Beyond the Grave (8 december 1920)
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Beyond the Grave is an article written by a journalist in The New Zealand Herald (New Zealand) published on 8 december 1920.
Beyond the Grave
BEYOND THE GRAVE.
CONVERSE WITH THE DEAD.
SIR CONAN DOYLE'S LECTURE.
An audience of some 3000 people crowded the Town Hall last evening when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle delivered the first of his lectures on spiritualism, several hundreds being turned away. The lecturer appeared to make a profound impression. Whatever the individual views were, not one, of ins hearers could question the sincerity of the man who spoke simply, but fluently, in tones of the deepest conviction. The title of the lecture was "Death and the Hereafter: The New Revelation."
This subject is the most important thing in the world because it concerns the future of every human being within these walls," commenced the speaker, who then gave what he termed his credentials, mentioning that he had studied the subject for 54 years, that he held the ordinary degrees of a doctor of medicine, that he was popularly supposed to know a little about detective work (laughter), and that he was a pretty good judge of evidence, having once, against all the forces of the law in England, proved the innocence of a man sentenced to seven years' imprisonment.
Spiritualism had started in a little town in the United States 72 years ago. When people asked why it made so sordid a commencement, he said that the first of the three great revelations had come from Buddha, who was then a beggar, the second, from a carpenter's shop in Judea, and the third from a poor camel driver. It seemed to be a divine law that the great revelations should come from humble sources. They came in such a way that men had to use their brains and find their own reasoning and evidence for themselves.
The Investigations of Hare.
Proceeding. Sir Conan Doyle spoke of how at the beginning science had set out to prove that the manifestations upon which spiritualists pinned their faith were bogus. There had been many inquests, but he declared no one who had examined the subject with the care and gravity it deserved, had decided against it. (Applause.) Continuing the speaker gave the results of the investigations of Hare, the great chemist, who had set out. to prove that the spirit manifestations were bogus, how he had done it so thoroughly that all subsequent tests were only repetitions of those of Hare, and how the scientist after two years had become convinced of the phenomenon and of the religious meaning behind it. The lecturer gave the names of many scientists of different seats of learning who had given their testimony in varying degrees as to the reality of the phenomenon. The name of Sir Oliver Lodge, whom he described as the greatest brain in Europe, was greeted by applause. Sir Oliver's aim had been to convince people that death was no great change, that it brought people nearer than before. "That is what, with God's help, I am trying to do." said the speaker. He went on to read letters of thanks he had received from the mothers of soldiers who had been killed, and said that one such letter made up for the 50 others he received against him. "And there are 50," he added with, a smile, "but they mean no more to me than the, buzzing of mosquitos."
From Agnostic to Spiritualist.
"I would like to reason with you," he continued. "Here are these great men. You cannot say they are lunatics. If they are not lunatics what are they? Are they liars? Why should they lie? Is it conceivable that these honourable men are lying? Well, the,alternative is that what they say is true. There is no question about being deceived. Some of them worked in their own laboratories for years. The idea of deception must be put right out of your minds."
Dealing with his gradual development from an agnostic to a spiritualist. Sir Conan said he had first given thought to the study after attending "the usual foolish table-turning experience," to humour "his best patient" as a young practitioner, at which he had thought that his host was moving the table legs to point to various letters, and so spelled out a crude message.
He told of scientists' tests, wherein a pendulum inside a glass case had been made to swing, and other things of the kind, and how a bigoted scientist had refused to go to see it "because it was against the law of gravity." When science was decided, he said, it did what it always twitted religion for having done — it was equally conservative and bigoted.
Messages from Soldiers.
With the coming of the war and the sorrow it caused he decided to make further tests, so that if the thing were true mourners should get its comfort. He described how a lady who had come to live with his family had developed "auto-writing," the most dangerous of all mediumnistic forms, owing to the possibility of the subconscious self exerting itself, but he checked the lady week after week, and became convinced of the authenticity of the messages she received from kinsmen at the war. Some of them were prophetic, although not always correct as to time. Pondering the whole matter further he came to the conclusion that "these foolish rappings and knockings" were nothing more than signals trying to call attention to messages, because when they got the one they could always get the other. In the old days when men knew more than they did now men used to be asked to give a sign and this could be understood in the light of the new knowledge. That was why Christ performed miracles. A few less lepers did not matter, but he cured some to draw attention to his teaching.
Convinced of the reality, of the phenomena, he found out a paid medium in London named Mrs. Briton — paid mediums were necessary, so that they could always be available — whom he put through severe tests, and, being satisfied, he sent sorrowing people to her. Out of 72 cases he sent to her there had been 60 who had "got through." The dead had given the names of these who had welcomed them, mentioning things which had been secret between them and the living, and stated things which had been verified.
Proceeding, Sir Conan said he had been surprised at the hostility of the churches in this part of the world, and mentioned his having been asked to lecture to clergy by the Dean of Durham and to speak in the City Temple in London. "They do not regard me as an emissary of Satan," he added. (Laughter.)
