Prologue: The Ethics of Belief

London, April 11, 1876: The scene is Grosvenor Square, just before 10 P.M. Around us, on the sidewalks of the square, Victorian gentlemen, many in top hats and evening clothes, are making their way toward the ornate entrance of the Grosvenor Hotel. We follow them in and are guided toward the upstairs parlor, where the monthly meeting of London’s elite Metaphysical Society is to take place.

The Society’s members include Alfred Tennyson, William Gladstone, Thomas Huxley, Cardinal Manning, Arthur James Balfour . . . in short, the cream of London intelligentsia. The subject this evening is, as always, philosophy. Before the proceedings begin, the participants are talking in small groups, picking up threads of the last ...

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