Quotations from Aldous Huxley's Island



(Page 16 of 295, or .05)

"Listen to him closely, listen discriminatingly. [...]" 
Will Farnaby listened. The mynah had gone back its first theme. 

"Attention," the articulate oboe was calling. "Attention." 

"Attention to what?" he asked, in the hope of eliciting a more enlightening
      answer than the one he had received from Mary Sarojini. 

"To attention," said Dr. MacPhail. 


(Page 80 of 295, or .27)

"God has nothing to do with it," Ranga retorted, "and the joke isn't cosmic, it's strictly man-made. These things aren't like gravity or the second law of thermo-dynamics; they don't have to happen. They happen only if people are stupid enough to let them happen..." 


(Page 141 of 295, or .48)

"There!" said Vijaya when the last brimming bowl had been sent on its way. He wiped his hands, walked over to the table and took his seat. "Better tell our guest about grace," he said to Shanta. 
Turning to Will, "In Pala," she explained, "we don't say grace before meals. We say it with meals. Or rather we don't say grace; we chew it." 

"Chew it?" 

"Grace is the first mouthful of each course---chewed and chewed until there's nothing left of it. And all the time you're chewing you pay attention to the flavor of the food, to its consistency and temperature, to the pressures on your teeth and the feel of the muscles in your jaw." 

"And meanwhile, I suppose, you give thanks to the Enlightened One, or Shiva, or whoever it may be?" 

Shanta shook her head emphatically. "That would distract your attention, and attention is the whole point. Attention to the experience of something given, something you haven't invented. Not the memory of a form of words addressed to somebody in your imagination." 


(Page 143 of 285, or .49)

"Whereas we," said Dr. Robert, "have always chosen to adapt our economy and technology to human beings---not our human beings to somebody else's economy and technology. We import what we can't make; but we make an [sic] import only what we can afford. And what we can afford is limited not merely by our supply of pounds and marks and dollars, but also primarily---primarily," he insisted---"by our wish to be happy, our ambition to become fully human." 


(Page 144 of 295, or .49)

"Aren't you supposed to be intellectuals?" Will asked when the two men had

      emerged again and were were drying themselves. 

"We do intellectual work," Vijaya answered. 

"Then why all the horrible honest toil?" 

"For a very simple reason: this morning I had some spare time." 

"So did I," said Dr. Robert. 

"So you went out into the fields and did a Tolstoy act." 

Vijaya laughed. "You seem to imagine we do it for ethical reasons." 

"Don't you?" 

"Certainly not. I do muscular work, because I have muscles, and if I don't use
      my muscles I shall become a bad-tempered sitting-addict." 

"With nothing between the cortex and the buttocks," said Dr. Robert. "Or rather with everything---but in a condition of complete unconsciousness and toxic stagnation. Western intellectuals are all sitting-addicts. That's why most of you are so repulsively unwholesome. In the past even a duke had to do a lot of walking, even a moneylender, even a metaphysician. And when they weren't using their legs, they were jogging about on horses. Whereas now, from the tycoon to his typist, from the logical positivist to the positive thinker, you spend nine tenths of your time on foam rubber. Spongy seats for spongy bottoms---at home, in the office, in cars and bars, in planes and trains and buses. No moving of legs, no struggles with distance and gravity---just lifts and planes and cars, just foam rubber and an eternity of sitting. The life force that used to find an outlet through striped muscle gets turned back on the viscera and the nervous system, and slowly destroys them." 

[...Vijaya explained,] "If you'd been shown how to do things with the minimum of strain and the maximum of awareness, you'd enjoy even honest toil." 


(Page 228 of 295, or .77)

He opened a a second door that gave access to a large gymnasium where two bearded young men and an amazingly agile little old lady in black satin slacks were teaching some twenty or thirty little boys and girls the steps of a lively dance. 
"What's this?" Will asked. "Fun or education?" 

"Both," said the Principal. "And it's also applied ethics. Like those breathing exercises we were talking about just now---only more effective because so much more violent." 

"So stamp it out," the children were chanting in unison. And they stamped their small sandaled feet with all their might. "So stamp it out!" A final furious stamp and they were off again, jigging and turning, into another movement of the dance. 

"This is called the Rakshasi Hornpipe, "said Mrs. Narayan. 

"Rakshasi?" Will questioned. "What's that?" 

A Rakshasi is a species of demon. Very large, and exceedingly unpleasant. All the ugliest passions personified. The Rakshasi Hornpipe is a device for letting off those dangerous heads of steam raised by anger and frustration." 

