Aldous Huxley and mysticism for the masses
In this talk and group discussion, author Jules Evans will explore the life and work of Aldous Huxley, one of the most important influences on the contemporary psychedelic renaissance.
We will discuss questions which Huxley asked, and which remain important for the psychedelic renaissance. What is the relationship between science and spirituality? Is a ‘mysticism for the masses’ possible, or is mysticism only for the spiritually adept? Are some experiences (mystical and psychedelic) more ‘true’, ‘real’ and ‘higher’ than others? How does spirituality relate to politics?
Huxley insisted that humans have a ‘deep-seated urge to self-transcendence’, which can take toxic forms – alcoholism, addiction, the intoxication of nationalism and war, the mindless hedonism of Brave New World. But self-transcendence can also take healthier forms, which help humans heal, connect, and evolve into higher beings.
He championed what he called ‘integral education’ – an education that would work with all the levels of the human situation, from the ecological to the mystical. This vision was hugely influential on alternative education institutions like Esalen, the California Institute of Integral Studies, and Schumacher College.
His whole life, he wondered what was the proper relationship between mysticism and politics. Should the mystic withdraw from politics altogether? Could a form of spiritual training be vital to global campaigns like pacifism? Could psychedelics transform society? We will consider these questions via the talk and then small-group discussions.
Jules Evans is the author of Philosophy for Life and The Art of Losing Control. He is a research fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions, at Queen Mary, University of London, and blogs at philosophyforlife.org