Anorak | Read Laura Huxley’s letter about injecting husband Aldous with LSD on his deathbed

Read Laura Huxley’s letter about injecting husband Aldous with LSD on his deathbed

by | 11th, June 2015


British writer Aldous Huxley (1894 - 1963) sits with a newspaper on his lap, 1930s.


On 22 November 1963, on the same day President Kennedy was assassinated, Aldous Huxley, author of  Brave New World and The Doors of Perception, died of the cancer that had been destroying him for three years. On his deathbed, Huxley asked his wife Laura to inject him with uncut LSD. She did.

Laura would attest ( via ):

“All five people in the room said that this was the most serene, the most beautiful death. Both doctors and the nurse said they had never seen a person in similar physical condition going off so completely without pain and without struggle.”

That letter:


6233 Mulholland Highway
Los Angeles 28, California
December 8, 1963

Dearest Julian and Juliette:

There is so much I want to tell you about the last week of Aldous’ life and particularly the last day. What happened is important not only for us close and loving but it is almost a conclusion, better, a continuation of his own work, and therefore it has importance for people in general.

First of all I must confirm to you with complete subjective certainty that Aldous had not consciously looked at the fact that he might die until the day he died. Subconsciously it was all there, and you will be able to see this for yourselves because beginning from November 15th until November 22nd I have much of Aldous’ remarks on tape, For these tapes I know we shall all be immensely grateful. Aldous was never quite willing to give up his writing and dictate or makes notes on a recorder. He used a Dictograph, only to read poetry or passages of literature; he would listen to these in his quite moments in the evening as he was going to sleep. I have had a tape recorder for years, and I tried to use it with him sometimes, but it was too bulky, and particularly now when we were always in the bedroom and the bed had so much hospital equipment around it. (We had spoken about buying a small one, but the market here is flooded with transistor tape recorders, and most of them are very bad. I didn’t have time to look into it, and this remained just one of those things like many others that we were going to do.) In the beginning of November, when Aldous was in the hospital, my birthday occurred, so Jinny looked carefully into all the machines, and presented me with the best of them a small thing, easy manageable and practically unnoticeable. After having practiced with it myself a few days, I showed it to Aldous, who was very pleased with it, and from the 15th on we used it a little every day recording his dreams and notes for future writing.

The period from the 15th to the 22nd marked, it seems to me, a period of intense mental activity for Aldous. We had diminished little by little the tranquillizers he had been taking four times a day a drug called Sperine which is akin, I understand, to Thorazin. We diminished it practically to nothing only used painkillers like Percodon a little Amitol , and something for nausea. He took also a few injections of 1/2 cc of Dilaudid, which is a derivative of morphine, and which gave him many dreams, some of which you will hear on the tape. The doctor says this is a small intake of morphine.
Now to pick up my point again, in these dreams as well as sometimes in his conversation, it seemed obvious and transparent that subconsciously he knew that he was going to die. But not once consciously did he speak of it. This had nothing to do with the idea that some of his friends put forward that he wanted to spare me. It wasn’t this, because Aldous had never been able to play a part, to say a single lie; he was constitutionally unable to lie, and if he wanted to spare me, he could certainly have spoken to Jinny.

During the last two months I gave him almost daily an opportunity, an opening for speaking about death, but of course this opening was always one that could have been taken in two ways either towards life or towards death, and he always took it towards life. We read the entire manual of Dr. Leary extracted from The Book of the Dead. He could have, even jokingly said don’t forget to remind me his comment instead was only directed to the way Dr. Leary conducted his LSD sessions, and how he would bring people, who were not dead, back here to this life after the session. It is true he said sometimes phrases like, “If I get out of this,” in connection to his new ideas for writing, and wondered when and if he would have the strength to work. His mind was very active and it seems that this Dilaudid had stirred some new layer which had not often been stirred in him.

