Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Cult of Conan Doyle

"Hence every man feared his neighbour, and none spoke of the things that were nearest his heart."
-- STUD 2:3

Every now and then we like to frame the sixty stories of Sherlock Holmes as a holy book, do things like call it our "Canon." And why not? It's a book of wisdom, with many a worthy insight, and as you might note in the quote from A Study in Scarlet above, actually sounds like the Canon of a previously unknown religion in places.

Sherlockians have even referred to themselves as a cult upon occasion. But Conan Doyle, t'were he still alive and looking upon all of that which, basically, emanated from the tip of his pen . . . think about that for a second . . . all the books, all the banquets, all the movies, all the letters, discussions, e-mails, tweets, friendships, sexual encounters (sorry, reading fic), that have, at their root cause, flowed out into humanity with the ink from Doyle's pen . . . all that Doyle hath wrought, well, Conan Doyle might want to deny responsibility for their cult, I am sure.

And yet, Arthur Conan Doyle was a very religious man.

He spent a goodly share of his income promoting the cause of spiritualism, which, while it never took off as a major religion, was actually a religion of sorts. Doyle actually put out books of prophecy, championed the existence of mythical creatures, and did all the sorts of things one might expect from a person trying to start a cult or religion of their own, enough that you can almost start to wonder, "Why wasn't Conan Doyle a cult leader?"

It certainly seems like he could have started a cult if he wanted to, traveled around America converting believers, sleeping with the faithful as cult leaders like to do, building a center in some major city to which his followers would flock . . . Doyle could have done all those things. But he didn't.

Looking at Conan Doyle's life, you see a man who was just trying to figure things out for himself. You can see that in his writings, you can see that in his actions. He wanted to help others, whether it was heading to Africa to work in a wartime hospital or just helping two little girls convince the world their story was real. It's very hard to look at Doyle and see the sort of narcissistic egomaniac that it takes to wrap a cult around himself.

And yet, here we are, a legion that follows him two centuries after he first hit the public eye. And still talking about the wisdom he related from his own quests for knowledge, even if it was through the mouths of a detective, a doctor, or whoever wrote that second half of A Study in Scarlet.

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