The Art of Dying: Aldous Huxley’s Last Epiphany
The death of Aldous Huxley, as told by his wife Laura to Alan Watts, was a moment of epiphany in which the artistic appearance of this inherent power of life was manifested.
Death is a contradictory reality in itself, and a source of contradictions in our reality. It has a fearsome aspect, but also one which is tranquillising. The final border, and at the same time a pause in the natural course of existence, is a type of impasse that despite its conclusive character (or because of it) renews everything –– it takes life back to its beginning from where it is possible to start all over again. Death, thus, is effective and symbolic. ––The instant where all of a sudden the attraction of the abyss and of the void become a creative force and a vital impulse.
One of these episodes in which the qualities of death manifested themselves with a disquieting lucidity was in in 1968, in Saltillo California, where Alan Watts had his studio –– the very same place where he interviewed with Laura Huxley, Aldous’ wife. At first, Watts sought Laura because of the publication of This Timeless Moment, a memoir of the years she spent with the writer, from 1956 to 1963, when Huxley passed away.
This pretense however, soon dissipated to touch the real nucleus of Watts’ interest: the writer’s decision to die by a psychoactive dosage administered by Laura, which he accompanied by reading Bardo Thodol, the so-called “Tibetan Book of the Dead”. It is worth mentioning that concerning the latter event, Laura also wrote a letter to Aldous’ older brother Julian, where she detailed what had happened and which can be found in the website Letters of Note.
As far as Watts was concerned, Huxley’s approach was “a highly intelligent form of dying”, the intelligence that is beauty and poetry at once, perhaps absolute insofar that they stopped being gestures with which we can pretend to cheat death and, by contrast, are condensed into an act in which we can face it.
“Dying is an art”, says Watts at some point during the interview, to which Laura answered “and it’s also an adventure”.
Perhaps it is in this dialectic where we can find not the solution to the mystery of death (which, we will possibly only know if does exist, when we face it), but instead, it is that epiphany in which life shows itself for the last time as a great work of art, a magnum opus, which always was.
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