The Undiscovered Country
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Introduction by Arthur Conan Doyle
In this valuable little book the question which will continually face the reader, especially the reader who is new to psychical study, is how far these assertions as to the nature of life beyond the grave are true. I have dealt with the subject in my own work, "The New Revelation," and cannot here repeat the whole argument, but it rests largely upon two points, the one that these messages have been accompanied by an outbreak of preternatural happenings vouched for by countless witnesses in many lands, and serving as a sign of the extra-mundane origin of the movement; the second that the messages have in many cases been accompanied by information as to this life which proves to be true, and that it is difficult to suppose that the sender can speak truth as to things of this world and yet be false about the conditions in which he is actually living. There is the further consideration that there is a remarkable unanimity, extending often to small details, about these descriptions of the life to come, and that when independent witnesses all agree it is reasonable to suppose that what they say is the truth, the more so as they depict a life which is not in strict agreement with any existing form of faith from which all these various streams of testimony might have had a common source. I may say that I have myself received at least half a dozen elaborate communications from different private correspondents which are in general agreement with the conclusions drawn by the author, and that even while his book has been in the press two other small works besides my own have been issued, which all reinforce his position. These two are "I Heard a Voice," by a distinguished K.C., and "Light on the Future," by an Irish student of Psychical Research. Another very striking recent book which I would recommend is "Do Thoughts Perish?" by a well-known lady traveller. There are, indeed, a cloud of witnesses upon this point, and I repeat that their testimony is not mere abstract assertion, but it is mixed up with a great deal which places this religious movement upon a most solid foundation.
For it is essentially a religious movement, and one which is destined, in my opinion, to affect profoundly the whole future of the world. It is a new wave rolling in from the dim immensity of the beyond, carrying cleansing and freshness to the somewhat stagnant pools into which our present religious systems have settled. God's dealings with man did not end in Judea 2,000 years ago, nor does any one book, however sacred, contain all that may be known as to our destiny. It would be dangerous to forecast the effects of so tremendous a phenomenon as a full and new revelation from the next world, but there is reason to hope that it is too great a thing to become a mere sect, and that it is rather destined to leaven all human thought and to vivify all the creeds. It should not be destructive save to the materialist, but it should rather sustain the original inspiration and show that it can be confirmed in so many points that it was undoubtedly in the first instance of supermundane origin. At the same time it will simplify what is unnecessarily abstruse, and will set in its proper proportion much that is merely formal and human — useful enough in its way, perhaps, but assuming in the course of ages far too prominent a position at the expense of the real vital truths behind. The whole earnest world is looking for some religious revival which will make theology more human, which will reconcile it with science and reason, and which will get such a spirit into the world as will make impossible for ever such frightful relapses into the dark ages as that which our generation has witnessed. It is a movement which seemed beyond the power of mortal mind, but it is now clearly developing upon lines when the forces of two worlds can aid in its fulfilment.
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.
March 20th, 1918.