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A. Huxley in Sanary - A condensed biography A.5

The later years in California

Table of Contents

California meanwhile had became a shelter for a good part of the European expatriate community; Mann and his family again, Stravinsky, Chaplin. For the ever-curious Huxley it became an opening on the East and a new world of perception far away from the one he had just left. In Llano in the desert and the Los Angeles vicinity Huxley spent the next period of his life meeting with fascinating people he could never had met in Europe, for obvious reasons.

From his arrival in California till the end of his life in 1963 Huxley never stopped pushing the boundaries of his knowledge of the soul. He exercised his writing in diverse directions; after his essays on society he tried himself with biographies: Grey Eminence (1941), and The Devils of Loudun (1952). He wrote a book based on his experience on how to recover vision with psychological exercises, The Art of Seeing (1942). The war just ending he wrote an anthology of mysticism, The Perenial Philosophy (1945) with his own commentaries on mystical and religious approaches towards a sane life in a spiritual society.

In the 1950s Huxley became famous for his interest in psychedelic or mind-expanding drugs like mescaline and LSD, which he only took a dozen times over ten years. He put his beliefs in such drugs into two books based on his experiences of taking mescaline under supervision: Doors of Perception (1954) and Heaven and Hell (1956). Some readers have read these books as encouragements to experiment freely with drugs, but Huxley warned of the dangers of such experiments in an appendix to The Devils of Loudun.

In 1958 Aldous Huxley published Brave New World Revisited, a set of essays on real-life problems and ideas: overpopulation, over organisation, and psychological techniques from salesmanship to hypnopaedia, or sleep-teaching.

Another work centering on drugs and sanity was Island (1962), a novel that required twenty years of thought and five years of writing. Among other things, Island was an antidote to Brave New World, the sum of his philosophy and a more positive utopia than the one he had written thirty years before, yet, still with a unhappy end. Huxley deplored the drug he called soma in Brave New World – half tranquilizer, half intoxicant – which produces an artificial happiness that makes people content with their lack of freedom. He approved of the perfected version of LSD that the people of Island use in a religious way.

Two years before his death in California in 1963, a brush fire in Hollywood Hills completely destroyed the house of Aldous Huxley and his second wife Laura, with most of their personal belongings, his library of 4000 books, and a life’s worth of precious archives. This could be a reason why so much is lost on the period Aldous Huxley, his first wife Maria and son Matthew spent in Sanary, but it is probably not the only one.

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