Book ID: CBB508421278

Psychedelic Prophets: The Letters of Aldous Huxley and Humphry Osmond (2018)


Bisbee, Cynthia Carson (Editor)
Bisbee, Paul (Editor)
Dyck, Erika (Editor)
Farrell, Patrick (Editor)

McGill-Queen's University Press

Publication Date: 2018
Physical Details: 728
Language: English

Aldous Huxley (1894?1963) was the author of nearly fifty books and numerous essays, best known for his dystopian novel Brave New World. Humphry Osmond (1917?2004) was a British-trained psychiatrist interested in the biological nature of mental illness and the potential for psychedelic drugs to treat psychoses, especially schizophrenia. In 1953, Huxley sent an appreciative note to Osmond about an article he and a colleague had published on their experiments with mescaline, which inspired an initial meeting and decade-long correspondence. This critical edition provides the complete Huxley-Osmond correspondence, chronicling an exchange between two brilliant thinkers who explored such subjects as psychedelics, the visionary experience, the nature of mind, human potentialities, schizophrenia, death and dying, Indigenous rituals and consciousness, socialism, capitalism, totalitarianism, power and authority, and human evolution. There are references to mutual friends, colleagues, and eminent figures of the day, as well as details about both men's personal lives. The letters bear witness to the development of mind-altering drugs aimed at discovering the mechanisms of mental illness and eventually its treatment. A detailed introduction situates the letters in their historical, social, and literary context, explores how Huxley and Osmond first coined the term "psychedelic," contextualizes their work in mid-century psychiatry, and reflects on their legacy as contributors to the science of mind-altering substances. Psychedelic Prophets is an extraordinary record of a full correspondence between two leading minds and a testament to friendship, intellectualism, empathy, and tolerance. The fact that these sentiments emerge so clearly from the letters, at a historical moment best known for polarizing ideological conflict, threats of nuclear war, and the rise of post-modernism, reveals much about the personalities of the authors and the persistence of these themes today.

Reviewed By

Review Laura Søvsø Thomasen (2019) Review of "Psychedelic Prophets: The Letters of Aldous Huxley and Humphry Osmond". Metascience: An International Review Journal for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science (pp. 479-481). unapi

Review Nancy D Campbell (2019) Review of "Psychedelic Prophets: The Letters of Aldous Huxley and Humphry Osmond". Social History of Medicine (pp. 889-890). unapi

Review Alex Mold (2020) Review of "Psychedelic Prophets: The Letters of Aldous Huxley and Humphry Osmond". Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences (pp. 214-215). unapi

Review Robert Dickins (2019) Review of "Psychedelic Prophets: The Letters of Aldous Huxley and Humphry Osmond". Pharmacy in History (pp. 174-175). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Hewitt, Kim
Dyck, Erika
Farrell, Patrick
Luche, Richard Dalle
Escamilla, Michael
Maggini, Carlo
History of Psychiatry
The Senses and Society
Pharmacy in History
Journal of the History of Biology
History of Science
History of Psychology
University of Texas at Austin
Yale University Press
University of Minnesota Press
University of Michigan Press
Polity Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Psychotropic drugs
Mental disorders and diseases
Narcotics and drugs
Huxley, Aldous
Osmond, Humphry Fortescue
Bleuler, Eugen
Trevelyan, Julian
Thompson, E.P.
Maclay, Walter
Time Periods
20th century
21st century
20th century, late
19th century
20th century, early
United States
Great Britain
Maudsley Hospital (England)
Rockefeller Foundation

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