Spiritualism and the Law

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Spiritualism and the Law is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle published in The Manchester Guardian on 21 september 1928.

Spiritualism and the Law

The Manchester Guardian (21 september 1928, p. 20)

To the Editor of the Manchester Guardian.

Sir, — I have read your leading article in which you wish me to tell you what it is exactly that Spiritualists want. You could have got the information, on higher official authority, at your own doors, for Mr. E. W. Oaten, editor of the "Two Worlds," is now the president of the International Federation, and therefore the leading Spiritualist in the world. In that sense Manchester is now the world centre of Spiritualism, and yet I know no place where these barbarous laws have been more rigidly enforced. I trust that you will use your powerful influence to set the matter right.

Our grievance is an obvious one. Both for our scientific researches and for our religious work we need mediums. But these people, whom we find by experience to people, endowed with valuable and very sensitive powers, are persecuted by police and magistrates under laws which were made before modern Spiritualism was ever heard of. Under the Vagrancy Act respectable householders, and even in a recent case the secretary of a large society, are brought into police courts and threatened with fine or imprisonment. Apart from the actual cases, which are numerous enough, the fear of the police hangs heavy over the young medium and hinders his or her development. With an experience which extends over forty-one years I can say with conviction that many of these citizens so persecuted are among the most valuable people in the community, and that I know many mediums who have brought consolation and a conviction of immortality where the clergy have failed.

As to what we want, I do not see how we can ask for less than the complete abolition of the Witchcraft and Vagrancy Acts, under which we suffer. Cases of gross deception can be dealt with under the common law as obtaining money under false pretences. If the worst happened it is better that a few foolish people should waste money in having their fortunes told (who is the worse for it?) than that our British tradition of religious freedom should be impugned. We do not, as I understand the situation, propose to deal with individual candidates, but we mean to support the party which will give us guarantees of fair treatment. — Yours, &c.

Bignell Wood, Minstead, Lyndhurst, September 19.