LSD and DYING. 2 – Aldous Huxley
Posted by lahar9jhadav on July 13, 2007
Aldous died as he lived, doing his best to develop fully in himself one of the essentials he recommended to others: Awareness.
When he realized that the labor of his body leaving this life might lessen his awareness, Aldous prescribed his own medicine or — expressed in another way — his own sacrament.
‘The last rites should make one more conscious rather than less conscious,” he had often said, “more human rather than less human.” In a letter to Dr. Osmond, who had reminded Aldous that six years had passed since their first mescaline experiment, he answered, “Yes, six years since that first experiment. ‘O Death in Life, the years that are no more’ — and yet also, ‘O Life in Death…'” Also to Osmond: “…My own experience with Maria convinced me that the living can do a great deal to make the passage easier for the dying, to raise the most purely physiological act of human existence to the level of consciousness and perhaps even of spirituality.”– All too often, unconscious or dying people are treated as ‘things,’ as though they were not there. But often they are very much there. Although a dying person has fewer and fewer means of expressing what he feels, he still is open to receiving communication. In this sense the very sick or the dying person is much like a child: he cannot tell us how he feels, but he is absorbing our feeling, our voice, and, most of all, our touch. In the infant the greatest channel of communication is the skin. Similarly, for the individual plunged in the immense solitude of sickness and death, the touch of a hand can dispel that solitude, even warmly illuminate that unknown universe. To the “nobly born” as to the “nobly dying,” skin and voice communication may make an immeasurable difference. Modern psychology has discovered how powerful the birth trauma is to the individual’s life. What about the “death trauma”? If one believes in the continuity of life, should one not give it equal consideration?
Then, I don’t know exactly what time it was, he asked me for his tablet and wrote, “Try LSD 100 mm intramuscular.” Although, as you see from the reproduction, it is not very clear, I knew that this is what he meant. I read it aloud and he confirmed it. Suddenly, something was very clear to me, after this tortuous talking of the last two months. I knew then, I knew what was to be done. I went quickly to fetch the LSD, which was in the medicine chest in the room across the hall. There is a TV set in that room, which was hardly ever used. But I had been aware, in the last hour or so, that it was on. Now, when I entered the room, Ginny, the doctor, the nurse, and the rest of the household were all looking at television. The thought shot through my mind: “This is madness, these people looking at television when Aldous is dying.” A second later, while I was opening the box containing the LSD vial, I heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated. Only then did I understand the strange behavior of the people that morning.
I said, “I am going to give him a shot of LSD — he asked for it.”
The doctor had a moment of agitation — you know very well the uneasiness in the medical mind about this drug. But no ‘authority,” not even an army of authorities, could have stopped me then. I went into Aldous’s room with the vial of LSD and prepared a syringe. The doctor asked me if I wanted to give him the shot — maybe because he saw that my hands were trembling. His asking me that made me conscious of my hands, and I said, “No, I must do this.” I quieted myself, and when I gave him the shot my hands were firm.
Then, somehow, a great relief came to us both. It was 11:45 when I gave him his first shot of 100 mm. I sat near his bed and I said, “Darling, maybe in a little while I will take it with you. Would you like me to take it also in a little while?” I said “a little while” because I had no idea of when I could take it. And he indicated yes. We must keep in mind that by now he was speaking very, very little.
Then I said, “Would you like Matthew to take it with you also?”
And he said yes.
“What about Ellen?”
He said yes. Then I mentioned two or three other people who had been working with LSD and he said, “No, no, basta, basta.”
Then I said, “What about Ginny?”
And he said, “Yes,” with emphasis. Then we were quiet. I just sat there without speaking for a while. Aldous was not so agitated physically. He seemed — somehow I felt he knew — we both knew what we were doing, and this had always been a great relief to Aldous. I have seen him at times during his illness upset until he knew what he was going to do, then, the decision taken, however serious, he would make a total change. This enormous feeling of relief would come to him, and he wouldn’t be worried at all about it. He would say let’s do it, and we would do it, and he was like a liberated man. And now I had the same feeling: a decision had been made. Suddenly he accepted the fact of death; now, he had taken this moksha-medicine in which he believed. Once again he knew he was doing what he had written in Island, and I had the feeling that he was interested and relieved and quiet.
