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• HART, Samuel Hopgood. Anna Kingsford: Her Life and Work. Pamphlet. Part of the content of this pamphlet was originally contained in articles in Light, September 1930, pp. 472, 486 and 508.
Information: [The information below was sent by Mr. Brian McAllister, who kindly photocopied and sent this text to the Anna Kingsford Site.]
“This article (Anna Kingsford – Her Life and Work) by Samuel Hopgood Hart was photocopied from Mr. Hart’s own copy of the pamphlet in which it was published. Part of the content of this pamphlet was originally contained in articles in Light, September 1930, pp. 472, 486 and 508.”
– HER LIFE AND WORK
SAMUEL HOPGOOD HART
(Part of which is contained in articles in Light,
September, 1930, pp. 472, 486 and 508.)
HER LIFE AND WORK
By SAMUEL HOPGOOD HART
ANNA KINGSFORD was born at Maryland Point, Stratford, in Essex, on the 16th September, 1846. It is now nearly forty-three years since she was with us – she having died on the 22nd February, 1888, at the comparatively early age of forty-one. But, during her short life, what a work she accomplished! The benefits of that work we are to-day reaping, although many know it not. There are few now living who intimately knew her. Fortunately, her friend and collaborator, the late Edward Maitland, has left for us, in his last and greatest work The Life of Anna Kingsford, which was published some few years after her death, a record of her life and teaching, the value and importance of which cannot be measured. It is the history of a soul, a book which Edward Maitland was assured “would educate the world more than all else, by shewing how the divine life can be led and the faculties opened to divine truth, and that to get that truth, the divine life must be led.”
Of notable persons (other than Edward Maitland) who knew and have left records of Anna Kingsford, the late W.T. Stead who is well known to the readers of this Journal, in his Review of Reviews (15th January, 1896, p. 75) wrote as follows: – “I remember Anna Kingsford. Who that ever met her can forget that marvellous embodiment of a burning flame in the form of a woman, divinely tall and not less divinely fair! I think it is just about ten years since I first met her. It was at the office of the Pall Mall Gazette, which I was editing in those days. She did not always relish the headings I put to her articles. She was as innocent as the author of The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich of the necessity for labelling the goods in your shop-window in such a way as to attract attention, but we were always on good terms, being united by the strong tie of common antipathies. I saw her once at her own place, when, I remember, she wore a bright red flower – I thought it was a great gladiolus, but it may have been a cactus, which lay athwart her breast like a sword of flame. Her movements had somewhat
of the grace and majesty that we associate with the Greek gods; and as for her speech – well, I have talked to many of the men and women who have in this generation had the greatest repute as conversationalists, but I never in my life met Anna Kingsford’s equal. From her silver tongue as in a stream, ‘strong without rage, without o’erflowing full,’ her sentences flowed in one unending flood. She talked literature. Had an endless phonograph been fitted up before her so as to be constantly in action, the cylinders might have been carried to the printer, and the copy set up without transcription or alteration. Never was she at a loss for a word, never did she tangle her sentences or halt for an illustration. It was almost appalling after a time. It appeared impossible for her to run dry, for you seemed to feel that copious as was her speech it was but as a rivulet carrying off the overflow of an ocean that lay behind.”
