Information: The text below has a biographical character, and it is mainly oriented to show things like what we can read in the following quotation: “At least two of the original three chiefs of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn had been active in Kingsford’s Hermetic Society. Besides Mathers, W.W. Westcott was a conspicuous participant. In July 1886, the full roster of speakers for Hermetic Society meetings consisted of Kingsford, Maitland, Mathers and Westcott”; that is to say, the text aims to show the influence, direct or indirect, of Anna Kingsford in the esoteric movement, as in the case of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and other similar organizations.
An example of such praise can be found in the following quotation from W.W. Westcott: “The occultists of today do not need to be reminded of the Great Hermetists and Theosophists of our day, of Dr. Anna Kingsford, of whom death prematurely robbed us. She was indeed illuminated by the Sun of Light, and no one who ever heard her lecture and discuss the Hermetic Doctrines will ever forget her learning or her eloquence, her beauty or her grace.”
Text in the Internet at: http://www.hermetic.com/dionysos/abk.htm
Read below the complete text:
The Moon under Her Feet
Being an Acclamation of
Madam Dr. Anna Mary Bonus Kingsford
of the Order of the Eagle of the
by T Polyphilus
“That which endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved.” – Anna Kingsford, “Hymn to Hephaistos” (paraphrasing Matthew 25:13)
· A Brief Biography
· Mystical Practices and Doctrines
· Interaction with the Theosophical Society
· Influence on the Golden Dawn
· Crowley’s Opinions
· Further Resources Online
Annie Bonus was born at 5:00 p.m. on September 16, 1846, the daughter of a successful merchant family. She had a chronic lung condition and other ailments which made her somewhat frail, but she was active in sports when she could be, and she was intellectually precocious, writing poetry and stories for publication starting in her teens. In her twenty-first year her father died, leaving her a comfortable income, and she married a cousin, the Anglican clergyman Algernon Godfrey Kingsford. They conceived a daughter on their wedding night, but the remainder of their marriage appears to have been non-sexual in its basis, and she was purportedly sexually abstinent for the rest of her life. In 1870 she converted to Roman Catholicism, receiving the name Mary at her confirmation.
Anna Kingsford quickly found focuses for her intellectual energies, taking up a series of social causes. She began with property rights for married women, that being in her case not merely an altruistic struggle. While involved in that effort, she encountered and joined the movement for Dress Reform (to promote healthier and more comfortable women’s clothing than the Victorian standard) and Spiritualism. She bought and briefly edited a magazine, The Lady’s Own Paper: A Journal of Progress, Taste, and Art. Kingsford was most aggressive in her campaigning against vivisection, a cause that also involved her in vegetarianism. In 1873 she described herself as “one of those strong-minded women who believe in Liberal politics and natural religion.” She supported her various causes by writing, lecturing and organizing.
and judgmental towards men and women, her affections were largely directed
towards animals. She constantly kept a guinea pig as a pet, usually carrying it
with her even in public. One of these named Rufus lived to the remarkable age
of nine years. Eventually, she determined to acquire medical credentials in
support of her anti-vivisectionist advocacy, but there were no medical schools
In a vision in January of 1881, Kingsford’s personal genius introduced her to the shade of William Lilly (a 17th century astrologer and friend of Elias Ashmole), who interpreted her nativity. He told her that the stars had marked her out for a single career in which she could enjoy wealth and success. “The course is, however, an evil one. It is the career of the Harlot.” He told her that she had begun to bring ruin on herself by marrying, and that by becoming a mother, she had closed herself off to the benefits of her stars. He forecast misfortune for her as long as she should “persist in a virtuous course of life; and, indeed, it is now too late to adopt another.”
on their Parisian visions, Kingsford and Maitland gave a private lecture series
on mystical Christianity, and then collected this material into a book called The
In addition to The Perfect Way, Kingsford wrote The Perfect Way in Diet (a translation of her French medical dissertation on vegetarianism), The Credo of Christendom and Other Addresses and Essays on Esoteric Christianity, Addresses and Essays on Vegetarianism, Dreams and Dream Stories, and Health, Beauty and the Toilet. She also edited and commented on The Virgin of the World of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus and Valentin Weigelius’ Astrology Theologized. During the 1880’s, she organized the Hermetic Society, which included many leading British esoteric thinkers of the time.
Kingsford died at noon on February 22, 1888, concluding an eighteen-month bout of the illness that had challenged her repeatedly throughout her life.
was a diarist, and her programmatic effort to maintain written records of her
visions and esoteric ideas stands as a clear presage of the method of the
magical record in
No man can know God unless he first understand himself.
