Aldous Huxley is more remembered these days for his book, Brave New World, (1932) which arguably closely predicted our lives in 2021.
But in the sixties, he was seen as a pioneer in hallucinogenic research. He took mescaline and wrote about his experiences in the book, The Doors of Perception: Heaven and Hell.
Huxley, who came from a family of distinguished scientists, was driven to understand the mystery of human consciousness, from both the viewpoint of an artist and a scientist. He studied Christian mysticism, Eastern religions and ‘New Age’ spirituality. He believed that we, as humans, have been trained over millennia to filter out-or not see all those things which do not help us in our daily lives. This has allowed the race to survive, but like Plato’s cave dwellers, we only see the functional and banal and have lost our ability to see and experience the mysteries of life.
Huxley’s horoscope shows his fine mind (Saturn, exalted in Libra), his wide ranging intellectual curiosity (Jupiter in Gemini conjunct his Ascendant) and his boldness (Mars in Aries). His early years were marked by tragedy, in 1908 his mother died of cancer which in effect broke up his family, Pluto was conjunct his Jupiter (the Lord of Death killing joy-Jupiter) and Jupiter was conjunct his Sun (which rules his fourth house of home and one parent) perhaps there was some release there for him. In 1911 when Pluto moved to conjunct his Ascendant, Huxley caught keratitis which made him nearly blind for two years. He had wanted to study medicine, but his poor eyesight meant this was no longer possible. In 1914 when Pluto moved to conjunct his Venus, his brother, who he was closest to, committed suicide. He wrote about these terrible years in Eyeless in Gaza (1936). However, Huxley’s poor eyesight may have saved his life. He was deemed unfit to fight in WW1 and instead did agricultural work at Garsington Manor, the home of Ottoline Morrell. Here he met D.H. Lawrence, Bertrand Russell and other Bloomsbury intellectuals. He also met Maria Nys, a Belgian refugee who he married in 1919. Chrome Yellow published in 1921 describes life at the Manor, and judges harshly those in positions of power who caused the terrible war.
Huxley went to the US in April 1937 to give some lectures but stayed on as the climate was good for his wife’s health. When war broke out again in 1939 he was unable to travel back to England. He spent the war in a small house in the Mojave Desert where he deepened his studies of meditation. He was initiated into Vedanta in 1939 by Swami Prabhavananda who taught him meditation and other spiritual practices. Saturn the ruler of his MC was conjunct his Mars and Pluto was moving to conjunct his Sun, suggesting he had left his old life behind (4th house) and found his path in life (Sun) and a new public persona (MC). He became friends with Krishnamurti and they corresponded for many years. Huxley wrote an introduction to the Bhadvagita translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood in 1944 when Pluto was conjunct his Sun and Saturn was conjunct both his Jupiter (Spirituality, writing) and his Ascendant.
Huxley’s interest in consciousness and spiritual enquiry deepened and he took mescaline under the supervision of Dr Osmond, a psychiatrist in May 1953. Although we do not have the exact date, Pluto was conjunct his IC (20’ Aquarius) suggesting another great shift in what he called home and familiar. Saturn was separating from the conjunction of his natal Saturn at 21’Libra (scientific enquiry) as was Neptune (mysticism, spirituality, out of body experiences) at the same degree.
The Doors of Perception his experiences under mescaline, was published in 1954, taking its title from William Blake,
‘If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.’
This indeed was what Huxley experienced, he saw his home through a transformed gaze. He looked at a vase of three flowers and understood Sat Chit Ananda (existence, consciousness, bliss) of Hindusim and the Dharma Body of the Buddha was,
‘…anything that I- or rather the blessed Not-I released for a moment from my throttling embrace – cared to look at.’
All the objects he looked at were ‘glowing with living light’ and his mind was primarily focused on ‘being and meaning’. Huxley understood then that the main function of the mind was ‘to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge.’ To this end language was developed to give a person ‘the accumulated records of other people’s experience’ rather than the experiences themselves, which are impossible to communicate. He discovered a world of ‘visionary beauty’ and extraordinary vividness of colour. In everyday objects he encountered Eternity, Infinity and the Absolute. Huxley understood, ‘the urge to escape from selfhood and the environment is in almost everyone almost all the time…a craving, here and now, for release or sedation,’ he argued for a new drug which ‘will relieve and console our suffering species’. He suggests mescaline is such a drug as,
‘a man under the influence of mescalin quietly minds his own business. Moreover, the business he minds is an experience of the most enlightened kind’.
Because the drive to transcend self-conscious selfhood is a desire of the soul, religions from time immemorial have use drugs to attain a communion with the Divine, not found through ritual, prayer or mantra. After his mescaline experience, Huxley was forever changed, he wrote,
‘the man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same man who went out. He will be wiser but less cocksure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance’.
Near death, Huxley took his final dose of LSD, 100mg, at 11h20 on November 22nd 1963.
What is interesting is the Moon of this chart at 11’31 Aquarius is conjunct his natal Pluto at 11’24. It is as if the Moon was opening the door to another realm, Hades’ Halls (Pluto). The Sun was at the last degree of Scorpio (sign of death) or the Underworld showing him moving from the darkness to the light (Sagittarius).
Huxley died at 17h20, what an astonishing chart this is. The Sun has moved from the land of death (Scorpio) to the place of re-birth and spirituality-the long journey (Sagittarius). The Moon is applying to a conjunction of Saturn, ruler of the eighth house of death, as he moves to meet the Lord of Time and Fate (Saturn). The Mideaven is exact to 4 minutes of arc to his natal Midheaven. Mercury, the psychopomp, who leads the dead to the Underworld is conjunct his descendent. Hermes has has arrived as a friend (7th house) to take Huxley home. Venus and Mars are conjunct at 20’ Sagittarius also in the 7th house, as if angels have flown in to accompany him. Finally, notice the Ascendant was conjunct his natal Pluto at 11’ Gemini, again highlighting the symbolism of Pluto lord of the dead. The almuten (the most powerful planet in the chart) was Mars, ruler of hallucinogens, strong in a fire sign blasting his doors of perception and perhaps shooting (Sagittarius) him up to Heaven or at least to another plane of existence. The Sun moving to the first minute of Sagittarius, the great traveller, suggests his next adventure is just beginning.