Sir Arthur Replies to Critics. Gives Advice to Adversaries

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Sir Arthur Replies to Critics. Gives Advice to Adversaries is an article written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in the San Francisco Chronicle on 3 june 1923.


Sir Arthur Replies to Critics

San Francisco Chronicle (3 june 1923, p. 8)

San Francisco critics of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's spiritual claims and of his psychic photographs, were answered yesterday by the eminent author, scientist and lecturer in a statement dealing with each critic separately. The criticisms of Dr. Ray Lyman Wilbur, president of Stanford University: Professor C. C. West of Stanford; Chester Rowell, editor, and former member of the Railroad Commission; Professor George Adams of the University of California; Father Jerome Ricard of Santa Clara University; Dr. J. E. Coover of Stanford, and Dr. Warner Brown of the University of California were each separately treated in the reply of the British lecturer. Sir Arthur's statement follows:


I should like to say a word to each of my adversaries.

Dr. Wilbur declares that there is no scientific basis for my beliefs. Well, he has a right to his opinions.

On the other hand, Hare, Crookes, Lombroso, Morselli, Zoilner, Lodge, Charles Richet and many other men of eminence in science disagree with him. They have written books on the subject and conducted long investigations. Has Dr. Lyman Wilbur done so? If not, is it not unscientific of him to pronounce a strong opinion without investigation in the teeth of so many eminent men who have investigated?

Professor West will take his chances of any purifying catastrophe: so will we all, but surely he cannot deny the fact of the World war or that it was caused by the material rather than the spiritual values prevailing in the world. If this has happened once why may it not happen again?


Chester Rowell says that he knows nothing about it - and imputes the same to me. Well, if I don't, it is not for want of thirty-six years of study and experiment. What is there vague when I say that I have seen, in the presence of witnesses, my mother within three feet of me, after her death. I should not have thought such an assertion was vague.

Professor Adams declares that it is all bunk. Has be read Schrenck-Notzing's book on materializations with its 200 photographs? Has he read Professor Crawford's three books on the physical manifestations at Belfast? Has he read the "Traité sur Metapsychique" by Charles Richet, professor of psychology at the University of Paris? Is it sensible or dignified to call the conclusions of such men "bunk"? Is not this sort of mental arrogance and intolerance the kind of thing which every new advance of knowledge has had to face?

Father Ricard looks upon me is a blind dupe. Harsh critics use the same words to the members of his own faith. A mere exchange of compliments of this sort cannot help us however. As a fact, Catholicism is founded entirely upon spiritualism, with saints as mediums and phenomena as miracles. No one can read the pre-Nicene fathers of the church without understanding this - as I could demonstrate by many quotations.


Dr. Coover cannot accept me as a scientist and I fear that I cannot accept him as a psychic scientist. He belongs to the school that is always proving negatives but is never capable of attaining what is positive. Seventy years ago men of this type were engaged in disproving mesmerism. Not long after every child who went to a village entertainment saw that mesmerism was a fact, so it was accepted, but the name changed to hypnotism. Now Dr. Coover uses hypnotism to explain such phenomena as Sir William Crooke's two years of experiences with a materialized spirit, or Giley's casts taken from the materialized hand of a ectoplasmic figure. Is Dr. Coover aware that within the last few months a hundred scientific men, including twenty-three professors of lay universities, have admitted that ectoplasm has been clearly shown them at Munich? What has this to do with hypnotism?


I do not wish to be offensive to Dr. Coover, but I cannot refrain from expressing the disappointment which is felt by thousands of psychic students throughout the world at the fact that the endowment for psychic research in the Stanford University has not been used in a more active way for the exploration of real psychic. We fill that it is in reactionary hand and that San Francisco might equal Munich or Paris in psychic study if the money were used to better advantage.

Dr. Warner Brown comments upon my psychic photographs. If he had seen them his opinion would be more valuable.