He had no very definite theory as to the spiritual world beyond thinking that it was rather like this world. For him it was peopled with individualities of various characters and temperaments, of various grades and achievements; and of these a certain number had the power of communicating under great difficulties with persons on this side who were capable of receiving such communications. That there were dangers connected with this process, he was well aware; he had seen often enough the moral sense vanish and the mental powers decay. But these were to him no more than the honorable wounds to which all who struggle are liable. The point for him was that here lay the one certain means of getting into touch with reality. Certainly that reality was sometimes of a disconcerting nature, and seldom of an illuminating one; he hated, as much as anyone, the tambourine business, except so far as it was essential; and he deplored the fact that, as he believed, it was often the most degraded and the least satisfactory of the inhabitants of the other world that most easily got into touch with the inhabitants of this. Yet, for him, the main tenets of spiritualism were as the bones of the universe; it was the only religion which seemed to him in the least worthy of serious attention.
He had not practiced as a medium for longer than ten or a dozen years. He had discovered, by chance as he thought, that he possessed mediumistic powers in an unusual degree, and had begun then to take up the life as a profession. He had suffered, so far as he was aware, no ill effects from this life, though he had seen others suffer; and, as his fame grew, his income grew with it.
It is necessary, then, to understand that he was not a conscious charlatan; he loathed mechanical tricks such as he occasionally came across; he was perfectly and serenely convinced that the powers which he possessed were genuine, and that the personages he seemed to come across in his mediumistic efforts were what they professed to be; that they were not hallucinatory, that they were not the products of fraud, that they were not necessarily evil. He regarded this religion as he regarded science; both were progressive, both liable to error, both capable of abuse. Yet as a scientist did not shrink from experiment for fear of risk, neither must the spiritualist.
As he picked his way to his lodgings on the north of the park, he was thinking about Laurie Baxter. That this boy possessed in an unusual degree what he would have called “occult powers” was very evident to him. That these powers involved a certain risk was evident too. He proposed, therefore, to take all reasonable precautions. All the catastrophes he had witnessed in the past were due, he thought, to a too rapid development of those powers, or to inexperience. He determined, therefore, to go slowly.