Where is the Soul during Unconsciousness? (13 may 1916)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Where is the Soul during Unconsciousness? is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle published in Light on 13 may 1916.

See also his first letter on the same topic: Where is the Soul during Unconsciousness? (11 march 1916).

Where is the Soul during Unconsciousness?

Light (13 may 1916, p. 157)

To the Editor of Light.

Sir, - I must write again under the above heading in order to thank the numerous correspondents who have thrown various lights upon the question which I raised. Besides the letters in Light I have received many private instances, and another correspondence has treated the matter in a well-known London weekly paper (T.P.'s Weekly). The result is a mass of definite testimony which I may elaborate into a longer article where I might have space to dissect the evidence and draw some general conclusions.

Miss Lilian Whiting and one or two other correspondents dissent from my view that the soul or spirit at such a time is floating from the body like a captive balloon on a psychic rope by which it can be drawn instantaneously back. They prefer the view that we have a natural spirit vision which is all-embracing and is only clogged by the body. Since, however, in all the cases cited the result is definite in time and place, and since it does not include a general view of everything but only of one particular thing, I still hold that the floating forth of a sensitive organism which is limited in its perception is the presumption which comes nearest to an explanation of the facts.

The instances are so numerous, so well attested, and so utterly beyond the reach of coincidence that one marvels that any man calling himself a scientist could dismiss them as unworthy of scientific consideration. Such scientists, having formed an a priori conception of the universe, simply ignore the plain facts which stand in the way of their hypothesis. One marvels that minds so acute within their own limitations should be so slovenly and illogical outside of them. One cannot forget the famous dictum of Huxley after hearing or reading some inanities of a seance room. "If they are true," said he, "they interest me no more than the gossip of curates in a cathedral city." This was a man who had made his name by a careful classification of crayfish and jellies. Yet he dismissed a whole new order of beings because the particular mental phenomena which he first encountered were not up to his preconceived ideas of what they should be. It would be as reasonable for a recluse coming out into the world to abjure the whole human race because the first gutter-snipe whom he encountered made a bad impression on him. Science (so-called) denied mesmerism for a century. Then it renamed it "hypnotism" and adopted it. Some day, no doubt, it will find a new name for the various psychic phenomena which are now under discussion, and will then find itself in complete agreement.

Yours, &c.,

Windlesham, Crowborough, April 30th, 1916.