"So stamp it out!" The music had come round again to the choral refrain. "So stamp it out!" 

"Stamp again," cried the little old lady setting a furious example. "Harder! Harder!" 

[...] "So stamp it out," the children shouted again in unison, and the boards trembled under their pounding feet. "So stamp it out." 

"Don't imagine," Mrs. Narayan resumed, "that this is the only kind of dancing we teach. Redirecting the power generated by bad feelings is important. But equally important is directing good feelings and right knowledge into expression. Expressive movements, in this case, expressive gesture. [...]" 

"It's meditation in action," she concluded. 


(Page 230 of 295, or .78)

"Now let's play some pretending games. Shut your eyes and pretend you're looking at that poor old mynah bird with one leg that comes to school every day to be fed. Can you see him?" 
Of course they could see him. The one-legged mynah was evidently an old friend. 

"See him just as clearly as you saw him today at lunchtime. And don't stare at him, don't make any effort. Just see what comes to you, and let you eyes shift---from his beak to his tail, from his bright little round eye to his one orange leg." 

"I can hear him too," a little girl volunteered. "He's saying 'Karuna, karuna!'" 

"That's not true," another child said indignantly. "He's saying 'Attention!'" 

"He's saying both those things," Susila assured them. "And probably a lot of other words besides. But now we're going to do some real pretending. Pretend that there are two one-legged mynah birds. Three one-legged mynah birds. Four one-legged mynah birds. Can you see all four of them?" 

They could. 

"Four one-legged mynah birds at the four corners of a square, and a fifth one in the middle. And let's make them change their color. They're white now. Five white mynah birds with yellow heads and one orange leg. And now the heads are blue. Bright blue---and the rest of the bird is pink. Five pink birds with blue heads. And they keep changing. They're purple now. Five purple birds with white heads and each of them has one pale green leg. Goodness, what's happening? There aren't five of them; there are ten. No, twenty, fifty, a hundred. Hundreds and hundreds. Can you see them?" Some of them could---without the slightest difficulty; and for those who couldn't go the whole hog, Susila proposed more modest goals. 

"Just make twelve of them," she said. "Or if twelve is too many, make ten, make eight. That's still an awful lot of mynahs. And now," she went on, when all the children had conjured up all the purple birds that each was capable of creating, "now they're gone." She clapped her hands. "Gone! Every single one of them. There's nothing there. And now you're not gong to see mynahs, you're going to see me. One me in yellow. Two mes in green. Three mes in blue with pink spots. Four mes in the brightest red you ever saw." She clapped her hands again. "All gone. And this time it's Mrs. Narayan and that funny-looking man with a stiff leg who came in with her. Four of each of them. Standing in a big circle in the gymnasium. And now they're dancing the Rakshasi Hornpipe. 'So stamp it out, so stamp it out.'" 

There was a general giggle. The dancing Wills and Principals must have looked richly comical. 

Susila snapped her fingers. 

"Away with them! Vanish! And now each of you sees three of your mothers and three of your fathers running round the playground. Faster, faster, faster! And suddenly they're not there any more. And then they are there. But next moment they aren't. They are there, they aren't. They are, they aren't..." 

The giggles swelled into squeals of laughter and at the height of the laughter a bell rang. The lesson in Elementary Practical Psychology was over. 

"What's the point of it all?" Will asked when the children had run off to play and Mrs. Narayan had returned to her office. 

"The point," Susila answered, "is to get people to understand that we're not completely at the mercy of our memory and our phantasies. If we're disturbed by what's going on inside our heads, we can do something about it. [...]" 


(Page 217 of 295, or .74)

"[H]ow early do you start your science teaching?" 
"We start it at the same time we start multiplication and division. First lessons

       in ecology." 

"Ecology? Isn't that a bit complicated?" 

"That's precisely the reason why we begin with it. Never give children a chance of imagining that anything exists in isolation. Make it plain from the very first that all living is relationship. Show them relationships in the woods, in the fields, in the ponds and streams, in the village and the country around it. Rub it in." 

"And let me add," said the Principal, "that we always teach the science of relationship in conjunction with the ethics of relationship. Balance, give and take, no excesses---it's the rule of nature and, translated out of fact into morality, it ought to be the rule among people. [...]" 


