The New Revelation

My Personal Investigation of Spiritualism

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The New Revelation
Available
06/01/2001
Square One Publishers

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5.5 X 8.5 in
120 pg



PHILOSOPHY / Metaphysics

9780757000171
$12.95 Paperback
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The New Revelation

By  Arthur Conan Doyle

Description

The spiritual movement in the early twentieth century had few, if any, proponents greater than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—a medical doctor, soldier, and world-renowned author. This book is a firsthand account of his investigation into the world of spiritualism. 

An original Introduction to the book provides an insightful look at Doyle’s personal life. His friendship with magician Harry Houdini is brilliantly captured in the book’s original Afterword.

Reviews

Author Biography

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) is most noted for his Sherlock Holmes detective stories. He was a prolific writer whose other works include a wide range of science fiction stories, historical novels, romances, poetry, and nonfiction.

Table of contents

Contents

                        Introduction   

            I           The Search     

                        The Cheriton Dugout 

            II          The Revelation           

            III         The Coming Life         

                        Automatic Writing     

                        The Next Phase of Life           

            IV         Problems and Limitations      

                        Afterword       

                        Index  

 

Introduction or preface

Introduction

From 1914–1918 Europeans fought “The Great War,” a conflict that would reshape and determine the course of the twentieth century. The assassination of an Austrian archduke had plunged the world into war in 1914, and ensuing years of carnage destroyed the youth of an entire continent. The horrors of trench warfare and the lethal domination of the machine gun caused millions of casualties, and the continuing tragedy drained hope from the population. In a forlorn effort to break the stalemate, the British Army launched a mas­sive attack along the Somme River on July 1, 1916; over 100,000 men assaulted German positions beginning at 7:30 am, and ten hours later 58,000 of them were casualties. The war seemed endless, all sacrifices meaningless, and people everywhere were nearing the verge of ­despair.

It was in this year of suffering and questioning that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930), one of the world’s preeminent literary figures, first proclaimed his personal beliefs in Spiritualism, a much-maligned and terribly misunderstood movement whose origins arose in a far-distant past. Doyle believed that Spiritualism, which he had studied for almost three decades, could provide meaning and hope in a violent and cruel world. Although he recognized that Spiritualism was often libeled as a haven for charlatans and fakes, Doyle had become convinced that its principles were both reasonable and susceptible to proof; he knew it brought him solace in terrible times, and he believed that others would find comfort in its practices. But Doyle’s personal affirmation hardly dissipated the gloom of the era, and the author soon decided that he had the obligation to provide Englishmen with a strong analysis of the Spiritualist position. The New Revelation, published in March 1918, was the result. The reception for his book greatly pleased Doyle, and during the next decade, its message of a serene but fulfilling life after death was identified with the writer to almost the same degree as his earlier literary creation, Sherlock Holmes.

For the next decade, Doyle became the primary spokesman for Spiritualism, a role he considered a far greater importance than writing detective stories. Sir Arthur was fully aware that many considered Spiritualism to be fraudulent, and his dedication of  The New Revelation clearly recognizes that his popularizing task was a daunting one. In it, Doyle praises “all the brave men and women” who for seventy years had steadfastly upheld different beliefs “in order to testify to an all-important truth.” Explicating that truth to a skeptical world was the task Doyle faced as he wrote The New Revelation.

Many forces combined to create the Spiritualist movement. Cultures around the world have long believed in “spirit healing,” the materialization of the dead, clairvoyance, and the possibility of communication with those who have passed from this earth. European history during the Middle Ages recorded many instances of such strange events as levitation and the hearing of voices—phenomena normally attributed to religious inspiration. Spiritualism’s roots also show the influence of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), a Swedish scientist and equally great mystic. Swedenborg often entered a trance-like state, reviving with information of a religious—and often practical—nature. Franz Mesmer (1734–1815) discovered that placing ordinary individuals into a hypnotic trance could often evoke totally unsuspected powers, insights sometimes useful in the treatment of disease. Nineteenth-century followers of both of these visionaries found it easy to accept the ideas of communication with dead souls through the vehicle of a medium.

