'Dangerously far advanced into the darkness’: the place of mysticism in the life and work of Aldous Huxley
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This thesis traces Huxley’s abiding preoccupation with mysticism, from his first collection of poetry to his final novel Island (1962). The function of mystics, Huxley argues in Grey Eminence (1941), is to dispel the ignorance of our benighted world by letting in the light of ultimate Reality. A world without mystics, he writes, would be ‘totally blind and insane’, and he laments that at present ‘[w]e are dangerously far advanced into the darkness’. Chapter 1 examines the influence of mysticism on Huxley’s early work. Several of his poems betray a mystical yearning; Gumbril is tantalised by intimations of the divine Ground; however, it was not until Those Barren Leaves (1925) that Huxley created a character who actively investigates ultimate Reality. Huxley’s disenchantment with mysticism has traditionally been ascribed to the influence of D.H. Lawrence, but the supposedly Lawrentian doctrine of life-worship that Huxley advocated was essentially humanist, whereas for Lawrence life was a metaphysical force. Chapter 2 analyses what it was that Huxley responded to in Lawrence, and the extent to which life-worship actually conforms to Lawrence’s ideas. Chapter 3 examines Huxley’s transition from intellectual elitism in the 1920s to his re-engagement with mysticism in the mid thirties. As a result of his friendship with Gerald Heard, Huxley joined the Peace Pledge Union, and it was a pacifist lecture tour that catalysed Huxley’s emigration to America in 1937. In California, Huxley grew exasperated with Heard and increasingly turned to Jiddu Krishnamurti for spiritual advice. Chapter 4 assesses the influence of these ‘problematic gurus’. The final chapter examines the treatment of sex in Huxley’s work, from the disillusioned romantics of his early fiction, to the reformed libertines who embrace celibacy in an attempt to lead a more spiritual life, to the inhabitants of Pala, for whom sex is a sacrament.
AuthorsPoller, Jacob Robert
- Theses