Part 6A (series contents). Post Edition 3 (September 1, 2016)
The novel describes a single global religion of oneness that attempts to give the citizens of the scientific dictatorship a mystical experience of unity and spirituality.
In addition to “Community Sings,” there are smaller religious services called “Solidarity Services”, held every two weeks, which make use of the fictional drug “soma”, music, dancing, and sex (Chapter 5, Section 2).
The intense, ritualistic experience is intended to achieve a mindless feeling of unity.
The unity the group tries to attain is personalized as a type of Savior, Messiah, or God.
Loud and pulsing synthetic music is applied to the room, music which affects the middle of the body directly. Along with a drumbeat and haunting melody, the lyrics of each hymn are repeated many times.
. . . The group was now complete, the solidarity circle perfect and without flaw. Man, woman, man, in a ring of endless alternation round the table. Twelve of them ready to be made one, waiting to come together, to be fused, to lose their twelve separate identities in a larger being. . . .
Their drinking of the novel’s drug soma is almost like a mind-altering version of the Christian Communion ceremony.
However, in this case, each participant says, “I drink to my annihilation.”
One of the hymns they sing refers to this goal of annihilating the individual’s identity:
Come, Greater Being, Social Friend,
We long to die, for when we end,
Our larger life has but begun.
The drug induces a feeling (not the reality) of universal benevolence. This orgy of drugs, frenzied slogans, and sex is a collectivist ritual that elevates the group “mind”–the non-thinking hive mind–while diminishing or switching off the individual mind.
The thinking ability of the participants is turned off and religion becomes all about an “experience” of unity that Bernard Marx, for example, struggles to achieve.
Huxley’s portrayal of his religion is realistic, because there is a predictable hypocrisy with at least some of the participants, at least with Bernard Marx, where he pretends to have a spiritual experience. I can’t blame him, because the context is authoritarian, one of them being sternly warned about being late. Possibly it isn’t only Bernard Marx who has doubts.
Pretending not to have doubts while putting on a smiling face sounds very familiar to me and probably to many other people who have been mind-bombed by religions and cults of various kinds in addition to NLP techniques, positive thinking seminars, or fun, play-like-a-child, team-building sessions in the corporate workplace.
Bernard Marx is disappointed by the woman he has to be with even after consuming the drug:
“It’ll be a failure again,” he said to himself. “I know it will.” But he went on doing his best to beam.
Then there is an incredible voice from on high speaking to them electronically so that they feel a warmth in their bodies and tears in their eyes. The voice announces that they should listen for the footsteps of the “Greater Being,” who is supposed to be coming:
The feet of the Greater Being are on the stairs.
Then each of them starts testifying to this supposed experience, many of the women jumping up first to make their pronouncements.
Feeling that it was time for him to do something, Bernard also jumped up and shouted: “I hear him; He’s coming.” But it wasn’t true. He heard nothing and, for him, nobody was coming. Nobody-in spite of the music, in spite of the mounting excitement. But he waved his arms, he shouted with the best of them; and when the others began to jig and stamp and shuffle, he also jigged and shuffled. . . .
Notice how the type of dancing is described as jigging and shuffling. Also, does the following dance seem familiar?
Round they went, a circular procession of dancers, each with hands on the hips of the dancer preceding, round and round, shouting in unison, stamping to the rhythm of the music with their feet, beating it, beating it out with hands on the buttocks in front; . . .
Then they go further and start singing:
Orgy-porgy, Ford and fun,
Kiss the girls and make them One.
Boys at 0ne with girls at peace;
Orgy-porgy gives release.
The dancing gradually stops and becomes an orgy.
The result for Bernard Marx:
He was as miserably isolated now as he had been when the service began-more isolated by reason of his unreplenished emptiness, his dead satiety. Separate and unatoned, while the others were being fused into the Greater Being; alone even in Morgana’s embrace . . .
So there are quite a few questions we can look into about how these aspects of the novel might be taking effect, or have already taken effect, since the novel was published in the 1930s:
*goal of one world religion
*goal of diminishing the individual’s identity and submitting each person to the collective will and identity
*switching off rational thought
*use of small groups for societal direction
*ritual use of drugs (part of bigger topic)
*ritual use of sex, and where sexual practices are being pushed with different generations, via pornography for example (bigger topic)
*effect of music or possibly special technologies, if any, on the mind, on emotions, and possibly on the body
*hypnotic techniques generally (bigger topic)
*charismatic movement and the idea of religion being all about sensations and experiences