I Pledge my Honour that Spiritualism is True!
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
I Pledge my Honour that Spiritualism is True
In last Tuesday's "Daily Express" Mr. J. D. Beresford, the novelist, put forward a theory, relating to the subconscious mind which he suggested might well furnish an explanation of the phenomena which Sir A. Conan Doyle and Sir Oliver Lodge, among others, accept as evidence of survival after death. Sir A. Conan Doyle here takes up the challenge, and, with his usual deep sincerity, reaffirms his conviction that the "dead" live on.
I welcome such an article as that by Mr. J. D. Beresford, for though it is in general opposition to my views it is not couched in that would - be humorous vein which is so unworthy of a great subject. As to the difficulties which he raises , they are those which I and every thoughtful spiritualist have encountered before we were forced by our larger experience to accept our present explanations.
Mr. Beresford must remember that for nearly three generations many of the finest intellects in the world have explored this problem, and that it would be marvellous indeed if he could come upon any new explanation of the facts which had escaped them. It was not lightly that such men as Hyslop and Hodgson, Crookes and Wallace, Barrett and Lumbroso, Myers and Driesch and Bozzano have subscribed to a doctrine which each of them fought to the last... before they admitted that the evidence was too strong.
Mr. Beresford's suggested explanation lies in the direction of the latent powers of the subconscious part of our own natures. In this he has the support of Charles Richet and several other first-class Continental researchers who still cling desperately to a material solution.
As, however, their own experience has forced them to admit the building up of such phantoms as those which Crookes investigated fifty-five years ago in his London laboratory, and that such phantoms have a temporary independent existence with definite individuality. It has become difficult to see any broad gap between their position and that of the spiritualists. Outside this forced explanation of Richet there is no other at all which attempts to meet the facts — unless we adopt the absolute negation of the materialists, which surely has become too absurd to discuss.
When one considers that Schrenck-Notzing some years ago demonstrated the physical phenomena to a hundred inquirers, among whom were twenty-five professors of German universities and that after the demonstration there was not one dissentient as to their reality, it takes some hardihood now to deny them.
There are few thoughtful spiritualists who are not prepared to accept the fact that since we are ourselves spirits here and now, we may, though encumbered by our bodily envelope, none the less show some of the powers which are inherent to spirit. Especially is this the case in individuals in whom the dissociation of spirit and body is for some reason abnormally easy. So far, then, these thinkers would be in agreement with Mr. Beresford. I have long been of opinion that such phenomena as book - tests or knowledge of what passes at a distance may he open to a natural explanation.
But soon we cross a border line beyond which I for one cannot accept any solution save the spiritualistic one. If I draw only upon my own experience, I can pledge my honour in the most solemn fashion that I have seen my mother, and also my nephew, Oscar Hornung, years after their "death" as clearly as ever l saw them in life. There was no delusion possible, for others saw what I saw. I can swear, also, that I have heard three loud spirit voices carrying on three separate conversations at the same time in a room which contained only personal friends.
Again I can swear that I have seen in good light a platter of wood when no one was near it rise up on edge and give intelligible signals. These are but three instances out of very many, but how are they to be fitted into any theory of our subconscious self? It simply will not cover the facts.
Mr. Beresford complains of the low intelligence shown in the messages, and also of practical jokes which he cannot reconcile with his conception of another life. His experience is, I assure him, abnormal, for in my forty-one years of experiment, during which my seances must have long ago topped four figures. I can recall no instance of a practical joke I have certainly had mistakes, but they were, in my opinion, honest mistakes due to faulty methods of communication.
Possibly Mr. Beresford alludes to the touches received at physical phenomena séances. Certainly, these séances do represent the lowest and most material side of the subject, but the touches are evidential, and have an object. There is, however, apart from practical joking, plenty of merriment upon the other side, which is one reason why, unlike Mr. Beresford, I look forward to going there.
"We have all the fun on this side. You have little in your grey old world." So ran a message recently received.
There remains the quality of spirit message. Has Mr. Beresford read "Cleophas"? Has he read "The Gate of Remembrance"? Has he read Vale Owen's books? Has he read Stainton Moses' "Spirit Teachings"? Has he read the posthumous work of Oscar Wilde or of Jack London? Has he even read "Pheneas Speaks," which is a record of messages received in my own home circle? These and scores of other books which I could name confute the idea that the spirit messages are on a low mental or spiritual level.
Mr. Beresford is mistaken when he says that "mediums — certainly trance mediums" are never men or women of any intellectual attainment. I cannot imagine how be could make such a statement. Swedenborg was undoubtedly a trance medium, and the most learned man in Europe. In our own days Stainton Moses was our very best trance medium, and a lecturer at University College, Miss Cummings, through whom "Cieophas" came, and Captain Bartlett, who got the "Gate of remembrance" messages, are both exceptionally intellectual. Vale Owen writes well upon any subject. There is no truth at all in the assertion.
If a traveller visiting England were to land at Limehouse and remain there he would carry away a very incomplete and unworthy conception of the country. This is analogous to what many inquirers do who touch the edge of Spiritualism. I would recommend them to push on, to rise higher, and in time they will find themselves in contact with something nobler and more beautiful than anything upon earth, something which has in my belief been specially sent by God to give mankind one strong and solid support in these days of doubt and turmoil, and to afford a basis upon which all nations and all religions will eventually unite.
Do not examine its weakness, which is largely human weakness, but examine its strength as a living vital revelation and it will be borne in upon you that quietly and gradually something has happened in this world for which there is no parallel since the first more days of Christianity.