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Lost Legacy

Lost Legacy (1941) is a novella by science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein. Originally published in the November, 1941 issue of Super Science Stories, it was collected in the book Assignment in Eternity (1953).

The novella is an exploration of the possibilities that humans, with the proper training, have the potential to make use of a wide range of telepathic and telekinetic abilities. It is based on the presumption that most, if not all, humans have innate psychic abilities, but simply do not know it and therefore do not make use of them. This ignorance is encouraged by a mysterious and powerful cabal which benefits from keeping people unaware of their abilities.

Plot summary

No date is given for the events, but they are in a near future America where Ambrose Bierce (born 1842) is said to be over 100 years old. Europe and Asia have suffered a "collapse" and the only significant technological advances mentioned are Picturephones and a "pocketphone". The story relates the rediscovery of psychic powers by a trio from a California university (a woman student, and two male friends, an MD/instructor at the medical college and a Psychology professor), and the attempts of a corrupt elite to silence them.

There is also a group of individuals that have developed their telepathic and other powers for good and live in secrecy on Mount Shasta. They can tap into an inner power somewhat like the Force discussed in Star Wars. This group claims Mark Twain was one of them, as was Walt Whitman and Oliver Wendell Holmes. As part of their program to protect America as a bastion of freedom they chose Abraham Lincoln. After being rescued by Ambrose Bierce the three main characters stay with them. In the secret headquarters on the mountain they receive training.

According to psychic records found by the good adepts, humanity reached a great level of development in a Golden Age, but when their leaders (mythologized into such gods as Jove and Odin) moved on to a new plane of existence, a new group used their mental powers for profit. After a great war their main bases in Mu and Atlantis sank and humanity was thrown back to a Stone Age.

The main characters begin to spread information on how to use psychic powers, particularly training Boy Scouts. After the evil cabal tries to stop them, individual mental battles occur between the two groups with the good adepts victorious. The story ends with a lyrical description of an empty Earth, since the human race has now evolved to a new plane of existence. An ape is beginning the long climb of his species to intelligence and psychic ability.


  • Dr. Philip Huxley — Professor of Psychology at Western University.
  • Dr. Ben Coburn — Neurosurgeon at Western University.
  • Joan Freeman — Student of Psychology at Western University.
  • Dr. Brinckley — President of Western University.
  • Residents of Mt. Shasta
    • Ambrose Bierce — Based on the writer Ambrose Bierce.
    • Charles — Painter.
    • Mrs. Draper — Mood composer.
    • Ephraim Howe — "Senior" of the council of elders.
    • Master Ling
  • Ferguson — D.A. office representative.
  • Senator Moulton
  • Arthurson
  • Agnes — Televangelist.
  • Weems
  • Hanson
  • Chief
  • Brother Artemis — Televangelist.