ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE (1859-1930)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in 1859. His father was a distinguished painter, but also a hopeless alcoholic, who was so unable to provide for his family that his beloved mother had to take a lodger to make ends meet. As she cooked and worked she told Arthur exciting tales of chivalry and noble deeds by valiant knights of long ago. The boy vowed that when he was a man he would buy her a velvet dress and a gold chain, and she should have a life of ease.
He was educated by the Jesuits at Stoneyhurst who believed in a sound beating for any offence, as the basis of school discipline, but gave him a good education. Both Arthur and his mother later joined the Anglican Church.
As a young doctor seeking his first employment, Arthur took post aboard an arctic whaler, which, he said turned him from a boy into a man.
As he grew up, he excelled at most sports; he played cricket for the M.C.C., and once bowled the famous batsman, Dr. W. G. Grace and took seven wickets for 61 runs against Leicestershire, as well as scoring a century at Lords. He was a first class boxer and put his knowledge of the ring into the book ‘Rodney Stone’.
Having skied in Norway he joined a group of pioneers who hoped to scale a mountain on skis in Switzerland for the first time. They succeeded, and Arthur’s articles about the joys of skiing were read widely and helped to found the Swiss Winter Sports Industry.
Both as a doctor and later as an eye specialist, he often had time on his hands waiting for patients, and he often wrote articles, which brought him a few pounds to supplement his fees. After many failures and a few successes, he wrote the first Sherlock Holmes story – ‘A Study in Scarlet’. These stories succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. The public simply could not get enough of them. Crowds would collect at railway stations to meet the trains bringing the next instalment of The Strand Magazine, which serialised the stories. He wrote many stories and plays later but nothing was more popular that the Sherlock Holmes stories which made him the highest paid writer in the world, and a wealthy man, in spite of the financial support he was always giving to those in need.
After his first wife died of tuberculosis, which was sweeping across the western world, Arthur fell into a depression. He was roused from it by reading the story of a solicitor, George Edalji, who was wrongly imprisoned on a trumped up charge of mutilating cattle by night. On seeing him, Arthur said, ‘I know you are innocent!’ Being an eye specialist, he knew it would have been impossible for George to have committed the alleged crime at night, because of his myopia and sever astigmatism.
Arthur tore the police case to shreds in the daily and Sunday newspapers and helped raise such a clamour for justice that the government had to form a Cabinet Committee to look at the case, for there was no court of appeal in those days. The committee found George innocent and the Daily Mail raised a sum in compensation for the man which the government had refused to do. Later, another imprisoned man called Slater, was similarly innocent, and was helped by Conan Doyle to a pardon and later still the first Court of Appeal was created to guard against such injustices in the future.
When the Boer War broke out, Arthur volunteered to go as a doctor to the troops in South Africa at his own expense, where he worked in appalling conditions, although suffering from the fever that claimed many lives. Recovering, he interviewed all the senor commanders in the field and wrote the first history of the war, for which he was offered a knighthood by King George V. Waiting to be knighted by the king, he had a long conversation with the pioneer scientist, Oliver Lodge. He was also waiting to be knighted, and they had an important discussion about Spiritualism, in which they both firmly believed. Conan Doyle had carried out many tests with mediums. Some were successful and others less so. His disappointment was eased when his friend, the distinguished soldier, General Drayson, pointed out that there were a lot of silly weak people in this world and it was easy to contact such people in the next world, for they had not changed.
When the First World War came 1n 1914, with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of young men in the trenches, Conan Doyle realised the importance of the vital truth that all men survive death. His second wife, Jean, at first suspicious of Spiritualism, developed into a brilliant writing medium, and in their own home circle they had regular messages from the young family members who had perished in the war.
Arthur now started his last and greatest campaign to tell the world the truth. When leading scientists said that death was the end – there was no afterlife! Arthur’s compassion for the millions of bereaved families drove him to proclaim that they would see their loved ones again – death was not the end. Spiritualism was not just a new phenomenon beyond the understanding of science but a call of hope to suffering humanity, a breaking down of the walls between two worlds. As he said in a radio broadcast in South Africa, if there was no life after death, religions were worthless; for if there was no soul, man was born without purpose or destiny and parted lovers would never be united.
For eleven years he toured Australia, South Africa, America and Britain with his family, speaking to huge audiences to tell them the good news. His doctors warned him to stop but all his fame and fortune had to be sacrificed to this last and greatest campaign. His last act before he died was to lead a deputation to the Home Secretary, to protest against the law that made it a crime to act as a medium, punishable with three months’ hard labour in prison.
At his funeral, a special train had to bring flowers from friends and admirers from all over the world and they covered an entire field. On his tombstone, his wife had had carved his name, his dates, and her judgement of him: “Steel True: Blade Straight”.
It was after his death that his greatest message was received. Through the medium, Grace Cooke, he was heard to say, among other things:
“Thank God! God bless you! I am here. You must forgive my emotion. It is so marvellous to speak with you again. I have spoken before, but not with power…. I must work. I must go forward. The mission that we have to fulfil is shown to me. Survival of the human soul is a fact, is unquestionable, but before any true communication can take place, it is necessary for the spirit of the person left behind on earth to be raised to the consciousness of spiritual reality. The glorious truth of survival must be given to humanity in clear and perfect form”.
He later said, “We must tell people the truth so that they do not come over here to dwell in darkness”.
Conan Doyle’s teachings from the afterlife can be found in the book, ‘The Return of Arthur Conan Doyle’ by Ivan Cooke, published by, The White Eagle Publicity Trust. They are very profound. Other books are, ‘Arthur and George’ by Julian Barnes, Vintage Books (Short listed for the Booker Prize in 2005, and ‘Teller of Tales’ by Daniel Stashower. Published by Allan Lane, The Penguin Press.
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