PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION
“All the materials for revising the theology of Christianity are in our hands, being divinely delivered from the original source in the Church Celestial.” – E.M.
“Now is the axe laid to the root of the trees.” – Matt. iii. 10.
Kingsford’s withdrawal, Edward Maitland took up his abode at Nº. 1 Thurloe Square Studios, Thurloe Square, South
Kensington, (1) where, for the remainder of his life – that
is, of his active life – he lived alone, devoting his whole time and
attention to the propagation of the New Gospel of Interpretation; and,
considering his advanced age, the amount of work he accomplished in the time is
surprising; for, during these few years – not more than eight years in
all – in addition to writing the present Biography – a stupendous
task in itself – which he then wrote,
he edited Dreams and Dream-Stories,
and Clothed with the Sun, (3) and he wrote The Bible’s Own Account of Itself,
(4) The New Gospel of
Interpretation, (5) and The
Story of the New Gospel of Interpretation, (6) and he gave numerous lectures, and wrote
many articles and letters for periodicals and newspapers. The last-mentioned
book was written by him as “an epitome and instalment” of the
Biography, in case he should not live to complete that work; for, such were the
demands on his time and strength, that he sometimes feared he would not be able
to complete it. In a letter written in 1892, to the late Rev. J.G. Ouseley, he
said: “I was fourteen hours at my writing table yesterday, not turning in
later, in the same year, he wrote to me of the “great pressure of [his] occupation, combined with indifferent health.” The Biography was, however, at length completed. In July 1895 it was “in course of printing”; in December, following, it was “all printed”; and in January 1896 it was published; (1) and he regarded it – as well he might – as the crowning work of his life – his magnum opus – a work which, he was assured, (2) would “educate the world more than all else, by showing 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”: – for Anna Kingsford’s life affords to the world – “a world sunk beyond all precedent in the depths of Materialism” – a demonstration anew of the Soul’s reality and transcendency, and therein of the divine potentialities of humanity. The great value of the present Biography is that it was written by one who not only more than any other had intimate knowledge of Anna Kingsford, but by one who knew of her as much as it is possible for one human being to know of another, and who, in addition to such knowledge, was possessed of the ability, literary and other, necessary to enable him to do justice to his subject; and last but not least, it was written by one of undoubted veracity: and further, as his own life and work had been so connected with Anna Kingsford’s that the life of either of them could not be written without and apart from the life of the other, so far as Edward Maitland is concerned, The Life of Anna Kingsford has the great additional value of being an Autobiography. (3) Such were Edward Maitland’s qualifications for the great task undertaken by him.
Writing of the Biography, he says:
“This book is written neither for the exaltation of individuals nor for the satisfaction of mere curiosity, however legitimate; but as the necessary crown and completion of the life and work of which it is the record, and for the sake of those who may be qualified to appreciate and to benefit by it. It is written, therefore, in fulfilment
of a duty deemed paramount, and under the deepest sense of responsibility alike to the departed, the living, and those yet to come, and with scrupulous adherence to truth and accuracy even when seeming most to transcend credibility. Its object being, not to amuse or astonish, but to instruct and perpetuate, and this in respect of the profoundest and most momentous of subjects, the intrusion of any inferior element would be accounted a sacrilege. It is thus neither a romance nor an eulogium, but a history, and this of something more than of a person and a work, exceptional as these were, for it is the history also of a soul, and this a soul at once so luminous, so strong, and so slenderly veiled by its material environment as to be, in all its states and workings, accessible to observation; yet, nevertheless, a typical soul, and one the history of which may, in its broad outlines, serve as that of all souls; for as the soul is one, so also is its history one. Hence the peculiar significance of the life of Anna Kingsford.”
On the 27th May 1895, he wrote to me that he was (at the request of the publisher) curtailing the Biography, “not by omitting anything historical and biographical, but by eliminating certain literary remains, such as Mrs. Kingsford’s ‘Meditations on the Mysteries,’ giving short samples only, and leaving the rest for publication in a separate book afterwards, with other writings of hers.” And he added, “I am greatly curtailing in the same way also the account of our relations with the Theosophical Society, which I had related with much fulness, giving our letters and pamphlets in which we convicted them of having utterly mistaken the teaching they had received. For I thought it well that the world should see to what an extent that movement has been transformed from being subversive of all religion, into being, as it now is, a valuable aid to the restoration of true religion, and this through the revelation given to us. The book will lose nothing of its interest and value for the general reader by the changes I am making, but it is a good deal against my own liking.”
