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

The Spirit World

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Spirit World is an article written by a journalist in The New Zealand Herald (New Zealand) published on 9 december 1920.

The Spirit World

The New Zealand Herald (9 december 1920, p. 8)





The Town Hall was again filled last evening, when Sir Conan Doyle delivered his second lecture on spiritualism, the feature of which was the showing on a screen of some 40 psychic photographs. Granted that the speaker's guarantees of the genuineness of these remarkable pictures were accepted, it can safely be stated that the most doubting might have left the hall in the spirit of "I wonder." It must also be said that the. whole attitude and speech of Sir Conan spelled sincerity and conviction.

At the outset the speaker replied to a written question, which asked why a, medium was necessary to enable one to communicate with a spirit. He said that as long as a spirit was living on the spirit plane it could not manifest on the plane of matter. The spirit was very highly attenuated matter, so attenuated that it could not manifest itself to the gross senses of those on earth. But it did not connect by what was termed intuition, and by messages whispered into one's ears. These were direct communications, But if they were going to see and hear it must lie done on the plane of matter, and to do so one must get the natural laws right. The power of animal magnetism, which was stronger in some persons than in others, had to be used. This force was apparently so subtle that it could be used on the other side as well as here. He could no more say why those people who were mediums had more of this power than others than say way some people were more musical than others.

There were two sorts of mediumship, one internal and the other external. The first seemed to be the power of giving oneself up to outside influences, in which case the form of communication was that of auto-writing and kindred forms. In the case of external mediumship the phenomena of rappings, etc., took place.

Before showing the photographs on the screen ho said that in the early days of spiritualism the material used at a materialisation was described as "dough-like, viscid, cold stuff." These spiritualists were absolutely right. Science so described the substance used. It was called psychoplasm, and it exuded from the medium and was used by an independent force to produce certain results. It might be only a vapour invisible to everyone except the clairvoyant, it might thicken into a dense cloud or it might become still thicker, take human shape, and for a time be tenanted by a spirit, in which form the, spirit could walk about and talk.

A piece of this substance had been analysed by a scientist in Paris, and it had been found to be composed of the constituents of the human body. When the experiment was over the medium regained her normal weight, the psychoplasm returning to the body.

Tests by Many Scientists.

The camera had been used to reveal this substance find the forms it took, the tests of many scientists removing every possibility of fraud. The Psychic Photograph Society which included many noted men, had proved this thing. These pictures were produced in two ways. The rarer way was through a partial materialisation, which the camera could detect, but not the human eye. The other way was quite a different process from what was called photography. It was not to be judged by the same laws. A wise "spirit control," really an expert, operated in the centre of spirit photography and was able to make a mental picture of a thing and throw it on the film. Intervening matter was no hindrance. He himself had had the head of a beautiful woman, his own dead sister he believed, because the fingers were pointing to an ivory brooch she had worn in life, produced on a plate held between his hands. This plate had never been in light. This was called a psychograph.

Mental Pictures.

Proceeding, the lecturer described the taking, of ordinary photographs with ordinary apparatus in the presence of, but often not by, the medium when "the great control in the spirit world" had made a mental picture, of a thing and had conveyed it to the plate, the light conditions being contrary to the laws of ordinary photography." Evidence of the fact that a mental picture was made was shown on one occasion, when a page from a rare volume in Byzantine Greek in the British Museum appeared on a plate in Crewe, there, being slight inaccuracies in accents, etc. These inaccuracies indicated that a mental picture had been formed. Hope, the Crewe carpenter, who was a most powerful medium, insisted that those requiring photographs should bring their own apparatus and use it.

A New Era in Matter.

"We are entering a new era in matter," declared the speaker. "It is only the ignorance of people which keeps the knowledge back. I don't blame them for ignorance, but I do object to them being so blatant about it." (Applause.)

As each picture was shown the lecturer gave its history. In each a face or a, figure, sometimes quite distinct and sometimes dim, appeared beside the sitter who had asked for the photograph.

Continuing, he said Lady Glenconner had asked for the photograph of her son who had been killed in France. Instead of her son's face that of a stranger appeared. About the same time Mr. H. McKenzie, of London, who also had lost his son in the war, went to the same medium on the same mission. No photograph appeared. Returning to London he asked through a medium why the photograph had not been given. The son answered that at the time the conditions were bad, but that his photograph had appeared on a plate with Lady Glenconner. Mr. McKenzie communicated with that lady, and on getting the photograph found on it a good likeness of his son. In the left temple of the head was a mark at the very spot where the fatal bullet had struck, Sir Conan told of many extraordinary cases of a similar character, indicating that the spirits were anxious and eager to communicate. In some cases instead of faces and forms messages were received in writing on the plates from departed friends, the writing corresponding to that of the people concerned, even down to mannerisms. Three photographs were shown of the spirit of Katie King, who for three years, about 15 years ago, had appeared almost daily in the home of Sir William Crookes, conversing with the family and taking the children on her knee. This woman had lived in the time of Charles II., and had told Crookes before she finally disappeared that she had fulfilled her mission of living on earth to prove immortality.

In another photograph of a father who had asked to see his baby girl, a beautiful cherub face appeared three times, once over the sitter's head, once a little lower, and once beside the head, the lips of the little girl being pressed to her father's ear.

"Bubbling over with Fun."

The speaker also showed some pictures proving, a he said, that in the spirit world the spirits were bubbling over with fun and were always, ready to make a joke. In respect to some pictures, the lecturer indicated little details suggesting past incidents and past romance about which no medium could know anything. These pictures, concluded the speaker, meant the abolition of death. This life was the worst. From now on there was nothing but happiness. Only common decency was asked of people. The message he most frequently received was, "Plough on, plough on. Someone else will sow the seed." That was what he was doing, and he asked his bearers to watch for those who would come to bow the seed. Great days were coming to the human race.