Anna Kingsford, the youngest of twelve children, and born long after her immediate predecessor, was the daughter of John Bonus, a prosperous merchant and shipowner in the City of London. Her mother, whose maiden name was Schroder, was of both Irish and German descent. She inherited from her father a constitution that was fragile from birth, but from no ancestor did she inherit the faculties, tendencies, or characteristics manifested by her. These, Edward Maitland says, were entirely her own, and were due “not to physical, but to spiritual heredity, that of her own former selves.” In her childhood, which was one of loneliness and isolation, it was her chief delight to lose herself in the garden where, we are told, “she would associate with the flowers on even terms, holding converse with them as sentient beings, and putting into their petals tiny notes addressed to the fairies with whom her fancy tenanted them, and with whom, in virtue of her own fairy-like form, rich golden hair, and deep-set hazel eyes, by turns eager and dreamy, she might well claim affinity. Indeed, in these early days she used to declare that she was really one of them, of fairy and not of human lineage, and to cherish a secret persuasion that only by adoption was she the child of her parents, her true home being in fairy land (...) She could even recall, she believed, her last interview with the queen of that lovely country, the prayers with
which she had sought permission to visit the earth, and the solemn warnings she had received of the suffering and toil she would undergo by assuming a human body, which in her case, she was assured, would greatly exceed those ordinarily allotted to mortals. But she had persisted in coming, being impelled by an overpowering impression of some great and necessary work, on behalf both of herself and of others, which she alone could perform, to be accomplished by her. And her coming had not separated her from her fellow-fairies, for they were wont to visit her in dreams; and so real were they for her that, when taken for the first time to see a pantomime, the sight of the fairies in their airy costumes and floral abodes was the signal for her to declare aloud that they were her proper people, and she belonged to them, and to cry and struggle so vehemently to get to them that it was necessary to remove her from the theatre.”
As she grew up, she read widely, but with this peculiarity – “all that she read struck her as already familiar to her, so that she seemed to herself to be recovering old recollections rather than acquiring fresh knowledge.” The faculty of seership had manifested itself at a very early age, and had brought her into trouble with her parents who reproached her as though accountable for events she had foreseen, and “exhibitions of abnormal faculty entailed references to the family physician, with results at once disagreeable and injurious to her.” Her aptitudes for music, singing, drawing, and painting were such as to procure from her teachers earnest recommendations to a professional career, but the only result was a discontinuance of her lessons, through a fear lest she should be induced by her consciousness of ability to adopt the suggestion. Under such adverse conditions for development as these, she turned her attention to writing, and it was in verse chiefly that she at first sought relief from uncongenial surroundings and expression for her ideas. The quality of her poems, while still a child, was such as to win for them admission into various magazines. Her first book was written at the age of thirteen. Her writing, she said, came to her ready-made, she had but to write it down. A small volume of her poems, all written before she was seventeen, was published soon after her father’s death, which took place in 1865, and was dedicated to his memory.
Her girlhood does not appear to have been happier than her childhood. She was sent to a fashionable school at Brighton to “finish her education,” where “they confounded the cravings of a large and highly vitalised nature for expansion and unfoldment with the wilfulness of a rebel against all the proprieties, and accordingly regarded her as one whose example could not fail to be detrimental to others.” While she was strong of will and independent of judgment, she was “bent on the meanings of things as against their appearances” and was “heedless of persons where principles were concerned,” and she keenly resented injustice and oppression. Thus, while her talents were recognised, her character was mistaken. We are told that “her curiosity respecting religious subjects was an especial cause of offence; and some of her severest school-impositions were incurred through her persistence in demanding from the clergyman who superintended that portion of the school curriculum explanations of the rationale of the doctrines inculcated. She could not be made to comprehend why the desire to understand, so laudable in respect of other subjects, should in the case of religion be accounted an impertinence and even a profanity.” In after years, at a time of illness and great depression, realising what a life of incessant struggle, reproach and loneliness lay before her if she were to continue the fight against cruelty and injustice to which she had devoted her life, and looking back to the time of her girlhood and childhood, she wrote, “I long for a little rest and peace. The world has grown very bitter to me. I feel as if every one were dead ... And behind me, as I look back on the road by which I have come, all is storm and darkness. I fought my way through my lonely, sad-hearted childhood; I fought my way through my girlhood, misunderstood and mistrusted always; and now, in my womanhood, I am fighting still. On every side of me are rebuke and suspicion, and bitter, abiding sorrow. Pain and suffering of body and of spirit have hung on my steps all the years of my life. I have had no respite. Is there never to be peace? Never to be a time of sunlight that shall make me glad of my being?”
