far-fetched abstraction from certain visual sensations so excessively rare (they can only come to us in the course of elaborate experiments) that not one man in a million has ever been in the position to make it for himself. The overwhelming majority of us accept the electric-charge chair on authority, as good Catholics accept transubstantiation.
  • It is because we are predominantly purposeful beings that we are perpetually correcting our immediate sensations. But men are free not to be utilitarianly purposeful. They can sometime be artists, for example. In which case they may like to accept the immediate sensation uncorrected, because it happens to be beautiful.
  • One right-thinking man thinks like all other right-thinking men of his time—that is to say, in most cases, like some wrong-thinking man of another time.
  • Why did it occur to anyone to believe in only one God? And conversely why did it ever occur to anyone to believe in many gods? To both these questions we must return the same answer: Because that is how the human mind happens to work. For the human mind is both diverse and simple, simultaneously many and one. We have an immediate perception of our own diversity and of that of the outside world. And at the same time we have immediate perceptions of our own oneness.
  • There has been a general trend in recent times toward a Unitarian mythology and the worship of one God. This is the tendency which it is customary to regard as spiritual progress. On what grounds? Chiefly, so far as one can see, because we in the Twentieth Century West are officially the worshippers of a single divinity. A movement whose consummation is Us must be progressive. Quod erat demonstrandum.
  • The modern world is still suffering from the native incapacity of the Jews to be political. The art of making and preserving a City, which we call be the Greek name, “Politics,” was never an indigenous growth among the Hebrews. The City of the Greeks and the other civilized nations of antiquity was hateful to them. Their ideas were essentially anti-political. The politics of Judaea, when there were any, were borrowed from the Egyptians and Babylonians and, later, from the Greeks. These borrowings were regarded with violent disapproval by the champions of Hebrew orthodoxy, who objected to organized civilization on two grounds. Some, like Amos, hated it just because it was civilization and not nomadic barbarism. It was in the desert that God had made his covenant with the Chosen Race, and in the desert there was nothing else to think about but God. So, Back to the Desert! was their war-cry. Others, the Ebionites, objected to civilization because it was hierarchical, because it made for social inequality. They gave prophetically indignant utterance to the envious hatred of the poor in cash and in spirit against the rich and talented and cultured. A pious and universal mediocrity was their ideal.
    • “One and Many,” pp. 17–18.
  • There was a time when I should have felt terribly ashamed of not being up-to-date. I lived in a chronic apprehension lest I might, so to speak, miss the last bus, and so find myself stranded and benighted, in a desert of demodedness, while others, more nimble than myself, had already climbed on board, taken their tickets and set out toward those bright but, alas, ever receding goals of Modernity and Sophistication. Now, however, I have grown shameless, I have lost my fears. I can watch unmoved the departure of the last social-cultural bus—the innumerable last buses, which are starting at every instant in all the world’s capitals. I make no effort to board them, and when the noise of each departure has died down, “Thank goodness!” is what I say to myself in the solitude. I find nowadays that I simply don’t want to be up-to-date. I have lost all desire to see and do the things, the seeing and doing of which entitle a man to regard himself as superiorly knowing, sophisticated, unprovincial; I have lost all desire to frequent the places and people that a man simply must frequent, if he is not to be regarded as a poor creature hopelessly out of the swim. “Be up-to-date!” is the categorical imperative of those who scramble for the last bus. But it is an imperative whose cogency I refuse to admit. When it is a question of doing something which I regard as a duty I am as ready as anyone else to put up with discomfort. But being up-to-date and in the swim has ceased, so far as I am concerned, to be a duty. Why should I have my feelings outraged, why should I submit to being bored and disgusted for the sake of somebody else’s categorical imperative? Why? There is no reason. So I simply avoid most of the manifestations of that so-called “life” which my contemporaries seem to be so unaccountably anxious to “see”; I keep out of range of the “art” they think is so vitally necessary to “keep up with”; I flee from those “good times” in the “having” of which they are prepared to spend so lavishly of their energy and cash.
    • “Silence is Golden,” p. 55.
  • If good music has charms to soothe the savage breast, bad music has no less powerful spells for filling the mildest breast with rage, the happiest with horror and disgust. Oh, those mammy songs, those love longings, those loud hilarities! How was it possible that human emotions intrinsically decent could be so ignobly parodied.
    • “Silence is Golden,” p. 59.
  • In the old dramas it was love that had to be sacrificed to painful duty. In the modern instance the sacrifice is at the shrine of what William James called “the Bitch Goddess, Success.” Love is to be abandoned for the stern pursuit of newspaper notoriety and dollars.
    • “Silence is Golden,” p. 61.
  • The film concludes with … the most nauseatingly luscious, the most penetratingly vulgar mammy song that it has ever been my lot to hear. My flesh crept as the loud speaker poured out those sodden words, the greasy, sagging melody. I felt ashamed of myself for listening to such things, for even being a member of the species to which such things are addressed.
    • “Silence is Golden,” p. 62.
  • To aspire to be superhuman is a most discreditable admission that you lack the guts, the wit, the moderating judgment to be successfully and consummately human.

Point Counter Point (1928)[edit]

  • Several excuses are always less convincing than one.
  • Lord Edward was not listening to his assistant. He had taken his pipe out of his mouth, he had lifted his head and at the same time slightly cocked it on one side. He was frowning, as though making an effort to seize and remember something. He raised his hand in a gesture that commanded silence; Illidge interrupted himself in the middle of his sentence and also listened. A pattern of melody faintly traced itself upon the silence...
    Pongileoni's bowing and the scraping of the anonymous fiddlers had shaken the air in the great hall, had set the glass of the windows looking onto it vibrating: and thus in turn had shaken the air in Lord Edward's apartment on the further side. The shaking air rattled Lord Edward's membrane tympani; the interlocked malleus, incus, and stirrup bones were set in motion so as to agitate the membrane of the oval window and raise an infinitesimal storm in the fluid of the labyrinth. The hairy endings of the auditory nerve shuddered like weeds in a rough sea; a vast number of obscure miracles were performed in the brain, and Lord Edwards ecstatically whispered "Bach!" He smiled with pleasure, his eyes lit up. The young girl was singing to herself in solitude under the floating clouds. And then the cloud-solitary philosopher began poetically to meditate. "We must really go downstairs and listen," said Lord Edward. He got up, "Come," he said. "Work can wait. One doesn't hear this sort of thing every night."
  • Ever since his mother’s second marriage Spandrell had always perversely made the worst of things, chosen the worst course, deliberately encouraged his own worst tendencies. It was with debauchery that he distracted his endless leisures. He was taking his revenge on her... He was spiting her, spiting himself, spiting God. He hoped there was a hell for him to go to and regretted his inability to believe in its existence. was even exciting in those early days to know that one was doing something bad and wrong. But there is in debauchery something so intrinsically dull, something so absolutely and hopelessly dismal, that it is only the rarest beings, gifted with much less than the usual amount of intelligence and much more than the usual intensity of appetite, who can go on actively enjoying a regular course of vice or continue actively to believe in its wickedness. Most habitual debauchees are debauchees not because they enjoy debauchery, but because they are uncomfortable when deprived of it. Habit converts luxurious enjoyments into dull and daily necessities.
  • The course of every intellectual, if he pursues his journey long and unflinchingly enough, ends in the obvious, from which the non-intellectuals have never stirred. ...The thoroughly contemptible man may have valuable opinions, just as in some ways the admirable man can have detestable opinions. ...Many intellectuals, of course, don’t get far enough to reach the obvious again. They remain stuck in a pathetic belief in rationalism and the absolute supremacy of mental values and the entirely conscious will. You’ve got to go further than the nineteenth-century fellows, for example; as far at least as Protagoras and Pyrrho, before you get back to the obvious in which the nonintellectuals have always remained. ...these nonintellectuals aren’t the modern canaille who read the picture papers and... are preoccupied with making money... They take the main intellectualist axiom for granted—that there’s an intrinsic superiority in mental, conscious, voluntary life over physical, intuitive, instinctive, emotional life. The whole of modern civilization is based on the idea that the specialized function which gives a man his place in society is more important than the whole man, or rather is the whole man, all the rest being irrelevant or even (since the physical, intuitive, instinctive and emotional part of man doesn’t contribute appreciably to making money or getting on in an industrialized world) positively harmful and detestable. ...The nonintellectuals I’m thinking of are very different beings. ...There were probably quite a lot of them three thousand years ago. But the combined efforts of Plato and Aristotle, Jesus, Newton and big business have turned their descendants into the modern bourgeoisie and proletariat. The obvious that the intellectual gets back to, if he goes far enough, isn’t of course the same as the obvious of the nonintellectuals. For their obvious is life itself and his recovered obvious is only the idea of that life. Not many can put flesh and blood on the idea and turn it into reality. The intellectuals who, like Rampion, don’t have to return to the obvious, but have always believed in it and lived it, while at the same time leading the life of the spirit, are rarer still.
    • Ch. 26. Note: the character Mark Rampion, a writer, painter and fierce critic of modern society, is based on D. H. Lawrence

Music at Night and Other Essays (1931)[edit]

  • After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
  • For in spite of language, in spite of intelligence and intuition and sympathy, one can never really communicate anything to anybody.
    • "Sermons in Cats the musical".
  • I met, not long ago, a young man who aspired to become a novelist. Knowing that I was in the profession, he asked me to tell him how he should set to work to realize his ambition. I did my best to explain. 'The first thing,' I said, 'is to buy quite a lot of paper, a bottle of ink, and a pen. After that you merely have to write.'
  • Speed, it seems to me, provides the one genuinely modern pleasure.
  • If we could sniff or swallow something that would, for five or six hours each day, abolish our solitude as individuals, atone us with our fellows in a glowing exaltation of affection and make life in all its aspects seem not only worth living, but divinely beautiful and significant, and if this heavenly, world-transfiguring drug were of such a kind that we could wake up next morning with a clear head and an undamaged constitution-then, it seems to me, all our problems (and not merely the one small problem of discovering a novel pleasure) would be wholly solved and earth would become paradise.
  • Experience teaches only the teachable…
    • Tragedy and the Whole Truth.
  • Half of the human race lives in manifest obedience to the lunar rhythm; and there is evidence to show that the psychological and therefore the spiritual life, not only of women, but of men too, mysteriously ebbs and flows with the changes of the moon. There are unreasoned joys, inexplicable miseries, laughters and remorses without a cause. Their sudden and fantastic alternations constitute the ordinary weather of our minds. These moods, of which the more gravely numinous may be hypostasized as gods, the lighter, if we will, as hobgoblins and fairies, are the children of the blood and humours. But the blood and humours obey, among many other masters, the changing moon. Touching the soul directly through the eyes and, indirectly, along the dark channels of the blood, the moon is doubly a divinity.
    • "Meditation on the Moon".
  • How shall we define a god? Expressed in psychological terms (which are primary-there is no getting behind them) a god is something that gives us the peculiar kind of feeling which Professor Otto has called "numinous". Numinous feelings are the original god-stuff from which the theory-making mind extracts the individualised gods of the pantheon.
    • "Meditation on the Moon".