(Page 89 of 295, or .30)

"Escape," she explained, "is built into the new system. Whenever the parental Home Sweet Home becomes too unbearable, the child is allowed, is actively encouraged---and the whole weight of public opinion is behind the encouragement---to migrate to one of the other homes." 
"How many homes does a Palanese child have?" 

"About twenty on average." 

"Twenty? My God!" 

"We all belong," Susila explained, "to an MAC---a Mutual Adoption Club. Every MAC consists of anything from fifteen to twenty-five assorted couples. Newly elected brides and bridegrooms, old-timers with growing children, grandparents and great-grandparents---everybody in the club adopts everyone else. Besides our own blood relations, we all have our quota of deputy mothers, deputy fathers, deputy aunts and uncles, deputy brothers and sisters, deputy babies and toddlers and teen-agers." 


"Nothing," she assured him, "could be less like a commune than an MAC. An MAC isn't run by the government, it's run by its members. And we're not militaristic. We're not interested in turning out good party members; we're interested in turning out good human beings. We don't inculcate dogmas. And finally we don't take the children away from their parents; on the contrary, we give the children additional parents and the parents additional children. [...]" 


(Page 77 of 295, or .26)

"What's a not-sensation?" 
"It's the raw material for sensation that my not-self provides me with." 

"And you can pay attention to your not-self?" 

"Of course." 

Will turned to the little nurse. "You too?" 

"To myself," she answered, "and at the same time to my not-self. And to Ranga's not-self, and to Ranga's self, and to Ranga's body, and to my body and everything it's feeling. And to all the love and friendship. And to the mystery of the other person---the perfect stranger, who's the other half of your own self, and the same as your not-self. And all the while one's paying attention to all the things that, if one were sentimental, or worse, if one were spiritual like the poor old Rani, one would find so unromantic and gross and sordid even. But they aren't sordid, because one's fully aware of them, those things are just as beautiful as all the rest, just as wonderful." 

"[... It] is contemplation." 


(Page 242 of 295, or .82)

"[...] 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'" He screwed up his face in an

      expression of disgust. 

"And yet," said Susila, "in a certain sense the advice is excellent. Eating, drinking, dying---three primary manifestations of the universal and impersonal life. Animals live that impersonal and universal life without knowing its nature. Ordinary people know its nature but don't live it and, if ever they think seriously about it, refuse to accept it. An enlightened person person knows it, lives it, and accepts it completely. He eats, he drinks, and in due course he dies---but he eats with a difference, drinks with a difference, dies with a difference." 

"And rises again from the dead?" he asked sarcastically. 

"That's one of the questions the Buddha always refused to answer. Believing in eternal life never helped anybody to live in eternity. Nor, of course, did disbelieving. So stop all your pro-ing and con-ing (that's the Buddha's advice) and get on with the job." 

"Which job?" 

"Everybody's job---enlightenment. Which means, here and now, the preliminary job of practicing all the yogas of increased awareness." 


(Page 141 of 295, or .48)

 "Do you like music?" Dr. Robert asked. 
"More than most things." 


"And what, may I ask, does Mozart's G-Minor Quintet refer to? Does it refer to Allah? Or Tao? Or the second person of the Trinity? Or the Atman-Brahman?" 

Will laughed. "Let's hope not." 

"But that doesn't make the experience of the G-Minor Quintet any less rewarding. Well, it's the same with the kind of experience that you get with the moksha-medicine, or through prayer and fasting and spiritual exercises. Even if it doesn't refer to anything outside itself, it's still the most important thing that ever happened to you. Like music, only incomparably more so. And if you give the experience a chance, if you're prepared to go along with it, the results are incomparably more therapeutic and transforming. So maybe the whole thing does happen inside one's skull. Maybe it is private and there's no unitive knowledge of anything but one's own physiology. Who cares? The fact remains that the experience can open one's eyes and make one blessed and transform one's whole life." 


(Page 188 of 295, or .64)

 "Is there any connection," Will asked, "between what you've been talking about and what I saw up there in the Shiva temple?" 
"Of course there is," she answered. "The moksha-medicine takes you to the same place as you get to in meditation." 

"So why bother to meditate?" 

"You might as well ask, Why bother to eat your

"But according to you, the moksha-medicine is dinner." 

"It's a banquet," she said emphatically. "And that's precisely why there has to be meditation. You can't have banquets everyday. They're too rich and they last too long. Besides, banquets are provided by a caterer; you don't have any part in the preparation of them. For your everyday diet you have to do your own cooking. The moksha-medicine comes as an occasional treat."