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Grey Eminence Paperback – April 1, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 297 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage / Random House London (April 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099477823
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099477822
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #797,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Penetrating and vivid... This biography will rank amongst Huxley's best books. He never wrote better; he never hit upon a more interesting theme" Sunday Times "A remarkable biography" Observer "Grey Eminence is lucid, scholarly and thoughtful. Huxley has used all his ingenuity to explain this extraordinary character" New Statesman

About the Author

Aldous Huxley was born on 26th July 1894 near Godalming, Surrey. He began writing poetry and short stories in his early twenties, but it was his first novel, 'Crome Yellow' (1921), which established his literary reputation. This was swiftly followed by 'Antic Hay' (1923), 'Those Barren Leaves' (1925) and 'Point Counter Point' (1928) - bright, brilliant satires in which Huxley wittily but ruthlessly passed judgement on the shortcomings of contemporary society. For most of the 1920s Huxley lived in Italy and an account of his experiences there can be found in 'Along The Road' (1925). The great novels of ideas, including his most famous work 'Brave New World' (published in 1932 this warned against the dehumanising aspects of scientific and material 'progress') and the pacifist novel 'Eyeless in Gaza' (1936) were accompanied by a series of wise and brilliant essays, collected in volume form under titles such as 'Music at Night' (1931) and 'Ends and Means' (1937). In 1937, at the height of his fame, Huxley left Europe to live in California, working for a time as a screenwriter in Hollywood. As the West braced itself for war, Huxley came increasingly to believe that the key to solving the world's problems lay in changing the individual through mystical enlightenment. The exploration of the inner life through mysticism and hallucinogenic drugs was to dominate his work for the rest of his life. His beliefs found expression in both fiction ('Time Must Have a Stop', 1944 and 'Island', 1962) and non-fiction ('The Perennial Philosophy', 1945, 'Grey Eminence', 1941 and the famous account of his first mescalin experience, 'The Doors of Perception', 1954. Huxley died in California on 22nd November 1963.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 22, 1995
Format: Hardcover
This is a brilliant investigation of the dangerous relations
when we mix politics and religion. This book is almost banned in
Latin American countryes. The reason: we still suffer from
this problem.

Please forgive my poor spelling and writing in English.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 8, 1996
Format: Paperback
What was the 30-Year War that raged across 17th century Europe? How did a mystical French priest, Father Joseph, become a leading politican and war leader during the 17th century? What are the perils of bringing intense religious beliefs into earthly politics? How did this modest monk, who considered wearing shoes a sin, inspire King Louis XIII to continue a war that lead to millions of deaths?
Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World and Doors of Perception, wrote this complex biography of Father Joseph while German bombs were being dropped on London and he was a Hollywood screenwriter. A committed pacifist and spiritual seeker, Huxley sought to understand the barbarism of Nazi Germany and offer a parable for his own relucance to get involved in World War II br tracing the tragic career of a hermit turned Forign Minister. Father Joseph, according to Huxley, was born to be on the side on angels, but found himself hated as warmonker and religious fanatic. Sensitive souls, Huxley warns, should not be forced into public affairs because they destroy their higher selves and place impossible demands on mere mortals.
As always with the polyglot philosopher, Huxley's poignant narrative illuminates the connections between history, theology, and psycholgy. Armed with a lethal wit, Huxley brings this forgotten religious leader to life with absorbing details and shocking absurdities. A compelling, if disturbing, biography to read as the Christian Right continues to grow in influence and power. Can you get Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed to read this?
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kieran Fox on July 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
Who is actually interested in the obscure Christian mystical practices and depressing court intrigues of 17th century France? I certainly wasn't, until I picked up this book. I've read quite a few of Huxley's books but I really thought this was the best, rather surprisingly, as "Brave New World" and others I found to be incredibly good.

'Grey Eminence' follows the life of the French Father Joseph, a Capuchin monk and mystic until circumstance (and perhaps his own vicarious lust for power) drew him into the power politics of the 30 Years' War in Europe. Working essentially as the lackey for the powerful and heartless Cardinal Richelieu (or perhaps as his puppetmaster, as this book shows), Father Joseph remained a monk to the last, eating one meal a day and basically walking all over Europe (and barefoot!) to accomplish his intrigues and lay seige to various strongholds of heathenism (as Pere Joseph perceived it, at least). If only all history could be written so well, I'd be reading a lot more of it.

However, above and beyond the history (very well done) and biography (also excellent), the themes Huxley brings up throughout the book fascinating and tie in very well with much of his life's work. A central idea is the Christian mystic practice of "active annihilation," that is, destroying one's own will utterly so that one acts merely as an instrument or conduit for God's (or ultimate reality's, as Huxley prefers to look at it) will or intention. This idea is examined magnificently - its ultimate benefits if successful (Huxley considers such an attainment the highest form of spiritual realization, and makes a good case for this assertion) and its horrible, horrible consequences if unsuccessful (with the life of Father Joseph as a case study in this kind of failure).
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More About the Author

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) is the author of the classic novels Island, Eyeless in Gaza, and The Genius and the Goddess, as well as such critically acclaimed nonfiction works as The Devils of Loudun, The Doors of Perception, and The Perennial Philosophy. Born in Surrey, England, and educated at Oxford, he died in Los Angeles.

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