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• HART, Samuel Hopgood. Edward Maitland: His Life and Work. Quarterly Transactions of the British College of Psychic Science Ltd., Vol. X. No. 4. January 1932. (pp. 274-283).
Information: [The information below was sent by Mr. Brian McAllister, who kindly photocopied and sent this text to the Anna Kingsford Site.]
“This article (Edward Maitland – His Life and Work) by Samuel Hopgood Hart was photocopied from Mr. Hart’s own copy of the Quarterly Transactions of the British College of Psychic Science Ltd., Vol. X. No. 4. January 1932. (pp. 274-283). It includes corrections made by Mr. Hart himself by hand.”
EDWARD MAITLAND – HIS LIFE AND WORK
Edward Maitland, the friend and collaborator of the late Anna Kingsford, was one of those great men of our age who sacrificed his life in championing the causes of Spiritualism, Mysticism and Humanity, as opposed to the prevalent materialism in science and religion, and as opposed to cruelty and injustice, especially as affecting the animal creation. In him she found a true friend and worthy collaborator in the great work to which at the time of their meeting she had determined to devote her life. They believed that they had been associated together for a divine work which they alone could accomplish.
I first met Edward Maitland in 1894. He was then an old man working hard against time to complete the Biography of Anna Kingsford, on the writing of which he was then engaged, and which he feared he might not live to complete. What most impressed me was that in him I had met a man who knew the truth – one whose word alone was sufficient to bring conviction – and I had never before met anybody like him in that respect, nor have I since. Much that he said was new to me, and I could not at once grasp the full meaning of it all, but I knew that what he said was true, and for putting me in the right way. I owe to him a debt of gratitude that I can never repay. I was hungry, and he gave me food; thirsty, and he gave me drink – for that is what his and Anna Kingsford’s teaching has been to me, as to many others. In the pages of The Perfect Way I learnt of that “New Gospel of Interpretation,” concerning which, when it is duly apprehended, Edward Maitland said: “It is as impossible for the mind to dissent from it, as from the demonstrations of a proposition in geometry.” He maintained that his and Anna Kingsford’s writings represented “an actual re-delivery of religious doctrine from its original source, made for the express object of saving religion, by interpreting it, and so carrying on the spiritual consciousness of the race to a new and higher stage in its evolution.”
Edward Maitland said that the chief occupation of his life was “the pursuit, regardless of consequences, of the highest truth for the highest ends.” He was born on the 27th October, 1824, at Ipswich, the son of the Rev. Charles David Maitland, who was Perpetual Curate of St. James Chapel, Brighton. From an early age he was conscious of having a mission in life. As a lad, he was revolted by the creed of the strict evangelical sect to which his father belonged, and in which he was reared; and, early in life, he came to regard its tenets, “especially of total depravity and vicarious atonement” as a
libel nothing short of blasphemous against both God and man.” He felt that only in such manner as he might be the means of abolishing “beliefs so degrading and so destitute of any lofty ideal,” would his life be a success and satisfaction to himself. It seemed to him that his own credit was involved in the matter, and that in disproving such beliefs he would be vindicating his own character, “for,” he said, “if God were evil, as those doctrines made Him, I could by no possibility be good, since I must have my derivation from Him; and I knew that, however weak and unwise I might be, I was not evil.”
Before he met Anna Kingsford his life, like hers, had been one of much isolation and meditation. He had felt himself “a stranger even with his closest intimates.” In 1847 he graduated at Cambridge, with the design of taking Orders, only to find that he could not conscientiously do so. He felt that to commit himself to any condition incompatible with absolute freedom of thought and expression would be a treachery to himself and his kind, for he was “bent on penetrating the secret of things at first hand, and by means of a thought absolutely free,” and he wanted to discover the truth for no merely personal end. Longing to get away from his surroundings and to think himself out of all that he had been taught and to make his mind a clean sheet whereon to receive true impressions at first hand, he joined an expedition to the then newly-discovered placers in California, and became one of the band of “Forty-niners” in that country; and, travelling from place to place, he remained abroad on the continents and isles of the Pacific for some eight years, during which time he experienced “well-nigh every vicissitude and extreme which might serve to heighten the consciousness, toughen the fibre, and try the soul of man.” But, he says, “throughout all, the idea of a mission remained with me, gathering force and consistency, until it was made clear to me that not destruction merely, but construction, not the exposure of error, but the demonstration of truth, was comprised in it.”
