Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World – Blueprint for Humanist Utopia
The following notes were written for the benefit of students given Brave New World as a study text. They are provided here for anyone who may be interested.
While Aldus Huxley claims to have written Brave New World in reaction to the direction he saw American society and technology taking the whole world in the “roaring” 1920’s, as if Huxley himself did not subscribe to the values exposed in that Brave New World, it is clear that many readers see Huxley’s book as defining the parameters of an ideal humanist utopia which they subscribe to.
Evidence the work of David Pearce who created the Huxley.net website which focuses specifically on Brave New World. Pearce anticipates achievement of the Brave New World and has his own suggestions as to the appropriate drugs to replace Huxley’s ‘soma’ while he also keeps track of genetic manipulation capable of enabling man to be free from various ills. Pearce speaks of “paradise-engineering” to bring about a world where physical and mental pain are removed and new levels of ecstasy can be achieved.
Huxley’s Brave New World proves to be not a mere mockery of American social direction, but the clearest articulation of the humanist ideal.
With that in mind a review Huxley’s paradise gives many insights into the humanist imperative and the moral framework that inspires many in today’s society.
The Humanist Utopia
BRAVE NEW WORLD represents the cry of the humanist heart to escape from morality.
Utopia, as seen through the eyes of Huxley, involves total sexual liberation from the earliest age, total liberation from the consequence of sexual activity (through contraception and abortion), escape from morality, indulgence of every impulse quickly and completely, and removal of family, God and Christianity, in order to remove remorse, fear, guilt, shame, condemnation, and so on.
But this utopia has not been achieved.
The Judeo-Christian ethic which stands in contrast to humanism is that this is a MORAL UNIVERSE and all attempts to pretend otherwise will fail.
Huxley invokes the prophets of his age who he sees as affirming the humanist myth of escape from morality.
They include: Freud’s insights that sexual repression (moral responsibility) spawns human ills; Haekel’s already debunked fraud about human development in the womb; Pavlov’s ideas of conditioning; ideas of programming of the human mind (believing that mind is the centre of the matter); chemical reductionism (all human behaviour is nothing more than a response to chemical or other stimuli within the biology); etc.
Huxley also, we must assume, holds to the Darwinian beliefs his own grandfather so virulently asserted.
So what of Huxley’s heroes? Darwin shrinks devoid of any of the evidence he expected and shrivelled by the unveiling of life’s complexities. Freud shrinks to just one of many competing voices crying in the psychological wilderness, with little currency in today’s eclectic world of psycho-babble. Haekel’s drawings were already exposed as fraud but have since been roundly exposed and deliberate deception. Pavlov’s salivating dogs have been displaced by all manner of psychological oddities and assumptions. Chemical reductionism has failed to stand as a credible explanation for human free will.
Comparing Humanist Artefacts in Huxley and Greene
Similarly to Richard Greene’s The Quiet American a humanist worldview is clearly evident in Brave New World, exposing the prevailing thought of the educated elite in the early part of last century. (Richard Greene’s The Quiet American is another literature text given to students to review.)
Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1931 and through it, and through Huxley’s comments 15 years later in his 1946 Foreword, we are given insight into the ideas that influenced the cadre of writers, philosophers and world influencers of the first half of the twentieth century. Huxley saw himself as a member of the ‘intellectual class’ (Foreword 1946) and is hailed as writing one of the most significant texts of his day. So we can be justified in performing an autopsy on Huxley’s ideas and the thinking of that past era.
By such process we shall likely see insights into the value of those ideas and also possibly see how those ideas have morphed into ideas held by today’s educated elite.
While Huxley revolts at the direction Americanisation was relentlessly taking the rest of the world and the ultimate tyranny of his suggested outcome, he also holds to the humanist values that underpin that inherent direction of applied science as he prophetically saw it heading. Huxley’s prophetic insight was based on interpretation of the popular notions shared among the intellectual class of his day. Brave New World was nonetheless the utopia envisaged by the educated elite of Huxley’s day.
It is interesting to note parallels between Huxley’s bold suggestions of 1931 and the values expressed by Greene in his 1952 book, The Quiet American.
