An Amazing Séance and an Exposure

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
An Amazing Séance and an Exposure (1919)
An Amazing Séance and an Exposure (1919)

An Amazing Séance and an Exposure is a book written by Sydney A. Moseley published in july 1919 by Sampson Low, Marston & Co. Ltd. and including an introduction written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Introduction by Arthur Conan Doyle

Mr. Sydney Moseley is the latest example of a gentleman who has approached the subject of spirit survival and spirit communion with an open mind, and has been convinced by the evidence. His researches have not extended over a long period of time, but he has had exceptional opportunities of seeing and recording some outstanding cases which must make a deep impression upon any mind capable of reason. He has asked me to write an introduction to his little book, which I do the more willingly because I have myself had some experience of three of the leading examples of mediumship to which he refers.

The first case is that of the Thomas brothers, the two Welsh miners, whose powers I witnessed at Cardiff. A considerable controversy arose in the London Press as a result of this sitting, a controversy which was deplored by many spiritualists as drawing public attention too much to the cruder and more material phenomena. I sympathise with this feeling upon the part of those to whom psychic religion is a very sacred thing, but at the same time I believe that we are dealing with a thoroughly material generation, with limited and self-satisfied religious and scientific lines of thought, which can only be broken up and finally rearranged by the shock of encountering physical phenomena which are outside their philosophies. This whole campaign is, in my belief, engineered from the other side, and one can continually catch glimpses of wisdom and purpose beyond that of the world. The levitation of a tambourine or the moving of furniture may seem humble and even ludicrous phenomena, but the more thoughtful mind understands that the nature of the object is immaterial, and that the real question has to do with the force which moves it. It has been suggested to the brothers Thomas that a tambourine — which is used because its position can be heard in the dark — seems incongruous in connection with the religious atmosphere which should pervade a seance, and that some more solemn symbol, touched with luminous paint, would be more in keeping with hymns and prayer. It is probable, therefore, that the cheap jests about tambourines have had their day.

The spiritual world is complex and enormous, comprising an infinite number of beings of every grade, ranging from the sprite to the archangel. It is my experience that in approaching this new world there is some psychic law by which one finds what one seeks. If one's object is curiosity or wonder-mongering, one can indulge it ; if it is to obtain touch with vanished friends, one can get it ; if it is to attain high spiritual teaching, that also is within our powers. I have had no personal experience of it, but I have no doubt that there is such a thing as black magic, and that wicked men could find their like upon the other side, and make some cabal of roguery, with the limitation that the forces of light are always stronger in the end. I have myself had a very wide experience of messages, and I can truly say that in more than thirty years I have never seen one which was in any way offensive, while I have had very many which were in the highest degree edifying and stimulating. So much for the diabolic theory! Christ's common-sense test still holds good.

Humble as they are, the physical phenomena play an important rôle in this movement. Had the little house at Hydesville sent forth nothing but the highest and most inspiring literature, it would have made little impression upon the nineteenth-century mind — the most material and formal mind of which we have any record. It was the phenomena and the evidence of disembodied intelligence which lay behind them which arrested the attention of the world and convinced those who are capable of recognising evidence. So also during the seventy years which have elapsed the physical phenomena have been the first (and sometimes, alas, the last) stage of a conversion from materialism or scientific incredulity. If the late Sir William Crookes had not been struck by these phenomena, his great name would never have been added to the roll of pioneers, and so of many other illustrious champions of truth, some of whom seem to have remained in the phenomena stage, while others understood that these things had no more relation to the real revelation than Christ's miracles had to His teachings, and cheap jests about tables or tambourines are as relevant as jokes about loaves and fishes would be. What that fuller revelation is cannot be set down in the compass of a preface, but is to be discovered by those who take trouble. None other is worthy.

It is the mediumship of Thomas which has caused me to make these remarks, but Mr. Moseley deals with a higher phase of the subject when he speaks of the work of Mrs. B. He describes the evidence which I was able to put before him and a number of representatives of the London Press, and, if I may judge by the comments, that evidence was as completely convincing to them as to me. Thus, after the long and warm controversy which has raged in the papers, I am left, as it seems to me, in possession of the field.

I was able when the London journalists called upon me to show that twenty-four results out of twenty-six of which I had record through the mediumship of this psychic had proved reliable. Since then I have received more than ten which endorse this finding. In at least one of them the names of nearly every dead member of the family were given. Some attempt has been made to counter these results by sending down journalists to test the medium's powers. Even these have not been entirely unsuccessful, as the account of Mr. Ulyss Roge{}, in the Evening Standard will show, but editors might realise once for all that the Powers in question can nothing for the penny papers, that they obey fixed laws which are those of harmony and sympathy, and that the best way to investigate a question is not a method which breaks fundamental laws at the outset. It is not the smart young journalists in search of a sensational exposure, but it is the broken-hearted mothers yearning for their children, who bear with them the conditions of success.

I will say no more, lest the Preface should encroach upon the book, but I can only assure the reader, if he needs assurance, that Mr. Sydney Moseley is an honest and very sane observer, and that his conclusions deserves the most careful attention.