Aldous Huxley

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Huxley in 1954
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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.
—Aldous Huxley[1]:13

Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) was a British author, best known for the 1931 dystopian novel, Brave New World,[2] and to a lesser extent for the hallucinogenic mescaline-inspired 1954 philosophical essay, The Doors of Perception.[1] He was also a grandson of biologist Thomas Henry Huxley.

As a teenager, Huxley became completely blind from infectious keratitis, but eventually recovered some vision. Huxley was a supporter of the dangerous and ineffective Bates eye method for vision improvement, going so far as to write a 1942 book on the subject, The Art of Seeing.[3]

In 1954, Huxley wrote an article for Life magazine titled, "A case for ESP, PK and Psi".[4] In the article, he supported several pseudoscientific ideas: extrasensory perception (ESP), psychokinesis (PK), telepathy, psi[4] that by then were long-since discredited. As supporting evidence, Huxley referred to the Society for Psychical Research,[4] whose level of skepticism had become quite minimal by the second half of the 20th century. The Life article was Huxley's most well known publication on woo, but Huxley's belief in the supernatural dated back to the 1930s.[5]

Brave New World[edit]

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.
— Neil Postman Amusing Ourselves to Death: Politcs in the Age of Showbusiness[6]

He is perhaps best known for Brave New World, published in 1932. This describes a future society based on command economics, Consumerism , Taylorism, Totalitarianism, mass production, a Caste system, Eugenics, Genetic modification, Recreational Psychedelic euphoriant drug abuse and addiction, Brainwashing, Sleep-propaganda, Personality cult surrounding Sigmund Freud and Henry Ford, Anti-intellectualism, Bread and circuses, Collectivism, Prostitution, “Free” love, and Child sexual abuse are used to create a “utopian society” free of war, racism, sexism, suffering, starvation, famine, at the cost of all artistic, religious, political, intellectual, emotional, and individual liberties, rights and freedoms. In it, everybody takes the psychoactive drug "soma"[note 1] to have a good time, while babies are grown in artificial wombs and classified before birth from alpha to epsilon according to their future social status. Society worships Henry Ford rather than Jesus: dates are given "After Ford" based upon the Model T in 1908, and people swear "By Ford!" and worship with T-shaped crosses (cut the top off a cross to give a T).[8] Although he copied ideas from various scientists including J. B. S. Haldane, he has also been accused of plagiarising Yevgeny Zamyatin's novel We (1923) (which George Orwell is accused of plagiarizing and he himself accused Huxley of the same).[9]

Upon publication, the book was banned in Ireland and Australia, as it was viewed to be anti-religious and anti-family by people who failed to notice the satire and social criticism.[10] It came third on the American Library Association's 2010 list of books people most wanted to ban, although reasons ranged from sexual explicitness to its allegedly racist treatment of Native Americans.[11]

See also[edit]

  • Adrenochrome — Huxley fabricated the description of this chemical in his Doors of Perception
  • The Aldous Huxley section of Bates eye method
  • Thomas Henry Huxley — His grandfather
  • Fahrenheit 451 – Another dystopian story where pleasure and anti-intellectualism is used to pacify us, at the cost of all intellectual and cultural freedoms. In it, any book that is too violent, sexual, vulgar, bigoted (or anti-bigoted for that matter), ideological, controversial, biting, thought-provoking, etc is censored and burned, and since every book offends at least one group, the state bans all books and burns them along with burning alive the people who read them. In its place, television and consumerism take its place, and the attention span of the average person is only about 30 seconds because of the media, making sure no one can read books anyway. Meant by author and honorary Martian Ray Bradbury as a critique of McCarthyism, Nazism, mob mentality, political correctness and conservative correctness at the same time, television, 1950s consumerism and excess, and most of all censorship (especially intellectual censorship) of any kind.

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. A vedic intoxicant later believed by R. Gordon Wasson to be the psychoactive mushroom Amanita muscaria[7]

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley (1954) Harper.
  2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (2006) Harper Perennial. ISBN 0060850523.
  3. The Art of Seeing by Aldous Huxley & Laura Huxley (1982) Creative Arts Book Company. ISBN 0916870480.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "A case for ESP, PK and Psi: Famous Writer Argues that Evidence Proves the Mind is Capable of Telepathy, Can Foresee Events and Even Exert Influence Over Matter" by Aldous Huxley (January 11, 1954) Life, pages 96-108.
  5. Science Views the Supernatural - I by Aldous Huxley (April 1935) Forum and Century, pp. 248-252.
  6. https://www.tau.ac.il/education/muse/maslool/boidem/170foreword.html
  7. Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality by R. Gordon Wasson (1968). Mouton.
  8. See the Wikipedia article on Brave New World.
  9. 15 Things You Might Not Know About Brave New World, Mental Floss, May 20, 2015
  10. Brave New World, Amy Lay, Banned blog, National Archives of Australia, July 2, 2013
  11. Brave New World among top 10 books Americans most want banned, The Guardian, Apr 21, 2011