The Spirit Life
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
The Spirit Life is an article published in The Times on 29 december 1916.
The Spirit Life
Sir A. Conan Doyle on his conversion.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, lecturing before the London Spiritualists' Alliance last night on "The New Revelation," said the subject had engaged his attention more than any other. If it had taken him a long time to arrive at the conclusions he held, which were complex, deep, and difficult. When he finished his medical education he was a convinced materialist, and was of opinion that the theory of the survival of personality after death. He was a theist, but did not believe in an anthropomorphic deity. He looked upon spiritualism as the greatest nonsense. He traced the steps by which he had been brought to change his views — his personal experiences of psychic phenomena and the views of great men like Crookes, Wallace, and Flammarion. The replies of spirits given through table rapping were not always stupid. In one case he got this reply to a test question:— "It is the religious frame of mind, not the critical, we wish to inculcate."
No other religion was so strongly supported by the testimony of able and learned men as was spiritualism. The existence of fraudulent mediums was not surprising, seeing that many were paid by results and that in any case mediumship was a physical gift and had no necessary relationship to morality. The war, by compelling the re-assessment of values had made him realize fully for the first time the importance to every one of a study which aimed at the breakdown of the wall between two worlds. Through spiritualism a new revelation was in process of delivery. It was perhaps still in the John the Baptist stage, but certainly a body of fresh doctrine had already been accumulated, mainly through automatic writing, but partly also from direct voices and other sources, which told us of the life of the soul on the other side. It was fatal to no creed except that of materialism, but Christianity, like everything else, must change or perish. Change had already perhaps been delayed too long.
Christianity was failing because too much was made of the death and not enough of the life of Christ. The new doctrine taught that passing was easy and painless. The spirit body was analogous to the earth body. There was a period of oblivion or sleep before entering on the duties of the spirit life, which was a pleasant condition in the world beyond, from which no one wished to return. Hell dropped out, but purgatory was justified. The world beyond was no vague region of floating emotion, but a definite reality attested by a body of evidence nobody could reject.
Sir Oliver Lodge, who presided, said revelation was that which we had not yet obtained directly from the evidence of the senses, which, like all else in process of evolution, were still imperfect, and were not in themselves sufficient to explore a spiritual and mental universe. The materialists failed when they professed to lay down the law on a subject of which they knew nothing.