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Lyle Zapato

Julian Huxley's "The Tissue-Culture King"

Lyle Zapato | 2015-06-13.0810 LMT | Mind Control | Aluminum | Entertainment | Fashion | Retro

Hascombe shows off his incredible animal monstrosities.

"The Tissue-Culture King" is a short story by Julian Huxley first published in The Yale Review in Apr. 1926, and later in Amazing Stories, Aug. 1927. It's notable for containing reputedly the earliest use in fiction of an anti-mind-control foil deflector beanie -- colloquially known among orthonoids as a "tinfoil hat".


The story is about an Englishman in Africa named Hascombe, "lately research worker at Middlesex Hospital, now religious adviser to His Majesty King Mgobe". After being captured while lost in King Mgobe's territory, he ingratiates himself into a place of social prominence by using his knowledge of tissue culturing to conduct bizarre medical experiments on animals, and later people, that officials and the public find both entertaining and theologically practical.

According to their religious beliefs, King Mgobe's welfare is intricately tied to that of his people and nation, thus requiring "extraordinary precautions be taken to preserve him from harm". Hascombe convinces them of his usefulness by showing how he can culture the living tissue of their King, thereby increasing the safety of the "life which was in him" and adding "so much extra sacredness and protection to the state".

This leads to Hascombe having built a facility -- called the "Factory of Majesty" or the "Wellspring of Ancestral Immortality", operated by "platoons of buxom and shining African women, becomingly but unusually dressed in tight-fitting dresses and caps, and wearing rubber gloves" -- to mass-produce tissue cultures to "multiply the King's tissues indefinitely, to ensure that some of their protecting power should reside everywhere in the country". They later also process cultures of the elderly so family members can keep bits of their ancestors alive after death.

The King approves of all this since it removes some of the restrictions on his mode of life, and a high-ranking Council member named Bugala, who conspires to help Hascombe, sees himself using this new system of national religion to wield "undreamt-of power".

Besides culturing their tissues, Hascombe creates "incredible animal monstrosities" (or "Living Fetishes"), such as two-headed toads and three-headed snakes, and even starts endocrinological experiments on humans, creating eight-feet-high "sacred bodyguards", dwarf acolytes, mustached prophetesses, and obese Vestal Virgins who, with further research, he is sure can reproduce by parthenogenesis.

Eventually Hascombe starts experimenting with mass telepathy. His aim is to create a "super-consciousness" that creates a "mind-battery" to increase the strength of mind-control signals in proportion to the number being affected by them. He sells the idea to the King as a means to ensure the whole population would take part in their daily prayers, but Bugala recognizes the potential for personal power.

Realizing the threat of Bugala's ambitions, the unnamed narrator (who meets Hascombe years later after also being captured) convinces Hascombe that they should escape back to Europe using the now fully operational super-consciousness to issue a nation-wide "Sleep" command.

Here Huxley explains how Hascombe and the narrator protect themselves from their own mind-control with deflector beanies:

The reader will perhaps ask how we ourselves expected to escape from the clutches of the super-consciousness we had created. Well, we had discovered that metal was relatively impervious to the telepathic effect, and had prepared for ourselves a sort of tin pulpit, behind which we could stand while conducting experiments. This, combined with caps of metal foil, enormously reduced the effects on ourselves. We had not informed Bugala of this property of metal.


We with our metal coverings were immune. But Bugala was struck by the full force of the mental current. He sank back on his chair, helpless. For a few minutes his extraordinary will resisted the suggestion. Although he could not move, his angry eyes were open. But at length he succumbed, and he too slept.

Huxley then warns us of the dangers of foolishly removing one's deflector beanie, even when one thinks it is safe:

So we went on, feeling pretty queer and scarcely believing in this morphic state into which we had plunged a nation. Finally the frontier was reached, where with extreme elation, we passed an immobile and gigantic frontier guard. A few miles further we had a good solid meal, and a doze. Our kit was rather heavy, and we decided to jettison some superfluous weight, in the shape of some food, specimens, and our metal headgear, or mind-protectors, which at this distance, and with the hypnosis wearing a little thin, were, we thought, no longer necessary.


And then I realized what had happened. Bugala had waked up; he had wiped out the suggestion we had given to the super-consciousness, and in its place put in another. I could see him thinking it out, the cunning devil (one must give him credit for brains!), and hear him, after making his passes, whisper to the nation in prescribed form his new suggestion: "Will to return! Return!" For most of the inhabitants the command would have no meaning, for they would have been already at home. Doubtless some young men out on the hills, or truant children, or girls run off in secret to meet their lovers, were even now returning, stiffly and in somnambulistic trance, to their homes. It was only for them that the new command of the super-consciousness had any meaning—and for us.

I am putting it in a long and discursive way; at the moment I simply saw what had happened in a flash. I told Hascombe, I showed him it must be so, that nothing else would account for the sudden change. I begged and implored him to use his reason, to stick to his decision, and to come on. How I regretted that, in our desire to discard all useless weight, we had left behind our metal telepathy-proof head coverings!

But Hascombe would not, or could not, see my point. I suppose he was much more imbued with all the feelings and spirit of the country, and so more susceptible. However that may be, he was immovable. He must go back; he knew it; he saw it clearly; it was his sacred duty; and much other similar rubbish. All this time the suggestion was attacking me too; and finally I felt that if I did not put more distance between me and that unisonic battery of will, I should succumb as well as he.

