The Huxley Family and Homeopathy
July 22, 2008
The Huxley family were famous and influential and supported homeopathy.
Aldous Huxley 1894-1963
Aldous Huxley’s aunt Mary Augusta Ward was an advocate of homeopathy and a practicing homeopath.
In 1935 Aldous Huxley became a pacifist. Later he grew interested in self-awareness, Eastern religions, homeopathy, dianetics, and other ideas and disciplines on and beyond the fringes of conventional Western thought. The Huxleys moved to Los Angeles in the late 1930s and lived there on and off for the rest of their lives.
In The Genius and the Goddess written in 1955, Aldous Huxley puts the words similia similibus cutantur into his character Henry’s explanation and advocacy of homeopathy. Aldous Huxley was a close friend of homeopath Manning von Strahl. Aldous Huxley’s father Leonard Huxley was a professional herbalist. His grandfather Thomas Henry Huxley was the finest comparative anatomist of the second half of the nineteenth century and an influential speaker.
Aldous Huxley was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. He spent the latter part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death in 1963. Best known for his novels and wide-ranging output of essays, he also published short stories, poetry, travel writing, and film stories and scripts.
By the end of his life Huxley was considered, in some academic circles, a leader of modern thought and an intellectual of the highest rank. He was also well known for advocating and taking LSD.
Aldous Huxley was born in Godalming, Surrey, England in 1894. He was the third son of the writer and professional herbalist Leonard Huxley and first wife, Julia Arnold who founded Prior’s Field School who was the niece of Matthew Arnold and sister of Mrs. Humphrey Ward.
Aldous Huxley was grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, one of the most prominent English naturalists of the 19th century, a man known as “Darwin’s Bulldog.” His brother Julian Huxley was also a noted biologist.
Aldous Huxley began his learning in his father’s well-equipped botanical laboratory, then continued in a school named Hillside. His teacher was his mother who supervised him for several years until she became terminally ill. After Hillside, he was educated at Eton College.
Huxley’s mother died in 1908, when he was fourteen. Three years later he suffered an illness (keratitis punctata) which “left [him] practically blind for two to three years”. Aldous’s near blindness disqualified him from service in World War I. Once his eyesight recovered sufficiently, he was able to study English literature at Balliol College, Oxford. He graduated in 1916 with First Class Honours.
Following his education at Balliol, Huxley was financially indebted to his father and had to earn a living. He taught French for a year at Eton, where Eric Blair (later known by the pen name George Orwell) was among his pupils, but was remembered by another as an incompetent and hopeless teacher who couldn’t keep discipline. Nevertheless, Blair and others were impressed by his use of words.
For a short while in 1918, he was employed acquiring provisions at the Air Ministry.
Significantly, Huxley also worked for a time in the 1920s at the technologically-advanced Brunner and Mond chemical plant in Billingham Teesside, and the most recent introduction to his famous science fiction novel Brave New World (1932) states that this experience of an ordered universe in a world of planless incoherence’ was one source for the novel. Mustapha Mond is a character in the book.
Never desiring a career in administration (or in business), Huxley’s lack of inherited means propelled him into applied literary work.
Huxley completed his first (unpublished) novel at the age of seventeen and began writing seriously in his early twenties. His earlier work includes important novels on the dehumanizing aspects of scientific progress, most famously Brave New World, and on pacifist themes (for example, Eyeless in Gaza).
In Brave New World Huxley portrays a society operating on the principles of mass production and Pavlovian conditioning. Huxley was strongly influenced by Frederick Matthias Alexander (who invented the Alexander Technique) and included him as a character in Eyeless in Gaza.
During World War I, Huxley spent much of his time at Garsington Manor, home of Lady Ottoline Morrell, working as a farm labourer. Here he met several Bloomsbury figures including D. H. Lawrence, Bertrand Russell and Clive Bell.
Number 44 Great Ormond Street was home to Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873-1938) (the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital is located at number 60), famed for the many parties she held to court the leading artistic figures of the day. Henry James, Aldous Huxley, T S Eliot and D. H. Lawrence all came to her house, as well as members of the Bloomsbury Group.
