Arnaldo Sisson Filho (MSc)
Arnaldo Sisson Filho is Economist and has a Master degree in Political Science (UFRGS). He is the creator of the “Anna Kingsford Site”, where are all the works by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland. Sisson translated and revised the translation into Portuguese of some of those works. Author of Theosophy and Universal Brotherhood (Decisive Elements to the Glory or to the Failure of the Theosophical Society); O Que Há de Errado com a Política? (What is Wrong With Politics?); and A Roda e a Cruz: Uma Introdução ao Cristianismo Budista (The Wheel and the Cross: an Introduction to Buddhist Christianity). He was for many years the Chairman of the World Theosophical Youth Federation. He traveled and lectured in Brazil, as in several other countries. He directed the Annie Besant Project, when the byelaws of the Brazilian Section of the Theosophical Society where completely reformed. He was also one of the founders and framer of the byelaws of the Brazilian Vegetarian Society.
First of all, I want to express my gratitude to Leslie Price for the suggestion about writing this article. The Anna Kingsford Site contains all the works by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland. The main reason that motivated the construction of the site was the aspiration to help the understanding of original Christianity; and in this manner to assist in the great intellectual reform so urgently needed in the world today. This quotation may shed some light on this matter:
“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).
These two aspects may generate a vast array of interpretations, but we can somewhat explain some facts related to them. The first fact, is that Christianity, as the heir of the Greek-Roman civilization, is one of the pillars of the Western world. It is irrelevant if this is good or bad because the Western civilization is largely dominating the world nowadays. This fact alone should justify the statement that the present world cannot do without Christianity.
The second fact, is that the ideas and the great institutions of the Western civilization (hegemonic in the world) are generating enormous problems. Problems that they cannot resolve, since they are at their core cause. As a result these ideas and institutions, in their turn, are leading the world in the direction of gigantic catastrophes. In summary, the Western civilization needs a profound reform in its philosophic-religious fundaments, as well as in its great institutions rooted in these fundaments.
Anna Kingsford gave an extraordinary contribution to the understanding of true Christianity. In spite of that, only relatively small attention has been given to her works and life. In light of this fact, it seemed to us that it would be important to make her message more widely known.
After many years of active participation in the Theosophical Society, I have learned that we must help to improve the understanding of the sacred Scriptures, of all traditions, in order that these Scriptures may accomplish their role in the great intellectual reform, so much needed. In this sense, as I live in the sphere of the Christian Western world, it is but natural to have as an objective to bring to the Western people (and to the world in general) a greater and deeper comprehension of the Christian tradition.
The idea of doing something for Christianity was already occupying my mind for a long time. For instance, in the many years that I was leading the World Theosophical Youth Federation I tried to incentive some people, with sufficient intellectual training, to study and to write on the origins of Christianity. This, however, is no easy task and as result I could not find anyone interested in doing so. It was very difficult to find people with sufficient free time and intellectual background to accomplish such a task.
Having in mind the purpose of helping Christianity to recover its origins and, therefore, its harmony with the truths of all great religions, I was translating into Portuguese the autobiography of the Christian monk Bede Griffiths (The Golden String), bridging Hindu and the Christian religions. By the same time, my wife, Marina Sisson, was writing a biography of Helena Blavatsky entitled A Esfinge Helena Blavatsky (The Sphinx Helena Blavatsky). On reading Marina’s writings I came to realise that the difficult relationship between Blavatsky and Kingsford, as well as between A.P. Sinnett and Kingsford eventually resulted with Kingsford leaving the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society. This was a great lost opportunity to the understanding and to realization of the work of the Theosophical Society.
Additionally, during that period of time, my wife and I were participating in a group which had the object of creating in Brazil an ecumenical monastery. This group was led by a Christian religious man, a priest, who apparently has some psychic faculties. It was him who conveyed to me the advice that “I should study the works of Dr Anna Kingsford, since I was interested in helping Christianity.”
Considering I was trying to work towards the objectivation of my old aspiration of doing something for Christianity, the influence of my wife’s research, as well as the advice conveyed to me by the priest, led me to make a more in depth study of the works of Kingsford and Maitland.
It did not take me long to realize the importance of their work, in the sense of answering to what I was looking for, that is, to help in the recovering of true Christianity. Naturally, coming to know the importance of their writings I became very surprised when I realized that their work was not widely known, and in some cases almost lost even in the sphere of the Theosophical Society; which has as its duty to enlighten the religious Scriptures, mainly with the help of the comparative study of religions, philosophical traditions and modern science. Therefore, the Anna Kingsford Site was born as the result of my aspiration to help Christianity, my studies and the other influences previously mentioned.
