Why the “Anna Kingsford Site” Was Created?
Arnaldo Sisson Filho
First of all, I want to express my gratitude to Leslie Price for the suggestion about writing this article.
The first great reason that motivated the construction of the Anna Kingsford Site was the desire to help in the understanding of the original Christianity and, through that, to help in the great intellectual reform which the world so urgently needs, because, as it was already written:
“At the present moment there are two things about the Christian religion which must be obvious to every percipient person; one, that men cannot do without it; the other, that they cannot do with it as it is.” (Matthew Arnold, quoted in The Perfect Way, Preface to the Second Edition, p.lxxi )
The understanding of these two aspects may generate different interpretations, but we can at least explain some facts related with these two aspects.
First, that Christianity, as the heir of the Greek-Roman civilization is one of the pillars of the western civilization, for the good and for the bad – western civilization that is amply dominating the world of our days. This aspect alone should already be enough to support the statement that the present world cannot do without Christianity.
Second, that the ideas and the great institutions of the western civilization (which are hegemonic in the world) are generating immense problems, in relations of which they will never present consistent solutions, since they themselves are at the core of these problems. These ideas and institutions, in their turn, are leading the world in the direction of gigantic catastrophes. In summary, the western civilization needs a great reform in its philosophic-religious fundaments, and in its great institutions derived from these fundaments.
The current Christianity, as well as the crass materialism of dominant scientific thought, which are the main sustaining columns of this civilization model, need to be reformed and reoriented towards true principles. And the world, if it wants to avoid the catastrophes that are coming, cannot live longer under the dominion of these false principles and their consequent unjust and incompetent great institutions. This vision is not new and it is in agreement with important writings from the early times of the Theosophical Society, as in the example of the two following quotations:
“To be true, religion and philosophy must offer the solution of every problem. That the world is in such a bad condition morally is a conclusive evidence that none of its religions and philosophies, (…) have ever possessed the truth.
The right and logical explanations on the subject of the problems of the great dual principles – right and wrong, good and evil, liberty and despotism, pain and pleasure, egotism and altruism – are as impossible to them now as they were 1881 years ago. They are as far from the solution as they ever were but, – To these there must be somewhere a consistent solution, and if our doctrines will show their competence to offer it, then the world will be the first one to confess that must be the true philosophy, the true religion, the true light, which gives truth and nothing but the truth.” (LMW, 1st Series, letter n. 1)
“Under the dominion and sway of exoteric creeds, the grotesque and tortured shadows of Theosophical realities, there must ever be the same oppression of the weak and the poor and the same typhonic struggle of the wealthy and the mighty among themselves . . . It is esoteric philosophy alone, the spiritual and psychic blending of man with Nature, that, by revealing fundamental truths, can bring that much desired mediate state between the two extremes of human Egotism and divine Altruism, and finally lead to the alleviation of human suffering.” (LMW, 2nd Series, letter n. 82)
Anna Kingsford, as far as we can see, gave an extraordinary contribution to the understanding of true Christianity. In spite of that, only relatively small attention was given to her works and to her life. Being so, it seemed to us that it would be something relevant to help in making this message more widely known.
After many years of active participation in the Theosophical Society, I had learned that we must help to improve the understanding of the sacred Scriptures of all peoples, in order that these Scriptures may accomplish their hole in the great intellectual reform that is so badly needed. And, in this sense, as I live in the sphere of the Christian western world, it is but natural that one have as an objective to bring to the western populations (and to the world in general), a greater and deeper comprehension of the Christian tradition.
This idea of doing something for Christianity was already occupying my mind for a long time, and in the many years that I was leading the World Theosophical Youth Federation I tried to stimulate some people with sufficient intellectual training to study and to publish on this subject of the origins of Christianity. Nevertheless, as this part of history is not easy to be recovered, I practically could not find people interested in doing so, or with sufficient time and intellectual background to accomplish this task.
Then, when I arrived to know more deeply the writings of Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, I felt that there was contained an important contribution to the recovery of original Christianity that I was seeking. Therefore, it was mainly due to that reason that I decided to face the task of making this message more widely known.
When I started to study the works by Kingsford and Maitland, already having in mind this purpose of helping Christianity to recover its origins and, therefore, to recover the harmony with the truths of the other great religions (when they are well interpreted), at the same time I was translating into Portuguese the autobiography of the Christian monk Bede Griffiths (The Golden String), which built bridges among the Hindu and the Christian religions. And in the same period of time my wife Marina was writing her biography of Helena Blavatsky (A Esfinge Helena Blavatsky, or, The Sphinx Helena Blavatsky). Reading her writings I observed that the difficult relations among Blavatsky and Kingsford, as well as among A.P. Sinnett and Kingsford (with the consequence of Kingsford leaving the London Lodge), was a great lost opportunity to the understanding and to realization of the work of the Theosophical Society.
