The life of Father Joseph, Cardinal Richelieu's aide, was a shocking paradox. After spending his days directing operations on the battlefield, Father Joseph would pass the night in prayer, or in composing spiritual guidance for the nuns in his care. He was an aspirant to sainthood and a practising mystic, yet his ruthless exercise of power succeeded in prolonging the unspeakable horrors of the Thirty Years' War. In his masterful biography, Huxley explores how an intensely religious man could lead such a life and how he reconciled the seemingly opposing moral systems of religion and politics.
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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Grey Eminence by Aldous Huxley. Grey Eminence by Aldous Huxley. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages.
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Reading Aldous Huxley reminds one of how beautiful modern English prose can be. His biography of Father Joseph, effective French foreign minister during the Thirty Years War, is a perfect mix of novelistic description, history, biography and philosophical essay. The balance is just right so one does not get bored with his excurses into the major theme of the book, namely the relationship between politics, religion and ethics.
On the one hand, he was a religious politician. A Capuchin himself, he founded an order, performed missionary work, served as a secular priest, wrote extensively on theology and was about to be awarded a cardinal's hat when he died. Most importantly, he was an authentic mystic--a matter of considerable concern to Huxley, writer of several books on the subject and holder of some strong opinions.
On the other hand, he was one of the two most politically powerful men, the other being Richelieu, in the French government under Louis XIII. As such, he ran an international spy organization, negotiated treaties and fomented wars against other Catholic states, often in alliance with Protestant heretics. His actions led to the death of uncounted thousands, if not millions through the externalities of war. How, Huxley wonders, could an authentic mystic doe this? One does not have to be an expert on seventeenth century European politics to read this book.
Huxley gives all the background needed. Readers of his Devils of Loudon will be interested to note Father Joseph's involvement in that affair. Nothing short of a masterpiece. Huxley tells the story of the enigmatic Father Joseph who, along with his co-instigator Cardinal Richelieu, put all their effort into continuing the horrific 30 years war which contributed immensely to Europe's see-saw power struggles and eventually gave rise to Nazi Germany.
Through the pursuit of policy blasphemously contradictory to his vows as a Catholic Capuchin monk and 'contemplative' mystic, Father Joseph allowed for the slaughter, starvation and cannibali Nothing short of a masterpiece. Through the pursuit of policy blasphemously contradictory to his vows as a Catholic Capuchin monk and 'contemplative' mystic, Father Joseph allowed for the slaughter, starvation and cannibalism of millions of Europeans--most of them German.
Jul 09, Loren rated it really liked it. The earliest literary reference to "holy indifference" occurs in the Bhagavad-Gita , where Krishna assures Arjuna that it is right for him to slaughter his enemies, provided that he does so in a spirit of non-attachment.
When the same doctrine was used by the Illumines of Picardy to justify unlimited sexual promiscuity, all right-thinking men, including Father Joseph, were properly horrified. But for some strange reason murder has always seemed more respectable than fornication. Few people are sh The earliest literary reference to "holy indifference" occurs in the Bhagavad-Gita , where Krishna assures Arjuna that it is right for him to slaughter his enemies, provided that he does so in a spirit of non-attachment.
Few people are shocked when they hear God described as the God of Battles; but what an outcry there would be if anyone spoke of him as the God of Brothels! Father Joseph conducted a small crusade against the Illumines, who asserted that they could go to bed with one another in a spirit of holy indifference; but there seemed to him nothing in the least improper in his own claim to be a non-attached intriguer, spy and maker of wars.
Mar 25, J Onwuka rated it it was amazing. Getting something other than what you expected is not always a pleasant experience. The substitute has to be better than the expectation. Histories on some periods are more difficult to find than biographies. What I found was very little in the way of a history of the war but a great deal more of interest. Father Joseph was born a French nobleman but, from early in his life, devoted himself to the ascetic life of a monk.
