The Rise of Subjugation and Rebirth of Thought: Ape and Essence
Living in our "safe" and "secure" modern world, the prejudices and abuses that strongly defined life before Enlightenment seem today as if they could never return. On the contrary, famed visionary Aldous Huxley presents a horribly repressive and lawless order which controls all of humanity. In his brilliant 1948 novel Ape and Essence, Huxley explores the future of a dictatorial America after a devastating nuclear war. The only idea or force to fill the void is freedom's ultimate nemesis, Belial. In this dystopia, life is valued only as a commodity to serve the all-powerful Belial. Spawned by the brave New World's crass ideology, hierarchical order and desperate standard of living, Huxley warns us of the danger of ruling false truths and unchecked authoritarian power.
In the year of 2108, Los Angeles is a remnant of its once great self. Huxley paints a dark and smoggy portrait of fear that strikes at will throughout the novel. Through the narrator, Huxley asesses that
"Love casts out fear; but conversely fear casts out love. And not only love. Fear also casts out intelligence, casts out goodness, casts out all thought of beauty and truth" (51).
Thus, we meet Huxley in the twilight of an all-powerful state of fear. In it, the only consistency one finds is that of unbridled coercion. Huxley directs the story through Australian emigre Dr. Poole who left his prosperously libertine country to come to the former United States to explore life in America after the bomb. It is in this disfigured society that Huxley meets the statist rhetoric, which proclaims oppression as freedom, and hate as love. Mocking idealists who believe in molding society and truths into FORM, Huxley attacks their disturbing suppositions. He writes of Belial's rule that states,
"This is a Democracy. We're all equal before the Law. And the Law says that everything belongs to the Proletariat - in other words, it all goes to the State" (66).
Enlightenment thinkers never equated the idea of "democracy" or "republic" or even "social welfare" with absolutism of the State. Huxley's rich prose rather, advocates natural developments of outcomes in the stead of the absolute. His enlightened approach exposes the hypocrisy of such gross misrepresentations.
In addressing the stark differences between God's will [Nature's will] against that of man's, Huxley shows the danger of exchanging liberty for security. Or in 2108 America's case, forced participation in a diabolical social experiment.
In the land of Belial, people live as forced laborers, dependent on the high leader's instruction and graces. Choice as a concept is non-existent and the once great Americans live as petty and dispensable slaves, trapped in Belial's game. Furthermore, the environmental damage caused by nuclear destruction has left many born with extra feet, hands, nipples and eyes, all of which are a grievance that can be punishable by death. Women are treated most abhorrently, and viewed as "Unholy Vessels of the Spirit," it is implied that their ultimate dispossession by the State. Unable to think clearly, all their ideas and actions are controlled by above and they are made mere zombies of a wicked master.
Huxley continues his inner monologue,
"Cruelty and compassion come with the chromosomes; All men are merciful and all are murderers Doting on dogs, they build their Dachaus; Fire whole cities and fondle the orphans; Are loud against lynching, but all for Oakridge; Full of future philanthropy, but today the NKVD. Whom shall we persecute, for whom feel pity? It is all a matter of the moment's mores, Of words on wood pulp, of radios roaring, Of Communist kindergartens or first communions, Only in the knowledge of his own Essence Has any man ceased to be many monkeys" (75).
But, it is through Dr. Poole that Huxley discovers a path around the blight mess of Los Angeles. Like a riddler, letting his sparse but captivated audience in on some minute yet grandiose secret, Huxley reveals to others the grips of power and oppression, manipulation and control.
Once Poole meets Loola, a young and bright but naive character, he is drawn to her beauty, inner and out. Unable to express her reciprocal love for the stranger, Poole with his penetrating thought begins to open new possibilites in Loola's mind. In a land where all sexual contact is strictly prohibited albeit an annual Belial controlled "Mating Day," Loola emerges into a new light once she acts on her intimate love for Dr. Poole and his humanity. In a heated passion accumulating beyond all Belial prescripts, they touch and kiss. Loola remarks, "I feel I've only just discovered what life's all about" (162). Thus, the rapt and mentally sapped Loola breaks into the natural process of life.
Despite Loola's later doubts of exercising her free thoughts and translating them into action, she decides to risk death and pursues a new free life at the finale. Dr. Poole and Loola venture north to a haven colony in San Francisco where they hope to escape Belial's omnipresent wrath.
While Ape and Essence revisits the same ideas Huxley introduces in his 1932 classic Brave New World, the material is new, insightful, and ultimately a fierce warning to present society and future generations. With the visual imagery of a slick top-notch production film, it is great wonder that Ape and Essence was never adapted to the screen.
In rejecting the idea of intervention and form as solutions to social maladies, Huxley asserts a strong defense of natural destiny, with all its fruits and toxins. Like a crusader of the spirit, Huxley illuminates the page and leaves jaw dropping descriptions of the abstract in real hard-fast emotion.
"Joy? But joy was murdered long ago. All that survives is the laughter of demons about the whipping posts, the howling of the possessed as they couple in the darkness. Joy is only for those whose life accords with the given Order of the world. For you there, the clever ones who think you can improve upon that Order, for you, the angry ones, the rebellious, the disobedient, joy is fast becoming a stranger. Those who are doomed to reap the consequences of your fantastic tricks will never so much as suspect its existence. Love, Joy and Peace - these are the fruits of the spirit that is your essence and the essence of the world. But the fruits of the ape-mind, the fruits of the monkey's presumption and revolt are hate and unceasing restlessness and a chronic misery tempered only by frenzies morAnde horrible than itself" (189).
And in this misery which all around bombarded Huxley's world, truth brings joy and revelation forth unto all.