But Spiritualism derived its greatest impetus from events that took place in Hydesville, New York, during the mid 1800s—about seventy years before Doyle’s publication of  The New Revelation.  During this time, successive occupants of a farmhouse there claimed that it was haunted because they heard unexplained noises in the night. In 1848, a teenage girl, Kate Fox, claimed that she was able to communicate with the source of the sounds, a long-dead peddler who had been murdered in the house. Hydesville was located in the “Burnt-over District,” a part of western New York particularly given to religious revivalism. At first, many considered Kate Fox to be merely another indication of excess enthusiasm. But Kate, soon joined by her younger sisters, proved far more than a passing fancy. For the next forty years, they traveled the nation, presiding over séances, and communicating with the dead by means of messages that were delivered by rapping or knocking sounds.

Belief in Spiritualism soared and soon crossed the ocean to Great Britain, where it won support from many prominent men, including essayist John Ruskin and William Wallace, one of Darwin’s contemporaries. By the 1880s, attempts to contact departed loved ones were common occurrences in Victorian parlors. It was through such “table-turnings,” séances of the grieving or the believing, that Arthur Conan Doyle first encountered Spiritualism. He was then only a provincial doctor, one barely making a living, but he was destined to become a best-loved author. Examining his long, successful, and fascinating life helps us understand why his endorsement of Spiritualism made such an impact on the British nation.

DOYLE’S LIFE

Family heritage helps determine the man, and the Doyles were the product of Ireland. The mystical and magical themes of Irish history were deeply interwoven into the Doyle pedigree; his mother, Mary Foley, could trace her ancestry back to the royal house of the Plantagenets, and his father’s family drew deep on the artistic traditions of the island. John Doyle, Arthur’s grandfather, won fame in London during the 1830s as the political caricaturist HB, but his father, Charles Altamont, was less gifted. He worked as a civil servant in Edinburgh, the city where he married Mary Foley in July 1855. Their family ultimately numbered ten children, seven of whom lived to maturity; Arthur Conan, the eldest son, was born in Edinburgh on May 22, 1859.

As the young boy grew, he saw how his father’s weak nature, his abuse of alcohol, and his increasing epilepsy, caused the family to suffer privation. He watched his mother struggle to keep the household functioning when his father’s instability caused his dismissal from the Office of Public Works. Often help came from Charles’ concerned brothers, but young Arthur was forced to shoulder responsibility at far too early an age. Yet another source of tension was the family’s staunch Roman Catholicism in a Presbyterian world. Arthur was enrolled at the Jesuit preparatory school of Hodder in 1868, and entered Stonyhurst secondary school two years afterwards. A strong-minded but diligent student, Arthur received a first-class education from the Jesuits, even as his mother struggled to pay his tuition bills. Sometime before graduation in 1875, he decided to leave the Church, and, in a way, would spend his life searching for a new faith.

During his school years, Doyle read widely, especially fascinated by the new vision of the natural world presented in the works of Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, and Thomas Huxley. Impatient with the credos of religious faith, and repulsed by the dogma that there could be no salvation outside the Church, Doyle particularly devoured Dr. Huxley’s writings. He emulated his mentor by proclaiming himself an agnostic, believing in the possibility God, but denying that there can be proof of God’s existence. In his autobiography, Memories and Adventures, Doyle wrote that “all Christianity, and not Roman Catholicism alone . . . alienated my mind and drives me to agnosticism.” Like many authors, Doyle later recounted his personal loss of faith in writing the semi-biographical novel, The Stark-Munro Letters. Yet despite his renunciation of Catholicism, Doyle’s Jesuit training continued for another year at Feldkirch, in Austria, before he began medical studies at Edinburgh (October 1876).

