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Already sometimes we find the tremendous light experience of some John of the cross when he was confined by his brother in prison in total. Recall light experiences of this same kind of difficulty. Hundreds literally hundreds of such experiences recorded by a minute or less a minute. Mystics. Interesting thing is that this kind of experience is by no means confined to the people who have a great power of expression. As such collectors are experienced doctor a know Johnson in his recent book. Watch out from the heels. A great many perfectly ordinary people have
this gift of free expression and who have achieved no celebrity. The religious leaders have these experiences exactly the same and interested not more than a week or so ago I received a letter from an unknown correspondent in England. She described herself as a woman in her 60s and she said my whole life has been influenced by something that happened to me when I was 16 or 16 I was in the kitchen. I was cutting a slice of bread or toast for tea. Suddenly I became aware of this tremendous like for me with a sense of the extraordinary happiness and bliss and a sense of the complete all right to the universe I was absolutely overpowered by this it was a dark November afternoon. Place was like
clock time perhaps for a minute then it went away but it has remained the memory of it has remained with me ever since. My life has completely abolished any theory of death that I may have a head. I adore life but I'm not in any way afraid of the sort of experience one can find set forth in Johnson's book already quite common I think a great many people look at these kind of experiences and differentiated light which is something in the nature of mystical experience. And here it is quite interesting which go into another. Cultural tradition to find the tradition of the clear light of the tremendous uncolored light
the liberation experience and at the other lights particularly the lights which are embodied forms associated with the so-called pre mystical visionary experiences. Let us come down to the visionary experience of light differentiated form shape running through descriptions of for example the experience very often begin with a vision of what may be called Living geometries
brilliantly lighted continuously changing into some kind of. Geometrical object such as a car and so on. Tremendous visions of landscapes extraordinarily brilliant but architectures often frequented constantly recorded which are crusted with landscapes frequently recorded as in crusted with which again throws a light on what Plato is saying and the reason for the estimation of precious. Because we see the visionary experience and even if we don't know about them consciously they in some way
which I think exists deeply. Sometimes. And here there's a very interesting fact which is recorded again and again both in the spontaneous case and in the induced cases that we see. They are never the people experience and does not see the face of his mother his father his brothers his friends. These are entirely new faces and there's I think a great deal of light on the conception. Of course it's entirely incorrect to suppose that the angels the spirits of the departed they are of another species altogether. And this is a very interesting fact that
in this remote area it is so far beyond the personal unconscious that anything connected with our own private life or even quite different creatures breaks all these figures he knew all about. They were very large a few hundred twenty feet. Extraordinary landscapes and landscapes in the architectures in which they live they are articulated beyond anything which the mortal could possibly imagine that they were in some sense except for some reason. Visions didn't come to him
but this was a regular type of experience for him and he was constantly seeing these faces which were not cases of anybody he knew. They were strange figures from somewhere. Another curious fact about these figures we're never doing anything of the things which. Occurs again and again in the descriptions of an action sort of doing nothing in particular corresponds closely to the conception of these angelic entities in the world who are not engaged in actual contemplation. And I think this is one of the reasons we're the most religious.
The Greek religious symbols the great Gyptian gods like the primitive Greek statues. They're not doing anything the great Madonnas of. They're completely static not doing things and this is the nature of these beings who are around the world. Let me very briefly go into another very interesting fact about the visionary experience that the visionary experience behind the visionary quality the quality of the vision
into the external experience when he opens he sees the transfer incomparably more beautiful when he sees it at ordinary with an intensity of light significance which is something which he simply does not see it in his ordinary state. There are plenty I think plenty of artists who have spontaneously seen this way. You will find for example admirable descriptions of the nature of this transfigured vision of the way in some of the writings of George Russell which I recommend very much the subtle psychological to penetrating descriptions of the kind of visionary see. I
think it would be true to say that a lot of children probably see the transfigured way they see it. I think seeing it as a great he looks out side and it's the freshness of a dream grew up into the light of common day past the glory from the earth. So it's a particularly beautiful passage in one of the meditation of the book which is being reprinted I just received a copy of a new edition of it.
The passage of which describes his experience as a child. He was brought up in Shrewsbury I think it was around it at that time. Looking up from his home into the world around him the dust of the spring as precious as the green tree. When I saw them through one of the city gates transported under it was sweetness and unusual beauty made my hope to be the norm is met with ecstasy. There were such screams of wonderful things from Man River and the inventor of a creature as did the aged seed and the young man glittering and sparkling angels then made a terrific pieces of life and beauty. And time going in the street and playing with
like moving Julie. Eternity was many casted in the light of the day when something in the hind everything appeared and then with much ado I was corrupted and made to learn the dirty devices of the world which you know I am. Again the time we enter into the kingdom of God and the Kingdom of God. Your. Weekly would only allow ourselves to see that no man sees it. It is a temple that no man regards it. As a region of light and peace did not mean disquieted it is the paradise of God and the gate of heaven. I think he's really I mean I think there are many more people who
don't even have a glimpse of this transfigured comparably beautiful and more interesting than they normally give it credit for. Find a number of these. References to this kind of experience is external but I mean he talks beautiful where he speaks of the effect of a sunset transfiguring power of visionary otherness. But a deep hole in the hollow veil from steep to steep and a distant images drawn by one can see of. The
strikes with Jamie like. Exquisite range along the mountainside and glittering in the locks of. The train. You're godlike. We sure hope it informs my spirit and I believe that this magnificence is the really dying. From not quickened by the sun but in the gift as well. I mean to me from this grade on grounds of English if let's create. It now into the question of the relationship of these kinds of experience and with traditional religion in this field of art
I think it would be true to say that where it is by no means all art is visionary in nature. Quite important aspects of art which have a visionary quality in which precise visionary mind of which they bring to the visionary very significant. For example every religion composed of what may be called a polished marble and so forth. Something which.