Later, in Crome Yellow (1921) Aldous Huxley caricatured the Garsington lifestyle. In 1919 he married Maria Nys, a Belgian woman he had met at Garsington. They had one child, Matthew Huxley (1920 – 2005), who had a career as an epidemiologist. The family lived in Italy part of the time in the 1920s, where Huxley would visit his friend D. H. Lawrence. Following D. H. Lawrence’s death in 1930, he edited his letters (1933).
In 1937, Huxley moved to Hollywood, California with his wife Maria, son Matthew, and friend Gerald Heard. He lived in the U.S., mainly in southern California, till his death, but also for a time in Taos, New Mexico, where he wrote Ends and Means (published in 1937). In this work he examines the fact that although most people in modern civilization agree that they want a world of ‘liberty, peace, justice, and brotherly love’, they have not been able to agree on how to achieve it.
Gerald Heard introduced Huxley to Vedanta, meditation, and vegetarianism through the principle of ahimsa. In 1938 Huxley befriended Jiddu Krishnamurti, whose teachings he greatly admired. He also became a Vedantist in the circle of Swami Prabhavananda, and introduced Christopher Isherwood to this circle. Not long after, Huxley wrote his book on widely held spiritual values and ideas, The Perennial Philosophy, which discussed the teachings of renowned mystics of the world.
Huxley became a close friend of Remsen Bird, president of Occidental College. He spent much time at the college, which is in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles. The college appears as “Tarzana College” in his satirical novel After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (1939). The novel won Huxley that year’s James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. Huxley also incorporated Remsen Bird into the novel.
During this period Huxley earned some Hollywood income as a writer. His friend Anita Loos, a novelist and screenwriter, got him the opportunity. Huxley got screen credit for Pride and Prejudice (1940) and was paid for his work on a number of other films. However, his experience in Hollywood was not a success. When he wrote a synopsis of Alice in Wonderland, Walt Disney rejected it on the grounds that “he could only understand every third word”. Huxley’s leisurely development of ideas, it seemed, was not suitable for the movie moguls, who demanded fast, dynamic dialogue above all else.
For most of his life, since the illness in his teens which left Huxley nearly blind, his eyesight was poor (despite the partial recovery which had enabled him to study at Oxford). Around 1939, Huxley encountered the Bates Method for better eyesight, and a teacher, Margaret Darst Corbett, who was able to teach him in the method.
In 1940, Huxley relocated from Hollywood to a forty-acre ranchito in the high desert hamlet of Llano, California, in northernmost Los Angeles County. Huxley then said that his sight improved dramatically with the Bates Method and the extreme and pure natural lighting of the southwestern American desert. He reported that for the first time in over 25 years, he was able to read without glasses and without strain. He even tried driving a car along the dirt road beside the ranch. He wrote a book about his successes with the Bates Method, The Art of Seeing which was published in 1942 (US), 1943 (UK).
However, while his vision had undoubtedly improved, it remained imperfect and variable. Ten years later, in 1952, Bennett Cerf was present when Huxley spoke at a Hollywood banquet, wearing no glasses and apparently reading his paper from the lectern without difficulty:
“Then suddenly he faltered—and the disturbing truth became obvious. He wasn’t reading his address at all. He had learned it by heart. To refresh his memory he brought the paper closer and closer to his eyes. When it was only an inch or so away he still couldn’t read it, and had to fish for a magnifying glass in his pocket to make the typing visible to him. It was an agonizing moment.”
This incident well exemplifies Huxley’s own words in The Art of Seeing:
“The most characteristic fact about the functioning of the total organism, or any part of the organism, is that it is not constant, but highly variable. … People with unimpaired eyes and good habits of using them possess, so to speak, a wide margin of visual safety.