The night before he died, (Thursday night) about eight o’clock, suddenly an idea occurred to him. “Darling,” he said, “it just occurs to me that I am imposing on Jinny having somebody as sick as this in the house with the two children, this is really an imposition.” Jinny was out of the house at the moment, and so I said, “Good, when she comes back I will tell her this. It will be a nice laugh.” “No,” he said with unusual insistence, “we should do something about it.” “Well,” I replied, keeping it light, “all right, get up. Let’s go on a trip.” “No”, he said, “It is serious. We must think about it. All these nurses in the house. What we could do, we could take an apartment for this period. Just for this period.” It was very clear what he meant. It was unmistakably clear. He thought he might be so sick for another three of four weeks, and then he could come back and start his normal life again. This fact of starting his normal life occurred quite often. In the last three or four weeks he was several times appalled by his weakness, when he realized how much he had lost, and how long it would take to be normal again. Now this Thursday night he had remarked about taking an apartment with an unusual energy, but a few minutes later and all that evening I felt that he was going down, he was losing ground quickly. Eating was almost out of the question. He had just taken a few spoonsful of liquid and puree, in fact every time that he took something, this would start the cough. Thursday night I called Dr. Bernstein, and told him the pulse was very high 140, he had a little bit of fever and whole feeling was one of immanence of death. But both the nurse and the doctor said they didn’t think this was the case, but that if I wanted him the doctor would come up to see him that night. Then I returned to Aldous’ room and we decided to give him an injection of Dilaudid. It was about nine o’clock, and he went to sleep and I told the doctor to come the next morning. Aldous slept until about two a.m. and then he got another shot, and I saw him again at six-thirty. Again I felt that life was leaving, something was more wrong than usual, although I didn’t know exactly what, and a little later I sent you and Matthew and Ellen and my sister a wire. Then about nine a.m. Aldous began to be so agitated, so uncomfortable, so desperate really. He wanted to be moved all the time. Nothing was right. Dr. Bernstein came about that time and decided to give him a shot which he had given him once before, something that you give intravenously, very slowly it takes five minutes to give the shot, and it is a drug that dilates the bronchial tubes, so that respiration is easier.

This drug made him uncomfortable the time before, it must have been three Fridays before, when he had that crisis I wrote you about. But then it helped him. This time it was quite terrible. He couldn’t express himself but he was feeling dreadful, nothing was right, no position was right. I tried to ask him what was occurring. He had difficulty in speaking, but he managed to say, “Just trying to tell you makes it worse.” He wanted to be moved all the time “Move me.” “Move my legs.” “Move my arms.” “Move my bed.” I had one of those push-button beds, which moved up and down both from the head and the feet, and incessantly, at times, I would have him go up and down, up and down by pushing buttons. We did this again, and somehow it seemed to give him a little relief, but it was very, very little.

2_Aldous Huxley LSD

All of a sudden, it must have been then ten o’clock, he could hardly speak, and he said he wanted a tablet to write on, and for the first time he wrote “If I die,” and gave a direction for his will. I knew what he meant. He had signed his will as I told you about a week before, and in this will there was a transfer of a life insurance policy from me to Matthew. We had spoken of getting these papers of transfer, which the insurance company had just sent, and that actually arrived special delivery just a few minutes before. Writing was very, very difficult for him. Rosalind and Dr. Bernstein were there trying also to understand what he wanted. I said to him, “Do you mean that you want to make sure that the life insurance is transferred from me to Matthew?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “The papers for the transfer have just arrived, if you want to sign them you can sign them, but it is not necessary because you already made it legal in your will. He heaved a sigh of relief in not having to sign. I had asked him the day before even, to sign some important papers, and he had said, “Let’s wait a little while,” this, by the way, was his way now, for him to say that he couldn’t do something. If he was asked to eat, he would say, “Let’s wait a little while,” and when I asked him to do some signing that was rather important on Thursday he said, “Let’s wait a little while” He wanted to write you a letter “and especially about Juliette’s book, is lovely,” he had said several times. And when I proposed to do it, he would say, “Yes, just in a little while” in such a tired voice, so totally different from his normal way of being. So when I told him that the signing was not necessary and that all was in order, he had a sigh of relief.

“If I die.” This was the first time that he had said that with reference to NOW. He wrote it. I knew and felt that for the first time he was looking at this. About a half an hour before I had called up Sidney Cohen, a psychiatrist who has been one of the leaders in the use of LSD. I had asked him if he had ever given LSD to a man in this condition. He said he had only done it twice actually, and in one case it had brought up a sort of reconciliation with Death, and in the other case it did not make any difference. I asked him if he would advise me to give it to Aldous in his condition. I told him how I had offered it several times during the last two months, but he always said that he would wait until he was better. Then Dr. Cohen said, “I don’t know. I don’t think so. What do you think?” I said, “I don’t know. Shall I offer it to him?” He said, “I would offer it to him in a very oblique way, just say ‘what do you think about taking LSD [sometime again]?’” This vague response had been common to the few workers in this field to whom I had asked, “Do you give LSD in extremes?” ISLAND is the only definite reference that I know of. I must have spoken to Sidney Cohen about nine-thirty. Aldous’ condition had become so physically painful and obscure, and he was so agitated he couldn’t say what he wanted, and I couldn’t understand. At a certain point he said something which no one here has been

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