By that time Marina and I were also participating in a group which had the object of creating in Brazil an ecumenical monastery. This group had the leadership of a Christian religious man, who apparently had some psychic faculties, and who brought to me the counsel that “I should study the works of Dr Anna Kingsford, since I was interested in helping Christianity.”
So, it was trying to work in the direction of my old desire of doing something for Christianity, and under the double influence of the researches of my wife and the suggestion brought by this priest, that I start a serious study of the works of Kingsford and Maitland. It did not take a long time for me to realize that those works were very relevant, in the sense of answering to what I was looking for, that is, to help in the recovering of true Christianity.
Naturally, having understood this point, it was a surprise when I saw that those works were not widely known, and in some cases were almost lost, even in the sphere of the Theosophical Society, which has the duty of doing this work of enlighten the religious Scriptures, mainly with the help of the comparative study among the different religions, the philosophical traditions and modern science.
Therefore, it was as a consequence of this old intention, added to these influences and studies that was born the idea of creating the Anna Kingsford Site. After that decision was taken, we started to collect all the works by Kingsford and Maitland, and of those who wrote about them, or works related to their works, in order to preserve and make more easily accessible this message to the interested people around the world. And for the same reason the site was developed in two languages, English and Portuguese.
To arrive to the present stage – where practically all the know works by Kingsford and Maitland are online – it took us near 10 years, with the help of several people, both from Brazil and from abroad. In this process we had recovered some books in a surprising way, what suggests that this work deserved the help of the Celestial Church, to use a Christian terminology. Our searches led us to meet new friends, including, as it should be expected, from England, the native country of Kingsford and Maitland.
It is with gratitude that I remember the help received from some English friends: Ralph Johnson, who worked just in front of British Library in London, and who helped us in finding some books that were almost forgotten; also Gabriel Buist, that already passed away, who helped to find and to copy other very rare works from the library of the organization which he was engaged (The Order of the Cross, with headquarters in London); and also Brian G. McAllister (editor of the publication of unknown letters from Edward Maitland), who helped us correcting many English mistakes in the site, and passed to us some texts from Samuel H. Hart, and also wrote a text about Samuel H. Hart, who was the great continuator of the diffusion of these works, after Maitland passed away.
As to the message brought to the world by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, what are the most relevant points in it?
One of its main points, as far as we can see, is the catholicity (universality) of their interpretations of the most important parts of the Christian Scriptures. And that is why their message was named the New Gospel of Interpretation. Actually, as they explain to us, there is nothing new in the message they brought to the world, but, it is the recovery of something that was so forgotten and degraded that, when it was recovered, it seems to be something new.
Let us see a quotation that will help the perception of the true catholicity of the message of the New Gospel of Interpretation:
“The Christian Faith is the direct heir of the old Roman faith. Rome was the heir of Greece, and Greece of Egypt, whence the Mosaic dispensation and Hebrew ritual sprang.
Egypt was but the focus of a light whose true fountain and centre was the Orient in general – Ex Oriente Lux. For the East, in every sense, geographically, astronomically, and spiritually, is ever the source of light.
But although originally derived from the East, the Church of our day and country is modelled immediately upon the Greco-Roman mythology, and draws thence all its rites, doctrines, ceremonies, sacraments, and festivals.
Hence the exposition to be given of Esoteric Christianity would deal more especially with the mysteries of the West, their ideas and terminology being more attractive and congenial to us than the inartistic conceptions, the unfamiliar metaphysics, the melancholy spiritualism, and the unsuggestive language of the East.
Drawing its life-blood directly from the pagan faith of the old Occidental world, Christianity more nearly resembles its immediate father and mother than its remote ancestors, and will, therefore, be better expounded by reference to Greek and Roman sources than to their Brahminical and Vedic parallels.
The Christian Church is Catholic, or it is nothing worthy the name of Church at all. For Catholic signifies universal, all-embracing: – the faith everywhere and always received. The prevalent limited view of the term is wrong and mischievous.
The Christian Church was first called Catholic because she enfolded, comprehended, and made her own all the religious past of the whole world, gathering up into and around her central figure of the Christ all the characteristics, legends, and symbols hitherto appertaining to the central figures of preceding dispensations, proclaiming the unity of all human aspiration, and formulating in one grand ecumenical system the doctrines of East and West.
Thus the Catholic Church is Vedic, Buddhist, Zend, and Semitic. She is Egyptian, Hermetic, Pythagorean, and Platonic. She is Scandinavian, Mexican, and Druidic. She is Grecian and Roman. She is scientific, philosophic, and spiritual.
We find in her teachings the Pantheism of the East, and the individualism of the West. She speaks the language and thinks the thoughts of all the children of men; and in her temple all the gods are shrined.