While in Australia he married, “only to be widowered after a year’s wedlock.” Returning to England in 1857, he, after an interval, devoted himself to literature, endeavouring “by probing the consciousness to the utmost in every direction, to discover a central, radiant, and indefeasible point from which all things could be deduced, and on which, as a pivot, they must depend and revolve.” At this time he read largely, and went much among people, but found in his search for truth he could get what he sought only from thought, and, in this connection, he was made to learn by bitter experience, by struggles, trials and ordeals, that “the very capacity for thought is enhanced by feeling no less than by thinking.” The “ministry
of pain” thus found its explanation. He says, “I was made to learn by experience, long before the fact was formulated for me in words, that only ‘by the bruising of the outer, the inner is set free,’ and ‘man is alive only so far as he has felt.’ ” In addition to other troubles, he suffered “a succession of losses so serious as to be the cause of reducing his means to the minimum compatible with existence at all in his own station.” During all this period he was sustained most by the thought that his troubles, “hard to bear as they were, and undeserved as they seemed, might prove to be blessings in disguise in ministering to the realisation of the controlling ambition of his life by educating him for it.” It was intimated to Anna Kingsford that in order to qualify him fully for his part in the work assigned them, it was needful that he be “isolated from every interest and every tie that might attach him to the world”; and, referring to this, he says, “no ordeal was spared, no mortification withheld, that might minister to the suppression of all incompatible tendencies.”
As regards religion, while scripture and dogma were, by their official exponents, presented to him in an aspect which outraged his reason and revolted his conscience, he did not on that account regard them as necessarily either false or inscrutable. He felt bound, before discarding them, to find out what they meant. He distrusted the faithfulness of the orthodox presentation, but declined to renounce the originals on which that presentation was founded until he had satisfied himself that he had fathomed their intended and real meaning. For him true religion must be “ideally perfect after the most perfect ideal that we can frame,” and “the means of man’s perfection must inhere in his own system, and he must be competent of himself effectually to apply them (...) and be allowed sufficient time and opportunity for the discovery, understanding and application of such means.”
Such was Edward Maitland’s standpoint in January, 1874, when he first met Anna Kingsford. In the following month, in response to an invitation from her and her husband (the Rev. Algernon G. Kingsford) he visited them at their parsonage home in Shropshire, staying with them for nearly a fortnight. During the period that had elapsed since his return home from abroad, he had become famous as the author of the three following novels: The Pilgrim and the Shrine (published in 1868, and essentially autobiographical), Higher Law, and By and By, an Historical Romance of the Future; and, at the time of their meeting, he was writing The Keys of the Creeds, which was published in the following year, a book which, he says, “brought him up to the dividing veil between the sensible and the spiritual.”
The meeting of Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland marked
a turning point in both their lives. One effect was to enlist his sympathies on behalf of the animals as regards the subject of Vivisection, of which he then heard for the first time. From that time onwards, on moral as well as on other grounds, he became one of the foremost opponents of vivisection, which he regarded as the logical and inevitable outcome of materialism, which hitherto he had rejected on grounds intellectual only. Thenceforth he resolved to make the abolition of vivisection, and the system represented by it, the leading aim of his life and work. He recognised in it “an extension to the plane of science of the tenet which had so inexpressibly revolted him on the plane of religion, that of vicarious atonement – the principle of seeking one’s own salvation by the sacrifice of another, and that the innocent.” The first-fruits of his collaboration with Anna Kingsford were some letters which he wrote on “The Doctors and the Vivisection Bill,” which were published in the Examiner in June, 1876. Their effect was immense. They were reprinted by a number of Societies and private persons and distributed in tens of thousands.
Another effect of their meeting was his adoption of Anna Kingsford’s mode of diet – she being a vegetarian. While he had never been content with the prevailing mode of sustaining our organisms, a potent factor in bringing about this change was because he felt that “only as an abstainer from flesh-food could he with entire consistency contend against vivisection.”