Two decades had not changed the prevailing ideas but had seen them become more ubiquitously and more a natural aspiration of the average educated man (represented by Greene’s characters).
To clarify an obvious connection note that Huxley’s utopia centred on sex and drugs and man’s ability to abandon responsibility.
The life of Greene’s main character, Thomas Fowler, is also centred on sex, drugs and exemption from past commitments.
Both Huxley and Greene see the need to address and dispense with the place and presence of the divine and both present an ideal of life free from the imposition of an external moral being.
Sex, drugs and irresponsibility found wider expression in the second half of last century with the explosion of the Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s.
The humanistic, self-indulgent rejection of morals that Huxley and Greene each presented and which were at one time the preserve of those pursuing a bohemian lifestyle, became a widespread cultural revolution that morphed into the many cultural and social issues of today.
In the 8 decades since Huxley’s expose of the humanist ideal we have seen progressive abandonment of the traditional Christian values promoted and upheld in the western world for centuries, and in consequence we have seen drug addiction, family breakdown, domestic violence, youth suicide, depression and other signs of social decline swell in significance and that humanist ideal become much more widely pursued.
What we see in the writings of Huxley and Greene and their peers is the rise of the religion of humanism in the west, swamping the values of Christianity which had undergirded western society for centuries.
To members of the ‘intellectual class’, defiance of God through reliance on scientific breakthrough would relieve them of moral responsibility and allow them to indulge their human passions readily and with impunity.
These intellectuals could have no higher existence than serving their own wishes and making contribution to the anti-God campaign.
The Huxley Calling
Aldus Huxley’s grandfather, Thomas Huxley, was so virulent a force in promoting evolution he was dubbed “Darwin’s Bulldog”.
Thus ‘defying God’ was a family tradition for the Huxley’s. Aldus knew that he too was to play his part.
Yet for all his bravado and evangelistic effectiveness, Darwin’s Bulldog is now exposed as selling an empty box.
None of Darwin’s concepts or expectations stood up to scientific scrutiny.
So much so that today’s evolutionists seek completely different possibilities for evolution than Darwin proposed.
The evidences promulgated so effectively by the elder Huxley have therefore clearly proven faulty.
Today’s evolutionists cannot yet provide any convincing proofs for their theory despite those proofs being sought in earnest for more than a century.
The elder Huxley spoke as an evangelistic voice selling a bag of goods that proved to be spurious.
We need not, thus, be squeamish about inspecting the younger Huxley’s bag of goods and testing the true nature of what he dished up to his audience educated in humanist thought and eager to have formal permission for their longed for self-serving lifestyle.
Huxley’s humanist world is anchored in what he calls ‘applied science’, which we would today simply call technology.
The Brave New World utopia could only come into existence through applied science empowering man to transcend such horrors as the fear of death, the aging process, family relationships, unwanted pregnancy, frustration of personal will, and addiction and other side effects of drug use.
Huxley’s fiction starts by first introducing us to the use of applied science to create man in the image of man’s choosing.
The Hatching and Conditioning factory involves a completely controlled artificial womb created by applied science, where temperature, chemical exposure and other stimuli are used to control the ultimate ‘human’ (or maybe subhuman) output.
More on the Humanist Heroes
In Huxley’s establishing scenes of man creating man to serve man’s will we gain insight into identity of the luminaries Huxley saw bringing applied science to the fore.
To the intellectual elite no greater honour can be conferred than to be acknowledged by peers, quoted by them, and even to have some process or truth named after you.
So in the humanist world of applied science the ‘prophets’ are not Confucius, Buddha, Moses or Paul, but such names as Marx, Freud, Kinsey and Pavlov.
That these names are still honoured today speaks to their status as primary voices or significant contributors to the humanist cause.
Such men are the gurus or holy men of humanism.
Huxley reflects the formula of giving honour to the humanist scientist by building their names into the key processes by which they made his utopia possible. We find reference to a Bokanovski’s Process and Podsnap’s Technique and respect for a Pilkington at Mombasa. Enshrining the name of men who are revered is automatic to Huxley.
