"Bolsover's seances and others like them are, or course, things of no moment to the real psychic. They are like the rude foundations of a building which certainly help to sustain the edifice, but are forgotten when once you come to inhabit it. It is the higher superstructure with which we have to do. You would think that the physical phenomena were the whole subject -- those and a fringe of ghosts and haunted houses -- if you were to believe the cheap papers who cater for the sensationalist. Of course, these physical phenomena have a use of their own. They rivet the attention of the inquirer and encourage him to go further. Personally, having seen them all, I would not go across the road to see them again. But I would go across many roads to get high messages from the beyond."
"Yes, I quite appreciate the distinction, looking at it from your point of view. Personally, of course, I am equally agnostic as to the messages and the phenomena."
"Quite so. St. Paul was a good psychic. He makes the point so neatly that even his ignorant translators were unable to disguise the real occult meanings as they have succeeded in doing in so many cases."
"Can you quote it?"
"I know my New Testament pretty well, but I am not letter-perfect. It is the passage where he says that the gift of tongues, which was an obvious sensational thing, was for the uninstructed, but that prophecies, that is real spiritual messages, were for the elect. In other words that an experienced Spiritualist has no need of phenomena."
"I'll look that passage up."
"You will find it in Corinthians, I think. By the way, there must have been a pretty high average of intelligence among those old congregations if Paul's letters could have been read aloud to them and thoroughly comprehended."
"That is generally admitted, is it not?"
"Well, it is a concrete example of it. However, I am down a side-track. What I wanted to say to you is that you must not take Bolsover's little spirit circus too seriously. It is honest as far as it goes, but it goes a mighty short way. It's a disease, this phenomena hunting. I know some of our people, women mostly, who buzz around seance rooms continually, seeing the same thing over and over, sometimes real, sometimes, I fear, imitation. What better are they for that as souls or as citizens or in any other way? No, when your foot is firm on the bottom rung don't mark time on it, but step up to the next rung and get firm upon that."
"I quite get your point. But I'm still on the solid ground."
"Solid!" cried Mervin. "Good Lord! But the paper goes to press to-day and I must get down to the printer. With a circulation of ten thousand or so we do things modestly, you know -- not like you plutocrats of the daily press. I am practically the staff."
"You said you had a warning."
"Yes, yes, I wanted to give you a warning." Mervin's thin, eager face became intensely serious. "If you have any ingrained religious or other prejudices which may cause you to turn down this subject after you have investigated it, then don't investigate at all -- for it is dangerous."
"What do you mean -- dangerous?"
"They don't mind honest doubt, or honest criticism, but if they are badly treated they are dangerous."
"Who are 'they'?"
"Ah, who are they? I wonder. Guides, controls, psychic entities of some kind. Who the agents of vengeance -- or I should say justice -- are, is really not essential. The point is that they exist."
"Oh, rot, Mervin!"
"Don't be too sure of that."
"Pernicious rot! These are the old theological bogies of the Middle Ages coming up again. I am surprised at a sensible man like you!"
Mervin smiled -- he had a whimsical smile -- but his eyes, looking out from under bushy yellow brows, were as serious as ever.
"You may come to change your opinion. There are some queer sides to this question. As a friend I put you wise to this one."
"Well, put me wise, then."
Thus encouraged, Mervin went into the matter. He rapidly sketched the career and fate of a number of men who had, in his opinion, played an unfair game with these forces, become an obstruction, and suffered for it.