[Note: This page number refers to the pages in the original.]
By Samuel Hopgood Hart
“I found him whom my soul loveth, I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my Mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that bore me.” – Cant. iii. 4.
“Some put their trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down, and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.” – Ps. xx. 7-8.
“Thou shalt break the ships of the sea through the east wind.” – Ps. xlviii. 7.
“INTERIOR knowledge, earnest aspiration, and purity of thought and life, are the keys by which alone can be opened the gates of the inmost and highest sphere.” (C. W. S., pt. i. Nº xxxix.) The Bible tells us that “the words of the Lord are pure words – even as the silver, which from the earth is tried, and purified seven times in the fire;” (Ps. xii. 6.) from which we are intended to understand that God’s truth is spiritual, and that all divine revelations are to be understood, not in a literal but in a spiritual sense. The Kingdom of God is not of this world. He who would know the truth must seek it above and within, where alone it is to be found. The heart must be lifted up, and the door of the outer senses must be shut. When Samuel heard the voice of the Lord, we are told, he was “laid down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was”; (I Sam. iii. 3) and so must it be with us, if we would hear that voice. “Truth itself is unutterable, save by God to God.” (C. W. S., pt. i. Nº. iv.) “When man,” says Anna Kingsford, “has wearied himself to despair in futile endeavours to seize and fix truth on the plane of sense
and fact, if he be worthy and faithful God reveals to him the higher plane of the Noumenal and Divine, where alone truth eternally abides.” In these pregnant words is to be found the keynote of the present volume of Lectures, Essays and Letters given and written by the late Anna Kingsford, (1) to which have been added some letters written by her friend and collaborator, the late Edward Maitland.
Most of the Lectures in this volume were given by Anna Kingsford to the Hermetic Society, which she founded, and of which she was the President, but which, owing to her early death, came to an untimely end. As, however, the value of Anna Kingsford’s life is to be measured not by the number of years she lived – she was but in her forty-second year when she died – but by its quality and great achievement, so the importance of the Hermetic Society, which had a life of but little over two years, must be measured not so much by the short period of its existence as by the value of the work accomplished by means of or through its agency – for, as will be seen, it was for the purpose of creating a then much-needed platform for the dissemination of teaching, such as is represented by these Lectures, that the Hermetic Society was founded. And it served its purpose, for had it not been for such Society, these Lectures would not have been given – lectures which were intended to “raise the level of the national religious ideal; and, by withdrawing it from the external and natural to the interior and spiritual plane, to defeat the designs of materialism upon the stronghold of the moral life.”
The circumstances which led to the formation of the Hermetic Society are fully set forth in that priceless record, The Life of Anna Kingsford, (2) and it is chiefly therefrom that the following particulars have been obtained.
In the months of May, June, and July, 1881, Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland gave to a private audience in London
some wonderful lectures on Esoteric
Christianity, which, in the following year,
were published anonymously under the title
of The Perfect Way, or the Finding of
Christ. (1) Giving these
Lectures brought them across some members of
the then recently formed Theosophical
Society, (2) and, as will be
seen, it was owing to the hostile attitude
taken up by certain prominent members of
that Society towards Esoteric Christianity
that it became necessary later on to found
the Hermetic Society. Speaking of the
audience of the “Perfect Way”
Lectures, Edward Maitland says:
“Among these were sundry members of a body
with which we now first formed acquaintance,
bearing the name of the British
Theosophical Society. These were a group
of students of the occult science and
mystical philosophy of the East, who formed
a branch of a parent Society founded
originally in New York by a Russian lady,
Madame H. P. Blavatsky, and an American,
Colonel H. S. Olcott, but whose headquarters
were then in India.” (Life of A. K.,
vol. ii. p. 15.)
Anna Kingsford’s and Edward Maitland’s purpose was “the restoration of the true, esoteric, and spiritual Christianity,” (Ibid., p. 277.) and they regarded it as a very remarkable coincidence that while the object of their collaboration had been, and was, “the restoration of the esoteric philosophy or Theosophy of the West, and the interpretation thereby of the Christian and kindred religions,” the collaboration between Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott had a similar object in regard to the esoteric philosophy or Theosophy of the East; and “both parties had until then been working on lines thus parallel in complete ignorance of each other’s existence.” But, Edward Maitland says, “while our knowledges were derived directly from celestial sources, the hierarchy of the Church invisible in the holy heavens, (3) theirs claimed as their source certain ancient Lodges of Adepts said to inhabit the inaccessible heights of the Thibetan Himalayas, an order of men credited with the possession of knowledges and powers which constituted them beings apart and worthy of divine honours.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 16.)
While the Theosophical Society was new, Theosophy was ancient. As Edward Maitland has pointed out:
“It was known very long before eight centuries ago. For it was no new thing in the days of St Paul, who says (I Cor. ii. 7), ‘We speak Theosophy (θεουσοФια) in a mystery,’ and Moses is declared (Heb. xi. 26) to have esteemed it ‘greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.’ For, in its true sense, it has ever meant the science of the perfectionment of the human ego – theologically called ‘regeneration’ – whereby man demonstrates the potential divinity of humanity, by realising it in his own person. In other words, Theosophy, in its supreme aspect, is that ‘Mystery of Godliness,’ the process whereby God is manifest in the flesh (I Tim. iii. 16).” (1)
To the reviewer of one of her books who had fallen into the error of regarding Theosophy “as a thing of recent invention, or, at least, importation,” Anna Kingsford replied:
“Theosophy – both the term itself and the system properly so called – has subsisted in the Church from the beginning; and what I have done is to restore and develop it – not as lately ‘come over to Europe,’ but as held by St Paul, by St Dionysius ‘the Areopagite,’ by the scholastics, and by the host of Christian mystical philosophers, to whom alone it is due that Christianity is now in any degree a spiritual religion, instead of having degenerated into a mere fetish-worship. I propound no ‘Modern Theosophy’ which is not also ‘Olden Mysticism’.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p.257.)
Among the members of the British
Theosophical Society who attended the
above-mentioned Lectures were Charles
Carlton Massey, Dr. George Wyld, the Hon.
Roden Noel, and Isabel de Steiger.
During the year, 1881, A. P. Sinnett came over from India “for the purpose of publishing a book which was to introduce the alleged thaumaturgists of the East, whom the Theosophical Society claimed as its ‘Masters,’ to the notice of the Western world.” Edward Maitland says:
“We were naturally curious to know what he had to say, and he, on his part, was curious to make the acquaintance of those who – if all were true which he had heard about us – were in certain respects setting themselves up as rivals of his own venerated chiefs. It was arranged, therefore, that he should pass an evening with us. There were several points on which we desired information, especially the existence and powers of the alleged ‘Mahatmas,’ and the system of thought which
constituted their ‘esoteric doctrine.’ That there should be persons such as the Mahatmas were stated to be was not impossible for us, it followed from the teaching we had already received, and which was contained in our eighth Lecture, (See The Perfect Way, Lect. viii.) though we had never before heard it said that such persons actually existed in the world now. We knew, too, that Reincarnation, under the name of Transmigration, was an Eastern tenet, and, consequently, the doctrine of Karma, which we had received in such plenitude of detail without ever having heard of that term for it. We were, therefore, greatly surprised to learn from Mr. Sinnett that these tenets formed no part of the doctrine of the Theosophical Society, being neither contained in their chief text-book, the Isis Unveiled of its founders, nor communicated to it by its Masters, and on these grounds Mr. Sinnett rejected them, sitting up with us until long after midnight arguing against them, and saying, among other things, of the doctrine of Reincarnation, that even of the Spiritualists only a few who followed Allan Kardec accepted it. Whereupon we stated our conviction that it would yet be given to his Society by its Eastern teachers, and that, as for Allan Kardec’s writings, we knew of them enough to know that they were far from trustworthy, and his presentation of that doctrine especially was unscientific and erroneous. For the sole source of his information was ordinary mediumship, as exercised by some sensitives who could see only in the astral, and represented, therefore, no true spiritual vision, but only the ideas of living persons, whom they reflected. And when his own book, The Occult World, made its appearance, as it did in the course of that same year, we were able to infer from it that, if there really was a true system of esoteric philosophy in the East, it had not yet been imparted to the Theosophical Society, if only for the reason that the doctrine of that book was sheer materialism, and had no room for the Theos, who forms so essential an element in that which is denoted by the term ‘Theosophy.’
Thus far our experience of that body was a disappointing one, or at least would have been so had we yet anticipated much of it. Recognising, as we did, the time as having come for the unsealing of the world’s Bibles, and our own appointed mission as that of unsealing the Bibles of the West, we should have welcomed eagerly a corresponding movement having for its purpose the unsealing of the Bibles of the East. The Theosophical Society
was, however, still in its infancy, and we resolved to wait patiently and hopefully for its further unfoldment.” (1)
Referring to this time, Edward Maitland says:
“Meanwhile, another notable sign of the times occurred to mark the year 1881. This was the publication of the Revised Version of the English Bible. The fact of a new translation was welcomed by us, if only as constituting a blow to the idolatrous veneration in which the letter of the old translation was held, a striking example of which we recognised in the ground of the opposition to the proposed revision raised by the excellent Lord Shaftesbury – that it would deprive many pious persons of some of their favourite texts; by which it would appear that men’s blunders were more worthy of conservation than the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, to which he implicitly ascribed the Bible. The manner in which the work was accomplished would have been in the highest degree disappointing to us had we anticipated any other result than was actually attained. For we knew as did no others that the time was the winter solstice of the human soul, and spiritual perception was at its lowest ebb, so that, be the learning expended on it what it might, there would be no insight to guide it. The very first verse of Genesis more than confirmed our gloomiest anticipations. In the Authorised Version, the Hebrew word wrongly rendered ‘heaven’ in the first chapter was rightly rendered ‘heavens’ in the second chapter. In the Revised Version, both were wrongly rendered ‘heaven.’ This error in Hebrew as well as in doctrine was for us, with chapters vii.-x. of the Greater Mysteries (2) in our hands, proof positive the translators had not begun to understand the system of thought which underlies the Bible, and of which the Christ is the personal demonstration. And it was not without a sense of elation that we reflected that the real and vital translation of the Bible, its translation from the Letter to the Spirit, had been withheld from the magnates of the dominant orthodoxy, backed by the national purse, to be committed to such inconspicuous and poverty-stricken instruments as ourselves. There was an irony
about it which argued a keen sense of humour in the divine disposers of events.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp; 22-23.)
The year 1881 also saw the founding in London of the Spiritualist paper Light. (1).
On the publication, in the following year, of The Perfect Way – which, it will be remembered, was published anonymously – a copy of the book was sent to the editors of the Theosophist (2) for review. At the same time, Anna Kingsford, without disclosing her name, (3) wrote to Madame Blavatsky a letter, in which – referring to The Perfect Way – she said:
“It would not have been in my mind to write thus to you, but that I find in the Theosophist for February (on p. 114) certain words concerning ‘Initiates’ which cause me to desire you should know something of the genesis of the book of which I have spoken. I have said that all that book contains came forth from my heart and lips. Yet I know nothing of your literature – and between you and me there is, nevertheless, perfect agreement and accord. Steadily, and not once nor twice, have I refused invitations to join the Theosophical Society in London, lest, perchance, it should be said that I had learnt somewhat from its members. See then, that it is possible to be initiated of one’s own interior Spirit, through whom the voice of the Gods speaks to man, if but his life be pure and free from lust. You, who are initiated, will know whether I have the truth. There is more – far more – that I am strictly forbidden to publish. If, in what is written, there be any error, that is the fault of the writer or of the seer, but not of that which was seen.