God is nothing that man is not.
What man is, that God is likewise.
As God is the heart of the outer world, so also is God at the heart of the world within thee.
When the God within thee shall be wholly united to the God without, then shalt thou be one with the Most High.
Thy will shall be God’s will, and the Son shall be as the Father.
Kingsford’s doctrines constantly emphasize the occult importance of will. She writes that astral or elemental spirits may “control” (she adds the scare quotes herself to reference Spiritualist usage) a passive medium, but that “the more positive and pronounced the will of the individual, the more open he is to divine communication.” In “The Mystery of Redemption,” she wrote, “For thou art God, if thy will be the Divine will.” She also paired will with love, as in this received text:
It is love which is the centripetal power of the universe; it is by Love that all creation returns to the bosom of God. The force which projected all things is Will, and Will is the centrifugal power of the universe. Will alone could not overcome the evil which results from the limitations of Matter; but it shall be overcome in the end by Sympathy, which is the knowledge of God in others – the recognition of the omnipresent Self. This is Love. And it is with the children of the Spirit, the servants of Love, that the dragon of Matter makes war.
Another example is this passage from “The Vision of Adonai”:
In the midst stands Deity erect, His right hand raised aloft, and from Him pours the light of light. Forth from His right hand streams the universe, projected by the omnipotent repulsion of his will. Back to His left, which is depressed and set backwards, returns the universe, drawn by the attraction of His love. Repulsion and attraction, will and love, right and left, these are the forces, centrifugal and centripetal, male and female, whereby God creates and redeems. […] O God, O God! Why didst Thou create this stupendous existence? Surely, surely, it had been better in love to have restrained Thy will. It was by will that Thou createdst, by will alone, not by love, was it not? – was it not?
In notes written after Kingsford’s death, Maitland is insistent that her “illuminations are in no way due to artificial stimulation of faculty, whether by means of drugs, or by ‘animal magnetism,’ ‘mesmerism,’ or ‘hypnotism,’ or to the induction of any abnormal state through the act of the recipient herself or some other person.” He points out that many of her visions occurred “during natural sleep,” and basically attributes the experiences to earnest aspiration, combined with right diet, and “the spontaneous operation of Spirit in a soul duly luminous and responsive.” In his annotations to Kingsford’s “Vision of Adonai,” however, he writes that in that instance she “was prompted to make certain ceremonial preparations obviously calculated to impress the imagination,” without specifying the precise nature of the ceremony. Furthermore, accounts from Maitland and others indicate that Kingsford’s visionary experiences were often obtained under the influence of chloroform or ether.
advanced a doctrine regarding the personal genius or ministering spirit, which
appears to be a clear predecessor to
Oh, I see masses, masses of stars! It makes me giddy to look at them. O my God, my God, why didst Thou create? It was by Will, all Will, that Thou didst it. Oh! what might, what might of Will! Oh, what gulfs! what gulfs! Millions and millions of miles broad and deep! Hold me – hold me up! I shall sink – I shall sink into the gulfs. I am sick and giddy, as on a billowy sea. I am on a sea, an ocean – the ocean of infinite space. Oh, what depths! I sink – I fall! I cannot, cannot bear it!
I shall never come back. I have left my body for ever. I am dying; I believe I am dead. Impossible to return from such a distance! Oh, what colossal forms! They are the angels of the planets. Every planet has its angel standing erect above it. And what beauty – what marvellous beauty! I see Raphael. I see the angel of the earth. He has six wings. He is a god – the god of our planet. I see my genius who called himself A.Z.; but his name is Salathiel. Oh, how surpassingly beautiful he is!
other visions, Kingsford describes her Genius as looking like Dante, dressed
always in red. He prefers to be called a “minister” rather than an
angel, because the latter term is subject to common misunderstanding. (Thelemites will compare CCXX I:7.)
