The whole country knows that fifty years ago today John F. Kennedy died from an assassin’s bullet in Dallas. Most Christians know that on the same day C.S. Lewis died. But most in believing circles have forgotten—though not Peter Kreeft—that on this date five decades ago Aldous Huxley also died.

Huxley was famous, brilliant, learned, and—how shall we put it?—not one to let traditional morality get in the way of having a good time. Here’s the start to his Wikipedia entry:

Aldous Leonard Huxley (26 July 1894 – 22 November 1963) was an English writer and a prominent member of the famous Huxley family. Best known for his novels including Brave New World and a wide-ranging output of essays, Huxley also edited the magazine Oxford Poetry, and published short stories, poetry, travel writing, film stories and scripts. He spent the later part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death.

Huxley was a humanist, pacifist, and satirist. He later became interested in spiritual subjects such as parapsychology and philosophical mysticism, in particular Vivekananda’s Neo-Vedanta and Universalism. He is also well known for his use of psychedelic drugs.

By the end of his life Huxley was widely acknowledged as one of the pre-eminent intellectuals of his time.

So what can Christians learn from an agnostic, tripped-out, Hindu-intrigued, universalist, philosopher with an interest in communicating with the dead? At least this: sometimes smart people invent new ideas so they don’t have to listen to God’s ideas. Huxley once remarked, in a burst of transparency that can shine a light on a lot of the world’s darkness:

For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we 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.[1]

No doubt, some people reject the gospel and the Bible because of genuine intellectual concerns, but just as often, pride and personal prejudice is to blame. We don’t like what the Bible says so we find someone else who will make it say something else. Or we make up a new system to get out from under the Bible altogether. As Christians we often assume some form of Rational Actor Theory to be true, that people live out their ethics and make their decisions based on their higher order beliefs and worldview. But more often—and this is the point Huxley admitted to—humans do what they like to do and then find a system to justify their unfettered desires.

It’s no way to live for God. But it is the way most of us live.


[1] Robert S. Baker and James Sexton (eds.), Aldous Huxley Complete Essays, Volume 4 (Lanham, MD: Ivan R. Dee, 2001), 369.

Print Friendly
View Comments

Comments:


8 thoughts on “The Other Man Who Died This Day”

  1. Curt Day says:

    For American Christians, there is a sad irony in the last Huxley quote cited in this post. Whereas though Huxley was a sexually immoral man, he could still see the injustices inherent in our political and economic systems, Christians, on the other hand, tend to be more sexually pure but blind to the injustices engrained in those same economic and political systems. One reason for this is that we Christians have too strongly associated Christianity with the founding of our economic and political systems. And perhaps we have done so in an effort to both flatter ourselves and impress unbelievers.

  2. Randy Hamilton says:

    On reading this article, which was noted by a pastor at the Baptist church I attend, the Huxley passage cited here struck me fairly obviously as just the sort of passage that is often taken out of context by one who uses it to promote his or her own point of view while glibly dismissing the perspective of another. So, not knowing much about Huxley either, I did a little research; just for a few minutes, which I imagine is more than the author of this article.

    What I found is that this passage has been cited numerous times by writers whose primary intention is similar to the author of the current article. I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of these authors, perhaps ALL of them, did not read one single other word of the Huxley essay from which this brief passage is taken. And I would also wager that the majority of them know nothing about Huxley beyond what is conveyed in two or three paragraphs from Wikipedia.

    Upon reading the Huxley passage, it struck me, too, that it is at least in part satirical. If one were to take the time to really understand what Huxley says in this passage, in the context of the complete essay (which admittedly I have not yet done) one might find and at least begin to read such analysis as found in this article: http://books.openedition.org/pulg/880?lang=en, by which it seems even clearer that Huxley was indeed satirizing, even impugning, his contemporaries and even himself, at least at a certain time in his life, for shallow and illogical perspectives on meaning (or the lack thereof) in life.

    With just a little more investigation, one finds that a little later in life, Huxley wrote “The Perennial Philosophy,” which reveals a far more broad and nearly exhaustive search into spiritual matters than I myself have ever made, and probably more than most others Christians have ever make. The vast majority of us believe that our certainty about the veracity of the Bible eliminates the need to look anywhere else for “truth,” even though the Bible obviously does not contain all truth, nor could any other one book, nor room full of books or nor even a library. And further, most of us believe what we believe about the Bible not from any rigorous personal investigation, but because someone else tells us it is so.

    So when we hold ourselves out as having the answers about life, it behooves us to be as knowledgeable as we can be about why we do so (1 Peter 3:15, 16). And to admit to the fact that even in the Bible alone, we do not find all of life’s truths, and to the fact that much of what anyone reads there is open to more than one interpretation (Matthew 11:14, 15 is especially interesting to ponder).

    The perspective and dismissive tone taken in this article is a primary reason why so many thoughtful people will never be reached by organized religion.

  3. ChemistGuy says:

    The main character in Brave New World upholds sexual purity and fights for spiritual meaning in a completely amoral, hedonistic world. He’s not exactly Christian; the future society he interacts is portrayed as troubling and evil.
    It is the only complete Huxley work I’ve read so I can’t place it in context with the bulk of life and writing. Maybe it’s an outlier.
    I really enjoyed it as an audio book- British author, British reader and a well told story.

  4. anaquaduck says:

    The day the music died (American Pie) has a musical trio in mind that was capturing hearts & minds with it’s rock & roll. This world is made up of string upon string of excuses. First let me do this or let me do that.

    The Bible tells us we know what we should do but don’t, something has mastery over us. Rom 7: 14-15. We could travel to the ends of the earth, grow in knowledge, surrender our bodies to flames but if we have not love it’s is all in vain & utterly meaningless.1 Cor 13.

    Take the world but give me Jesus.

  5. Randy Hamilton says:

    By the way, CS Lewis also died on the same day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

Kevin DeYoung's Books