Brave New World (1932)[edit]

Main article: Brave New World

  • Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrong-doing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.
    • Foreword, to the 1946 edition.
  • Unless we choose to decentralize and to use applied science, not as the end to which human beings are to be made the means, but as the means to producing a race of free individuals, we have only two alternatives to choose from: either a number of national, militarized totalitarianisms, having as their root the terror of the atomic bomb and as their consequence the destruction of civilization (or, if the warfare is limited, the perpetuation of militarism); or else one supra-national totalitarianism, called into existence by the social chaos resulting from rapid technological progress in general and the atomic revolution in particular, and developing, under the need for efficiency and stability, into the welfare-tyranny of Utopia. You pays your money and you takes your choice.
    • Foreword to the 1946 edition.
  • Of course some sort of general idea they must have, if they were to do their work intelligently — though as little of one as possible. For particulars, as every one knows, make for virtue and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils. Not philosophers but fretsawyers and stamp collectors compose the backbone of society.
  • Sleep teaching was actually prohibited in England. There was something called liberalism. Parliament, if you know what that was, passed a law against it. The records survive. Speeches about liberty of the subject. Liberty to be inefficient and miserable. Freedom to be a round peg in a square hole.
  • You can't consume much if you sit still and read books.
  • The greater a man's talents, the greater his power to lead astray. It is better that one should suffer than that many be corrupted.
  • Well, I'd rather be unhappy than have the sort of false, lying happiness you were having here.
  • The optimum population is modeled on the iceberg — eight ninths below the water line, one ninth above.
    • The Controller, Mustapha Mond, in Ch. 16.
  • I'm interested in truth, I like science. But truth's a menace, science is a public danger. As dangerous as it's been beneficent. … It's curious … to read what people in the time of Our Ford used to write about scientific progress. They seemed to imagine that it could go on indefinitely, regardless of everything else. Knowledge was the highest good, truth the supreme value; all the rest was secondary and subordinate. True, ideas were beginning to change even then. Our Ford himself did a great deal to shift the emphasise from truth and beauty to comfort and hapiness. Mass production demanded the shift. Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can't. And, of course, whenever the masses seized political power, then it was happiness rather than truth and beauty that mattered. Still, in spite of everything, unrestricted scientific resarch was still permitted. People still went on talking about truth and beauty as though they were sovereign goods. Right up to the time of the Nine Years' War. That made them change their tune all right. What's the point of truth or beauty or knowledge when the anthrax bombs are popping all around you? That was when science first began to be controlled — after the Nine Years' War. People were ready to have even their appetites controlled then. Anything for a quiet life. We've gone on controlling ever since. It hasn't been very good for truth, of course. But it's been very good for happiness. One can't have something for nothing. Happiness has got to be paid for.
    • Mustapha Mond, in Ch. 16.
  • God isn't compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness.
    • The Controller, Mustapha Mond, in Ch. 17.
  • People believe in God because they've been conditioned to believe in God.
    • The Controller, Mustapha Mond, in Ch. 17.

Ends and Means (1937)[edit]

  • So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly rise and make them miserable.
  • In recent years, many men of science have come to realize that the scientific picture of the world is a partial one — the product of their special competence in mathematics and their special incompetence to deal systematically with aesthetic and moral values, religous experiences and intuitions of significance. Unhappily, novel ideas become acceptable to the less intelligent members of society only with a very considerable time-lag. Sixty or seventy years ago the majority of scientists believed — and the belief caused them considerable distress — that the product of their special incompetence was identical with reality as a whole. Today this belief has begun to give way, in scientific circles, to a different and obviously truer conception of the relation between science and total experience.
  • The end cannot justify the means for the simple and obvious reason that the means employed determine the nature of the ends produced.
  • The masses on the contrary, have just reached the point where the ancestors of today's scientists were standing two generations back. They are convinced that the scientific picture of an arbitrary abstraction from reality is a picture of reality as a whole and that therefore the world is without meaning or value. But nobody likes living in such a world. To satisfy their hunger for meaning and value, they turn to such doctrines as nationalism, fascism and revolutionary communism. Philosophically and scientifically, these doctrines are absurd; but for the masses in every community, they have this great merit: they attribute the meaning and value that have been taken away from the world as a whole to the particular part of the world in which the believers happen to be living.
  • Our conviction that the world is meaningless is due in part to the fact (discussed in a later paragraph) that the philosophy of meaningless lends itself very effectively to furthering the ends of political and erotic passion; in part to a genuine intellectual error - the error of identifying the world of science, a world from which all meaning has deliberately been excluded, with ultimate reality.
  • For myself as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom; we objected to the political and economic system because it was unjust. The supporters of these systems claimed that in some way they embodied the meaning (a Christian meaning, they insisted) of the world. There was an admirably simple method of confuting these people and at the same time justifying ourselves in our political and erotic revolt: we could deny that the world had any meaning whatsoever. Similar tactics had been adopted during the eighteenth century and for the same reasons… The men of the new Enlightenment, which occurred in the middle years of the nineteenth century, once again used meaninglessness as a weapon against the reactionaries. The Victorian passion for respectability was, however, so great that, during the period when they were formulated, neither Positivism nor Darwinism was used as a justification for sexual indulgence.
  • First Shakespeare sonnets seem meaningless; first Bach fugues, a bore; first differential equations, sheer torture. But training changes the nature of our spiritual experiences. In due course, contact with an obscurely beautiful poem, an elaborate piece of counterpoint or of mathematical reasoning, causes us to feel direct intuitions of beauty and significance. It is the same in the moral world.
  • A man who has trained himself in goodness come to have certain direct intuitions about character, about the relations between human beings, about his own position in the world — intuitions that are quite different from the intuitions of the average sensual man.
  • It is only when it takes the form of physical addiction that sex is evil. It is also evil when it manifests itself as a way of satisfying the lust for power or the climber's craving for position and social distinction.
  • Wherever we turn we find that the real obstacles to peace are human will and feeling, human convictions, prejudices, opinions. If we want to get rid of war we must get rid first of all of its psychological causes. Only when this has been done will the rulers of the nations even desire to get rid of the economic and political causes.
  • It often happens that reforms merely have the effect of transferring the undesirable tendencies of individuals from one channel to another channel. An old outlet for some particular wickedness is closed; but a new outlet is opened. The wickedness is not abolished; it is merely provided with a different set of opportunities for self-expression.

Words and Their Meanings (1940)[edit]

  • A great deal of attention has been paid … to the technical languages in which men of science do their specialized thinking … But the colloquial usages of everyday speech, the literary and philosophical dialects in which men do their thinking about the problems of morals, politics, religion and psychology — these have been strangely neglected. We talk about "mere matters of words" in a tone which implies that we regard words as things beneath the notice of a serious-minded person.
    This is a most unfortunate attitude.
    For the fact is that words play an enormous part in our lives and are therefore deserving of the closest study. The old idea that words possess magical powers is false; but its falsity is the distortion of a very important truth. Words do have a magical effect — but not in the way that magicians supposed, and not on the objects they were trying to influence. Words are magical in the way they affect the minds of those who use them. "A mere matter of words," we say contemptuously, forgetting that words have power to mould men's thinking, to canalize their feeling, to direct their willing and acting. Conduct and character are largely determined by the nature of the words we currently use to discuss ourselves and the world around us.
    • Quoted as the opening passage of "BOOK ONE: The Functions of Language" in Language in Thought and Action (1949) by S. I. Hayakawa, p. 3.

Introduction to the Bhagavad-Gita (1944)[edit]