Giving his own experience, he told how at a seance at Southsea with a local medium, and in the presence of friends who heard the voice and afterwards endorsed his report, the voice of his dead son spoke. The sitting was in the dark, this always being necessary; owing to the fact that psychoplasm, out of which a materialisation is formed, dissolved in the light, it being as difficult to get a manifestation in the light as it was to develop a photograph in the light. After the medium had gone into a trance a voice was heard, and it was that of his son who said, "Father, pardon." "He had been a good son," said the speaker, "and there was nothing for me to forgive. The only thing that had been between us was that he did not agree with my belief in spiritualism. At the first opportunity he asked pardon for not believing. I answered, 'You were perfectly right. You used your own judgment.' I then felt a land on my head and felt lips pressing my brow. I said: 'Are you happy?' He answered: 'So happy.' Then the voice drifted away."
Sir Conan also described a conversation he had with his brother, the late Brigadier-General Doyle, who, when the speaker asked 'Who is there?' replied giving a nickname known by no one present. Replying to a further question as to the wife of the deceased, who had been ill and had gone to Copenhagen, the voice replied saying "If she stays there she will be ruined," and gave a name about which the Speaker knew nothing. Later he wrote to a friend in Copenhagen and was informed that the name was that of a well-known mental healer in that city. This took place in a village in Whales where no one knew anything about Copenhagen.
Sir Conan said that the etheric body left the physical body at death and went to the place where thought and sympathy led it. Proof of the existence of this etheric body was shown by the fact that under the influence of certain drugs a person imagined he saw his own body lying on a couch as sometimes happened. When at approaching death a person stretched out his hands and murmured loving words the doctors said it was delirium, but it was not. The dying person was being welcomed by his loved ones in the other world.
The speaker declared that there was not the enormous amount of sin in the world which theology taught. He did not call sin those frailties which went to make personality. He did not believe there were many bad men. He had had a wide experience of humanity, living among soldiers and sailors and in the lower parts of cities, and be believed that he could count the bad men he had met on the lingers of bis hands. A bad man was a cold, malevolent, cruel person who would rather do a cruel thing than good. He would not call bad a passionate man who did a reckless thing one day and a heroic thing the next, as a soldier might. His idea of hell was the punishment cruel and unkind men received on the other side when there were no friends to welcome them and they were left to wander. He believed there would be chastening for sin, but not the eternal punishment spoken about. There would be what might be called waiting rooms where people would purge themselves until they put life into the soul that was within them.
Sir Conan read many messages that had been received from the other world, describing it as a place of wonderful beauty and happiness, where the spirits dwelt in perfect sympathy. This was the first heaven, the lowest rung of the ladder by which the spirits passed upward stage by stage.
A smile covered many faces when the speaker said the foolish messages and occasional falsehoods received were from silly, undeveloped minds and frivolous people who in life had been practical jokers.
He emphasized the fact that the spirit world must be communicated with in a spirit of prayer and seriousness. He could not imagine a spiritualist having any fear of death.
To-night Sir Conan will give his second lecture, and will show pictures of psychic phenomena.
REQUEST FOR EXAMINATION.
A request to examine psychic photographs was made to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle yesterday on behalf of six of the leading photographers of Auckland. Mr. Victor R. Millard writes on the subject as follows: —
"On behalf of the six principal studios of the city I have to express much regret at the refusing of our request by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for a short interview to examine "the psychic photographs used to illustrate his lectures. This action we consider to he contrary to his professed intention to enlighten the world. In offering, Sir Arthur every assistance to justify his claim, my studio, camera, plates, etc., are at his entire disposal. If Sir Arthur is unwise enough to bring the science of photography to bear upon his subject-matter it is only just and right that we photographers who respect the cloth of our profession demand that he abide by its laws. Sir Arthur may state that his spirit photos are genuine, but we only have his word for it. To produce a negative with a spirit-like apparition upon it by means of trickery is a simple matter indeed. The music-hall magician is a man who has our entire respect, because he states that he is tricking us, and we know he is, and we like him and applaud him, and his feats are performed in the full glare of the limelight. On the other hand, we have Sir Arthur alone in his dark-room, rocking the plate in the developer; if daylight enters before the plate is immersed in the fixing bath the spirit vanishes and the plate is spoilt. What can be more absurd? It is possible, we may suppose, that Sir Arthur's imagination is of so vivid a kind to believe he sees in the concrete what he conceives in the abstract, but as he cannot offer his pair of eyes to another to testify the fact, as I have said before, we have only his word for it. Here is a man who by force of character succeeds in dominating the minds of people and nations, is banqueted, decorated, and worshipped as a God-man by the spiritual communities wherever he treads. If there is atom of truth in his power to photograph the spirit, let him prove it a one of our city studios, and present the results to the city library. This would be at least something in return for the few hundreds of pounds he will relieve the city of and justify his power, which we emphatically deny.'
Sir A. Conan Doyle forwards the following copy of his letter conveying his refusal of the request:- "I do not think such an interview any use, for I find, when challenged by Mr. Blow, of Sydney, that he knew nothing, about psychic photography, had never heard of a psychograph, and had never, as far as i could learn, read a single book on the subject. The photos I show are guaranteed — some by myself, some by Sir William Crookes, one by Dr. Russell Wallace, two by Lady Glenconner, two by Traill Taylor; former editor of the British Journal of Photography, two by Colonel Johnson, and so on. It is, I hold, absurd to submit such results to the judgment of gentlemen who have no psychic experience. In every case I explain to the audience what is the guarantee of the photograph so they can judge for themselves. I have positives and slides, but no negatives. The latter don't belong to me in most cases."