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• HART, Samuel Hopgood. Edward Maitland and Vegetarianism. This article was published in The Vegetarian Messenger, January 1932.
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 and Vegetarianism) by Samuel Hopgood Hart was photocopied from Mr. Hart’s own copy in his Newspaper Cuttings Book (pp. 85-88). Mr. Hart has written in the name of the publication and the date of issue in his own hand. The article was published in The Vegetarian Messenger, January 1932.”
EDWARD MAITLAND AND VEGETARIANISM
By SAMUEL HOPGOOD HART
In a recent article (*) I referred to Edward Maitland as the “friend and collaborator” of the late Anna Kingsford.
My present object is to bring to the notice of the readers of your magazine some of the facts connected with his life which should be of particular interest to them, for he was one of those great men of our age who devoted his life to championing the cause of humanity as opposed to cruelty and injustice, especially as affecting the animal creation. In him, Anna Kingsford 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.
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 he feared he might not live to complete it. What most impressed me at the time was that I had met a man who knew the truth, and whose word alone was sufficient to bring conviction, and I had never before met anybody like him in that respect, nor have I since.
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, 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, the tenets of which included “the total depravity of man and vicarious atonement” which he regarded as “a libel nothing short of blasphemous against both God and man.”
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.” He graduated at Cambridge in 1847, with the design of taking Orders only to find that he could not conscientiously do so, for he was “bent on penetrating the secret of things at first hand, and by means of a thought absolutely free.” Longing to get away from his surroundings, 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 in 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 throughout all, the idea of a mission remained with him. 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, read largely, and went much among people, but found in his search for truth that he could get only from thought what he sought, and 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,” and that “by the bruising of the outer, the inner is set free.” 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 realization of the controlling ambition of his life by educating him for it.” He was bent on “the construction of a system of thought at once scientific, philosophic, moral, and religious, and recognizable by the understanding as indubitably true by reason of its being founded in first principles.”
In January, 1874, under circumstances related in my previous article, he first met Anna Kingsford, and in the following month, in response to an invitation from her and her husband, he visited them at their home in Shropshire. During the period that had elapsed since his return home from abroad, he had become famous as the author of The Pilgrim and the Shrine, 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.
The meeting of Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland marked a turning point in both their lives. They recognized that they had a joint mission representing a divine work. His sympathies were at once enlisted on behalf of the animals as regards the subject of vivisection, of which he then beard for the first time, and 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. The first fruits of his collaboration with Anna Kingsford were some letters which he wrote on “The Doctors and the Vivisection Bill” and which were published in the Examiner in June, 1876. The 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 the adoption by him of Anna Kingsford’s mode of diet – she being a vegetarian. He had “never been fully content with the prevailing mode of sustaining our organisms.” It had always struck him as “inconsistent with the perfection conceivable as possible, that man, the highest product of the visible world, should be so constituted as to be able to sustain himself only by doing violence, not only to his sensitive fellow creatures, but to his own higher feeling.” Consequently, he was favourably disposed to give practical heed to arguments in favour of vegetarianism, and there was a further consideration which, he says, was a potent factor in bringing about this change: he felt that “only as an abstainer from flesh-food could he with entire consistency contend against vivisection.”
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.
He had discovered in Anna Kingsford one who was possessed of a faculty which enabled her to attain to “full and direct perception of conclusions at which he had arrived only after long and laborious quest,” and in their joint mission, the full manifestation of her peculiar gift was made dependent upon the development in him of a corresponding faculty. While steadfastly following, and as one effect of his reformed mode of diet, he says: –
“I found myself, to my inexpressible delight, coming into possession of a strangely enhanced faculty of ideation, which manifested itself in a power of insight into problems which had hitherto baffled me. It was as if my mental surfaces had been cleansed and sensitized in such wise as to render them accessible to impressions and suggestions which formerly had been too subtle and refined to obtain recognition.”
His work required the unfoldment of the understanding and the exaltation of the perceptive point of the mind to the highest levels of thought in him, and the supreme means to this end was “purification, and intensification of consciousness and will.” He considered that the first and most essential step to man’s realization of his spiritual consciousness was purification of body and mind. This shows the importance to be attached to the quality of one’s food as well as the disposition of one’s sentiments. In the Life of Anna Kingsford it is stated that “man’s perfect diet is grain, the juice of fruits, and the oil of nuts.”
In 1880, Anna Kingsford having completed her student course and obtained her medical degree, she and Edward Maitland were free to take up the work of their joint mission. In the following year, they opened their campaign by giving “a few parlour addresses” on Esoteric Christianity which were afterwards published under the title of The Perfect Way, or the Finding of Christ. A full account of the production of this wonderful book and of its reception is given in The Life of Anna Kingsford.
In The Perfect Way, the renunciation of flesh-food is insisted on as “essential to the full apprehension and realization of the ideal implied by the term Christ” – among other reasons for its sensitizing influence on the higher planes of the consciousness; and flesh-eating is condemned as incompatible with the religion of Jesus Christ.” In reply to some of their critics in this connection, Edward Maitland wrote as follows: –
“As the regulator of conduct, religion is necessarily the regulator of diet. For diet is a department of conduct, and this as respects quality as well as quantity. To deny the relation in question is to repudiate the practice of temperance, whether in eating or drinking, as a religious duty, and to admit cannibals, gluttons, and drunkards to the Kingdom of Heaven. The conditions of admission to that Kingdom are dependent upon attitude of mind and state of heart. The question between us is whether those conditions are fulfilled by one who, either personally or by proxy, batters in the skull or cuts the throat of a gentle, innocent, highly sensitive fellow-creature, in order to devour its flesh, when the earth around him supplies in abundance wholesome and legitimate food. Nor is the cruelty to the animals the worst part of the evil involved in such a practice. Men themselves are unutterably degraded by it and kept back. It is not the wolf or tiger, but the lamb which is represented in the Sacred Writings, as the type of him who finally overcomes evil and attains to perfection and bliss. And there is abundant reason to believe that only from food at once pure in itself, and righteously come by, can the Spirit within (the ‘God of the man’ as I have termed it) extract the elements needful for the edification of the individual to the full stature of his due perfection.”
During the remainder of Anna Kingsford’s life, in addition to his other work, Edward Maitland accompanied her on, and took an active part in, her anti-vivisection and pro-vegetarian lecturing tours, both here and abroad, and much good and useful work was accomplished by them in these causes.
After Anna Kingford’s death, which took place in February, 1888, he spent the remaining years of his life in writing and lecturing, his literary work including the writing of (inter alia) The Life of Anna Kingsford, already referred to. In all this work, he was conscious of her continued help and support.
Edward Maitland taught that “the root of all progress must be within the man himself, and so long as he feeds like the carnivora, he cannot be expected to be human. It is a spiritual regeneration that alone can better the world, one that reforms men themselves, and not institutions merely.” When speaking of the cause of our social difficulties, dangers and defects, he said that “our manner of living was at the bottom of all, and the remedy was to be found in reverting to the natural manner of sustaining life,” and that our carnivorous habits sinned against the laws of nature, physical and moral, and the evil of our social conditions was the consequence of a violation of those laws, which were not to be outraged with impunity, but always exacted the penalty.
If any man may be said to have “fought the good fight,” that may be said of Edward Maitland. At the close of his life, referring to his work in collaboration with Anna Kingsford, he said: –
“I can confidently affirm, dark, difficult, and painful as was our path, there was never 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.”
He died on the 2nd October, 1897, at the close of his 73rd year. He walked innocently and lived faithful to his intuitions, and “the generation of the faithful shall be blessed.”
(*) The Vegetarian Messenger, April, 1931, p. 106.