Madam: I pray you to ask your Brothers whether I have the truth. Tell them, if they need to be told, how it came to me, and whence I obtained it, and on what conditions.
You are doing a splendid work in India. I, too, hate the tenets of modern Christianity, and labour continually to destroy its idols. I, too, am a follower of holy Buddha, and not the less of the ideal Christ.
The first knowledge I had of you was from the author of the Occult World, who came to see me in London last summer. To
him I told something of the method of my own initiation, and he was astonished. If you ask him about me, and learn from him – or from any other person – my name, pray consider it secret.”
In the same year, 1882, she and Edward Maitland resumed their meetings which, in the previous year, had proved such a success. (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 50.)
Two remarkable Lectures which were given by her at this time are reprinted in the present volume. I refer to the Lectures entitled “‘Violationism,’ or Sorcery in Science” and “The Systematisation and Application of Psychic Truth” respectively. They were both given to the British National Association of Spiritualists. Edward Maitland says that the former was “especially designed to rouse the Spiritualists from their indifference on the subject of vivisection by shewing them that their very claim to positive knowledge of the soul’s reality and persistence constituted an obligation on them to oppose a practice which is utterly at variance with all that the soul is and implies.” But, he adds, “as the result proved, the Spiritualists were too exclusively absorbed in their phenomenal experiences to care for the higher issues of their belief; and between spiritualism and spirituality there was a gulf which had yet to be bridged, and so far as they were concerned the appeal fell on deaf ears.” (Ibid., p. 47) (1) The object of the latter Lecture was “to raise the spiritualistic movement from the level of mere phenomenalism,” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 60.) but, judging from some editorial comments thereon which appeared in the following number of Light (Light, 1882, pp. 269-270.) it is clear that her message was unacceptable to the “Spiritualists” of her day. Her platform was too high for them.
Edward Maitland says:
“The latter part of May brought us from India a copy of the Theosophist for that month, with the first portion of a review of The Perfect Way, written, we were given to understand, by our visitor of the preceding summer, the author of the Occult World, Mr. A. P. Sinnett. Coming, as did this review, from the one quarter in the world – so far as we were then aware – which laid claim to special knowledge of the
subjects dealt with in our book, this review could not fail to have great interest for us; and it was, accordingly, with much satisfaction that we found it described at the outset as an ‘upheaval of true spirituality; a grand book by noble-minded writers, and one that if every man in London above a certain level of culture should read attentively, a theological revolution would be accomplished.’ (...) But though thus highly appreciative of the book from some aspects, the reviewer took violent exception to it from others, for he not only dissented from some of its teachings on occult matters, but objected to the symbolism in which, in order to interpret the Bible, we had followed the Bible – and notably the adoption of the term ‘Woman’ to denote the Soul and the Intuition; and he even ventured to assert positively that, instead of the Gospel narrative having been written expressly to illustrate a certain doctrine, as stated by us, the doctrine was but an ingenious application of the facts of the spiritual consciousness to a story which was altogether unintended to bear such relation; so that we were putting into the Gospels meanings of which their writers never dreamed, as if mystical theology had been of subsequent invention to the Christian era? instead of pervading – as we had shewn that it does pervade – the Bible from the beginning, and is declared in the Bible itself to do so; as, for instance, when St Paul declares of the books of Moses, ‘which things are an allegory,’ and Jesus finds the Christ-doctrine of which He was the personal illustration in the books of Moses. (...) Recalling his persistent denial of Reincarnation on his visit to us in the previous year, we were interested to find him now accepting the doctrine. (1) (...) Thus, while profoundly gratified by the review in some respects, we were almost as profoundly antagonised by it in others. And the result was a controversy in the pages of the Theosophist not altogether devoid of bitterness. (...) It was, however, finally and happily composed. Our reviewer concluded his part of the correspondence by describing us as ‘having produced one of the most – perhaps the most – important and spirit-stirring of appeals to the higher instincts of mankind which modern European literature has yet evolved.’
To which we returned a conciliatory reply, pointing out at the same time certain respects in which he had mistaken us. And the controversy wound up with the following characteristic enunciation by the editor, Madame Blavatsky, in which, as will be seen, she entirely threw over Mr. Sinnett in his repudiation of an intended mystical sense as underlying Christianity.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 64-67.)
In the Editor’s Note Madame Blavatsky said:
“It is most agreeable to us to see our reviewer of The Perfect Way and the writers of that remarkable work thus clasping hands and waving palms of peace over each other’s heads. The friendly discussion of the metaphysics of the book in question has elicited, as all such debates must, the fact that deep thinkers upon the nature of absolute truth scarcely differ, save as to externals. As was remarked in Isis Unveiled, the religions of men are but prismatic rays of the one only Truth. If our good friends, the Perfect Way-farers, would but read the second volume of our work, they would find that we have been all along precisely of their own opinion that there is a ‘mystical truth and knowledge deeply underlying’ Roman Catholicism, which is identical with Asiatic esotericism; and that its symbology marks the same ideas, often under duplicate figures. We even went so far as to illustrate with woodcuts the unmistakable derivation of the Hebrew Kabala from the Chaldean – the archaic parent of all the later symbology – and the kabalistic nature of nearly all the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church. It goes without saying that we, in common with all Asiatic Theosophists, cordially reciprocate the amiable feelings of the writers of The Perfect Way for the Theosophical Society. In this moment of supreme effort to refresh the moral nature and satisfy the spiritual yearnings of mankind, all workers, in whatever corner of the field, ought to be knit together in friendship and fraternity of feeling. It would be indeed strange if any misunderstanding could arise of so grave a nature as to alienate from us the sympathies of that highly advanced school of modern English thought of which our esteemed correspondents are such intellectual and fitting representatives.” (1)
In the latter part of the year 1882, being then in Switzerland, where they were engaged in an anti-vivisection crusade, Edward Maitland received from England a letter, in which the writer – Mr. G. B. Finch – informed him as follows: –
“The Theosophical Society in England has arrived at a crisis. Dr. Wyld resigned the Presidency some time ago, and Mr. C. C. Massey has been elected. On his election he wrote to Colonel Olcott, asking whether it was any good keeping up the Society, and entering into full particulars about the state of affairs here. I learned these things from Mr. Massey, to whom I had gone to see whether something could not be done to keep what seemed to be a useful agency going. M. says that members are admitted too freely; that he had urgently proposed to put it on an ascetic basis, but that Madame Blavatsky had rejected this. She apparently wished the Society to be catholic. But it can be this and at the same time eclectic, for they have sections; and it would be in accordance with the practice of the Society elsewhere to have a section on the ascetic base, or any other base within the purview of the Society’s aims. M. seemed to wish for some such section, and if Mrs. Kingsford were in it, I think he would be greatly pleased. (...) I should like to be a member of some such section as I have described, if you and Mrs. Kingsford were members.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 79.)
Edward Maitland says:
“This was the first suggestion to us of a conjunction with the Theosophical Society, and the idea had not occurred to us before; nor, now that it was suggested, and this by those whom we held in high esteem, did we feel drawn to it. On the contrary, we already knew enough about the origin motives, and methods of the Theosophical Society to distrust it. Its original prospectus committed the glaring inconsistency of declaring the absolute tolerance of the Society of all forms of religion, and then of stating that a main object was the destruction of Christianity. Its founders had committed it also to the rejection of the idea of a God, personal or impersonal, and this while calling it Theo-sophical. And it claimed for its doctrine a derivation from sources which, even if they had any existence – a matter on which we had no proof – were not to be compared with those from whom ours was derived, (See p. 3, ante.) while the doctrine
itself was palpably inferior so far as yet disclosed, and this both in substance and form. (...) The matter went no further at this time; but we were struck by learning that Mary [Anna Kingsford] (1) had been recognised by the mysterious chiefs of the Theosophical Society as ‘the greatest natural mystic of the present day, and countless ages in advance of the great majority of mankind.’” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 80-81.)
The receipt of the above-mentioned letter was followed by some correspondence with C. C. Massey, the result of which was that Anna Kingsford consented to her nomination as President of the British Theosophical Society, whereupon C. C. Massey notified the Society of his intention to nominate her as its President for the ensuing year. In the notice, issued to the members, C. C. Massey referred to “the well-known fact that Anna Kingsford was one of the literary authors of that remarkable work The Perfect Way, or the Finding of Christ,” (2) and he added: “I may say that I have not decided on making this proposal without the most careful deliberation and consultation, and that I regard its adoption as of vital importance.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 103-105.)
Edward Maitland says:
“When at length we gave consent, we did so on condition that we retain absolute freedom of opinion, speech, and action, acknowledging no superiors, nor any allegiance save to our own Illuminators, (3) and reserving the right to use as we might deem fit any knowledges we might acquire. For, having obtained what we had already received expressly for the world’s benefit, we were resolved to remain unfettered in this respect. Our association was thus so ordered as to have for its purpose a simple exchange of knowledges. They should tell us what they knew, and we should tell them what we knew, both sides reserving the right of criticism, acceptance, and rejection, the Understanding alone, and in nowise Authority, being the criterion.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 105.)
The election of Anna Kingsford as President, and Edward Maitland as Vice-President, of the British Theosophical Society
for the ensuing year took place on Sunday the 7th January 1883, the day being that following the feast of the Epiphany. Dr. G. Wyld, the late President, was also elected a co-Vice- President along with Edward Maitland. The following letter (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 106.) written at this time by Anna Kingsford to Madame de Steiger is of interest: –
“21 AVENUE CARNOT, PARIS,
11th January 1883.
DEAR MADAME DE STEIGER – I salute you in my new character of President of the British Theosophical Society; and, though I shall not be able for some time to come to take my place among you in the body, yet I hope that my new dignity will serve as a fresh link in the tie of friendship already existing between us, and that you will from time to time send me some account of your proceedings in the Society, and of your own personal reflections on the teaching we are now promised from the East.
I pointed out to Mr. C. C. Massey in a recent letter the singular coincidence that it was on Epiphany Sunday, the festival of the Magi, that the T. S. elected as its President for the new year a King’s ford; and I suggested that we might regard this fact as a happy augury for the prosperity of the Society in the immediate future; since now indeed the way seemed at last opened for the passage of the Kings of the East, and, as it is said in the Apocalypse, the River is dried up that the way of the Kings of the East may be prepared. (...) It gives me considerable surprise, and puzzles me not a little, to learn that Dr. Wyld is still not only a member of the Theosophical Society, but is absolutely accepted as co-Vice-President with Mr. Maitland! I quite understood from Dr. Wyld himself, and also from the circular issued by Mr. Massey, that the aims and programme of the T. S. had become so distasteful to the Doctor that he had determined to resign his connection with it. Strange that he should withdraw deliberately from the Presidency, only to come forward as Vice-President so shortly after! Can you explain this riddle? I should be very glad to have it solved.
I have requested Mr. Massey to retain his place as my locum tenens until I return, and feel sure that, as he is so manifestly in harmony both with our Indian correspondents and with myself, you will be glad of this arrangement. (...)
