|dc.description.abstract||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.||en_US