A Spiritual Lead

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

A Spiritual Lead is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in Light on 28 may 1921.

The letter is attaching a second letter by Conan Doyle which was refused by The Times.

A Spiritual Lead

Light (7 may 1921, p. 295)

To the Editor of LIGHT.

Sir, — "The Times" has recently had a symposium of writers discussing the need for some fresh spiritual motives in the world. I wrote upholding our claim to represent such a movement, but my letter was, as I expected, returned. Perhaps you would have the goodness to print it, and to send a few marked copies to such quarters as may seem advisable.

Yours faithfully,

Arthur Conan Doyle.
May 21st.


Sir, — There have been a number of letters in your columns which speak of the need of a spiritual revival in this country — and indeed in the whole world. About seventy years after the birth of the Christ there was a similar feeling of dissatisfaction in the Roman world, where the higher souls revolted against the cruelty and lust which were so conspicuous under the early Emperors. Seneca, in spite of his enormous wealth, was a man of sensitive feelings, and he has left a record of this vague yearning after a nobler and more unselfish code of life. As he surveyed the world around him, he could see no spiritual lead in any direction. And yet at that very moment, in his own household — or if not there, certainly in the household of Caesar — there were some "low-down," despised people, slaves or freedmen, who were so humble that their existence was hardly known to him. So absurd did their doctrines seem, and so universal was their condemnation, that for two hundred years they were hardly alluded to save by writers like Celsus, who overwhelmed them with satire and abuse. Yet these were the Christians, and we all now know what they really represented, and what their advent meant to that world which was so slow to understand their message.

Once again a message has come, and once again, some seventy years after the event, we find the wise men and the good men feeling out into the darkness for some solid stay, while all the while the lowly and the despised have found a support. I allude to that movement which, under the name or Spiritualism, has been the butt of the wits and the scorn of the "highbrows," as its great prototype was before it. Even its warmest opponents must now admit, after two generations of effort, that ridicule and misrepresentation are not going to put it down, and that it is destined not only to live, but to grow. Many millions in all countries believe in it with all their hearts and minds, and they proclaim that they find in it that very spur to moral endeavour for which your correspondents are calling. Is it not worth while, then, for the bulk of mankind to cease knocking down a stuffed image which they call by this name, and to consider seriously whether this spiritual development may not have something in it which merits their most earnest attention.

At present it is known to most men by its weaknesses, real or alleged, even as that new cult was to the Romans, who spoke of agapae feasts, and fishes, and asses’ heads, but saw nothing of the great realities behind. There have been scandals among Spiritualists, as there have been scandals in every other religious body. Even the twelve Apostles included a Judas. Man is always weaker than the truth which he may champion. But we who have had the actual experience, and who know what the effects have been upon our own minds and souls, know beyond all doubt that a very great thing has come into the world, and that it is our duty in season, or out of season to call the attention of our fellow mortals that they may share our knowledge.

It would not be proper that your columns, thrown open for the considerations of spirituality in general, should be devoted to the particular or detailed discussion of any cult. Therefore, I pass that by, merely remarking that no one can deny that, if our claims are true, and if we have a real "communion of Saints" and learn from them the truth of the future, it gives a very solid basis for religious revival. We have the driving force. Above all, we demand no violent wrench from old beliefs, and we find an assured knowledge which represents an addition to, and not a subtraction from, anything of real spirituality which the individual may already possess. I am certain that when the irrelevancies and misunderstandings are cleared away, it is along this line with the unadulterated teaching of Jesus on one side, and modern psychic experience on the other, that the future religion lies.

Arthur Conan Doyle.
May 11th.