Spiritualism. Its Religious Side

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Spiritualism. Its Religious Side is an article of a journalist of The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) published on 18 november 1920.


Spiritualism. Its Religious Side

The Sydney Morning Herald (18 november 1920)



Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in his second lecture at the Town Hall last night, before another crowded audience, dealt with the religious side of spiritualism, and incidentally drew a picture of the life beyond the grave.

He began with a criticism of the attitude of the Churches. If psychical research was a proper thing, as they admitted, he could not understand why they did not go further, and allow it to impinge upon religion. They might as well plant apple trees and say "For goodness sake don't let us have any apples." "This teaching is not subversive of Christianity," he insisted. "It the Christian sects got out of their narrow cliques and took a broader view of the situation they would understand that we are a helpful ally to their religious. A great flood of new revelation had come upon the world through spiritualism, and when the Churches accepted it, they would find that they were really more orthodox than they were now. They would understand at last what the Communion of Saints really did mean. The Spiritualist Churches were organised on a Unitarian basis, having been pushed out of their own churches; but this revelation was too big for any one sect or any one religion. The Spiritualist Churches were making a peaceful penetration into the other Churches, and numbers of individual clergymen were giving their support to this movement.

The Churches, he contended, were near to the point of extinction when only one man in ten went to church. This was the point, then, at which the Spiritualists stepped in, and proved to materialists by science that the dead lived. The Churches ought to have welcomed them in their proof of this fact, but really the quarrel was caused by only a few violent and wrong-headed people.

It was contended that It was not right to call down the dead. But nobody had ever succeeded in doing that, and spiritualists did not claim that it could be done. All that they declared possible was to establish physical conditions so that messages could be received from the dead. At the initiative must come from the dead themselves. Sometimes the seeker after messages obtained the friend whom he sought; sometimes he obtained someone else, and sometimes he got nothing at all. Then it was asked, "Should we do this?" His reply was, Was there any power which God had given us which we should not use? If we had a power which we neglected to use the responsibility was upon us.

As to the value of spiritualism, he declared that he could show trunks full of letters proving this. Among those were cases where people who had been driven to desperation, and wore on the edge of suicide, were saved from that fate. When they regarded the number of broken lives which had thus been restored, how difficult it was to suppose that something which achieved such results was wrong.

Their opponents often quoted texts of Scripture against them. These texts were from Leviticus and Deuteronomy. But that was the old Mosaic law, and as he was not a Jew it did not apply to him in the slightest degree. The law against the eating of pork, and that stipulating that a man's hair and beard should be trimmed in a particular way, were not binding upon them; but these laws appeared in the same book as the law against witchcraft.

He went on to argue that a heavy responsibility might rest upon a relative who did not use the power to communicate with the dead, and in support of this quoted a case where, at a seance, he heard the voice of a young man who had been killed in the war, and who complained to him, in the most melancholy voice, "Mother won't believe!" He wrote to the mother, telling her of this message from her son, but her reply was that it was a demon who had spoken to him at the seance. Two days afterward, at another seance, he heard the voice again of this young man, and heard that which he never wished to hear again, the sobbing of a spirit. The mother was no doubt guided by high conscientious motives; but when she and her son met, she would surely have something very hard to explain.

The lecturer launched out upon a description of life after death, compiled, he explained, from information collected from the messages from the other side of the grave. The spiritual body, or the etheric body, us the spiritualists called it, passed out from the material body when death occurred; and after being immersed in slumber for a few hours, or days, or months, in order that the stains of the worries of this world should be removed, was led away by its friends to begin its new duties. When the dead were asked, "What is your world like?" they replied, "Extraordinarily like your own, but on a higher plane." They were far happier than in this life, and did not wish to return to this "mud-bath" again.

What about the bad people? it might be asked. He thought this talk about sin had been enormously exaggerated by theologians. He was over 60, and in his life he had met about six bad men - he meant malignantly bad men. In the other, world the undeveloped souls had to wait, in some very grey waiting rooms outside that Land of Happiness. The period of waiting rested with oneself. In the end all went through. "Never on this earth was a man born to be damned," said the lecturer, amidst loud applause. The Almighty had far greater kindliness of heart than his poor creatures, and could not possibly treat a sinner more harshly than they would.

He quoted from messages descriptive of the Land of Happiness. Some o£ these read:- "God has made this world a counterpart of yours, upon a higher, more elevated, and more beautiful scale." "We have our friends and homes and lives with those most congenial, a person naturally drifting to his proper sphere and surroundings." Another message spoke of the perfect picture of beauty and innocence presented by children, and added, "If earth mothers only knew how perfectly happy their little ones are there would be less grief." Their messages spoke of the arts, science, the drama, and music, and it was they who inspired all we had of these things. Sir Arthur mentioned that two days before he had received a letter from a squatter in North Queensland, who found he had some power of automatic writing, and discovered that his father, who had been a Church of England clergyman, was writing through him, and gave a description of the state of existence, which tallied with those the lecturer had collected from various messages. Some of them might say this was a very material heaven. Their final answer was that in evolution there was no sudden jump, and that the spirit must, by gradations, approach the higher spiritual state in which it would mix with angels and archangels.

He explained that the spiritualists did not wish to interfere with any man's creed, if it were only a working creed, and not a matter of mere forms. "I understand some gentlemen are to meet here to-morrow night. If the creed of these gentlemen is doing them good I wouldn't for the world alter it one tittle. But beware of getting into a rut! Mere forms are spiritual death."

In concluding, he drew an analogy between early Christianity and Spiritualism. St. Paul had described the spiritual gifts necessary for the disciple, and where, asked the lecturer, were these signs to be found to-day outside the Spiritualist body? St. John's advice, "Try the spirits, whether they be of God," was followed in spiritualistic seances, where one might meet noisy or foolish spirits, and seeking something higher, would refuse these. The lecturer went on to expound his view that Christ performed His miracles by psychic law, and said that Peter and Paul were trance mediums.

As the big audience was leaving the hall, a body of Spiritualists started a hymn, to the melody of "Lead, Kindly Light," and the people joined in the refrain as they moved out.