[Note: page numbers cited for The Esoteric Tradition are to the 2-vol. Second Edition and do not correspond to the 1-vol. 3rd & Revised Edition.]
One of a generation living, as he expresses it "in the rather grisly morning-after of the success of science when it is apparent that what triumphant science has done hitherto is to improve the means for achieving unimproved ends or actually deteriorated ends," Mr. Huxley had accepted the conception of man and the universe presented by materialistic science and early fallen a victim to the doctrine of "meaninglessness." But his horror at the results of this hideous cast of thought, his sympathy for those whose minds became imprisoned in it, and his adventurous intellect and resolute will, impelled him to make strong search in near and distant fields of human experience and this led to the rediscovery of the eternal values that give purpose and meaning to life on Earth. From being a victim Mr. Huxley has become a victor: by his scientific survey of man as a spiritual as well as a physical and intellectual being, he has been able to administer to the poison-bite of materialistic science a traditional cure, namely, "the hair of the dog that bit you."
Ends And Means (1) is indeed a guide to moderns who would escape from the squirrel-cage which snapped shut upon their minds when they were caught by "meaninglessness," and which cut them off from the luminous areas of human consciousness where religious faith and human associations based upon eternal ethical principles give entrance to temples of inward peace and understanding of life's significance. Love and awareness Mr. Huxley found to be essential virtues, and love and awareness in his own nature, with the poet's vision of beauty in hid places, have given him the power to throw a brilliant light on the thorny path men tread today. Theosophists who in the 1880's and 1890's were delivered from their agnosticism (the plunge into meaninglessness was reserved for another generation) by the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom concerning science, religion, and philosophy, as restored to the West by H. P. Blavatsky, are grateful to Mr. Huxley for his scientific attack on "the great dire heresy of separateness," for stating the case so clearly, and for suggesting some practical remedies for that unbrotherliness which one of the Theosophical Teachers, Katherine Tingley, has called "the insanity of the age."
In his search for the noblest ends that men have sought and the noblest means they have used to achieve them, Mr. Huxley scaled walls of national and continental ignorance and prejudice and came upon ideals based upon belief in a spiritual reality underlying the phenomenal world, and in a Self motivated by such a conception, that stands in strong contrast to the self-defensive, salvation-demanding, acquisitive motives familiar to us and even sanctioned by religion in the West. He points out how, in substituting a Deity with human attributes for a Universal Principle, a One, at the source of all life, and in failing to require harmony between Christian ideals and the dealings between man and man and nation and nation — in really doing what was tantamount to putting religion on a business basis — the Christian world has made a costly, if instructive, detour from the road of understanding of man and his destiny. The cleverness which devised means to gain ends themselves gradually vitiated by the means used to gain them, the neglect of the major virtues which open vision to spiritual reality, led to very different results from those effected for instance, by the teachings and practice of Buddhism, with its injunctions as to non-attachment in action and employment of "the right means of livelihood." Ignorance or neglect of these very practical religious considerations brought the practical West to the present chapter of horrors with its "regression from charity," its "decline in men's regard for truth," — from monotheism and materialism to meaninglessness.
Reading this book one recalls Matthew Arnold's forebodings of one hundred years ago, about European civilization, and his wise and intuitive warnings, so far in advance of his century and so little heeded. Aldous Huxley enjoys the double distinction of being Matthew Arnold's grand-nephew and Thomas Huxley's grandson, and in him we have a critic with the advantage of training in the science of our time. Will this help his voice to reach home — or will it also pass unheeded?
Mr. Huxley's analysis of present-day problems merits attention for many reasons. His willingness to include a whole range of human experience generally ignored or denied by scientists, his unwillingness to baulk any facts however menacing they may be to prideful content or wilful irresponsibility, his vast research into subjects very superficially treated by the writers available to the general public, have prepared him to find hitherto unsuspected vulnerable places in institutions and methods now used with all the assurance of brain-mind cleverness unillumined by the light of spirit. Ends And Means is a penetrating expose of such methods and practices and of the delusions they are fastening on the minds of men. Mr. Huxley's survey of government, education, war; his presentation of the scientific view of the bearing of sexuality upon the lasting creative energy of a race; his observations about the effect of popular addictions regarded as diversions; his challenge to literary artists to supply adequate ideals of conduct and character; should serve to correct unethical views of these matters. For some supposedly innocent practices and amusements cause and perpetuate the very evils that appal us when they are multiplied into mass movements.
