Emphasis Added

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No one better exemplifies the spiritual trajectory of our time than Arthur Conan Doyle, an advocate of scientific rigor who started life as a devout Catholic and ended it as the world’s most prominent spiritualist.

While studying with the Jesuits at Stonyhurst, Doyle made his first communion. He wrote to his mother: “Oh mama, I cannot express the joy that I felt on the happy day to receive my creator into my breast. I shall never though I live a hundred years, I shall never forget that day.” He was enrolled in the sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Arthurus Doyle, servus perpetuus BVM.

His promises were soon forgotten. In adulthood, Doyle championed broad-minded inquiry and rejected the Catholic faith. “I regard hard-and-fast dogma of every kind as an unjustifiable and essentially irreligious thing,” he wrote. He admired Oliver Wendell Holmes, whose skeptical, scientific outlook would be immortally embodied in Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street.

Rigorous skepticism may work for storybook characters, but it cannot satisfy man. When spiritualist mediums brought automatic writing and table-rapping into Victorian parlors, Doyle was taken in. He became the most outspoken defender of spiritualism, accusing Harry Houdini of being a pawn of Rome when the magician exposed Doyle’s heroes as frauds. Like the people I joined in Brooklyn, Doyle wanted a nonjudgmental faith that welcomed all spirits. But in rejecting dogma, he opened himself to impostors, not excluding the greatest impostor of all.

We may be tempted simply to have an urbane laugh at the follies of the superstitious, but that would be a mistake. They see something the great and good cannot: We live in a world full of spirits. Agnostic indifference to this fact may be possible for a time, but very few men are capable of sustained and thoroughgoing unbelief. This is why no superstition is more ridiculous than the pretense of secularism, and anyone who thinks Christianity will give way to atheism is a far greater fool than the most credulous ghost hunter.

(source: “My Shamanic Healing” by Matthew Schmitz)