The Arthur Conan Doyle EncyclopediaThe Arthur Conan Doyle EncyclopediaThe Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, KStJ, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

Tells How Visit to "Circle" Converted Her

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Conan Doyle's Daughter Writes on Spiritualism is an article written by Mary Conan Doyle, the first daughter of Arthur Conan Doyle, first published in the Waterloo Evening Courier on 1 january 1921.


Conan Doyle's Daughter Writes on Spiritualism

St. Louis Globe-Democrat
(16 january 1921, magazine section, p. 3)
St. Louis Globe-Democrat
(16 january 1921, magazine section, p. 12)

She was a skeptic to start with, in spite of her noted father, the creator of "Sherlock Holmes," who claimed to have talked with dead relatives and to have photographed them.

Then one day she joined a circle, and the uncanny things she learned — facts that no one knew except herself — won her over completely.

In the series of articles beginning today Miss Doyle sounds the keynote of her experiences in spiritualism.

Tells How Visit to "Circle" Converted Her — "Have We Lived Before?" She Asks.

Explaining her stand in relation to the movement and the way in which she was converted to the idea, she says:

"Eleven months ago, when I came to America, my thoughts were indifferent towards spiritualism. If there was anything in it, it was the expert's job and not the layman's — that was roughly my viewpoint.

"After some months out here, my friend, who was interested in spiritualism, joined a little circle. She used to come back and tell me all about it. And it was the coherence, the strength and richness of what she told me of their discourse that first awakened my interest.

"Later on she introduced me, and I became a regular member of the circle. It's composed of a very small gathering of friends. There is no money nor publicity in connection with it at all. It is a teaching circle, concerned mainly with the religious aspect of spiritualism, and has nothing to do with material manifestation, table-turning, etc.

"I was a natural skeptic. But things came through to me at that circle that explained my thoughts to me, threw light on my own particular problems that none knew of but myself. A complete working hypothesis has been given that has changed my views on life, my attitude towards people, and has made religion into a reality instead of a myth.

"And on this rests the proof and authority of what I say. Of course, being a personal experience, it does not constitute 'proof' to anyone else.

"But in giving the truths we have received. I recommend the reader to try out and test them for himself. If they have been helpful to one, they are likely to apply to others as well."

In this, her first article, she answers a question that has been asked for ages.


The majority of human beings from the dawn of history have believed in a future life. The nature of the belief varied according to the degree of development, but the idea was there, whether crude or refined. Against the tide of popular belief has stood out the band of philosophers and intellectual devotees, whose cynical minds were completely out of touch with broad, simple humanity. From their place apart they viewed dispassionately the many absurdities and weaknesses of human nature, and they argued: "Are such worthy or capable of eternal life? Never! 'Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.'" And with this they shut the book of life and returned again to their desks.

Their point of view represents a logical thought, based on a false surmise. The world would indeed be governed only by chance if we came from nothingness — some evolving beauty and strength in their span of life — others evolving nothing at all, and yet each and all destined to spring off into eternity at death, with their imperfections still clinging to them.

Before such a conception the guarded reasoning of the philosophers seems sane.

How, then, can we harmonize the reasoning of the thinking men with that great tide of human belief which, through all changes of conditions and environment, man has clung to as his dearest possession?

If we recognize life not as complete in itself, but as the links in a chain — the gems in a necklace — does it not help to bridge the gulf? Don't we meet the philosopher half way when we see that the man who dies, without having been conscious of anything beyond his body, in the natural course of events takes tip a similar body, returns again to the things and habits which he clung to until they no longer satisfy him?

This, rather than the alternative, which leaves him adrift belonging nowhere. Even on earth we see clearly enough how like draws to like. And environment feels very lonely, while those beyond his mental caliber are equally embarrassed what to do with him.

So he who passed out of earth life without having acquired the understanding to make him belong to another group would be no more or less than a permanent misfit. Besides, people have got to have passed through the earth consciousness before they really want anything else.

Picture, for instance, the childless woman listening to a discourse on the spiritual state. "No marriage — or childbirth." Instantaneously her thought flashes, "No babies? No heaven!" And it's true. That state would not correspond to her own consciousness.

If you were to further explain that she would have ideas instead of babies she'd look at you, and the look would brand you the fool she'd think you!

