Aldous Huxley’s Hands: His Quest for Perception and the Origin and Return of Psychedelic Science

Allene Symons. Prometheus Books, $18 trade paper (280p) ISBN 978-1-63388-116-7
In this dizzying chronicle of post-WWII psychedelic experimentation, Symons (Nostradamus, Vagabond Prophet) explores the unlikely friendship between her father, Howard Thrasher, and Aldous Huxley. In the 1950s, Thrasher had an unconventional hobby of photographing hands, which he futilely insisted contained a code that could reveal patterns unique to the mentally ill. Symons reflects upon the interest piqued by her father’s odd photographs, which he believed hinted at a diagnostic indicator for schizophrenia—his suggestion of a genetic link for the disorder was flatly rejected at the time but was later reluctantly endorsed. She also delves into Huxley’s simultaneous quest to study “psychedelic science” years before Timothy Leary urged a generation to “turn on, tune in, drop out.” Acceptance of Huxley’s “fearless curiosity” about psychic phenomena would also come long after his death in 1963, Symons notes. What stands out in this crammed book is the touching way Symons recalls a particular time in history—and the men who helped shape its science—through conversation with her elderly father. The book works as a “memory duet” of Thrasher’s extraordinary research and Symons’s recollection of the hundreds of hands her father meticulously studied and photographed. Photos. Agent: Dana Newman, Dana Newman Literary. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/26/2015
Release date: 12/08/2015
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