A small part of the manuscript of The Life of Anna Kingsford, and also all or some of the above-mentioned letters and pamphlets, subsequently came into my possession, and from these I have been enabled to supply in the present Edition the matter, or some of the matter, referred to in the above-mentioned letter
as having been omitted from the former Edition. I refer in particular to the new matter to be found on pp. 140-146, 149-152, 153-154, 160-164, 175-181,197-199, and 221-223 of Vol. II. of the present Edition. The importance of this new matter alone, and apart from Edward Maitland’s desire (as above expressed) to have it included in the Biography, is my justification for increasing the size of what was already a large work – for, be it noted, nothing that was in the former Edition has been omitted from the present Edition.
It now remains for me to relate what I know of the closing years of my friend’s life. For some time before I met Edward Maitland I had felt dissatisfied with and opposed to much of what I had been accustomed to hear taught in the Church of England – in which Church I had been brought up; dissatisfied with, because it failed to meet my highest aspirations, and opposed to, because I knew that much of what was taught was not true; the official exponents of religion had proved themselves to be “blind guides,” and I knew that, so far as light and truth were concerned, the Nonconformist Churches were in no better condition, and I was not drawn to them. The claims of the Catholic Church I had not seriously considered. What I sought was a true doctrine, and my belief was that none of the Churches that called themselves “Christian,” offered such; but I in no wise identified the “Christianity” of the Churches with the religion of Jesus Christ.
At the time to which I refer, I had recently read some theosophical writings which had greatly interested me. I had been drawn to the subject through an article on “Esoteric Buddhism” which I had read in the Nineteenth Century. l think it must have been a notice or review of, or must have contained some reference to, Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism, for shortly after reading the article, I purchased that book, and also one or more of Mrs. Besant’s “Theosophical Manuals.” The latter convinced me that there was something in Theosophy. The doctrine of Reincarnation, in particular, though new to me, did not seem strange, and I at once accepted it as true; and I felt that at last I was on the track that would lead me to the goal that I sought. In this state of mind I contemplated joining the Theosophical Society, and I spoke of my feelings to a friend, who advised me, before joining the Theosophical Society, to see
Edward Maitland, of whom, until then, I had not heard. She did not know him, but she knew a friend of his, and she promised to obtain from such friend the necessary introduction, and this introduction I, in due course, received.
first met Edward Maitland on the 19th April 1894, when I called upon him at his
Chambers at Nº. 1
While this book confirmed me in my attitude towards the theology of the Churches, it also taught me what I did not before know, namely, that all that is true is spiritual; and that all the dogmas of the Church are spiritual, and that no dogma of the Church is real that is not spiritual; and that “the Catholic
Church has the whole of the truth in a parable”: (1) and it gave me great joy to learn this.
it not been for the corrupt priesthoods who, by materialising mysteries which
are purely spiritual, give to the people for food “ashes” (matter)
as it were “bread” (spiritual food) – the
“scorpion” instead of the “fish” – my
“religious difficulties” would not have arisen. “The hill of
Sion is a fair place,” but the Psalmist was not wrong when, speaking of
materialising priesthoods, he said: “O God, the heathen are come into
Thine inheritance, Thy Holy Temple have they defiled and made
When once the system represented by the New Gospel of Interpretation is duly apprehended, “it is as impossible for the mind to dissent from it, as from the demonstration of a proposition in geometry or mathematics. Without rejecting a single dogma of orthodoxy, it transforms every dogma into a self-evident and necessary proposition, obviously founded in the very nature of Being, to the utter abrogation of Mystery in that sacerdotal and traditional sense so emphatically denounced in the Apocalypse as ‘Babylon the Great, mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.’ For in such sense, Mystery means the suppression of the understanding in favour of authority as the criterion of truth; and the appeal of the new interpretation is, as the word interpretation implies, to the understanding.” (2)
In the following September I joined the Esoteric Christian Union.