Five years of study lay before Doyle, a period in which he found the models for both Sherlock Holmes (Dr. Joseph Bell) and Professor George Edward Challenger (Dr. Rutherford) among his professors. No time was wasted, and the young man served as a surgeon’s clerk and took several medical assistantships to help pay his way; he also contributed to his mother’s household. In September 1879, Doyle published both his first fiction, which appeared in Chamber’s Journal and for which he received the equivalent of $15.75, and his first medical article, which appeared in the British Medical Journal.

Yet the young man longed for adventure, and he left Edinburgh for a term to be surgeon on the Greenland whaler Hope from February to September 1880. Much later Doyle happily recalled a “strange and fascinating chapter of life,” yet he remained a confirmed landlubber who fell into the ocean so often the crew christened him the “great northern diver.” Returning to finish his studies in 1881, he graduated with “fair but not notable distinction” in August 1881. Still lured by the sea, Doyle accepted a three-month posting as ship’s doctor on the steamer Mayumba, which traveled to West Africa (October 1881). He returned invigorated, yet pronounced the voyage his last. Family responsibilities could not be ignored.

During the 1880s, Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle struggled to choose a life’s path. Memories and Adventures claims he lived on only a shilling a day during his years of apprenticeship, which began with an ill-fated partnership in Plymouth. Every experience held potential gain, however, he later ­lampooned his eccentric partner’s habits in the Stark-Munro Letters. The young doctor relocated to Southsea near Portsmouth in July 1882, and spent the next eight years there in general practice. After his father was institutionalized and his mother had resettled in Yorkshire, Doyle brought his young brother Innes into his home, and the two became inseparable.

Doyle’s practice remained small—he never made more than 300 pounds in any year—and he used the frequent quiet periods to write short stories for pocket money. More importantly, in August 1885, he married Louise Hawkins, whom he affectionately nicknamed “Touie,” and whose brother had suffered from cerebral meningitis and tragically died under Doyle’s care. The happy couple traveled to Ireland on their honeymoon, and when they returned, found that Edinburgh had awarded Doyle an MD degree. With the confidence of youth—Doyle was only twenty-six years old—they faced the future together.

During these lean years, some experts suspect that Doyle could have used his family’s strong Roman Catholic connections to increase his practice, but he refused to do so since he had left the Church. Instead, early in 1886, he began work on his first Sherlock Holmes adventure, A Study in Scarlet. He had some trouble deciding on the name for his protagonist, and it is interesting to note that Oliver Wendell Holmes—a poet much admired by Doyle—began a speaking tour of Great Britain that summer. After being several times rejected, the novel was finally sold for twenty-five pounds and appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual for 1887. Doyle’s future was still uncertain, but the successful debut of Sherlock Holmes marked the beginning of a literary career that would bring him more riches and fame than he could imagine.

In 1886, the year in which Doyle’s fertile imagination developed the character of Sherlock Holmes, the young doctor began to read extensively about Spiritualism for the first time. He was a man of science, a seeker of truth who had discarded the faith of his youth and believed himself to be a “convinced materialist.” Yet, he was strangely drawn to participate in the “table turnings” that had become fashionable in many parts of Great Britain. He found séances personally fulfilling and attended hundreds of them, including several held by the Scot Daniel Douglas Home. At the time, Home was perhaps the most famous mystic in the British Isles, and some of his manifestations, including a levitation over seventy feet in the air, have never been explained.

As early as July 2, 1887, Doyle defended psychic séances in a letter to the publication Light. In addition, he and an architect friend personally conducted a series of experiments in thought transference, which he believed were successful. Convinced that transference of ideas and concepts was possible for some humans, Doyle was inclined to believe that messages from the world of the dead could be similarly sent and received. Besides attending séances, where he took copious notes on the various occurrences, Doyle began to collect books on Spiritualism and ultimately amassed an extensive library. He found comfort in knowing that other prominent scientists “believed that spirit was independent of matter and could survive it.” But his growing enthusiasm was blunted by the poor results gained by some mediums and their sometimes obvious manipulations.

