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Huxley himself failed to practise what he preached. His reaction to psychical research, as the following incident proves, was emotional rather than scientific.

The Dialectical Society of London invited thirty-four men of standing, including well-known physicians, barristers and two fellows of scientific societies, to investigate amazing phenomena associated with the mediumship of David Home.

Thirteen of these witnesses declared that they had seen heavy bodies—in some instances men—rise slowly in the air and remain there for some time without visible or tangible support. Five witnesses declared that they had seen red-hot coals applied to the hands or heads of several persons without producing pain or scorching.

Huxley was invited to join this committee, and he replied that he took no interest in the subject. “The only good that I can see in the demonstration of the truth of ‘Spiritualism’ is to furnish an additional argument against suicide. Better live a crossing-sweeper than die and be made to talk twaddle by a ‘medium’ hired at a guinea a seance.”

Huxley failed to realise that the question at issue was not whether the life of a crossing-sweeper was richer and more varied than the life of a spirit, but whether the fact of spirit communication had been proved. The spiritualist might well have rejoined, “Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion . . .”

Arnold Lunn (from Now I See, 1933)

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