From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir, — In the various obituary notices of the late Lord Balfour I have not observed that any reference has been made to his keen interest in the things of the spirit.
As early as 1894 he was president of the Society of Psychical Research, and his presidential address of that year showed how keen was his understanding of the problems at issue. He had already amassed considerable practical experience of mediumship, for it is mentioned by Mr. Campbell Holmes in his "Facts of Psychic Science" (page 388) that as early as 1875 he had investigated materialisations in a series of seances with Miss Wood and Miss Fairlamb, some of which were held in his own house.
He was exceedingly cautious in expressing his convictions, and, though on one occasion I interchanged letters with him upon the subject, I am unable to say that he fully accepted the theory of communication, although I am quite certain that he did not absolutely reject it. As a proof of this I may mention that some years ago he was asked to address the annual conference of the Spiritualists' National Union, and he accepted the invitation. This, of course, would not imply full acceptance of the spiritualists' view, for spiritualists are always keen to get sane and intelligent outsiders' criticism. He was, however, prevented from carrying out his intention by an illness which entailed a visit to a Continental health resort.
I think that I am right in stating that he had even some undeveloped psychic gifts of his own and that he obtained some results in an experiment in crystal-gazing. Andrew Lang mentions the fact in one of his books.
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.
Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex, March 27.