An overly speculative but sympathetic look at Huxley’s cadre of determined investigators probing the mind.

ALDOUS HUXLEY'S HANDS

HIS QUEST FOR PERCEPTION AND THE ORIGIN AND RETURN OF PSYCHEDELIC SCIENCE

Symons (Communications and Media Studies/Santa Ana Coll.; Nostradamus, Vagabond Prophet, 2011, etc.) explores Aldous Huxley’s quest to expand consciousness.

In the 1940s and ’50s, the author’s father, Howard Thrasher, an aircraft engineer, pursued what he called the Hand Project: photographing human hands and examining them for insights into personality traits and even mental illness. Like phrenologists feeling bumps on the skull, he believed the hand was “a mirror of the mind.” Symons was surprised to discover a photograph of Huxley’s hands among her father’s collection and even more surprised to learn that Huxley had invited Thrasher to his dinners and gatherings, which sometimes featured séances and/or hypnosis. Always interested in “fringe-of-science ideas,” Huxley, his nephew once remarked, “liked the company of large minds with obsessions.” Huxley’s obsessions included consciousness-altering experiences through the use of psychedelic drugs. With his colleague, physician Humphry Osmond, he conceived Outsight, a project whose goal was “to advance human consciousness and…draw attention to a chemically induced way of accessing some higher dimension.” To gain credibility with potential funders—the Ford and Rockefeller foundations rebuffed him—he envisioned gathering a group of “gifted people” willing to take the drug and form “a kind of mescalinized think-tank.” Meanwhile, he wrote about his experiences in The Doors of Perception (1954), from which Symons draws, along with correspondence and interviews. Although his visionary quest has been well-known through his writings, Symons creates candid portraits of Huxley and his circle—his wife, Maria, who ministered to his every need, though dying of cancer; Gerald Heard, founder of a 300-acre spiritual retreat in rural California; and the hardworking Osmond. Unfortunately, the author’s account is weakened by imagined conversations about what “probably” happened.

An overly speculative but sympathetic look at Huxley’s cadre of determined investigators probing the mind.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63388-116-7

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Prometheus Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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