Book Review: Aldous Huxley’s Hands

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This book is not a dry biography of Huxley. Instead, it gives a solid high-level background of his life with a special focus on his time spent living in the Los Angeles area and his mixing with a variety of fascinating people (including the author’s father). The focus on this compelling period in Huxley’s life coupled with the autobiographical snippets from the author really make the book a pleasure to read.

Insights into the unique subculture (1950s intellectual\experimental Los Angeles) are colorful while many notable personalities (Heard, Krishnamurti, Hubbard, Janiger, Smith, Leary, the early LA Vendantists, et. al.) appear throughout the pages. It is fun to watch them weave in and out of the book. The Tuesday night get-togethers at the Huxley household could be a book in themselves. The extensive interactions between Huxley, Osmond and Smythies are documented in a readable and enjoyable manner.

This is a good read for anyone interested in the intellectual and cultural times when investigations into psychedelics were earnestly being made by practicing physicians and psychiatrists, noted men of letters, philosophers of religion, and scientific researchers. It takes place in the days prior to the cultural shifts of the 1960s when recreational usage exploded and research of this type could still be discussed and debated – even in national periodicals. It makes you wonder what would have happened if groups like the Merry Pranksters and the team at Millbrook had been a bit more subdued or erudite in their approach to these powerful tools.

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