After half an hour, the expression on his face began to change a little, and I asked him if he felt the effect of LSD, and he indicated no. Yet I think that something had taken place already. This was one of Aldous’s characteristics. He would always delay acknowledging the effect of any medicine, even when the effect was quite certainly there; unless the effect was very, very strong, he would say no. Now the expression on his face was beginning to look as it did when he had taken the moksha-medicine, when this immense expression of complete bliss and love would come over him. This was not the case now, but there was a changed in comparison to what his face had been two hours before. I let another half hour pass, and then I decided to give him another 100 mm. I told him I was going to do it, and he acquiesced. I gave him another shot, and then I began to talk to him. He was very quiet now; he was very quiet and his legs were getting colder; higher and higher I could see purple areas of cyanosis. Then I began to talk to him, saying, “Light and free.” Some of these suggestions I had given him at night, in these last few weeks, before he would go to sleep, and now I spoke them more convincingly, more intensely.
“Light and free you let go, darling; forward and up. You are going forward and up; you are going toward the light. Willingly and consciously you are going, willingly and consciously, and you are doing this beautifully — you are going towards the light — you are going toward a greater love — you are going forward and up. You are going toward Maria’s love with my love. You are going toward a greater love than you have ever known. You are going toward the best, the greatest love, and it is easy, it is so easy, and you are doing it so beautifully.”
I believe I started to talk to him — it must have been about one or two o’clock. It was very difficult for me to keep track of time. I was very, very near his ear, and I hope I spoke clearly and understandably. Once I asked him, “Do you hear me?” He squeezed my hand; he was hearing me. It was 3:15 p.m. according to the nurse’s records. I was tempted to ask more questions, but in the morning he begged me not to ask any more questions, and the entire feeling was that things were right. I didn’t dare to inquire, to disturb, and that was the only question that I asked: “Do you hear me?”
Later on I asked the same question, but the hand didn’t move any more. Now from two o’clock until the time he died, which was 5:20 p.m., there was complete peace except for once. That must have been about three-thirty or four, when I saw the beginning of struggle in his lower lip. His lower lip began to move as if it were going to struggle for air. Then I gave the direction even more forcefully:
“It is easy, and you are doing this beautifully and consciously, in full awareness, in full awareness, darling, you are going toward the light.” I repeated these or similar words for the last three or four hours. Once in a while my own emotion would overcome me, but if it did I would immediately leave the bed for two or three minutes, and would come back only when I could control my emotion. The twitching of the lower lip lasted only a little bit, and it seemed to respond completely to what I was saying.
“Easy, easy, and you are doing this willingly and consciously and beautifully — going forward and up, light and free, forward and up toward the light, into the light, into complete love.”
The twitching stopped, the breathing became slower and slower, and there was absolutely not the slightest indication of contraction, of struggle. It was just that the breathing became slower — and slower — and slower; this ceasing of life was not a drama at all, but like a piece of music just finishing so gently in a sempre piu piano, dolcemente…and at five-twenty the breathing stopped.
And now, after I have been alone these few days, and less bombarded by other people’s feelings, the meaning of this last day becomes clearer and clearer to me and more and more important. Aldous was appalled, I think (and certainly I am), at the fact that what he wrote in Island was not taken seriously. It was treated as a work of science fiction, when it was not fiction, because each one of the ways of living he described in Island was not a product of his fantasy, but something that had been tried in one place or another, some of them in our own everyday life. If the way Aldous died were known, it might awaken people to the awareness that not only this, but many other facts described in Island are possible here and now. Aldous asking for the moksha-medicine while dying is not only a confirmation of his open-mindedness and courage, but as such a last gesture of continuing importance. Such a gesture might be ignorantly misinterpreted, but it is history that Huxleys stop ignorance before ignorance stops Huxleys.
Now, is his way of dying to remain for us, and only for us, a relief and consolation, or should others also benefit from it? Aren’t we all nobly born and entitled to nobly dying?
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