In order that you may understand what I wish to convey by the expression ‘bearable existence’, it must be said that, after all my travels in those countries of the continents of Asia and Africa which for some reason or other in the last fifty years have come to interest many people, I have long been reputed to be a sorcerer and an expert in ‘questions of the beyond’.

And in consequence of this, everyone who met me considered that he had the right to disturb me for the satisfaction of his idle curiosity concerning these questions of the beyond, or to compel me to relate something or other of my personal life or some incident of my travels.

And no matter how tired I might be, I was obliged to answer something, as otherwise people became offended, and feeling ill­ disposed towards me, would always, whenever my name was mentioned, say something to harm my activities and belittle my significance.

That is why, in revising the material destined for this series, I have decided to present it in the form of separate independent tales, and to insert in them various ideas which can serve as answers to all the questions often put to me, so that if I should again have to deal with these shameless idlers, I may simply refer them to this or that chapter, whereby they can satisfy their automatic curiosity. And this, at the same time, will give me the possibility of conversing with some of them merely by the now of associations, as is habitual to them, and will also sometimes provide a necessary breathing­-space for my active thinking which is inevitably required in the conscious and conscientious fulfilment of my life obligations.

Of the questions often put to me by people of various classes and different degrees of informedness’, the following, as I recall, recurred most frequently: