If The Doors of Perception Were Cleansed… In Celebration of Aldous Huxley’s 120th Birthday

UPR thanks all those who joined us last Friday evening in celebration of Aldous Huxley’s life of learning and discovery and in remembrance of what an important and lasting mark he made upon our Los Angeles community.

We are grateful for all the thoughtful minds that gathered together and wish to continue that dissemination of knowledge for those who were unable to attend. Below you will find a brief introduction given by Swami Atmatatvananda from our neighboring Vedanta Society. For many who do not know, Aldous Huxley was deeply involved with the Vedanta Society from the 1940′s (upon moving to Los Angeles) through the 1960′s.  Below, also, you will find an excerpt taken from an essay written for Vedanta and the West, a journal published by the society at the time. Aldous Huxley lived with his wife Laura in the Hollywood Dell, just up the street from the Vedanta Society. Swami Atmatatvananda knew Huxley personally during this time, he himself introduced to the society by Christopher Isherwood in the 40′s.

Please visit the following link to listen to Swami Atmatatvananda’s recollection of Huxley’s life.

Following Swami Atmatatvananda’s introduction, UPR faculty memeber Dr. Banerji, shared a bit of his insight into the philosophical impact and meaning of Huxley’s work.

Please visit the following link to listen to Dr. Banerji’s elucidating remarks on the life and work of Aldous Huxley.

You may also view the 1980 BBC rendition of Brave New World for free online by clicking the following image:

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You may also view UPR’s limited edition publication Huxley as a PDF file by clicking the image below:

 


 

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A selection of Huxley’s books and posters are available in the UPR bookstore. (Open Monday – Friday 10am-4pm)


 

“In order to escape from the horrors of insulated selfhood most men and women choose, most of the time, to go neither up nor down, but sideways.  They identify themselves with some cause wider than their own immediate interests, but not degradingly lower and, if higher, only within the range of current social values. This horizontal, or nearly horizontal, self-transcendence may be into something as trivial as a hobby, or as precious as married love. It can be brought about through self-identification with any human activity, from running a business to research in nuclear physics, from composing music to collecting stamps, from campaigning for political office to educating children or studying the mating habits of birds.

Horizontal self-transcendence is of the utmost importance. Without it, there would be no art, no science, no law, no philosophy, indeed, no civilization. And there would also be no war, no odium theologicum or ideologicum, no systematic intolerance, no persecution. These great goods and these enormous evils are the fruits of man’s capacity fore total and continuous self-identification with an idea, a feeling, a cause. How can we have the good without the evil, a high civilization without saturation bombing and the extermination of religious or political heretics? The answer is that we cannot have it, so long as our self-transcendence remains exclusively horizontal.

When we identify ourselves with an idea or a cause, we are in fact worshipping something homemade, something partial and parochial, something which, however noble, is all too human. “Patriotism,” as a great patriot concluded, on the eve of her execution by her country’s enemies, “patriotism is not enough.” Neither is Socialism, nor Communism, nor Capitalism; neither is art, not science, nor public order, or any particular religious organization or church. All these are indispensable, but none of them is enough. Civilization demands from the individual self-identification with the higher of human causes. But if this self-identification with what is human is not accompanied by a conscious and consistent effort to achieve upward self-transcendence into the universal life of the Spirit, the goods achieved will always be mingled with counterbalancing evils. “We make,” wrote Pascal, “an idol of truth itself; for truth without charity is not God, but his image and idol, which we must neither love nor worship.” And it is not merely wrong to worship an idol; it is also exceedingly inexpedient. For example, the worship of truth apart from charity — self-identification with the cause of science unaccompanied by self-identification with the Ground of all being —results in the kind of situation which confronts us today. Every idol, however exalted, turns out in the long run to be a Moloch, hungry for human sacrifices.”

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Excerpted from Subsitutes for Liberation, from Huxley And God, Essays on Religious Experience (1992), all essays originally published in Vedanta and the West  in LosAngeles, between 1941 and 1960. (Kindly loaned to UPR by the Vedanta Society of Southern California)

 

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With continued thanks to the Vedanta Society for their generous insight

 

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