One of the most portentous passages in Ends And Means deals with the significance to our present civilization of the scientific findings concerning intra-specific competition, which is competition between members of the same species. Students of Theosophy are familiar with the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom as to man's evolution along physical, mental and emotional, and spiritual lines and also with the outline of his progress towards his ultimate high destiny on Earth given in H. P. Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine in 1888. Theosophists accepted fifty years ago what scientists now assert: that the human species is the primitive stock and has had the power to resist the tendency to specialization to which certain other mammals succumbed; that the human species kept to the broad, general line of advance, and has thus been able to "make the grade" as Theosophists put it, to unfold the capacity for supremacy over less advanced species, to control environment so that man has now nothing to fear from competition with other species. The human stock, the oldest, is most advanced, say Theosophists, because it has "been to school" the longest, and because man is, to quote Dr. G. de Purucker's Theosophy and Modern Science (1930),
a better and higher expression through evolution of the indwelling mental and psychic forces than the lower creatures are.
And in his Esoteric Tradition (1935) Dr. de Purucker indicates the still higher "grade" which humanity must voluntarily make:
The human race, however, will "evolve" by "involving"; paradoxical as it may sound: evolve forth spirit, and involve matter.
Now comes Mr. Huxley to point out that what man has to fear is intra-specific competition, that between man and man — certainly the keynote and cornerstone of our whole system today. Intra-specific competition, biologists state, is a line of evolution which is voluntary, based on no inner necessity. It is pursued by man either in ignorance or in defiance of, either of two inevitable consequences, one which bars the human species from unfolding further high capacities, and the other which actually leads to the extinction of the human race. Mr. Huxley notes also that
we are doing our best to adapt ourselves to modern conditions of intra-specific competition. . . . and to become dangerously specialized in killing our fellows.
A disastrous culmination of adherence to "the heresy of separateness" is thus a possibility which mankind must voluntarily avert by substituting co-operation for competition. As Mr. Huxley says:
Love and understanding are valuable even on the biological level Hatred, unawareness, stupidity and all that makes for an increase of separateness are the qualities that, as a matter of historical fact, have led either to the extinction of a species, or to its becoming a living fossil, incapable of making further biological progress.
Will the motive of self-preservation drive man to the realization of the unity and the spiritual reality underlying our life on Earth? Will man's necessity lead him to find in these an ethical basis upon which to build by non-separative, non-violent, really human methods of advance? Mr. Huxley clearly indicates that this deeper realization depends upon individual effort to become Self-conscious, to achieve more complete physical, intellectual, and spiritual awareness, to bring the "more than self" into actual function in a life of non-attachment to the results of action. This Self transcends the sub-personal self which many lives demonstrate; transcends the merely personal self unlearned and unpractised in the inner inhibitions known to those more fully evolved in love and awareness; it is in touch with spiritual reality and can be a channel of illumination to the human mind and heart. Mr. Huxley, it will be seen, in his scientific survey of human history, includes the long-derided "path of the mystic"; and has reached the conviction that those who undergo the discipline of practising the major virtues and of identifying themselves with the "more than self," win direct knowledge of inner things hidden from others. And further: Large-scale social reform is not enough; "there must be suppression at the source, in the individual will." He says:
This super-personal level is reached only during the mystical experience. There is, however, a state of being, rarely attained, but described by the greatest mystical writers of East and West, in which it is possible for a man to have a kind of double consciousness — to be both a full-grown person, having a complete knowledge of, and control over, his sensations, emotions and thoughts, and also, and at the same time, a more than personal being, in continuous intuitive relation with the impersonal principle of reality.
The study of the "individual" in Ends And Means is a ringing challenge to Self-discovery. Most heartening also, is the view that those who have become "individuals," strong and skilled in love and awareness, can, in association with the like-minded and single-hearted among their fellows, rise to a level of group-consciousness above that reached by each alone; can thus help to form a hierarchy in advance of the general body of the human race, and act as a pull on the less evolved, in the direction of the non-separative- ness and the non-attachment in action which are the only true basis of — which, in fact, constitute — the integrating principle the urgent need for which is felt and expressed in every department of human endeavor today. A saying of Jesus comes to mind: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Ends And Means is a book that can bear periodical review: it will be long before what it contains can be sifted into the race-mind; there is in it food for generations that must acquire the power to dissociate the truth from dogma-encrusted traditions. But while Mr. Huxley reiterates the truth that "a metaphysic of the universe," a comprehensive "inner" for the outer that is yet to be, a frame-work of human destiny adequate for "more than self" to manifest in, is required; while he states again and again that man's view of his relation to the universe decides his views of right and wrong; his book falls short of being what it has been called by some critics, namely, "a bible for moderns" in not presenting more fully the cosmic setting for man as a spiritual being. Does Mr. Huxley perhaps realize that H. P. Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine presents the needed cosmology in full, showing "the integrating principle" in operation? And may his next book perhaps comprehend the Ancient Science, the Ancient Wisdom of the Secret Doctrine, and treat it with the lucidity and charm that characterize his Inquiry into the Nature of Ideals and into the Methods Employed for their Realization in his Ends And Means?
1. Ends And Means, An Inquiry into the Nature of Ideals and into the Methods Employed for their Realization By Aldous Huxley. 382 pp. Harper & Brothers, Publishers. 1937 $3.50. (return to text)