Julia was the niece of poet and critic Matthew Arnold and the sister of Mrs. Humphry Ward. His brother Julian Huxley and half-brother Andrew Huxley also became outstanding biologists. Aldous had another brother, Noel Trevenen Huxley — , who took his own life after a period of clinical depression.
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Shelves: history-and-biography Nothing short of a masterpiece. When the same doctrine was used by the Illumines of Picardy to justify unlimited sexual promiscuity, all right-thinking men, including Father Joseph, were properly horrified. But for some strange reason murder has always seemed more respectable than fornication. Few people are The earliest literary reference to "holy indifference" occurs in the Bhagavad-Gita, where Krishna assures Arjuna that it is right for him to slaughter his enemies, provided that he does so in a spirit of non-attachment.
Few people are shocked when they hear God described as the God of Battles; but what an outcry there would be if anyone spoke of him as the God of Brothels! Father Joseph conducted a small crusade against the Illumines, who asserted that they could go to bed with one another in a spirit of holy indifference; but there seemed to him nothing in the least improper in his own claim to be a non-attached intriguer, spy and maker of wars.
The substitute has to be better than the expectation. Histories on some periods are more difficult to find than biographies. Given that I knew very little about the Thirty Years War, the idea that Aldous Huxley had written something about the period Getting something other than what you expected is not always a pleasant experience. What I found was very little in the way of a history of the war but a great deal more of interest. Father Joseph was born a French nobleman but, from early in his life, devoted himself to the ascetic life of a monk.
Huxley is keen for us to know that Father Joseph fully embraced his lifestyle. Indeed, he had to turn away from a life of great luxury in order to wallow in meanness of all sorts simultaneously.
His fervor and discipline brought him great repute and soon he was not merely a monk but a teacher of other monks and nuns. As Huxley notes, if war had not been a few steps away, Father Joseph may have been remembered as a notable, perhaps even legendary Christian thinker. His childhood acquaintance with the man who would become Cardinal Richelieu, the Red Eminence, as well as his own incredible talents for negotiation brought him into the power politics of the crowns of Europe. The brilliant, enthralling faith in God that made Father Joseph such an awe-inspiring preacher and mystic also led to his ultimately destructive war policy.
The conflict between these two halves of his life — the fervent Christian ascetic and the unscrupulous royal minister — is what drives Huxley throughout this book.
In terms of prose, Grey Eminence did not disappoint. While not being the breeziest of texts it earns the heft that it has. Huxley knows how to write a work of non-fiction; that is, without using all the tools of evidence in order to write every detail of a scenario, but rather giving most of the text over to his analysis. His details on mysticism were also fairly plainly laid out and engrossing.
The only thing I stumbled on were the songs and poetry from French or Latin or German, as Huxley would rarely translate or even paraphrase them. Aldous Huxley was right to be fascinated with Father Joseph. His life is a reminder that those with radiant places in history were not the only ones, or even the most important ones, who made it. It also reminds us that the devil has no prophesied form.
Jun 03, Roberta Allen rated it liked it This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The story of Father Joseph is fascinating. He aspired to the mystic life and lived spartanly, barefoot and in near rags, wearing a hair shirt, etc. But Huxley does not give a straight forward biography. He himself was a great believe in mysticism and lays his own views about art, politics and many other topics pretty heavily on the reader. At times this got quite annoying as he could be rather pompous.
The language Huxley uses is absolutely beautiful. The realities of the 17th century Europe on the background are both fascinating and terrifying. The book strengthened my belief that not much is changed in the way power-politics is done and that I am infinitely grateful for living in an age and place where past atrocities are not commonplace.
Grey Eminence by Aldous Huxley