What was Aldous Huxley's background in religion, and how is it reflected in the novel Brave New World?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During his lifetime, Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, underwent a remarkable process of self-transformation from a biting satirist of England's "chattering classes" to a deeply religious writer, who was preoccupied with the human capacity for spiritual transcendence.  His novel, Point Counter Point (1928), explores modern man's disillusionment with religion, art, sex, and politics.  There is something of this disillusionment with religion in Brave New World (1930) in Chapter 5 in which Bernard attends the Solidarity Service; Huxley clearly parodies the "feel-good" religions, whose services have dancing and tambourines banging along with other music.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Huxley changed direction and became fascinated by the spiritual life, particularly with the possiblity of direct communication between humans and spiritual creatures.  He read widely the writing of the mystics and assembled an anthology of mystical writing called The Perennial Philosophy (1945).  Then, he began experimentation with mescaline and LSD, hallucinogenic drugs.  He felt that taking of these drugs was not dissimilar from the experiences that mystics attained through fasting, prayer, and meditation.  Again, Julian Huxley writes of Aldous,

One of Aldous's major preoccupations was how to achieve self-transcendence while yet remaining a committed social being--how to escape from the prison bars of self and the pressures of here and now into realms of pure goodness and pure enjoyment.

Certainly, the character of John the Savage in Brave New World reflects the author's myticism as he fasts and meditates, seeking to transcend the mundane and purify himself. And, his parody of formalized religious "feel-good" ceremonies that have emotive services with dancing, singing, and communion of the members through hymns, etc. is in Chapter 5 of Brave New World

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Brave New World

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