I am Vedantist, Buddhist, Hellenist, Hermetic, and Christian, because I am Catholic. For in that one word all Past, Present, and Future are enfolded.” (The Credo of Christendom, pp. 94-96)
Why this point of the catholicity is so important in our times?
First, because we live in a world each time more interlinked by the satellites, by the communication media, with the paradigmatic example of the Internet, by the air transportation and by the each time more globalized economy.
Second, because we live in a world dominated by the scientific thought, in which it is only by the understanding resulting from logic explanations and, as far as it is possible, supported by empirical demonstrations that the more intellectualized minds may reach the truth.
In relation to the great metaphysical truths – that are so decisive to the advent of a true ethics and of new great institutions – it is only through the comparative method that it will be possible to demonstrate that in all places and in all times the wise ones had thought the same truths. The demonstration of this fact will make evident (among other principles of the greatest relevance) the existence of superior faculties of cognition, faculties that enable the human being to a direct realization of truth. This demonstration and realization alone will necessarily bring a more truthful vision about what is the human being, a vision that is fundamental and decisive to the great intellectual reform in the world dominating ideas. This is summarized in the following quotation from Helena Blavatsky:
“It is only by studying the various great religions and philosophers of humanity, by comparing them dispassionately and with an unbiassed mind, that men can hope to arrive at the truth. It is especially by finding out and noting their various points of agreement that we may achieve this result.” (The Key to Theosophy, p. 58)
The catholicity of the message of the New Gospel of Interpretation is in perfect harmony with this requirement of our age (of logical explanations and based in empirical demonstrations). There are two other aspects that we have to mention, even if very synthetically:
1) In the New Gospel of Interpretation was presented – more clearly than in any other author or book – the necessary union of Christianity with Buddhism. Let us remember here that Buddhism, with its logical and non-theistic fundaments, is well adapted to be the moral basis of an era dominated by the scientific thought.
2) This message is in perfect harmony with the principles of the Esoteric Philosophy (or the Perennial Philosophy), and with the due emphasis to the aspect of the “unity in diversity”, since this point is decisive to the right understanding of the principle of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, which is the vision of the human being (collectively considered) derived from the Perennial Philosophy.
This vision is present in all the main religious and philosophic traditions. This aspect, it is important to say, finds corroboration in empirical researches, as we show in our works in the area of Political Science (A Consciência Política na Massa, or, The Political Consciousness in Mass Publics, a Master degree dissertation, UFRGS; and O Que Há de Errado com a Política?, or, What is Wrong With Politics?), where we try to corroborate and to show the relevance of the researches of the American political scientist Philip E. Converse.
We conclude this article with a few more quotations, where these two last mentioned aspects are rightly emphasized and a little more explained:
1) “Christianity, then, was introduced into the world with a special relation to the great religions of the East, and under the same divine control. And so far from being intended as a rival and supplanter of Buddhism, it was the direct and necessary sequel to that system; and the two are but parts of one continuous, harmonious whole, whereof the later division is but the indispensable supplement and complement of the earlier. (…)
But for Buddha, Jesus could not have been, nor would he have sufficed the whole man; for the man must have the Mind illuminated before the Affections can be kindled. Nor would Buddha have been complete without Jesus. Buddha completed the regeneration of the Mind; and by his doctrine and practice men are prepared for the grace which comes by Jesus. Wherefore no man can be, properly, Christian, who is not also, and first, Buddhist.
Thus the two religions constitute, respectively, the exterior and interior of the same Gospel, the foundation being in Buddhism – the term including Pythagoreanism – and the illumination in Christianity. And as without Christianity Buddhism is incomplete, so without Buddhism Christianity is unintelligible.” (The Perfect Way, pp. 250-251)
2) “Of the spiritual union in the one faith of Buddha and Christ, will be born the world’s coming redemption”. (The Perfect Way, p. 252)
3) “Once the veil of symbolism is lifted from the divine face of Truth, all Churches are akin, and the basic doctrine of all is identical (...). Greek, Hermetic, Buddhist, Vedantist, Christian – all these Lodges of the Mysteries are fundamentally one and identical in doctrine. (...)
We hold that no single ecclesiastical creed is comprehensible by itself alone, uninterpreted by its predecessors and its contemporaries.
Students, for example, of Christian theology will only learn to understand and to appreciate the true value and significance of the symbols familiar to them by the study of Eastern philosophy and pagan idealism.
For Christianity is the heir of these, and she draws her best blood from their veins. And forasmuch as all her great ancestors hid beneath their exoteric formulas and rites – themselves mere husks and shells to amuse the simple-minded – the esoteric or concealed verities reserved for the initiate, so also she reserves for earnest seekers and deep thinkers the true interior Mysteries which are one and eternal in all creeds and Churches from the foundation of the world.
