Communicating with the Other World

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Communicating with the Other World is an review written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The New-York Times on 18 june 1922.

Communicating with the Other World

The New-York Times (18 october 1914)


COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE NEXT WORLD. The Right and the Wrong Methods. A Textbook given by William T. Stead from "Beyond the Veil" through Mme. Hyver. Edited by Estelle W. Stead. New York, George H. Doran Company.

Experienced spiritualists look with deep suspicion upon all posthumous productions which have great names attached to them. Too much have we suffered from Shakespeares who cannot write, Shelleys who cannot scan and Coleridges who have lost all virility of thought. They are usually either subconscious personalities of the writer, manifesting in unexpected ways, or, as we hold, they may be the work of pompous and foolish entities in the beyond, for, since the essence of our creed is that death makes no difference to the personality, we must be surrounded by such undeveloped natures. I have seen a few cases, and only a few, where the style and the matter were so characteristic that all my literary instincts told me that it was the man himself. I remember, for example, a very beautiful piece of English purporting to come from Oscar Wilde which contained a description of the Arctic Sea, "Waters of foaming jade," which was as clearly his as if I had seen him write it.

This little book may also, in my opinion, be accepted at its face value. The evidence seems as clear as possible. We have the fact that Miss Stead was told that the information would come through French medium — a most unlikely thing for any one to imagine or invent — and then the actual fulfillment. An excellent reason is given also, since the writer declares that he wanted a clear slate, and not one which had already been marked or blurred by personal contact with himself.

The result justifies the attempt, as the book constitutes the clearest revelation which we have had of the most safe. It is the one with which nature and difficulties of mediumship as seen from the other side. Our own usual division is, roughly, that this strange and sacred power, which is probably latent in all of us, though it is predominant in a few, can best be divided into external and internal. The former covers all physical phenomena, lights, movements, levitations and other signs of power which are, in our opinion, signs and wonders to attract the attention of mankind and lead him to consider the spiritual forces which lie behind them. Internal medium ship would include the gift of hearing, the gift of discerning spirits, of trance utterance, of spirit possession, of automatic writing, and all other Intellectual manifestations of a power outside ourselves. The writer of this book brings out with great clearness the fact that a discarnate entity has grave difficulties in reaching us and in manifesting in matter. The unreasonable people who are continually asking why do not spirits do this or that make no allowance for these difficulties, which are so great that the writer professes herself to be astonished that they have been able to accomplish so much as they have, a considering the wretched response which they have met with from us, fie is insistent upon the fact that if we accustom ourselves to the view that we are spirits here and now, refusing to submit to complete submergence in matter, that will lift our plane up so much nearer to theirs that communication will be much easier.

Of all forms of mediumship, the intuitive or indirect appears to be the I am myself most familiar. as I have a supreme example of it in my own family. In this ease the writer is perfectly normal all the time, and her brain can tell a second or so in advance what the written word will be, and yet the total message, though often lacking absolute detail in names and dates, is most clearly from outside her own organism. Here, then, is none of that fear of obsession which may be justified when the whole body is given up to an outside visitor, and yet many great trance mediums whom I have known have enjoyed as good health and as well-balanced minds as their fellows. On the whole, as the writer concludes, it would be well for those who are hysterical or weak to avoid any contact with such a form of communication.

The book is sane, moderate and conservative to a degree which some spiritualists would consider excessive. It bears the mark of deep thought and mellow wisdom. Nothing of greater authority has ever appeared upon the subject, though it is only the advanced psychic student who will appreciate how weighty are the judgments expressed.