Throughout his life, Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes was an ardent supporter of the spiritualist point of view. He had many debates (arguments) with eminent critics of spiritualist ideas, in particular, Harry Houdini, illusionist, escape artist and an ardent debunker of spiritualist beliefs, often catching false mediums in the act.
Conan Doyle’s son was killed in the First World War and some have suggested that the father’s desire to contact his son overrode all other considerations. However, Doyle’s beliefs were not fleeting. He wrote what is probably the greatest history of the spiritualist movement ever penned. Highly readable even today and available on Amazon.com. This book is a skilled and serious attempt to clarify spiritualism. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in this subject.
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Doyle attended many seances and saw and heard the greatest mediums of his day. Perhaps the ultrarational Mr. Holmes was simply a compensating mechanism for the author, a personification of any doubts Conan Doyle may have felt.
In the twenty-first century, few people still believe in spirtualist ideas, though there are pockets even today in places like Lily Dale, New York, a town in upstate New York, where Conan Doyal visited and whose chief qualification for permanent residence is proving that one is a capable medium.
The crossroads of a belief in the spirit world lay in the Victorian era when Darwin published his book “On the origin of the species“in 1859. After publication public opinion shifted very quickly to a rationalist point of view regarding anything spiritual. It also changed the form of many Christian beliefs.
My own thought is that faith is one of the most personal choices we make. To anyone who has read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, disbelief in the world of spirit seems equally impossible. Another important source of pro spiritualist writers is to be found among professional exorcists, many of whom make Hollywood’s portrayal of demons and spirits seem tame. For instance, how about a possessed doll that comes alive and causes catastrophic events in someone’s life? Farther out than a Stephen King novel, yet attested to by an exorcist who was tested, utilized, even famed among those who know the back streets of the human soul. Even today we are fascinated with paranormal subjects, as evidenced by such movies as Paranormal Activity 3.