Mr. Aldous Huxley Thinks It Out
" By-Passing " Christianity
By The Editor -ir4 AC:H day's newspapers bring to our attention the existence of a disordered world, disordered in its principles or lack of principles and disordered in its detailed practice. As Christians we believe that we possess the knowledge of principles of order and of ways of behaving that could revolutionise this world. Have we really tried to work out our principles in their possible application to the concrete situation? Have we bothered to think out whether it is possible for us to effect this revolution of which we speak? Arc we actually playing our part at the present moment in forming a more ordered world?
These questions spring to the mind as one reads Aldous Huxley's latest book, Ends 'and Means : An Enquiry into the Nature of Ideals and into the Methods Employed
for their Realisation. Mr. Huxley has taken the trouble to ask all these questions and to answer them in terms of his own philosophy of life. He is optimistic enough to believe that his views could spread through the world with the help of " asso ciations of devoted individuals." e,
Mr. Huxley has not got the truth (though he has got many bits of it); at best he could only rely on a few followers in a few countries. We have got the truth and we have three hundred million convinced believers in it spread throughout the world. What proportion of those millions have bothered to think out for themselves or to study the detail of the nature of Christian ideals and the detail of their possible realisation?
CONFESSIONS OF HUXLEY For some years Catholic students of Huxley's writings have detected under the appearance of his agnosticism and scepticism the groping for the Christian idea, and his famous novel, Brave New World, with its brilliant satire on the trend of contemporary behaviour. has proved more useful to Christian apologists than most books of formal apologetics. Ends and Means provides us with a test of how far his mind has travelled on the road to Christianity. Unfortunately it shows that he has, as it were, " by-passed " Christianity itself in his search for his goal.
Aldous Huxley is in intellect and in discernment a head taller than any of his nonChristian contemporaries in this country. One is therefore scarcely surprised to note that his life has consisted in outgrowing the illusions in the midst of which he was brought up.
" Does the world," he writes, "as a whole possess the value and meaning that we constantly attribute to certain parts of it .
This is a question which, a few years ago, I should not even have posed. For, like so many of my contemporaries. I took it for granted that there was no meaning . . . I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this
assumption . For myself, as. TIO doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially STI instrument of liberation. The liberation WV desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom; we objected to the political and economic system because it was unjust."
In religion Huxley is now a Theist. He would no longer qualify for the coming Freethinkers' Congress! In one burning aspect of morals his conclusion today is as follows:
" The only satisfactory solution of the probleat of sex is that which combines the acceptance, at least by the ruling classes. of pre
nuptial chat 4101 absolute monogamy with
complete legal equality between women and men."
WHAT HE THINKS OF RUSSIA Scarcely less interesting to us is his reaction to the contemporary political scene. After all, the return to an undefined Theism and some approach towards Christian morals is fairly widespread. But the intellectual worship of the " Left " idea in politics and economics is still increasing, nor is it confined to the younger Bloomsbury circles so amusingly satirised by Mr. Bernard Wall in the column that adjoins this article.
Huxley has wen through the whole business, and seen through it detpite his sharing of the general idea of modern democracy, despite, too, his unyielding pacifism: Fascist dictatorships he holds to be political planning by men who do not accept what he considers good or ideal postulates; the " Left." from Russia to the Western democracies, lie holds to be political planning by men who on the whole do accept these postulates " but imagine that the ends
proposed by the prophets can be achieved by wicked or unsuitable means.
". Hell is paved with good intentions, and it is probable that plans mado by wellmeaning people ref the second class may have results no less diSastrous than plans made by evil-intentioned people of the first class."
And here is what he thinks of Russia:
"Revolutionary Iiiissia has the largest army in the world; a secret police. that for ruthless effieiency rivals the Germans or Italian; a rigid Press eeneorship; 0 system of education that, since Stalin reformed it, is as authoritarian as Ilitier's; an allembracing system of military training that is applied to women and children as well as men; a dictator as slavishly adored as the roan-gods of Rome find Berlin; a bureaueracy, solidly entrenched as the new ruling class and employing the powers of the Slate to preserve its privileges and pi Meet its vested interests; an oligarehical party which dominates the entire country and ■%ithin which there is no
freedom even for iiii itul members . . No opposition is permitted in Russia. But where opposition is made illegal it goes underground and becomes eonepiritcy. Hence the treason
trials and purges of 1938 and 1937. Largeseale manipulations of the social structure are pushed through against the wishes of the people concerned foul with the uirnost ruthlessness. (Several nWlion peasants were deliberately starved to death in 1933 by the Soviet planners)."