The publication of The Life of Anna Kingsford was, with a few exceptions, greeted by the Press with derision. The Daily Chronicle contained an article – purporting to be a review of the book – which, Edward Maitland said, “was not a review at all, but a falsification and perversion,” and “also a blasphemy,
since to assail a book containing a divine revelation with ribaldry and vulgar invective is to blaspheme.” This was not the first time that he had reason to complain of the treatment of his and Anna Kingsford’s writings by the Press, of which, he said, “one half is inveterately sadducee, and the other half inveterately sacerdotal.” (1) Among the exceptions were two very lengthy and excellent reviews, both written by the late Mr. W.T. Stead, in The Review of Reviews (2) and Borderland (3) respectively; and there was an appreciative notice, by Mr. A.E. Waite, in Light. (4) In the Borderland review, Mr. Stead affirmed that Anna Kingsford’s biography “is one of those which stand out by themselves alone and apart from all other biographies that ever were written.” Madame Isabel de Steiger also, who is several times mentioned in the Biography, gave her “testimony.” She said: (5) –
“I have just finished reading The Life of Anna Kingsford, by Mr. Maitland. (...) I do not intend to write more than a few words, for I hope and expect that an abler pen than mine will do the “Life” full justice in a comprehensive review, but I should like to add a few words of “testimony.” I felt as if reading a page of my own history while going through this very important and profoundly interesting work. I can, therefore, with some claim to do so, admire its strict truth and accuracy. The episodes come back to me as occurring just as they are written. It is, indeed, a plain and unvarnished narrative of one of the very remarkable lives of this age.
“When one thinks of all the memoirs one reads of all the able and distinguished women of the day, often edited by equally distinguished men, not one can be recalled that in the smallest degree approaches the importance of this life. (...) Of the nobility, extraordinary self-abnegation, patience, and the most beautiful and touching living
memento of the truest, purest friendship shown in every page of Mr. Maitland’s own share in the work, one cannot say enough.
“The books they wrote must and will live when thousands of volumes of the pseudo-philosophy of the day, now ignorantly preferred, will have long died their deserved death. (...)”
In a letter, written in 1891, to his Publisher, Edward Maitland spoke of the great difficulty of making known to the public his and Anna Kingsford’s writings. He said:
“The difficulty thus far in getting at the tens of thousands of people who are longing for exactly what these books contain lies first in the absolute ignorance and disbelief of those who have the critical press in their hands. Not knowing the problems to be solved, the reviewers can’t recognise the solutions, and being mere materialists (whether religious or not) they can’t take in the facts of the case, namely, that these books represent 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 of its evolution.”
The whole work represented by Anna Kingsford’s and Edward Maitland’s books has been to such extent boycotted by both the Press and the Libraries, that it is an exceedingly uphill task to get them before the public, notwithstanding that they contain the solutions which the public are beyond all else longing for.
After the publication of the Biography, Edward Maitland’s mental and physical decline were remarkably rapid.
In the latter part of 1896 – I think it was in September – I went to The Studios to see him, when I was informed that he was ill in bed, having had “a stroke,” and that he was not well enough to see anybody, and subsequent inquiries did not give me more information, except that, some weeks later, I learnt (from the housekeeper) that he had left London, and was staying with some friends in the country.
On arriving at the office, in the City, on the 22nd December, I received from Mrs. C.G. Currie (a lady then unknown to me) the following letter: –
“‘THE WARDERS’, TONBRIGDE,
“21st December 1896.
“DEAR SIR, – I take the liberty of writing to you on behalf of Mr. E. Maitland, who has made his home with us for the few remaining days of his life. Mr. Maitland has been failing fast all this last year, both
bodily and mentally, and is now quite unable to answer any letters or even to reply to questions concerning his life-work. It is most sad that it should end thus, but I believe that his spirit has already left his body (although, of course, not yet entirely separated from it) so complete is his mental decay.