On the 20th May following they returned to England, when Anna Kingsford commenced her duties as President of the British Theosophical Society, which, on her suggestion, was afterwards designated the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society. (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 119.)
Writing, at this time, to Lady Caithness, Anna Kingsford says:
“I am going to do my utmost to make our London Lodge a really influential and scientific body. (...) Besides, we do not want to pledge ourselves to Orientalism only, but to the study of all religions esoterically, and especially to that of our Western Catholic Church. Theosophy is equally applicable to such study; but Orientalism can relate only to Brahmanism and Buddhism.” (Letter dated 8th June 1883. Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 119.)
And, in a further letter, she says:
“I have a plan which I earnestly hope I shall somehow have the means of carrying into practice next spring. It is to give lectures in London at one of the Lodge halls on ‘Esoteric Christianity.’ I should explain the hidden and true significance of the Catholic doctrines, – as much, of course, as is possible, – and the interior meaning of all sacred myths. I have already sketched out a little scheme which, if only it can be realised, will, I feel certain, do more for our Theosophy than any number of printed books.” (Letter dated 25th June 1883. Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 120.)
Anna Kingsford made her first public appearance in her new role as President of the British Theosophical Society at the reception which, on the evening of the l7th July 1883, was given by the Society, at the Princes’ Hall, Piccadilly, to Mr. Sinnett, who had then recently returned from India to this country. An account of the reception, which appeared in Light, (Light, 1883, p. 335.) says:
“Some 270 guests assembled, and among them were many faces well known in Society, and not a few men of letters and science whose judgment and opinion the world is accustomed to treat with deference. The company would be described in the language of the ordinary reporter as at once fashionable and influential.”
The proceedings were opened by Anna Kingsford, when she gave an eloquent address on Theosophy and the aims and objects of the Theosophical Society. (1) One of Mr. Sinnett’s objects in returning to this country had been the publication of his book Esoteric Buddhism, which had then recently appeared, but which, at that
time, they had not had an opportunity of carefully and critically studying. (1) Speaking for herself as “a Catholic Christian,” and referring to the fact that the guest of the evening was a Buddhist, (2) she laid particular stress upon the fact that all the great religions of the world were fundamentally one and the same, claiming that “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”; and, she said:
“Some of us have dreamed that our English Branch of the Theosophical Society is destined to become the ford across the stream which so long has separated the East from the West, religion from science, heart from mind, and love from learning. We have dreamed that this little Lodge of the Mysteries, set here in the core of matter-of-fact, agnostic London, may become an oasis in the wilderness for thirsty souls, – a ladder between earth and heaven, on which, as once long since in the earlier and purer days, the Gods again may ‘come and go’ twixt [between] mortal men and high Olympus.’”
Speaking of Mr. Sinnett’s address on this occasion, Edward Maitland says: “Admirable as it was for its purpose, it struck some notes which we recognised as scarcely harmonising with the conceptions formed by us, and which therefore might not impossibly develop into an irresolvable discord.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p.126.)
The first duty which devolved upon Anna Kings ford and Edward Maitland as the chiefs of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society, was to study Mr. Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism; and, as the writers of The Perfect Way, they were equally bound to acquaint themselves with the teaching of and pass judgment on this book; and this, Edward Maitland says, “not for the sake merely of the members of the Society, but for the sake of our own work, and for the vindication before the world of the teaching
committed to us, and which we knew of ourselves to be true, while – as the writer of Esoteric Buddhism frankly admitted – he was entirely dependent for his knowledge upon teachers of whom he had no personal knowledge, but whom, nevertheless, he had learnt to trust implicitly.” And, “Such being the position, our course seemed to us to be clear. This was to ignore persons, and judge the doctrine on its own merits, making appeal only to the understanding. Having ourselves insisted on the possibility of man’s attainment of knowledge and powers even transcending those claimed for the Eastern Adepts, we were by no means averse to the idea that such persons may actually exist. But there was no sufficient evidence of their existence, (1) or of the possession by those who asserted their existence of the ability to recognise them, even in the case of contact with them. For, as only they who possess the Christ spirit in a measure can recognise the Christ, so only they who are themselves adepts in a measure can recognise the Adepts. And even if the teaching in question came from the source alleged, what guarantee was there that it had not undergone in transmission a change sufficient to vitiate it? Our own position in regard to the current Christianity was, that the Church had all the truth, having received it from a divine source, but that the priests had materialised it, making themselves and their followers idolaters. And might not the same thing have happened with the teaching now propounded, and this while its propounders were acting in the best faith, owing to the lack of spiritual insight on the part of the recipients? The very designation, Esoteric Buddhism, moreover, was open to grave question. And there was the further consideration,
that to accept it upon authority, and independently of the understanding, would be but to establish a new sacerdotalism in place of that which we and they alike sought to dethrone:
“And, indeed, it very soon became evident that matters were not only in danger of tending in this direction, but had already gone far in it. The idea of a group of divinised men, dwelling high up in the fastnesses of the Himalayas, and endowed with transcendent knowledges and powers, possessed a fascination for all but the stoutest heads; and that many had succumbed to the glamour of the supposed ‘Mahatmas,’ as the adept masters were called, was evidenced by their readiness to accept implicitly all that was put forward in their name, even to resenting as blasphemous the suggestion of need for caution and deliberation, and their refusal to recognise the presence of an esoteric element in Christianity corresponding to that which was claimed for Buddhism.
There was also much in the tone and character of the publications issued from the headquarters of the parent Society in India of which we disapproved as not only calculated to impair the credit of the Society with the public, but as harmful in itself and incompatible with its real aims. For, while we recognised the Society as at once representing high aims and possessed of invaluable knowledges, we were compelled to recognise the presence of other and conflicting elements which, unless eliminated, would assuredly wreck the whole movement. This is to say, that although, owing to the heterogeneous nature of its elements, chiefly as regards the personalities of its foremost representatives, it was but a chaos, we discerned in it the possibilities of a Kosmos, provided only those elements could be duly redeemed from their limitations and fused into harmonious accord. For us its promoters were as children who, having become possessed of a valuable instrument which they were as yet incapable of appreciating, were in danger of destroying it through the exuberance of their child-nature, and their consequent disposition to play with it, instead of setting seriously to work to apply it to its proper uses.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 138-140.)
In view of these objections, Anna Kingsford, as President of the London Lodge, and describing herself as “a toiler in the Ship of Peter,” (1) addressed to Colonel Olcott, as President of the
Parent Society, a long letter of remonstrance, (1) in which she pleaded for a truly catholic theosophy, and stated what she believed to be the right aim and method of their work, and the wisest policy for their Society to follow. In her letter she laid stress upon the fact that in Christian countries it is not so much the revelation of a new religious system that is needed, as a true interpretation of the religion now existing. “Orthodox Christianity, both in Catholic and in Protestant countries,” she said, “is languishing on account of a radical defect in its method, – to wit, the exoteric and historical sense in which, exclusively, its dogmas are taught and enforced.” And she pointed out that “It should be the task of Theosophy in these countries to convert the material – and therefore idolatrous – interpretation of the ancestral faith and doctrine into a spiritual one; to lift the plane of the Christian creed from the exoteric to the esoteric level, and thus, without touching a stone or displacing a beam of the Holy City, to carry it all up intact from earth to heaven.” (2) The Theosophical creed, she said, “should be essentially spiritual, and all its articles should relate to interior conditions, principles, and processes. It should be based upon experimental knowledge, not on authority, and its central figures should be attributes, qualities, and sacraments (mysteries), not persons, nor events, however great or remarkable. For persons and events belong to time and to the phenomenal, while principles and processes are eternal and noumenal. The historical method has been the bane of the Churches. Let Theosophy and Theosophists remember that history and individual entities must be ever regarded by them as constituting the accidental, and not the essential element in a system which aims at repairing the errors of the theologians, by reconstructing the Mysteries on a scientific and intelligent basis.”
Their dissent from Mr. Sinnett’s book, Esoteric Buddhism,
and their attitude towards the alleged “Masters,” was not appreciated by the majority of the members of the London Lodge, who failed to understand them, and who failed to see whither under Mr. Sinnett’s influence they were being led and to what they were committing themselves and their Society. In a letter, dated 2nd November 1883, to her friend Madame de Steiger, who was a prominent member of the Society, Anna Kingsford, after saying that she never dreamed of disparaging the Brothers, nor of imputing that she did not believe in them, and after referring to the feeling of the members – the Cabal raised against her – and to the “folly” of the course then recently pursued by Mr. Sinnett in “dragging the names of the Brothers forward into undue prominence,” and so making the Society ridiculous in the eyes of the world, said: “Following Mr. Sinnett’s lead, you have, most of you, read into my address a meaning I had not the least wish to convey, and I am heartily sorry so many of my friends should so much have misunderstood me.” This letter drew from Madame de Steiger an answer, to which, in a letter dated 5th November 1883, Anna Kingsford replied, giving the following clear statement of her position: –
“(1) When I was invited to join the Society, I was emphatically and distinctly told that no allegiance would be required of me to the ‘Mahatmas,’ to Madame Blavatsky, or to any other person real or otherwise, but only to Principles and Objects.
(2) Consequently, I am no traitor to the express conditions on which I entered the Society when I say that I neither owe nor do I acknowledge the allegiance which now appears to be required of me to persons of whose existence and claims I am utterly unable to affirm or deny anything positively.
(3) If, then, it is the deliberate opinion of the whole Lodge – which it certainly was not six months ago – that it must have a President whose allegiance to the Mahatmas is sans peur et sans reproche, then I certainly am not, from the nature of things, fitted to occupy your Chair. And I do not see how anyone can occupy it, on such terms, who is not, of his own personal experience, in a position to testify to the existence and claims of the ‘Brothers.’ This even Mr. Sinnett cannot do, as he only knows them ‘through a glass darkly, and not face to face.’
(4) I cannot consent to pose before the world in the absurd position of a person claiming to act on principles of exact knowledge and scientific methods, who has abandoned the platform of Historical Christianity because its so-called events and
personages are impossible of verification, and who yet accepts as indubitable another set of events and personages the evidence for which is meagre and unsatisfactory in a degree surpassing even that of Historical Christianity. All that is affirmed may be true; but I am not in a position to know its truth, and cannot therefore say I believe it, or disbelieve it. The utmost I can say in the present matter is – and this I say cordially – that I am heartily willing and anxious to hear all that comes to us from the East with serious attention, provided I am not called upon to connect it with subservience to any personal authority claiming my belief and confidence as a duty; and provided also that I may fairly and freely criticise what I hear, and test it by reason and experience.
(5) Madame Blavatsky calls the ‘Mahatmas’ Masters. Her experience and evidence may justify this epithet for her, but they do not justify me in using it. I do not, therefore, and will not, apply that term to any earthly being soever.
I may add that it is not I who seek to separate Esoteric Buddhism from Esoteric Christianity. First, the system expounded by Mr. Sinnett is not – so far as I can see – esoteric at all, being simply a scheme of transcendental physics; and, secondly, he is deliberately seeking to silence every other voice but that of the ‘Mahatmas.’ If there is to be unification and brotherhood, there must be equality. It now seems to me that I am the only representative of Christian doctrine left among you. (...)” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 147-148.)
