- Format: Paperback
Whilst clearing out personal effects stored in boxes in her family’s home in Long Beach, Allene Symons uncovered a collection of eleven by fourteen inch photographic prints.
Doing so caused childhood memories to come flooding back from an earlier time when she had been fascinated by her father’s seven-year passion for a hobby that was referred to as the ‘Hand Project’.
Opening Pandora’s Box
A mystery that initially began as a casual observation by her father whilst shaking hands with students grew into a desire to photograph people”s hands with the intention of revealing any possible connection between hand structure and professional success.
In amongst his collection of photographs that his daughter found there emerged a handwritten note that had been sent to her father. It particularly caught her attention for it contained a goodwill message from the famous writer Aldous Huxley and his wife Maria – probably around December 1952.
This apparent close connection between Aldous Huxley and her father so intrigued Allene Symons that she embarked upon an investigative journey to find out more about their relationship.
A Literary Life
Aldous Huxley was born in Godalming, Surrey, England in 1894. For a while he was a schoolmaster at Eton College but he quickly grew tired of the job and found alternative employment at a respected London-based literary magazine.
In July 1919 he married Belgian-born Maria and the two of them found great companionship in each other by travelling the world together. This then led in his later life to a successful writing career in which Aldous wrote seventeen books, many of them collected short fiction and essays.
It was in 1936 that Aldous Huxley started to explore meditation and hypnosis with a particular interest in their ability to modify consciousness and promote self-development.
In 1937 the couple moved to America in an effort to promote peace in an increasingly-dark European political climate. They never returned to England due to war breaking out in Europe in 1939.
The War Machine
Symons father, on the other hand, had been employed at the Vultee Aircraft corporation and was involved in their transition from making cars to planes for the war effort
By day her father was employed as a draughtsman at the company but after work hours he was engaged in spiritual studies and it was through his healing work that he met Aldous Huxley around 1951. On their early meeting Symons the father discovered that Aldous Huxley’s wife also had an interest in hand prints.
The two men also discovered that the deepening interest that each other had in spirituality.
A Mystery Unfolds
In her account of the events that led from her discovery of her father’s photographic images and his meeting with the Huxley’s, Allene Symons includes her own unfolding story of the investigative work that she did regarding this connection as well as interviews that she had with her ageing father around 2001.
She describes how soon after the meeting of her father and Aldous Huxley the famous author and novelist had published his ground-breaking work on hallucinogenics titled ‘The Doors Of Perception’.
In her book ‘Aldous Huxley’s Hands’ Allene Symons tells the story that unfolded as a consequence of her investigations. She follows the stories behind her father’s work and Huxley’s writings, the gradual influx of mind-altering drugs into 1950s American society and includes the threads of alternative ideas that germinated at that time.
The book culminates in the author’s own experiences into the various alternative levels of perception and consciousness.
In concluding her book she reflects upon the human hand with its capability of revealing unique information about ourselves and the role that LSD played in the final hours of Aldous Huxley’s transition out of this world.
Our Review of ‘Aldous Huxley’s Hands’ by Allene Symons
Throughout the above summerization of the book ‘Aldous Huxley’s Hands I have deliberately avoided revealing too much detail of what is a fascinating and engrossing account of the author’s personal and anecdotal reflections of one of the 20th century”s most influential writers.
Take it from me the story is much deeper, more fascinating and decidedly more entertaining than I have given it credit. The reason for this lack of additional details is that I simply do not want to spoil the story for those who feel drawn towards purchasing this book.
In many ways ‘The Doors of Perception’ came out of the blue when it was first published in February 1954. It was, it should be noted, a book on a subject of psychedelics that predates by over a decade the imagined period of America’s interest in alternative consciousness creating substances.
The story told in Symons excellent work offers some fascinating background information regarding the birth of the book and the mindset of its author, who emerged from a world of convention and establishment acceptance to become one of the most important founding-fathers of today’s alternative movements such as sacred activism and the spiritual use of banned substances.
The book is an excellent snapshot of an important point in time. It is well illustrated and referenced. It is a book about the meeting of minds, of ideas and of goals and as such it will delight and fascinate young and old alike; for its story straddles several decades of underground thinking and brave action.
‘Aldous Huxley’s Hands’ is a fast, fascinating and frantic story of a world starting to emerge into a process of spiritual awakening. It is a book that reveals the germinating seeds of alternative thinking that predates the spiritual and substance explosion of the 1960s and reveals otherwise unknown aspects to Aldous Huxley’s extraordinary life.
Credit: Review copy kindly supplied by PGUK, London.