Monday, December 12, 2016

Mark Antony Rossi writes

Soma and the Unknowing Slave

I grew up with Huxley tucked in my heart

His brave new world was orderly
Next to degrading urban decay.

I craved his seductive soma
I wanted to explore the outer reaches
I created a possible pathway forward

I grew with Huxley eyeless in north jersey
Forming facts faster than light beams
Finding friendship fleeting and feckless

But a library is a home when homes are lost
And a library is a church where angels are afraid
And a library is a clinic to close old wounds

Huxley, a nearly blind man, opened my eyes
To the seduction of freedom void of ethics
And what of rights without responsibility

This is the slave ignorant to his slavery.
Yes be free but be smart
For a free society depends on more
Than bravery. 

Within the next generation I believe that the world's leaders will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging them and kicking them into obedience. -- Aldous Huxley to George Orwell, 21 October 1949

 Image result for aldous huxley painting
 Portrait of a Crazy Man III (Huxley) -- Massimo Damico


  1. Nominated seven times for a Nobel Prize in Literature, Aldous Huxley was best known for his novels "Brave New World" and "Eyeless in Gaza" and for his nonfiction book "The Doors of Perception" about his 1953 experiences with mescaline (from which the American rock band The Doors took their name). He was the grandson of "Darwin's Bulldog," zoologist Thomas Henry Huxley, and his brothers Julian and Andrew also became well-known biologists, and his son Matthew became a prominent epidemiologist and anthropologist. His mother was the niece of poet Matthew Arnold. Julian said that as a youth he often contemplated "the strangeness of things" and was nicknamed "Ogie" (short for "Ogre") due to the eye disease (keratitis punctata) he contarcted when he was 17, which left him nearly blind for two or three years though he partly recovered his sight in one eye. Julian claimed "his blindness was a blessing in disguise... His uniqueness lay in his universalism. He was able to take all knowledge for his province." Huxley later claimed, "I am and, for as long as I can remember, I have always been a poor visualizer. Words, even the pregnant words of poets, do not evoke pictures in my mind." For awhile he taught French at Eton, where he ws regarded as an incompetent schoolmaster unable to keep order in class, but one of his pupils, Eric Blair (better known as George Orwell) praised his brilliant command of language. During World War I he worked as a farm laborer at Garsington Manor near Oxford, where he becme acquainted with various Bloomsbury figures including Bertrand Russell, Alfred North Whitehead, and Clive Bell; his first published book, "Crome Yellow" (1921) satirized the lifestyle there.

  2. His 5th novel, "Brave New World" (1932) was a dystopian science fiction work about a society based on the principles of mass production and Pavlovian conditioning, and "an ordered universe in a world of planless incoherence" according to the introduction to one of its editions. The society was driven by the use of the drug soma, which had "All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects...There is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon... infinitely far away, on holiday; on holiday in some other world, where the music of the radio was a labyrinth of sonorous colours, a sliding, palpitating labyrinth, that led (by what beautifully inevitable windings) to a bright centre of absolute conviction; where the dancing images of the television box were the performers in some indescribably delicious all-singing feely; where the dripping patchouli was more than scent - was the sun, was a million saxophones, was Popé making love, only much more so, incomparably more, and without end.... Because our world is not the same as Othello's world. You can't make flivvers without steel - and you can't make tragedies without social instability. The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get. They're well off; they're safe; they're never ill; they're not afraid of death; they're blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they're plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they're so conditioned that they practically can't help behaving as they ought to behave.... And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there's always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there's always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears - that's what soma is." Other aspects of the world included trance states for indoctrination, enforced communal living to eliminate individuality, mandatory contraception joined with socially encouraged recreational and promiscuous sex, assisted reproduction (high-tech test-tube babies) to insure proper class roles, and ubiquitous disembodied mechanical voices to provide guidance.

  3. In the 1930s Huxley lived in Taos, New Mexico, nerhis long-time friend D. H. Lawrence (whose papers he edited posthumusly) and in 1937 moved to Hollywood, California, to write screenplays at $3,000 per week, much of which he used to transport German refugees to the US. He worked on scripts for "Madame Curie," "Pride and Prejudice," and "Jane Eyre," as well as one based on "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" (though it was ultimately rejected by Walt Disney). He befriended Jiddu Krishnamurti and became immersed in Vedanta (an Upanishad-centered philosophy), meditation, and vegetarianism; in 1944 he wrote the introduction to the "Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God" as translated by Swami Prabhavanada and Christopher Isherwood, and he occasionally lectured at the Hollywood and Santa Barbara Vedanta temples. After World War II, his application to become an American citizen was rejected due to his pacifism, though he remained in the US the rest of his life. In 1946 in a foreward to a new edition of "Brave New World" he wrote, "If I were now to rewrite the book, I would offer the Savage a third alternative. Between the Utopian and primitive horns of his dilemma would lie the possibility of sanity.... In this community economics would be decentralist and Henry-Georgian, politics Kropotkinesque and co-operative. Science and technology would be used as though, like the Sabbath, they had been made for man, not (as at present and still more so in the Brave New World) as though man were to be adapted and enslaved to them. Religion would be the conscious and intelligent pursuit of man's Final End, the unitive knowledge of immanent Tao or Logos, the transcendent Godhead or Brahman. And the prevailing philosophy of life would be a kind of Higher Utilitarianism, in which the Greatest Happiness principle would be secondary to the Final End principle – the first question to be asked and answered in every contingency of life being: 'How will this thought or action contribute to, or interfere with, the achievement, by me and the greatest possible number of other individuals, of man's Final End?'" In 1962 he finally wrote that alternative novel, "Island," in which he imagined a utopian society without weapons, materialism, or consumerist greed; based on the use of moksha-medicine for enlightenment (instead of enforced pacification) and neditative trance states for super learning, peaceful living, intellectual pursuits, and deep spiritualism without superstition. Group living (in the form of a multiple-parents child-rearing strategy via Mutual Adoption Clubs) was the norm so that children would not have unalloyed exposure to their parents' neuroses. Contraception was freely available to enable reproductive choice and expressive sex; reproduction (was assistd via low-tech artificial insemination. Instead of the Voices, mynah birds were trained to utter uplifting slogans such as "Attention" and "Karuṇā" to remind the people to stay focused on the present and to have compassion. The local version of Oedipus ended happily; as it ws pointed out, it was silly for him to poke his eyes out since all he had to do was stop being married to his mother. After his wife injected him with LSD, at his request, he died in 1963, at 69, on the same day as Christian apologist C. S. Lewis and president John F. Kennedy ( a coincidence which Peter Kreeft used to imagine a conversation in Purgatory by the three visionaries ("Between Heaven and Hell").

  4. Terrific poem. Thank you for the info Duane.


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