Simultaneously the Pillars and the Dynamite: A Few from Aldous Huxley’s Time Must Have a Stop

For whatever reason, the only novel of Aldous Huxley’s that gets much airtime these days […]

David Zahl / 11.30.11

For whatever reason, the only novel of Aldous Huxley’s that gets much airtime these days is the dystopian classic Brave New World (1932). Occasionally you hear about The Doors of Perception, if only for its role in inspiring Jim Morrison (ugh). It’s a shame, because not only is Huxley far less dippy than the Lizard King association would suggest, his prophetic streak went much further than soma. 1944’s Time Must Have a Stop is just one example of what this expatriate British mystic was capable of, as the handful of quotes below hopefully illustrate. In the first, a description of certain members of the hero’s family, the author pierces to the marrow of Good people who are also unintentionally and at the same time Bad people. This is Huxley’s version of simul iustus et peccator.

“Without Susan and Kenneth and Aunt Alice and all their kind, society would fall to pieces. With them, it was perpetually attempting suicide. They were the pillars, but they were also the dynamite; simultaneously the beams and the dry rot. It was thanks to their goodness that the system worked as smoothly as it did; and thanks to their limitations that the system was fundamentally insane.”  (Page 213)

Next, he expresses the repetition of the world in particularly vivid language:

“Since I was born, thirty-two years ago, about fifty millions of Europeans and God knows how many Asiatics have been liquidated in wars and revolutions. Why? In order that the great-great-grandchildren of those who are now being butchered or starved to death may have an absolutely wonderful time in A.D. 2043.”  (228)

And finally, there’s what happens when you get old. Unless…:

“In some subtle and hardly explicable way his father gave the impression of deformity — as though he had turned into a kind of dwarf or hunchback. ‘He that is not getting better is getting worse.’ But that was too sweeping and summary. ‘He that isn’t growing up is growing down.’ Such a man might end his life not as a ripened human being, but as an aged foetus. Adult in worldly wisdom and professional skills; embryonic in spirit and even (in spite of all the stoical and civic virtues he might have acquired) in character.”

“At 65 his father was still trying to be what he had been at 55, 45, 35. The world was full of septuagenarians playing at being in their 30’s or even in their teens, when they ought to have been preparing for death, ought to have been trying to unearth the spiritual reality, which they had spent a lifetime burying under a mountain of garbage.” (234)

For more on Huxley, go here.