Soma in Aldous Huxley's"All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects."
Brave New World
"..there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon..."
"Benito was notoriously good-natured. People said of him that he could have got through life without ever touching soma. The malice and bad tempers from which other people had to take holidays never afflicted him. Reality for Benito was always sunny." "you do look glum! What you need is a gramme of soma." "Soma was served with the coffee. Lenina took two half-gramme tablets and Henry three." "the warm, the richly coloured, the infinitely friendly world of soma-holiday. How kind, how good-looking, how delightfully amusing every one was! " "Swallowing half an hour before closing time, that second dose of soma had raised a quite impenetrable wall between the actual universe and their minds." "The service had begun. The dedicated soma tablets were placed in the centre of the table. The loving cup of strawberry ice-cream soma was passed from hand to hand and, with the formula, "I drink to my annihilation," twelve times quaffed." "By this time the soma had begun to work. Eyes shone, cheeks were flushed, the inner light of universal benevolence broke out on every face in happy, friendly smiles. Even Bernard felt himself a little melted." "I don't understand anything," she said with decision, determined to preserve her incomprehension intact. "Nothing. Least of all," she continued in another tone "why you don't take soma when you have these dreadful ideas of yours. You'd forget all about them. And instead of feeling miserable, you'd be jolly. So jolly," “Was and will make me ill,
I take a gram and only am."
"When the Warden started booming, she had inconspicuously swallowed half a gramme of soma, with the result that she could now sit, serenely not listening, thinking of nothing at all, but with her large blue eyes fixed on the Warden's face in an expression of rapt attention." "Bernard also laughed; after two grammes of soma the joke seemed, for some reason, good. Laughed and then, almost immediately, dropped off to sleep,..." ""But it's terrible," Lenina whispered. "It's awful. We ought not to have come here." She felt in her pocket for her soma - only to discover that, by some unprecedented oversight, she had left the bottle down at the rest-house. Bernard's pockets were also empty."
Lenina was left to face the horrors of Malpais unaided."
"Lenina was still sobbing. "Too awful," she kept repeating, and all Bernard's consolations were in vain. "Too awful! That blood!" She shuddered. "Oh, I wish I had my soma." " "A gramme is better than a damn," said Lenina mechanically from behind her hands. "I wish I had my soma!" " "Her tears began to flow again. "I suppose John told you. What I had to suffer - and not a gramme of soma to be had. Only a drink of mescal every now and then, when Popé used to bring it."" "As soon as they got back to the rest-house, she swallowed six half-gramme tablets of soma, lay down on her bed, and within ten minutes had embarked for lunar eternity. It would be eighteen hours at the least before she was in time again." ""By his heretical views on sport and soma, by the scandalous unorthodoxy of his sex-life, by his refusal to obey the teachings of Our Ford and behave out of office hours, 'even as a little infant,'" (here the Director made the sign of the T), "he has proved himself an enemy of Society, a subverter, ladies and gentlemen, of all Order and Stability, a conspirator against Civilization itself. For this reason I propose to dismiss him, to dismiss him with ignominy from the post he has held in this Centre..."" "So the best people were quite determined not to see Linda. And Linda, for her part, had no desire to see them. The return to civilization was for her the return to soma, was the possibility of lying in bed and taking holiday after holiday, without ever having to come back to a headache or a fit of vomiting, without ever being made to feel as you always felt after peyotl, as though you'd done something so shamefully anti-social that you could never hold up your head again. Soma played none of these unpleasant tricks. The holiday it gave was perfect and, if the morning after was disagreeable, it was so, not intrinsically, but only by comparison with the joys of the holiday. The remedy was to make the holiday continuous. Greedily she clamoured for ever larger, ever more frequent doses. Dr. Shaw at first demurred; then let her have what she wanted. She took as much as twenty grammes a day.
"Which will finish her off in a month or two," the doctor confided to Bernard. "One day the respiratory centre will be paralyzed. No more breathing. Finished. And a good thing too. If we could rejuvenate, of course it would be different. But we can't."
"Surprisingly, as every one thought (for on soma-holiday Linda was most conveniently out of the way), John raised objections.
"But aren't you shortening her life by giving her so much?"
"In one sense, yes," Dr. Shaw admitted. "But in another we're actually lengthening it." The young man stared, uncomprehending. "Soma may make you lose a few years in time," the doctor went on. "But think of the enormous, immeasurable durations it can give you out of time. Every soma-holiday is a bit of what our ancestors used to call eternity." "
"In the end John was forced to give in. Linda got her soma. Thenceforward she remained in her little room on the thirty-seventh floor of Bernard's apartment house, in bed, with the radio and television always on, and the patchouli tap just dripping, and the soma tablets within reach of her hand - there she remained; and yet wasn't there at all, was all the time away, infinitely far away, on holiday; on holiday in some other world, where the music of the radio was a labyrinth of sonorous colours, a sliding, palpitating labyrinth, that led (by what beautifully inevitable windings) to a bright centre of absolute conviction; where the dancing images of the television box were the performers in some indescribably delicious all-singing feely; where the dripping patchouli was more than scent - was the sun, was a million saxophones, was Popé making love, only much more so, incomparably more, and without end." ""The Savage," wrote Bernard, "refuses to take soma, and seems much distressed because of the woman Linda, his m---, remains permanently on holiday. It is worthy of note that, in spite of his m---'s senility and the extreme repulsiveness of her appearance, the Savage frequently goes to see her and appears to be much attached to her - an interesting example of the way in which early conditioning can be made to modify and even run counter to natural impulses (in this case, the impulse to recoil from an unpleasant object)." "Helmholtz and the Savage took to one another at once. So cordially indeed that Bernard felt a sharp pang of jealousy. In all these weeks he had never come to so close an intimacy with the Savage as Helmholtz immediately achieved. Watching them, listening to their talk, he found himself sometimes resentfully wishing that he had never brought them together. He was ashamed of his jealousy and alternately made efforts of will and took soma to keep himself from feeling it. But the efforts were not very successful; and between the soma-holidays there were, of necessity, intervals. The odious sentiment kept on returning." "When one has leant forward, nearer and nearer, with parted lips-only to find oneself, quite suddenly, as a clumsy oaf scrambles to his feet, leaning towards nothing at all-well, there is a reason, even with half a gramme of soma circulating in one's blood-stream, a genuine reason for annoyance." "What's in those" (remembering The Merchant of Venice) "those caskets?" the Savage enquired when Bernard had rejoined him.