With a view to the vindication of their own position in regard to Mr. Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism, they wrote a pamphlet, which consisted of a letter, dated December 1883, from Anna Kingsford to the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society; some “Remarks and Propositions on Mr. Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism,” by Edward Maitland; and a copy of Anna Kingsford’s letter, dated 31st October 1883, to the President of the Theosophical Society, to which reference has been [previously] made. (1) The following passage from Anna Kingsford’s first-mentioned letter gives the key to the position taken up by them. She says:
“Pure Buddhism is in no radical respect different from pure Christianity, because esoteric religion is identical throughout all time and conditions, being eternal in its truth and immanent in the
human spirit. I am myself as much the disciple of Buddha as of Christ, because the two Masters are one in Doctrine. But, in my view, such a system as Mr. Sinnett’s book reveals to us is as opposed to Buddhism as it is to Christianity, and is utterly incompatible with the avowed aims and teachings of the Society under whose aegis it is issued. No universal religion, no catholic brotherhood can be built on such a foundation as this; – it is but the germ of a new sect, and one more materialistic, exoteric, and unscientific than has ever yet been presented with serious claims to the modern world. Its tendency is to divide, to scatter, to repel, making all chance of unification impossible, instead of reconstructing, consolidating, and reconciling. East and West will never meet on such a bridge as this doctrine, nor will the conflicting testimonies of history and scientific criticism be silenced by enunciations of transcendental physics which directly impinge on their domain. In a word, this book is neither ‘Buddhism’ nor ‘esoteric.’” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 152.)
The letter went on to propose that, on the recurrence of the elections for 1884 two Sections be created in the London Lodge; one, to be formed by the Fellows who desired to pursue exclusively the teaching of the Thibetan Mahatmas, and to be presided over by Mr. Sinnett; the other, to be known as the Catholic Section of the London Lodge, to be composed of Fellows who desired to adopt a broader basis and to extend research into other directions – “more especially with the object of encouraging the study of Esoteric Christianity, and of the Occidental theosophy out of which it arose” – the principal studies of this Section being addressed to “the analysis of the great religions and philosophies which have swayed mankind in the past, and which divide their allegiance in the present”; but notwithstanding these two Sections, Fellows of either Section were to be free to belong to both, and free to attend each other’s meetings.
Edward Maitland says:
“The great majority of the Lodge were strongly adverse to the line taken by us, (...) and it became clear that, when the time came, as it would come in January, for the annual election of Officers, we should be displaced. This was a conclusion which, so far as concerned ourselves, we contemplated with more than equanimity, with positive satisfaction and relief. The turmoil of the position, and the personal conflicts engendered, were distasteful to us in the extreme, and only the hope of saving the Society from its own discordant elements,
to become a redeeming influence in the world, reconciled us to continued association with it.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 154-155.)
On the 21st December, after the printing of the above-mentioned pamphlet, Anna Kingsford received from Madame Blavatsky a letter dated “Adyar, 25th November 1883,” which was said to have been written “under orders,” and which asserted that the policy and actions of Anna Kingsford were known to and approved of by the Mahatmas. The following is an extract from Madame Blavatsky’s letter:
“I happen to know – and I write this to Mr. Sinnett today – that notwithstanding your own doubts and slight misconceptions of our Masters, and the opposition you experienced (or rather Mr. Maitland) on the afternoon of October 26th – and all the rest, they are still desirous (and ‘more than ever,’ as my Guru expresses it) that you should kindly pursue your own policy, for they find it good. This I write à l’aveugle, for I know nothing either of the said policy or what has been the nature of the disagreement between you in its details, though acquainted with its general character. I simply communicate to you the Order I receive, and the words used. ‘Future alone will shew why we take another view of the situation than Mr. Sinnett’ – are the words used. (...) I have always understood the Chelas to say that They – the Masters – knew and watched your proceedings, that you were notified of Their presence, and that you are the most wonderful sensitive in all Europe, not England alone.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 159.)
Writing of the position to Lady Caithness, Anna Kingsford says:
“The doctrine we have received is that of all Hermetic and Kabalistic teaching from time immemorial; and to forsake that and embrace the strange and inconsistent creed put forth as ‘Esoteric Buddhism’ would be to turn our backs at once and definitively upon all that is divine and true in the highest sense. None of us are capable of such folly as that would be.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 159-160, note.)
The meeting of the Society, which was held on the 27th January 1884, passed without any change being made. The reason for this was that both sides had represented their views to the Founders – Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott – and the elections were postponed until such time as word should be received from India. (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 155, 158, 159.)
C. C. Massey, to whom reference has been made, wrote at this time to a friend, saying:
“It is desirable that we should, by re-electing Mrs Kingsford (who is only opposed on account of her independence), reaffirm with some emphasis the principle of freedom of thought.” (Letter, dated 5th February 1884, to W. F. Kirby)
Edward Maitland says:
“When the time came for the decisive meeting to be held, the occasion proved to be in the highest degree dramatic. The tension was extreme, so high did feeling run on both sides; and when, at the moment that the crucial question was to be put, Mary produced a telegram (1) from India saying ‘Remain President,’ and signed ‘Koot Hoomi,’ the sensation was indescribable. The mandate was at once recognised as imperative, and the election was but a formality.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 159-160.)
The result of the reference to India was the publication of a pamphlet, written by T. Subba Row and Madame Blavatsky, in support of Mr. Sinnett and his book. This, Edward Maitland says, “necessitated a rejoinder from us, which took the shape of another pamphlet, in which we shewed conclusively that the reply, so far from being an answer to us, was inaccurate and incoherent, and left our position untouched.” (2) In their rejoinder they said:
“It is a mistake to regard us as seeking to ‘set off Esoteric Christianity against Esoteric Buddhism,’ and this for the very reason assigned by Madame Blavatsky, and in which we have great pleasure in agreeing with her, namely, because to do so would be ‘to offer one part of the whole against another part of the whole.’ For, as stated at some length in The Perfect Way, we regard the two systems as complementary to each other, each being indispensable, as concerned
with, or representing different stages in, man’s spiritual evolution, Christianity, rightly interpreted, representing the latter, and therefore the higher, in that it alone, unequivocally, ‘has the Spirit.’” (1)
In March 1884 the Founders of the Theosophical Society were in Paris, and in the following month they came to England with the object of composing the division in the London Lodge. The two parties then first became acquainted with each other. A Lodge meeting was held, at which Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland were present for the purpose of inaugurating their successors. Edward Maitland, giving an account of this meeting, says: “Being unable to reconcile ourselves to their programme, and in deference to the general desire for officials devoted wholly to the Eastern teachings, we withdrew from our positions of President and Vice-President respectively of the London Lodge, (2) and sought an independent platform for our own teaching. The result was the formation of the Hermetic Society, in which we had the concurrence and assistance of the Theosophical Society Founders and several of its members, their desire being to make it a separate Lodge of their own Society. (3) This however, to our satisfaction, proved impossible, owing to the issue of a rule prohibiting membership of more than one Lodge at a time. The Hermetic Society was, therefore, established on an independent basis, with Mary as its President.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 186-187.) Their valued friend C. C. Massey heartily supported the new enterprise.
The objects of the Hermetic Society were set forth in its Prospectus (1) as follows: –
“The designation of this Society was chosen in conformity with that ancient and universal usage of the Western world, which, regarding HERMES as the supreme initiator into the Sacred Mysteries of existence, has identified his name with the knowledge of things spiritual and occult.
Its objects are at once scientific, intellectual, moral, and religious.
Its chief aim is to promote the comparative study of the philosophical and religious systems of the East and of the West; especially of the Greek Mysteries and the Hermetic Gnosis, and its allied schools, the Kabalistic, Pythagorean, Platonic, and Alexandrian, – these being inclusive of Christianity, – with a view to the elucidation of their original esoteric and real doctrine, and the adoption of its expression to modern requirements.
The knowledges acquired will be applied, first, to the interpretation and harmonisation of the various existing systems of thought and faith, and the provision thereby of an Eirenicon among all Churches and communions; and, secondly, to the promotion of personal psychic and spiritual development.
To these ends the Society encourages and undertakes the publication of ancient and modern Hermetic literature, and invites its Fellows to further its efforts on this behalf by subscribing for the Works issued, by actively co-operating in the general purposes of the Society, and by contributing to the promotion of its special objects.
In carrying out these designs, the Society accords to its Fellows full freedom of opinion, expression, and action; and in regard to doctrinal questions, recognises reason and experience alone as affording legitimate ground for conclusion.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 195.)
The Prospectus was accompanied by the following note: –
“In inviting your attention to the accompanying Prospectus, it is considered desirable to state that the Hermetic Society has been formed, not in any spirit of opposition to, or rivalry with, the Theosophical Society, or any of its branches, but rather as a supplement and complement to it and them, and in friendly co-operation to their declared aims. Desiring no less than the Theosophical Society to study the philosophical systems of the
East, and to promote the sentiment of universal brotherhood, the Hermetic Society directs its attention more particularly to the systems of the West, and seeks, by comparing all systems, to ascertain their respective merits and mutual relation. In this it is actuated by the conviction that the common object of both Societies – to wit, the establishment of spiritual unity throughout the world – will be most effectually promoted, not by seeking to include all men under one denomination, but by exhibiting the substantial agreement already subsisting among their various systems and creeds.
These being the spirit and scope of the Hermetic Society, its Fellows feel that they are entitled to look confidently for such reciprocity between it and the Theosophical Society as will promote concurrent membership in both Societies.”
By the rules of the Society it was expressly provided that (inter alia) distinctions of race, religion, or sex should be no bar either to Fellowship or to office.
The Hermetic Society was inaugurated on Friday the 9th May 1884 – St George’s Eve – at Nº. 43 Rutland Gate, London, the residence of Captain Francis Lloyd. There was a large attendance of members and guests, including Colonel Olcott, who expressed his sympathy with the objects of the new Society. (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp.187, 188; Light, 1884, p.198.) An interesting address was delivered by Anna Kingsford, as President, in which, Edward Maitland says, she:
“(…) made the legend of St George and the Dragon the basis of an exposition of Hermetic doctrine, in the course of which she shewed that it was one of many allegories of identical import. For as the Dragon of the sacred myths of old was always Materiality, and the Princess exposed to it was the Soul, so the Knight who rescues and finally carries her off in triumph as his bride to heaven is always, directly or by delegation, Hermes, the Angel of the understanding of divine things, by whose aid alone the soul is enabled to surmount the sense-nature, and man realises his Divine potentialities.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 196.)
