Monday, 9 April 2018

Aldous Huxley - a Huxley?


The Huxley family get their own Wikipedia entry.
huxley family
Their pre-eminence is of course in the field of science - evolutionism, genetics, eugenics. The sport or lusus naturae if one may so put it is the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, Aldous. His father Leonard was an editor of Cornhill Magazine and his mother Julia was one of the Arnolds. Matthew was an uncle. On reconsideration not so far from the tree

T.H. Huxley known as Darwin’s bulldog coined the term agnostic for that species of gloomy dithering. In William Hurrell Mallock’s satire New Republic, Ronald Knox’s essential book, he is Mr. Storks due possibly to the frequent visits of that bird with the nappy. He fathered eight. Another grandson Julian was a bete noir of Knox. It is he who was the founder of the Eugenics society. In those days you could hardly be a progressive without being for it. German literalness finished that good idea.

Aldous wrote against many of his family values, atheism and eugenics particularly and in the book I have been reading recently After Many a Summer scientific hubris and the pervasive dismal scientism of our age are mocked. Yet I would say that his psychodelicism is virtually physicalism. Can altering brain chemistry be a pathway to higher consciousness otherwise? His vast reading in mystical literature (c.f. Perennial Philosophy ) ought to have warned him about the confusion of states of transport with real attainment. That Huxley family trait of mental ‘frakes’ is manifest in the denial of his bad sight. He faked excellent sight by appearing to read from a script at the lecture podium but when he lost his place was forced to produce a large magnifying glass.

After Many a Summer (pub. 1939)is well worth reading for its acerbic view of California and the banishing of death through Science and euphemism. This predates the other English satire The Loved One (pub. 1948) by Evelyn Waugh. Mordant, quite. Huxley’s didacticism may irritate some and he is aware of that. Mr. Propter his spokesman in the book sees himself as an Ancient Mariner with glittering eye who stoppeth one in three. I don’t mind being improved when it is delivered in measured periodic prose. Here is Mr.Propter discoursing on Miguel de Molinos the Quietist:

'I thought that would be your cup of tea’ said Jeremy, deriving a sly pleasure from talking about mysticism in the most absurdly inappropriate language.

Mr. Propter smiled. ‘My cup of tea’ he repeated. ‘But not my favourite blend. There was something not quite right about poor Molinos. A strain of—how shaft I put it?—of negative sensuality. He enjoyed suffering. Mental suffering, the dark night of the soul—he really wallowed in it. No doubt, poor fellow, he sincerely believed he was destroying self-will; but, without his being aware of it, he was always turning the process of destruction into another affirmation of self-will. Which was a pity,’ Mr. Propter added, taking the letters to the light, to look at them more closely. ‘Because he certainly did have some first-hand experience of reality. Which only shows that you’re never certain of getting there, even when you’ve come near enough to see what sort of thing you’re going to. Here’s a fine sentence,’ he put in parenthetically. ‘ ‘"Arne a Dios''' he read aloud, ‘ ''como es en si y no como se lo dice y forma su imaginacion."

Other characters:
Stoyt - self made millionaire philanthropist oaf (Vermeer in the lift)
Dr. Obispo - scientist of life extension and sensualist
Virginia -prototypical hot chick
Jeremy Pordage - archivist
Pete - ex International Brigade, scientist, useful idiot

Free download on internet archive:
After Many a Summer

I read it in a Penguin Modern Classic from 1961 - the cover sketches were good then.




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