Books That Have Made a Difference: Aldous Huxley’s "Brave New World"

by Derrick G. Jeter

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27).

O, wonder! / How many goodly creatures are there here! / How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, / That has such people in it! (William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene I)

As a boy, Aldous Huxley grew up in a world that rejected the truth that man was created by God in His image. Rather, his famous family embraced the radical humanistic doctrine that mankind, apart from God, was the wonder of the universe. The grandson of T. H. Huxley, known as “Darwin’s Bulldog,” and the nephew of Julian Huxley, who called for a one-world government and promoted eugenics, young Aldous was immersed in the intellectual milieu of Darwinism.

Out of this stew came Huxley’s most famous novel, Brave New World. First published in 1932, Brave New World creates a society that mirrors his uncle’s aspirations. Not as widely read as George Orwell’s 1984, which depicts life in a scientifically advanced, godless, and oppressive state; Huxley’s book draws disturbing conclusions of life in a scientifically advanced, godless, but “free” state.

Ironically, the brave new world of Huxley’s vision is neither brave nor new. In fact, it captures the oldest cowardly lie ever perpetrated on mankind—death is an illusion because we are gods. “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4–5). Satan was right about one thing though, our eyes were opened when Adam and Eve took a bite of that forbidden fruit. But the opening of our eyes blinded us to the truth, for unlike God, we cannot grasp the nature of good and evil. Confusing the two is the story of mankind, and the story of Huxley’s science-fiction utopian novel. Conversely, by the time one finishes the book the irony of Shakespeare’s words in The Tempest are palpable—there is nothing beautiful about the brave new world, and it takes a “savage” to point this out to the “civilized.”

The thesis of Brave New World, Huxley wrote in the forward of the 1946 edition, is “the advancement of science as it affects human individuals. . . . This really revolutionary revolution is to be achieved . . . in the souls and flesh of human beings.” This is a disconcerting proposition given mankind’s propensity to call evil good and good evil.

The citizens of the brave new world appear to have their eyes opened, but are really blind to the evil all around them—thinking it good. In their moral confusion they don’t realize that their souls have been changed. Or as Huxley said himself, the brave new world is an “efficient totalitarian state . . . in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.” This love affair of servitude is grown in the culture of radical “freedom.”

Eradicating Individuality for Community, Identity, and Stability

Those who govern the brave new world are not sane, but neither are they madmen. Their aim is not anarchy but social stability, achieved by eradicating individuality.

The motto of the brave new world—Community, Identity, Stability—is the unifying creed of the World State. Community: the result of a stable society whose citizens’ identity is not individual but collective. Identity: imposed through genetic engineering, cloning, and ostracism for the slightest individual thought or action. Stability: accomplished by ensuring economic security, eliminating unpleasant ideas such as competition and risk.

Replacing the Truth for a Lie

The controllers of the brave new world are propagandist and promoters of idolatry. They learned that the most effective propaganda is not achieved by telling outright lies but by remaining silent about the truth altogether. “The greatest triumphs of propaganda,” Huxley wrote, “have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.”

But propaganda is only the beginning. The citizens of the brave new world worship at the altar of a false religion—a bastardization of Christianity. “Our Ford” replaces “our Lord,” and the letter T replaces the cross as the symbol of new birth, not spiritually but scientifically, as homage to Henry Ford, who perfected the mass production of cars with his Model-T.

The Revolutionary Revolution of Science

Changing the soul of mankind and making them love their servitude “cannot be established,” Huxley argued, “except as the result of a deep, personal revolution in human minds and bodies.” This is accomplished primarily through cloning and genetic engineering—in a “foolproof system of eugenics, designed to standardize the human product” that rivaled Ford’s production of cars. But the controllers also aggressively use brainwashing and indoctrination techniques to condition citizens to fulfill society’s needs—all without question. There is, as well, the denial of the physical and spiritual significance of death; instead there is a consuming focus on perpetual youth and vigor.

The Radical Pursuit of Happiness

Stability, which is the goal of the brave new world, can only be achieved when everyone is happy. To do this no one should be allowed to feel or express deep emotions—love, hate, grief, frustration, passion. Happiness, then, is pursued in the middle grounds of promiscuous and “protected” sex with any partner you want, justified with the mantra: “everyone belongs to everyone else.” Huxley warns: “As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase.”

Happiness, moreover, is pursued through drug abuse and the mindless consumption of banal entertainment. Soma is used by everyone in the brave new world as a means to escape reality, calm latent emotions, and create a false euphoria; while activities such as Obstacle Golf, Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy, and the Feelies keeps citizens busy with triviality and ultimate futility.

The Destruction of the Family

With the efficiency of cloning and “decanting” babies from bottles, coupled with lascivious promiscuity what need is there for monogamy, marriage, and family? Words like “Mother” and “Father” are considered obscene and snickered at. Natural childbirth—a scandal.

The intriguing and disturbing question as you read Huxley’s Brave New World is not, “Could this happen?” but “How close is our society to the brave new world already?” Huxley himself pondered this question: “All things considered it looks as though Utopia were far closer to us than anyone, only fifteen years ago [when he wrote the novel], could have imagined. Then, I projected it six hundred years into the future. Today it seems quite possible that the horror may be upon us within a single century.”

Huxley’s Quotes: Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (New York: HarperCollins, 1998), xi, xiv, xv, xvii.