Some two years after her father’s death, she had the good fortune to meet Miss Theobald, a well-known
spiritualist who lived at Hastings, to which place the Bonus family had then moved, and through her she obtained an introduction to Spiritualism. In Miss Theobald she found one in whom she could confide, and she told her of the visions she had all her life had, and how the doctors had declared they were due to over-excitement of the brain; and how she had, like many others, suffered much from physicians, and received good from none.” But, she said, “I know it is no fancy. I am sure I see all these things; and it is not caused by illness.” The outcome of this meeting was that through Miss Theobald she became assured of the immortality of the soul which at that time she doubted. She had asked Miss Theobald if she could get a message for her, and a message came purporting to be from her father who said “how sorry he was to have brought her up in such erroneous ideas, and urged her to investigate Spiritualism, as it would bring evidence of the future state, and of his power to come to her and help her.” Miss Theobald says that this message “came to her with conviction. She believed it and accepted it as genuine.”
An important step in Anna Kingsford’s life was her marriage. On the 31st December, 1867, she married her cousin Algernon Godfrey Kingsford, who, shortly after, decided to take Orders. This necessitated his studying theology, in which he was accompanied by his wife, who thus made herself a “complete master of Anglican theology.” At this time she had a severe illness which had the effect of enhancing her spiritual faculty by lifting it to a more distinctly religious sphere “wherein glimpses were obtained of interpretations and correspondences hitherto unsuspected by her, one especial effect being to impress her with a keen aversion to the religious system in which she had been reared, for its hardness, coldness, and meagreness, and its utter unrelatedness to her own spiritual needs, intellectual or emotional.”
The next important step in her life took place in 1870, when she joined the Roman Catholic Church. Through a small number of Catholic friends she had obtained some knowledge of their Church, and had learnt to appreciate the atmosphere, at once devotional and artistic, that environed them, in contrast to what she had experienced
among her own co-religionists. But the determining cause of her action was of an abnormal kind. “It consisted in her receipt of nocturnal visitations, three in number, from an apparition purporting to be that of St. Mary Magdalen, who announced herself as the patron of souls of her Order, and bade her join the Roman communion as a step requisite for the work in store for her, the nature of which would in due time be communicated to her.” This led to her seeking priestly counsel, when she was told that her experience, though of rare occurrence, was recognised by the Church as being orderly and regular, and as a mark of special grace and favour, and “one not to be disregarded without incurring grave responsibility.” Commenting on this, Edward Maitland says: – “Thus was accomplished the second great step in what proved to be her education for the task which awaited her; for to her knowledge of Anglican theology she now added that of Catholic doctrine, by making of it as careful a study as of the former. It must be stated, however, in view of her subsequent unfoldments, that no question had as yet arisen for her as between the two presentments of Christianity, the ecclesiastical and the mystical. She accepted the Roman as against the Protestant, the Catholic as against the sectarian, the aesthetic and emotional as against the inartistic and formal; not the ecclesiastical and objective as against the spiritual and subjective. For of the existence of the alternative presentation she had yet to become aware. Meanwhile she retained complete independence, both in mind and act, declining spiritual direction, and only as the impulse took her did she avail herself of the offices of the Church.” Three years later, in a letter to Edward Maitland, she said: “By adoption and profession I am a member of that most conservative of Churches, the Roman Catholic, but by conviction I am rather a pantheist than anything else, and my mode of life is that of a fruit-eater.” It was subsequently shewn to her that the Catholic Church had the whole of the truth in a parable, that the truth was wholly spiritual, and that the Church had materialised it.
Being full of the idea which possessed her respecting a work in store for her, she had on her marriage made it a special condition thereof that it should not fetter her in respect of any career to which she might in after life
be prompted – a condition which, it should be noted, was throughout their married life most honourably observed by her husband, who, a few years after, was appointed Vicar of Atcham, near Shrewsbury. Atcham lying low on the banks of the Severn, and being liable to floods, proved at certain seasons, to be an impossible place of residence for Anna Kingsford, who suffered from asthma, which she regarded as her gadfly from which she was ever seeking to escape by change of place. She was at times forced to quit her home at daybreak, after keeping the household up all night, and to drive to the nearest town in order to escape suffocation. It was only in a large city that she was safe from this trouble.