Another because we haven't got very much time. But another. Vision which is the art of the sting. Now anybody who's been into the cathedral. Which it is possible to be great. I think most extraordinary. And it's a very significant effect. There were always two boxes in the church one for the poor
and one for the setting up of the boxes for the books. They were praised. I can't go into the many of the other types of quite a number of them. It's not difficult to discern from the ordinary run of the peculiar quality and I think the great capacity which they have evoking within us a kind of memory a kind of when at the back of and which in front of us.
Again into another curious. Interesting book. The ordinary people had a peculiar visionary experience as manifested in the most popular art. Take for example the art of fireworks. Well this goes back to a very long way in China into the Roman Empire options in the poetry of the most fantastic displays which are at least as elaborate as any display we see today. But of course they were not as good as the displays today because there was not
the time the knowledge of chemistry which we now have to put into our colors which was quite impossible for the Romans to duplicate. Popular Twitch has played a great part throughout his career. Of course by people I mean and it's such an extent that he has been regularly used to transfer de facto power in effect. But the pageantry the coronations of the procession perceptions of popes and so on all these things are
persuading people by this kind of brute fact of some way to question the history of a trick played an enormous part in the consolidation of power. We have seen the extraordinary power exercised by the pageantry. I never saw the Rarely but this was possibly the most extraordinary ever put on stage by anybody that this was one of the most magnificent spectacles and closely related to pageantry spectacle. Performances of the
great contemporary productions of plays of Shakespeare for example. If you look at the history of it it's interesting to see his own spectacles for example which cost the 17th century which must be multiplied by a single night's entertainment. Again an extraordinary thing. People will spin this kind of experience which. Incidentally educate which is
often applied to it is very significant the transporting experience of transport takes you out of this puts you into the other. And of course the art of spectacle has developed with the advancing technology spectacles of the 16th and 17th century were limited by candle service with the brightest light you could possibly put on anything. And it was not not even middle of the 18th century that you could have an oil lamp which would burn without smoking and stinking. And the invention by the beginning of the century in the beginning of the 19th began to get. Technological advances which permitted enormous increase.
Spectacle the invention of the parabolic mirror first used in light houses then very quickly used in the project. We get about eighteen hundred we get about eight hundred twenty and then by the electricity and the possibility of creating prodigious effects of light people I mean after the success of modern musical successes to the strange visionary quality of these performances and another name which is the instrument which was invented in the 17th century this device for projecting colored images in a darkroom on a white screen instantly I mean ever since it was
to be an absolutely appropriate name that it was something magical something out of another which was thrown into this. Let us discuss religion and. Religious traditions paradises and other qualities which are given in the descriptions of the vision of the paradise is. Made of precious paradise. These descriptions which correspond
exactly to the descriptions given by we were given a tour. Kind of popular religious tradition Rick strange visionary experience which has played a very important part I think in the creation of these ideas of the other another quite interesting fact not common but becomes an extremely important visionary. I mean even in the picture he made of precious important thought of the street
as a transparent Celtic tradition whether in the Teutonic tradition the dead go to a place called glass glass mountain. Uniformity is keep cropping up no doubt at all that. This can be fitted into this picture which we found at the beginning of the description of the ideal part of the Natural History of them. We have these kind of experiences that even those of us who don't have the only catch perhaps occasional glimpses or perhaps never have kind of.
Dropped in the back of read about these things or see them represented in works of art. Strike a chord and evoke something strange thought I think that we see a continuum from running all the way from such popular arts. Yes fireworks and tree and spectacle right through. Religious popular religion right through the experience of having what are now called pre mystical states right through to the undifferentiated light which is as a matter of historical and psychological effect being associated with the mystical state the complete spectrum the gamut of experience from the
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What a piece of work is a man
Visionary experience, part 2
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WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program presents the conclusion of a lecture by Aldous Huxley entitled "Visionary Experience."
Other Description
Aldous Huxley presents a lecture series in which he asks, "how did our ancestors think of human nature and in what terms ought we to think about it?"
Broadcast Date
Media type
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
Speaker: Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-56-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:30
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Chicago: “What a piece of work is a man; Visionary experience, part 2,” 1961-10-30, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 13, 2022,
MLA: “What a piece of work is a man; Visionary experience, part 2.” 1961-10-30. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 13, 2022. <>.
APA: What a piece of work is a man; Visionary experience, part 2. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from