A few weeks after his visit to the Shropshire Parsonage, he received from Mr. Kingsford a letter asking him if he would accompany his wife to Paris, where she was bound to go for a few days for the purpose of being enrolled as a student of the University of Paris, failing which, she would have to abandon the idea of a medical career which she had proposed for herself. He (Mr. Kingsford) could not allow her to go alone and unprotected, and there was then no one else suitable and available for the purpose. He was pleased to act as escort on the occasion, and during Anna Kingsford’s course as a medical student of the University, at times when under similar circumstances she had to be in Paris, he, at the like request, fulfilled a similar office. By this means the two were afforded an opportunity for association which was necessary to enable them to accomplish their joint mission – a mission which, they were assured, represented a divine work that neither of them could have accomplished without the help and assistance of the other. The special work for which they had been associated did not, as time progressed, permit of any lengthened separation, and “compulsion of circumstances,” when their association was necessary, always brought them together.
In the summer of 1874 he left Brighton, where he had been living, for chambers in London, thus enabling him to see more
of Anna Kingsford during her visits to town, where from time to time she had to go for private tuition when not pursuing her medical studies in Paris.
In 1875 he was studying the various religious systems of antiquity with a view to ascertaining how far they possessed any common central dominating idea, and how far such idea (if possessed by them) was related to man’s consciousness of his own nature and needs; and it became evident to him that if designed for the benefit of man considered as a permanent being, Religion must have for its subject and object man’s permanent part or “soul,” and “that alone is religion, in any true and worthy sense, which consists in the culture of the soul.” During this time he was following his reformed mode of diet, and was pleased to find himself coming into possession of “a strangely enhanced faculty of ideation, which manifested itself into a power of insight into problems which had hitherto baffled him.”
Speaking, in 1876, on the change of condition which had been gradually overtaking him, he says: “It consisted in an enhancement of faculty as remarkable as it was unanticipated, in virtue of which I found myself the master of problems which previously had baffled me, and able to discern outstretched before my mental eyes long and luminous vistas of thought reaching far away to the very centre of Being, and bridging the chasm between the real and the apparent in such wise as to disclose their essential identity, thus reducing all things to unity. The process of enhancement was not confined to the intellectual nature only, it comprised also the emotional, the affectional, the moral, and the Spiritual.” The barrier which divided the world of sense from the world of spirit had been broken. The thinker had become a seer. For, he says, “I found myself possessed of a new sense, and one of which, though I was aware of its existence, I had never deemed myself capable. Nor was I seer only, I had become spiritually sensitive in respect of touch and hearing as well as of vision, and was in open conditions with a world which I had no difficulty in recognising as of celestial nature.” Many instances of his newly-developed faculty are given in The Life of Anna Kingsford. Speaking of their spiritual experiences, Edward Maitland says, “with such power and plentitude were they vouchsafed, that to have doubted of the reality of the world spiritual to which they belonged, would have been to leave ourselves without pretext for believing in the reality of the world physical, the evidence for the former being no less positive than for the latter.” And these experiences that then crowded on him came, “not in response to any attempt to obtain phenomenal manifestations or desire therefore, but purely in the course of the intense direction of his mind towards the spiritual and essential in respect of truth.”
In the same year his studies began to take form in a book having for its text and title “The Finding of Christ, the Completion of the Intuition, and the Restoration of the Ideal”. This book he was not allowed to complete, but it served as a preparation and provided material for the share that he was to take in his and Anna Kingsford’s lectures on esoteric Christianity, which were afterwards published under the title of The Perfect Way, which well-known book was the chief product of their collaboration.
One thing was made clear to him: notwithstanding the crisis in his affairs above referred to, he was not to be allowed to write for money. On making the attempt he suffered “a complete withdrawal of force, mental and physical.” It was under these conditions that he wrote England and Islam, or the Counsel of Caiaphas, a book which, he said, was written “at white heat and under a veritable baptism of the Spirit as of fire.” Its purpose was to arouse the country to a sense of the danger of the materialistic rule both in science and politics that was then being pressed upon it, and its publication finally disqualified him for any career which should be merely literary and social, so that, as he put it, “nothing be allowed to hold him from his spiritual work.”
