Island

Notes

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Huxley was fascinated by the fact that ‘the same person is simultaneously a mass of atoms, a physiology, a mind, an object with a shape that can be painted, a cog in the economic machine, a voter, a lover etc’, and one of his key aims in Point Counter Point was to offer this multi-faceted view of his principal characters.

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In 1942 he published The Art of Seeing, a passionate defence of the Bates method of eye training which aroused a storm of protest from the optometrist lobby. Even more outrageous, for many, was his suggestion in The Doors of Perception (1954) and its sequel, Heaven and Hell (1956), that mescalin and lysergic acid were ‘drugs of unique distinction’ which should be exploited for the ‘supernaturally brilliant’ visionary experiences they offered to those with open minds and sound livers. The Doors of Perception is indeed a bewitching account of the inner shangri-la of the mescalin taker, where ‘there is neither work nor monotony’

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“But why did they teach him those things? Why ‘Attention’? Why ‘Here and now’?” “Well …” She searched for the right words in which to explain the self-evident to this strange imbecile. “That’s what you always forget, isn’t it? I mean, you forget to pay attention to what’s happening. And that’s the same as not being here and now.” “And the mynahs fly about reminding you—is that it?” She

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So long as it remains out of touch with the rest of the world, an ideal society can be a viable society. Pala was completely viable, I’d say, until about 1905.

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to teach him to be a little more conscious in his everyday life. You know: ‘Here and now, boys.’ ‘Attention.’” She gave an imitation of the mynah birds.

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Clear Light of the Void

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“You’re assuming,” said Dr Robert, “that the brain produces consciousness. I’m assuming that it transmits consciousness.

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You say that the moksha-medicine does something to the silent areas of the brain which causes them to produce a set of subjective events to which people have given the name ‘mystical experience.’ I say that the moksha-medicine does something to the silent areas of the brain which opens some kind of neurological sluice and so allows a larger volume of Mind with a large ‘M’ to flow into your mind with a small ‘m’.

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Lenin used to say that electricity plus socialism equals communism. Our equations are rather different. Electricity minus heavy industry plus birth control equals democracy and plenty. Electricity plus heavy industry minus birth control equals misery, totalitarianism and war.”

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Cut throat competition isn’t compatible with rice-growing in a mountainous country. Our people found it quite easy to pass from mutual aid in a village community to streamlined co-operative techniques for buying and selling and profit-sharing and financing.”

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Our borrowing and lending system was modelled on those credit unions that Wilhelm Raiffeisen set up more than a century ago in Germany.

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Armaments, universal debt and planned obsolescence—those are the three pillars of Western prosperity.

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“The real thing isn’t a proposition; it’s a state of being. We don’t teach our children creeds or get them worked up over emotionally charged symbols. When it’s time for them to learn the deepest truths of religion, we set them to climb a precipice and then give them four hundred milligrammes of revelation. Two firsthand experiences of reality, from which any reasonably intelligent boy or girl can derive a very good idea of what’s what.”

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Rub-a-dub-dub—the creation tattoo, the cosmic reveille.

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the art of adequately experiencing,

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“No; because it lends reality. Distance reminds us that there’s a lot more to the universe than just people—that there’s even a lot more to people than just people. It reminds us that there are mental spaces inside our skulls as enormous as the spaces out there. The experience of distance, of inner distance and outer distance, of distance in time and distance in space—it’s the first and fundamental religious experience. ‘O Death in life, the days that are no more’—and O the places, the infinite number of places that are not this place! Past pleasures, past unhappinesses and insights—all so intensely alive in our memories and yet all dead, dead without hope of resurrection.

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God said, Let Darwin be’, and there was Nietzsche, Imperialism and Adolf Hitler.”

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Turning to Will, “In Pala,” she explained, “we don’t say grace before meals. We say it with meals. Or rather we don’t say grace; we chew it.” “Chew it?” “Grace is the first mouthful of each course—chewed and chewed until there’s nothing left of it. And all the time you’re chewing you pay attention to the flavour of the food, to its consistency and temperature, to the pressures on your teeth and the feel of the muscles in your jaws.”

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“But the fundamental question remains. What are boys and girls for?” Will shrugged his shoulders. “The answer depends on where you happen to be domiciled. For example, what are boys and girls for in America? Answer: for mass consumption. And the corollaries of mass consumption are mass communications, mass advertising, mass opiates in the form of television, meprobamate, positive thinking and cigarettes.

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Soles occidere et redire possunt; nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux, nox est perpetua una dormienda. Da mi basia mille. Sunsets and death; death and therefore kisses; kisses and consequently birth and then death for yet another generation of sunset-watchers.

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“Do you know what cancer is?” he asked. Mary Sarojini knew perfectly well. “It’s what happens when part of you forgets all about the rest of you and carries on the way people do when they’re crazy—just goes on blowing itself up and blowing itself up as if there was nobody else in the whole world. Sometimes you can do something about it. But generally it just goes on blowing itself up until the person dies.”

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“Johann Sebastian Bach,” he heard her saying. “The music that’s closest to silence, closest, in spite of its being so highly organized, to pure, one-hundred-degree proof Spirit.” The whirring gave place to musical sounds. Another bubble of recognition came shooting up; he was listening to the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto.

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This breathing apocalypse called ‘table’ might be thought of as a picture by some mystical Cubist, some inspired Juan Gris with the soul of Traherne and a gift for painting miracles with conscious gems and the changing moods of water-lily petals.

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Turning his head a little further to the left he was startled by a blaze of jewelry. And what strange jewelry! Narrow slabs of emerald and topaz, of ruby and sapphire and lapis lazuli, blazing away, row above row, like so many bricks in a wall of the New Jerusalem. Then—at the end, not in the beginning—came the word. In the beginning were the jewels, the stained glass windows, the walls of paradise. It was only now, at long last, that the word ‘book-case’ presented itself for consideration.

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“‘Gratitude is heaven itself’,” he quoted. “Pure gibberish! But now I see that Blake was just recording a simple fact. It is heaven