This true, interior, transcendental meaning is the Real Presence veiled in the Elements of the Divine Sacrament: the mystical substance and the truth figured beneath the bread and the wine of the ancient Bacchic orgies, and now of ours own Catholic Church.
To the unwise, the unthinking, the superstitious, the gross elements are the objects of the rite; to the initiate, the seer, the son of Hermes, they are but the outward and visible signs of that which is ever, and of necessity, inward, spiritual, and occult.” (Life of Anna Kingsford, Vol. II, pp. 123-124)
4) “My Genius says that we are, above all things, to teach the doctrine of Caste. The Christians made a serious mistake in requiring the same rule of all persons. Castes are as ladders whereby to ascend from the lower to the higher. They are properly spiritual grades, and have no relation to the outward condition of life. Like all other doctrines, that of Caste has been materialised. The Castes are four in number, and correspond to the fourfold nature of man.” (Clothed with the Sun, Illumination n. XVIII); and, Anna Kingsford – Her Life, Letters, Diary and Work. Vol. II, p. 5)
5) “That great principle of Reincarnation must ever go hand in hand with the principle of Universal Brotherhood if Universal Brotherhood is to be applied, if it is to be made a working principle of ordinary life. For it is out of these differences of age that grow up all the possibilities of an ordered and happy society amongst ourselves. (A. Besant, The Changing World, p. 80)
6) “The term “Universal Brotherhood” is no idle phrase. (...) It is the only secure foundation for universal morality. If it be a dream, it is at least a noble one for mankind: and it is the aspiration of the true adept.” (K.H., ML, Letter 4, p. 17)
7) “It is not physical phenomena that will ever bring conviction to the hearts of the unbelievers in the (Universal) “Brotherhood” but rather phenomena of intellectuality, philosophy and logic, if I may so express it.” (K.H., ML, Letter n. 35)
Note: Several of the bold characters were added by the author.
BARKER, A.T., comp. The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett. Pasadena, Theosophical University Press, 1975. 589 pp.
BESANT, A. The Changing World and Lectures to Theosophical Students. London, The Theosophical Publishing Society, 1910. 333 pp.
BLAVATSKY, Helena P. The Key to Theosophy. Bombay, Theosophy Company, 1987. 367 pp.
CONVERSE, Philip E. – The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics. In: APTER, D. E., org. Ideology and Discontent. New York, The Free Press of Glencoe, 1964. p. 206-261.
CONVERSE, Philip E. – Public Opinion and Voting Behaviour. In: GREENSTEIN, F. I. – Handbook of Political Science, vol. 4, Reading, Massachusetts, 1975. p. 75-169.
CONVERSE, Philip E. et al. – The American Voter. New York, Wiley, 1960. 576 p.
JINARAJADASA, C., comp. Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, 1st Series. Adyar, The Theosophical Publishing House, 1973. 183 pp.
JINARAJADASA, C., comp. Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, 2nd Series. Adyar, The Theosophical Publishing House, 1973. 189 pp.
KINGSFORD, Anna and MAITLAND, Edward. The Perfect Way; or, the Finding of Christ. Hamilton, Adams & Co., London, 1882. Second enlarged and revised edition: Field and Tuer, London, 1887; and also Esoteric Publishing Company, Boston, 1988. 3rd edition: 1890. Fifth edition, with additions, and a Biographical Preface by Samuel Hopgood Hart: John M. Watkins, London, 1923. 405 pp.
KINGSFORD, Anna and MAITLAND, Edward. The Credo of Christendom: and Other Addresses and Essays on Esoteric Christianity. Edited by Samuel Hopgood Hart. John M. Watkins, London, 1916. 256 pp.
KINGSFORD, Anna. Clothed with the Sun, Being the Book of the Illuminations of Anna (Bonus) Kingsford. Edited by Edward Maitland. First edition: John M. Watkins, London, 1889. Second edition: The Ruskin Press, Birmingham, 1906. Third Edition: edited by Samuel Hopgood Hart, 1937. Sun Books (reprint), Santa Fe, 1993. 210 pp.
MAITLAND, Edward. Anna Kingsford – Her Life, Letters, Diary and Work. Two volumes. 3rd Edition, edited by Samuel Hopgood Hart. John M. Watkins, London, 1913. Vol. I, 442 pp.; Vol. II, 466 pp.
SISSON FILHO, Arnaldo. A Consciência Política na Massa e as Eleições de 1982 em Porto Alegre. (The Political Consciousness in Mass Publics). Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, 1984. 159 p. Diss. M.A. Political Science.
SISSON FILHO, Arnaldo. O Que Há de Errado com a Política? (What Is Wrong With Politics?) Edited by Roda e Cruz Edições, Brasília, 2010. 107 pp.
Sections: General Index Present Section: Index