'The Devils of Loudun', by Aldous Huxley
‘The Devils of Loudun’ is a historical account of religious fanaticism and sexual hysteria in seventeenth century France, and an investigation into the circumstances that led to the torture and execution of a local parson who, during a farcical ecclesiastical trial, was accused of having ‘commerce with devils’, and of bewitching a whole convent of nuns.
Huxley’s erudition was legendary (it was even said of him that
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had not been taught to be contemptuous of by Jesuit theologians.
Huxley ends the book with an essay ‘in amplification’ of his earlier topics of ‘vertical’ and ‘downward’ self-transcendence. In it he discusses the dangers of lowlier substitutes for divine grace, such as drug abuse, ‘elementary’ sexuality (i.e. orgiastic & excessively promiscuous), and ‘her-intoxication’ (i.e. mob-mentality). The essay intelligently pre-empted any accusations of ‘irresponsible promoting of drugs’ that came after ‘The Doors Of Perception’.