Who on earth knows about the Afterlife? And why bother?
Surely these are the most important questions we can ask? The author poses these questions and asks who is qualified to answer? This book then takes us on a journey of investigation and exploration of the evidence for life after death and outlines how the monopoly of the orthodox religions as the authority on this subject was challenged by the emergence and popularity of Spiritualism and by Psychical Research.
Although these challengers emerged from polarised positions what they had in common was mediumship – whether demonstrated or investigated. As for the Churches their authority as intermediary between the people and their God had been superseded – now all that was required was a Medium with no particular religious position or experience, Straughan tells us.
Psychical Research was also in ascendance and this was enhanced further by two knights on a mission – the man who created Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the President of The Society for Psychical Research, Sir Oliver Lodge. Both men had lost their sons but had received personal communication from them via mediumship – this had convinced them both of life after death. This put the two knights on a collision course with the church hence the title of this book, The Medium and The Minister.
This matter became further confused when some Ministers became Mediums, showing that one person could fulfil both roles. The Church had to act. The Archbishop of Canterbury commissioned a report but with instructions that it should never be published – it took 40 years before it was eventually published in 1979.
The book concludes by looking at the overwhelming amount of evidence for the proposition that individual consciousness survives the physical death of the body and whilst there can be no definitive proof, it is the vastness of this evidence and from different sources and via a variety of methodology – some without the need for mediums at all, that is compelling.
What I like about this book is that Personal Experience is given as much credence and status as the evidence from any other sector. This is an area that is often neglected in my opinion by many academic researchers but as stated in the book, it is only after the personal experiences of many of the contributors, that their own ‘missions’ begin in earnest. This mirrors my own personal experience and I am aware that the author too has encountered something similar which he outlines in his book, A study in Survival: Conan Doyle Solves the Final Problem.
‘Another reason for highlighting the role of personal experience here is the degree of conviction that it can carry. One can study all the religious arguments for life after death and read all the reports of psychical researchers, and find this mass of data intellectually convincing. Yet a single direct personal experience of the kind we have mentioned can bring with it a level of psychological certainty that second hand material cannot.’
I thoroughly commend this book for the thoroughness of the research and the ease with which it is presented. It is crammed with facts and findings yet it is a real page-turner – very enjoyable and enlightening. Needless to say, it is another well-written book by Roger Straughan who has a knack of delivering his evidence in a format which takes the reader with him on his journey of exploration. I would recommend it for anyone with an open mind and enquiring spirit.
Founder, The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, Edinburgh.