Aldous Leonard Huxley (1962)
The ultimate Revolution
California, Berkeley Language Center
Adapted from: Speech Archive SA 0269
Key excerpts in the context of cognitive liberty & psychological manipulation:
“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of
making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without
tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire
societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from
them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire
to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by
pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.”
“If you are going to control any population for any length of time, you must
have some measure of consent. It’s exceedingly difficult to see how pure ter-
rorism can function indefinitely. It can function for a fairly long time, but I
think sooner or later you have to bring in an element of persuasion, an ele-
ment of getting people to consent to what is happening to them.
Well, it seems to me that the nature of The Ultimate Revolution with which
we are now faced is precisely this: That we are in process of developing a
whole series of techniques, which will enable the controlling oligarchy who
have always existed and presumably always will exist, to get people, actually,
to love their servitude.
This lecture was delivered on the 20
of March 1962 at the Berkeley Language Center. The recording of the lecture can be
found on the internet in the Aldous Huxley Papers of the UCLA Library Digital Collections as tape 157a and questions and
answers as tape 157b.
URL to collection:
URL of recording - tape 157a:
http://digital2.library.ucla.edu/viewItem .do?ark=21198/ zz00 2b14 14
URL of recording - t a p e 157b :
For further information see: https://cognitive-liberty.online/?s=huxley
HTML5 document created by Dr. Christopher B. Germann (2 0 19)
Mar ie Cur ie Alumnus / PhD, MSc, BSc
{garbled} Aldous Huxley, a renowned Essayist and Novelist who during the
spring semester is residing at the university in his capacity of a Ford research
professor. Mr Huxley has recently returned from a conference at the Insti-
tute for the study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara where the dis-
cussion focused on the development of new techniques by which to control
and direct human behavior.
Traditionally it has been possible to suppress individual freedom through
the application of physical coercion through the appeal of ideologies
through the manipulation of man's physical and social environment and
more recently through the techniques, the cruder techniques of psychologi-
cal conditioning. The Ultimate Revolution, about which Mr.
Huxley will speak today, concerns itself with the development of new behav-
ioral controls, which operate directly on the psycho-physiological organisms
of man. That is the capacity to replace external constraint by internal com-
pulsions. As those of us who are familiar with Mr. Huxley's works will know,
this is a subject of which he has been concerned for quite a period of time.
Mr. Huxley will make a presentation of approximately half an hour followed
by some brief discussions and questions by the two panelists sitting to my
left, Mrs. Lillian {garbled} and Mr. John Post. Now Mr. Huxley
Thank You.
Uh, First of all, the, I'd like to say, that the conference at Santa Barbara was
not directly concerned with the control of the mind. That was a conference,
there have been two of them now, at the University of California Medical
center in San Francisco, one this year which I didn't attend, and one two
years ago where there was a considerable discussion on this subject. At Santa
Barbara we were talking about technology in general and the effects it's likely
to have on society and the problems related to technological transplanting of
technology into underdeveloped countries.
Well now in regard to this problem of the ultimate revolution, this has been
very well summed up by the moderator. In the past we can say that all revo-
lutions have essentially aimed at changing the environment in order to
change the individual. I mean there's been the political revolution, the eco-
nomic revolution, in the time of the reformation, the religious revolution.
All these aimed, not directly at the human being, but at his surroundings. So
that by modifying the surroundings you did achieve, did one remove the ef-
fect of the human being.
Today we are faced, I think, with the approach of what may be called the ul-
timate revolution, the final revolution, where man can act directly on the
mind-body of his fellows. Well needless to say some kind of direct action on
human mind-bodies has been going on since the beginning of time. But this
has generally been of a violent nature. The Techniques of terrorism have
been known from time immemorial and people have employed them with
more or less ingenuity sometimes with the utmost cruelty, sometimes with a
good deal of skill acquired by a process of trial and error finding out what
the best ways of using torture, imprisonment, constraints of various kinds.
But, as, I think it was (sounds like Mettenicht) said many years ago, you can
do everything with {garbled} except sit on them. If you are going to control
any population for any length of time, you must have some measure of con-
sent, it's exceedingly difficult to see how pure terrorism can function indefi-
nitely. It can function for a fairly long time, but I think sooner or later you
have to bring in an element of persuasion an element of getting people to
consent to what is happening to them.
