Island: A Novel

Island: A Novel is Aldous Huxley’s utopian counterpart to his better known 1932 dystopian novel Brave New World. The utopian island inhabitants practice Synergy-style sex, “maithuna yoga.”


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(pp. 69-91) Maithuna,” she answered gravely, “is the yoga of love.”
“Sacred or profane?”

“There’s no difference.”

“That’s the whole point,” Ranga put in. “When you do maithuna, profane love is sacred love.”

“Buddhatvanyoshidyonisansritan,” the girl quoted.

“None of your Sanskirt! What does it mean?”

“How would you translate Buddhatvan, Ranga?”

“Buddhaness, Buddheity, the quality of being enlightened.” Radha nodded and turned back to Will. “It means that Buddhaness is in the yoni.”

“In the yoni?” Will remembered those little stone emblems of the Eternal Feminine that he had bought, as presents for the girls at the office, from a hunchbacked vendor of bondieuseries at Benares. Eight annas for a black yoni; twelve for the still more sacred image of the yoni-lingam.

“Literally in the yoni?” he asked. “Or metaphorically?”

“What a ridiculous question!” said the little nurse, and she laughed her clear unaffected laugh of pure amusement. “Do you think we make love metaphorically? Buddhatvan yoshidyonisan-sritan” she repeated. “It couldn’t be more completely and absolutely literal.”

“Did you ever hear of the Oneida Community?” Ranga now asked.

Will nodded. He had known an American historian who specialized in nineteenth-century communities. “But why do you know about it?” he asked.

“Because it’s mentioned in all our textbooks of applied philosophy. Basically, maithuna is the same as what the Oneida people called Male Continence. …

“In a word,” Will concluded, “it’s just birth control without contraceptives.”

“But that’s only the beginning of the story,” said Ranga. “Maithuna is also something else. Something even more important.” The undergraduate pedant had reasserted himself. “Remember,” he went on earnestly, “remember the point that Freud was always harping on.

“Which point? There were so many.”

“The point about the sexuality of children. What we’re born with, what we experience all through infancy and childhood, is a sexuality that isn’t concentrated on the genitals; it’s a sexuality diffused throughout the whole organism. That’s the paradise we inherit. But the paradise gets lost as the child grows up. Maithuna is the organized attempt to regain that paradise.”

He turned to Radha. “You’ve got a good memory,” he said. “What’s that phrase of Spinoza’s that they quote in the applied philosophy book?”

” ‘Make the body capable of doing many things,’ ” she recited. ” ‘This will help you to perfect the mind and so to come to the intellectual love of God.’

“Hence all the yogas,” said Ranga. “Including maithuna.”

“And it’s a real yoga,” the girl insisted. “As good as raja yoga, or karma yoga, or bhakti yoga. In fact, a great deal better, so far as most people are concerned. Maithuna really gets them there.”

“What’s ‘there’?” Will asked.

” ‘There’ is where you know.”

“Know what?”

“Know who in fact you are—and believe it or not,” she added, “tat tvam asi—thou art That, and so am I: That is me.” The dimples came to life, the teeth flashed. “And That’s also him.” She pointed at Ranga. “Incredible, isn’t it?” She stuck out her tongue at him. “And yet it’s a fact.”

Ranga smiled, reached out and with an extended forefinger touched the tip of her nose. “And not merely a fact,” he said. “A revealed truth.” He gave the nose a little tap. “A revealed truth,” he repeated. “So mind your P’s and Q’s, young woman.” …

(p. 93) “Were you taught maithuna at school?” he asked ironically.

“At school,” Radha answered with a simple matter-of-fact-ness that took all the Rabelaisian wind out of his sails.

“Everybody’s taught it,” Ranga added.

“And when does the teaching begin?”

“About the same time as trigonometry and advanced biology. That’s between fifteen and fifteen and a half.”

“And after they’ve learned maithuna, after they’ve gone out into the world and got married—that is, if you ever do get married?”

“Oh, we do, we do,” Radha assured him.

“Do they still practice it?”

“Not all of them, of course. But a good many do.”

Huxley, Aldous. 1962. Island: a novel. London: Chatto & Windus.

If you want to put this excerpt into the wider context of the novel, a good summary is available on Wikipedia.