Huxley's introduction to Bhagavad-Gita : The Song of God (1944) as translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood
  • More than twenty-five centuries have passed since that which has been called the Perennial Philosophy was first committed to writing; and in the course of those centuries it has found expression, now partial, now complete, now in this form, now in that, again and again. In Vedanta and Hebrew prophecy, in the Tao Teh King and the Platonic dialogues, in the Gospel according to St. John and Mahayana theology, in Plotinus and the Areopagite, among the Persian Sufis and the Christian mystics of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance — the Perennial Philosophy has spoken almost all the languages of Asia and Europe and has made use of the terminology and traditions of every one of the higher religions. But under all this confusion of tongues and myths, of local histories and particularist doctrines, there remains a Highest Common Factor, which is the Perennial Philosophy in what may be called its chemically pure state. This final purity can never, of course, be expressed by any verbal statement of the philosophy, however undogmatic that statement may be, however deliberately syncretistic. The very fact that it is set down at a certain time by a certain writer, using this or that language, automatically imposes a certain sociological and personal bias on the doctrines so formulated. It is only in the act of contemplation when words and even personality are transcended, that the pure state of the Perennial Philosophy can actually be known. The records left by those who have known it in this way make it abundantly clear that all of them, whether Hindu, Buddhist, Hebrew, Taoist, Christian, or Mohammedan, were attempting to describe the same essentially indescribable Fact.
  • The original scriptures of most religions are poetical and unsystematic. Theology, which generally takes the form of a reasoned commentary on the parables and aphorisms of the scriptures, tends to make its appearance at a later stage of religious history. The Bhagavad-Gita occupies an intermediate position between scripture and theology; for it combines the poetical qualities of the first with the clear-cut methodicalness of the second… one of the clearest and most comprehensive summaries of the Perennial Philosophy ever to have been made. Hence its enduring value, not only for Indians, but for all mankind.
  • At the core of the Perennial Philosophy we find four fundamental doctrines.
    First: the phenomenal world of matter and of individualized consciousness — the world of things and animals and men 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.
    Second: human beings are capable not merely of knowing about the Divine Ground by inference; they can also realize its existence by a direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning. This immediate knowledge unites the knower with that which is known.
    Third: 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 the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.
    Fourth: man’s life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify himself with his eternal Self and so to come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.
  • Suso has even left a diagrammatic picture of the relations subsisting between Godhead, triune God and creatures. In this very curious and interesting drawing a chain of manifestation connects the mysterious symbol of the Divine Ground with the three Persons of the Trinity, and the Trinity in turn is connected in a descending scale with angels and human beings. These last, as the drawing vividly shows, may make one of two choices. They can either live the life of the outer man, the life of the separative selfhood; in which case they are lost (for, in the words of the Theologia Germanica, “nothing burns in hell but the self”). Or else they can identify themselves with the inner man, in which case it becomes possible for them, as Suso shows, to ascend again, through unitive knowledge, to the Trinity and even, beyond the Trinity, to the ultimate Unity of the Divine Ground.
  • The second doctrine of the Perennial Philosophy — that it is possible to know the Divine Ground by a direct intuition higher than discursive reasoning — is to be found in all the great religions of the world. A philosopher who is content merely to know about the ultimate Reality — theoretically and by hearsay — is compared by Buddha to a herdsman of other men’s cows. Mohammed uses an even homelier barnyard metaphor. For him the philosopher who has not realized his metaphysics is just an ass bearing a load of books. Christian, Hindu, Taoist teachers wrote no less emphatically about the absurd pretensions of mere learning and analytic reasoning.
  • The unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground has, as its necessary condition, self-abnegation and charity. Only by means of self-abnegation and charity can we clear away the evil, folly and ignorance which constitute the thing we call our personality and prevent us from becoming aware of the spark of divinity illuminating the inner man.
  • The spark within is akin to the Divine Ground. By identifying ourselves with the first we can come to unitive knowledge of the second. These empirical facts of the spiritual life have been variously rationalized in terms of the theologies of the various religions. The Hindus categorically affirm that Thou art That — that the indwelling Atman is the same as Brahman. For orthodox Christianity there is not an identity between the spark and God. Union of the human spirit with God takes place — union so complete that the word deification is applied to it; but it is not the union of identical substances. According to Christian theology, the saint is “deified,” not because Atman is Brahman, but because God has assimilated the purified human spirit in to the divine substance by an act of grace. Islamic theology seems to make a similar distinction. The Sufi, Mansur, was executed for giving to the words “union” and “deification” the literal meaning which they bear in the Hindu tradition. For our present purposes, however, the significant fact is that these words are actually used by Christians and Mohammedans to describe the empirical facts of metaphysical realization by means of direct, super-rational intuition.
  • In regard to man’s final end, all the higher religions are in complete agreement. The purpose of human life is the discovery of Truth, the unitive knowledge of the Godhead. The degree to which this unitive knowledge is achieved here on earth determines the degree to which it will be enjoyed in the posthumous state. Contemplation of truth is the end, action the means.
  • Because machines could be made progressively more and more efficient, Western man came to believe that men and societies would automatically register a corresponding moral and spiritual improvement. Attention and allegiance came to be paid, not to Eternity, but to the Utopian future. External circumstances came to be regarded as more important than states of mind about external circumstances, and the end of human life was held to be action, with contemplation as a means to that end. These false and historically, aberrant and heretical doctrines are now systematically taught in our schools and repeated, day in, day out, by those anonymous writers of advertising copy who, more than any other teachers, provide European and American adults with their current philosophy of life. And so effective has been the propaganda that even professing Christians accept the heresy unquestioningly and are quite unconscious of its complete incompatibility with their own or anybody else’s religion.
  • Many Catholic mystics have affirmed that, at a certain stage of that contemplative prayer in which, according to the most authoritative theologians, the life of Christian perfection ultimately consists, it is necessary to put aside all thought of the Incarnation as distracting from the higher knowledge of that which has been incarnated. From this fact have arisen misunderstandings in plenty and a number of intellectual difficulties.
  • Human beings are not born identical. There are many different temperaments and constitutions; and within each psycho-physical class one can find people at very different stages of spiritual development. Forms of worship and spiritual discipline which may be valuable for one individual maybe useless or even positively harmful for another belonging to a different class and standing, within that class, at a lower or higher level of development.
  • I have tried to show that the Perennial Philosophy and its ethical corollaries constitute a Highest Common Factor, present in all the major religions of the world. To affirm this truth has never been more imperatively necessary than at the present time. There will never be enduring peace unless and until human beings come to accept a philosophy of life more adequate to the cosmic and psychological facts than the insane idolatries of nationalism and the advertising man’s apocalyptic faith in Progress towards a mechanized New Jerusalem. All the elements of this philosophy are present, as we have seen, in the traditional religions. But in existing circumstances there is not the slightest chance that any of the traditional religions will obtain universal acceptance. Europeans and Americans will see no reason for being converted to Hinduism, say, or Buddhism. And the people of Asia can hardly be expected to renounce their own traditions for the Christianity professed, often sincerely, by the imperialists who, for four hundred years and more, have been systematically attacking, exploiting, and oppressing, and are now trying to finish off the work of destruction by “educating” them. But happily there is the Highest Common Factor of all religions, the Perennial Philosophy which has always and everywhere been the metaphysical system of prophets, saints and sages. It is perfectly possible for people to remain good Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, or Moslems and yet to be united in full agreement on the basic doctrines of the Perennial Philosophy.
  • The Bhagavad-Gita is perhaps the most systematic scriptural statement of the Perennial Philosophy. To a world at war, a world that, because it lacks the intellectual and spiritual prerequisites to peace, can only hope to patch up some kind of precarious armed truce, it stands pointing, clearly and unmistakably, to the only road of escape from the self-imposed necessity of self-destruction.

The Doors of Perception (1954)[edit]

