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A. Huxley in Sanary 1.1

What I already knew of Aldous Huxley A. Huxley in Sanary 1.1

1.1 First contacts with his work
Like many teenagers in France, I once laid my hands on a copy of “Brave New World“ that I read with the same interest and passion for the future which led me to devour OrwellEric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950), better known by the pen name George Orwell, was a British author and journalist. Noted as a novelist, as a critic and as a political and cultural commentator, Orwell is among the most widely admired English-language essayists of the 20th century. He is best known for two novels critical of fascism, communism and totalitarianism written and published towards the end of his life: Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four (©Wikipedia)’s 1984 and BarjavelRené Barjavel (January 24, 1911 - November 24, 1985) was a French author, journalist and critic who supposedly was the first to think of the grandfather paradox. He is best known as a science fiction author, whose work often involved the fall of civilisation due to technocratic hubris but who also favoured themes emphasising the durability of love.
Amongst other things, René Barjavel is the author of several suspense novels. There are several recurring themes such as the fall of civilisation due to the excesses of science and the madness of war, or indeed the eternal and indestructible character of love (Ravage, Le Grand Secret, La Nuit des temps, Une rose au paradis). His writing is poetic, dreamy and sometimes philosophical. Some of his works have their roots in an empirical and poetic questionning of the existence of God (notably La Faim du tigre). However he is also interested in the environmental heritage which we leave to our children and future generations. Whilst his works are rarely taught in French schools, his books are very popular in France.
Barjavel is also the author of Le Voyageur Imprudent, which first presents the famous paradox of time travel: if one goes backwards in time and kills one of their ancestors before he had children, the traveller cannot exist and therefore cannot kill the ancestor.
Barjavel died in 1985 and was buried with his ancestors in Tarendol cemetery, opposite mount Ventoux. Mount Ventoux appears in his novels, for example in Colomb de la Lune it is where the space base is. Tarendol is the name of the hero in the novel Tarendol(©Wikipedia)
’s Ravage.

Later, in adult life, I developed a passion for travelling. All the great books which I read during my travels, although heavy, were packed when finished, and brought to the family home in Toulon. Among these books were Huxley’s Grey Eminence(1942) and The Gioconda Smile (1958), stored along with the masterpiece BNW. I never suspected where the author had written his most studied work, for no biographies as far as I knew had ever given me a precise indication.

At the end of the Eighties, after having lived four years in New-York City, I decided to move to California. This I did for two precise reasons; a desire to know about the upcoming Computer Industry which was more and more talked about in the Big Apple, and a curiosity towards this ‘New-Age’ thing. Once in the Golden State, I rapidly followed one of the first training courses in Computer Graphics ever put together, and soon graduated from San Diego Platt College to become a multimedia specialist, which I still am today.

A. Huxley in Sanary 1.1 A. Huxley in Sanary 1.1From the endless passionate conversations which I had with young professionals with whom I spent time, to the reading of magazines like; Zero or Mondo 2000, to the independent radio programs which I tuned into regularly, it did not take me long to realize that California was not only the place of mere materialistic values, but also a land where mind blowing psychological experiments of all kinds had, and were still taking place. Neither did it take me long to sort out the New Age Hippie fad, and all the folklore going around, from more serious questions on Eastern Philosophies, on bridges built between Eastern and Western spirituality, the exploration of the mind and eventually the Psychedelic Experience. At this moment the more quoted names were Alan Watts, Timothy Leary and… Aldous Huxley.

If I knew of the Beat experience, The Merry Pranksters and its Electric Kool Aid Acid Test my personal interests during the three following years were more oriented towards discovering Eastern influences in philosophy. I had heard of the School of Theosophy, and Krishnamurti dissidence, but what attracted me most was the Asian wisdom as vulgarised by Alan Watts.

A. Huxley in Sanary 1.1 A. Huxley in Sanary 1.1A former minister born in England, specialist of religions with a theological background, Watts, with his knowledge of the sub-conscious and his sharp analytical mind was an authority on both the Religious and the Psychedelic, for he was a genuine soul searcher. Along with Leary and Huxley he had conducted several scientific experiments on hallucinogenic drugs, and with the latter had shared results in letters, interviews and two parallel books: The Doors of Perception (1954) and Joyous Cosmology (1962). Still, neither Watts nor Huxley were gurus nor drug addicts, as we would tend to portray them.
‘Dear Allan, thanks for the memorandum, which I think is excellent as far as it goes. In my previous letter […], I suggested some things should, I think, be incorporated – art teaching and therapy through relaxation, […] in regard to research we should make it quite clear that there is no intention of undertaking any micro-physiological investigations of nerves, electric potentials, etc, and what we are interested in is the ‘molar’ phenomena of the human organism as a whole.’

At the time of my Californian and Mexican desert explorations I was reading the Perennial Philosophy (1945), ignoring that I shared a special geographical tie with Aldous Huxley.

Université Nancy II © Gilles Iltis 2005


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