The Perennial Philosopher
The world is an illusion, but it is an illusion that we must take seriously, because it is as real as far as it goes, and in those aspects of reality which we are capable of apprehending. Our business is to wake up. We have to find ways in which to detect the whole of reality in the one illusionary part which our self-centred consciousness permits us to see. We must not live thoughtlessly, taking our illusion for the complete reality, but at the same time we must not live too thoughtfully in the sense of trying to escape the dream state. We must continually be on our watch for ways in which we may enlarge our consciousness. We must not attempt to live outside the world, which is given us, but we must somehow learn how to transform and transfigure it. Too much 'wisdom' is as bad as too little wisdom, and there must be no magic tricks. We must learn to come to reality without the enchanter's wand and his book of the words. One must find a way of being in this world while not being of it. A way of living in time without being swallowed up in time.
-Aldous Huxley, on his deathbed.
If there were ever a person who might be called my mentor, it would have to be Aldous Huxley, novelist, essayist and life-long searcher for human fulfillment and consciousness. Now primarily remembered for his dystopia Brave New World and his exploration of "psychedelic" drugs (he coined the phrase), Huxley's open-mindedness was in stark contrast to the ideologues of the thirties, forties, fifties and early sixties. Had he lived (he died on the same day that JFK was shot) to see the wretched excess of the late sixties and seventies, he no doubt would have had a clear vision of that "Brave New World" as well.
Personally, I found in his writings a sense that was all right to be an intellectual. From the perspective of my blue-collar upbringing, this filled a big gap in my education. Later on, in my twenties and early thirties, I lost the thread Huxley had spun, and suffered the consequences from being "comfortably numb."