Following the decision to create the site, we started collecting all the works by Kingsford and Maitland; those who wrote about them; also works related to their works. Our aim was to preserve and make more easily accessible their message to the interested people around the world. For the same reason the site was developed in two languages: English and Portuguese.
To reach the present stage — where all the known works by Kingsford and Maitland are online — it took us nearly 10 years of work, with the help of several people both from Brazil and abroad. In this process we have recovered some books in a surprising way, something which suggests that this work deserved the help of the Celestial Church, to use a Christian terminology. Our quest led us to meet new friends, including, as it should be expected, from England, the native country of Kingsford and Maitland.
As to the message brought to the world by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, in our viewpoint, one of its most relevant aspects is the catholicity (universality) of their interpretations of the most important parts of the Christian Scriptures. 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 long forgotten and degraded that when it was recovered it seems to be something new. To exemplify this, below we quote The Credo of Christendom expressing 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. (…)
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.)
There are many reasons why this catholicity is very important for our times. First, because we live in a world with an on-growing connection characterised by satellites, the communication media, with the paradigmatic example of the Internet, by air transportation and by an on-growing globalized economy. Second, because we live in a world dominated by the scientific thought, in which it is only through the understanding derived from logic explanations and, as far as it is possible, supported by testable evidences that the more intellectualized minds may reach the truth.
In relation to the great metaphysical truths — so decisive to the advent of a true system of ethics and of new great institutions — it is only by way of a comparative methodology that it will be possible to demonstrate that in all places and in all times the wise ones had taught the same truths. The demonstration of this fact will make evident (among other principles of great relevance) the existence of superior faculties of cognition, faculties that enable the human being to have a direct realization of the truth. Such demonstration and realization will necessarily result into 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 can be 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)
Therefore, the catholicity of the message of the New Gospel of Interpretation is in perfect harmony with this requirement of our age e.g. logical explanations based on testable evidences. Additionally, there are two other aspects important to emphasize:
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) The New Gospel of Interpetation 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 aspect is decisive to the right understanding of the principle or law 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.
We close this article with a few more quotations which emphasize these two just mentioned aspects:
1) “Christianity, (…) 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. (…)
Thus the two religions constitute, respectively, the exterior and interior of the same Gospel (…). 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.” (Life of Anna Kingsford, Vol. II, pp. 123-124)
4) “See that, above all things, you teach the doctrine of spiritual grades. 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.” (Clothed With the Sun, Illumination n. XVIII)
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.” (Annie Besant, The Changing World, p. 80)
1) Several of the bold characters were added by the author.
2) This is an abbreviated version. See complete version in the Anna Kingsford Site: Why the “Anna Kingsford Site” Was Created? (Longer Version)
BESANT, A. The Changing World and Lectures to Theosophical Students. London, The Theosophical Publishing Society, 1910.
BLAVATSKY, H.P. The Key to Theosophy. Bombay (Mumbai), Theosophy Company, 1987.
JINARAJADASA, C. (Ed.) Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, 1st Series. Adyar, The Theosophical Publishing House, 1973.
JINARAJADASA, C. (Ed.) Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, 2nd Series. Adyar, The Theosophical Publishing House, 1973.
KINGSFORD, A. and MAITLAND, E. 1882. The Perfect Way; or, the Finding of Christ. London: Adams & Co.
———1887. Second enlarged and revised edition. London: Field and Tuer.
———1890. Third edition. 1988 Boston: Esoteric Publishing Company.
———1923. Fifth edition with additions and a Biographical Preface by S.H. Hart. London: John M. Watkins.
KINGSFORD, A. and MAITLAND, E. The Credo of Christendom: and Other Addresses and Essays on Esoteric Christianity. S.H. Hart (Ed.) London, John M. Watkins, 1916.
KINGSFORD, A. Clothed With the Sun, Being the Book of the Illuminations of Anna (Bonus) Kingsford. E. Maitland (Ed.), 1889.
———1906. Second edition. Birmingham: The Ruskin Press.
———1937. Third Edition, 1993 reprint. S.H. Hart (Ed.) Santa Fe, Sun Books.
MAITLAND, E. Anna Kingsford — Her Life, Letters, Diary and Work. Two volumes. Third Edition, S.H. Hart (Ed). London, John M. Watkins, 1913.