And he carries a cactus, on which he comments at one point: “Do not fret yourself about trying to get into the lucid state. In a
short time it will be unnecessary to become somnolent at all.” With the
benefit of hindsight, this passage looks remarkably like a prophecy of
The Perfect Way, Kingsford
asserted a doctrine of reincarnation or “transmigration of the soul”
that was highly controversial at the time. Her writings in Clothed with the Sun elaborated on her reincarnation
theories to discuss “the memory of the soul” that
Her memories as Mary Magdalene gave her an authoritative perspective on the historical Jesus, whom she understood to have been a great adept, but not the unique son of God. Kingsford discriminated between “Jesus,” a particular man, and “Christ,” a state of personal apotheosis not unique to Jesus. According to Kingsford, “The fundamental truth embodied in the crucifixion is Pantheism.” While noted as a Christian mystic for her prominent use of Christian language and images, Kingsford’s Christianity was of a very unorthodox and inclusive type, identifying pagan gods with archangels, for example. But it set a pattern for much of the ahistorical “New Age Christianity” developed in the 20th century.
Along with all of her talk of attaining to the condition of “Christ,” it is clear from other indications that Kingsford nursed messianic aspirations. Kingsford and Maitland developed an idea of historical Apocalypse, which treated 1881 as the beginning of the “Age of Michael” and a new spiritual regime, according to the calculations of Trithemius. Despite the protestations of modesty by Maitland in his “Preface” to Clothed with the Sun, it seems that Kingsford did view herself in some sense as the “woman clothed with the sun” from the twelfth chapter of the final book of the Bible, just as Crowley would later identify himself with the Great Beast of the thirteenth. In the sixth appendix of The Perfect Way, Kingsford explained various points of apocalyptic symbolism, including “the Abomination of Desolation” and the precession of the equinoxes.
The doctrines contained in The Perfect Way were supposed to be a key to the new metaphysical conditions of the world. In her “Hymn to Iacchos,” received in 1881, Kingsford wrote, “But now is the gospel of interpretation come, and the kingdom of the Mother of God.” In Maitland’s evangelizing for Kingford’s doctrines, he codified them as “The Gospel of Interpretation.” Kingsford and Maitland understood the “esoteric” to mean the inspired allegorical understanding of conventional doctrines. So their gospel was one of interpretation, which would restore and reconcile the sense of old teachings, rather than the assertion of a “new gospel.”
of these interpretations concerned the idea of an Aeon.
According to Kingsford, the “dove” that descended on Jesus at his
baptism in the
common expression of Kingsford’s, which must be strikingly familiar to Thelemites, is “The
Great Work.” To be sure, this phrase has a long history of prior use
in Hermeticism and alchemy, but Kingsford certainly
gave it prominence in her literature. She defines the Great Work as “the
redemption of spirit from matter,” as the regeneration of the soul, and
as “the establishment of the
In describing the essential innovation of her system of doctrines, Kingsford wrote:
Students of the “solar myth” have again and again demonstrated the fact that the dogmas and central figures of Christianity are identical with those of all other religious systems, and are probably all traceable to a common astronomical origin; but it was reserved for the writers of [The Perfect Way] to define the esoteric significance of the solar myth, and to point out the correspondence subsisting between the symbology of the various creeds founded on the terms of this universal myth, and the processes and principles concerned in the interior development of the individual human Ego.
Kingsford and Maitland were in
Kingsford accepted the nomination to the presidency, and was duly elected in May of 1883, installing Maitland as a vice-president. She changed the name of the British Theosophical Society to the “London Lodge of the Theosophical Society,” and she expressed her ambition to “make our London Lodge a really influential and scientific body.” There was no love lost between Kingsford and Blavatsky. Kingsford had no great sympathy for the Asian emphasis of Blavatsky’s post-Isis writings, and no particular confidence in the Mahatmas. Within the English Theosophical leadership, this particular disharmony tended to take for its poles Kingsford on one hand and on the other A.P. Sinnett, whose books The Occult World and Esoteric Buddhism set forth an Asian-based occultism for English consumption. In a letter (to a third party who seems to have forwarded it to Sinnett), Kingsford wrote about hazards to “the schemes and pretensions of the Indian T.S.” She and Maitland also issued a thirty-page pamphlet to the London Lodge, criticizing Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism and insisting that, in Kingsford’s words “the Vedas and the Tripitakas find their interpretation in the same language and by the same method as the Christian evangel; Chrishna, Buddha, and Christ are united, and a true Brotherhood – a true Eirenicon – is preached to men.”
Blavatsky’s relationship with Kingsford’s
sponsor Massey had already been difficult and tense. Massey had himself
expressed skepticism about the Mahatmas, and Blavatsky was dependent on him for
coordinating leadership of the Theosophists in
Mrs. Kingsford. Say – why was she dressed in a dress that looked like “the black and yellow coat of the zebras in the menagerie of the Rajah of Kashmir?” And is it true she had roses on her hair “which is like a flaming sunset, yellow gold?” And why – mercy on us! Why did she have “her arms painted black, jet black – up to the elbows” for? Or was it gloves? […] But why – why had she “the mystic of the century” so much jewellery on her! How can she confabulate with the unseen Gods when she looks “like a Delhi English Jeweller’s front window!”