Applying this to the present age, Anna Kingsford said:
“In the revival of the Hermetic philosophy now taking place may be seen at once the token and the agent of the world’s deliverance. For it means the supersession of a period of obscuration by one of illumination, such that men can once more rise from the appreciation of the Form to that of the Substance, of the Letter to that of the Spirit, and thus discern the meaning of the Divine Word,
whether written or enacted. Such recognition of the ideal as the real signifies the reconstruction of religion upon a scientific basis, and of science upon a religious basis. So long as religion builds upon the mere facts and phenomena of history, she builds upon a sandbank, on which the advancing tide of scientific criticism is ever encroaching, and which must sooner or later be swept away with all that is founded upon it. But when she learns the secret of Hermetic, that is Esoteric, interpretation, then, and then only, does she build upon a rock, which shall never be shaken. Such is the import of the term ‘Peter,’ which, as one with Hermes, properly denotes not only rock, but interpreter.” (1)
And she announced a series of discourses by herself at future meetings of the Society explanatory of the terms of the Apostles’ Creed. (Light 1884, p.198.) Edward Maitland says:
“My contribution on the occasion was a sketch of the history and character of the Hermetic philosophy, which was followed by a discussion, the chief feature of which was an account given by Colonel Olcott of the origin and aims of the Theosophical Society, and of the derivation of its teaching from the sages of the East, whose methods and doctrines, he said, were purely Hermetic – a definition which we recognised as altogether excluding Mr. Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism.” (2)
Writing in her Diary on the 11th May – two days after the inauguration of the new Society – Anna Kingsford says:
“I do not yet know, myself, exactly what it is we seek to gain in this Society. I do not want to be a Teacher, arrogating to myself all authority and illumination. I want light. Perhaps the best way will be to have discussion days on the subject of some paper previously read. What we really seek is to reform the Christian system and start a new Esoteric Church. When once this is started it may go on indefinitely, as does the Exoteric Church.”
And in a letter, written on the following day, to Lady Caithness, she says:
“We want to get known. Sometimes I think that the truths and knowledges we hold are so high and so deep that the age is yet unable to receive them, and that all we shall be permitted to do is to formulate them in some book or books to leave as a legacy to the world when we pass away from it. The truth we have is far in advance of anything the disciples of Madame Blavatsky and her Gurus possess.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 187 and 188.)
At the second meeting, on the 9th May 1884, Edward Maitland read a paper on “Revelation as the Supreme Common Sense,” meaning that the consensus or agreement which it represents is that, “not of all men merely, but of all parts of man; of mind, soul, and spirit; of intellect and intuition, combined in a pure spirit and unfolded to the utmost.” For, he says:
“(…) there is no contradiction between Reason and Revelation, provided only it be the whole Reason and not the mutilated faculty which ordinarily passes for such, for that represents the intellect without the intuition. And it is precisely the loss or corruption of this last which constitutes the Fall, the Intuition, as the feminine mode of the mind and representing the soul, being mystically called ‘the woman.’” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 197.)
Anna Kingsford’s forthcoming Lectures on the Creed were notified to the members of the Society in a circular as follows: –
THE SUMMER SESSION MEETINGS
Of this Society for 1884 will be held, until further notice, at
43 RUTLAND GATE, S. W.
ON THE AFTERNOONS OF THURSDAY, JUNE 12, 19, 26,
JULY 3, 10, 17, 24, and 31.
To commence at 5 o’clock precisely.
SUBJECT OF EXPOSITION AND DISCUSSION:
Its Esoteric and Occult Meaning; its Relation to the
Nature of Existence; and its Correspondence with
the Sacred Mysteries of Antiquity.
To be introduced by the President in Special Papers."
At first, C. C. Massey did not like the idea of these lectures. Writing, shortly after their announcement, to Edward Maitland on the subject he said:
“It seemed too much like putting new wine into old bottles, and, in short, not quite the sort of thing ‘Hermetists’ would look for. But then it occurred to me that if she really can shew to the progressive minds in the Church that the esoteric doctrine is signified by the historical form and embodied in the Creeds, and that the historical faith is not really Christianity, but just its vehicle, then that truth might be seized upon, and might unite hundreds of influential minds in its propaganda. I mean that the lead might thus be given to a movement of real importance in the Church, and one which might re-ally it to philosophy.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 194.)
But Mr. Massey was probably not then aware that Anna Kingsford had under Divine Illumination recovered the sense in which the Creeds were intended by their formulators, and in such sense she recognised
them as being indisputably true, in that they represent indispensable soul-processes. (See E. M.’s letter in Light, 1890. p.290.) In 1879, when a medical student in Paris, she had received the mystical version of the Creed, which, Edward Maitland says:
“(…) by rendering the Creed into the present tense (...) exhibited to our supreme satisfaction the interior character of Christianity proper, to the confirmation of our own independent conviction respecting the non-historical nature of all that is essential in religion; and in such presentation we rejoiced to recognise the death-blow to the superstition which insists on restricting to a time and to an individual processes which are by their nature necessarily eternal and universal.” (Life of A. K., vol. i. p.305.)
The Creed, as received by Anna Kingsford, is as follows:
being a summary of the spiritual history of the Sons of God, and the mysteries of the kingdoms of the Seven Spheres.
I BELIEVE in one God; the Father and Mother Almighty; of whose substance are the generations of Heaven and of earth. And in Christ Jesus the Son of God, our Lord; who is conceived of the Holy Ghost; born of the Virgin Mary; suffereth under the world-rulers; is crucified, dead, and buried; who descendeth into hell; who riseth again from the dead; who ascendeth into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God; by whose law the quick and the dead are judged. I believe in the Seven Spirits of God; the Kingdom of Heaven; the communion of the elect; the passing-through of souls; the redemption of the body; the life everlasting; and the Amen.
He that believeth and is initiated shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall consume away.” (Clothed With the Sun, pt. ii. nº. 1.)
Referring to the concluding sentences, Edward Maitland says:
“The long-standing controversy respecting the meaning of Nirvana has been resolved for us in favour of both the interpretations assigned to it. This is to say that, while it means extinction, the extinction implied is of two different kinds. Of these, one called the celestial Nirvana, denotes the perfectionment and perpetuation of the essential selfhood of the individual, accompanied by the extinction of the external and phenomenal selfhood. Thus indrawn to his centre, the individual ceases
to ex-ist but does not cease to be. In other words, he is, but is not manifest, the term existence, as opposed to being, implying the standing-forth, or objectivisation, of that which is, subjectively. The condition implies the return from matter to substance or spirit.
The ‘Nirvana of the Amen,’ on the contrary; denotes the extinction, not only of the externality of the individual, but of the individual himself; this occurring through the persistent indulgence of a perverse will to the outer and lower, such as to induce a complete deprivation of the inner and higher constituents of man, and so to divest his system of its binding principle as to render not only possible, but inevitable, complete dissolution and disintegration, to the total extinction of the individuality concerned. This is not loss of substance or spirit. The term Amen in this relation signifies consummation or finality.
Like the so-called ‘damnatory’ clauses of the ‘Athanasian Creed,’ the declaration [at the end of the Creed, as given above] is simply a solemn recognition, first, of the doctrine that salvation is neither arbitrary not compulsory, but conditional and optional, the alternative to it being extinction; and, next, of the Credo as a summary of the conditions of salvation. These, it is true, are expressed in terms which, in being symbolical, do not bear their meaning upon the face of them; but none the less are the conditions themselves so simple and obvious as to be recognisable as self-evident and necessarily true. That is to say, they represent the steps of a process necessary to be enacted in the soul, and founded in the nature of the soul itself; so that, when understood, the belief in them makes no greater strain upon the faculties than does the belief in any self-evident proposition whatever. Rather would the difficulty be to disbelieve them. Wherefore – to state the case in other words – the declaration of the soul’s extinction through non-compliance with the conditions herein affirmed to be indispensable to its perpetuation, made by the initiate in the terms of the Credo, is the exact parallel and counterpart of the declaration of the body’s extinction through non-compliance with the conditions indispensable to its continuance, made by the physiologist in the terms of his craft. The language is in each case technical, but the truths it conceals (from the non-initiate) are incontestable; and so far from their being disbelieved by those who do not understand them, they are invariably acted upon by al – who are of sound mind – to the best of their ability, despite their failure to
understand them. For, alike for soul and body, there is that within man which does believe, and which accordingly does comply with the conditions requisite for his welfare, quite independently of his knowledge of processes and terms spiritual or physiological, and which needs but fair play, and not to be thwarted by his own perverse will, to accomplish his salvation.
Wherefore the declaration in question is no menace, but rather is it a promise, – a promise that when the time comes to understand the process whereby salvation is accomplished, the very fact that it is understood is a token that salvation is accomplished; for once understood, it can no more be disbelieved than gravitation or any other certainty of the physical world. Now, to have this understanding is to be ‘initiated.’” (Clothed With the Sun, App. pp. i-iii.)
It is the spiritual selfhood of man – the Christ Jesus within him – that is the subject of the Christian Credo. “The Apostles’ Creed is an epitome of the spiritual history of all those who become by re-generation ‘Sons of God.’” (E. M., Light, 1893, p. 284; and see Life of A. K., vol. i. p. 315.)
In reply to and correcting one who had declared that “the old creed-makers meant the Creed literally,” Edward Maitland said:
“This is not the case. The adopters of it into the Christian Church meant it literally, for the Church inherited its mysteries without the key to them, the ‘key of knowledge,’ with the abstraction of which Jesus so bitterly reproached the ecclesiasticism of His time, had not yet been restored. But it was not so with the original formulaters of the Creed. (...) The original and intended sense of the Creed is purely spiritual and devoid of any physical reference.” (Light 1884, p. 190.)
The dates and subject-matter of the lectures given by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland to the Hermetic Society during the first Session were as follows:
12th June 1884, Anna Kingsford, on the clause of the Creed:
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth.”
19th June 1884, Anna Kingsford, on the clause of the Creed:
“And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who is conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.”
26th June 1884, Edward Maitland, on “Mystics and Materialists.”
10th July 1884, Anna Kingsford, on the clause of the Creed:
“He suffereth under Pontius Pilate.”
17th July 1884, Anna Kingsford, on the clause of the Creed:
“I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy Catholic Church.”
24th July 1884, Anna Kingsford, on the same subject as the last.
31st July 1884, Anna Kings ford, on the same subject as the last.
Speaking of the Lecture on Mystics and Materialists, given by himself, Edward Maitland says:
“I shewed how dense was the ignorance and prejudice of the treatment accorded by the materialistic school to Mystics and Mysticism, and described the issue between the two parties as of the most tremendous import, being nothing less than the nature of existence, the constitution and destiny of man, the being of God and the spiritual world, the possibility of revelation, and the validity of the religious sentiment. Respecting all these, I said, the mystics claimed to have affirmative experiences of a kind absolutely satisfactory, they themselves being, by reason of their character and eminence, entitled to full credence. For the order to which they belonged comprised the highest types of humanity, and in fact all those sages, saints, seers, prophets, and Christs, through whose redeeming influence humanity has been preserved from the abyss of utter negation in respect of all that makes and ennobles humanity, and these have uniformly declared that the passage from Materialism to Mysticism has been to them a passage, physically, from disease to health; intellectually, from infancy to manhood; morally, from anarchy to order; and spiritually, from darkness to light and from death to life – even life everlasting. And none who had made that passage has ever been known to wish to retrieve his steps. And as it was through the loss of the intuition that the world has sunk into the materialism now prevailing, so it will be through the restoration of the intuition, now taking place, that the world will be rescued and redeemed.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p.199.)
A wonderful Illumination, (1) received and written down by Anna
Kingsford while under trance, says:
“The Church knows not the source of its dogmas. We (1) 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.”