Huxley is keen for us to know that Father Joseph fully embraced his lifestyle. Indeed, he had to turn away from a life of great luxury in order to wallow in meanness of all sorts simultaneously. His fervor and discipline brought him great repute and soon he was not merely a monk but a teacher of other monks and nuns. As Huxley notes, if war had not been a few steps away, Father Joseph may have been remembered as a notable, perhaps even legendary Christian thinker.
His childhood acquaintance with the man who would become Cardinal Richelieu, the Red Eminence, as well as his own incredible talents for negotiation brought him into the power politics of the crowns of Europe. The brilliant, enthralling faith in God that made Father Joseph such an awe-inspiring preacher and mystic also led to his ultimately destructive war policy.
The conflict between these two halves of his life — the fervent Christian ascetic and the unscrupulous royal minister — is what drives Huxley throughout this book. In terms of prose, Grey Eminence did not disappoint. While not being the breeziest of texts it earns the heft that it has. Huxley knows how to write a work of non-fiction; that is, without using all the tools of evidence in order to write every detail of a scenario, but rather giving most of the text over to his analysis.
His details on mysticism were also fairly plainly laid out and engrossing. The only thing I stumbled on were the songs and poetry from French or Latin or German, as Huxley would rarely translate or even paraphrase them. Aldous Huxley was right to be fascinated with Father Joseph. His life is a reminder that those with radiant places in history were not the only ones, or even the most important ones, who made it.
It also reminds us that the devil has no prophesied form. Mar 10, Antoine Baggett rated it it was amazing. So good Jun 03, Roberta Allen rated it liked it. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a strange book, published in the midst of World War II, which Huxley saw as in part the outcome of the policies of the Grey Eminence, Father Joseph, Richelieu's right-hand man and a Capuchin to boot.
The story of Father Joseph is fascinating. He aspired to the mystic life and lived spartanly, barefoot and in near rags, wearing a hair shirt, etc.
But Huxley does not give a straight forward biography. He himself was a great believe in mysticism and lays his own views about art, politics and many other topics pretty heavily on the reader. At times this got quite annoying as he could be rather pompous. Sep 11, Stepan rated it it was amazing. A fascinating story of Cardinal Richelieu's right hand. A man who as a French Foreign minister was taking direct actions to prolong the atrocities of the thirty years' war in hope of consolidating French Monarchy and who at the same time as Capuchin Monk was taking meticulous care of his order and passed nights in deep meditations.
The language Huxley uses is absolutely beautiful. The realities of the 17th century Europe on the background are both fascinating and terrifying. The book strengthene A fascinating story of Cardinal Richelieu's right hand.
The book strengthened my belief that not much is changed in the way power-politics is done and that I am infinitely grateful for living in an age and place where past atrocities are not commonplace.
This book doubles as a biography on Francois Leclerc du Tremblay, right hand of Cardinal Richelieu as well as a primer on mysticism. Francois Leclerc du Tremblay, known in religion as This book doubles as a biography on Francois Leclerc du Tremblay, right hand of Cardinal Richelieu as well as a primer on mysticism. Francois Leclerc du Tremblay, known in religion as Father Joseph of Paris and to anecdotal history as The Grey Eminence was a master of the game of power politics.
A diplomat, a spy master, and top-level advisor and military strategist were some of the many facets of this complex character. His influence in the Thirty Years War and, by consequence, in the future of the entire continent of Europe cannot be overstated.
The life of Father Joseph, Cardinal Richelieu's aide, was a shocking paradox. After spending his days directing operations on the battlefield, Father Joseph would pass the night in prayer, or in composing spiritual guidance for the nuns in his care. He was an aspirant to sainthood and a practising mystic, yet his ruthless exercise of power succeeded in prolonging the unspeakable horrors of the Thirty Years' War. In his masterful biography, Huxley explores how an intensely religious man could lead such a life and how he reconciled the seemingly opposing moral systems of religion and politics. It's been at least ten years since I read this book, but I still think about it all the time.