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Lessons for today from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World -CT

This weeks column in Christian Today is based upon a stunning essay I read from Aldous Huxley which he wrote in 1946….there are some great insights…

Aldous Huxly

What is happening in the world? Sometimes we stand so close that we cannot see the bigger picture. In today’s world of Covid, vaccine passports, police raiding churches, endemic sexual abuse, gender confusion, disillusionment with government, there can be a temptation for the Christian to either despair and retreat, or despair and end up fighting the wrong battles.

We need to constantly remind ourselves that the Lord is sovereign and can even use what men meant for ill, to bring about good (as we see for example with Joseph’s brothers). He is also able to teach us through those who are not his people. I am amazed that it is secular commentators like Jordan Peterson and Doug Murray who seem to have a better grasp of the bigger picture than many Christian ones.

Looking back, I see CS Lewis, Francis Schaeffer and today, Os Guinness, as Christian prophets who saw where we were going and accurately predicted the state we have now found ourselves in. But there is another secular ‘prophet’ who in my view was astonishingly prescient and that is Aldous Huxley, the author of amongst other books, Brave New World.

This book, written in 1932, foresaw a ‘soft totalitarianism’ of absolute government where conformity was enforced, as Margaret Attwood summarises it, by bio-engineering, hypnotic persuasion, endless consumption, state encouraged sexual promiscuity, drugs and a caste ‘class’ system where everyone fulfils their pre-ordained functions.

Recently I came across Huxley’s 1946 introductory essay to his book. It is a revealing and astounding addition because much of what he shares in it we can see happening today – 85 years later.Here are some quotes and lessons I hope we can learn for the church.

Huxley explains that his novel is about the advancement of science as it affects others. He recognises that: “This really revolutionary revolution is to be achieved, not in the external world, but in the souls and flesh of human beings.”

The Church at its best has always recognised that.

A ‘ Soft’  Totalitarian State

He then explains how “a really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control the population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”

That sounds eerily familiar! How will we love our servitude? Not just by the kind of propaganda Orwell wrote of in 1984 but by silence: “The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is the truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view is silence about truth.”

Sometimes it is not so much what we discuss but what we do not or are not permitted to discuss. The greatest problem facing the Christian church today is not that our message is rejected but that it is not heard.

Loving our Servitude

The most important Manhattan projects of the future will be vast government sponsored inquiries into what the politicians and the participating scientists will call ‘the problem of happiness’ – in other words, the problem of people making people love their servitude.”

One of the problems in Christian evangelism is that we too often assume that people are basically unhappy and are just longing for a way out. But in much of modern society, people are bound in sin, but are happy to be that way. They know nothing different and need to be shaken out of that soporific complacency. The state wants to make us content and silent so that we will not question. The Church should make people question and challenge, so that we will recognise the illness and accept the remedy.

He talks about how governments will need to offer economic security and use drugs, as well as create a pre-conditioned status for its citizens. They will also need to use eugenics as a means of standardising the human product. The Church needs to resist this attempt by the state to recreate humanity in its own image.

Sexual Morality

Huxley was also prescient about where sexual morality was heading (remember that this was written before the pill and the sexual revolution of the 1960s), and he foresaw the diminishing of marriage.

Nor does the sexual promiscuity of Brave New World seem so very distant. There are already certain American cities in which the number of divorces is equal to the number of marriages. In a few years, no doubt, marriage licences will be sold like dog licences, good for a period of 12 months, with no law against changing dogs or keeping more than one animal at a time.”

As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase.

This following paragraph chillingly summarises the route that Western society is on today: “As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase. And the dictator [unless he needs cannon fodder and families with which to colonise empty or conquered territories] will do well to encourage that freedom. In conjunction with the freedom to daydream under the influence of dope, and movies and the radio, it will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.”

Again, note that he wrote of all of this before the development of the Internet and the resultant brain dumbing effects of YouTube, Twitter, Tik Tok etc.

How Long?

In 1932 Huxley thought that this brave new world would take 600 years to come into existence, but by the time he wrote this essay in 1946 he thought it would happen within a single century. He saw the choice as being between “national militarised totalitarianisms … or else one supranational totalitarianism, called into existence by the social chaos resulting from rapid technological progress in general and the atom revolution in particular, and developing, under the need for efficiency and stability, into the welfare tyranny of utopia.”

Another Way?

Huxley in this essay offers a third alternative between the insanity of the Brave New World, or the insanity of the Savage world. He suggests that sanity is possible. For him it was a kind of hyper religious Taoism – all reaching for the highest good. He thought that the use of mescaline and lysergic drugs would help us to connect with the spiritual and have ‘open minds’. He advocated this in a book, The Doors of Perception (1954), that would become a bible for the hippies and the psychedelic Sixties. The Doors named their band after the book and the Beatles placed him on their famous Sergeant Pepper cover.

Huxley was right in his analysis of the problem and wrong in his solution. The 1960s’ sexual and drug revolution occurred, and not only has it not stopped the insanity, it has accelerated it.

In the Gospel we have a far greater remedy. Because we are looking forward to a new world, we are able to serve and care for the old one. Because we believe in the law of God, we are able to challenge the law of man. Because we are renewed in our minds, we are able to think, challenge and be radical.

