T H Huxley Essays

T H Huxley Essays-87
Rarely has there been an essayist-novelist-sage who, from the vantage point of the 1920s and ‘30s, prophesied the events of our contemporary world so accurately. He predicted the invention of surface-to-air missiles, genetic engineering, pharmacological highs and the insidious colonization of society by media and advertising interests. 22, 1963--for while the President espoused a “new frontier,” it was Huxley who to a large extent discovered one. Huxley and great-nephew of classicist Mathew Arnold, was deeply embroiled in our modern agenda: overpopulation, birth-control, polluted oceans, dwindling forests, the absorption of human values by an all-engulfing science and technology.It is much more the logical conclusion of the intellectual quest that began during his first years in Oxford.

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His mystical predisposition and pre-New Age predilections fitted in perfectly with his adopted home.

Although his reasons for moving here were the terrain and the clear and abundant southwestern light, there was also, as it turned out, an affinity for cults and spiritual disciplines which, then as now, made him a kindred spirit in Los Angeles.

A prominent defender of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, he was the grandfather of Julian, Aldous and Andrew Huxley.

He was a critic of organised religion and devised the words "agnostic" and "agnosticism" to describe his own views.

In “Huxley and God,” editor Jacqueline Bridgeman has culled together 26 pieces that convey Huxley’s fascination with the impenetrable and the unknowable.

The essays range from microscopic analyses of things like the Lord’s Prayer and a speech from “Henry V” to weighty discourses on subjects such as time, progress, contemplation, knowledge and understanding.Although he first made his mark as a novelist, he was never very comfortable in the genre.He viewed novel-writing, according to his friend Christopher Isherwood, “as a necessary nuisance.” The actual weaving of fiction “bored him.” But in his essays, that multifaceted intelligence that could juggle science and history, religion and art, psychology and politics shone with a luciferous light.And yet throughout these essays, Huxley is propounding the paradox of language obstructing the route to higher consciousness. Paul who talked about “the newness of spirit” and the “oldness of the letter” and how “the letter killeth” and “the spirit giveth life.” The search for Buddhahood fails because one is too consciously striving for it; by overvaluing words, we mistake the thing described for the thing itself; the conscious mind tries to hold truth in its grasp, but like water, it trickles through our fingers.This fascination with the transcendental is often most intense in the mind of a voracious intellectual like Huxley, who has already digested the secrets of science and technology, psychology and religion, art and literature.The urbanity and literary sophistication that Huxley brings to subjects that could so easily become soupily spiritual or turgidly transcendental is what gives this collection its special tang and makes it intensely readable even when the author is vainly trying to define the ineffable.Thomas Henry Huxley (4 May, 1825 – 29 June 1895) was a British biologist.One or two are cribbed from larger works such as “Time Must Have a Stop,” “The Perennial Philosophy” and “Grey Eminence,” but most are little-known pieces originally published by the Vedanta Society.The most accessible, and in many ways the most arresting, are the texts of lectures delivered to that society in the ‘50s and ‘60s.In chapters like “Distraction,” Huxley exhorts us to abandon the trivial and the inconsequential, which, in his view, diverts us from the jollies of the higher consciousness.In such moments, it is as if he is denying God a “happy hour” or a Sunday morning goof-off with the funny papers.


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