In October 1888, Margaret Fox, one of the sisters who stimulated the modern Spiritualist movement, publicly admitted that her family had perpetrated a huge hoax on the public. “Spiritualism is a fraud and a deception,” she said, “It is a bunch of legerdemain . . .” Later, both she and her sister Kate would recant their admission, but the blow to ­believers was, nevertheless, quite substantial. At that time, Doyle was hardly an advocate of the movement, although he was certain there was “an occult influence connecting us with an invisible world.” Faced with the need to make a living, he temporarily set aside pursuing his interest in Spiritualism. He did, however, continue to attend séances, even defending Spiritualism in a letter to the Portsmouth Evening News (May 1889), but he concentrated most of his abundant energy on building a secure place in a more tangible world. He also joined the recently created Society of Psychical Research (1882), which investigated the claims of psychics and mystics.

The modest success of A Study in Scarlet encouraged Doyle to write Micah Clarke (1889), his historical novel of the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685. His effort won an immediate audience and the struggling physician suddenly perceived an alternate avenue to wealth and fame, one that would force a choice between his profession and his avo­cation. To encourage his writing, the American editor of ­Lippincott’s Magazine traveled to Britain to solicit another Holmes novel. At a luncheon meeting in London, surely one of the best investments in publishing history, he obtained Doyle’s agreement to write The Sign of the Four, and convinced another author, Oscar Wilde, to embark on a project that produced The Picture of Dorian Gray. Holmes’ reappearance in America early in 1890 initiated a vogue for Doyle that has continued beyond the millennium.

Yet Doyle, at the age of thirty, remained unsure about his literary prospects. Uprooting his family, which now included baby Mary (1889), he departed for Vienna to begin study in ophthalmology. Returning in the spring of 1891, he established a London practice on Upper Wimpole Street. But lack of patients deemed the experiment a disaster. Whether it was his brusque manner, or simply Doyle’s competition on Harley Street is immaterial. His medical income fell, and scribbling stories became more vital. Fortunately, a new magazine, The Strand, had just begun to publish and needed an attraction to build a loyal readership. Mutual need led The Strand to publish its first Sherlock Holmes story, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” in July 1891. Five others quickly followed, and by the end of the year, Sherlock Holmes had become a publishing phenomenon in Great Britain. Building “The Canon” of four novels and fifty-six Sherlock Holmes adventures was one of Doyle’s notable literary accomplishments.

Suddenly, a failed ophthalmologist was a prominent author, and the decision to abandon his practice was inevitable. Although contracted for another six Holmes stories, Doyle’s ambition was far larger. As early as November 1891, he wrote his mother Mary that the detective distracted his mind; “I think of slaying Holmes.” Doyle was increasingly drawn to what he called “the dream of history,” and was elated when his long novel about the Thirty Years War received strong reviews. Some critics consider The White Company to be Doyle’s masterpiece, and it has never been out of print since its first publication in 1891. Six additional Holmes “adventures” appeared during the first half of 1892 along with a raft of other stories, and Doyle knew his future course was set. Although he received an average of only $175 for each episode, popular acclaim raised the price to $250 by the end of the year. The birth of a first son, Alleyne Kingsley (1892), only completed his contentment. Suddenly in demand, he agreed to co-write a play with his friend James Barrie, but the project failed in 1893. Little more than a decade later, Barrie would bring Peter Pan and Tinker Bell to an enchanted world.

The glories of Doyle’s literary output are best assessed by others, but his imaginative abilities seemed endless. He offered a demanding public its choice of historical, medical, or science-fiction stories. His interest in history plundered the Regency, Napoleonic Europe, and the Middle Ages for interesting story lines. While vacationing in Switzerland in 1893, he not only found the place to kill off Holmes, but also discovered the wonders of the ski slope; his travel essays secured the future of Davos as a resort community. After his attempt to kill Holmes failed, and he was forced to revive his creation in 1900, Doyle received $5,000 for every story that was published in the United States. His flow of words for an appreciative audience continued unabated until the time of the Great War.

