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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

Towards the Stars and the Masked Medium

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"Towards the Stars" and the "Masked Medium" is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle published in Light on 28 june 1924.

"Towards the Stars" and the "Masked Medium"

Light (28 june 1924, p. 410)

To The Editor of Light.

Sir, — I have been reading Mr. Dennis Bradley's new book, and I rejoice to think that so brilliant a recruit has joined our ranks. I am sorry, however, that he has signalised his advent by misrepresenting one who bore part of the beat and burden of the fight before he joined the fray.

He tells the rather stale story of my relations to the "masked medium," and, instead of asking me for the facts, he has adopted in toto the entirely false account put forward "John Bull." He sums up by saying that the performance was "peculiarly ridiculous and unlikely to mislead a child. Sir Arthur, however, had been misled by it, and as a consequence had to pay twenty-five pounds. I do not think he deserves any sympathy for his loss." There is much more in the same scobling key.

I am too case-hardened to criticism to care in the least what anyone may say of me personally, but I do care very much for my propaganda work which is hindered and weakened if the impression is given that I am a credulous person easily deceived, and that therefore my testimony may be discounted. I know well that these inaccurate statements of Mr. Bradley will add to my difficulties — the more so as they will be represented as the opinion of a brother Spiritualist.

Let me again state the true facts. Some years ago I saw the private performance of the "masked medium," and neither I nor anyone else could make anything of it. I was asked to write an opinion, and after some hesitation and consultation (for what I had seen was very hard to explain away) I wrote a judgment which can still be read in Mr. Moseley's "Amazing Séance." That deliberate judgment, the only one I ever gave for publication, was that I would need to see it several times before I could make up my mind, and that the whole thing seemed to me very doubtful. Several years later "John Bull" contained one of their "stunt articles" saying that I had been taken in. I replied that I had never publicly stated the the original performance was psychic, but that I was still as impressed as I had been before, and would pay £25 if they could prove to me that it was non-psychic. A repetition was accordingly arranged, but before it came off I paid the £25 as an honorarium to the performers, for I did not wish it to be said that my ultimate opinion was influenced by the money. There was no question therefore of my paying this money, as Mr. Bradley implies, because I admitted I was wrong.

The performance took place but was quite different from the original one. It was obvious fake and could not deceive a child. Several people in the room who had seen the first agreed with me that it bore no relation to the second. For one thing, the light in the first was so good that I could clearly see the medium. In the second there was no light at all. The effects also were quite different. I therefore protested that this faked performance threw no light at all upon what had puzzled me. I refuse on the one hand to say that a thing is psychic when I am not sure. That was my position then and it is my position now.

Mr. Bradley several times falls foul of other utterances of mine, which he has every right to do, but he would be wiser not to employ such adjectives as "ridiculous," "degrading," and so forth unless he is himself very sure of his ground. I have behind me an experience and a reading which is larger than his, and which invites civil controversy. I made the statement that the ordinary educated human being is mentally superior to the average spirit. If we accept our own doctrine that death makes no change in the individual, then surely it is self-evident that an educated spirit in the body is mentally superior to the uneducated, undeveloped spirits who are unhappily continually passing over. Does Mr. Bradley, for example, imagine that Pat O'Brien or Kokum or the other spirits whom he quotes are his mental superiors? It is true that the word "educated" was omitted from the report, but a Spiritualist should be chary of attacking a brother Spiritualist, and so adding to his burdens, unless he in quite sure of his real utterance. — Yours, etc.,

Arthur Conan Doyle.

London, S.W.1.
June, 16th, 1924.