Nothing in nature is revolutionary. All development is slow and steady, without any sudden leaps. We see the different instincts and pleasures that mark childhood, adolescence and maturity, yet the particular interests of each age seem so vital at the time it is as if they must last forever! Still, the gradual development unfolds, and almost imperceptibly the change comes.

Now, if we admit that the principle of reincarnation does to a great extent unite instinct with reason we turn to another aspect to face obstacles. The child, with its close physical resemblance to its parents, with the many little tricks of inherited character and disposition — is it really a stranger soul, entered haphazard through the physical union?

Will We Meet Again?

Those whose loved ones have passed — are they to abandon the dear hope of being united with them again beyond the veil for the vain mockery of a cat-and-mouse chase through ages of reincarnations? The reunion a chance, the recognition an uncertainty?

These questions must be met and answered before any universal recognition of the principle can be expected.

In the case of the child the physical resemblance and the inherited tricks and mannerisms may be there, and yet the soul be at variance with the parents.

And, as the years go by, the mind may steadily break away, forming something totally different and often even antagonistic to its origin. In such a case either the love born of the physical bond and the innate belief in the ultimate good is strong enough to overcome the sense of strangeness on the part of the parents — or else it just isn't! And then we get the familiar instance of offspring being "cut off with a penny."

On the other hand, the family can be united; still, there is usually one who stands out predominant in the mother's affections. She may love all her children, but just one will call up a depth of passionate tenderness that no reason or will can alter, even though her sense of justice be too strong to let her openly show favoritism.

Now, are these types the result of chance? What is "chance," anyway, but the effect of an unknown cause?

The "Unnatural Child"

The "unnatural" child, who is a thorn in the flesh, who brings dishonor and disgrace on his father's house — he is indeed "stranger soul," perhaps sent in payment or some Kamic [1] debt, perhaps the result of an unhappy conception. A man's unbridled passion overmastering a woman's reluctance, turning it to a dull resentment; would open the portals to an entity below the normal consciousness of either.

The average happy child is an entity incarnated from similar conditions of similar tastes and nature.

And the beloved child is indeed born of the spirit as well as the flesh. A joyous, adoring recognition seen in the light of its own shining love. Who can say what the bond of the mother and child is when they have been mother and child before?

We all know there are mothers and children who have nothing in common at all! So the physical relationship is no guarantee of understanding.

Those whose dear ones have passed have to remember there is no "Time" in the Beyond. There would be none here if we had not a material sun to measure it by. Our sense of time is caused through the density of our atmosphere and the heaviness of our thought. They are not conscious of waiting on the other side.

If, then, after reunion, justice demands reincarnation on earth to meet once more the problem that was missed or to right the wrong that was done, then, perhaps, the memory holds and perhaps not. The attraction and the love will persist anyhow. For the rest, if two who love each other lose consciousness in sleep for a few hours, is it of very great moment when the recognition is instantaneous on waking?

Lovers Who "Belong."

We know that attraction is a fundamental law. No one ever feels a really deep love for anyone by chance. It is intended so. They "belong." It has been before and will be again. What is that strange, compelling sympathy we feel for a person but our subconscious recognition? If God meant attraction to be, can we imagine him going back on it because of the material change called death? We have got to believe that a basic principle is void if two souls akin can be lost in space.

Now, it may be argued: Reincarnation is an ingenious explanation, but what foundation of proof can there be when the soul inhabits a different body each time?

Look at the people round you instead of taking them for granted. What do you see? The modern type? Yes, the type of hair-cut, the manner of trimming a mustache, the fashion of clothes — all externals!

Then look at Holbein's studies of sixteenth-century, middle-class people. If those types were got up in 1920 style, the men with short hair, the women in modern corsets, could you tell them apart from the rest of us? I think not.

Take the inverse aspect. A modern young man may be true-blue American — Mayflower and all that — and yet be manifesting a purely Greek or Egyptian type.

The writer was shown a photo of a naval captain, American old stock, but it was a medieval Florentine looking out of the picture. The extraordinary physical characteristics of a narrow waist, broad shoulders and a long neck, and from the lean, hatchet face stood out the haughty features of the Medici.

It may be argued that Americans are a conglomerate race and that these resemblances may be some "throw-back."

It may be possible that a type revert after countless generations, but are we not accepting a very far-fetched physical explanation rather than a very simple psychic one?

Let us not drown in a sea of coincidences, but look out on the world with seeing eye — and think!

  1. Karmic