Last night I watched a movie that returned me to the ’60s yet again (Paul Goodman took me there yesterday): “Huxley on Huxley” follows Aldous Huxley’s second wife Laura around while she speaks about her husband and their life together. All the way through the movie, I noticed my body transfixed, almost breathless, as if in shock. Wow! To have quickly picked out this movie, almost at random, at the public library! Such great good fortune. For this is a truly revelatory film, and for me, a reminder that though many are called, the few who do choose to break from the mass mind can move mountains.
Huxley is best remembered for Brave New World, and other early dystopian writings, where he unflinchingly turned a stern (nearly blind) and startlingly prophetic eye on the (now culminating) post-WW II cultural momentum towards collective mind control, concentration of corporate power, proliferation of nuclear weapons, and wars over oil.
But Huxley was more than just a prophet of doom. Much more. In the Doors of Perception (said to be the inspiration for the name of the band “The Doors), Huxley, a British literary lion with a near-royal pedigree, described an encounter with mescaline. In so doing he aligned himself with Leary, Ram Dass, Michael Murphy (of Esalen Institute) and other “street scientists” who launched a movement to experiment with psychedelics as an avenue for expanding consciousness. Several times in the movie, Laura Huxley, then 89 years old (she died at 96 in 2007) repeated, very emphatically (I paraphrase) about LSD: “It does nothing, adds nothing. It simply clears the way for the doors of the mind to open.”
Huxley’s conclusion, from his experimentation: “One never loves enough.” And further, he wrote later: ” . . .for what came through the open door was the realization of Love as the primary and fundamental cosmic fact.”
Laura was also full of ideas that have yet to see wide implementation. For example, she imagined a “caressing room” on every block in every neighborhood, where people could come to hold babies. She saw it as a place “where the new and the old will meet and loneliness will dissolve.”
Huxley’s first wife, his beloved Mari, died of breast cancer. Then their friend, Laura relates that on her death bed Aldous read to Marie from The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Marie’s death was peaceful. Laura tells us, in the movie, that Marie had commented, to her: “To me, dying is no more than going from one room to another.”
Aldous Huxley himself died at 69, after seven years of a blissful second marriage to Laura. I plan to get her account of life with Aldous, This Timeless Moment, from the library ASAP.
Meanwhile, I refer you first to a video —
and especially, to a letter that Laura wrote only a few days after Aldous died, on November 22, 1963, the very day that both John F. Kennedy and T.S. Lewis also took leave of this world still aching for surrender to “the fundamental and cosmic fact” of Love. Rather than put this extraordinary letter here, I refer you to it. The letter is long, detailed, and immerses you in the actual lived experience of Laura Huxley as her husband lay dying. (Transcript follows copy of smudged typewritten letter).