It was some time before he could fully reconcile himself to the total withdrawal of power to earn anything, but he was permitted to expend himself in doing what was not for furtherance of his spiritual work. In this and in other respects he learnt by experience that they who had him in their keeping were “no less competent to restrain and compel than to instruct and warn.”
The great problem which he then had in view was “the philosophical concept underlying the Christ-idea.” This he solved by reversing the materialistic hypothesis, and deriving all things from consciousness, making this the Original Being of which all things are modes. “The recognition of the universality of consciousness, and therein of consciousness as the condition of Being, (...) made Christ intelligible as representing the full unfoldment of consciousness in the individuated state, to the realisation of the God-consciousness, while yet in the body.” The doctrine of the substantial identity of God and man became the keynote of his work. The inner spiritual and substantial self, engendered within the physical phenomenal personality, when finally perfected – by being united with God – constituting the “Christ within” of St. Paul, and the rebirth of the man on a plane transcending the material.
With the enhancement of his spiritual consciousness and the receipt of communications from spiritual sources, one truth was revealed to him in plenitude, – “The presence in Scripture of a mystical sense concealed within the apparent sense, as a
kernel within its shell, which, and not the literal sense, is the intended sense.” The purely spiritual nature of religious truth and the interior identity of the ancient religions was insisted on, the exterior differences being of no vital importance; all that is essential in religion being of a non-historical nature. “It is not persons but principles, that it is the function of Revelation to declare and exalt, persons being of importance only in so far as they exemplify principles (...). The exaltation of persons instead of principles is precisely what constitutes idolatry, inasmuch as it implies the preference for the form to the substance, for the appearance to the reality.” To materialise spiritual mysteries is to make an idol. “They are idolaters who understand the things of sense where the things of the Spirit are alone implied.” As regards sects and churches, he retained a position of “independence of all visible communions,” contenting himself with knowing himself to be, as he said, “a member of the Church Invisible, and not identifying himself with any particular section of the Church Visible.” In the apathy of the Churches towards vivisection, he saw what he described as “the moral and spiritual death which has seized upon what is still called Christendom.”
He was also led “to recognise as positive facts the doctrines, first, of Reincarnation and the soul’s ability to recover, while in the body, the memory of things learnt and experiences undergone in previous lives, and to communicate of them to its owner; and, secondly, of the survival for an indefinite period of the images of events occurring on the earth, in the astral light or memory of the planet, called the anima mundi; which images can be evoked and beheld.” He was told that he had been incarnated many times, and that “people are incarnated so long as there is an experience to be gained in the flesh-life by which they can benefit spiritually.”
One of his experiences “the solemnity and importance of which,” he says, “cannot be overestimated, whether as regards its own nature, or as regards its bearing on their work,” was brought about by the polarisation of the whole of the convergent rays of his consciousness into focus on the highest plane of his being. In such condition, he says: “I found myself confronted with a glory of unspeakable whiteness and brightness, and of a lustre so intense as well nigh to beat me back (...) I knew it to be the “Great White Throne” of the seer of the Apocalypse. But though feeling that I had no need to explore further, I resolved to make assurance doubly sure by piercing, if I could, the almost blinding lustre, and seeing what it enshrined. With a great effort, I succeeded and the glance revealed to me that which I had felt must be there. This was the dual form of the Son, the Word, the Logos, the Adonai, the “Sitter on the Throne,” the first formulation of Divinity, the unmanifest made manifest, the unformulate formulate, the unindividuate
individuate, God as the Lord, proving by His duality, that God is Substance as well as Force, Love as well as Will, feminine as well as masculine, Mother as well as Father.” Under this sudden burst of illumination, he had become “absolutely aware of the truth of the doctrine of the Duality in Unity of Deity to which that in Humanity corresponds, both alike being twain in one.”
His work required the unfoldment of the understanding and the exaltation of the perceptive point of the mind to the highest levels of thought, and this had first to be done in him, the supreme means to this end being “purification and intensification of consciousness and will.” “The first and most essential step to man’s realisation of his due divinity is purification of body and mind.” Of the importance his Illuminators attached to the quality of his food and the disposition of his sentiments, he had repeated proofs. As regards food, he was told that “man’s perfect diet was grain, the juice of fruits, and the oil of nuts.”