It seems to me that the nature of the ultimate revolution with which we are
now faced is precisely this: That we are in process of developing a whole se-
ries of techniques which will enable the controlling oligarchy who have al-
ways existed and presumably will always exist to get people to love their ser-
vitude. This is the, it seems to me, the ultimate in malevolent revolutions
shall we say, and this is a problem which has interested me many years and
about which I wrote thirty years ago, a fable, Brave New World, which is an
account of society making use of all the devices available and some of the
devices which I imagined to be possible making use of them in order to, first
of all, to standardize the population, to iron out inconvenient human differ-
ences, to create, to say, mass produced models of human beings arranged in
some sort of scientific caste system. Since then, I have continued to be ex-
tremely interested in this problem and I have noticed with increasing dismay
a number of the predictions which were purely fantastic when I made them
thirty years ago have come true or seem in process of coming true.
A number of techniques about which I talked seem to be here already. And
there seems to be a general movement in the direction of this kind of ulti-
mate revolution, a method of control by which a people can be made to en-
joy a state of affairs by which any decent standard they ought not to enjoy.
This, the enjoyment of servitude, Well this process is, as I say, has gone on
for over the years, and I have become more and more interested in what is
And here I would like briefly to compare the parable of Brave New World
with another parable which was put forth more recently in George Orwell's
book, Nineteen Eighty- Four. Orwell wrote his book between, I think be-
tween 45 and 48 at the time when the Stalinist terror regime was still in Full
swing and just after the collapse of the Hitlerian terror regime. And his book
which I admire greatly, it's a book of very great talent and extraordinary in-
genuity, shows, so to say, a projection into the future of the immediate past,
of what for him was the immediate past, and the immediate present, it was a
projection into the future of a society where control was exercised wholly by
terrorism and violent attacks upon the mind-body of individuals.
Whereas my own book which was written in 1932 when there was only a
mild dictatorship in the form of Mussolini in existence, was not overshad-
owed by the idea of terrorism, and I was therefore free in a way in which
Orwell was not free, to think about these other methods of control, these
non-violent methods and my, I'm inclined to think that the scientific dicta-
torships of the future, and I think there are going to be scientific dictator-
ships in many parts of the world, will be probably a good deal nearer to the
brave new world pattern than to the 1984 pattern, they will a good deal
nearer not because of any humanitarian qualms of the scientific dictators
but simply because the BNW pattern is probably a good deal more efficient
than the other.
That if you can get people to consent to the state of affairs in which they're
living. The state of servitude the state of being, having their differences
ironed out, and being made amenable to mass production methods on the so-
cial level, if you can do this, then you have, you are likely, to have a much
more stable and lasting society. Much more easily controllable society than
you would if you were relying wholly on clubs and firing squads and concen-
tration camps. So that my own feeling is that the 1984 picture was tinged of
course by the immediate past and present in which Orwell was living, but the
past and present of those years does not reflect, I feel, the likely trend of what
is going to happen, needless to say we shall never get rid of terrorism, it will
always find its way to the surface.
But I think that insofar as dictators become more and more scientific, more
and more concerned with the technically perfect, perfectly running society,
they will be more and more interested in the kind of techniques which I im-
agined and described from existing realities in BNW. So that, it seems to me
then, that this ultimate revolution is not really very far away, that we, already
a number of techniques for bringing about this kind of control are here, and
it remains to be seen when and where and by whom they will first be applied
in any large scale.
And first let me talk about the, a little bit about the, improvement in the
techniques of terrorism. I think there have been improvements. Pavlov after
all made some extremely profound observations both on animals and on
human beings. And he found among other things that conditioning tech-
niques applied to animals or humans in a state either of psychological or
physical stress sank in so to say, very deeply into the mind-body of the crea-
ture, and were extremely difficult to get rid of. That they seemed to be em-
bedded more deeply than other forms of conditioning.
