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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Aldous Huxley: the progressive interest in mysticism shown in his prose works Fulton, Ethel Margaret


The purpose of this thesis is to indicate and describe the interest in mysticism apparent in the prose works of Aldous Huxley, and to show that this interest has developed consistently throughout Huxley's literary career. The books, articles and theses referring to Huxley as a mystic, or accepting Huxley's basic interest in mysticism, make no attempt to account for the progressive stages of mysticism, nor to compare Huxley's pattern of development with that of the traditional mystic. This thesis will indicate at least Huxley's genuine interest in mysticism, and will show that, as work follows work, each displays a growing comprehension of the progressive stages of mystical experience described as typical of the traditional mystic. As a result of this comparison, it will be shown that an interest in mysticism has become a dominating influence in all Huxley's writing. The introduction contains a sampling of criticism to show that critics have generally tended to accept the idea that Huxley went through a conventional religious conversion period in the thirties, but an examination of his works shows that his interest in mysticism began with his earliest writing and developed consistently. Chapter I attempts further to substantiate the contention that Huxley's interest has been progressive, by showing that he is not a personality type likely to undergo sudden religious conversions. The biographical data available suggest that Huxley belongs to a psychological type that usually does not experience conversions, at least according to his own theories of personality classifications. Chapter II includes a general description of the phenomena of mysticism presented in the terms of Western authorities and a description of mysticism taken from Huxley's non-fiction. The comparison makes apparent the variance between Huxley’s theories and those of the authorities. The basic difference stems from Huxley's determination to explore the rich and complex fields of Oriental, as well as of European, mysticism. Chapter III will attempt to trace and evaluate, through his fiction, Huxley's developing interest in mysticism, and it will be shown that the stages of development discernible in the fiction are not directly comparable to the Five-fold Mystic Way — stages considered necessary by Miss Underhill for normal mystical development. Chapter IV will discuss Huxley's latest publications in an effort to show how he has related his interest in mysticism to the problems of contemporary life. On the whole, the thesis is primarily concerned, not with what Huxley, as a man, privately believes, but with the manifestations of mystical apprehension that occur in his writings.

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