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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, KStJ, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

Spiritualism. A Reply to Criticisms

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Spiritualism. A Reply to Criticisms is an article written by a journalist of The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) published on 29 november 1920.

Spiritualism. A Reply to Criticisms

The Sydney Morning Herald (29 november 1920)


In his final lecture on Saturday afternoon at the Town Hall, to a large audience, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took occasion to reply to certain criticisms.

Mr. Wilfred Blacket, he said, had a few days ago written a letter attacking D. D. Home, putting forward everything said against him as truth, and quoting nothing that had been done on the other side. He had written a letter in reply to Mr Blacket; but now instead of learning wisdom Mr. Blacket had written another letter attacking the medium "Eva," stating that she had made a confession that her early phenomena were fraudulent. There was in France, said Sir Arthur, a most fanatical religious party, the members of which were cut without any scruple whatever to "down" anything in the nature of spiritualism when Charles Bailey - now in Australia, and as a medium one of the best he had ever met - went to France, Roman Catholic fanatics, laid an obvious trap for him - one that could be seen at once to be impossible It was just the same in the case of "Eva." The facts there were simply the outcome of this religious determination to crush spiritualism The original sittings of "Eva" were attended by Dr. Charles Richet, the French scientist. It was be who arranged the tests, and he entirely endorsed the phenomena. The attacks were based upon the information of some anonymous lawyer; he had put forward a statement that "Eva" had retracted, but she had never retracted.

Sir Arthur admitted that every precaution should be taken with a medium. He employed every possible test, for he did not trust the medium; "but," he added, "I also do not trust theologians who make up committees of investigation. No check is ever put upon them." Dr. Schrenck-Notzing, with another medium In Munich, secured results exactly similar to those he had obtained in Paris with "Eva." Was it not, Sir Arthur demanded, foolish to say that nothing happened when a man like Charles Richet stated that something did happen?

There were, he admitted, "faked" photographs, done by amateurs for fun, but he could not imagine that a professional medium would do this, since there was no money in it. Throwing upon the screen the picture of a group of members of a psychic society, in the midst of which a spirit face appeared, he ridiculed the presumption of "fake" in such, a picture. These witnesses, he said, were honest men and women. Spiritualists, he emphasised, were talking about things they had themselves done, and about phenomena they had themselves tested. And then some fellow came along who had never been at a seance in his life and contradicted them. People sometimes asked, "Why doesn't Conan Doyle tell us who murdered "So-and-so?" But we on this side could not command the spirits. If the murdered man's spirit chose to return he could give the news; there was nobody here who could do it. In the annals of crime it was recorded that dead people had returned and given this information.

Sir Arthur quoted expressions of opinion from various religious lenders, and also mentioned the Dean of Sydney and others as viewing this subject from a broad stand-point. He related the experience of a Presbyterian family In Dublin who, knowing nothing of spiritualism, received information of messages which had come from their dead son by moans of the planchette. The father at first did not lake any notice of this, believing spiritualism to be uncanny and fraught with evil, but, as his son had boon a God-fearing boy, he decided to investigate the matter The messages tame through a little girl, a stranger to the family, and the lecturer rend an account given by the father of the conversation. Tho announcement was made that tho son was really sending the message, and asked his parents not to grieve, as he was very happy. He asked them to allow Fluffy, a little Pomeranian, to come into the room. The dog, the father stated, looked into the air when it camp in, and made a peculiar whining noise. The father announced that Judy, the dog's mother, had died; whereupon tho reply came that Judy was lying on the rug as she used to do when alive. The messages further stated that the son was on the fourth plane; that there were seven planes, and that he hoped to ascend higher, but asked his relatives to pray for him. "Have you work to do?" he was asked; and the reply was, "I preach to the soldiers in the lower spheres, to help them up." In answer to the question, "Would you come back?" the reply was, "No; this is a beautiful place." Another question was "Does God answer prayer?" and the reply was, "Yes; if you pray hard enough you will receive an answer." Sir Arthur's comment was that this dialogue seemed to him very religious and very beautiful.

The lecturer travelled over much of the ground of the previous Saturday, and the photographs, with the exception of one or two, were those shown on that occasion. He mentioned that there were only three spirit photographers in Great Britain, and said that they could hardly hope to have many here, with a much smaller population. "And," he added, "as long as you throw your mediums into gaol you are not very likely to get one." Incidentally, he said that he himself was not mediumistic at all.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is to leave New Zealand on Thursday. Ho will visit Queensland on his return to Australia.


The united spiritualist service in the Town Hall last night in honour of Sir Arthur and Lady Conan Doyle's mission, and under the auspices of the Spiritualist Church of New South Wales, was crowded to the doors long before the hour of commencement. It marked Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's last public appearance in Sydney before leaving for New Zealand on Thursday. He will return to Sydney in the course of his tour. A warm welcome was accorded to the distinguished visitor as he entered the hall in company with Lady Conan Doyle.

The air rippled with thousands of fluttering white handkerchiefs as Sir Conan Doyle rose to speak. They were fluttered again for his wife, then for his children, and for his party. He said it was a delight to be among his own people, because, although he had never found Australian audiences hostile, he nevertheless lived in an atmosphere of criticism, and one got tired of eternally trying to teach that a b, spelt "ab." (Laughter.) "You know," he added, "what I know. You know that these facts which I have been telling you are facts; you have shared experiences which I have had, and it is not necessary for me to explain matters to you. I get so used to lecturing that I am going to lecture even the spiritualists. It does no harm to be lectured occasionally. I am a married man myself. (Laughter.) For Heaven's sake, keep this thing high and unspotted; do not let it drop down to those regions of fortune-telling, and so on, which leave such an ugly impression on the public mind. Keep it in its most religious and its purest atmosphere. I do not mean that a medium should be unpaid. A true medium is the most useful person in the whole community. (Applause.) That such persons should have to waste their energies in earning a living when they may be giving us enormous consolation is. I think, a mistake. We do not look half enough after the interests of our mediums." Speaking of the prostitution of the great movement, he said that, much as he disliked fraund, they must not too rapidly jump to the conclusion that fraud existed. Mistakes were made, but half of them were due only to the ignorance of the sitters, who did not know what the limitations of power were. When they knew that there was fraud it was their duty to expose it.

"Do not quarrel with our Christian brethren," he added amidst applause. "Any number of them are just as good spiritualists as you are." He spoke of having only that morning attended Mr. Saunders's Congregational Church at Manly, and he assured his audience that night that both the hymns and the sermon, and everything about it, were very beautiful, and would have commended themselves to any spiritualist. Some people associated with the movement to which he belonged were even so foolish as to turn down the Bible. He would like to see road at every meeting a passage of the Bible which concerned spiritualism - (applause) - showing that that Book was soaked from cover to cover in spiritual and occult knowledge. Some people said: "What about Theosophists?" They originally made the great mistake of underrating the spiritualists. "Except," he said, "that we talk English and they talk goodness knows what - (laughter) - there is very little difference in the early stages between us. I look upon them as men and women who ought to be officers of this movement. They have done less than their duty. (Applause.) Instead of leading this occult movement, they formed an intellectual movement of their own, never attempting to bring the masses on with them." (Applause.)

The impressive service included organ recitals, hymns, and vocal numbers from "The Messiah" and other works. Following the invocation by Mr. John Oates, the audience sang the Lord's Prayer, the service concluding with the doxology and benediction.