The title of this work derives from a statement by William Blake: "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite".
  • To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large — this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual.
  • Art, I suppose, is only for beginners, or else for those resolute dead-enders, who have made up their minds to be content with the ersatz of Suchness, with symbols rather than with what they signify, with the elegantly composed recipe in lieu of actual dinner.
  • To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift. Hardly less important is the capacity to see others as they see themselves.
  • We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies — all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.
  • The really important facts were that spatial relationships had ceased to matter very much and that my mind was perceiving the world in terms of other than spatial categories. At ordinary times the eye concerns itself with such problems as where? — how far? — how situated in relation to what? In the mescaline experience the implied questions to which the eye responds are of another order. Place and distance cease to be of much interest. The mind does its perceiving in terms of intensity of existence, profundity of significance, relationships within a pattern."
  • And suddenly I had an inkling of what it must feel like to be mad.
  • "Is it agreeable?" somebody asked.
"Neither agreeable nor disagreeable," I answered. "it just is." Istigkeit - wasn't that the word Meister Eckhart liked to use? "Is-ness." The Being of Platonic philosophy - except that Plato seems to have made the enormous, the grotesque mistake of separating Being from becoming and identifying it with the mathematical abstraction of the Idea. He could never, poor fellow, have seen a bunch of flowers shining with their own inner light and all but quivering under the pressure of the significance with which they were charged; could never have perceived that what rose and iris and carnation so intensely signified was nothing more, and nothing less, than what they were - a transience that was yet eternal life, a perpetual perishing that was at the same time pure Being, a bundle of minute, unique particulars in which, by some unspeakable and yet self-evident paradox, was to be seen the divine source of all existence. (page 4-5).
  • I strongly suspect that most of the great knowers of Suchness paid very little attention to art.… (To a person whose transfigured and transfiguring mind can see the All in every this, the first-rateness or tenth-rateness of even a religious painting will be a matter of the most sovereign indifference.) Art, I suppose, is only for beginners, or else for those resolute dead-enders, who have made up their minds to be content with the ersatz of Suchness, with symbols rather than with what they signify, with the elegantly composed recipe in lieu of actual dinner.
  • The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.
  • In the days before machinery men and women who wanted to amuse themselves were compelled, in their humble way, to be artists. Now they sit still and permit professionals to entertain them by the aid of machinery. It is difficult to believe that general artistic culture can flourish in this atmosphere of passivity.
  • All that the conscious ego can do is to formulate wishes, which are then carried out by forces which it controls very little and understands not at all.
  • The Beatific Vision, Sat Chit Ananda, Being-Awareness-Bliss-for the first time I understood, not on the verbal level, not by inchoate hints or at a distance, but precisely and completely what those prodigious syllables referred to. And then I remembered a passage I had read in one of Suzuki's essays. “What is the Dharma-Body of the Buddha?” ('“the Dharma-Body of the Buddha” is another way of saying Mind, Suchness, the Void, the Godhead.) The question is asked in a Zen monastery by an earnest and bewildered novice. And with the prompt irrelevance of one of the Marx Brothers, the Master answers, “The hedge at the bottom of the garden.” “And the man who realizes this truth,” the novice dubiously inquires, “what, may I ask, is he?” Groucho gives him a whack over the shoulders with his staff and answers, “A golden-haired lion.”
  • It had been, when I read it, only a vaguely pregnant piece of nonsense. Now it was all as clear as day, as evident as Euclid. Of course the Dharma-Body of the Buddha was the hedge at the bottom of the garden. At the same time, and no less obviously, it was these flowers, it was anything that I—or rather the blessed Not-I, released for a moment from my throttling embrace—cared to look at.
    • describing his experiment with mescaline, pp. 18-19.
  • “What about spatial relationships?” the investigator inquired, as I was looking at the books. It was difficult to answer. True, the perspective looked rather odd, and the walls of the room no longer seemed to meet in right angles. But these were not the really important facts. The really important facts were that spatial relationships had ceased to matter very much and that my mind was perceiving the world in terms of other than spatial categories. At ordinary times the eye concerns itself with such problems as Where?—How far?—How situated in relation to what? In the mescalin experience the implied questions to which the eye responds are of another order. Place and distance cease to be of much interest. The mind does its Perceiving in terms of intensity of existence, profundity of significance, relationships within a pattern. I saw the books, but was not at all concerned with their positions in space. What I noticed, what impressed itself upon my mind was the fact that all of them glowed with living light and that in some the glory was more manifest than in others. In this context position and the three dimensions were beside the point. Not, of course, that the category of space had been abolished. When I got up and walked about, I could do so quite normally, without misjudging the whereabouts of objects. Space was still there; but it had lost its predominance. The mind was primarily concerned, not with measures and locations, but with being and meaning.
    • describing his experiment with mescaline, pp. 19-20.
  • I was looking at my furniture, not as the utilitarian who has to sit on chairs, to write at desks and tables, and not as the cameraman or scientific recorder, but as the pure aesthete whose concern is only with forms and their relationships within the field of vision or the picture space. But as I looked, this purely aesthetic, Cubist's-eye view gave place to what I can only describe as the sacramental vision of reality. I was back where I had been when I was looking at the flowers—back in a world where everything shone with the Inner Light, and was infinite in its significance.
    • describing his experiment with mescaline, p. 22.
  • Reflecting on my experience, I find myself agreeing with the eminent Cambridge philosopher, Dr. C. D. Broad, “that we should do well to consider much more seriously than we have hitherto been inclined to do the type of theory which Bergson put forward in connection with memory and sense perception. The suggestion is that the function of the brain and nervous system and sense organs is in the main eliminative and not productive. Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. The function of the brain and nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment, and leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful.” According to such a theory, each one of us is potentially Mind at Large. But in so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive. To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet. To formulate and express the contents of this reduced awareness, man has invented and endlessly elaborated those symbol-systems and implicit philosophies which we call languages. Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he has been born—the beneficiary inasmuch as language gives access to the accumulated records of other people's experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it bedevils his sense of reality, so that he is all too apt to take his concepts for data, his words for actual things. That which, in the language of religion, is called “this world” is the universe of reduced awareness, expressed, and, as it were, petrified by language. The various “other worlds,” with which human beings erratically make contact are so many elements in the totality of the awareness belonging to Mind at Large. Most people, most of the time, know only what comes through the reducing valve and is consecrated as genuinely real by the local language. Certain persons, however, seem to be born with a kind of by-pass that circumvents the reducing valve. In others temporary by-passes may be acquired either spontaneously, or as the result of deliberate “spiritual exercises,” or through hypnosis, or by means of drugs. Through these permanent or temporary by-passes there flows, not indeed the perception “of everything that is happening everywhere in the universe” (for the by-pass does not abolish the reducing valve, which still excludes the total content of Mind at Large), but something more than, and above all something different from, the carefully selected utilitarian material which our narrowed, individual minds regard as a complete, or at least sufficient, picture of reality.
    • describing his experiment with mescaline, p. 22-24.
  • These effects of mescalin are the sort of effects you could expect to follow the administration of a drug having the power to impair the efficiency of the cerebral reducing valve. When the brain runs out of sugar, the undernourished ego grows weak, can't be bothered to undertake the necessary chores, and loses all interest in those spatial and temporal relationships which mean so much to an organism bent on getting on in the world. As Mind at Large seeps past the no longer watertight valve, all kinds of biologically useless things start to happen. … Other persons discover a world of visionary beauty. To others again is revealed the glory, the infinite value and meaningfulness of naked existence, of the given, unconceptualized event.
    • describing his experiment with mescaline, p. 26.
  • How significant is the enormous heightening, under mescalin, of the perception of color! … Man's highly developed color sense is a biological luxury—inestimably precious to him as an intellectual and spiritual being, but unnecessary to his survival as an animal. … Mescalin raises all colors to a higher power and makes the percipient aware of innumerable fine shades of difference, to which, at ordinary times, he is completely blind. It would seem that, for Mind at Large, the so-called secondary characters of things are primary.
    • describing his experiment with mescaline, pp. 26-27.
  • We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstacies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude.
  • We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.
  • To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift. Hardly less important is the capacity to see others as they see themselves.
  • I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation — the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence.
  • What the rest of us see only under the influence of mescalin, the artist is congenitally equipped to see all the time. His perception is not limited to what is biologically or socially useful.
  • The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less cocksure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.

Heaven and Hell (essay) (1954)[edit]

  • I was sitting on the seashore, half listening to a friend arguing violently about something which merely bored me. Unconsciously to myself, I looked at a film, of sand I had picked up on my hand, when I suddenly saw the exquisite beauty of every little grain of it; instead of being dull, I saw that each particle was made up on a perfect geometrical pattern, with sharp angles, from each of which a brilliant shaft of light was reflected, while each tiny crystal shone like a rainbow. . . . The rays crossed and recrossed, making exquisite patterns of such beauty that they left me breathless. ... Then, suddenly, my consciousness was lighted up from within and I saw in a vivid way how the whole universe was made up of particles of material which, no matter how dull and lifeless they might seem, were nevertheless filled with this intense and vital beauty. For a second or two the whole world appeared as a blaze of glory. When it died down, it left me with something I have never forgotten and which constantly reminds me of the beauty locked up in every minute speck of material around us.

Brave New World Revisited (1958)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback published in the Perennial Library by Harper & Row (1965)
  • The soul of wit may become the very body of untruth.
  • The nature of power is such that even those who have not sought it, but have had it forced upon them, tend to acquire a taste for more.
  • Liberty, as we all know, cannot flourish in a country that is permanently on a war footing, or even a near war footing. Permanent crisis justifies permanent control of everybody and everything by the agencies of central government.
  • Democracy can hardly be expected to flourish in societies where political and economic power is being progressively concentrated and centralized. But the progress of technology has led and is still leading to just such a concentration and centralization of power.
  • Never have so many been manipulated so much by so few.
  • Societies are composed of individuals and are good only insofar as they help individuals to realize their potentialities and to lead a happy and creative life.
  • In the course of evolution nature has gone to endless trouble to see that every individual is unlike every other individual.… Physically and mentally, each one of us is unique. Any culture which, in the interests of efficiency or in the name of some political or religious dogma, seeks to standardize the human individual, commits an outrage against man’s biological nature.
  • It is in the social sphere, in the realm of politics and economics, that the Will to Order becomes really dangerous.
  • However hard they try, men cannot create a social organism, they can only create an organization. In the process of trying to create an organism they will merely create a totalitarian despotism.
  • Propaganda in favor of action that is consonant with enlightened self-interest appeals to reason by means of logical arguments based upon the best available evidence fully and honestly set forth. Propaganda in favor of action dictated by the impulses that are below self-interest offers false, garbled or incomplete evidence, avoids logical argument and seeks to influence its victims by the mere repetition of catchwords, by the furious denunciation of foreign or domestic scapegoats, and by cunningly associating the lower passions with the highest ideals, so that atrocities come to be perpetrated in the name of God and the most cynical kind of Realpolitik is treated as a matter of religious principle and patriotic duty.
  • “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free,” said Jefferson, “it expects what never was and never will be.”
  • In regard to propaganda the early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or it might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies—the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distraction.
  • Assembled in a crowd, people lose their powers of reasoning and their capacity for moral choice.
  • Unlike the masses, intellectuals have a taste for rationality and an interest in facts.
  • The survival of democracy depends on the ability of large numbers of people to make realistic choices in the light of adequate information.
  • The indispensible is not necessarily the desirable.
  • Most kings and priests have been despotic, and all religions have been riddled with superstition.
  • The effectiveness of political and religious propaganda depends upon the methods employed, not upon the doctrines taught. These doctrines may be true or false, wholesome or pernicious—it makes little or no difference.
  • An unexciting truth may be eclipsed by a thrilling falsehood.
  • Children are nowhere taught, in any systematic way, to distinguish true from false, or meaningful from meaningless, statements. Why is this so? Because their elders, even in the democratic countries, do not want them to be given this kind of education.
  • Who is going to educate the human race in the principles and practice of conservation?
  • In any race between human numbers and natural resources, time is against us.
  • It is a political axiom that power follows property.
  • At this point we find ourselves confronted by a very disquieting question: Do we really wish to act upon our knowledge?


  • An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex.
    • As quoted without citation in Discovering Evolutionary Ecology: Bringing Together Ecology And Evolution
To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift. Hardly less important is the capacity to see others as they see themselves.
The propagandist's purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.
At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice, and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols.
Words are good servants but bad masters.
It's a bit embarrassing... to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'Try to be a little kinder.'
In regard to man’s final end, all the higher religions are in complete agreement. The purpose of human life is the discovery of Truth, the unitive knowledge of the Godhead.

Huxley, Aldous 1894–1963

Huxley was a British-American novelist, essayist, critic, poet, and playwright. Trained in medicine, he was always interested in science; later in life he turned to mysticism and was preoccupied with the occult. His vast learning and searching intelligence are apparent in all of his forty-five books.

Point Counter Point with its counterpointed narratives might be described as a multiple 'novel of ideas'; while Eyeless in Gaza hardly belongs to the original genre at all. The conversion theme of this novel demanded a more complex analysis of character and a narrative which stretched over four decades, neither of which could be accommodated within the basically static structure of the 'novel of ideas'. The result was Huxley's most ambitious experiment in form; it contains some of his highly developed characters, and, in spite of the copious notebook extracts, it can hardly be dismissed as a lengthy essay with added entertainments.