“Even when their seeing organs are functioning badly, they still see well enough for most practical purposes. Consequently they are not so acutely conscious of variations in visual functioning as are those with bad seeing habits and impaired eyes. These last have little or no margin of safety; consequently any diminution in seeing power produces noticeable and often distressing results.”
On 21 October 1949 Huxley wrote to George Orwell, author of Nineteen Eighty-Four, congratulating George Orwell on “how fine and how profoundly important the book is.” In his letter to George Orwell, he predicted that “Within the next generation I believe that the world’s leaders will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging them and kicking them into obedience.”
After World War II Huxley applied for United States citizenship, but his application was continuously deferred on the grounds that he would not say he would take up arms to defend the U.S., so he withdrew it. Nevertheless, he remained in the country, and in 1959 he turned down an offer of a Knight Bachelor by the Macmillan government.
In October 1930 the Mystic Aleister Crowley dined with Huxley in Berlin, and to this day rumours persist that Aleister Crowley introduced Huxley to peyote on that occasion. He was introduced to mescaline by the psychiatrist Humphry Osmond in 1953.
On 24 December 1955 Huxley took his first dose of LSD. Indeed, Huxley was a pioneer of self-directed psychedelic drug use “in a search for enlightenment”, famously taking 100 micrograms of LSD as he lay dying. His psychedelic drug experiences are described in the essays The Doors of Perception (the title deriving from some lines in the book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake), and Heaven and Hell.
Some of his writings on psychedelics became frequent reading among early hippies. While living in Los Angeles, Huxley was a friend of Ray Bradbury. According to Sam Weller’s biography of Bradbury, the latter was dissatisfied with Huxley, especially after Huxley encouraged Ray Bradbury to take psychedelic drugs.
In 1955 Huxley’s wife, Maria, died of breast cancer. In 1956 he married Laura Archera (1911-2007), also an author. She wrote a biography of Huxley. In 1960 Huxley himself was diagnosed with cancer, and in the years that followed, with his health deteriorating, he wrote the Utopian novel Island, and gave lectures on “Human Potentialities” at the Esalen institute, which were fundamental to the forming of the Human Potential Movement.
On his deathbed, unable to speak, Huxley made a written request to his wife for “LSD, 100µg, intramuscular”. According to her account of his death (in her book This Timeless Moment), she obliged with an injection at 11:45 am and another a couple of hours later. He died at 5:21 pm on 22 November 1963, aged 69.
Media coverage of his death was overshadowed by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, on the same day, as was the death of the Irish author C. S. Lewis. Huxley’s ashes were interred in the family grave at the Watts Cemetery, Compton, Guildford, Surrey, England.
Huxley’s only child, Matthew Huxley (d. 10 February 2005) was also an author, as well as an educator, anthropologist and prominent epidemiologist. His work ranged from promoting universal health care to establishing standards of care for nursing home patients and the mentally ill to investigating the question of what is a socially sanctionable drug.
Matthew’s first marriage, to documentary filmmaker Ellen Hovde, ended in divorce. His second wife died in 1983. He was survived by his third wife, Franziska Reed Huxley; and two children from his first marriage, Trevenen Huxley and Tessa Huxley.
Leonard Huxley 1860
Aldous Huxley was influenced by Silas Weir Mitchell who was also fascinated by Spiritualism and he conducted experiments with mescalin, S. Weir Mitchell, ‘Mescaline,’ British Medical Journal, 1896 and The Effects of Anhelonium Lewinii (the Mescal Button),” Brit. Med. J. (1896) 2:1625-1629, which so influenced Aldous Huxley in The Doors of Perception. Silas Weir Mitchell was an orthodox doctor and writer who nevertheless was surrounded by homeopaths. As President of the American Medical Association he was in a strong professional position and did not fear homeopathy as much as some allopaths. Silas Weir Mitchell’s cousin was a homeopath.
Thomas Henry Huxley 1825 - 1895 was a friend of John Chapman, and John Tyndall, and he attended Spiritualist meetings with Edward Bulwer Lytton, where he possibly met James John Garth Wilkinson and many other homeopaths.
