as Andrew Jackson Davis was called the
"John the Baptist" of Modern Spiritualism, Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle was called the "St. Paul" of Spiritualism. He was
a prolific writer on the subject and an avid proponent. And, of
course, he is renowned for his Sherlock Holmes stories.
Sir Arthur's introduction to the occult took place while he was
a physician at Southsea, United Kingdom. During the years 1885
to 1888, he was invited to participate in table turning sittings
at the home of one of his patients, General Drayson, a teacher
at the Greenwich Naval College. The medium was a railway signalman,
and some amazing phenomena and apportations took place.
The phenomena were, quite frankly, too amazing for Sir Arthur,
and he underrated both the honesty of the medium and the intelligence
of the sitters. Nonetheless, his interest was aroused.
Shortly thereafter, he joined the Society for Psychical Research
(SPR) and carried out a series of experiments with a Mrs. Ball.
From these experiments, Sir Arthur was convinced that telepathy
was genuine. As far as survival and mediumship were concerned,
in 1902, when he first met Sir Oliver Lodge, he had not arrived
at any definite conclusions. However, Myers' classic, Human
Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death, made a deep
impression upon him.
For nearly 30 years, Sir Arthur continued his studies and investigations.
Finally, at the peak of his literary career, at approximately
the age of 58, he took a decisive step and wrote The New Revelation
and The Vital Message. In these books, he firmly associated
himself with the cause of Modern Spiritualism.
His critics -- and there were many -- attributed his newly found
faith to bereavement suffered during the war; he vehemently denied
these statements. His youngest son, Kingsley, died of pneumonia
during the war. A year after his son's death, he attended a sitting
held by a Welsh medium; there, his son spoke to him. Later on,
he stated: "It was his voice and he spoke of concerns unknown
to the medium." Shortly after this, he saw his mother and
nephew, in his words: "As plainly as I ever saw them in life!"
The cynic would call his jump into Spiritualism nothing more than
a manifestation of grief. The clear-headed thinker would see this
as an answer to his prayers and worries. Thank God for us all
that Sir Arthur was a clear-headed thinker.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most substantive book on Spiritualism
is the two-volume set, The History of Spiritualism. This
is an absolute must-read for all students of the subject. Within
its pages, he discusses a wide range of subjects and personalities
linked with the Modern Spiritualist Movement, both in America
and the United Kingdom.
Addressing the remarks of his critics, he writes in The History
of Spiritualism the following:
sight of the world which was distraught with sorrow and which
was eagerly asking for help and knowledge, did certainly affect
my mind and cause me to understand that these psychic studies,
which I had so long pursued, were of immense practical importance
and could no longer be regarded as a mere intellectual hobby
or fascinating pursuit of a novel research. It was this realization
which, from early in 1916, caused me and my wife to devote ourselves
largely to this subject, to lecture upon it in many countries,
and to travel to Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada
upon missions of instruction."
Further on, he declared:
for the charge of credulity which is invariable directed by
the unreceptive against anyone who forms a positive opinion
upon this subject, I can solemnly aver that in the course of
my long career as an investigator, I cannot recall one single
case where it was clearly shown that I had been mistaken upon
any serious point, or had given a certificate of honesty to
a performance which was afterwards clearly proved to be dishonest.
A man who is credulous does not take twenty years of reading
and experiment before he comes to his fixed conclusions."
We cringe at Sir Arthur's use of the word performance;
however, this statement bears great weight upon his support for
He began his mission in 1918, with visits to most of the major
cities of Great Britain. Then, during 1920 and 1921, he visited
Australia and New Zealand. Early in 1922, he went to America and
toured the Eastern states; the following year, he traveled as
far as California. In 1928, he left for South Africa, and in the
autumn of that same year, he preached Spiritualism in the Northern
countries of Europe.
Let it not be said that his promulgation of Spiritualism did not
come without a price. He expended a tremendous amount of physical
and emotional energy. Furthermore, it is estimated that the decline
in his literary output, because of his devotion to Spiritualism,
translated into a loss of approximately £200,000, an amazing
amount of money for the time.
Sir Arthur was not exempt from professional conflicts either.
During 1922, when the Society for Psychical Research was invloved
in a scandal surrounding spirit photographer, William Hope, Sir
Arthur stood up valiantly in defense of Mr. Hope. This caused
a riff between him and the prestigious S.P.R. His association
with the S.P.R. was further antagonized by Theodore Besterman's
review of Mrs. Hack's Modern Miracles at Millesimo Castle.
Finally, believing that the honor of Ernesto Bozzano, investigator
of the famous Italian medium, Eusapia Paladino, and a close friend,
was compromised by the Society, Sir Arthur resigned his membership.
