Aldous Huxley on Drugs, Democracy, and Religion
“Generalized intelligence and mental alertness are the most powerful enemies of dictatorship and at the same time the basic conditions of effective democracy.”
From the marvelous Brainpickings.org
Huxley examines the self-consciousness at the heart of worship, thus echoing Mark Twain’s lament about religion and human egotism :
We love ourselves to the point of idolatry; but we also intensely dislike ourselves — we find ourselves unutterably boring. Correlated with this distaste for the idolatrously worshipped self, there is in all of us a desire, sometimes latent, sometimes conscious and passionately expressed, to escape from the prison of our individuality, an urge to self-transcendence. It is to this urge that we owe mystical theology, spiritual exercises and yoga — to this, too, that we owe alcoholism and drug addiction.
Huxley turns to how drugs have attempted to address this human urge and the interplay of those attempts with religion:
Modern pharmacology has given us a host of new synthetics, but in the field of the naturally occurring mind changers it has made no radical discoveries. All the botanical sedatives, stimulants, vision revealers, happiness promoters and cosmic-consciousness arousers were found out thousands of years ago, before the dawn of history.
In many societies at many levels of civilization attempts have been made to fuse drug intoxication with God-intoxication. In ancient Greece, for example, ethyl alcohol had its place in the established religion. Dionysus, or Bacchus, as he was often called, was a true divinity. His worshipers addressed him as Lusios, “Liberator,” or as Theoinos, “Godwinc.” The latter name telescopes fermented grape juice and the supernatural into a single pentecostal experience. . . . Unfortunately they also receive harm. The blissful experience of self -transcendence which alcohol makes possible has to be paid for, and the price is exorbitantly high.
Huxley argues that while the intuitive solution seems to be to enforce complete prohibition of mind-altering substances, this tends to backfire and “create more evils than it cures,” while also admonishing to the diametric opposite of this black-and-white approach, the “complete toleration and unrestricted availability” of drugs. Peering into the future of biochemistry and pharmacology, he foresees the development of “powerful but nearly harmless drugs,” but also notes that even if these were invented, they’d raise important questions about use and abuse, about whether their availability would make human beings ultimately happier or more miserable. He finds reason for concern in medicine’s history of overprescription of new drugs and writes:
The history of medical fashions, it may be remarked, is at least as grotesque as the history of fashions in women’s hats — at least as grotesque and, since human lives are at stake, considerably more tragic. In the present case, millions of patients who had no real need of the tranquilizers have been given the pills by their doctors and have learned to resort to them in every predicament, however triflingly uncomfortable. This is very bad medicine and, from the pill taker’s point of view, dubious morality and poor sense.
Read the whole article at amazing Popova’s Brainpickings https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/03/25/aldous-huxley-moksha-drugs/
The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.
– D. Morrison
From the Ethics Centre: A quick review of the topic of Universal Basic Income (UBI) – the idea of a regular and liveable payment with no strings attached – no exchange of labour or goods.
The idea of a UBI has deep historical roots. In Thomas More’s Utopia, published in 1516, he writes that instead of punishing a poor person who steals bread, “it would be far more to the point to provide everyone with some means of livelihood, so that nobody’s under the frightful necessity of becoming, first a thief, and then a corpse”.
Over three hundred years later, John Stuart Mill also supported the concept in Principles of Political Economy, arguing that “a certain minimum [income] assigned for subsistence of every member of the community, whether capable of labour or not” would give the poor an opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.
In the 20th century, the UBI gained support from a diverse array of thinkers for very different reasons. Martin Luther King, for instance, saw a guaranteed payment as a way to uphold human rights in the face of poverty, while Milton Friedman understood it as a viable economic alternative to state welfare.
Would a UBI encourage laziness?
Read the answer here: Ethics.org.au/on-ethics/blog/may-2018/ethics-explainer-universal-basic-income
My favourite podcast, a guaranteed pick-me up at all times:
The history of rebellion is rife with excess and burnout. But new generations have a distinctive commitment to be reflective and activist at once, to be in service as much as in charge, and to learn from history while bringing very new realities into being. Quaker wise man Parker Palmer and journalist and entrepreneur Courtney Martin come together for a cross-generational conversation about the inner work of sustainable, resilient social change.
I’m doing a course, and so did a colleague, he since left cos didn’t like the course, but he now doesn’t talk to me anymore. Not sure why.
But: I do think this colleague thinks I’m a feminist. And I am not. But his attitude makes me one.
That’s a shit situation to be in, and my dilemma.
I’d much much rather prefer to fight anyone else’s fight, cos I’m a pathetic feminist.
Watch it. So worth the time.
Finally – a policy covering both humanity AND shareholders.
(and if you are not watching this you are being silly 😉 )
He wrapped up his talk one this fabulous note:
My great hope is that some of you answer it by working to end poverty, boost shared prosperity, and battle climate change. But whatever you do, please remember that the time is now for all of us to work together to bend the arc of history toward justice.
The great anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Be those citizens.Take it on. And please go change the world.
Thank you very much.
Remarks by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, Ogden Lecture at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, United States, March 7, 2014.
Art is individualism, and individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. There lies its immense value. For what it seeks is to disturb monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine.
Oscar Wilde “The Soul of Man under Socialism”
Last night I saw Dr David Suzuki‘s talk “Over the Horizon – next steps for sustainable cities and the world” at Sydney’s Angel Place Recital Hall. The talk was followed by a panel discussion with Dr Tim Flannery, Head of our brand-new ClimateCouncil.org.au, Clover Moore Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney, David Ritter from Greenpeace Australia, Anna Rose, Environmentalist, wife of Simon Sheikh and Author of “It’s Getting Hot in Here“, and Alex Wyatt from Climate Bridge.
Awe-inspiring. Wish we could vote them all in a new alternative government that supports (not blocks) us citizens with running a better, healthier, sustainable Australia…
His Holiness the Dalai Lama along with political and environmental leaders discussing “Universal Responsibility & the Global Environment” at the Environment Summit hosted by the Maitripa College in Portland, Oregon on May 11, 2013.
September 30 2012 – by Annabel Crabb | smh opinion
Brilliant write this 🙂
… Freedom of speech – it’s simple in theory, but endlessly complicated and distorted by a million other factors of politics, circumstance, or the belief that you’re restricting it for the best possible reasons.
In the end, freedom of speech is like democracy: the worst possible system, except for all the others.
Attempts to curb freedom of speech for entirely excellent reasons are the most tempting of all: the shutting down of hate speech, for example, or the protection of society from extremes.
Human nature is to insulate ourselves against nasty shocks. That’s why we invented insurance. But you can’t insure against genuinely irrational human evil, any more than you can against stupidity or malice.
Which is why the bottom line on freedom of speech must always be: sometimes you just have to suck it up.
Read the whole thing here: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/the-worst-possible-option-except…
Annabel Crabb writes for ABC Online’s The Drum. She tweets as @annabelcrabb.