Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

of artists and historical figures promoting nonduality


Aldous Huxley

Paul Brunton

Aldous Leonard Huxley (26 July 1894 � 22 November 1963) was an English writer. He spent the later part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death in 1963. Best known for his novels including The Perennial Philosophy, Brave New World and a wide-ranging output of essays, Huxley also edited the magazine, Oxford Poetry, and published short stories, poetry, travel writing, and film stories and scripts.

Aldous Huxley was a humanist and pacifist, and he was latterly interested in spiritual subjects such as parapsychology and philosophical mysticism. He is also well known for advocating and taking psychedelics.

By the end of his life Huxley was considered, in some academic circles, a leader of modern thought and an intellectual of the highest rank, and highly regarded as one of the most prominent explorers of visual communication and sight-related theories as well.

Aldous Huxley was born in Godalming, Surrey, UK in 1894. He was the third son of the writer and school-master Leonard Huxley. He was educated at Eton College. In 1911, he suffered an illness (keratitis punctata) which 'left [him] practically blind for two to three years'. Aldous's near-blindness disqualified him from service in the First World War. Once his eyesight recovered sufficiently, he was able to study English literature at Balliol College, Oxford. In 1916 he edited Oxford Poetry and later graduated with first class honours.

Following his education at Balliol, Huxley taught French for a year at Eton, where Eric Blair (later known by the pen name George Orwell) and Stephen Runciman were among his pupils, but was remembered as an incompetent and hopeless teacher who couldn�t keep discipline. Nevertheless, Blair and others were impressed by his use of words.

Huxley completed his first (unpublished) novel at the age of seventeen and began writing seriously in his early twenties. His earlier work includes important novels on the dehumanizing aspects of scientific progress, most famously Brave New World, and on pacifist themes (for example, Eyeless in Gaza). In Brave New World, Huxley portrays a society operating on the principles of mass production and Pavlovian conditioning.

During the First World War, Huxley met several Bloomsbury figures including Bertrand Russell and Clive Bell. In 1919 he married Maria Nys. They had one child, Matthew Huxley (19 April 1920 � 10 February 2005), who had a career as an epidemiologist. The family lived in Italy part of the time in the 1920s, where Huxley would visit his friend D. H. Lawrence. Following Lawrence's death in 1930, Huxley edited Lawrence's letters (1933).

In 1937, Huxley moved to Hollywood, California with his wife Maria, son Matthew, and friend Gerald Heard. Heard introduced Huxley to Vedanta (Veda-Centric Hinduism), meditation, and vegetarianism through the principle of ahimsa. In 1938 Huxley befriended J. Krishnamurti, whose teachings he greatly admired. He also became a Vedantist in the circle of Hindu Swami Prabhavananda, and introduced Christopher Isherwood to this circle.

The Perennial Philosophy

Not long after, Huxley wrote his book on widely held spiritual values and ideas, The Perennial Philosophy, which discussed the teachings of renowned mystics of the world. Huxley's book affirmed a sensibility that insists there are realities beyond the generally accepted 'five senses' and that there is genuine meaning for humans beyond both sensual satisfactions and sentimentalities.

Huxley became a close friend of Remsen Bird, president of Occidental College. He spent much time at the college, which is in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles. The college appears as 'Tarzana College' in his satirical novel, After Many a Summer (1939). The novel won Huxley that year's James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. Huxley also incorporated Bird into the novel.

During this period Huxley earned some Hollywood income as a writer. However, his experience in Hollywood was not a success. When he wrote a synopsis of Alice in Wonderland, Walt Disney rejected it on the grounds that 'he could only understand every third word'. Huxley's leisurely development of ideas, it seemed, was not suitable for the movie moguls, who demanded fast, dynamic dialogue above all else.

During the 1950s Huxley's interest in the field of psychical research grew keener, and his later works are strongly influenced by both mysticism and his experiences with psychedelic drugs. In October 1930, the occultist Aleister Crowley dined with Huxley in Berlin, and to this day rumours persist that Crowley introduced Huxley to peyote on that occasion. He was introduced to mescaline (considered to be the key active ingredient of peyote) by the psychiatrist Humphry Osmond in 1953.

On 24th December 1955, Huxley took his first dose of LSD. Indeed, Huxley was a pioneer of self-directed psychedelic drug use 'in a search for enlightenment', famously taking 100 micrograms of LSD as he lay dying. His psychedelic drug experiences are described in the essays The Doors of Perception (the title deriving from some lines in the book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake), and Heaven and Hell. Some of his writings on psychedelics became frequent reading among early hippies.

In 1955, Huxley's wife, Maria, died of breast cancer. In 1956 he married Laura Archera (1911�2007), also an author. She wrote This Timeless Moment, a biography of Huxley. In 1960 Huxley himself was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer, and in the years that followed, with his health deteriorating, he wrote the Utopian novel Island, and gave lectures on 'Human Potentialities' at the Esalen institute, which were fundamental to the forming of the Human Potential Movement.

On his deathbed, unable to speak, Huxley made a written request to his wife for 'LSD, 100 �g, intramuscular'. According to her account of his death, in This Timeless Moment, she obliged with an injection at 11:45 am and another a couple of hours later. He died at 5:21 pm on 22 November 1963, aged 69.

Media coverage of his death was overshadowed by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, on the same day, as was the death of the Irish author C. S. Lewis. This coincidence was the inspiration for Peter Kreeft's book Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis, & Aldous Huxley.

Association with Vedanta

Beginning in 1939 and continuing until his death in 1963, Huxley had an extensive association with the Vedanta Society of Southern California, founded and headed by Swami Prabhavananda. Together with Gerald Heard, Christopher Isherwood, and other followers he was initiated by the Swami and was taught meditation and spiritual practices.

In 1944 Huxley wrote the introduction to the Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God, translated by Swami Prabhavanada and Christopher Isherwood, which was published by The Vedanta Society of Southern California.

From 1941 through 1960 Huxley contributed 48 articles to Vedanta and the West, published by the Society. He also served on the editorial board with Isherwood, Heard, and playwright John van Druten from 1951 through 1962.

Huxley also occasionally lectured at the Hollywood and Santa Barbara Vedanta temples. Two of those lectures have been released on CD: Knowledge and Understanding and Who Are We from 1955.

After the publication of The Doors of Perception, Huxley and the Swami disagreed about the meaning and importance of the LSD drug experience, which may have caused the relationship to cool, but Huxley continued to write articles for the Society's journal, lecture at the temple, and attend social functions.

Buy The Perennial Philosophy from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

[Source: Aldous Huxley, Wikipedia]

Advaita Free Books Other
Upanishads Scriptures Western
Bhagavad Gita Other Non-dual
Brahma Sutra Recent Sages Science
Shankara Satsang Teachers Fiction and Poetry
Other Classics Non-Advaita Buying Books
Philosophical Treatments   US Advaita Bookstore
Recent Sages   UK Advaita Bookstore
General Advaita    
Satsang Teachers    
Best of the Best    
Profiles Artists/Historical Figures    
Page last updated: 09-Jul-2012