This resignation widened the already growing gulf between Spiritualists
of the day and psychic researchers. This caused many Spiritualists
to resign their membership to the S.P.R.
At the International Spiritualist Congress, held in Paris, in
1925, Sir Arthur was nominated Honorary President. In the same
year, he had a public discussion, in London, with Sir Arthur Keith
on Spiritualism. He won many points during this public debate.
It was during Sir Arthur's Presidency of the London Spiritualist
Alliance that Mrs. Cantlon, one of the mediums sanctioned by the
Alliance, was charged with fortune-telling (quite illegal at the
time). When the Alliance was assessed with costs amounting to
£800, he voiced a vigorous protest in The London Times,
alleging that this was nothing more than an organized persecution
of Spiritualists. He, then, started a drive for the modification
of the Fortune Telling Act; and, on July 1, 1930, he led a petition
to Council. Six days later, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle passed to Spirit.
True to his ways, even death did not silence him. On July 13,
1930, a large reunion was held in Albert Hall, London. A chair
was left empty in honor of Sir Arthur. Estelle Roberts, one of
England's finest and most respected mediums, said that she saw
clairvoyantly Conan Doyle in the chair and offered a personal
message from the great writer to his family; they accepted the
message as evidential.
Since then -- and, unfortunately, as is the case amongst so many
Spiritualists -- numerous mediums, on both sides of the Atlantic,
claim to have given spirit messages from Sir Arthur. Most were
simply the renderings of psychic spot-lighters. However, one communication
was very evidential, very revealing, and quite noteworthy. In
fact, it so impressed psychic researcher and officer of the American
Society for Psychical Research (ASPR), Harry Price, that he discussed
the communication in the January, 1931, issue of the Nash Magazine,
under the title of "The Return of Conan Doyle." The medium
who had given this communication was the prestigious Eileen
In an address before members of the London Spiritualist Alliance,
in October, 1931, Sir Oliver Lodge (author of the Raymond series)
best summed up Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's views and approach to
Spiritualism and Spiritualist phenomena as follows:
methods are not mine, he regarded himself as a missionary, a
trustee of a great truth which he felt bound to with others,
whether they would receive it or whether they would reject and
ridicule it, but one cannot but admire the completeness and
self-sacrificing character of his life and doctrines. Occasionally,
I think, he lacked the wisdom of the serpent, but the goodness
of his motives must be manifest to all."
Truer words could not be echoed regarding this remarkable figure
in the history of Modern Spiritualism.
lovely Obituary Note was written by Dr. L.R.G. Crandon, husband
of Boston's famous physical medium, Margery
Crandon, in the August, 1930, issue of Psychic Research,
the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research. Further
on, in that same issue, researcher Harry Price, wrote the following:
passing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at 9:15 a.m. on July 7th,
1930 removes the greatest personality spiritualism ever possessed
-- or is ever likely to possess. By sheer personal determination
he raised the subject of psychic phenomena into the arena of
acute controversy -- and kept it there."
Dr. Crandon, who, with his wife, Margery, had become very close
friends and associates with Sir Arthur and Lady Doyle, gave a
most touching tribute in the Obituary Note referenced above. He
Monday, July 7, 1930, the world of literature, story telling,
happy-home living, and the world of Spiritualism lost a leader.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has passed over.
many will write obituaries of him in general terms that it will
be perhaps of value for us to write of him in a more personal
Margery Group has lost a tireless champion. From the first Sir
Arthur's big Celtic heart has appreciated Margery's work and
has fought for it whenever challenged."
He ended his tribute with the following:
7, 1930, the day of his going over, the Margery Group held a
seance, and, for the first time in over three years, Walter
did not come through. A perfectly reasonable (not evidential)
explanation was given by Mark, one of Walter's helpers, who
manifested himself at this sitting. He said, in effect: 'Walter
is busy as one of a reception committee to a great Spirit, newly
so he has passed for a time, serving in a new sphere, we have
no doubt, and immortal in our hearts, we are sure."
Books written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, other than the Sherlock
Holmes series, include:
New Revelation, 1918;
The Vital Message, 1919;
Wanderings of a Spiritualist, 1921;
The Coming of the Fairies, 1922;
Our American Adventure, 1923;
Our Second American Adventure, 1923;
Memories and Adventures, 1924;
Spiritualists' Readers, 1924;
The Land of Mist, 1926;
History of Spiritualism, 1926;
The Case for Spirit Photography, 1924;
Pheneas Speaks, 1927;
Our African Winter, 1929;
The Edge of the Unknown, 1930.