Author Topic: Conan Doyle's obsession with the afterlife  (Read 2451 times)

Devious Viper
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Conan Doyle's obsession with the afterlife
« on: August 01, 2006, 04:50:24 AM »
He created the master detective Sherlock Holmes and blessed him with powers of logic and deduction that none of his fictional contemporaries could match. And in many ways Sir Arthur Conan Doyle resembled his greatest character. He was a tall gentlemanly figure and pillar of Victorian society. His medical background allowed him to diagnose patients in the same meticulous manner with which Holmes solved murder cases, and he had a highly intelligent and creative mind.

Yet Conan Doyle, who was born into a wealthy family in the mid-19th century, had another side to his personality which few devotees of his work realise. The author who perfected the art of reasoning and common sense in his detective novels was entranced by spiritualism and the occult. Witches were still being persecuted when, in 1916, Conan Doyle publicly proclaimed his belief in spiritualism and the existence of a life hereafter. It was a risky "coming out" statement and clashed with the prevailing sceptical view of such matters.

Conan Doyle lost many friends and his credibility was shattered but there was a compulsive streak to his personality. From then until his death in 1930 he embraced spiritualism with an almost fanatic passion. The scorn and derision heaped upon Conan Doyle was tempered only by the great public affection for the man. There was an element of sorrow that someone who had achieved so much could seemingly be "taken in" by tales of haunted houses, spooks and fairies.

Psychic researcher Harry Price wrote of him: "Among all the notable persons attracted to spiritualism, he was perhaps the most uncritical. His extreme credulity, indeed, was the despair of his colleagues, all of whom, however, held him in the highest respect for his complete honesty. Poor, dear, lovable, credulous Doyle! He was a giant in stature with the heart of a child."

There were early signs of Conan Doyle's interest in the subject. In 1888, shortly after the publication of his first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, he wrote a book entitled The Mystery of Cloomber which dealt with the afterlife of three Buddhist monks. The same year, in Hydeville, New York, a young girl called Margaret Fox confessed that she and her two sisters had been lying about their alleged communications with a ghost which had caused a worldwide sensation. Conan Doyle dismissed her confession saying, "Nothing that she could say … would in the least change my opinion, nor would it that of anyone else who had become profoundly convinced that there is an occult influence connecting us with an invisible world."

His credibility was seriously damaged by his belief in the story of the Cottingley Fairies. In 1917 two sisters produced photographs which bore to show them with fairies and goblins in the garden of their home in Cottingley, Yorkshire. They were dismissed at the time as fakes and the girls later admitted they had cut out the pictures of the fairies from a book. Conan Doyle, however, insisted they were genuine.

He also fell out with his friend, escapologist Harry Houdini, following a séance during which Conan Doyle's second wife, Lady Jean, claimed to have received 15 pages of communication from Houdini's late mother. The communication was in English, a language Houdini's mother could not speak.

But despite his apparent gullibility, Conan Doyle is still revered in the world of spiritualism 75 years after his death on 7 July. He is the Honorary President-in-Spirit of the Spiritualists' National Union, a body that promotes the advancement of the religious philosophy of spiritualism. Union member Graham Hewitt said: "Conan Doyle was ‘he who must be obeyed’ in the spiritualism movement. He was very active. Some of his establishment friends abandoned him because of his beliefs but he promoted the movement until his death. He gained credibility because he mixed with the people involved in psychic research, he did not just take things at face value."

A few days before his death in 1930 wrote: "The reader will judge that I have had many adventures. The greatest and most glorious of all awaits me now..."

Alexander
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Re: Conan Doyle's obsession with the afterlife
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2006, 08:53:59 AM »
I own original printings of all his works, it was quite a find.  Conan Doyle is a favorite of mine.

-Alexander
No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always arrived first, and is waiting for it.  -Terry Pratchett

Dark Lord M
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Re: Conan Doyle's obsession with the afterlife
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2006, 03:37:56 PM »
Conan Doyle is one of my many heroes, I love his works and I like how active he was in the Spiritaul Movement. :-)

Devious Viper
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Re: Conan Doyle's obsession with the afterlife
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2006, 03:49:07 PM »
Sir Arthur was once the goalkeeper for the soccer team I support, so I am a fan, too.