Apart from fictitious names for processes not yet invented, Huxley exposes his own reverence for men who have advanced the humanist utopian ideal.
In chapter 1 we find reference to Haekel’s ‘embryonic recapitulation’ pseudo-science.
Without mentioning Haekel that man’s myth is keenly affirmed:
“The embryos still have gills. We immunize the fish against the future man’s diseases.”
Haekel’s fraud was exposed in the 1890’s but still promoted in “science” (?) textbooks since that time, including being attested to as fact by the NSW education system in 2012.
Haekel’s deliberately deceptive drawings were further exposed at the end of last century when correct embryo images were collated to show the degree of gross misrepresentation engaged in by this fraudster.
In Brave New World not only is Haekel’s fraud presented confidently but its logical deception is also stated in the words “future man’s diseases”, as if the embryo is not yet “man” but something sub-human.
One of the pivotal platforms for humanist thought is that man is not truly man in the sense taught by Christianity, but a mere accident of chance and even in the womb is nothing more than an animal that can be tamed or manipulated into whatever others choose it to be, or even destroyed without thought. Huxley’s utopia is built soundly upon that premise.
Also looming large in Huxley’s view of the world, as a luminary who will usher in the Brave New World, is Henry Ford, the champion of mass production. To Huxley the application of production line process, as Ford famously achieved, signalled much more than efficient manufacture, but the prospect of just about anything being controlled by man’s technology.
Thus Huxley evokes the image of human embryos relentlessly subjected to production line process.
Today ‘Who is Ford?’ While production line ingenuity seemed to be a compelling breakthrough to Huxley in 1930 no-one today is at all likely to deify, or even give too much thought to “Fordism”.
We are much more enamoured with the innovations that gave us Microsoft, Apple and Khan Academy. Technology has given us much more than Henry Ford’s clunky Model T, and remote third world countries now produce for us base model vehicles that make Ford’s efforts look archaic.
Production line processes pale into insignificance compared with the transistor and microchip and the benefits of the world-wide-web.
Despite such incredible advance in technology, production processes, robotics, miniaturisation, and so on since 1931 we are not any closer to Huxley’s utopian artificial womb. Henry Ford did not offer us anything more than mass produced goods. And since Ford’s day we have become much better at mass production of identical manufactured items. Ford is forgotten and mankind, family, happiness and pain continue as ever before.
In Chapter 2 we find another of Huxley’s luminaries in Pavlov, with his name enshrined in the ‘Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning Rooms’. The Brave New World has supposedly refined the science of conditioning to train children to react as per the programming. It seems that Pavlov’s admirers once salivated in anticipation of a Brave New World.
But did the great Pavlov give us anything any granny with a cat did not already know? Pavlov conditioned dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell, in anticipation of the meal that normally accompanied that sound. For this he is a humanist hero, having unlocked the human psyche (or the dog psyche anyway).
Yet when a cat owner opens the refrigerator, starts to open a tin of cat food, or taps the can the pet will come running and licking its lips. And if the stooped old widow is opening the fridge for herself or just opening a can of baked beans the preconditioned cat response is elicited as reliably as in Pavlov’s laboratory.
Wow! The great Pavlov stands beside the stooped granny feeding her cat. And the control of man is no closer than it was when cats first domesticated us.
Why then is Pavlov adored? He was part of the educated elite, not a stooped old granny. And he provided a cogent promise that by discovering what was already known for past millennia he was unlocking new horizons for the future.
I am reminded of the 2,000 year old warning that “professing themselves to be wise they became fools” (Paul the student of Gamaliel).
Note that in the application of Pavlovian conditioning Huxley has no qualms about inflicting pain and denying people their god-given right to choose freely. Cruelty to infants, which would be condemned if it was in the form of parental discipline of the child, is seen as noble when inflicted painfully and repeatedly upon an entire generation in order to make them become something they may not want to be.
All hail humanism. It stands against the cruelty of punishment for crime as a means of raising moral character and advocates far greater cruelty (even torture) to enslave the minds of people so they don’t get in the way of others who want to have their fun without moral responsibility.
