Aldous Huxley and the Mysticism of Science by June Deery (auth.)


By June Deery (auth.)

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In any given set of circumstances our actual behaviour is represented by the diagonal of a parallelogram of forces having appetite or interest as its base and, as its upright, our ethical or religious ideals', he declares (Devils 12), or, more awkwardly, one character pronounces that 'The square on lust is equal, so to speak, 30 Aldous Huxley and the Mysticism of Science to the sum of the squares on vanity and idleness. The shortest distance between two cravings is violence' (Time 241). Then there is the extraordinarily, almost extravagantly, close specification of Mr Cardan: 'The upper hem of his trousers followed an ample geodesic: his shoulders were very broad, his neck short and powerful.

269). The geometry belittles the human actors: 'from her universe of perfected geometrical beauty the young lady in blue satin ... looked ... out through the window of the picture-frame into that other universe in which Mr Stoyte and his fellow-creatures had their ugly and untidy being' (266-7). That another art, music, has a mathematical basis has long been recognized. But Huxley uses our knowledge of its physical component to reduce the human listener. When Lord Tantamount listens to a concert, the aesthetic experience is first explained as 'fiddlers [drawing] their rosined horse-hair across the stretched intestines of lambs' (PCP 33).

He is more childish than childlike, more selfish and parasitic than Tantamount. Huxley describes him as a 'foetus, genius, half-wit and hungry lover - in search of some woman capable of meeting the demands of a symbiotic relationship, in which all the giving would be on her side, all the ravenous and infantile taking on his' (Genius 41). Though none was more impressed by the scale of new knowledge in this period, few of Huxley's scientists are, in fact, very accomplished. Tantamount and Maartens have some measure of professional success, but Illidge (PCP) and Shearwater (Antic) appear to be unfulfilled in both their private and professional lives.

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