In 1877, he was engaged in writing a book containing a record of his and Anna Kingsford’s experiences, which in due course was published under the title of The Soul and How it Found Me. This book has long been out of print, and what of permanent value there was in it is incorporated in The Life of Anna Kingsford. From the materialistic Press of the day (whether secular or religious) it was met with misrepresentation and suppression of the truths it contained.
In 1880, Anna Kingsford having completed her student course and obtained her medical degree, they were free to take up the work of their joint mission for which they had been prepared, and promulgate the teaching which they had received. In a communication which purported to come from Swedenborg, they were told to open their campaign by “a few parlour addresses.” In consequence of this a room was taken in London for the purpose; and there, in the following year, they gave those lectures on Esoteric Christianity which constituted the first formulation of the doctrine committed by their spiritual Illuminators to them, the promulgation of which was to be a death-blow to the materialistic and idolatrous system, then prevailing in Church, State and Society – in Religion and Science. These lectures – constituting a “New Gospel of Interpretation,” and “unsealing the Bibles of the West” – were afterwards published under the title of The Perfect Way, or the Finding of Christ. The work was accomplished only at the maximum cost of toil and suffering, and represented “the very life-blood of their souls shed for the world’s redemption.” Anna Kingsford, being in a lucid condition, said: “I see a fine bright-shining thread. It is our path; and it is a pathway of light. But, oh, so narrow, so narrow! And all around are spirits trying to lure us from it.”
After the publication of The Perfect Way, the late C.C. Massey invited them to join the British Theosophical Society, of which he was then President. This, after some hesitation, they consented to do; and in January, 1883, Anna Kingsford was, on his nomination elected President and Edward Maitland Vice-President of the Society, which was afterwards known as the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society.
The publication, shortly afterwards, of Mr. Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism, altered the status of the Theosophical Society, and their disagreement with much of its contents, and their attitude regarding the alleged “Mahatmas,” and Mr. Sinnett’s open hostility towards them and what they stood for made it impossible for them to continue as leaders of a Society, the majority of whose members, at that time, favoured Mr. Sinnett and his teaching; and, consequently, in 1884, they withdrew first from their positions of President and Vice-President respectively, and later from their membership of the Lodge, and sought in the Hermetic Society, which they and their supporters then formed, an independent platform for their teaching. This Society continued until 1887, when Anna Kingsford’s ill-health prevented her taking further part in it, and it was discontinued. Edward Maitland read papers on such subjects as Hermetic Philosophy, Revelation, Mystics and Materialists, Mysticism, The Symbology of the Old Testament, The Intention and Method of the Gospels, Higher Alchemy, etc., etc.
After Anna Kingsford’s death, in February, 1888, Edward Maitland spent the remaining years of his life in writing and lecturing. He also edited Anna Kingsford’s Dreams and Dream Stories, and her Illuminations as contained in Clothed with the Sun; and, particularly, he wrote The Bible’s Own Account of Itself, The New Gospel of Interpretation, and The Life of Anna Kingsford, from which the foregoing has for the most part been written. In all this work he continued to have the help and support of Anna Kingsford whose death had freed her from a body of sickness and suffering which for some time past had prevented any work being done by either of them; for, after her death, she remained in touch with him “voluntarily, in order to do good.”
In November, 1891, a small Society, known as The Esoteric Christian Union, with Edward Maitland as President, was formed for the purpose of propagating “The New Gospel of Interpretation” of which Anna Kingsford and he had been the recipients, but at the time of his death, which took place on the 2nd October, 1897, it had practically ceased to exist.
At the close of his life Edward Maitland said: “I can confidently affirm, dark, difficult, and painful as was our path, there never was an instant when I was disposed to falter or turn back, so absolute was my confidence throughout in the divinity
of our mission, so great the joy set before me in its accomplishment.” Were I asked to condense into one short sentence his teaching, it would be “And the Kingdom of God is within you.” The spiritual Christ is the real essential of Christianity and the subject of the Gospels, and it is only through the identity in condition of the God within and the God without that the two can unite and blend.
SAMUEL HOPGOOD HART.