“If you would like to come down and see him at any time, we shall be most happy to offer you lunch. Believe me, – Yours very truly,
By profession I am a solicitor, and, at the time when I received this letter, I held a position in the office of the firm of solicitors with whom I had served my articles. Had my work allowed it, I should at once have asked leave to have the day “off,” and taken the next train to Tonbridge, so as to lose no time in going to see my friend; but, having some pressing office-work to do on that day, I did not feel justified in making the request, and I determined to wait until the end of the day and then see if I could arrange to be away on the day following; but I did not have to wait, for, scarcely had I read Mrs. Currie’s letter and determined to act in the manner above indicated, when the Senior Partner came into my room, saying: “Now, my dear boy, take a holiday tomorrow, if you like, it will do you good” – a thing he had never before done. I, of course, at once accepted his offer, but imagine my surprise, for I felt that (unknown to himself) he had acted under spirit guidance, and that it was necessary that I should see my friend before he died. It may, however, have been a case of telepathy. In either case, it was a remarkable incident.
On the day following (23rd December), accordingly, I went to “The Warders,” and there, for the last time, I saw Edward Maitland, and was satisfied that the true self – the spiritual soul – the anima divina – was then almost, if not quite withdrawn from the physical body. Conversation was impossible; for, though he suffered no pain, he could speak only with very great difficulty, and it was not easy to catch his words, and he was more or less physically helpless. I was not sure that he knew me – I do not think he did. It was lunch time. He was sitting by the fire in the dining-room, too helpless to feed himself. I tried to persuade him to eat some food; but to no purpose. He refused to eat anything, saying, “It’s no use feeding a dead man” – so certainly did he or some other through him think it necessary to make us who were present know what his real condition then
was. He was then dead to all intents and purposes. The anima bruta and the physical vitality remained, but his spiritual insight and his intelligence had gone. Psyche had fled. The true self whom we had known and loved had ceased to control and animate mind and body. I did not think that he could continue to live for many days.
Frequent letters from Mrs. Currie kept me informed of my friend’s condition, and they all gave much the same account. The following are extracts from some of them: –
“28th December 1896.
“Our dear old friend still lingers, and seems a little better since the day you were here. (…) I do think that Mr. Maitland’s last wish and work – the preparing a new and cheaper edition of the Life – should not be allowed to fall through just because his higher self was withdrawn ere he had time to complete it. For when he came to us in June, (1) he distinctly told me that a new and cheaper edition would be forthcoming by Xmas.” (2)
“24th January 1897.
“Mr. Maitland still lingers, to our great surprise and relief. The doctor considers his vitality wonderful. He sleeps most part of the day and night now, and does not attempt to get up, and he really looks much better than he did that day you were here. His mind gets occasional lucid phases, but not often, neither do they last long.”
“17th April 1897.
“Mr. Maitland is naturally very much weaker than when you last saw him, and the mental decay is even more noticeable, yet there is no immediate cause for anxiety, and his life may even be prolonged for months yet. The doctor has been astonished at the tenacity of his hold on life – some of the relapses have been to all appearance fatal, and yet, by what has seemed hardly short of miraculous, he has rallied again. Most of the day is passed in sleep, and he rarely ever speaks now, even to answer a question.”
“17th April 1897.
“Mr. Maitland still continues much the same. (...) It really is difficult to realise that separation of spirit from body has not already taken place.” (3)
The following letter from Mrs. Currie informed me of his complete withdrawal, which took place on Saturday, 2nd October 1897, at the end of his 73rd year: –
“THE WARDERS,” TONBRIDGE,
“Dear Mr. Hart, – Just a few hurried lines to let you know that our dear old friend passed on last night, at 10.15 P.M.”
“About three weeks ago, he had a very bad relapse, from which he made another of his wonderful rallies, and he has been, comparatively speaking, better the last two weeks, so that the end was quite unexpected at the last. He was very sick yesterday afternoon, and his breathing became gradually laboured. About nine o’clock his extremities were getting cold. An hour later, he breathed his last quite quietly and painlessly, and I think those who knew and loved him should rejoice that his release has come at last. – Yours very sincerely, C.G. Currie.”