And this of course, this fact was discovered empirically in the past. People
did make use of many of these techniques, but the difference between the
old empirical intuitive methods and our own methods is the difference be-
tween the, a sort of, hit and miss craftsman's point of view and the genuinely
scientific point of view. I think there is a real difference between ourselves
and say the inquisitors of the 16th century. We know much more precisely
what we are doing, than they knew and we can extend because of our theo-
retical knowledge, we can extend what we are doing over a wider area with a
greater assurance of being producing something that really works.
In this context I would like to mention the extremely interesting chapters in
Dr. William (sounds like Seargent's) Battle for the Mind where he points out
how intuitively some of the great religious teachers/leaders of the past hit on
the Pavlovian method, he speaks specifically of Wesley's method of produc-
ing conversions which were essentially based on the technique of heighten-
ing psychological stress to the limit by talking about hellfire and so making
people extremely vulnerable to suggestion and then suddenly releasing this
stress by offering hopes of heaven and this is a very interesting chapter of
showing how completely on purely intuitive and empirical grounds a skilled
natural psychologist, as Wesley was, could discover these Pavlovian methods.
Well, as I say, we now know the reason why these techniques worked and
there's no doubt at all that we can if we wanted to, carry them much further
than was possible in the past. And of course in the history of, recent history
of brainwashing, both as applied to prisoners of war and to the lower per-
sonnel within the communist party in China, we see that the pavlovian
methods have been applied systematically and with evidently with extraor-
dinary efficacy. I think there can be no doubt that by the application of these
methods a very large army of totally devoted people has been created. The
conditioning has been driven in, so to say, by a kind of psychological ionto-
phoresis into the very depths of the people's being, and has got so deep that
it's very difficult to ever be rooted out, and these methods, I think, are a real
refinement on the older methods of terror because they combine methods
of terror with methods of acceptance that the person who is subjected to a
form of terroristic stress but for the purpose of inducing a kind of voluntary
quotes acceptance of the state the psychological state in which he has been
driven and the state of affairs in which he finds himself.
So there is, as I say, there has been a definite improvement in the, even in
the techniques of terrorism. But then we come to the consideration of other
techniques, non-terroristic techniques, for inducing consent and inducing
people to love their servitude. Here, I don't think I can possibly go into all of
them, because I don't know all of them, but I mean I can mention the more
obvious methods, which can now be used and are based on recent scientific
findings. First of all there are the methods connected with straight sugges-
tion and hypnosis.
I think we know much more about this subject than was known in the past.
People of course, always have known about suggestion, and although they
didn't know the word 'hypnosis' they certainly practiced it in various ways.
But we have, I think, a much greater knowledge of the subject than in the
past, and we can make use of our knowledge in ways, which I think the past
was never able to make use of it. For example, one of the things we now
know for certain, that there is of course an enormous, I mean this has always
been known a very great difference between individuals in regard to their
suggestibility. But we now know pretty clearly the sort of statistical structure
of a population in regard to its suggestibility. Its very interesting when you
look at the findings of different fields, I mean the field of hypnosis, the field
of administering placebos, for example, in the field of general suggestion in
states of drowsiness or light sleep you will find the same sorts of orders of
magnitude continually cropping up.
You'll find for example that the experienced hypnotist will tell one that the
number of people, the percentage of people who can be hypnotized with the
utmost facility (snaps), just like that. is about 20%, and about a corresponding
number at the other end of the scale are very, very difficult or almost impos-
sible to hypnotize. But in between lies a large mass of people who can with
more or less difficulty be hypnotized, that they can gradually be if you work
hard enough at it be got into the hypnotic state, and in the same way the
same sort of figures crop up again, for example in relation to the administra-
tion of placebos.
A big experiment was carried out three of four years ago in the general hos-
pital in Boston on post-operative cases where several hundred men and
woman suffering comparable kinds of pain after serious operations were al-
lowed to, were given injections whenever they asked for them whenever the
pain got bad, and the injections were 50% of the time were of morphine, and
50% of water. And about twenty percent of those who went through the ex-
periment, about 20% of them got just as much relief from the distilled waters
as from the morphea. About 20% got no relief from the distilled water, and
in- between were those who got some relief or got relief occasionally.