Finding continuous residence at the Vicarage impracticable, and being impelled irresistibly to activities for which a country life afforded no scope, in or about 1872, she became the proprietor of The Ladys Own Paper, editing it herself and dividing her time between London and her home. By this means she sought to give expression to her ideas. It was in the exercise of her functions as editor of this paper that she became aware of the existence of vivisection, and it was in the columns of her magazine that was sounded the first note of the crusade which has since been waged against the atrocities of the physiological laboratory. From that time the suppression of this “modern Inquisition” became one of the foremost aims of her life. She thus found what proved to be an important part of her mission, and so far as she was concerned the magazine had served its purpose. It had not been a financial success, and she decided to give it up. She had already determined to take up the study of medicine with a direct view to qualify herself for accomplishing the abolition of vivisection “which she regarded with a passionate horror as the foulest of practices, whether as regards its nature or its principles.” The question of food-reform was also an object she had in view in coming to a decision regarding her future work. A short time previously, under the tuition of her brother, Dr. John Bonus, she had adopted the Pythagorean regimen of abstinence from flesh-food, with such manifest advantage to herself, physically and mentally, as to lead her to see in it the only effectual means to the world’s redemption, whether as regards men themselves or the animals.
Man carnivorous and sustaining himself by slaughter and torture, was not for her Man at all in any true sense of the term. She held that “that which is morally wrong cannot be scientifically right, and that to seek one’s own advantage regardless of the cost to other sentient beings is to renounce humanity itself – inasmuch as it is not the form but the character which really makes the man – and to degrade those who do so to the sub-human and infernal.”
We now find Anna Kingsford seriously working to qualify herself to pass the examinations that lay before her, and which she must pass in order to obtain the medical degree that she sought in aid of her work. It was in the Spring of 1873. She was then living at Hinton Hall, near Pontesbury, in Shropshire (of which parish her husband had become one of the three Rectors), when she received from a lady, who lived at a distance, a stranger to her, a letter saying that she – the writer of the letter, who signed her name “Anna Wilkes” – had read with profound interest and admiration a story that had been written by Anna Kingsford and published in The Lady’s Own Paper, and, after reading it, had received from the Holy Spirit a message for her which was to be delivered in person. Would Mrs. Kingsford receive her, and when? After a little hesitation the permission desired was accorded, and an appointment made.
An account of the meeting has been given by Anna Kingsford as follows: – “At the hour named I met her on the way while she was driving from the station, and was at once struck by her manner and appearance, and subsequently by her conversation, as much as I had been by her previous communication. She was tall, erect, distinguished-looking, with hair of iron-grey and strangely brilliant eyes. She told me that she had received a distinct message from the Holy Spirit, and had been so strongly impressed to come and deliver it to me in person that she could not refrain. Her message was to the effect that for five years to come I was to remain in retirement, continuing the studies in which I was engaged, whatever they might be, and the mode of life on which I had entered, suffering nothing and no one to draw me aside from them, and when these probationary and preparatory five years were passed, the Holy Spirit would drive me forth from my seclusion to teach and to preach, and that a great work
would be given me to do. All this she uttered with a rapt and inspired expression, as though she had been some sibyl delivering an oracle. And when she had ended, seeing, no doubt, my look of surprise, she asked me if I thought her mad – a question to which I was at some loss to reply; for I had encountered nothing of the kind before, and was disposed to share the impression which all ordinary and worldly folk have always had concerning those who profess to be prophets. Having delivered her message, my prophetess kissed me on both cheeks and departed. And on subsequently reflecting upon my own experiences in receiving communications in dream and vision, and beholding apparitions, and also upon the singular accordance between the purport of the message and my own impression from childhood upwards, my sense of its strangeness became greatly diminished.”
In the same year, Anna Kingsford, having read in the Examiner a notice of a tale written by Edward Maitland which interested her, wrote to him; and after some correspondence he accepted an invitation to the Shropshire parsonage. The visit took plane in February, 1874, and proved to be a turning-point in both their lives. There was sympathy between them on the spiritual plane. They saw truth alike. They had been brought together by powers that they both recognised as divine, and for a work, no less divine, that they must accomplish together. They each had a mission, and, as events proved, it was a joint one.