AND OF DEMOCRACIES
His summing up of our own democracies is scarcely less severe:
" They have begun to address themselves, reluctantly but with deterudnution, to the task of beating the Fascist powers at their own game. There are many people who behove themselves to he fundamentally humane and actually behave as humanitarians. but who, it changed eireunistance offered occasion for being cruel (especially it the cruelty were represented us a meant; to some noble end), would succumb to the temptation with enthusiasm . . '1'41 a greater or less degree, then, all the civilised communities of the modern world are made up of u small class of rulers. corrupted hy too much power, and of a large class or suljeets, corrupted by too much passive and irre-ipousible obedience . . 'Under the present dispensation, the great majority of factories are little despotisms, benevolent in some oases, malevolent in others . . The failure of the League of Nations to secure the pacification of the world is due in part to historical accident, but mainly to the fact that it was based on entirely wrong principles . . . Sanctionists call their brand of war by high-seunding names. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by mere words. In the actual circumstances of the present day, ' collective security '.means a system of military alliances opposed to another system of' military alliances. The first system is called the beague•' the second is nominated in advance ' the Aggressor.'"
These are but odd sentences selected as one turns over the pages of the book, but they are enough to show that there are no blinkers on Huxley. If he loathes the Fascist idea, and exposes the democratic capitalist system, he equally reduces to so much dust the stuff contained in the brightly-coloured books and pamphlets that fill our " Socialist Book-Shops." The sophistry of Atheism, Free-Thought, Scientific Progress and fashionable " Left " political and economic theories is summed up in the phrase : " an obviously untrue philosophy of life leads in practice to disastrous results."
FUNDAMENTAL ERRORS The
Space does not permit of a discussion as to whether Huxley's constructive alternative is " true and therefore fruitful of good." One can only summarise a few conclusions in a number of points.
(1) The Christian is the best observer of human nature and of human society. Aldous Huxley happens to be an extraordinarily accurate and impartial observer of these things. Hence there is a great deal in this book that a Christian writer could not have bettered. Mr. Huxley's insistence on the need of awareness as well as of good will is especially welcome, just as is his contention that the external manipulation of the structure of society will effect little unless human nature itself is corrected.
(2) Huxley does not make the common mistake of trying to improve society without a clear idea of the end of human life, but he finds that end or ideal in the agreement on the point to be found among the " free philosophers, the mystics and the founders of religions " during the last three thousand years. Because of this start he disregards the two great " social " dogmas of Christianity, original sin and the ultimate value of personality affirmed in the Incarnation and the creation of all men in God's image and likeness and their Redemption. Because he doesn't know these facts, as we know them through revelation, he bases himself upon what is not true and inevitably reaches illusory conclusions and impossible codes of behaviour.
His God is an impersonal " integrating element of experience," and therefore his ideal for the human being is one of " nonattachment " to anything of the world of matter, sense and intellect, " non-attached even to science, art, speculation, philanthropy," instead of being one of attachment to " being " in all its richness and diversity, ordered to its last end, God.
In behaviour, Huxley's false start leads him to the basis of all his human endeavour, the doctrine of non-violence and rigid paci
fism. Fundamentally this is a denial of human action, and Huxley can only make progress through his inconsistent recourse to " non-co-operation*" which is negative
violence. When, for example. he states that Christianity burdened itself hopelessly with the cruelties of the Old Testament Bronze-Age, he should remember Chesterton's remark that, but for the fighting of the Old Testament, there could humanly speaking, have been no New Testament.
That despite these immense errors Huxley should have come so far is remarkable: the danger is that he may have gone too far, and in " by-passing " Christianity ultimately find that the " integrating element of experience " is Aldous Huxley's own mind. He cannot stay where he is. If he goes forward, that must be his direction. If he goes back, . . . Meanwhile he has given us all an object lesson in how to observe and how to think.