The utopian novels, Brave New World and Island, deserve special mention as they both carry a heavy burden of exposition. This, in itself, does not necessarily point to failure: the 'novel of ideas' by its very nature allows for a large measure of expository material. Perhaps the only criterion we can apply is that the exposition should be lively and that it should be tempered by a measure of dialectical opposition. Brave New World, which originated as a parody of the Wellsian utopias, is largely satirical and the expository material never loses its incisive quality. Island, on the other hand, as the portrait of an ideal society, offers little scope to the satirist—here the community itself is the norm and only such a peripheral character as the Rani of Pala, a Madame Blavatsky figure, allows for true Peacockian caricature. Further, the savage in Brave New World supplies a dialectical opposition which Will Farnaby totally fails to provide in Island. As a result the ideas lack the dramatic qualities they possess in the earlier novels. This is not to say that Island is completely without merit as a 'novel of ideas'; it is redeemed to a large extent by its sheer intellectual density and the wealth of ideas which it has to offer, but it is the one major novel to which the criticism of 'a lengthy essay with added entertainments' might fairly be applied. In conclusion, it must be said that it is not the least of Huxley's achievements that he has revived an outmoded form, to which only one major English novelist had previously aspired, and blessed it with the touch of his genius. Under Huxley, the 'novel of ideas' has approached the status of a major art form. (pp. 14-15)

Eyeless in Gaza, Huxley's single complete expression of the conversion theme, his first novel to restore the meaning, stands central to his work as a whole. Everything he wrote earlier is in a sense preparatory, everything subsequent a tailing off, except for the final utopian vision of Island. After Crome Yellow the theme of moral regeneration, leading to Anthony Beavis's conversion, is latent in all the novels of the nineteen-twenties. (pp. 19-20)

The search for a more desirable way of life is clearly the most important single theme in Huxley's novels. What distinguishes Huxley's work from that of other moralists is the treatment of this theme within the framework of the 'novel of ideas'. The idea of conversion, for example, is central to both Eyeless in Gaza and Tolstoy's Resurrection but it is clear that apart from their parallel themes the two works have little in common. It is not just that Huxley's form and characterization owe nothing to the nineteenth-century novel, the whole moral climate has changed. In the eighteen-nineties, Tolstoy could appeal to what was still a traditional morality: to Nekhlyudov, at grips with the problems of a stricken conscience and the Tsarist penal code, Christianity was still a powerful moral force. For Anthony Beavis, no such traditional morality existed: science had made Christian dogmas intellectually unacceptable and if the findings of science were true not even the basis of a humanistic morality remained. The challenge to moral values, then, as it appeared to Huxley in the nineteen-twenties, was substantially an ideological one, a matter of dialectic in which the appeal is to the intellect rather than the emotions. (p. 22)

There is little doubt that when Point Counter Point was written, Huxley was a confirmed convert to [D. H.] Lawrence's ideas and the novel with its sympathetic portraits of Frieda and Lawrence as Mary and Mark Rampion is in many respects a tribute to their friendship. Huxley's debt to Lawrence was further acknowledged in Do What You Will, the volume of essays published in the same year. To what extent Lawrence actually caused Huxley to deviate from his original path is a matter of argument. The strong anti-clerical element prevalent in Huxley's writing at this time was undoubtedly the result of Lawrence's influence; on the other hand, Lawrence merely reinforced Huxley's growing distrust of intellectualism, and Point Counter Point and Brave New World represent Huxley's most concentrated attack on the scientific attitude and its effect on the modern world. (p. 78)

While it is profitable to compare, say, Brave New World with Men Like Gods and The Shape of Things to Come, it is worth noting that none of Huxley's novels have yet fallen into the ranks of literary curiosities. His novels have always been something more than mere vehicles for the popularization of ideas; and, although the polemical element is never totally absent from his work, it is almost invariably subordinated to the wider demands of his art. That his interest in the novel declined towards the end of his career is indisputable, but this is no reason for our dismissing him as an inferior talent. (p. 213)

All of Huxley's major novels, with the exception of Island, are conceived as ironic structures. The death of Grace Elver in Those Barren Leaves; the isolation and suicide of the Savage in Brave New World; the discovery of the senescent Fifth Earl in After Many a Summer, all provide the final twist of the screw, the ironic reversal which is the characteristic of Huxley's art. Even in Island, the least ironic of Huxley's novels, the forces of reason are crushed at the very moment of Will Farnaby's conversion, a piece of super-added irony that caused at least one critic to lose his bearings. What, however, distinguishes Huxley's art is the breadth of his ironic vision, the intensity of the viewpoint which it provides. Nothing is spared, nothing assumed or taken for granted. No one since Swift—certainly not Peacock, to whom Huxley's satire owes a great deal—has viewed the totality of human activity with such complete scepticism. (p. 214)

The weaknesses in Huxley's novels can almost always be traced back to his failure to find an adequate correlative for the presentation of 'goodness'. It is perhaps debatable whether a writer who is primarily an ironist and a satirist should in fact try to explore the more positive aspects of human nature. His appointed task is to tear away the mask of human pretensions, to shock us into awareness; if he momentarily drops the cloak of irony, he takes the risk of either lapsing into sentimentality or becoming merely a propagandist. It must be admitted that Huxley's attempts at moralizing bring him dangerously close to failure on both counts. In the early novels, whenever irony is absent, he is betrayed into sentimentality. The Emily episode in Antic Hay, with its recurrent references to wild flowers, 'barrel-bellied ponies' and the 'twiddly lanes of Robertsbridge', is at its best an unhappy interlude. What must be considered the most ineffective chapter in Point Counter Point—one which must have caused Lawrence considerable embarrassment—is that describing the early life of Mary and Mark Rampion, an impossibly idealized version of Lawrence's meeting and courtship of Frieda. These lapses into sentimentality disappear in the later novels although the brand of 'goodness' exhibited by Brian and Mrs Foxe in Eyeless in Gaza might give some readers a moment of uneasiness. (pp. 225-26)

Huxley never really solved the problem of placing 'goodness' within a novel of this kind. It is indicative of his failure that the redemptive characters, the exemplary figures of Gumbril Senior, Rampion, Dr Miller, Propter and Bruno Rontini, all stand outside the ironic structure of the novel. Unlike the redemptive characters of E. M. Forster, they are largely powerless to influence events and share no significant part in the action of the novel. (p. 226)

The theme of moral regeneration which plays an important part in Huxley's novels also demands an active demonstration of 'goodness' and once again we find Huxley involved in problems of a formal nature. In the early novels the mood of disenchantment predominates and, except for Calamy's precipitant conversion in the final chapters of Those Barren Leaves, the moral and satirical elements are for the greater part in harmony. In the later novels the theme of moral regeneration appears and this becomes a secondary principle of organization. As we have seen the theme of conversion is largely autobiographical; it begins in Antic Hay and reaches a climax in Eyeless in Gaza. As the theme develops so the problem of form becomes critical, the 'conversion episodes' trying to impose themselves, as it were, on the ironic structure of the novel. The formal weaknesses in Huxley's novels belong almost entirely to his failure to reconcile the two opposing elements. (p. 228)

Island, the least ironic of the major novels, is the least typical, the least Huxleyan. As a synthesis of ideas it is impressive by any standard, nevertheless it remains the one work which clearly approaches failure. Huxley's art depends above all on a dialectic of ideas, a dialectic engendered by the major ironies inherent in the human condition. This dialectic is absent in Island and in consequence, the sense of urgency present in the earlier novels, is lacking. Here the utopian theme could not be treated ironically; thus the situation presents basically the same problem Huxley faced earlier, the portrayal of goodness, only this time on a larger scale. It is significant that the utopian Palanese are the least effective of Huxley's redemptive figures; they fail to emerge as individuals and their virtues are expounded rather than lived. The failure to provide an adequate core of dialectic can be attributed to a great extent to the sketchy characterization of Farnaby. Will Farnaby, whose antecedents lie in Chelifer and Anthony Beavis, is an ineffective foil to the Palanese; as a world-weary Gulliver among the Houyhnhnms, he is too quickly charmed by the superior virtues of his hosts; as a result whatever conflict might have centred on his conversion is immediately lost and with it the dialectic which might have provided a backbone to the novel. (pp. 230-31)

Huxley's inability to animate the ideas in Island, to provide a central point of conflict lies not so much in the fact of his conversion, but in the nature of the conversion itself. Mahayana Buddhism, as Huxley insists, is a way of looking at life which reconciles opposites: 'the blessed experience of Not-Two'. In brief, it dissolves the opposing elements which lie at the heart of the ironist's vision: man as a product of his genes and his glands; man as a creature of sensitivity and suffering. To the Mahayanist, 'Born under one law, to another bound' is not a theme for ironic commentary, but merely a distorted vision of reality. It is impossible to be an ironist without being a dualist at the same time; irony depends for its strength on the co-existence of two irreconcilable sets of ideas and this is inimical to the whole concept of Buddhist thought. The point is worth emphasizing because this kind of reconciliation is rare in Western thought; dualism is in fact the basis of Western culture, and it was within the framework of a dualist philosophy that Huxley created his major work….

The harmony which Huxley achieves as a moralist in Island, then, was gained at the expense of his ironic vision. Farnaby, of course, remains attached to the old way of life as his Mescalin experience illustrates; but his cynical asides, the puppet figures of the Rani and Colonel Dipa—these are little more than left-overs from the earlier novels. The ideas remain, ideas which … provide an important closing chapter to Huxley's development as a moralist, but the unifying factor has gone; what is left is certainly a novel with ideas but one which rightly belongs to the province of the essayist rather than the novelist. The history of Huxley's decline as a novelist is in effect the history of his decline as an ironist and his failure to find an alternative form. (pp. 232-33)

Peter Bowering, in his Aldous Huxley: A Study of The Major Novels (copyright © 1969 by Peter Bowering; reprinted by permission of The Athlone Press of the University of London), Athlone Press, 1969.

