Koestler and His Jewish Thesis

A malign biography of a flawed but hugely gifted man.

Issue: Fall 1999

David Cesarani, Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind (New York: Free Press, 1999)

When Arthur Koestler and his wife Cynthia jointly committed suicide in 1983, they left a bequest of about $1.67 million to finance psychic research and study of the paranormal. Universities in Oxford, Cambridge and London refused the money for fear of mockery; it was known that after staying at various Indian ashrams, Koestler had been investigating levitation and had installed a big weighing machine in his front hall because it would be easier to detect the loss of a few pounds than to measure the gap between stockinged feet and the carpet. People said Koestler had committed suicide twice, once by barbiturates, once by ridicule. No matter, Edinburgh University took the money; it had an academic psychologist who was willing to study these arcana. The web home page of the Koestler Foundation and its Koestler Parapsychology Unit explains how they labor on research into Psi (the conventional symbol for the unknown in an equation). Along with the money came the voluminous papers and a bronze bust of the benefactor.

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