During this visit Edward Maitland first came to know of Anna Kingsford’s psychic faculty under the following circumstances. They were discussing the possibility of there being an inner and philosophical sense to Scripture and Dogma, which, if ascertained, would remove religion from its basis of authority and tradition, and establish it on the understanding, when Anna Kingsford, as if just recollecting something which had escaped her memory, rose and fetched a manuscript of her own writing, asking Edward Maitland to read it, and tell her frankly what he thought of it. He says: – “Having read and re-read it, I enquired how and where she had got it, to which she replied by asking my opinion of it. I answered with emphasis, that if there were such a thing as divine revelation, I knew of nothing that came nearer to my idea of what
it ought to be. It was exactly what the world was perishing for want of – a reasonable faith. She then told me that it had come to her in sleep, but whence or how she did not know; nor could she say whether she had seen it or heard it, but only that it had come suddenly into her mind without her having ever heard or thought of such teaching before. It was an exposition of the story of the Fall, exhibiting it as a parable having a significance purely spiritual, wholly reasonable, and of universal application, physical persons, things, and events described in it disappearing in favour of principles, processes, and states appertaining to the soul; no mere local history, therefore, but an eternal verity” It was thus that Anna Kingsford disclosed to Edward Maitland the existence of her psychic faculty, a confidence that was made with no small apprehension on her part, “for she knew that by any other of her acquaintance her revelation would have been stigmatised as folly and her faculty as insanity.”
In the Spring of the following year, 1875, Edward Maitland first obtained proof of her possession of clairvoyant powers in circumstances fully related in her Biography above referred to.
We must pass over the details of Anna Kingsford’s life as a medical student at the University of Paris, to which she was compelled to go for her degree, which she obtained in 1880, when she became entitled to practice as an M.D. of the Faculté de Paris, a privilege obtained at the utmost cost in toil and suffering, both physical and mental. During this period she had from time to time the benefit of the help and companionship of Edward Maitland, which, at her husband’s request, was freely and unselfishly given, and without which she could not have stood the strain, endured the hardships, and overcome the difficulties that beset her path.
On obtaining her medical degree, she, with the help and support of Edward Maitland, soon became recognised as the foremost opponent of her day to Vivisection; and as the chief Apostle of a humane, pure and bloodless diet. Everybody should read her and Edward Maitland’s Addresses and Essays on Vegetarianism, which is one of the best books on the principles of Vegetarianism that has been written. On the question of Vegetarianism, she said:
“I consider the vegetarian movement to be the most important movement of our age: I believe this because see in it the beginning of true civilisation. My opinion is that up to the present moment we do not know what civilisation means. When we look at the dead bodies of animals, whether entire or cut up, which with sauces and condiments are served at our tables, we do not reflect on the horrible deed that has preceded these dishes: and yet it is something terrible to know that every meal to which we sit down has cost a life. I hold that we owe it to civilisation to elevate the whole of that deeply demoralised and barbarised class of people, butchers, cattle-drovers and all others who are connected with the deplorable business. Thousands of persons are degraded by the slaughterhouse in their neighbourhood, which condemns whole classes to a debasing and inhuman occupation. I await the time when the consummation of the vegetarian movement shall have created perfect men, for I see in this movement the foundations of perfection. When I perceive the possibilities of vegetarianism and the heights to which it can raise us, I feel convinced that it will prove the redeemer of the world.”