So yet again, we see the same sort of distribution, and similarly in regard to
what in BNW I called Hypnopedia, the sleep teaching, I was talking not long
ago to a man who manufactures records which people can listen to in the,
during the light part of sleep, I mean these are records for getting rich, for
sexual satisfaction (crowd laughs), for confidence in salesmanship and so on,
and he said that its very interesting that these are records sold on a money-
back basis, and he says there is regularly between 15% and 20% of people who
write indignantly saying the records don't work at all, and he sends the mon-
ey back at once. There are on the other hand, there are over 20% who write
enthusiastically saying they are much richer, their sexual life is much better
(laughter) etc, etc. And these of course are the dream clients and they buy
more of these records. And in between there are those who don't get much
results and they have to have letters written to them saying "Go persist my
dear, go on" (laughter) and you will get there, and they generally do get re-
sults in the long run.
Well, as I say, on the basis of this, I think we see quite clearly that the human
populations can be categorized according to their suggestibility fairly clear-
ly,. I suspect very strongly that this twenty percent is the same in all these
cases, and I suspect also that it would not be at all difficult to recognize and
{garbled} out who are those who are extremely suggestible and who are those
extremely unsuggestible and who are those who occupy the intermediate
space. Quite clearly, if everybody were extremely unsuggestible organized
society would be quite impossible, and if everybody were extremely suggest-
ible then a dictatorship would be absolutely inevitable. I mean it's very for-
tunate that we have people who are moderately suggestible in the majority
and who therefore preserve us from dictatorship but do permit organized
society to be formed.
But, once given the fact that there are these 20% of highly suggestible people,
it becomes quite clear that this is a matter of enormous political importance,
for example, any demagogue who is able to get hold of a large number of
these 20% of suggestible people and to organize them is really in a position to
overthrow any government in any country.
And I mean, I think this after all, we had the most incredible example in re-
cent years by what can be done by efficient methods of suggestion and per-
suasion in the form of Hitler. Anyone who has read, for example, (Sounds like
Bulloch's) Life of Hitler, comes forth with this horrified admiration for this
infernal genius, who really understood human weaknesses I think almost bet-
ter than anybody and who exploited them with all the resources then availa-
ble. I mean he knew everything, for example, he knew intuitively this pavlo-
vian truth that condition installed in a state of stress or fatigue goes much
deeper than conditioning installed at other times. This of course is why all his
big speeches were organized at night. He speaks quite frankly, of course, in
Mein Kampf, this is done solely because people are tired at night and there-
fore much less capable of resisting persuasion than they would be during the
day. And in all his techniques he was using, he had discovered intuitively and
by trial and error a great many of the weaknesses, which we now know about
on a sort of scientific way I think much more clearly than he did.
But the fact remains that this differential of suggestibility this susceptibility
to hypnosis I do think is something which has to be considered very careful-
ly in relation to any kind of thought about democratic government . If there
are 20% of the people who really can be suggested into believing almost any-
thing, then we have to take extremely careful steps into prevent the rise of
demagogues who will drive them on into extreme positions then organize
them into very, very dangerous armies, private armies which may overthrow
the government.
This is, I say, in this field of pure persuasion, I think we do know much more
than we did in the past, and obviously we now have mechanisms for multi-
plying the demagogues voice and image in a quite hallucinatory way, I mean,
the TV and radio, Hitler was making enormous use of the radio, he could
speak to millions of people simultaneously. This alone creates an enormous
gulf between the modern and the ancient demagogue. The ancient dema-
gogue could only appeal to as many people as his voice could reach by yell-
ing at his utmost, but the modern demagogue could touch literally millions
at a time, and of course by the multiplication of his image he can produce
this kind of hallucinatory effect which is of enormous hypnotic and sugges-
tive importance.
But then there are the various other methods one can think of which, thank
heaven, as yet have not be used, but which obviously could be used. There
is for example, the pharmacological method, this is one of the things I
talked about in BNW. I invented a hypothetical drug called SOMA, which of
course could not exist as it stood there because it was simultaneously a
stimulant, a narcotic, and a hallucinogen, which seems unlikely in one sub-
stance. But the point is, if you applied several different substances you
could get almost all these results even now, and the really interesting things
about the new chemical substances, the new mind-changing drugs is this, if
you looking back into history its clear that man has always had a hankering
after mind changing chemicals, he has always desired to take holidays from
himself, but the, and, this is the most extraordinary effect of all that every
natural occurring narcotic stimulant, sedative, or hallucinogen, was discov-
ered before the dawn of history, I don't think there is one single one of
these naturally occurring ones which modern science has discovered.