What has been said of the dogmas of the Church is true also of the Scriptures. Anna Kingsford’s Lecture on “Bible Hermeneutics” makes this very clear. She once, in her sleep, read in a book an Instruction “Concerning the Intention of the Mystical Scriptures,” which she wrote down from memory immediately on waking. The Instruction so read by her referred in particular to the interpretation to be put upon the early books of the Old Testament, which books were stated to be mystical, but the principles enunciated are applicable to all sacred scriptures; and the purport of it was that if such books be Mystic Books, they ought also to have a Mystic Consideration: “It ought to be known, indeed, for the right Understanding of the Mystical Books, that in their esoteric Sense they deal, not with material Things, but with spiritual Realities. (...) The Mystic Books deal only with spiritual Entities. (...) They are Idolaters who understand the Things of Sense where the Things of the Spirit are alone implied.” (2) On another occasion she found herself surrounded in her sleep by a group of spirits, who conversed together concerning the “Fall.” They began by saying that “all the mistakes made about the Bible arise out of the Mystic Books being referred to times, places, and persons material,
instead of being regarded as containing only eternal verities about things spiritual.” (Illumination “Concerning the Fall,” Clothed With the Sun, pt. i. Nº. vii.)
Having been interviewed by the late W. T. Stead, Anna Kingsford wrote for the Pall Mall Gazette, of which he was then the editor, the following account of the Hermetic Society, which duly appeared in that journal:
“The name of Hermes as the divine representative of the intellectual principle has ever in the Western World been associated with the study of spiritual and occult science, and with the knowledge of things hidden and removed from the reach of the superficial sense. Hence the very word ‘hermetic’ has, in common parlance, come to be applied to the enclosure and sealing up of objects which it is desired to preserve inviolate and incorrupt. The Hermetic Society, however, though, as its name implies, concerning itself mainly with the study of the secret science, is not a secret association. Its Fellows are bound by no pledges of silence, and use neither password nor sign. In a Society having a catholic object, and aiming at the inauguration of a school of thought which, though old in the history of the world, is new in that of our race and time, it is considered that a policy of exclusiveness would be anachronistic and out of place. Moreover, the origin and character of the Society are not of a nature to render secrecy either necessary or desirable. Composed as it is, not of initiates, but of students, and numbering in its ranks sound scholars and competent thinkers more or less intolerant of ecclesiastical methods and control, the task which the Society has set itself is one for which it seeks and invites co-operation on the part of all able contributors to the thought of our day. This task involves the investigation of the nature and constitution of man, with a view to the formulation of a system of thought and rule of life which will enable the individual to develop to the utmost his higher potentialities, intellectual and spiritual.
The Society represents a reaction that has long been observable, though hitherto discouraged and hindered from public expression by still dominant influences. Reaction is not necessarily, nor indeed usually, retrogressive. It bears on its wave the best acquisitions of time and culture, and often represents the deeper current of essential progress. The tendency of the age to restrict the researches of the human mind to a range of study merely material and sensible is directly inimical to the method of Nature, and must, therefore, prove abortive. For
it represents an attempt to limit the scope and the possibilities of evolution, and thus to hinder the normal development of those higher modes of consciousness which mark certain advanced types of mankind. Reason is not less the test of truth to the Mystic than to the Materialist; but the mode of it to which the former appeals is on a higher level, transcending the operation of the outer and ordinary senses. ‘Revelation’ thus becomes conceivable. Only to thought which is absolutely free is the manifestation of truth possible; and to be thus free, thought must be exercised in all directions, not outward only to the phenomenal, but inward to the real also, from the expression of idea in formal matter to the informing idea itself. Our age, failing to comprehend the mystic spirit, has hitherto associated it with attributes which really belong not to mysticism, but to the common apprehension of it – obscurity and uncertainty. The Hermetic Society desires to reveal mysticism to a world which knows it not; to define its propositions, to categorise its doctrine. And this can be done only by minds trained in philosophical method, because mysticism is a science, based on the essential reason of things – the most supremely rationalistic of all systems. (...)
The programme by which the Hermetic Society intends to regulate and direct its labours is a rich one. It comprises the comparative study of all philosophical and religious systems, whether of the East or of the West, and especially of the ‘Mysteries’ of Egypt and Greece, and the allied schools of Kabalistic, Pythagorean, Platonic, and Alexandrian illumination. The researches of the Hermetists in the direction of Christian doctrine are especially interesting, on account not only of the importance of the subject, but of the novelty of the treatment accorded to it. In the papers on the ‘Credo of Christendom’ now in course of delivery, the President deals with the historical element of our national faith as its accident and vehicle only, the dramatic formulation of processes whose proper sphere of operation is the human mind and soul.
These observations will suffice to shew that the Hermetic Society is not more friendly to the popular presentation of orthodox Church doctrine than to the fashionable agnosticism of the hour. It represents, indeed, a revolt against all conventional forms of belief, whether ecclesiastical or secular, and a conviction that the rehabilitation of religion on reasonable and scientific grounds is not only possible to the human mind, but
is essential to human progress and development. This line of thought was first introduced to the public in a work entitled The Perfect Way, or The Finding of Christ, with the production of which, it is an open secret that the present President of the Hermetic Society had much to do. (...)
The Hermetic Society has a mystic rather than an occult character; it depends for guidance upon no ‘Mahatmas,’ and can boast no worker of wonders on the phenomenal plane. Its Fellows do not, as Hermetists, interest themselves in the study or culture of abnormal powers; they seek knowledges only, and these not so much on the physical as on the intellectual and spiritual level. Such knowledge must, they hold, be necessarily productive of good works. Hermetists are expected to be true knights of spiritual chivalry, identifying themselves with movements in the direction of justice and mercy, whether towards man or beast, and doing their utmost, individually and collectively, to further the recognition of the Love-principle as that involving the highest and worthiest motive and method of human action.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 205-207. See also Light 26th July 1884, p. 302.)
Speaking of mysticism, in her inaugural address to the Hermetic Society, Anna Kingsford said:
“To be a Mystic is in no wise to be a Yogee. (1) The Mystic knows that the true secret of ruling the body is so to deal with it that it shall not assert itself and thrust itself unduly on the observation. Cruelty to the body is just as detrimental to the interests of self-liberation as is sensual indulgence. For both these extremes tend to force the pleasure or pain of the flesh on the attention of the mind, and thus to hinder centralisation of spirit and the growth of the inward peace. The Mystic is the King – not the Tyrant – of the body. Every act and desire of the physical man which does not profit the intellectual man, he subdues and overcomes; but he never torments the flesh for torment’s sake. For he knows that such a course would result only in bringing the body into undue prominence; and that all the powers of his mind would become drained out and exhausted with the constant effort to stifle the cries of his victim. Hence he rules
the body as one should rule a servant, his object being so to equilibrate his nature that he may not be aware of the body’s presence. (...)
The Mystic subjugates his body, not by cruel violation of its will, but by bringing this into union and agreement with the higher will of the mind, and thus polarising and identifying all the forces of his complex nature. The accomplished rider and his horse are as one creature. So the initiate and his body are as one being. So long as a man is at war with his flesh, he is not its Master. Inasmuch as a man wilfully maltreats and torments his body, insomuch he sins against the law of Love. And by this law alone can any man become a Master.
Nor does the Mystic condemn the body’s sense of Beauty in the outward world. Far from this. For he knows that through the phantasmagoric veil of the material spheres the eye of the soul may perceive the features of the Divine Glory. Whether in cloud, or sea, or forest, whether in song, or sound of wind, or colour of hill and moor: – in whatever guise Beauty finds and touches him, that which he loves in Nature is the God: his spirit meets and kisses the Spirit within this lovely Maya: all this earthly sweetness and joy, translated and transmuted in his mind, become to him the focus of the eternal and heavenly Light. By means of the outward reflect he rises into the apprehension of the inward Reality. The voice of Nature sings into his soul the wonder of God.
Nor yet, again, does the Mystic need to immerse himself in the silence and loneliness of the cloister. He bears about his cloister in his heart. There is his inward solitude, there his monastic retreat. Like the halcyon among birds, is the Mystic among men. He builds himself a marvellous nest which not only floats unharmed upon the waves of Existence, but with a magic spell enchants the storm and charms the waves to stillness. In the midst of the world he only knows how to be alone. And this great gift of power to still the elements and make the soul a centre of rest the Gods bestow on man, as then on Halcyone, as the reward of steadfast and ardent Love. Therefore our Society, maintaining the doctrine and method of the Mystics, seeks to unite the intention of its Fellows with all helpful and merciful works throughout the world. The true Mystic lives the life of the ideal Christhood. Of all that he knows and has, he freely gives. Not for himself alone is the word of Life and Love, but for others through him. Champion and Knight, as well as
Thinker and Student, the son of Hermes is of necessity a reformer of men, a redeemer of the world. It is not enough for him to know the doctrine; he must likewise do the will of the Gods, and bid the kingdom of the Lord come upon earth without, even as in the heaven within his heart.
For the Method of the Mystic is the Law of Love, and Love hath nothing of her own.”
Edward Maitland says:
“Careful abstracts of our own lectures, made by myself, were published in Light, and among the recognitions received from persons who read them there was the following from one whom we regarded as far and away the most advanced of them all in mystic and spiritual knowledge – Baron Spedalieri, – (1) who wrote to us as follows respecting Mary’s interpretations on the Creed: –
“MARSEILLES, 21st August 1884.
DEAR AND HONOURED MADAME, – DEAR SIR AND FRIEND, – Eliphas Levi was right when he told me that humanity needed not a new Revelation, but rather an explanation of that which it already has. This explanation would, he said, be given in the ‘latter times,’ and would constitute what he called the ‘Messianisme.’ The illuminated Guillaume Postel predicted likewise that the ‘latter days’ would be distinguished by the comprehension of the Kabala, and of the occult books of the Hebrews.
You – the new Messiah – you are now accomplishing this double mission, and you are doing it in a manner veritably miraculous. For I cannot otherwise explain to myself how you have been able to acquire an erudition so exalted and a knowledge so deep that before it all human intelligence is dazzled. No initiation in any anterior state of existence suffices to explain this wonder. Moreover, the doctrines you expound relate to facts posterior to the ancient mysteries, and were therefore unknown to the initiates of remote ages.
Nothing was ever known or written by any of the Christian Mystics, whether St. Martin, Boehme, Swedenborg, or any other Theosophists, comparable to your writings. Eliphas Levi himself would be astonished at your teaching, so logical, so reasonable, so consistent throughout, and so convincing; before which
the mind can but incline and adore, and which have made and will make my only strength in the presence of death.
But this mission imposes on you a great duty. Time presses; the harvest of the earth is ripe. Why do you wait? Why confine yourselves to communicating to a small group of auditors that which ought to regenerate humanity? Why not at once publish these chapters on the Credo, and later the rest of your Hermetic expositions of the teachings of the Church? For then indeed the Church herself will for the first time learn with surprise how great a treasure lies buried under the materialism of her doctrines.
Prepared as I was by the study of The Perfect Way, your first two lectures did not surpass my learning. But the rest have been for me a dazzling revelation. They have opened to me new and unexpected horizons: the splendour of the Kabala has been surpassed. I have thoroughly studied the résumés in Light in order to grasp the depth and breadth – and shall I say the originality? – of your commentaries. Your explanations of the Seal of Solomon are new to me; but their profundity and truth have ravished my mind. I cried aloud as I read, ‘How beautiful that is! How all the truth is there! Ah, my God, when will all this be published?’
At last I have found the explanation of the planetary system of Esoteric Buddhism. But what a difference between the two. How simple is the truth, and how the reason is satisfied by it. Beautiful and accurate also is the distinction you draw between Mysticism and Occultism, whereby the superiority of the former is readily perceived.