And Pavlov, not the granny with her cat, can be hailed as the scientific luminary who legitimises this cruelty. I suspect Granny is perfectly happy for that.
This Pavlovian conditioning process is consistent with Huxley’s persistent idea that man is the end of the matter and that man can be freely tampered with by man.
Getting Rid of God
In his 1946 Foreword Huxley exposes his humanist religious commitment through his definition of ‘religion’.
“Religion would be the conscious and intelligent pursuit of man’s Final End”.
This definition is man centric, thus humanist. It is in effect a pursuit of transcendence, arriving at the idealised state represented by the humanist notion of “Tao or Logos, the transcendent Godhead or Brahman”.
This humanist pursuit is to become an enlightened being, to so find oneself and so effectively pursue self-help personal development principles, as to have arrived at a higher state of consciousness where man has risen above the mundane and become a higher being.
This is thus a religion in which one saves oneself. Human saving human. This is the religion of Humanism, not the fear of God.
Interestingly in Greene’s The Quiet American, his American character, Alden Pyle, holds to the religious beliefs of Unitarianism and Christian Science, both which compromise the core values of traditional Christianity and accommodate the humanist idea of man’s effective effort to save self.
Rather than recognising an eternal, self-existent being who exists separate from and as creator and lord over all we know, and to whom we therefore owe allegiance and by whom we will be measured in comparison with his holy standards, Huxley (and Greene) project man as the ultimate being, in pursuit of his own happiness and not accountable to any external, holy being.
Thus in both cases man can do what is convenient or whatever he chooses, with his only challenge being to use applied science to overcome any negative effects which may occur (such as unwanted pregnancy).
In Huxley’s mind, representative of the humanist belief system, there is no greater morality than man. Technology is progressively liberating man from the consequences of actions otherwise seen as immoral (unwanted pregnancy, conflict with others, personal hurt and pain) and removing the obstacles to man’s pursuit of happiness.
Education and science are man’s greatest assets and those who find the keys to greater release from consequences or who can prop up man’s rejection of God automatically become heroes of the faith and prophets to be revered.
Educating and Deceiving
Huxley’s humanist ideas of man elevating himself are further disclosed in the process by which the Savage achieves higher levels of civility and awareness. The operative elevating agency is study, and specifically the study of Shakespeare.
This fits the ‘educated elite’ notion that education is a means of salvation.
If Shakespeare can ennoble the Savage, then those and other worthy writings of the masters can ennoble anyone. If one can be elevated to civility by study of good literature then what are the ultimate limits of such elevation? Cannot man continue to ennoble himself, lifting self higher and higher out of the morass of ideas and experience that bring pain? Thus the humanist ululation when one of their own provides a new insight that promises to advance the cause, such as a Pavlov giving scientific credence to a common observation.
Sadly we see abundant evidence that the educated elite and others held by the humanist ideology have no qualms about propagating fraud as fact and holding to outdated ideas that have lost their credibility, as we saw with Huxley’s propagation of Haekel’s fraudulent work. To admit that man cannot save himself and that the case against God has no witnesses is to cut the very ground from under the feet of those who have committed their whole life to the humanist belief system and a morality that has clearly put them in the anti-God camp. Human pride and self-will must clutch at straws rather than admit error and moral responsibility.
Note that for all the ennobling power of education and fine literature touching the soul, Huxley recognised the limits of this force. Education can ennoble, but it cannot save. It can improve life, but it cannot provide power over broader forces. We see this enacted in the ultimate suicide of the ennobled savage. For all his ability to see better and realise ‘self’ more fully, the savage ultimately succumbed to despair in the futility of his situation.
Sadly we see a history of similar defeat among humanist intellectuals who find that all their pursuits leave them without the ultimate freedom and power they hoped for.
Feminist elements of humanism are also encapsulated in Huxley’s expose. While man and woman are indulged with unlimited ‘Free Sex’ (as DH Lawrence referred to it in Sons and Lovers) without the entanglements of relationships that may sour over time or emotional holds that may not be wanted, womankind is released from the impost of pregnancy. Contraception and Abortion are everyday resources of women in the Brave New World, and viviparous mothering is a shocking thought. (Viviparous: “Giving birth to living offspring that develop within the mother’s body.”)
