Archives for posts with tag: Aldous Huxley

Must look up what Spinoza says about pity. As I remember, he considers it intrinsically undesirable, insofar as it is a passion, but relatively desirable, insofar as it does more good than harm. I kept thinking of this yesterday, all the time I was with Daisy Ockham. Dear Daisy! Her passionate pity moves her to do all sorts of good and beautiful things; but because it is just a passion, it also warps her judgment, causes her to make all kinds of ludicrous and harmful mistakes, and translates itself into the most absurdly sentimental and radically false view of life. She loves to talk, for example, about people being transformed and ameliorated by suffering. But it’s perfectly obvious, if one isn’t blind by the passion of pity, that this isn’t true. Suffering may and often does produce a kind of emotional uplift and a temporary increase in courage, tolerance, patience and altruism. But if the pressure of suffering is too much prolonged, there comes a breakdown into apathy, despair or violent selfishness. And if the pressure is removed, there’s an immediate return to normal condition of unregeneracy. For a short time, a blitz engenders sentiments of universal brotherliness; but as f or permanent transformation and improvement–that occurs only exceptionally. Most of the people I know have come back from battle unchanged; a fair number are worse than they were; and a few–men with an adequate philosophy desire t o act upon it–are better.


Buddhist writers distinguish between compassion and Great Compassion–pity in the raw, as a mere visceral and emotional disturbance, and pity informed by principle, enlightened by insight into the nature of the world, aware of the causes of suffering and the only remedy. Action depends on thought, and thought, to a large extent, depends on vocabulary. Based on the jargons of economics, psychology, and sentimental religiosity, the vocabularity in terms of which we think nowadays about man’s nature and destiny is about the worst. . . .

– Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have a Stop

But the grace had been withdrawn again, and in recent days . . . Sebastian sadly shook his head. Dust and cinders, the monkey devils, the imbecile unholiness of distraction. And because knowledge, the genuine knowledge beyond mere theory and book learning, was always a transforming participation in that which was known, it could never be communicated–not even to one’s own self when in a state of ignorance. The best one could hope to do by means of words was to remind oneself of what one once had unitively understand and, in others, to evoke the wish and create some of the conditions for a similar understanding. He reopened the book.

‘Spent the evening listening to people talking about the future organization of the world–God help us all! Do they forget what Acton said about power? “Power always corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. All great men are bad.” And he might have added that all great nations, all great classes, all great religions or professional groups are bad–bad in exact proportion as they exploit their power.

In the past there was an age of Shakespeare, of Voltaire, of Dickens. Ours is the age, not of any poet or thinker, or novelist, but of the Document. Our Representative Man is the traveling newspaper correspondent, who dashes off a best seller between two assignments. “Facts speak for themselves.” Illusion! Facts are ventriloquist’s dummies. Sitting on a wise man’s knee they may be made to utter words of wisdom; elsewhere, they say nothing, or talk nonsense, or indulge in sheer diabolism.

– Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have a Stop

The significance of [‘And time, that takes survey of all the world,’] is mainly practical. Life’s time’s fool. By merely elapsing time makes nonsense of all life’s conscious planning and scheming. No considerable action has ever had all or nothing but the results expected of it. Except under controlled conditions, or in circumstances where it is possible to ignore individuals and consider only large numbers and the law of averages, any kind of accurate foresight is impossible. In all actual human situations more variables are involved than the human mind can take account of; and with the passage of time the variables tend to increase in number and change their character. These facts are perfectly familiar and obvious. And yet the only faith of a majority of twentieth century Europeans and Americans is faith in the Future–the bigger and better Future, which they know that Progress is going to produce for them, like rabbits out of a hat. For the sake of what their faith tells them about Future time, which their reason assures them to be completely unknowable, they are prepared to sacrifice their only tangible possession, the Present.

– Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have A Stop

¬†That the more there is of I, me, mine, the less there is of the Ground; and that consequently the Tao is a Way of humility and compassion, the Dharma a Law of mortification and self-transcending awareness. Which accounts, of course, for the facts of human history. People love their egos and don’t wish to mortify them, don’t wish to see why they shouldn’t “express their personalities” and “have a good time.” They get their good times; but also and inevitably they get wars and syphilis and revolution and alcoholism and tyranny and, in default of an adequate religious hypothesis, the choice between some lunatic idolatry, like nationalism, and a sense of complete futility and despair. Unutterable miseries! But throughout recorded history most men and women have preferred the risks, the positive certainty, of such disasters to the laborious whole-time job of trying to get to know the divine Ground of all being. In the long run we get exactly what we ask for.

– Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have a Stop

Gossip, daydreaming, preoccupation with one’s own moods and feelings–fatal, all of them, to the spiritual life. But among other things even the best play or narrative is merely glorified gossip and artistically disciplined daydreaming. […]

Which is why some God-centred saints have condemned art, root and branch. And not only art–science, scholarship, speculation. Or remember Aquinas: the consummate philosophical virtuoso–but after achieving the unitive knowledge of that Primordial Fact, about which he had so long been spinning theories, he refused to write another word of theology. […]

For the artist or intellectual, who happens to be interested in reality and desirous of liberation, the way out would seem to lie, as usual, along a knife-edge.

He has to remember, first, that what he does as an artist or intellectual, won’t bring him to knowledge of the divine Ground, even though his work may be directly cornered with this knowledge. On the contrary, in itself the work is a distraction. Second, that talents are analogous to the gifts of healing or miracle-working. But “one ounce of sanctifying grace is worth a hundredweight of those graces which theologians call ‘gratuitous,’ among which is the gift of miracles. It is possible to receive such gifts and be in a st7ate of mortal sin; nor are they necessary to salvation. As a rule, gratuitous graces are given to men less for their own benefit than for the edification of their neighbors.” But Francois de Sales m9ight have added that miracles don’t necessarily edify. Nor does even the best art. In both cases, edification is merely a possibility.

The third thing that has to be remembered is that beauty is intrinsically edifying; gossip, daydreaming and mere self-expression, intrinsically unedifying. […] It is possible to write about God and, in the effort to write well, close one’s mind completely to God’s presence. There is only one antidote to such forgetting–constant recollection.

– Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have a Stop

But in a less obvious, more fundamental way, one was guilty by just being imperviously oneself, by being content to remain a spiritual embryo, undeveloped, undelivered, unillumined. In part, at least, I am responsible for my own maiming, and on the hand that is left me there is blood and the black oily smear of charred flesh.

Look at any picture paper or magazine. News (and only evil is news, never good) alternates with fiction, photographs of weapons, corpses, ruins, with photographs of half naked women. Pharisaically, I used to think there was on casual connection between these things, that, as a strict sensualist and aesthete, I was without responsibility for what was happening in the world. But the habit of sensuality and pure aestheticism is a process of God-proofing. To indulge in it is to become a spiritual mackintosh, shielding the little corner of time, of which one is the centre, from the least drop of eternal reality. But the only hope for the world of time lies in being constantly drenched by that which lies beyond time. Guaranteed God-proof, we exclude from our surroundings the only influence that is able to neutralize the destructive energies of ambition, covetousness and the love of power. Our responsibility may be less spectacularly obvious than theirs; but it is no less real.

– Aldous Huxley, Time Hust Have a Stop

of most philosophies is the philosopher. Enjoying as we do the privilege of Professor X’s acquaintance, we know that whatever he personally may think up about the nature and value of existence cannot possibly be true. And what (God help us!) about our great thoughts? But fortunately there have been saints who could write. We and the Professor are free to crib from our betters.