Dear and honoured friends, how can I speak of the great literary talent you have exhibited in the treatment of those most difficult subjects? You have placed them within the reach of every intelligence. You have handled them with admirable lucidity. All that I can say would be beneath the truth.
With sentiments of the most profound and respectful attachment, I am your wholly devoted SPEDALIERI.””(Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 199-201.)
On the 18th September 1884, shortly after the close of her Lectures to the Hermetic Society, Anna Kingsford was the recipient of an Illumination on “The Mysteries of the Kingdoms of the Seven Spheres,” – “setting forth the correspondence between the seven final clauses of the Creed and the
Seven Spirits of God, and consequently the seven planets and their Gods,” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 213) – as follows: –
“THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOMS OF THE
I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY GHOST,
Whose seven spirits are as the seven rays of light;
The Nous, the Sun, of the microcosm, the Spirit of Wisdom, the ray of whose angel, Phoibos, is the red of the innermost sphere.
THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH,
Or, kingdom of heaven within man;
Hermes, or Peter, the Spirit of Understanding, and rock whereon the true Church is built, the guardian and interpreter of the holy mysteries.
THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS,
Or, the elect;
Aphrodite, Venus, love, the Spirit of Counsel, or principle of sympathy, harmony, and light, whereby heaven and earth are revealed to each other and drawn together.
THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS,
Or, passing-through of souls;
Iacchos, the initiator, Lord of transmigration, whereby alone Karma is satisfied and since wiped out by expiation and repentance. As the Spirit of Power, he represents the force whereby creation and redemption alike are accomplished, the direction only being reversed.
THE RESURRECTION (which is the redemption) OF THE BODY,
From material limitations;
Ares, or Mars, the war-god, and Spirit of Knowledge of whom comes contention, at the cost of suffering and death, for the divine knowledge whereby man learns the secret of transmutation, which is the crowning conquest of matter by spirit.
THE LIFE EVERLASTING;
Zeus and Hera, rulers of heaven, the dual-spirit of Righteousness or godliness which is justice or the perfect balance and the secret of eternal generation.
AND THE AMEN,
Or, final consummation.
Saturn, or Satan, the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord, being the angel-unfallen – of the outermost sphere, and keeper of the boundary of the divine kingdom, within which is the perfection, and without which, the negation of being.” (Clothed With the Sun, pt. ii. Nº xvii.)
The Seven Spirits of God and their correspondences are given in Clothed With the Sun (pt. ii. Illumination Nº xvi), as follows: –
Elohim or Archangels
Tincture of Ray
The Spirit of
Fire of God
Angel of the Sun
Physician of God
Angel of Mercury
Sweet Song of God
Angel of Venus
Acquired of God
Angel of the Earth
Man of God
Angel of Mars
Like unto God
Zeus and Hera
Angel of Jupiter
7. Orifiel (or Satan)
Hour of God
Angel of Saturn
Divine Awe (Hence Reverence and Humility)
Strength of God
Artemis or Isis
Angel of the Moon
White, being the combination of all the rays, implies full illumination and intuition of God, the symbol of which is the full moon, and is the symbol of initiation. Attaining to this state, the soul is the mystical “Woman clothed with the Sun” of Apoc. xii. 1. Gabriel, the angel of this state, represents the reflective principle of the soul. He is not one of the seven Elohim, but is the complement of them all, being the spirit of all the moons.
The man fully regenerate needs no “moon” to reflect to him the “Sun”. Wherefore Gabriel, having no function to fulfil in the perfected kosmos, is indrawn and does not appear in the Mysteries of the Kingdoms of the Seven Spheres, referred in the first table above. (Clothed With the Sun, pt. ii., Illumination Nº. xvii; and see pt. i., Illumination Nº. xiv. (pt. ii. “Concerning the Genius.”)
At the close of the year (1884) they, “with profound regret,” terminated their connection with the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society, on the ground that, in practice, such Lodge had departed from and in no small degree renounced the professed objects of the Society; but though they severed their connection with the London Lodge, they did not sever their connection with the Parent Society, for the reason that Theosophy was not to be confounded with its professors. (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 221-223.) Edward Maitland’s conviction was that “if the Gods were to wait until they found perfect instruments, or perfect persons as instruments, for their work, they would never begin at all.” A work is not to be judged by one’s conception of the doers of it. It is due to Madame Blavatsky to record that when, some two years later, she came to know them personally and to respect them, she frankly admitted that they had been in the right in all their contentions, and their opponents in the wrong, even though she herself was one of the latter; (1) and she subsequently proposed that Anna Kingsford should accept the position of President of her (Madame Blavatsky’s) own Lodge in her place, with the object of creating “a Theosophy which would really be universal, and be everywhere recognised as such” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 271) – a proposal that could not, of course, be then entertained, but it was important as marking the beginning of a change of attitude on the part of the Society – or of some of the members thereof – which subsequently took place, regarding Anna Kingsford and her teaching.
In 1889, after the death of Anna Kingsford, Edward Maitland asked a certain clairvoyant friend who had come to see him, and had declared that Anna Kingsford was present, for information about the Theosophical Society and as to its possible influence on their work, when he received the following reply: “The ultimate effect of that Society will be to help your work. It will have acted as a great net to draw people to these subjects;
but they will not long remain at the Society’s level, but will rise towards yours.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 421.) And, shortly afterwards, when writing of the Society Edward Maitland said that it had been “the means of giving to the mighty wave of materialism, pessimism, and agnosticism that was sweeping over the earth to the imminent extinction of every noble and worthy sentiment in Humanity and all that makes life worth living, such a check as to cause its agents and promoters to start in wonder and alarm at seeing everywhere men and women of high intellectual character, culture and judgement, turning their backs upon them, their system and their methods as tried and found utterly wanting by reason of its failure to satisfy either the intelligence or the moral conscience; and in virtue of their own indubitable experiences recognising humanity as endowed with potentialities no less than aspirations altogether transcending materialistic conception. And this is but the beginning.” (Letter dated 11th April 1890.) And, later, in 1895, in his Preface to The Life of Anna Kingsford, while regretting the necessity for “outspokenness” in regard to certain contemporaneous institutions, writings, and persons, he says: “The time will assuredly come when that movement [represented by the Theosophical Society] will be accounted an important factor in the religious history of our age, and any light that can be thrown on its origines will be of no less value than would be such light on the origines of Christianity itself.”
In 1885, the weekly meetings of the Hermetic Society were resumed, this time in the rooms of the Royal Asiatic Society, Nº. 22 Albemarle Street, W. The programme for the Session, so far as Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland were concerned, being as follows: –
27th April 1885, Anna Kingsford, on the Hermetic Fragment, Koré Kosmou.
13th May 1885, Anna Kingsford, on the Method of the Mystics.
20th May 1885, Edward Maitland, on the Revival of Mysticism.
3rd June 1885, Edward Maitland, on the Symbology of the Old Testament.
17th June 1885, Edward Maitland, on the Intention and Method of the Gospels.
1st July 1885, Anna Kingsford, on the Communion of Saints.
As on the former occasion, abstracts of their Lectures made by Edward Maitland, were printed in Light.
For some time past Anna Kingsford had been “much out of health, and unfit for mental work.” Writing on the 15th June 1885 to Lady Caithness she said:
“I am so hard-worked and so very much out of health that it has been impossible hitherto to write and thank you for your charming and acceptable letters; for when I am not busy, I am ill, and as soon as I recover, I have to get to work again.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 233-234.)
During this Session her Lectures on the Creed had been suspended in order to permit other speakers to be heard. Writing on the 2nd August 1885 to Lady Caithness about her Lectures, she said how extremely difficult it was to impress a catholic and mystic view of things on the British mind – the fogs and clouds which enwrapped their isle seemed to have enshrouded their spirits also. – “And yet,” she said, “how lucent, how splendid, how entrancing this wonderful Truth is, could they only receive it! Is it indeed the fact, I sometimes wonder, that a few of us have senses developed which are unknown to the majority of our race; and do we really walk about among a blind and deaf generation for whom the light we see and the words we hear are not? (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p.235.)
The third Session of the Hermetic Society, like the previous one, was held in the rooms of the Royal Asiatic Society. The programme, so far as Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland were concerned, being as follows: –
13th April 1886, Anna Kingsford, on Bible Hermeneutics.
22nd April 1886, Edward Maitland, on the Higher Alchemy.
27th May 1886, Edward Maitland, on a Forgotten View of Genesis.
22nd June 1886, Edward Maitland, (by request) a second address, with considerable additions, on the Higher Alchemy.
29th June 1886, Edward Maitland read a joint paper, written by him and Anna Kingsford, on the Nature and Constitution of the Ego. (1)
15th July 1886, Edward Maitland, on the New Illumination.
22nd July 1886, Anna Kingsford replied to questions (which members had been invited to send in), and re-read her third Lecture on the Creed. (Light, 1886, p. 366.)
Edward Maitland says:
“At all the meetings the papers were followed by discussions of the highest interest, the attendance varying from thirty to fifty persons, many of whom were notable for their talents, their erudition, and their piety. A special feature in Mary’s Lectures consisted in the highly artistic diagrams, made by herself, of the symbols explained, such as the double Triangle and the Seal of Solomon, on which were shewn the stations of the Soul in the course of its elaboration; (1) also the drawings of man in his two states, degenerate and regenerate, as indicated by the direction of the magnetic currents of his system, according to the view shewn to her in vision. (2) Another feature worthy of mention was the occasional presence of theatrical actors and professional reciters, who came, they said, not because they could understand what they heard – that, they frankly admitted, was beyond them – but in order to listen to the President, whose gift of elocution they declared to be so perfect, that to hear her speak was a lesson in their own art. This proved to be the closing Session of the Hermetic Society.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 258.)
In acknowledging the receipt of the MSS. of some of their Hermetic Lectures, which had been sent to her to read, the late Mrs. Atwood (3) said:
“I thank you very much, not only for having afforded me a sight of these Lectures, but for having written and delivered the same. You have full well maintained throughout the dignity of the subject, of the which I am naturally jealous; and the general view taken of the doctrine appears to me correct and capable of all proof. The key is, as you recognise clearly and forcibly, hidden within the new life of
humanity (also within the old, methinks). But you have wisely avoided touching on the experimental methods of dealing with the universal subject; the terms relating to which, and its degrees of progress, you may find, on further investigation, to represent more essentially what they express than at first sight appears. It was the vulgar chemists who borrowed these essential terms rather for the designation of their own dead elements and drugs.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 266.)
At the close of the season, which for many reasons had been “one of severe and incessant toil,” Anna Kingsford’s health, which had never been good, was in a failing condition – her strength having been “greatly overtaxed and reduced” – so much so that Edward Maitland entertained “grave apprehensions of the result to herself.” Her suffering from asthma and facial neuralgia was so great, that “it soon became evident that the only hope of immunity from intense and constant suffering, if not also from positive lung disease, lay in flight to some less unfavourable conditions of climate”; and it was decided that she should pass the coming winter abroad, which she did, but without the desired result.
