On June 1, 1955, Aldous Huxley, one of the most provocative thinkers of the 20th century, gave a talk on the Lobero stage.
Huxley was the author of the influential dystopian novel “Brave New World”. His lecture at the Lobero closely followed the release of his book “The Doors of Perception”, which explored his psychedelic experience with peyote (mescaline) and would go on to become hugely influential to the counterculture generation.
Aldous Huxley was born in 1894 to a prominent English family and attended Eton College and Oxford University, where he received a first-class degree in English literature.
In 1932, his novel “Brave New World” was published. The story is set in a technologically advanced society where embryos are sorted to be of specific economic class – for example, higher classes get chemicals to make the children more intelligent and beautiful. The citizens of this dystopian world are addicted to the drug “Soma”, a powerful hallucinogen that provides a holiday from reality, and tremendous feelings of euphoria-though it poisons the body.
“Brave New World” would later be slotted as number 5 on the Modern Library’s World’s Best Books list, marking it as of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It explained, “Though Brave New World is less famous than George Orwell’s 1984, it arguably presents a world that more closely resembles our own: a world of easy sex, readily available and mood-altering pharmaceuticals, information overload, and mass production.”
Shortly after the publishing of “Brave New World”, Huxley moved his family across the pond and relocated to the City of Angels. In Hollywood, Huxley worked as a screenwriter, and according to his close friend Christopher Isherwood, used much of his salary to transport Jewish and left-wing writers and artist refugees from Hitler’s Germany to the United States.
Huxley’s notorious experimentation with psychedelic drugs began in 1952, first with mescaline (obtained from the peyote cactus), and later with LSD.
“The Doors of Perception” inspired Alan Ginsberg and Timothy Leary to experiment with psychedelics, which was the inspiration for Jim Morrison to name his band “The Doors”, and in general influenced a generation of youth who were eager to explore the boundaries of personal identity and consciousness. Huxley is actually credited with coining the word “psychedelic”.
In 1958, Aldous Huxley was named as UCSB’s first visiting professor and spent several years living in Isla Vista teaching and presenting a series of special lectures. Huxley spoke 3 times at the Lobero Theatre between 1955 – 1959.
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