The real revolutionaries are not those who bow to the all-encompassing will of the elites, but those who, in following Jesus Christ, know that the poor and marginalised really do matter – and are not just there to be used as soundbites. Instead of people loving their servitude, let us teach people to love their Saviour. Then we will see a renewed world.

How Should We Worship Now? 

Kitchen Table 24 – Brave New World or 1984?

11 comments

  1. We are not being heard as the gospel is either silenced in the throats of “scaredy cat” Christians pursued by hard and fearful managers of society including the press; or just silenced because we Christians do not seem to be awake enough to the Spirit of God to do anything powerful or meaningful in Christ.

    1. I don’t know who the “we” is that you are referring to and I would challenge your assumption about not being heard.

      Perfect love casts out all fear. And the darker things are, the more clear it becomes as to where there is light.

      So let your light shine!

  2. Aldous Huxley, tragically, was not a Christian but, in the 1930s, he became an active member of the pacifist organisation, the Peace Pledge Union, founded by Rev. Dick Sheppard:

    https://www.ppu.org.uk/peacebuilding-nonviolence

    Huxley wrote essays for the group.

    (The PPU was secular while the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship was its religious equivalent. Rev Sheppard was actively involved in both organisations.)

    To change the subject slightly, two of Huxley’s later novels I’d recommend are “Ape and Essence” and “After Many a Summer”. Both are satires on he falleness of our world. They were both written before his drug experimentation phase.

    Finally, a bit of trivia: Huxley and C. S. Lewis both died on the same day but their deaths were overshadowed by the assassination of JFK, which also occurred that same weekend. A momentous week in 20th Century history. 🙁

    God bless.

  3. What is deeply concering is a movement towards a requirement for a State “licence to live,” with controls over who, when, where and how.
    Most troubling is restraint over human relations.
    There is widespread “fear and trembling” anxious speculation, but little true fear and trembling for the LORD.
    But for a stunning insight from Michael Reeves:
    ” But it is not only that we fear *Losing* those things we love; strange to say we also fear precisely *that which is lovely.* You would expect us to turn away only from ugliness and sights that revolt us.
    In reality we also find we must avert our gaze in the face of great beauty, for shear loveliness can be overwhelming. The bridegroom can dream of staring into his beloved’s eyes and yet find himself at times unable to hold her gaze for the love of her beauty.
    JRR Tolkien once called this *the fear of the beautiful.*
    From Reeves book, *The Surprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord – REJOICE & TREMBLE*.
    Oh for a God infused fear of the Lord and His “beauty, splendor of Holiness” , for a longing to see Him face to face.

  4. The Lord is sovereign and can even use what men meant for ill, to bring about good.” Yes indeed with Joseph and his brothers selling him into slavery or indeed Joseph’s arrogance and him learning humility through becoming a slave. Samson might be another figure that comes to mind.

    I like this point you make “in much of modern society, people are bound in sin, but are happy to be that way.” OK in that case then, it’s necessary to discern when that is happening in order to know how to appropriately engage. And it is a war in need of armour just as in any physical war. Heaven suffers violence and violent men take hold of it!

    Thankfully there is an instruction manual that talks of the “armour of God”, the necessity of guarding the heart, not sharing pearls with swine or giving what is sacred to dogs with the Gospel being an offence to dogs that cut the flesh.

    As an ex-serviceman who was awarded an honourable discharge with exemplary conduct, I’ve had a taste of what it must have meant for the apostle Paul to say “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim 4:7-8).

    Self – evidently, by implication there is encouragement (and by encouragement I mean engendering of courage) for anyone who does endure and knows the freedom that comes from fighting with truth and with love that never fails.

    It’s my belief that the love of God is the most powerful force in the universe. And that it puts the concerns that you rightly express into their proper perspective David.

    May the joy of the Lord be your strength and encouragement to fight the good fight!

  5. Our Father in heaven,
    we approach you this day conscious that we have neither been as singleminded in pursuit of holiness nor as separated from the world as we ought to be, so we are here in spirit; assembled once more that we may strive side by side for the faith of the Gospel. Forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness we pray. We come with thankfulness, remembering those who have gone before, those who gather in Jesus‘ Name even now, and those of whom we have heard and hope one day to meet at the coming again of our Lord when we shall all meet him in the air. Grant us this day that we might know the power of Christ’s resurrection even as we share the fellowship of his sufferings; becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible we may attain the resurrection from the dead.
    We bring the circumstances of our day before you with its various cares and concerns both of abundance and of need; for here on this earth we have no continuing city so, as we seek the one that is to come, we ask that you teach us the secret of contentment in the here and now.
    It is not our heart’s desire, Lord, that we should move in ever-decreasing circles but rather that a knowledgeable, discerning appreciation of what is excellent might expand the horizons of our loving approval of your saints until the day we awake pure and blameless, in your likeness. May we be alert to the interests of others, investing ourselves for their benefit as well as for our own and even as we count the cost of fellowship cause us to remember and anticipate that “He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”
    This we ask in the name of Jesus, whose we are and whom we serve.
    Amen.

  6. I am starting to wonder if the whole woke/BLM/metoo/etc cultural phenomenon is partly down to the secular world finding itself no longer able to deny that its brave new godless world is utterly awash with unbridled sin and that the notion of humans being basically good is naive wishful thinking.

    Unfortunately, instead of owning this and accepting the truth, the secular elites have found a way to use it to their advantage and increase their own power and privilege at everyone else’s expense.

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