Only within the heart of his family did Doyle experience sadness. His beloved wife, Touie, had been diagnosed with tuberculosis, and all efforts were directed to easing her suffering. Late in 1895, the couple journeyed to Egypt in order to avoid England’s harsh winter and to provide Touie with a dry climate to cure her cough. Doyle also used the trip to accumulate materials for later novels, and, after fighting broke out with the Dervishes, he became a war correspondent, reporting on General Kitchener for the Westminster Gazette. The Doyles then returned to a new home built in Surrey, whose fresh breezes were thought able to cure even the frailest of invalids.

Doyle continued to seek information in séances, and was angered when the Catholic Church issued a decree in 1898 that condemned Spiritualism. His writing continued to be successful, and in 1899, he and the actor William Gillette brought Holmes to the stage in a play that provided them both with steady income for thirty years. But the increasing frailty of his wife continued to preoccupy the prolific author.

For his entire life, Doyle was a patriot and defender of the British Empire. Too old to serve in the military during the Boer War, he voluntarily joined a hospital that was sent to the front, and he ministered to the wounded. Recalling the town in which his hospital functioned, Doyle wrote that “you could smell Bloemfontein long before you could see it.” As criticism of Great Britain increased, Doyle returned to England to unsuccessfully stand for Parliament as a supporter of the conflict. He wrote a spirited defense of The War in South Africa; Its Causes and Conduct, which later was expanded into The Great Boer War. For his staunch patriotism, as well as the pleasure his writings had given the world, Arthur Conan Doyle was knighted by King Edward in 1902. He was at first reluctant to accept, but the huge literary success of The Hound of the Baskervilles virtually ensured his ­acquiescence. The next year, a thirteen-volume edition of his works was published in the United States where his reputation was pristine.

In 1906, Touie’s long struggle with disease ended, and Doyle entered a bleak period of mourning. Gradually he came to accept his loss, and threw himself into clearing the name of George Edalji, who had been victimized by the legal system. Always willing to embark on such personal crusades, Sir Arthur would later defend a Jew accused of murder, denounce King Leopold for Belgium’s actions in the Congo, serve as president of the Divorce Law Reform Union, campaign for a “chunnel,” and fight for Irish home rule. The author also found comfort in his friendship with Jean Leckie, a woman he had first met in 1897 and who had helped him cope with Touie’s illness. Doyle’s personal recovery was signaled when, after consulting with his children, he married Jean on September 18, 1907. Their union produced the additional children both desired, and the couple would soon share a belief in Spiritualism as well. The Doyles soon moved to a new home, Windlesham, in Crow borough, and happily remained there for the rest of their marriage.

Holmes stories continued to appear at intervals to the delight of Doyle’s readers. But in the years before the Great War, Doyle was able to create a new hero—Professor Edward Challenger—whose adventures in The Lost World (1912) and The Poison Belt (1913) briefly competed for public favor with Doyle’s famous detective. It is perhaps significant that in contrast to the ever-rational Holmes, Challenger’s scientific mind found it possible to accept things beyond the understanding of modern thought.

THE NEW REVELATION

With the outbreak of the Great War, Doyle once again dreamed of active service, but his age limited the author to organizing local forces that were ultimately consolidated into the Sixth Royal Sussex Volunteer’s. More importantly, during 1914, Jean’s bridesmaid and oldest friend, Lily Lodes-Symonds, joined the household as a nanny for the children. She soon fell ill, perhaps in reaction to the loss of her brother during the battle of Mons, but stayed on as a member of the family. While bedridden, Lily suddenly developed an unexpected ability to receive messages from beyond the grave and communicate them through “automatic writing.” Sir Arthur had seen many such cases in which spirits communicated their messages to the living through the mechanism of a medium’s hand, but never as personally as with Lily. Such messages always raise the question of origin; do they arise from a spirit, the subconscious mind of the medium, or simply from fakery? Doyle reported that Lily’s ability to convey messages was sometimes notable only for its errors, so he was absolutely astonished when Lily accurately recounted a private conversation he had held with Jean’s brother Malcolm (also a war victim).