Whether Aldous Huxley has been a force for good or evil, whether he is an artist more noted for his contributions to the novel of ideas or for the ideas themselves, whether he is chiefly a romantic or a neoclassicist—on these questions, critics have not agreed. He has been called a frustrated romantic by [David Daiches in The Novel and the Modern World]; he has been attacked because he has joined Freud, Jung, Adler, and Lawrence "to sow distrust of reason, and to represent it as a mere tool of the unconscious [by C. E. M. Joad in Return to Philosophy]. His view of life has been characterized as "essential sterility" [by Millett, Manly and Rickert in Contemporary British Literature], and his embracing of mysticism has been called "the rationalist's substitute for suicide" [by Edwin Berry Burgum in The Novel and the World's Dilemma]. But Huxley has had his defenders, too. His description of the modern world has been hailed as "far more honest and decent than the early Victorian age depicted in Bulwer Lytton's Pelham" [by Morris R. Cohen in The Faith of a Liberal]. Similarly, "despite the temptations which beset a successful author," he never "seriously compromised with his intellectual integrity" [Jocelyn Brooke in Aldous Huxley]….

Wherein then lies the value in giving serious consideration to Huxley? Precisely in his being able to articulate the intellectual and moral conflicts being fought in the collective soul of the twentieth century. D. H. Lawrence would express his reactions viscerally but failed to look through a microscope, as Huxley reminds us. James Joyce could disentangle himself from the nets in which he felt caught, but he did not seem aware of the oases to be found in Eastern meditative systems. E. M. Forster knew of passages to other cultures but preferred to regard art as self-sufficient rather than as catalytic. Virginia Woolf knew the agony of private torment but did not realize the healing that can emerge from societal involvement. It was Huxley of all these twentieth-century English writers who best reflected and coordinated the divisions of the modern world; he best expressed its Weltanschauung in its most universal sense. Thomas Henry Huxley, Aldous Huxley's grandfather, was called "Darwin's bulldog" because he so tenaciously clung to and advocated Darwin's theories; similarly, Aldous Huxley may become best known for being both an observer of and a contributor to the shifting values of our world.

That Huxley's works have always demonstrated a search for values can be shown by an analysis of his works from the very beginning. The novels published in the 1920's (Crome Yellow, Antic Hay, Those Barren Leaves, and Point Counter Point) were all concerned with showing how some of the traditional sources of value—religion, love, family life—were absent from the postwar generation. Most readers thought these books to be cynically entertaining and did not see their essentially moral undercurrent. (pp. 4-5)

He attacks the growing preoccupation with hedonism, materialism, technology, and false intellectualism in Brave New World (1932), Eyeless in Gaza (1936), After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (1939), Time Must Have a Stop (1944), and Ape and Essence (1948). He considers alternatives to materialism: mysticism (The Perennial Philosophy, 1946), an intelligent application of science (Science, Liberty and Peace, 1947), and a fusion of mysticism and science (Island, 1962). Occasionally, as in The Doors of Perception (1954) and Heaven and Hell (1956), he endorses the use of hallucinogenic drugs as a means of heightening one's spiritual and aesthetic awareness. Brave New World Revisited (1948) considers "the subject of freedom and its enemies." Even in books that are purportedly biographical, there is evident concern with moral directions; when he writes about the life of Father Joseph, adviser to Cardinal Richelieu, he deplores the evil mingling of spiritual and material values—saying, in effect, that Caesar and God cannot be served simultaneously. Similarly, in The Devils of Loudun (1952), he impregnates the biography of a seventeenth-century monk with meaning for this century. The life of Maine de Biran, the eighteenth-century French philosopher, occupies about half of Themes and Variations, but here again, as with the other subjects found in this 1950 volume, Huxley's observations are tinged with moral implications. (p. 7)

Huxley … prefers to consider his characters as states of being rather than what E. M. Forster would call "round characters." It is no wonder then that his characters can be classified under so many "humors." First, there is the intellectual who has developed his mentality but pathetically neglected the emotional and physical sides of life—people like Philip Quarles (Point Counter Point), Denis Stone (Crome Yellow), Bernard Marx (Brave New World), Shearwater (Antic Hay), Anthony Beavis (Eyeless in Gaza). Then there is the sardonic cynic—people like Spandrell (Point Counter Point) and Mark Staithes (Eyeless Gaza). There is the promiscuous female—characters like Mary Thriplow (Those Barren Leaves), Mrs. Viveash (Antic Hay), Lucy Tantamount (Point Counter Point), Lenina Crowne (Brave New World), and Virginia Maunciple (After Many a Summer Dies the Swan). The mystic began to appear in the novels of the 1930's—characters like Mr. Propter (After Many a Summer Dies the Swan), Dr. Miller (Eyeless in Gaza), and Bruno Rontini (Time Must Have a Stop). Other characters of humors could be listed to make the point that most of Huxley's characters are used to illustrate the values (or more often, the lack of values) of certain ways of life. (p. 8)

Despite his inclusion of a mystic character in all his novels beginning with Eyeless in Gaza, it is revealing that the characters who most closely resembled Huxley in those novels (people like Anthony Beavis in Eyeless in Gaza and Sebastian Barnack in Time Must Have a Stop) were not the mystics but those Hamlet-like individuals who were frozen into inaction by their excessive cerebration. The mystic characters, it would seem, typified the person whom Huxley would have liked to emulate. He still remained the person who found conflict between his ideals and reality; who preferred to detach himself from the torrent of life's paradoxes…. (p. 18)

Basic to any interpretation of Huxley's quest for values is an understanding of Huxley's conception of reality, for therein lie the causes for his seeming inconsistencies, his sardonic irony, his rejection of many of the traditional sources of meaning in life, his plunge from the fetters of self, time, and space into self-transcendent mysticism, and finally, his attempt in his last novel (Island) to attain heaven on earth by embracing the knowledge of science along with the wisdom of religion….

Huxley's search for reality assumed three seemingly different directions. Until the 1930's, Huxley's books (both fiction and nonfiction) examined a world in which the traditional sources of value (Judeo-Christian religion, patriotism, the conventional frameworks of private and public morality, the "progress" concept derived from the findings of science) were either replaced by a moral vacuum or else privately violated while publicly espoused. Such books as Crome Yellow, Antic Hay, and Point Counter Point indicate Huxley's disillusionment with Western society. In the second stage, approximately from the publication of his Eyeless in Gaza (1936) through The Perennial Philosophy (1945), Huxley tried to embrace the reality offered by mysticism, especially that preached by Buddhism. Then, in the last decade and a half of his life, Huxley tried to incorporate Buddhism within the framework of science (pp. 27-8)

Let us briefly review the path Huxley took before he embarked on the road to the ultimate reality as revealed by mysticism. He first found objective reality (the world of matter as measured and interpreted by science) both ugly and incomplete. Subjective reality (as explained by most philosophies of the Western World) he found equally objectionable because in most instances these philosophies were merely rationalizations of basic ugliness and selfishness. On the question of teleology, he found little to write about. On the problem of causality, he felt that hereditary and environmental forces are influential; at the same time, he believed, or at least hoped, that an assertion of will can do much to combat the determinism of heredity and environment. Looking at history, he found that the mistakes of the past tend to be repeated. This concept of reality led Huxley first to a kind of bitter cynicism…. Even the mystics found in Huxley's early works are somewhat cynical. Mr. Propter, in After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, tells Pete: "Most of the things that we're all taught to respect and reverence—they don't deserve anything but cynicism" (p. 97). It was almost inevitable, therefore, that the vacillations from despair to hope, from hope to cynicism again, vacillations which both objective and subjective reality engendered in Huxley, should yield to an attempt to find an absolute reality. This absolute reality Huxley found synonymous with the divine reality, or the divine Godhead. "Ultimate reality is at once transcendent and immanent. God is the creator and sustainer of the world; yet the kingdom of God is also within us…" (Grey Eminence, p. 59). It is characterized by self-transcendence, that is, by a negation of the world of the ego, of animal desires, or carnal and material aspirations. The philosophy of this absolute reality is the perennial philosophy….

This self-transcendence and loss of personality is the only effective cure for a world suffering from idolatry, stupidity, and cruelty. In the ultimate reality, we can find true salvation. This attainment of the divine Godhead, Huxley felt, can be facilitated by a strong determination to do so. (pp. 36-7)

Selfhood, time, space—these are the obstacles to attainment of self-transcendence. And yet, unless we achieve this state, Huxley warned us in Themes and Variations, we are slaves to sorrow, wars, barbarism, futility….

Huxley did not believe that very many people are capable of achieving this self-transcendence, although there has always been yearning for self-transcendence because human beings are tired of themselves, their dreary lives, and their responsibilities. (p. 38)

Despite Huxley's passionate belief that the divine reality is the only reality that can bring salvation, he was sufficiently pragmatic to recognize the limited appeal of such a philosophy of reality for most people. With the exception of the people in Island, all the mystics in his novels are, significantly enough, either old or else completely without any family responsibility. (pp. 38-9)

Possibly because Huxley realized that the life of self-transcendence could not be attained by very many people if will power were the only means utilized, Huxley began experimenting with certain drugs like mescalin. He found that the mystic euphoria could be reached not merely by a saintly self-transcendence, but by the taking of these drugs as well. Consequently, the books he wrote during the last decade of his life (The Doors of Perception, Heaven and Hell, Brave New World Revisited, Island, and literature and Science) show an increasing respect for science as a means of ordering the chaos of reality into a sane existence. In the utopian society of Pala that he created in his last novel, Island, chemistry, physics, physiology, and other sciences are no longer satirized as they were in Brave New World. There is still, however, an occasional cynical echo from Huxley's early period. (pp. 39-40)

It should be fairly obvious, however, that Huxley's return to science and religion does not mean that he finally succeeded in his quest for truth. (p. 40)

Huxley began by trying to attain "Shanti." He ended by embracing the hallucinatory bliss of "moksha-medicine." On his pilgrimage to reach the shrine of understanding the ultimate reality, he ended by embracing not reality but an escape from it. (p. 41)

Although Huxley has offered many suggestions to effect an ideal government and the establishment of peace, what underlies all his statements for reform is a current of pessimism about the ultimate efficiency of any attempt to ameliorate the evils of our society. This undercurrent of pessimism is perhaps responsible for the paradoxical juxtaposition of offering a cure in one book, and then satirizing it in the next. For example, although he will advocate the creation of bridge-builders to bring about a better understanding of the various countries and philosophies in the world, he will satirize such a bridge-builder as De Vries in Time Must Have a Stop. Similarly, although he mildly favors the establishment of a world government, he will say, in The Perennial Philosophy, that what is needed is more decentralization…. (p. 114)

Despite the lack of finality and absolute certitude in the reforms he suggests, the impression that clearly emerges from the reading of his works written prior to Island is that government per se cannot possibly serve as a source of permanent value…. (p. 115)

Little wonder that Huxley tried to resolve the mess of human problems by detaching himself from them; consequently, his penultimate solution for the problem which a consideration of government, war, and peace engenders is a life of mystical nonattachment and a striving for a unitive knowledge and love of God. (p. 116)

Whatever else Aldous Huxley may have been, he was not a romantic, at least not a dedicated one. The romantic preoccupation with love and Nature is manifestly absent from his writings….