Modern science has of course better ways of extracting the active principals
of these drugs and of course has discovered numerous ways of synthesizing
new substances of extreme power, but the actual discovery of these natural-
ly occurring things was made by primitive man goodness knows how many
centuries ago. There is for example, in the underneath the, lake dwellings of
the early Neolithic that have been dug up in Switzerland we have found
poppy-heads, which looks as though people were already using this most
ancient and powerful and dangerous of narcotics, even before the days of
the rise of agriculture. So that man was apparently a dope-bag addict before
he was a farmer, which is a very curious comment on human nature.
But, the difference, as I say, between the ancient mind-changers, the tradi-
tional mind- changers, and the new substances is that they were extremely
harmful and the new ones are not. I mean even the permissible mind-
changer alcohol is not entirely harmless, as people may have noticed, and I
mean the other ones, the non-permissible ones, such as opium and cocaine,
opium and its derivatives, are very harmful indeed.
They rapidly produce addiction, and in some cases lead at an extraordinary
rate to physical degeneration and death.
Whereas these new substances, this is really very extraordinary, that a num-
ber of these new mind-changing substances can produce enormous revolu-
tions within the mental side of our being, and yet do almost nothing to the
physiological side. You can have an enormous revolution, for example, with
LSD-25 or with the newly synthesized drug psilocybin, which is the active
principal of the Mexican sacred mushroom. You can have this enormous
mental revolution with no more physiological revolution than you would
get from drinking two cocktails. And this is a really most extraordinary ef-
And it is of course true that pharmacologists are producing a great many
new wonder drugs where the cure is almost worse than the disease. Every
year the new edition of medical textbooks contains a longer and longer
chapter of what are Iatrogenic diseases, that is to say diseases caused by doc-
tors (laughter} And this is quite true, many of the wonder drugs are ex-
tremely dangerous. I mean they can produce extraordinary effects, and in
critical conditions they should certainly be used, but they should be used
with the utmost caution. But there is evidently a whole class of drugs effect-
ing the CNS which can produce enormous changes in sedation in euphoria
in energizing the whole mental process without doing any perceptible harm
to the human body, and this presents to me the most extraordinary revolu-
tion. In the hands of a dictator these substances in one kind or the other
could be used with, first of all, complete harmlessness, and the result would
be, you can imagine a euphoric that would make people thoroughly happy
even in the most abominable circumstances.
I mean these things are possible. This is the extraordinary thing, I mean af-
ter all this is even true with the crude old drugs. I mean, a housemate years
ago remarked after reading Milton's Paradise Lost, He Says "And beer does
more than Milton can to justify God's ways to man" (laughter). And beer is
of course, an extremely crude drug compared to these ones. And you can
certainly say that some of the psychic energizers and the new hallucinants
could do incomparably more than Milton and all the Theologicians com-
bined could possibly do to make the terrifying mystery of our existence
seem more tolerable than it does. And here I think one has an enormous ar-
ea in which the ultimate revolution could function very well indeed, an area
in which a great deal of control could be used by not through terror, but by
making life seem much more enjoyable than it normally does. Enjoyable to
the point, where as I said before, Human beings come to love a state of
things by which any reasonable and decent human standard they ought not
to love and this I think is perfectly possible.