"The day's soma ration," Bernard answered rather indistinctly; for he was masticating a piece of Benito Hoover's chewing-gum. "They get it after their work's over. Four half-gramme tablets. Six on Saturdays."
''Hug me till you drug me, honey;
Kiss me till I'm in a coma;
Hug me, honey, snuggly bunny;
Love's as good as soma."
"Drying her eyes, Lenina walked across the roof to the lift. On her way down to the twenty-seventh floor she pulled out her soma bottle. One gramme, she decided, would not be enough; hers had been more than a one-gramme affliction. But if she took two grammes, she ran the risk of not waking up in time to-morrow morning. She compromised and, into her cupped left palm, shook out three half-gramme tablets."
"Soma distribution!" shouted a loud voice. "In good order, please. Hurry up there."
""No shoving there now!" shouted the Deputy Sub-Bursar in a fury. He slammed down he lid of his cash-box. "I shall stop the distribution unless I have good behaviour."
The Deltas muttered, jostled one another a little, and then were still. The threat had been effective. Deprivation of soma-appalling thought!
"That's better," said the young man, and reopened his cash-box. "
""Don't you want to be free and men? Don't you even understand what manhood and freedom are?" Rage was making him fluent; the words came easily, in a rush. "Don't you?" he repeated, but got no answer to his question. "Very well then," he went on grimly. "I'll teach you; I'll make you be free whether you want to or not." And pushing open a window that looked on to the inner court of the Hospital, he began to throw the little pill-boxes of soma tablets in handfuls out into the area."
For a moment the khaki mob was silent, petrified, at the spectacle of this wanton sacrilege, with amazement and horror."
"Free, free!" the Savage shouted, and with one hand continued to throw the soma into the area while, with the other, he punched the indistinguishable faces of his assailants. "Free!" And suddenly there was Helmholtz at his side-"Good old Helmholtz!"-also punching-"Men at last!"-and in the interval also throwing the poison out by handfuls through the open window. "Yes, men! men!" and there was no more poison left. He picked up the cash-box and showed them its black emptiness. "You're free!"
"The policemen pushed him out of the way and got on with their work. Three men with spraying machines buckled to their shoulders pumped thick clouds of soma vapour into the air." "Two minutes later the Voice and the soma vapour had produced their effect. In tears, the Deltas were kissing and hugging one another-half a dozen twins at a time in a comprehensive embrace. Even Helmholtz and the Savage were almost crying. A fresh supply of pill-boxes was brought in from the Bursary; a new distribution was hastily made and, to the sound of the Voice's richly affectionate, baritone valedictions, the twins dispersed, blubbering as though their hearts would break. "Good-bye, my dearest, dearest friends, Ford keep you! Good-bye, my dearest, dearest friends, Ford keep you. Good-bye my dearest, dearest ..." ""Because our world is not the same as Othello's world. You can't make flivvers without steel-and you can't make tragedies without social instability. The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get. They're well off; they're safe; they're never ill; they're not afraid of death; they're blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they're plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they're so conditioned that they practically can't help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there's soma. Which you go and chuck out of the window in the name of liberty, Mr. Savage. Liberty!" He laughed. "Expecting Deltas to know what liberty is! And now expecting them to understand Othello! My good boy!"" "Bring three men," he ordered, "and take Mr. Marx into a bedroom. Give him a good soma vaporization and then put him to bed and leave him."
The fourth secretary went out and returned with three green-uniformed twin footmen. Still shouting and sobbing. Bernard was carried out. "
"And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there's always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there's always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears-that's what soma is." "Benighted fool!" shouted the man from The Fordian Science Monitor, "why don't you take soma?"
"Get away!" The Savage shook his fist.
The other retreated a few steps then turned round again. "Evil's an unreality if you take a couple of grammes."
"Kohakwa iyathtokyai!" The tone was menacingly derisive.
"Pain's a delusion."
"Oh, is it?" said the Savage and, picking up a thick hazel switch, strode forward.
The man from The Fordian Science Monitor made a dash for his helicopter."
"It was after midnight when the last of the helicopters took its flight. Stupefied by soma, and exhausted by a long-drawn frenzy of sensuality, the Savage lay sleeping in the heather. The sun was already high when he awoke. He lay for a moment, blinking in owlish incomprehension at the light; then suddenly remembered-everything.
"Oh, my God, my God!" He covered his eyes with his hand."
The Historical Soma
The Meaning of Soma
2007: Brave New World?
Aldous Huxley on Heroin
Aldous Huxley Photogallery
Shiny Happy People by REM
Aldous Huxley: Bibliography
Soma: alternative candidates
Who's Who in Brave New World
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Critique of Huxley's Brave New World
Utopian and Dystopian Views on Psychopharmacology
[PDF, MH Schermer on Brave New World versus Island]