From his earliest novel, Crome Yellow, to his last, Island (in spite of his attempts there to preach the yoga of love), sexual relationships are never considered a source of value. His comments about love in his nonfiction works likewise treat physical love disparagingly. With the exception of several artifically delineated happy marriages in Island, there is not a single love affair in all of Huxley's novels that is successfully and satisfyingly consummated; the marital and extramarital relationships all lead to pain or frustration. (p. 119)

Up to the time that he embraced mysticism as a way of life, Huxley had been grappling with the problem of sex and love and had come up with no satisfying solution. (p. 128)

In Huxley's novels, Nature is almost completely absent; to this extent, he might be called an urban novelist. He is primarily concerned with the life in the cities, the sophisticated conversations held in drawing rooms. Nearly all his characters are members of the upper classes and of the genteel professions. There are no laborers or rustics in his works; his dialogue never has the Hardy earthiness; his characters speak aphoristically. The forces of Nature play no significant role either in the setting or the characterization of his novels. And yet, in a sense, Huxley does analyze Nature as a source of value: he first attacks the romantic conception of Nature which seeks to find in Nature the source of wisdom and beneficence; he also warns us that if we are to continue the callous exploitation of Nature's resources, then we are faced with a far graver crisis than the political struggle of opposing ideologies. (p. 133)

Huxley's objections to the encroachment of applied science upon our lives are twofold: first, applied science, he argues, has intensified standardized mediocrity and the loss of attention to intellectual and spiritual values; second, the technology of the scientist has contributed to the destructiveness of war and to the diminishing of individual freedom. (p. 144)

Has science, then, no value for man? Huxley tries to work out a kind of conciliatory compromise which would maintain the contributions of science in helping to solve man's ecological problems while it would also tend to eliminate some of the evils that an uncontrolled technology would create. He wants scientists to be more actively responsible for the technological improvements they help to bring into existence; in other words, he wants them to be morally responsible for their actions or, as has been the case in the past, for their lack of active protests against producing more destructive weapons of mass annihilation. He also wants people to recognize the fact that the advantages of technology also bring with them disadvantages. (p. 149)

In his evaluation of science as a source of value, Huxley assigns to science the same function he did to the arts: facilitating the apprehension of the nature of ultimate reality. Science, like the arts, should never become an end in itself; both science and the arts should not be worshiped as ultimately divine entities. Science and technology, unless carefully controlled, can cause many evils: increased mediocrity, rising unemployment, and the barbarisms of warfare and totalitarianism; science and technology can, however, help man wisely use the earth's natural resources and can even aid him in achieving "the end and ultimate purpose of human life: Enlightenment, the Beatific Vision" (Doors of Perception, p. 73). (p. 151)

His search for ultimate answers led him, in his examination of religion, into all kinds of paradoxical complexities which were not resolved very clearly in his works and into all kinds of generalizations which have little meaning when subjected to detailed scrutiny. For example, he will sometimes speak of Christianity or Judaism as if they were monolithic entities. Furthermore, when he talks of Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, or Mohammedanism, he does not consider the evolutionary changes that have been incorporated into these beliefs so that when he makes criticisms about them, one is not sure, for example, whether he is castigating the Mohammedanism of the late Middle Ages or the Mohammedanism of today….

There are other difficulties besides trying to find specific meaning in the welter of generalizations one finds in Huxley's comments on religion. There is the difficulty in trying to grasp Huxley's attempts to reconcile religion with philosophy, aesthetics, ethics, and government. There is also the problem of endeavoring to find a relationship between religion considered as a metaphysical concept and religion considered as ritual and as a practical guide to mundane problems. (p. 154)

He found little to admire in the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He blamed Judaism for narrowness of vision and excessive preoccupation with material success; he castigated Christianity for its cruel oppression of heresy, its occasional hypocrisy, its failure to object to the existence of wars; he criticized Islam for its pessimism and fatalism. It should be remembered, however, that what he was specifically rejecting in these three religions was the nonmystical element; wherever he found elements of mysticism, as he did in the Book of Ecclesiastes; in the writings of such mystic Christians as St. Augustine, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Meister Eckhart, Walter Hilton, William Law, St. François de Sales, Thomas Traherne, and others; in the Sufi books of Islam, he accepted their teachings of contemplation, renunciation of worldly preoccupation, and the practice of love. It is, therefore, not so much religion itself that he was rejecting but what he felt was the perversion of the religious essence. (p. 163)

Essentially, then, Huxley's religious quest has been paradoxical and tortuous. He began by mocking and rejecting the Judeo-Christian tradition (though accepting its occasional manifestations of mysticism), flirted temporarily with the Lawrentian doctrine of instinctive living and "blood consciousness," changed to contemplative investigation, turned to the East for further illumination, and died in the West trying to balance, in an uneasy syncretism, the Caliban of Western science with the Ariel of Buddhist mysticism. One is saddened to observe that the religious syncretism turned out to be a synthetic product, that his metaphysical quest ended with a pharmacological solution. (p. 174)

[Since] man lives in many compartments, Huxley also compartmentalized himself. His spiritual self sought value and meaning by turning ultimately to a unitive knowledge and love of God; his societal self realized that man does not live by spirit alone, and thus he wrote frequently about society's need to adopt rational and scientific approaches for its many problems such as an inadequate supply of food, overpopulation, and the threat of man's extinction by war. The inner search and external quest thus formed the two foci of his elliptical journey through life. It was a journey well taken. (p. 183)

Milton Birnbaum, in his Aldous Huxley's Quest for Values (copyright © 1971 by The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville), University of Tennessee Press, 1971.

The man who emphatically considers that Huxley attempted the novel proper with only an essayist's gifts is likely to be overlooking Huxley's positive aesthetic achievement. To think of Huxley simply as a satirist is to limit understanding of the purpose of his various devices. The term, 'novel of ideas', is accurate, but needs qualification and should not be allowed to impose the suggestion of a dwarfish offshoot of a grand phenomenon.

Very often, indeed, critics have argued that Huxley ought to have been doing this, that, or the other, instead of holding to his own peculiar course, and the fact that he openly took navigational directions from so many forerunners might sometimes have aided misunderstanding. His technical borrowings are numerous and they range over several arts, but they combine in every novel to form a new, Huxleyan whole. (p. 11)

One peculiarity of Huxley's fiction is the combination of the aims of the generalizing philosopher and the artist. He normally causes his language, his characters, his plots, his structures to signify richly rather than attempt to reproduce the exact multifariousness of personal experience. Particulars of persons, emotions, situations are often presented very clearly, but used (implicitly or explicitly) to illustrate generalities. (p. 14)

[For] Huxley the composition and disposition of characters are features of form. The characters are figures in landscapes, aesthetic components as well as arguments. Both major and minor characters have—quite realistically—clear features and accoutrements which bear out their natures, but, since they are for the most part comic figures (figures, that is to say, conceived in a comic mode even when they are not actually funny), they continually voice characteristic sentiments, and lack both inconsistency and the less obviously revealing surface of real-life conversation. (pp. 15-16)

The fact that Huxley's own people are personalities 'in the old sense of the word' is again a feature of the curious amalgam of the ways of science (or philosophy) and art. Huxley was interested in the classification of human beings, in the Galtonian, Jungian and Sheldonian categories especially, and he was keenly interested in the broad highways of response to experience. He regularly portrayed hedonists, for example, or cynics, because he wished to question the validity of their responses. Thus, while knowing all about the modern, 'atomized' personality, he yet tended to portray the contours of an individual's consciousness, and to align these contours with physical features, as if he believed that such a procedure is perfectly proper to a work of art, especially when that work includes mention of the true complexity of consciousness. It is safe to say that Huxley knew more about post-Bergson notions of the mind and more about the later developments of scientific psychology than most modern authors, but he did not regard such knowledge as necessarily replacing knowledge gained from the old, unprofessional psychologists, and all was grist to his mill. (p. 17)

It is hard to think of any other modern English writer so much possessed by death as Huxley. Death in his novels is often not so much a finale or a departure which produces its effect upon other characters; it is also a fact and a process to be contemplated in itself. Even in Crome Yellow Denis climactically thinks of suicide, while Sir Hercules and his wife actually kill themselves. Not many authors, one imagines, would in such a context include the business of severing the artery with a razor. In Antic Hay the Monster dies on the same evening that Lypiatt considers killing himself. Frequently the death is a climax and a turning-point. In Point Counter Point the deaths of little Phil and Webley occur, as does the death of Grace Elver in the present novel, just before the close, thus modifying all that has gone before and casting a shadow forward over the conclusion. By the time we close the novel old John Bidlake is about to die and Spandrell has been shot. In Eyeless in Gaza the details of the death of Brian Foxe (there are, of course others) are withheld until nearly the end; in Time Must Have a Stop the early farcical death of Eustace Barnack—followed by his revelations of life beyond the grave—is balanced by the later saintly death of Bruno Rontini. After Many a Summer reflects Huxley's preoccupation more concentratedly and obviously than any of the other novels. Just as characteristically Huxleyan is the car-accident and the mutilation of Katy Maartens in The Genius and the Goddess. In Brave New World the death of the Savage is the denouement, while earlier the act of dying has, for serious satirical purposes, been transformed into a painless event. In Island, too, the death of Lakshmi takes place with a minimum of pain, but this time a straightforwardly serious recommendation is being made. It is hardly necessary to comment upon the malformations of Ape and Essence or the descriptions of decrepitude, torture and death in two non-fictional works, Grey Eminence and The Devils of Loudun. (p. 69)

