Episode 123: The Aldous Huxley Episode with Jake Poller

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast features an interview with Jake Poller, the author of Aldous Huxley, which is the focus of this episode, and also Aldous Huxley and Alternative Spirituality. Poller edited the essay collection Altered Consciousness in the Twentieth Century and his articles have appeared in the Aldous Huxley Annual, the D.H. Lawrence Review, Aries, Literature and Theology and International Journal for the Study of New Religions. His research focuses on the intersection of alternative spirituality, Western esotericism, philosophy and psychoanalysis with twentieth-century literature and culture. Aldous Huxley was one of the twentieth century’s most prescient thinkers. Poller’s biography, named after the philosopher, is a rich and lucid account that charts the different phases of Huxley’s career, from the early satirist who depicted the glamorous despair of the postwar generation, to the committed pacifist of the 1930s, the spiritual seeker of the 1940s, the psychedelic sage of the 1950s — who affirmed the spiritual potential of mescaline and LSD — to the New Age prophet that defined his later years. While Huxley is still best known as the author of Brave New World, Jake Poller argues that it is The Perennial Philosophy, The Doors of Perception, and Island — Huxley’s blueprint for a utopian society — that have had the most cultural impact. Huxley’s influence was vast. We see it today in the ever increasing appetite for spiritual experiences, meditation retreats, ayahuasca holidays, the multi-billion dollar “shroom boom,” the popularity of yoga, tai-chi and other mind-body practices, and the rise of spiritual communities and centers. Now more than ever, Poller points out so vividly in his book, the work of Aldous Huxley leads the way. In this episode host Michael Shields and Jake Poller discuss what compelled Huxley to seek out transcendent experiences and how psychedelics changed his life and worldview. They explore what his novel Island means to his legacy and why his bounteous, insightful essays deserve a much wider readership, and much, much more.

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