In a sermon, written by her for her husband, and having for its text “Open the mouth for the dumb” (Pro. XXXI 8.), regarding the rights of animals in general to humane treatment, she said: – “There are a great many people who seem to think that man’s duties begin and end with man; and that if they tell the truth habitually, forbear from injuring their neighbours, and eschew theft, dishonesty and the like, nothing else is required of them by God in their relation towards other creatures. But not only every human being, but every living being has its rights; and justice in the highest form should be applied to it in all our actions. I say that a lame or infirm horse has a right to claim that it should not be worked; and just as one man should be protected from ill-treatment by another, so, on the same principle, ought all animals to be protected from ill-treatment.” No consideration can justify the torture which in the name of “Science” has been and is inflicted on the animal creation, who are “our dumb friends” and “our lesser brethren,” even though it be done as is sometimes claimed “for the
benefit of humanity” – not for one moment admitting that humanity can benefit by inhumanity, otherwise the house, which is the house of life, would be divided against itself, and “good purposes should be the directors of good actions, not the apologies for the bad ones.” Thus, in answer to an attack made by Miss P. on an address given by her to the Zetetic Society, Anna Kingsford said: –
“It is morally permissible to use the lower animals for the benefit of man, but not to abuse them. Miss P. confounds use and abuse. In using an animal humanely and intelligently, both the user and the used benefit, the one by the service rendered, the other by the education and discipline obtained. Miss P. assumes that I would ride a horse to death to save a friend. No, I would not, because the horse is my friend also. I would urge him so far as reason and humanity permit, and for the rest I would have faith in God. The hypothesis of the vivisector is that of the atheist. By it all possibility of God’s help is omitted from the system of things. The scalpel, the saw, and the pincers are to do everything for man. Prayer and love and will, and all that is divine in him, are to do nothing. Under the doctrine of modern vivisectional science the nations are fast becoming atheistic. ‘If,’ say the people, ‘it be necessary in order to know, and in order to obtain health and healing, that deeds abhorrent to moral feeling should be performed, then, obviously, Justice is not the essential principle of the universe, and religion has no substantial basis.’ I am doing my best to show both that knowledge is the supremely good thing, and that it is to be got by divine methods.”
With the enhancement of her psychic faculties, which occurred in 1876, she became and during the remainder of her life continued to be the recipient of Divine Illuminations which, after her death, were published in Clothed with the Sun. They were received by her mostly in sleep. Some of them dealt with the profoundest subjects of cognition such as the procession of Deity, or Original Being, from static to dynamic, from passive to active, from unmanifest to manifest, from abstract to concrete, from universal to individual. Others disclosed the method at once of Creation and .of Redemption, shewing the
method to be one, and the direction only to be different, being as centrifugal and centripetal, evolutional and involutional; while others dealt with such subjects as Inspiration and Prophesying; Sin and Death; Christian Pantheism; The Communion of Souls (which was received by Anna Kingsford in sleep, and is considered by some to be one of the finest pieces of composition in the English language); The Origin of Evil; The Fall; The Gospels; The Christian Mysteries; The Dogmas of the Catholic Church; The Soul and Her Nature; The Great Work; The Redemption; Vicarious Atonement (the doctrine of which is condemned as false and pernicious); and there are those wonderful and beautiful “Hymns to the Gods”; and some of the Illuminations contain allusions to Jesus (whom Anna Kingsford declared she remembered) and his teaching, and to St. Paul (who is accused of having misrepresented the teaching of Jesus), and to other Biblical characters. There are references also to the Great Pyramid which was built for initiations, one of which is described. All are subjects of the greatest interest. These Illuminations, or some of them, are regarded by many as sacred scripture. Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland looked upon them as inspired. Some of them appear to be recoveries, by memory of the Soul, of ancient rituals long lost to the world.
From what has been written – and much more might be added in support – it will be seen that an explanation of Anna Kingsford’s character and psychic memories is to be found in the doctrine of reincarnation – a doctrine that both she and Edward Maitland could not but accept as true, and one that, among the Theosophists of their time, they were the very first to proclaim. Until the receipt by Anna Kingsford of an Illumination on the subject, they were at a loss for any explanation that they could regard as satisfactory regarding the facts of their lives. The Illumination referred to was the one on “Inspiration and Prophesying,” and it was received by Anna Kingsford in February, 1880, under the following circumstances. Edward Maitland had been seeking a test whereby to distinguish true inspiration from false, and having been greatly perplexed over the matter, had mentally begged for an explanation. Shortly afterwards his delight was great when Anna Kingsford brought
him an instruction, which had been received by her in sleep during the night which cleared up the mystery and without her having been aware of his need and request. The instruction, which had been written out by Anna Kingsford on waking, read as follows: –
“I heard last night in my sleep a voice speaking to me, and saying: –
You ask the method and nature of Inspiration, and the means whereby God revealeth the Truth.
Know that there is no enlightenment from without; the secret of things is revealed from within.
