Conan Doyle's 'Spirit' Protest

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Conan Doyle's 'Spirit' Protest is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in the Daily Express No. 9322 on 19 march 1930.

Conan Doyle's 'Spirit' Protest

Daily Express No. 9322 (p. 1)





Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has resigned from the Society for Psychical Research, after thirty-six years' membership.

He disapproved of certain views expressed in the official journal of the society by Mr. Theodore Besterman, the editor, regarding seances given by the Italian medium, the Marquis Scotto, of Millesimo, protested against them in a letter to Sir Lawrence Jones, chairman of the council, and tendered his resignation.

Mr. Besterman stated last night that Sir Arthur had invited the other members of the society to follow him in resigning, but there had been only six resignations, two of which mentioned the matter in dispute.

Mr. Besterman's article was a review of a book, on "Modern Psychic Mysteries."

Sir Arthur, in his letter to Sir Lawrence Jones, said, that the article was "a series of misrepresentations and insulting innuendoes" that tended to lower the good name, of the society. Mr. Besterman's alternative theory of fraud regarding the Millesimo sittings implied that an Italian nobleman, a member of the legislative body, had invited a circle of friends to his home to practise a succession of complicated frauds on them.

The letter concluded:

My only recourse is, after thirty-six years of patience, to resign my own membership and to make some sort of public protest against the essentially unscientific and, biased, work of a society which has for a whole generation produced no constructive work of any kind, but has confined its energies to the misrepresentation and hindrance of those who have really worked at the most important problem ever presented to mankind.

Sir Arthur later sent a circular to members of the society, in which he reproduced his letter to the chairman and also enlarged on the reasons for his action. The society, he said, seemed to have become simply an anti-spiritualistic organisation, and he urged other members to follow his example.


A reply to Sir Arthur, circulated to members by Sir Lawrence Jones and the hon. secretaries, said:

To Sir Arthur Conan Doyle spiritualism is, to use his own phrase, a "cult," and it is a natural consequence of this point of view that, however sincerely he may protest his desire that the society should retain its "independence," he should regard as "obtuse negation" and "unreasonable and vicious opposition" any criticism of the phenomena on which those who take the "cult" view of spiritualism are content to base their faith.

It is to be noted that sittings held in complete darkness, for the most part without control and without searching of those present, sittings at which phenomena were produced which cannot be paralleled in the records of any sittings held under good control conditions, are described by Sir Arthur as "on the very highest possible level of psychical research." Further comment is superfluous.

"I am not at all bitter about the matter," said Sir Arthur to a "Daily Express" representative yesterday. "I want more attention given to spiritualists, and more courtesy shown to them.


"The society do not appear to appreciate the efforts of people who are attempting to gain more knowledge of the subject of spiritualism.

"You do not get anywhere by sneering. We want more experiments and knowledge, and to secure that I think it is necessary for the society to have more sympathetic people in the seats of the governors."