It is wonderfully easy to escape the vices toward which one doesn’t happen to be drawn. […] But when it comes to the subtler forms of vanity and pride, when it comes to indifference, negative cruelty and the lack of charity, when it comes to being afraid and telling lies, when it comes to sensuality. . . .


No, the life of the spirit is life out of time, life in its essence and eternal principle. Which is why they all insist–all the people best qualified to know–that memory must be lived down and finally died to. When one has succeeded in mortifying the memory, says John of the Cross, one is in a state that is only a degree less perfect and profitable than the state of union with God. It is an assertion that, at a first reading, I found incomprehensible. But that was because at the time, my first concern was with the life of poetry, not of the spirit. Now I know, by humiliating experience, all that memory can do to darken and obstruct the knowledge of he eternal Ground. Mortification is always the condition of proficiency.


Remorse is pride’s ersatz for repentance, the ego’s excuse for not accepting God’s forgiveness. The condition of being forgiven is self-abandonment. The proud man prefers self-reproach, however painful–because the reproached self isn’t abandoned; it remains intact.


There’s only one effectively redemptive sacrifice,” came the answer, “the sacrifice of self-will to make room for the knowledge of God.”

“I shall never be able to do it alone,” he cried.

But the sick man was inexorable.

“It can’t be done by anyone else,” the pencil wrote. “Other people can’t make you see with their eyes.At the best they can only encourage you to use you rown.”

Then, as an afterthought, he had added on another sheet of the scribbling pad: “And, of course, once you’ve started using your own eyes, you’ll see that there’s no question of being alone. Nobody’s alone unless he wishes to be.”

– Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have a Stop

Knowledge is proportionate to being,” Bruno answered. “You know in virtue of what you are; and what you are depends on three factors: what you’ve inherited, what your surroundings have done to you, and what you’ve chosen to do with your surroundings and your inheritance. A man of genius inherits an unusual capacity to see into ultimate reality and to express what he sees. If his surroundings are reasonably good, he’ll be able to exercise his powers. But if he spends all his energies on writing and doesn’t attempt to modify his inherited and acquired being in the light of what he knows, then he can never get to increase his knowledge. On the contrary, he’ll know progressively less instead of more.”

“Less instead of more?” Sebastian repeated questioningly.

“Less instead of more,” the other insisted. “He that is not getting better is getting worse, and he that is getting worse is in a position to know less and less about the nature of ultimate reality. Conversely, of course, if one gets better and knows more, one will be tempted¬† to stop writing, because the all-absorbing labor of composition is an obstacle in the way of further knowledge. And that, maybe, is one of the reasons why most men of genius take such infinite pains not to become saints–out of mere self-preservation.”

– Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have A Stop

How hard it was to know what was right! And then, when one knew, the knowledge had to be acted upon. That was fairly easy if there were nobody but oneself involved. But mostly one couldn’t do what was right without upsetting almost as many people as one satisfied. And then their disappointment and their bitterness made one wonder whether, after all, one had been doing right. And then the whole debate had to begin again…

– Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have A Stop

The awareness knew only itself, and itself only as the absence of something else.

Knowledge reached out into absence that was its object. Reached out into the darkness, further and further. Reached out into the silence. Illimitably. There were no bounds.

It was the knowledge of an absence ever more total, more excruciatingly a privation. And it was aware with a kind of growing hunger, but a hunger for something that did not exist; for the knowledge was only of absence, of pure and absolute absence.

Absence endured through ever-lengthening durations. Durations of restlessness. Durations of hunger. Durations that expanded and expanded as the frenzy of instability became more and more intense, that lengthened out into eternities of despair.

Eternities of the insatiable, despairing knowledge of absence within absence, everywhere, always, in an existence of only one dimension. . . .

And then abruptly there was another dimension, and the everlasting ceased to be the everlasting.

That within which the awareness of absence knew itself, that by which it was included and interpenetrated, was no longer an absence, but had become the presence of another awareness. The awareness of absence knew itself known.

– Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have A Stop