In 1955, "Voices," a short story by Brave New World author Aldous Huxley, was published in The Atlantic. Huxley's satire describes one night in the life of Pamela, a disgruntled orphan, and her high-class relations, who (as Pamela likes to remind the reader) have no hope of ever understanding her.
The story begins with a party, hosted by Pamela's aunt. It's all pleasantries until, halfway through the evening, one of the guests, Miss Dillon, starts to hear voices at the dinner table. All of the others listen intently, enraptured. They can hear them, too. When Pamela realizes how seriously her aunt is taking these voices, she decides to try to recreate them -- a game that eventually becomes a murder.
Just before "Voices" appeared in The Atlantic, Huxley -- who would have turned 119 today -- wrote The Doors of Perception, a famous collection of essays about how taking mescaline led him to enlightenment. He wrote this biting satire of upper-class life a year later. Below is an excerpt from "Voices," and you can read the full text here.
There was silence in the lily pool. And now she would refresh her abhorrence of the humans. Keeping to the shadows, Pamela walked over to the house. There they were, behind the plate glass, like things in an aquarium. Mr. Bull was doing the crossword in the London Times. In the yellow sofa beyond the fireplace, Aunt Eleanor was busy on the embroidery of that altar cloth for Bishop Hicks. Beside her sat Alec Pozna with a book, reading aloud. Under the bristles of his mustache those juicy sea anemones that were his lips moved steadily, inaudibly. He turned a page and Pamela had a glimpse of the title: Spiritual Something or Other -- the second word escaped her. She smiled sardonically, remembering that phrase she had read in an article by some Austrian psychoanalyst -- "Menopause Spirituality." In Aunt Eleanor's case it was Menopause Spirituality combined with Senility Spiritualism. You could express it in the form of an equation: -
"Change of Life multiplied by Fear of Death equals
Spiritual Something or Other plus
Give us a Message."
Result: poor old Mr. Bull had to listen to voices, and the unspeakable Pozna (whose personal taste, as she knew, ran to Mickey Spillane and naked girls with bullet holes two inches below the navel) had to spend his evenings reading about Mental Prayer and Religious Experiences.