As time went on, Blavatsky declared of Kingsford, “Oh woman – cunning, besides frailty – is thy name!” and even gave her another name: “the divine Whistle-breeches.”
one point, Blavatsky became convinced that Kingsford was “mixed up in”
the H.B. of L. This mistaken idea was probably inspired by an inquiry from the
American Theosophist J.D. Buck, who drew his concern from the fact that the
bookseller Robert Fryar of
Despite these antagonisms, Blavatsky was under a mandate from her Mahatmas to accommodate Kingsford. Khoot Hoomi had written to Sinnett regarding Kingsford,
may you admire and more should you wonder at the marvellous
lucidity of that remarkable seeress, who ignorant of
Sanskrit or Pali, and thus shut out from their
metaphysical treasures, has yet seen a great light shining from behind the dark
hills of exoteric religions. How, think you, did the ‘Writers of the
Of course it rankled Blavatsky, who complained, “Why Mahatma K.H. should have inflicted upon your [Sinnett’s] Society such a plaster as Mrs. K. seems to be, a haughty, imperious, vain and self-opinionated creature, a bag of Western conceit – ‘God’ knows, I do not.”
The solution to the conflict between the “Hermetic” and “Mahatmic” parties was not difficult to conceive, and was even intimated in the Kingsford-Maitland pamphlet. With the 1884 election for the presidency of the London Lodge on the horizon, Olcott offered Kingsford a charter for her own subordinate body of the Society, “The Hermetic Lodge of the Theosophical Society.” Kingsford accepted it, and as soon as she had established the “Hermetic Lodge,” she declared its independence from the T.S. altogether, creating the “Hermetic Society” as such on 22 April 1884. The new organization was a lecture society structured similarly to the T.S., but more accepting of Christian symbolism, and devoid of unseen Mahatmas in its leadership.
Blavatsky and Kingsford were cordial to one another in person, and it appears that their friendship warmed as the events of Kingsford’s London Lodge presidency receded into the past.
The young S.L. MacGregor Mathers met Kingsford in 1885 and was won over by her to virtually all of her causes. He embraced her feminist agenda, enlisted in her anti-vivisectionist campaign, and even adopted vegetarianism at her encouragement. Kingsford also introduced Mathers to Blavatsky in 1886. Mathers dedicated his first published work of occultism The Kabbalah Unveiled to Kingsford and Maitland, describing The Perfect Way in his dedication as “one of the most deeply occult works that has been written for centuries.”
At least two of the original three chiefs of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn had been active in Kingsford’s Hermetic Society. Besides Mathers, W.W. Westcott was a conspicuous participant. In July 1886, the full roster of speakers for Hermetic Society meetings consisted of Kingsford, Maitland, Mathers and Westcott.
Theosophical Society created an “Esoteric Section” to provide
initiatory services beyond the capabilities of the public lecture society. In
view of the collaboration among Kingsford, Mathers
and Westcott, it may be that the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was in part
conceived as performing an analogous role for the Hermetic Society. With the
demise of Kingsford, the others would have been aware that they must put their
plan into operation, or lose the opportunity altogether as the Hermetic Society
dissolved without its leader. Wasting no time, Westcott, Mathers
and Woodman signed the charter of the
The occultists of today do not need to be reminded of the Great Hermetists and Theosophists of our day, of Dr Anna Kingsford, of whom death prematurely robbed us. She was indeed illuminated by the Sun of Light, and no one who ever heard her lecture and discuss the Hermetic Doctrines will ever forget her learning or her eloquence, her beauty or her grace.
Another curious fact implicates Kingsford in the origins of the Golden Dawn. She edited Valentine Weigelius’ Astrology Theologized (1649) for publication in 1886. On the original title page of this book, there was a Latin motto: Sapiens Dominabitur Astris. Westcott attributed this same motto to the putative German adept who first authorized the formation of the Golden Dawn. The correspondence between Westcott and Soror S.D.A. began in November of 1887, and enjoyed near-monthly frequency until the time of Kingsford’s death in February 1888. There was then a hiatus of about seven months, before the correspondence resumed with the final three letters, followed by one from Fr. Ex Uno Disces Omnes notifying Westcott of the death of S.D.A. The civil name of this S.D.A. was allegedly Anna Sprengel; and it is not difficult to imagine that Anna Kingsford contributed – even if only as a model in memory – to the myth of this mysterious adept.
