Laura Archera Huxley, 96; Self-help Author

Laura Archera Huxley, shown with her husband, Aldous Huxley, had a long interest in exploring the ways the mind influences the body.
Laura Archera Huxley, shown with her husband, Aldous Huxley, had a long interest in exploring the ways the mind influences the body. (Family Photo)
By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 15, 2007

Laura Archera Huxley, 96, the widow of writer Aldous Huxley who became a self-help author and founder of a humanitarian organization to transform the emotional lives of toddlers, teens and senior citizens, died Dec. 13 at her home in Hollywood Hills, Calif. She had cancer.

Mrs. Huxley, a violin prodigy in her native Italy, once performed at Carnegie Hall before giving up music to study health and nutrition. In the Los Angeles area, she became a lay therapist and lectured on the "human potential" movement, a precursor of New Age beliefs.

In 1956, she married Aldous Huxley, an English-born novelist and philosopher most remembered for the dystopian book "Brave New World" as well as his experimentation with LSD. She later spoke harshly of the 1960s counterculture and its recreational drug users, adding that they took "more in one day that Aldous took in his whole life."

Aldous Huxley died of cancer at 69, in 1963, the same year Laura Huxley came to prominence with her self-improvement book "You Are Not the Target," which was a bestseller.

The text contained what she called her "recipes for living and loving." She offered practical, if somewhat humorous, advice on how individuals can cope with change and chaos surrounding them. She advised readers to imagine attending their own funeral, visualize their favorite flower and, to much shock at the time, dance naked to music.

She joked that the book, translated into Vietnamese during the war there, "became quite popular, especially during the air raids when people huddled in shelters would encouragingly say to each other, 'You are not the target.' "

In the 1970s, she became legal guardian of a 2-year-old, the granddaughter of a close friend. Her late-career parenthood, as well as a concern for the lonely and neglected, led her to start a nonprofit group, now called Children: Our Ultimate Investment, that she described as "dedicated to the nurturing and education of the possible human."

"Children are our ultimate investment and also very much the ultimate investment of the tobacco companies, the ultimate investment of the liquor companies and, for sure, of the gun companies," she told an interviewer.

In practice, the organization featured programs uniting the elderly with babies, based on the belief that both were emotionally needy and could benefit from a healing touch. Liability issues later ended this effort. "People are afraid to touch a child now," she said.

Mrs. Huxley also began a program for at-risk teenagers to visit toddlers in a day-care setting. This, she once said, gives the students "a chance to get out of school for two afternoons a week to play with toddlers, and they jump at it!"

Weeks into the life-skills program, she said, most of the teenagers realize they are emotionally unequipped to handle children for long periods and therefore are less inclined to repeat the cycle of young parenthood.

Children: Our Ultimate Investment has struggled to find funding in Los Angeles, where it now works with one high school. But the organization has started to flourish in England, where a board member started operations in 2001, because of government support.

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