The incident became Doyle’s “moment of truth.” His long search for a personal faith was over, and Doyle’s personal manifesto of belief appeared in Light (November 4, 1916). Spiritualism, which he had studied since 1887, is closer to “Truth” than any existing creed, and it can be “the foundation of a definite system of religious thought.” It is “confirmitory of ancient systems,” yet new and fulfilling on its own terms. At the end of 1916, Sir Arthur decided that he would personally devote the rest of his life to publicizing Spiritualism, a movement offering “hope and guidance to the human race at the time of its deepest affliction.”

In the meantime, the Great War continued to inflict its terrible toll on Europe. Doyle’s literary prominence earned him a battlefront tour of three fronts, and his pen quickly began to produce reports, which became The British Campaign in France and Flanders.  His cogent dispatches appeared throughout World War I, sometimes interrupted by censors, and were the basis for a six-volume history, which appeared in 1920. The author’s lively social conscience led him also to protest the treatment of the leaders of the Easter Rising in Dublin (1916) and the execution of Sir Roger Casement. All the while he was mulling over his course regarding Spiritualism, and on October 17, 1917, he spoke to the London Spiritualist Society on what he called “The New Revelation.” Sir Arthur’s talk became the basis for his larger, more organized book, which appeared the following March.

The New Revelation offers a sustained plea for the understanding and recognition of Spiritualism as a major force. It must be remembered that Sir Arthur was a trained scientist, a skilled observer who was famed for his logical mind. These attributes had brought him fame and vast wealth, but no personal fulfillment. For decades he had studied the phenomena of Spiritualism without making a final commitment, but his experience with Lily ended his doubts. Spiritualism was a belief that could be verified, it could satisfy the demands of his modern mind and provide comfort. Life was a continuum, a progression into ever-greater knowledge and understanding that linked the souls of all people. The New Revelation explained his views and became the most influential statement of the movement. It represents Doyle’s most mature judgment, for it was written and published long before the war brought personal tragedy to his household. Later in 1918, Lily passed away, and then Doyle’s eldest son, Kingsley, died from a case of influenza. Equally tragic was the death of his beloved brother Brigadier General Innes Doyle, who succumbed to pneumonia in 1919.

The tragic deaths of two of his closest relatives did not force Doyle towards Spiritualism as a means of solace. Reason and experience had convinced him that there was life after death, and that some gifted people could make a connection between the two worlds. While professing the greatest respect for the ideals of Christ, Mohammed, and the Buddha, Doyle focused all his personal efforts on clarifying the meaning of Spiritualism and how it might be of benefit to everyone.

The New Revelation was quickly followed by The Vital Message (1919), and many English families who had lost loved ones during the war readily listened to this new gospel of hope. Both volumes became steady sellers, and for the remaining years of his life, Doyle would become the greatest proponent of Spiritualism both as writer and lecturer. Belief in the paranormal became the driving force of his life, and, no matter how often mediums were exposed as frauds, his faith never faltered. Moreover, his public support for mediums who were able to channel with the dead intensified. In 1919, he endorsed a Welsh medium who had established a connection with his dead son, a true revelation since during the séance, the son’s spirit “spoke of concerns unknown to the medium.” Other mediums brought Doyle into the presence of his mother and dead brother. In fact, by 1920, Doyle claimed to have established communication twice with Innes and six times with Kingsley.

In the 1920s, Sir Arthur toured the globe preaching the “new revelation” in which he put his faith. His travels took him to Australia, South Africa, North America, and to every part of Europe. He seemed particularly pleased with the two trips he made to the United States and Canada (1922–1923), during which he resumed his acquaintance with the renowned magician Harry Houdini (1874–1926). Both men were intensely interested in Spiritualism, but Houdini’s skepticism ultimately would cause a break in their friendship. Through a series of excerpted letters, their relationship is detailed in this book’s Afterword, beginning on page 97.