The following letter from Col. Currie appeared in Light of 16th October 1897: –
are aware that our friend Edward Maitland has been living with us for the last year. His mind was rapidly
going when he came to us, and he
soon began to lose all power over his faculties and limbs, and has been
bedridden from 1st January. Since then, he has very gradually grown weaker and
weaker, his mind often wandering; but, I am glad to say, he has suffered no
pain. For the last six months his mind has been more passive, and only at
intervals did he seem to recognise anybody. He has had periodical relapses from
which he has recovered in a most remarkable way, but each attack has, of
course, left him weaker. During Saturday, 2nd October, he was apparently as
well as he had been for some time, but about 8.30 P.M. he
showed signs of the approaching end by difficulty in breathing, and at 10.15 he
breathed his last. The end was peaceful and without pain. His body was interred
on Tuesday, 5th October, in the
The following obituary notice, which appeared in Humanity of December 1897, is of interest: –
“Since Edward Maitland’s death a good deal has been written in the Press about his remarkable career as traveller, writer, and mystic; very appreciative biographical notices, in particular, were published in the Academy and Light for 16th October, to which we would refer those of our readers who desire such information. In Humanity it
is with Edward Maitland the humanitarian that we are more specially concerned, and for this reason we print the following brief reminiscences written by one of his colleagues on the committee of the Humanitarian League: –
“When the League was about to be founded towards the close of 1890, Mr. Maitland, as a distinguished anti-vivisectionist and food reformer, was one of the first persons whose co-operation was invited, and his response (unlike a good many of those received) was hearty and outspoken. “Should a League be formed,” he wrote, “such as that described, and under the auspices of the persons named, I shall be happy to be a member of it, for I think that the widespread publication of writings proposing a high and positive system of morality in the conduct of life, in all its aspects, is one of the greatest needs of the time.”
“In spite of his stipulation that a regular attendance at committees would be beyond his power, he was very frequently present on these occasions, and had a large share in the framing of the original Manifesto. To those who know him only or mainly as a mystic, it would probably have been a surprise to see how extremely critical he was – critical to the verge of fastidiousness – in discussing practical affairs; certainly there was no one on the committee who was more useful in bringing the cold light of reason to bear on the subjects under discussion than the author, or joint-author, of the extraordinary series of “revelations” which culminated in The Life of Anna Kingsford.
“At the first annual meeting of the League, in 1892, Mr. Maitland, as chairman, gave an excellent summary of the League’s principles and purposes; and a year later he wrote the eloquent and powerful Appeal to Hearts and Heads, which was published [by the League] in the pamphlet (Nº. 6) on ‘‘Vivisection.” In this essay, as at first written, there was a section dealing with the religious mysticism with which Mr. Maitland’s humanitarian views were connected; and it was the rather delicate task of the present writer, as one of the League’s publishing sub-committee, to invite the author to omit this passage from the pamphlet, in accordance with the invariable rule of the League to base its principles on nothing else than that broad instinct of humaneness in which all its members can be united. This result, thanks to Mr. Maitland’s liberality and fairmindedness, was successfully attained.
“During these years Mr. Maitland was engaged in writing his magnum opus, The Life of Anna Kingsford, and he would often discourse freely to friendly listeners on his spiritual experiences – to the astonishment, sometimes, of other fellow-travellers by railroad or omnibus. For my own part, though not personally disposed to accept the esoteric view of the phenomena in question, I never felt, when listening to him, the contradictory instinct which dogmatists usually excite in one; there was something in his narration so absolutely natural and genuine as to compel the respectful sympathy of those who heard it, whatever their personal belief. And his creed, whether true or not for other people, had undoubtedly the merit of being associated, in his case, with a most kindly and genial spirit.
“Mr. Maitland several times took part in the public meetings of the League, as, for example, at the Humanitarian Conference in 1895,
when he made an extremely effective speech, afterwards circulated as a leaflet, on “Experimentation in Hospitals.” His last appearance on the League’s behalf was in March 1896, when he took the chair at Mr. Leadbeater’s lecture on the “Theosophical View of Rights,” on which occasion those who had seen him hale and strong but a few weeks before were shocked at the change in his appearance. It seemed as if, with the completion of his life-work in the publication of the book on which he had so long been engaged, all strength of mind and body simultaneously forsook him; and though, owing to his marvellous constitution, he lingered on for eighteen months, it was but a death-in-life to which death came as a merciful release. Whatever difference of opinion there may be about other points in Edward Maitland’s character, there can be no doubt of his thorough devotion, and great practical services, to the humanitarian cause.”