The narrator makes it back home to tell his tale and sermonize about the accumulation of scientific power for its own sake vs. the search for truth.


Huxley never fully explains the method Hascombe uses to send mind-control signals other than it is based on hypnotic suggestion delivered verbally without a device to a group of individuals forming a super-consciousness, who can then amplify the signal telepathically to affect others farther away. As described, this super-consciousness is a kind of peer-to-peer mind-sharing network using a principle similar to Sheldrake's morphic fields. Hascombe discovers he can "tune hypnotic subjects to the same pitch", but the details of this are left to the reader's imagination.

Sir Julian Huxley, dabbler in mind-control?

His explicit reference to foil deflector beanies shows that Huxley had at least some passing familiarity with psychotronic technology and paranoid methods of combating it. He merely says that they are "metal", but mentioning them right before the "tin pulpit" implies they might be made of true tinfoil -- a more traditional deflective material used before the ready availability of superior aluminum foil shielding.

That Huxley doesn't mention psychotrons or other devices either shows his (at least then) ignorance of the actual operation of psychotronic mind-control, or his belief in the organic psychotronic abilities of the human brain -- a controversial theory among serious paranoid researchers but not uncommon among the mind-control elite.

(There is evidence that environmental aluminum can accumulate in the pineal gland -- which René Descartes called the "seat of sensus communis" and the "place in which all our thoughts are formed", and has long been identified as the inner Third Eye -- which can result in physical changes that may make the unshielded more susceptible to psychotronic control, or possibly, as the theory goes, transform the pineal gland into a biological psychotron that can transmit psychotronic signals unaided -- what is commonly referred to as "telepathy". However, this theory is beyond the scope of this story review.)

For a contemporary comparison, see Alexander Belyaev's mind-control novel The Lord of the World (first published in October, 1926) which includes both psychotronic devices and personal metal shielding, albeit of an incorrect mesh design. (Interestingly, the character of Kaczynski from that story was based on Russian telepathy researcher Bernard Bernardovich Kazhinsky, who believed the pineal gland held a special role in the development of a higher human consciousness based on "biological radio". Could Hascombe also be based in part on B.B. Kazhinsky? Huxley was both a scientist and a noted Internationalist, so it's not unreasonable that he would be aware of Russian endeavors in this field.)

It's certain that Huxley was later fully aware of psychotrons. His involvement with the UN as first director-general of UNESCO in 1946 would have made sure of that. While his scientific interests lay mostly in controversial biology -- he was a eugenicist and coined the term "transhumanism" -- his dabbling in the psychotronic arts can be seen in his proposing the concepts of "mentifact" and "sociofact" as part of a theory that anticipated memetics, a field with applications primarily in mind-control.

In the illustration by Frank R. Paul at the top that accompanies the Amazing Stories reprint, Hascombe looks like an elder Huxley. Coincidence or declaration of intent? In his book The Uniqueness of Man (1941), a manifesto of sorts for his ideas, Huxley not only reiterates a belief in deviceless telepathy, but argues for the creation of a new system of international religion (Scientific Humanism) and expresses a desire for society-level rejection of individualism that can only come about through large-scale programs of mind-control, not unlike what Hascombe developed:

Experiments such as those of Rhine and Tyrrell on extra sensory guessing experiences like those of Gilbert Murray on thought transference, and the numerous sporadic records of telepathy and clairvoyance suggest that some people at least possess possibilities of knowledge which are not confined within the ordinary channels of sense-perception.


At the moment there are vast possibilities of values running to waste because they are not harnessed, or because they are not even realized. The number of subtle and individual minds that find themselves unable to join wholeheartedly in any corporate organization is increasing; they find themselves over-individualized, incapable of experiencing many of the values which come from losing self. The organizations in which the individual can lose himself and taste self-sacrifice and corporate enhancement, are for the most part blatantly irrational like political parties, or committed to out-of-date or one-sided ideas like most of the churches; or, like public schools, they encourage crude and juvenile loyalties; or, as in the teamwork of sport, they satisfy only a limited part of human nature.

One real task for humanism as I see it is to develop organizations which shall satisfy the need for corporate action and loyalty—the desire we all have to feel of use—and shall provide an outlet for self-sacrifice as well as for intellectual aspirations. Mr Wells once sketched out such an organization in his 'New Samurai.' The success they might have is foreshadowed by the success already attending such imperfect adumbrations of the idea as the Boy Scouts or the various Youth Movements in Central Europe. I do not think it would be impossible to build up a scheme of the sort in connection with education, though at present most people not already committed to organizations are too much ashamed of showing enthusiasm in unfashionable ways to begin planning along the proper lines and on the proper scale.

Julian Huxley was the brother of Aldous Huxley, of Brave New World fame. In this 1958 interview, Aldous Huxley darkly hints (starting at 5:55) of superior devices and methods "at present available" to impose one's will on a people (note how he deftly deflects Mike Wallace's suggestion that he is talking about mere television):

Did he learn about this from his brother?

Read It

You can read "The Tissue-Culture King" in a scanned copy of Amazing Stories on archive.org. I've also made an ebook available in popular formats.

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