To Test Spiritualism

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

To Test Spiritualism is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Evening News (Australia) on 17 november 1920.

To Test Spiritualism

The Evening News (17 november 1920)

Debate "Futile Business"

Conan Doyle's Suggestion

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle writes:

I observe that two correspondents in your paper suggest that I should take part to a debate upon Spiritualism.

If I do not do so it is not because I flinch from it, but it is because I have tried it with Mr. MCabe, who is admitted to be a capable exponent of rationalism, and my experience showed me that it was a pure waste of time and energy. It Is like two boxers sparring in different parts of the ring and never getting into real hitting distance of each other. For example, I may give a personal example of an interview with a departed spirit and produce the signed statements of five witnesses who heard the interview and corroborate it. That is clearly final, so my opponent never refers to that, but proceeds to prove that Mr. Slade, the medium, was convicted of fraud in the year 1876 in London. And so it can go on ad infinitum until the audience breaks up, having come to no possible conclusion. I am already overwhelmed with work, and I do not wish to engage myself in so futile a business as that.

I can only imagine one way in which the matter could be settled in public. It is clear that one single case of spirit return proves the whole of our contention. Therefore let the question be concentrated. These I would undertake to prove, producing my witnesses in the usual way, with the proviso only that such documents as I may put forward, statements of eye witnesses and the like, be accepted as evidence, since I cannot command the presence of the writers. My opponent should act the part of hostile counsel cross examining and refuting my facts. The case would he doubled by a majority vote of a jury of twelve, chosen from men of standing who pledged themselves as open-minded on the question.

Such a test could obviously only take place in a room of limited dimensions, not larger than a courthouse, so that no money would be involved, and truth only be at stake. That is all that I seek. If a test can be arranged on these terms I am really for it, either before I leave or alter I return from New Zealand. I leave on December 2.