After studying literature at Oxford University, Aldous Huxley began writing for the magazine Athenaeum in London and also reviewing plays for the Westminster Gazette in 1919. By 1921, having already published four volumes of verse, Huxley embarked on a career as a free-lance writer. His early novels Chrome Yellow (1921), Antic Hay (1923), and Point Counter Point (1928), depictions of social decadence, began to establish his reputation; Brave New World (1932) confirmed it.
Brave New World has remained his most widely read work. A portrayal of a nightmarish twenty-fifth century dystopia, the novel presents a world in which technology seduces people into becoming willing automatons by providing them with creature comforts and drug-induced happiness. Genetic engineering, meanwhile, produces appropriate numbers of people with appropriate levels of intelligence to fill the requirements of society, thereby eliminating the potential for rebellion as well as such individual virtues as creativity, bravery, and fidelity. It was not, however, the novel’s horrific description of technology but its portrayal of sexual freedom and drug use that led to Brave New World being banned from some school curricula and many libraries.
Huxley’s later work developed these themes while also introducing new ones. Ape and Essence (1948) offers a vision of a future dominated by savage individualism, as the survivors of an atomic holocaust struggle to live on; it, too, is a future ravaged by technology. With Eyeless in Gaza (1936), Huxley began to advocate a philosophy of mysticism, and he pursued this view for much of the rest of his life. Following his move to California in 1937 for reasons of health, he wrote Gray Eminence (1941), a study of a sixteenth century priest who had to choose between a life of reclusive meditation and calls to serve the political interests of the French crown. Huxley later suggested in The Doors of Perception (1954) that the use of psychoactive drugs might be a shortcut to mystical experience. His advocacy of drugs made him a favorite of the youth culture of the 1960’s and won for him a place among those pictured on the cover of the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). During the 1960’s, The Doors of Perception was banned from some school districts’ reading lists.