From without cometh no Divine Revelation; but the Spirit within beareth witness.
Think not I tell you that which you know not; for, except you know it, it cannot be given to you.
To him that hath it is given, and he hath the more abundantly.
None is a prophet save he who knoweth; the instructor of the people is a man of many lives.
Inborn knowledge and the perception of things, these are the sources of revelation; the soul of the man instructeth him, having already learned by experience.
Intuition is inborn experience; that which the soul knoweth of old and of former years.
And illumination is the light of wisdom, whereby a man perceiveth heavenly secrets.
Which light is the Spirit of God within the man, showing unto him the things of God.
Do not think that I tell you anything you know not: all cometh from within; the Spirit that informeth is the Spirit of God in the prophet (…)
Thou who art a prophet hast had many lives; yea, thou hast taught many nations, and hast stood before kings.
And God hath instructed thee in the years that are past; and in the former times of the earth.
By prayer, by fasting, by meditation, by painful seeking hast thou attained that thou knowest.
There is no knowledge but by labour; there is no intuition but by experience.
I have seen thee on the hills of the East; I have followed thy steps in the wilderness; I have seen thee
adore at sunrise; I have marked thy night-watches in the caves of the mountains.
Thou hast attained with patience, O prophet; God hath revealed the truth to thee from within.”
In an Illumination concerning the interpretation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Maria, which was in July, 1877, received and written by Anna Kingsford while in a condition of trance, she was told “The Church knows not the source of its dogmas. We marvel also at the blindness of the hearers, who indeed hear, but who have not eyes to see. We speak in vain – ye discern not spiritual things. Ye are so materialised that ye perceive only the material. The Spirit comes and goes; ye hear the sound of its voice; but ye cannot tell whither it goeth nor whence it cometh. All that is true is spiritual. No dogma of the Church is true that seems to bear a physical meaning. For matter shall cease, and all that is of it, but the Word of the Lord shall remain for ever. And how shall it remain except it be purely spiritual; since when matter ceases, it would then be no longer comprehensible? I tell you again, and of a truth – no dogma is real that is not spiritual. If it be true, and yet seem to you to have a material signification, know that you have not solved it. It is a mystery; seek its interpretation. That which is true is for Spirit alone.” Letters and words, as we know them, may be and must be used, but the language of the Church throughout all ages has never been of this world. It is addressed to the soul and not to the senses.
After Anna Kingsford obtained her medical degree she was free, not only to prosecute the great work which had inspired her to enter the medical profession, but also to join with Edward Maitland in what they regarded as their appointed mission, that of unsealing or interpreting the Bibles of the West; the purpose of their collaboration, as stated by Edward Maitland, being “the restoration of the esoteric philosophy or Theosophy of the West, and the interpretation thereby of the Christian and kindred religions”; and having materials for lectures in their possession and in abundance, they decided to open their campaign by giving the series of lectures, which, in 1881, they gave to a private and select audience, and which,
in the following year, were published under the title of The Perfect Way; or the Finding of Christ. The book, which was their joint production, at once met with the greatest praise and enthusiasm from the few spiritually-minded who were able to judge of its merits, but otherwise by the representatives of orthodoxy and materialism who were unable to withstand its attacks on their respective strongholds; and, to-day, after the many years that have passed and books that have been written since its publication, it is recognised as being one of the best and greatest books on esoteric and spiritual – which is the true – Christianity that has been given to the world. The book, which was intended to make known the revelation received by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, and which they regarded as a new “Gospel of Interpretation,” was largely written from or as the result of Illuminations which had then been received by them. It represents the restoration of the “Key of Knowledge,” with the taking away and withholding of which Jesus so bitterly reproached the ecclesiastics of his time. [Baron Spedalieri, the disciple of] the late “Eliphas Levi,” (1) after reading it, wrote: –
