A Huxley Hoax?
We’ve learned so much about Buddhism since Huxley was alive, I was surprised that Dana Sawyer simply reported Huxley’s judgments about Buddhism without checking to see if they were still valid or not [“Aldous Huxley’s Truth Beyond Tradition,” Fall 2003]. Did Huxley really know enough about Theravada meditation or Pure Land devotionalism to make accurate judgments about them? In The Perennial Philosophy, did he really identify the subtext of all great spiritual traditions? Or did he simply cite writings that coincided with his own personal preferences? A glance at the first chapter of that book is enough to make you wonder if he really understood what the teaching on nonself was all about. It would be useful to have an article that accurately assessed these issues.
Instead, Mr. Sawyer used his article to put forward his own ideas about the value of eclecticism, calling them “a challenge” and “a threat” to established Buddhism, but it’s hard to see where the challenges and the threat lie. Mr. Sawyer states that anything that works or is meaningful should be accepted as true regardless of what tradition it comes from, and on the surface there is little to argue on this point. However, he presents no clear test to determine what works or what is meaningful, and in this way his position is nowhere nearly as rigorous as the Buddha’s, as outlined in Larry Rosenberg’s article on the Kalama Sutta [“The Right to Ask Questions,” Fall 2003]. Unlike the Buddha’s criteria, Mr. Sawyer’s wouldn’t protect us, for instance, from politicians who find that a belief in a vengeful God works for them, or from hate-mongers who find meaning in demonizing the rest of the world.
—Brad Vinikow, Fountain Valley, California
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