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Title: "One of the most penetrating minds in England" : Gerald Heard and the British intelligentsia of the Interwar period
Author: Eros, Paul James
ISNI:       0000 0004 2735 2380
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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Gerald Heard (1889-1971) was an influential figure among the intelligentsia of the 1930s, once described by E.M. Forster as “one of the most penetrating minds in England.” However, he remains an ill-defined footnote, a marginal figure whose influence and reputation, although acknowledged, remains unexamined. This dissertation examines his life and work, and considers the role which Heard, as a generaliser and public intellectual, played in the intellectual landscape of the 1930s. Central to Heard’s philosophy was a belief that society was in need of a spiritual and psychological force which could allow isolated individuals to participate in community with one another. Heard’s solution to bring about this evolution of consciousness would prove to be partly psychological, partly mystical and partly down to the product of a particular way of living. The first chapter outlines Heard’s philosophy in detail. Subsequent chapters are structured so as to provide a loose biographical chronology, each focussing on a different phase of Heard’s career and examining the development of his thought. Running throughout the dissertation is a consideration of Heard’s role as a public intellectual. It was as a popular ‘generaliser’ of thought that Heard found his public, and the limited degree of success he found as a man of action could be seen to be a natural limitation of the role he had constructed for himself. Chapter II focuses on Heard’s time as personal secretary to Sir Horace Plunkett, father of the Irish Co-Operative Movement, and how the ideals of this movement can be seen to inform his developing ideas of human community. Chapter III looks at Heard’s role as a broadcaster with the B.B.C., where he became a noted populariser of science, firmly establishing himself as a public figure and cultural authority. It is arguably this increased public profile which provided Heard with a ‘public’ to whom he could address his ideas. Chapter IV, drawing on archival material from Dartington Hall, considers Heard’s role as a lecturer at Dartington School, and more importantly his first experiment to establish a small ‘group’ for meditation in an attempt to discover the mystical and psychological basis for a co-operative society. Chapter V examines his career as an outspoken pacifist, where he would advance his arguments for a radical reorganisation of society as a practical solution to the question of peace and further attempt to become a man of action.
Supervisor: Bradshaw, David ; Whitworth, Michael Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Language and Literature ; Gerald Heard ; Henry FitzGerald Heard ; Aldous Huxley ; Pacifism ; Dartington Hall ; 1930s