Getting There Too Quickly: Aldous Huxley and Mescaline
Between his 1932 vision of a sterile dystopia in Brave New World and the 1962 novel Island about
a spiritual utopia, the author Aldous Huxley experienced two things;
the Hindu religious philosophy known as Vedanta and psychedelic drugs.
In Brave New World, people are addicted to Soma, a
hallucinogenic that artificially simulates a kind of dull transcendent
state, and so makes religion irrelevant. In Island, the
Palanese (residents of Pala where the book takes place) ritually use the
drug moksha for spiritual and mystical insights. It wasn’t that by the
time he was writing Island Huxley no longer believed that
civilization was potentially doomed to a homogenized over-indulgent
consumer culture, but rather that there was another possibility for
human destiny. Soon after writing Brave New World Huxley saw
this other opportunity but believed it would take work, a disciplined
and rigorous adherence to a spiritual ideal. By the time he got around
to writing Island he was convinced there was a faster, less strenuous way to find the higher purpose of human consciousness: mescaline.