But then, very briefly, let me speak about one of the more recent develop-
ments in the sphere of neurology, about the implantation of electrodes in
the brain. This of course has been done in the large scale in animals and in a
few cases its been done in the cases of the hopelessly insane. And anybody
who has watched the behavior of rats with electrodes placed in different cen-
ters must come away from this experience with the most extraordinary
doubts about what on Earth is in store for us if this is got a hold of by a dicta-
tor. I saw not long ago some rats in the {garbled} laboratory at UCLA there
were two sets of them, one with electrodes planted in the pleasure center,
and the technique was they had a bar which they pressed which turned on a
very small current for a short space of time which we had a wire connected
with that electrode and which stimulated the pleasure center and was evi-
dently absolutely ecstatic was these rats were pressing the bar 18,000 times a
day (laughter). Apparently if you kept them from pressing the bar for a day,
they'd press it 36,000 times on the following day and would until they fell
down in complete exhaustion (laughter) And they would neither eat, nor be
interested in the opposite sex but would just go on pressing this bar {pounds
on podium}
Then the most extraordinary rats were those were the electrode was planted
halfway between the pleasure and the pain center. The result was a kind of
mixture of the most wonderful ecstasy and like being on the rack at the same
time. And you would see the rats sort of looking at is bar and sort of saying
"To be or not to be that is the question". (Laughter) Finally it would approach
{Pounds on podium} and go back with this awful I mean, the (sounds like
franken huminizer anthropomorphizer), and he would wait some time before
pressing the bar again, yet he would always press it again. This was the ex-
traordinary thing.
I noticed in the most recent issue of Scientific American there's a very inter-
esting article on electrodes in the brains of chickens, where the technique is
very ingenious, where you sink into their brains a little socket with a screw
on it and the electrode can then be screwed deeper and deeper into the
brainstem and you can test at any moment according to the depth, which
goes at fractions of the mm, what you're stimulating and these creatures are
not merely stimulated by wire, they're fitted with a miniature radio receiver
which weighs less than an ounce which is attached to them so that they can
be communicated with at a distance, I mean they can run about in the barn-
yard and you could press a button and this particular area of the brain to
which the electrode has been screwed down to would be stimulated. You
would get this fantastic phenomena, where a sleeping chicken would jump
up and run about, or an active chicken would suddenly sit down and go to
sleep, or a hen would sit down and act like she's hatching out an egg, or a
fighting rooster would go into depression.
The whole picture of the absolute control of the drives is terrifying, and in
the few cases in which this has been done with very sick human beings, The
effects are evidently very remarkable too, I was talking last summer in Eng-
land to Grey Walter, who is the most eminent exponent of the EEG tech-
nique in England, and he was telling me that he's seen hopeless inmates at
asylums with these things in their heads, and these people were suffering
from uncontrollable depression, and they had these electrodes inserted into
the pleasure center in their brain, however when they felt too bad, they just
pressed a button on the battery in their pocket and he said the results were
fantastic, the mouth pointing down would suddenly turn up and they'd feel
very cheerful and happy. So there again one sees the most extraordinary
revolutionary techniques, which are now available to us.
Now, I think what is obviously perfectly clear is that for the present these
techniques are not being used except in an experimental way, but I think it is
important for us to realize what is happening to make ourselves acquainted
with what has already happened, and then use a certain amount of imagina-
tion to extrapolate into the future the sort of things that might happen. What
might happen if these fantastically powerful techniques were used by unscru-
pulous people in authority, what on Earth would happen, what sort of society
would we get?
And I think it is peculiarly important because as one sees when looking back
over history we have allowed in the past all those advances in technology
which has profoundly changed our social and individual life to take us by
surprise, I mean it seems to me that it was during the late 18 century early
19th century when the new machines were making possible the factory situa-
tion. It was not beyond the wit of man to see what was happening and pro-
ject into the future and maybe forestall the really dreadful consequences
which plagued England and most of western Europe and this country for six-
ty or seventy years, and the horrible abuses of the factory system and if a
certain amount of forethought had been devoted to the problem at that time
and if people had first of all found out what was happening and then used
their imagination to see what might happen, and then had gone on to work
out the means by which the worst applications of the techniques would not
take place, well then I think western humanity might have been spared about
three generations of utter misery which had been imposed on the poor at
that time.
And the same way with various technological advances now, I mean we need
to think about the problems with automation and more profoundly the
problems, which may arise with these new techniques, which may contrib-
ute to this ultimate revolution. Our business is to be aware of what is hap-
pening, and then to use our imagination to see what might happen, how this
might be abused, and then if possible to see that the enormous powers
which we now possess thanks to these scientific and technological advances
to be used for the benefit of human beings and not for their degradation.
Thank You