Ends and Means

Ends and Means (1937) by Aldous Huxley considers the methods (means) whereby people achieve their goals (ends), especially in religion and in society.

It was published a year after Aldous Huxley started having lessons with Alexander. In Ends and Means Huxley relates social problems (of politics, of war, of economics, of education) to ethics. People don’t disagree about ends; they disagree about means. However, the means condition (or even become) the end; the end cannot be separated from the means whereby it is attained. Huxley suggests that ‘non-attachment’ is a common ideal for all of humanity: non-attachment to power, fame, possessions, emotions, etc. It is an ideal found in all major religions.[1] Self-improvement cannot be induced by legislation; however, some social conditions are more conducive to the attainment of the ideal than others (e.g. peace), and the individual needs to work to change conditions in a ‘non-attached’ way. Several chapters outline the necessary reforms – political, economical, educational – and how to go about achieving them. Peaceful, non-violent resistance (such as Gandhi’s non-cooperation and civil disobedience campaigns) is the most important means for change;[2] it ensures that the means maintain the principle whilst provoking change. This applies also to the prevention of war (the book became ‘a kind of Bible to the Peace Pledge Union.’[3])

In his chapter on education Huxley writes that

. . . there can be no non-attachment without inhibition. . . . The technique of inhibition needs to be learnt on all the planes of our being. . . . Mind and body are organically one; and it is therefore inherently likely that, if we can learn the art of conscious inhibition on the physical level, it will help us to acquire and practise the same art on the emotional and intellectual levels. . . . A good physical education will be one which supplies the body with just such a practical morality. It will be a curative morality, a morality of inhibitions and conscious control, and at the same time, by promoting health and proper physical integration, it will be a system of what I have called preventive ethics, forestalling many kinds of trouble by never giving them the opportunity to arise. So far as I am aware, the only system of physical education which fulfils all these conditions is the system developed by F. M. Alexander.[4]

Huxley then describes the Technique in passages which Alexander quotes in UCL.[5]

In the last chapter, ‘Ethics’, Huxley draws on mysticism to advocate transcending one’s own personality in order to reach a ‘super-personal level’, which leads to ‘knowledge of, and union with, ultimate reality’.[6] It is, however, first necessary to become a conscious person – conscious of what is being done, of the self who is doing it, and of the self’s motivations. In this connection Alexander’s technique is ‘valuable, among other reasons, as a means for increasing conscious control of the body and, in this way, raising a human being from a condition of physical unawareness to a state of physical self-consciousness and self-control.’[7]

Aldous Huxley’s review of ULC (in appendix J in the 2000 edition), first published in The Saturday Review of Literature 25 October 1941, summarises his view on ends and means.[8]

See also Aldous Huxely.


[1] Ends and Means by Aldous Huxley (Chatto & Windus, 1937), pp. 1–6.
[2] Ends and Means by Aldous Huxley (Chatto & Windus, 1937), pp. 144–48.
[3] Aldous Huxley – A Biography Vol. 1 by Sybille Bedford (Chatto & Windus, 1973), p. 356.
[4] Ends and Means by Aldous Huxley (Chatto & Windus, 1937), pp. 222–23.
[5] The Universal Constant in Living by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 2000), p. 98.
[6] Ends and Means by Aldous Huxley (Chatto & Windus, 1937), p. 327.
[7] Ends and Means by Aldous Huxley (Chatto & Windus, 1937), p. 326.
[8] ‘Endgaining and means whereby’ by Aldous Huxely in The Universal Constant in Living by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 2000), pp. 211–15.