The half-way mark in Huxley's writing career, from The Burning Wheel (1916) to Island (1962), comes in 1939 when After Many a Summer was published; and in a valuable as well as a merely chronological sense Eyeless in Gaza represents the close of the first period. We have so far examined the variety of techniques which Huxley used to make sense of his experience, but from now on, excluding Ape and Essence, we shall be observing degrees of success in the techniques used to disseminate certainties. (p. 137)

It seems possible that between Crome Yellow and Eyeless in Gaza Huxley overlooked no alternative to the perennial philosophy and no loophole in the arguments for it. But [Eyeless in Gaza] is also a considerable literary feat because it pushes the novel of ideas as far as possible in the direction of the novel proper without losing the distinctive characteristics of the former or dealing less than ably with the requirements of the latter. (p. 138)

The Genius and the Goddess, a nouvelle of about thirty-thousand words, is for the most part in the guise of a piece of oral narration by a man who played a leading role in the events which he is now describing. This device should be seen first of all as yet another answer to a problem which Huxley had by now been faced with for some twenty years, the problem of how to pass on certainties without fracturing the work. He evidently felt the need to incorporate into his later fictions his own commentaries upon the actions. Take away Mr Propter, for example, and no one could make of the remaining events and characters of After Many a Summer what Huxley wished us to make of them. But in that novel the commentary and the action are more clearly separated than Huxley seems ever again to have regarded as satisfactory.

Now in The Genius and the Goddess the fictional element and the essay element are at one, though this has been achieved by minimizing the dramatic element. (p. 192)

Island is not a hotch-potch of proposals for the good life casually attached to an indifferent story, but a structure in which one's appreciation of each item is enhanced, directly or indirectly, by knowledge of many other items.

In this way the novel is a structure of close inter-relationships, and only the most trivial steps in the story are superfluous to Huxley's didactic purpose. If Will Farnaby has a bad fall, this is so that we can be shown how to deal with physical shocks; if a praying mantis comes on the scene, this is so that Will—and therefore the reader—can be taught in the final chapter how to accommodate even the apparently gratuitous horror of the mantis. Murugan is presumed to be homosexual solely to emphasize by contrast the wisdom of normal Palanese upbringing and the native methods of training in sexual activity. The Rani's theosophy constitutes both a touch of satire for our entertainment and an illustration of false spirituality. Vijaya is given physical strength partly in order to show how strength need not lead to bullying or contempt for the frail. Conversely, the maithuna instructress, Mrs Rao, is plump and 'very stupid upstairs' because it is necessary for us to realize that such traits need not be disadvantages. In particular, the concluding deaths of Lakshmi and Dr MacPhail occur so that the reader, having been 'trained', so to speak, by the earlier sections of the novel in a mode of acceptance of such experiences, can properly accept them.

In the foregoing remarks there are implications that some of the effects of Island are cumulative, and it is true that the closing chapters form a climax, not simply in the usual sense that a sequence of events bears fruit, but also in the unusual sense of a fusion and heightening of all the preceding ideas. And these ideas form a summit towards which Huxley can now be seen to have been struggling (often without knowing his direction) since at least 1920. (p. 214)

[Complex] emotions, of whatever strength, inform the novels, and it is for these emotions that Huxley in inventing his various devices, including the larger structures, found 'objective correlatives'. At one end of the sequence, the design, the incidents, the people and the language of Crome Yellow make up the formula for a particular compound of feelings, including sadness; while, at the other end, Island expresses bereavement. Neither the intellectual ideas which the novels are so full of, nor the technical ideas which Huxley thought up or adapted are merely sportive. He had an exceptional capacity for using ideas creatively, as expressive of the whole man. In this way, the tricks of Eyeless in Gaza should be recognized as reflecting full-blooded concerns with time, death and spiritual rebirth; and the fantastic effects of Ape and Essence as methods of organizing a mood of defection into a countervailing hope of change through the very carnality gross representations of which have helped to express the dejection. Brave New World is as much about personal problems as it is about problems of society.

One detects in Huxley's writings—alongside the Pyrrhonism which he gives to Philip Quarles and the searching for non-attachment which he gives to Calamy, Anthony Beavis and Sebastian Barnack—a kind of Stoicism arising from a conviction that, since the individual is a tiny fragment of the cosmic process, it is bad to 'make a fuss' about personal feelings. Instead of having an inclination to rage or repine about any shocking feature of the human condition, he continually recommended, either by direct statements or implicitly through his manner, a mixture of insouciance and intellectual honesty. But Huxley's emotions, though stoically restrained, never appear to have been evaded in the fiction, so that even Brave New World, the novel in which ideas seem most flagrantly to crowd out feelings, owes its distinction not only to its celebrated ingenuities but also to emotional pressures which, we can be sure, produced the main ingenuities, and which are amply (though inconspicuously) expressed by construction and style. (p. 225)

Keith M. May, in his Aldous Huxley, Paul Elek Books Ltd., 1972.

Aldous Huxley never again wrote as badly as in Eyeless in Gaza….

As a writer of fiction, Aldous Huxley made an impact which is likely to be felt longer than that of many better writers. This is not to say that the lessonless Point Counter Point and the wearisome Eyeless in Gaza, both forgotten today, are likely to be rediscovered and hailed by future generations. But Brave New World is still remembered and is likely to be for long, is spite of its Wellsian beliefs, in spite of the disastrous parable of the erudite Red Indian who represents the traditional world, in spite of the over-insistence.

As a writer of fiction, Huxley was far too imperfect a craftsman to be described as 'great'. If you want to be sure of that, read another didactic novel with aims similar to Huxley's, Candide…. Reading [Huxley's] books, one may often have the impression that he was an essayist forced [by his need for money] to express himself clumsily in novels.

Certainly he was a very remarkable essayist. His essays are almost all very good, and the bad ones belong mostly to his later years…. Whatever his theme, light or grave, his touch as an essayist was exquisite.

His spiritual and political philosophies were not separable. They were both concerned with an absolute morality based on biological considerations of the means needed to preserve the human race, and the merits of mystical pacifism. His influence on opinion in these respects was massive for a short time.

As a Huxley, he revered science, and though he was the first to protest against excessive scientific claims, he was averse to non-scientific ideas. His admiration for mysticism was to a great extent based on the view that the reality of the mystical experience is open to rational deduction. He did not give any attention to the doctrine of original sin. In a world dominated by Hitler and Stalin, he still could not but believe in the efficacy of persuasion alone. He saw equal impropriety in authoritarian war-mongering and the (unhappily inadequate) efforts of the civilized part of the world to resist. 'Only connect,' he might have said, as did E. M. Forster, another brilliant but bewildered thinker.

Christopher Sykes, "Aldous Huxley and Original Sin," in The Listener, November 1, 1973, pp. 601-02.

Huxley ends up focusing most of his satire at the point of balance where humanism and aspiration, body and soul, split. His work is comedy of ideas in a universe thus dichotomized between intellect and passion; what, though, is clear is that he recognizes that he himself is one of the order of persons he is satirizing—the new artist-intellectuals—and this induces narrative unease and even guilt, though it is of course essential to the sense of compelling honesty in his books. But it is also evident that his work arises in a very specific social milieu and the unease has a decided historical location. [Chrome Yellow, Antic Hay, Those Barren Leaves, and Point Counter Point] are very much about the twenties; Huxley writes them about and for a world in which his own sources in culture and art are insecure. The world is in a bewildering disorder; intelligence and reason alone cannot save it, but stand, with several of his heroes, bewildered before barbarism and passion….

Huxley's novels are largely novels of inaction, for his scrupulous, devastating analysis usually produces in the central characters a masochistic withdrawal from action. At the same time, the novels turn on the emptying out of the centre from any dream, hope, or institution, and hence have an apparent air of cynicism, a suggestion of universal failure.

But what is so very Huxleyan about these books is that the author's own cynicism and detachment are very much part of the matter for analysis. The embarrassment of the novelist's feeling that his own ideas and assumptions are themselves a sterile or incomplete view of life comes out most clearly in Point Counter Point, where the writing of novels of ideas becomes part of the theme, and where the character of Philip Quarles is the novelist's self-surrogate. But this element runs through all the twenties novels, starting in Chrome Yellow with the figure of Denis, the sensitive writer conscious of the loss of a real infinite to feed upon….

[For] Huxley the modern is a species of evolution as well as a matter for excellent comedy and farce, and so his world of parties, free love, adulteries, revolutionary and reactionary passions, and the boredom of 'disillusion after disillusion' is an intense experiencing of the times. The cultural and moral passions both expose and are exposed by the new freeing of repressions, the new sorts of men and women, the new freedom, but also the new anarchy of the post-Freudian as well as the postwar universe. The artist, here, is deeply implicated in the modern not only as an art form but as an enveloping experience. 'Living modernly's living quickly,' says Lucy Tantamount in Point Counter Point. 'You can't cart a wagonload of ideals and romanticisms about with you these days.' Huxley's fictional world is one in which this may produce a sense of yearning loss, but one in which the view is taken for granted. If the consequence is that intelligent man is left in a comic predicament, in an historical void, Huxley sees that as inescapable—such is the contemporary historical acceleration. The result is hardly cynicism but a complex blend of involvement and disgust. He is satirically savage, but not satirically secure; his novels are a continuous, tentative intellectual inquiry into new forces as well as a display of ironic detachment. Indeed, the desperation and absurdity of the characters is not at a total distance; it touches the novelist as well.

Malcolm Bradbury, in his Possibilities: Essays on the State of the Novel (copyright © 1973 by Malcolm Bradbury; reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press, Inc.), Oxford University Press, 1973, pp. 151-53.

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