… linked to the intellectual Huxley family through Andrew Fielding Huxley’s marriage to Jocelyn Richenda Gammell Pease, granddaughter of Josiah Wedgwood IV and by the marriage of Angela Huxley, great granddaughter of Thomas Huxley, to George Darwin, great grandson of Charles Darwin.
John Chapman acquired the philosophical radical journal the Westminster Review in 1851, and provided a platform for emerging ideas of evolution. His assistant Mary Anne Evans brought together authors including Francis William Newman, W. R. Greg, Harriet Martineau and the young journalist *Herbert Spencer, and later John Stuart Mill, William Benjamin Carpenter, Robert Chambers, George Jacob Holyoake and Thomas Henry Huxley.
In 19th century Britain there was high-class patronage of Hydropathy. Charles Darwin was a user of it and his old friend James Manby Gully had a thriving hydropathic institution in Malvern. Similarly, he was connected to John Chapman, a publisher in London and a friend of Thomas Henry Huxley.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary, _John Chapman visited Charles Darwin on 20 May 1865. John Chapman was proprietor and editor of the Westminster Review, to which Thomas Henry Huxley had been a regular contributor.” (There are two _John Chapman_s which is most confusing - one is a publisher and one is a homeopath!) _
Sarah Ann Hackett Stevenson attended the lectures of Thomas Henry Huxley, Aldous’ grandfather. Thomas Henry Huxley was a humanist and pacifist, but was also latterly interested in spiritual subjects such as parapsychology and philosophical mysticism.
Thomas Henry Huxley was also an active member of the **Metaphysical Society, which ran from 1869 to 1880. It was formed around a nucleus of clergy and expanded to include all kinds of opinions.
*Herbert Spencer was a member of Thomas Henry Huxley’s X Club: The members were: Thomas Henry Huxley, John Tyndall, J. D. Hooker, John Lubbock (banker, biologist and cousin of Charles Darwin), Herbert Spencer (social philosopher and sub-editor of the Economist), William Spottiswoode (mathematician and the Queen’s Printer), Thomas Hirst (Professor of Physics at University College London), Edward Frankland (the new Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution) and George Busk, zoologist and palaeontologist (formerly surgeon for HMS Dreadnought). All except Herbert Spencer were Fellows of the Royal Society.
There were also some quite significant X Club satellites such as William Flower and George Rolleston, (Huxley protegées), and liberal clergyman Arthur Stanley, the Dean of Westminster. Guests such as Charles Darwin and Hermann von Helmholtz were entertained from time to time.
The London School of Medicine for Women was established in 1874 and was the first medical school in Britain to train women.
The school was formed by an association of pioneering women physicians Sophia Jex Blake, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Emily Blackwell and Elizabeth Blackwell with Thomas Henry Huxley. The founding was motivated at least in part by Sophia Jex Blake’s frustrated attempts at getting a medical degree at a time when women were not admitted to British medical schools.
Other women who had studied with Sophia Jex Blake in Edinburgh joined her at the London school, including Isabel Thorne who became honorary secretary when Sophia Jex Blake withdrew in 1877 and went to start medical practice in Edinburgh where she would found the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women in 1886.
The 1876 Medical Act was introduced into the British Parliament by an MP named Russell Gurney, and received Royal Assent the same year. The bill extended the 1853 Medical Act to allow all examining authorities to grant registration to physicians regardless of gender.
In 1877 an agreement was reached with the Royal Free Hospital that allowed students at the London School of Medicine for Women to complete their clinical studies there. The Royal Free Hospital was the first teaching hospital in London to admit women for training.
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was Dean (1883-1903) while the school was rebuilt, became part of the University of London and consolidated the association with the Royal Free Hospital. In 1896 the School was renamed the London Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine for Women.
In 1894 a well known Asian Indian feminist Dr. Rukhmabai qualified in medicine after attending the London School of Medicine for Women. The number of Asian Indian women students increased and by 1920 the school in cooperation with the India Office opened a hostel for Asian Indian women medical students.