“Humanity has always and everywhere asked itself these three supreme questions: Whence come we? What are we? Whither go we? Now these questions at length find an answer, complete, satisfactory, and consolatory in The Perfect Way.” Lady Caithness, Duchess de Pomar, regarded it as “the most complete revelation, certainly, that has ever been given to man on this planet.” Writing to Lady Caithness on the subject, Anna Kingsford said: “Strange indeed it would be if our Book should find universal acceptation in a world which rejected Christ! But those who do recognise our teachings do so not warmly only, but enthusiastically. Of one thing I am sure; which is, that the Doctrine of which our Book is the first Apostle will sooner or later become the headstone of the corner; for it is the only doctrine capable of explaining the otherwise insoluble enigmas of the universe, and embodying the philosophy in which are united all the elements of every divine revelation vouchsafed to mankind. By it Christian and Buddhist, Parsee and Hebrew, Greek and Egyptian, are brought into harmony, and shewn to be only so many different dialects of one Catholic
language. The Perfect Way is thus an Eirenicon, and the Peace-maker is the Child of God.” In a joint letter from “The Writers of The Perfect Way,” which appeared in Light (23rd Sept., 1882), they said: “The Perfect Way seeks to consolidate truth in one complete whole, and by systematising religion to demonstrate its catholicity. It seeks to make peace between Science and Faith; to marry the Intellect with the Intuition; to bring together East and West, and to unite Buddhist philosophy with Christian love, by demonstrating that the basis of religion is not historical, but spiritual – not physical, but psychic – not local and temporal, but universal and eternal.”
Not only was Anna Kingsford the recipient of Divine Illuminations such as those to which reference has been made, she was also a great dreamer – perhaps the most remarkable of which there is any record. She would dream complete stories and verses of poetry which, on waking, she would write out. Her “dreams and dream stories” were, after her death, published in the book of that title, edited by Edward Maitland. Many of them were in the nature of instructions in the form of stories intended for her guidance.
Much more of interest might be said of this dear and truly great woman who was “no stranger to heavenly visions and voices,” and of her collaborator Edward Maitland and their work and teaching, but space will not permit. Those who would know more, must seek it in her Biography above referred to. The latter years of her life were rendered doubly hard by reason of her physical disability and failing health. But her mission was ever before her, and she worked on to the end, which occurred on the 22nd February, 1888, when she withdrew to higher realms – not unknown to her – to continue under more favourable conditions her work for God and Humanity to which she had devoted her life. In a message subsequently received from her for Edward Maitland, he was informed as follows: – “She rejoices to let you know that the suffering she enjoyed – yes, enjoyed – was the ladder that led her spirit upward, ever upward. She knows now that, had that suffering not chained her spirit to her material frame, the power she possessed would have been of no use in this sphere of earth. For had her body not suffered, her knowledge could never
have been expressed, but must have remained in her inner self as a dream, one day to be realised.”
In the early part of their married life, Anna Kingsford wrote many sermons for her husband. In one, wherein she described “the true Man of God in all ages,” I feel that we have the personal testimony of a sufferer. She says: –
“The World esteems him not – it does not know his greatness, it does not recognise his real strength. When he dares to stand up alone before its face and brave its displeasure and its opposition, the World is amazed at the man’s temerity. It sends out its hosts to crush him like a worm – ignorant in its blindness that he is not alone. It sees only the solitary figure standing unshielded and unprotected in the teeth of its rage and indignation, and prepares to sweep him away with a blast of its mighty wrath. But the Man is greater than the World. Unseen by common eyes an invincible Host protects him. He only knows his own power, and conscious of that power, he dares defy the armies of earth. Who are the protectors of the Man of God? Who are these invisible warriors who defend and save him? They are the powers and the graces whose names are written in the Word of God: – Fortitude, Purity, Steadfastness, Hope, Love, Valour, Sincerity, Patience, Longsuffering, Wisdom, Meekness, and all the mighty gifts of the Spirit of God.
“This is the Celestial Host whose arms are more than a match for the assaults of the World. By the help of this great armament every Saint has conquered, every Man of Genius has withstood and has won the day. The thousands of good and great men and women who one by one have fought the World and vanquished it gloriously. They have been despised and rejected, persecuted, ridiculed, rebuked, threatened – all in vain. They knew, each one of them, standing alone before the great array of their adversaries, that ‘those who were with them were more than those who were against them.’ ”