Sir Arthur was a gifted speaker, a friendly father figure who quickly established a relationship with his audience. His talent included the ability to speak with, not down to, the people who had come both to see the creator of Sherlock Holmes and Edward Challenger and to seek spiritual consolation. Wherever he appeared, crowds flocked to hear Doyle speak of his experiences. He told audiences that love, interests, and even hobbies survived death, and that souls with now perfect bodies enjoyed marriage with ideal mates. Both alcohol and tobacco use continued in the world of the dead, but sexual activity was no longer necessary. In the course of his standard lecture, Doyle always cautioned that some mediums were frauds, but contended that even true mediums could experience difficulties in establishing contact with the other side. Ruefully he also admitted that some true mediums cheated when their powers failed. But he held “no question of the validity of the Spiritualist experience,” and documented it with slides, photos, and personal testimony. “If it were only a matter of faith,” said Doyle, “then I might as well go back to the faith of my fathers.” Despite Doyle’s fervent proselytizing, his American tours were more successful financially than they were in gaining converts. This enabled the author to donate substantial sums to Spiritualist causes. He returned to Great Britain in 1923.

As Spiritualism’s greatest defender, books and pamphlets continued to flow from his ever-ready arsenal of words—his dozen books on the subject include Spiritualism and Rationalism, Wanderings of a Spiritualist, The Case for Psychic Photography, The Coming of the Fairies, and his autobiog­raphy, Memories and Adventures. Doyle chronicled his North American “adventure” in two volumes, which enjoyed substantial sales. Regarding the survival of Spiritualism itself, he personally held no doubts.

During the last years of his long and extraordinarily productive life, Doyle continued to tour and to write. In 1925, he financed the Psychic Bookshop, Library and Museum in London, but it proved to be an expensive failure. He took comfort from the fact that he had achieved communication with an individual spirit guide named Pheneas, an Arabian who had lived in Ur, whose messages Doyle gave to the world in 1927. His literary concerns were now almost exclusively devoted to Spiritualism, and he published a major history of the movement while rebutting attacks on its tenets. In a tape recording that still exists, he affirms that Spiritualism had provided him with serenity, it “absolutely removes all fear of death,” and readies one to meet God. No medium’s failure to communicate, no exposure of fraud disturbed his confidence that there was another side. Whether or not spirits came was unimportant, “they come if they wish and the initiative is always with them,” and they follow the will of God in their appearances. A film made by the Movietone News (1929) shows a dignified, even youthful-looking Sir Arthur eager to share his faith. He considered himself a missionary, one who happened to be a public figure able to inform “less fortunate” people there is real hope. “I’m not talking about what I believe, I’m talking about what I know.”

After touring Scandinavia late in 1929, Doyle, at age seventy, returned to London with a severe case of angina. In spite of his failing health, he continued to fight Spiritualism’s battles, responding to an attack by H.G. Wells, and ­resigning from the Society of Psychical Research in 1930 to protest its refusal to accept séance insights. But doctors could not reverse his decline, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died at 9:30 AM on July 7, 1930. The news sped across the ocean, and the New York World announced his death with an epitaph Doyle would have loved. Beneath a photo of the renowned author was the caption, “His Greatest Adventure.”

As Great Britain and the world mourned, Doyle was buried near his summerhouse at Windlesham. On July 13, during a memorial service in Albert Hall, several mediums affirmed that Sir Arthur in full evening dress sat in the empty chair next to his grieving widow. It is a matter of record that Lady Doyle asserted the family achieved communication with him before the end of the month. Some may dispute her claim, but all agreed with the epitaph she placed on his gravestone: Steel True, Blade Straight.

George J. Lankevich, PhD

Historian, Author