For the feminist hedonist the impositions of motherhood, impacting the body during pregnancy and challenging the body’s natural youthful state in consequence of pregnancy and breast-feeding a baby, and the continued impositions of child raising, denying the carefree options available to a non-parent, and tying the mother into an ongoing connection with the child and the child’s father are anathema and must be removed by applied science.
In Huxley’s Brave New Society these womanly impositions are completely removed and woman is as free as a single male, unafraid of the impact of motherhood, and thus viviparous motherhood is an obscene prospect. And the imposition of child raising is also removed by children being raised by the state, without consciousness of mother and father or other family connections.
In the 8 decades since Huxley’s writing we see the efforts of technologists and policy makers to push the envelope in regard to these humanist and feminist ideals, with the 1960’s introduction of the contraceptive pill, 1970’s no-fault divorce, abortion on demand, expanded child care, extended institutionalised education, more working women, greater legal recognition of de-facto relationships and so on.
The Greater Good
Explicit in Brave New World is gross social engineering, manipulating life as one might prune a tree or treat an animal. Justification for such blatant enslavement and torture is achievement of a better equilibrium for all.
The greater good imposed on all is of man’s making and allows certain individuals, ‘controllers’, to dictate the fate of entire generations. The problem emerges, however, that if there are no external moral absolutes by which goodness can be defined, then the greater good is an empty notion, where the will of one is forced upon another.
The Savage and those others who had achieved self identity and did not want to live within the confines of the Brave New World tyranny suffered under the weight of the greater good. The greater good cannot exist without identification of the greatest good. And the greatest good invokes the present and person of one who is ultimately holy and good, against whose standards all of man’s thought and action are measured.
It is interesting that Huxley’s counterpoint to the Brave New World is represented through an educated savage. The title “savage” is repeatedly assigned this individual from the native reservation. This suggests an intention to tease at the notion of the Noble Savage, “an idealized concept of uncivilized man, who symbolizes the innate goodness of one not exposed to the corrupting influences of civilization.”
It seems that in Huxley’s expose of the Brave New World we are meant to identify with the concerns of the savage and to see in him the better way than a technologically manipulated society. The savage embraced learning, by reading Shakespeare, and is thus ennobled. He seeks an independent lifestyle, of his own making, not controlled by the society at large.
Sadly for the savage he is unable to escape the impost of that other society which does not share his values and which continually interferes with his highest ideals. Thus the savage takes his life.
That act of suicide is a pessimistic recognition that the ubiquitous forces of American cultural projection cannot be stopped and will eventually destroy all vestiges of independent thought and life.
Hail the Brave New World!
Comparing Humanism and Christianity
Comparing the humanist Utopian ideal presented in Brave New World with the prevailing Christian beliefs that the Brave New World stood against the three most obvious pillars of that world stand in stark contrast to the classical Christian values upon which the ancient Monarchy and English culture stand.
Those three most obvious pillars in Brave New World are:
Man’s power over life, as evidenced in the incubator, conditioning facilities, contraception and abortion processes;
Self-indulgent living, with freedom from consequences, as evidenced in the free sex and addiction free drug usage; and
Freedom from moral accountability, as seen in the removal of family ties, committed relationships and consciousness of an external moral Creator God.
In contrast, traditional Biblical Christianity teaches that:
Life is created by God and thus man can only have power over life within the confines of God’s moral precepts;
Man is to live according to the will and pleasure of God, and must deny selfish impulses and form godly character in so doing; and
Man is fully morally accountable to God for every word, thought and act, and must also accommodate himself to the demands of family and social relationships.
Thus the values of the Brave New World, when presented in 1931, were a bold affront to all that is Christian in the western world. Its shock value would have been much greater in its day, since the decline in consciousness of Christian teaching and the loosening of morals has been significant in the past eighty years.
Tags: aldus huxley, brave new world, humanism, sexual liberation
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