Thursday, December 3, 2015

Aldous Huxley and The Perennial Philosophy (a classic book review)

Like I have stated before elsewhere, I truly believe the Golden Age of American Literature has passed. Very few authors write anymore about universal, deeply philosophical themes that capture and reflect the essence of our culture and society and, if they do, publishers will most likely ignore them and hardly anyone will read them. Instead, we have a market flooded with superficial and redundant themes that offer artificial escapes from pressing societal problems. Think about it. Who was the last American to receive a Nobel Prize for literature?

Huxley, of course, was British and this book was written after WWII when the world was still trying to come to terms with the horrors that humanity recently perpetuated upon itself. Those horrors still exist, even more so in the 21st century, but very few people care to reflect upon them in depth but instead desperately seek diversion through technology, sex or drugs in order to anesthetize themselves which inevitably leads to desensitization and increased barbarism.

The Perennial Philosophy does not, per se, deal directly with the problem of how to deal with evil in the world. Huxley was far too intelligent to try that approach. Instead, by using a comprehensive collection of history's most morally uplifting texts, he breaks down into layman's terms one of the most enduring problems faced by mankind--how to achieve a proper spiritual balance with a supreme, cosmic consciousness that we assume to be inherently loving yet distant.

Brave New World was, of course, Huxley's most famous fictional account of a futuristic, dystopian society that we are now very much on the edge of entering if we haven't already. Now, after finally having read this book, I understand why BNW was such a watershed book in 20th century literature. The author who wrote it had an in depth grasp of human motivations, desires, vices and other personality aspects that lends authority to what would otherwise have been just another pulp fiction novel lost in the dustbins of literary history. Although, I don't agree with quite a few observations made by Huxley in this book, I have to admire with awe the spectacular writing and timeless inferences that need to be rediscovered, perhaps more than ever, in a world that today has gone completely gaga over fetishes, trends and memes that do very little to enrich an intelligent reader's level of consciousness and understanding.