Writing of him, (1) Madame Isabel de Steiger says: –
“My memory of him extends to the time when I had the privilege of forming one of the circles invited to the reading of The Perfect Way before it was published; and up to the last years of his life, I have never had occasion to diminish respect or affection for him as a high and lofty thinker and of a blameless life. Kind and courteous to all, I can never remember his being but one thing, an excellent man, to whom, indeed, the world is indebted, with his coadjutor, Anna Kingsford, for much of which it is, indeed, but very partially conscious at present.”
The chief occupation of Edward Maitland’s life was, in his own words, “the pursuit, regardless of consequences, of the highest truth for the highest ends.” He accepted for his life’s devotion “only the highest and most useful work discernible by him, and to do such work in the most perfect manner possible to him.” (2) He was of those “who scale height after height, and pierce mists, veil by veil, heartened with each discovery.” (3)
once asked him if he should ever return to the earth, and he replied that his
and Anna Kingsford’s work here was not finished, and that at some future
time they both would return for the purpose of continuing their work together.
“So they two went until they came to
“Sun-treader, I believe in God, and truth, and love; (...) Live thou for ever, and be to all what thou hast been to me!” (5)
SAML. HOPGOOD HART.
CROYDON, July 1913.
(v:1) See Vol. II. p. 405.
(v:2) Published in 1888.
(v:3) Published in 1889.
(v:4) Published in 1891.
(v:5) Published in 1892.
(v:6) Published in 1894.
(v:7) The Vegetarian, 8th December 1894.
(vi:1) The “Second Edition,” which was issued during the same year, was a mere reimpression of the First Edition. In April 1896, Edward Maitland was “preparing a new Edition,” but, owing to his breakdown in health a few months later, this was never completed, and I do not know what became of the MS.
(vi:2) See Vol. II. p. 415.
(vi:3) See p. 34 post, and Vol. II, p. 364.
(x:1) See p. 201 post. Apart from the teaching of The Perfect Way, I should have rejected the dogmas of the Catholic Church as I had rejected the teaching of the official exponents of religion in the Protestant Churches, because I should have understood such dogmas only in the sense in which they are taught and insisted on by those in authority in that Church, namely, the literal and material sense, and in that sense I should have known them to be untrue. – S.H.H.
(x:2) Article, “Mr. Maitland at Home,” in The Vegetarian, 1894, pp.585.
(xi:1) See pp. 241, 242, 279 post, and Vol. II, pp. 15 and 49. The reception given by the Press to The Life of Anna Kingsford was, probably, such as might under the circumstances have been looked for. A considerable portion of The Soul and How It Found Me was incorporated in The Life of Anna Kingsford, and, in 1877, when that book was published, Edward Maitland says, it “was, by the myrmidons of the materialistic press throughout the length and breadth of the land, instantly seized upon and, with myself and fellow-worker assailed with the coarsest abuse, ridicule, and misrepresentation, in such fashion as wholly to obscure its true character, and prevent the public from recognising in it that for which above all other knowledge they craved, the knowledge, namely, of man’s real nature and destiny. And foremost and coarsest in the attack was a periodical which claims to be of all English organs of literary criticism the most scholarly and impartial!” (Lecture on “Mystics and Materialists”) – S.H.H.
(xi:2) January 1896.
(xi:3) January 1896.
(xi:4) 7th March 1896.
(xi:5) Light, 8th February 1896.
(xiv:1) Edward Maitland had not been at Col. Currie’s during the whole of the time since June 1896. – S.H.H.
(xiv:2) See ante, p. vi, nº. 1.
(xiv:3) Enclosed with this letter was one, dated 14th April 1897, written by the late Rev. J.G. Ouseley to Mrs. Currie, in which he said: “I have been given a message under the most trustworthy condition from Swedenborg, through an Indian doctor, that he [Edward Maitland] is in the unseen already (two weeks ago that was) and has been met.” – S.H.H.
(xvii:1) Light, 13th November 1897.
(xvii:2) The Soul and How It Found Me, p. 14.
(xvii:3) Browning, Sordello.
(xvii:4) Ruth I, 19.
(xvii:5) Browning, Pauline.