Kingsford’s doctrines regarding the role of active will in magical work and the undesirability of “passive mediumship” may well have influenced the composition of the original Golden Dawn Neophyte obligation, in which the initiand swore, “I will not suffer myself to be hypnotized, or mesmerized, nor will I place myself in such a passive state that any uninitiated person, power, or being may cause me to lose control of my thoughts, words or actions.”
the founders of the Golden Dawn, it should be noted that Kingsford’s
Hermetic Society was important to other prominent G.D. initiates. One of these
was the young William Butler Yeats. It does not appear that he ever met
Kingsford, but as his first involvement in an occult organization he led the
In general, Kingsford and Maitland’s The Perfect Way was a book ubiquitously read by English occultists during the origins and heyday of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and it is hard to overrate its influence (direct and indirect) on esoteric theorists and practitioners of that set and period.
his “Preliminary Remarks”
to the first volume of Book Four,
Anna Kingsford, who had dabbled in Hebrew mysticism, and was a feminist, got an almost identical vision [to that of the Bhagavad-gita]; but called the “divine” figure which she saw alternately “Adonai” and “Maria.”
Now this woman, though handicapped by a brain that was a mass of putrid pulp, and a complete lack of social status, education, and moral character, did more in the religious world than any other person had done for generations. She, and she alone, made Theosophy possible, and without Theosophy the world-wide interest in similar matters would never have been aroused. This interest is to the Law of Thelema what the preaching of John the Baptist was to Christianity.
respect to the remark about Kingsford’s vision, it is clear that
we have seen, Kingsford’s strained eighteen-month leadership of the
London Lodge of the Theosophical Society hardly “made Theosophy possible,”
as the Book Four appraisal
claims. An element of accidental or deliberate misdirection may be involved in
this remark by
his General Principles of Astrology,
Here we find then a great example of the driving force of these configurations, for Anna Kingsford, despite all mental and moral disqualifications, disposed of an initiating force sufficient to transfigure the thought of half the world. It is her work which made Theosophy and its analogous cults at all possible. She was doubtless the head of the battering-ram that broke in the gates of the materialist philosophy of the Victorian Age.
membership in the Order of the Eagle could be justified simply on the basis of
Kingsford’s writings still have the ability to inspire both scholars and aspirants. Antoine Faivre, who recently held the chair of “History of Esoteric and Mystical Currents in Modern and Contemporary Europe” at the Sorbonne, calls Kingsford’s The Perfect Way a “wonderful book.” For my own part, I would like to add yet another quote from her received writings, verses 38-42 of “Concerning the ‘Great Work’”:
And within the soul is the Spirit: and the Spirit is One, yet has it likewise three elements. And these are the gates of the oracle of God, which is the ark of the covenant: The rod, the host, and the law. The force which solves, and transmutes, and divines: the bread of heaven which is the substance of all things and the food of angels; the table of the law, which is the will of God, written with the finger of the Lord. If these three be within thy spirit, then shall the Spirit of God be within thee.
This passage is one of many among Kingsford’s works that I find relevant to my own sacramental efforts in the Gnostic Catholic Church of O.T.O.
Not the least of Kingsford’s accomplishments was her infusion of a self-conscious feminism into the occultist organizations of the late nineteenth century, with a pronounced influence on the founders of the Golden Dawn. She was an important player in setting the precedents that led modern occultism to encourage the equal participation of women with men in such organizations as the Golden Dawn and the O.T.O. Indeed, one might fairly say that Kingsford’s work contributed quite directly to the fact that the Order of the Eagle exists at all.
While struggling with her final illness, Kingsford wrote in her diary,
I had hoped to have been one of the pioneers of the new awakening of the world. I had thought to have helped in the overthrow of the idolatrous altars and the purging of the temple; and now I must die just as the day of battle dawns and the sound of the chariot wheels is heard. Is it, perhaps, all premature? Have we thought the time nearer than it really is? Must I go, and sleep, and come again before the hour sounds?
It is only fitting that we, who have heard the hour being sounded in the Equinox of the Gods, should recognize Madam Dr. Anna Mary Bonus Kingsford as one who knowingly girded herself and others for what would reveal itself as the Aeon of Horus. So mote it be.