In consequence of her continued illness, Edward Maitland, early in 1887, despatched to the members of the Hermetic Society a circular informing them of the condition of the President and of the impossibility of holding a Session that year. (1) The following extract from a letter written on the 2nd January 1887 by Edward Maitland to Mrs. Drakoules (then Mrs. Lewis) shews very clearly what Anna Kingsford’s state of health then was:
“I regret to have to say that, owing to Mrs. Kingsford’s severe illness, contracted through the dampness of her English home in Shropshire, our plans for the winter have had to be changed, and it is impossible to say when the Hermetic Sittings will be resumed – if ever! For this is far on in the fourth month of her illness, and she has only been able to get as far as Paris on the way to some southern sanatorium, being now undergoing a course of blistering for congestion of the lungs, and unable, therefore, to be removed. Of course our wish and desire are to return in time to hold the usual Summer Session of the H.S. But at present everything points to a prolonged absence on the Continent in order to consolidate any improvement which may occur, and avoid the risk of a return northwards.”
An entry in her Diary, written under date of 5th July 1887, at Bourboule-les-Bains, reads as follows: –
“Not cured yet! No, nor even mended, were it but a little. Still the cough, still the afternoon fever, still the weakness, still the neuralgia. From November to July the same continual malady and enforced idleness. Where now are all the projects I had formed for this year, the book I had to write on the Creed, the novel, the stories, the essays? I have passed a year of bitterest suffering, of weariness of spirit and torment of body. My left lung is in caverns, they say; my right is inflamed chronically. My voice is broken and gone, with which I had hoped to speak from platforms: wreck and ruin is made of all my expectancies. Can a miracle yet be wrought? Can will accomplish what medicines fail to perform? The hard thing is that I cannot will heartily, for lack of knowing what I ought to desire. Is it better for me to live or to die? Unless I can be restored to the possibility of public life, it is useless for me to live. Dying, I may sooner obtain a fresh incarnation and return to do my work more completely.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 321- 322.)
On their return to England, during the same month, she took up her abode at Nº.15 Wynnstay Gardens – London, then being the best place for her, but it proved to be “a home for her to die in.” Writing, on the 10th August, Edward Maitland says:
“Our dear invalid continues in much the same state of fluctuation. At one time apparently at death’s door, and at another seeming capable of recovery. But my fear is that the level of each recurring depression is lower than before. (...) Perhaps the best I have to report is that she herself has become of late more desirous to live, provided she can recover health and strength to work and to escape suffering. But, as she says – and it is difficult for one who knows how great cause she has for saying it [to think otherwise] – it would be no kindness to wish to keep her here if life is to be the rack it has hitherto been for her.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 325.)
Soon after her return to London she was visited by one of her brothers, an Anglican clergyman, whom she rarely saw, and with whom she had little in common. Edward Maitland says:
“Seeing how serious was her condition, he insisted peremptorily on her doing at once three things – make confession to a priest, receive extreme unction, and make her will. (...) She replied that – believing as she believed – no mere rites or ceremonies
possessed any meaning or value for her. ‘Do you, then,’ he asked, mean to say you are not a Christian? Don’t you believe in the Incarnation of our Lord?’ To which she replied, ‘I am not a Christian in your sense, nor a believer of the Incarnation in your sense. In the spiritual and only true sense I am both.’ Having never heard of any sense but the traditional and sacerdotal one, and being wholly unacquainted with her writings, he necessarily failed to comprehend her, and after some further expostulations concerning the impossibility of being saved without the last sacraments, he took his leave.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 326.)
In consequence of this visit she, desiring to put on record a clear, distinct, and final statement of her position, “wrote off at a single sitting in her usual faultless style, not staying her hand for a moment until it was finished,” the following letter to her brother: –
“20th August 1887.
Until the occurrence of a recent incident, it had not entered my mind that any of my relations would regard it as a duty to interest himself actively about my religious faith, and to press upon me the performance of certain customary religious rites, either as a means of saving my own soul or of satisfying family scruples. I had believed that my recently published works were sufficient evidence of the ground taken by me in regard to dogmatic Christianity, and that the whole course of my life during the past ten years would shew the state of my mind respecting popular conceptions of religion. But as it seems necessary that I should not die without some sort of Apologia, I will attempt in this brief letter to explain my position.
When, in 1872, I entered the Communion of the Roman Church, I was actuated by the conviction – which has since enormously strengthened – that this Church, and this alone, contained and promulgated all truth. Especially was I attracted by the doctrine of Transubstantiation and the Sacrifice of the Mass, and by the cultus of the B.V.M. But I did not then comprehend the spiritual import of these doctrines, but endeavoured to accept them in the sense ordinarily understood. My Spirit strove within me to create me a Catholic without my knowing why. It was not until 1875-6 that I began by means of the Inner Light to comprehend why my Spirit had caused me to this step. For then began to be unfolded to my soul, by means of a long series of interior revelations, extending over
ten years, that divine system of the Theosophia which I afterwards discovered to be identical with the teaching of the Hermetic Science, and with the tenets of the Kabala, Alchemy, and the purest Oriental religion. Enlightened by this Inner Light, I perceived the fallacy and idolatry of popular Christianity, and from that hour in which I received the spiritual Christ into my heart, I resolved to know Him no more after the flesh. The old historical controversies over the facts and dates and phenomena of the Old and New Testaments ceased to torment and perplex me. I perceived that my soul had nothing to do with events occurring on the physical plane, because these could not, by their nature, be cognates to spiritual needs. The spiritual man seeketh after spiritual things, and must not look for Christ upon earth, but in heaven. ‘He is not here; He is risen.’ I, therefore, gave up troubling myself to know anything about Jesus of Nazareth in the flesh, or whether, indeed, such a person ever existed; not only because no certainty in regard to these matters is intellectually possible, but because, spiritually, they did not concern me any longer. I had grasped the central truth of Alchemy that is one with the doctrine of Transubstantiation, namely, that the Objective must be transmuted into the Subjective before it can be brought into cognate relation with the soul. Truth is never phenomenal: it is always noumenal. If I have not sufficiently explained my meaning, I earnestly refer readers of this letter to the Preface to the revised edition of The Perfect Way.
In the faith and doctrine set forth in that book I desire to die. And, having ceased to require assurance in any physical or historical fact whatever as a factor of my redemption, or to crave for any sort of outward ceremony as a means of spiritual beatitude, I am content to trust the future of my soul to the Justice of God, by whom I do not understand a personal being capable of awarding punishments and pardons, but the Pivotal Principle of the Universe, inexorable, knowing neither favour nor relenting. For, as says the Kabala, ‘Assuredly, thus have we learned, – There is no judge over the wicked, but they themselves convert the measure of Mercy into a measure of Judgement.’ This is a declaration of the esoteric doctrine of Karma, which I fully accept, believing with Buddha and with Pythagoras, and the whole company of wise and holy teachers of the East and of the Kabala, that the soul is many-lived, and that men are many times re-born upon earth. As I am certainly not yet perfected, I shall return
to a new birth after my merits have been exhausted in Paradise. Or if I should, on the contrary, need purgation in the subjective states, I accept that gladly as the will of Justice.
But how or why, holding such belief as this, should I, on my deathbed, seek the intervention of a priest, seeing that, to accept such intervention, I must necessarily deceive him?
I die, therefore, a Hermetist, believing in the spiritual Gods, with whom, I indeed aver; I have inwardly conversed and have seen them face to face; in the Evolution of the Soul from the lowest grade of Jacob’s Ladder unto the Presence of the Holy One; in the solidarity and brotherhood of all creatures, so that all may come at length to eternal life which are on the upward path. For Christ gives Himself for all, and shall save both man and beast. (...)
ANNA KINGSFORD.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 327-329.)
The letter, however, was never sent. On her shewing it to Edward Maitland, he pointed out that her brother would understand neither the argument nor the language, and she decided not to send it, but to keep it among their archives, saying:
“It would be a profanation of the mysteries to put such doctrine before those who held such ideas. And she added in a tone almost of despair, ‘How is the truth to be got to the world, so long as priests bear rule, preachers preach falsely, and the people are content to have it so? Can it be that we have made a mistake, and come ages before the time was ripe?’ To which I replied that the Gods do not make mistakes, and can see better than we how far the time is ripe.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 329-330.)
This priceless letter was thus preserved for future publication. A day or two after writing the above-mentioned letter she wrote in her diary:
“I had hoped to have been one of the pioneers of the new awakening of the world. I had thought to have helped in the overthrow of the idolatrous altars and the purging of the Temple. And now I must die just as the day of battle dawns and the sound of the chariot-wheels is heard. Is it, perhaps, all premature? Have we thought the time nearer than it really is? Must I go and sleep, and come again before the hour sounds?” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 331-332.)
As the months passed, her condition became worse and worse. At the end of December her doctor declared her to be “rapidly sinking, and unlikely to live beyond another week or two.”
At the beginning of the new year (1888) she rallied, but, before the end of January, it became necessary for her to have a nurse. Edward Maitland says:
“As is characteristic of consumption, the approach of the end was marked by increased hopefulness on the part of the sufferer, leading her to fancy she was actually mending, and might yet recover, even though at death’s door. (...) And then she would descant on the work she would do in abolition of all the wicked falsehoods which had brought the world into its present terrible plight, until, as may readily be understood, I found her cheerfulness and hopefulness more saddening even than her opposite moods, knowing as I did their deceptiveness and what they portended.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 359-360.)
On the 21st February she became worse, and on the following day – Wednesday, the 22nd February – at noon, “after an eighteen hours’ struggle for breath,” she silently and painlessly, and to all appearances consciously and voluntarily, exhaled out her life in one long breath. She was then in her forty-second year. (1) One of her latest utterances was that she could carry on the work better from the other side, where she would be free of her physical limitations.
Thus ended the most noble and self-sacrificing life of Anna Kingsford, – a life for which, some day, the world will thank God. She was a divine soul, a soul after God’s own heart. She loved Justice and hated Iniquity, and, therefore, was she by God anointed with that “oil of gladness” above her fellows. Her trials were many, and her sufferings were great; but, after her death, Edward Maitland received concerning her the following message: “She rejoices to let you know that the sufferings she enjoyed – yes, enjoyed – was the ladder that led her spirit upward, ever upward.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 411.) The following words are as appropriate to her as to the Saint on whose commemoration day they are appointed to be read: “Sinners,” says the Introit to the Mass for St. Mary Magdalen’s day, “have waited for me that they might destroy me: Thy testimonies, O Lord, have I understood: I have seen the end of all perfection: Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” She inclined her ear to the parable; she heard the word of God; and she was faithful. “Blessed are they,” said Jesus, “that hear the word of God, and keep it.” (Luke xi. 28.) Thus did Anna Kingsford.
Edward Maitland, after her death, speaking of the origin of their teaching, said: (1)
“The two most generally recognised sources of information on such subjects, next to the Bible and the Church, are those called ‘Spiritualism’ and ‘Theosophy.’ The teachings represented by me, while bearing relation to each and all of these, are not derived from any of them. Nor are they compiled from occult books previously in the world. When the researches of which they are the outcome were commenced, neither my collaborator nor I were in bonds to any of the orthodoxies, nor were we believers in ‘Spiritualism.’ And as for occultism, it had never dawned upon us that there was a science or a literature which bore such name or dealt with such subjects; nor had Theosophy yet made its appearance. So far, however, from being Materialists, rather were we Idealists, but in the stage in which one has yet to learn that the ideal is the real, and the material is but the phenomenal. All, therefore, that we obtained, whether of doctrine or of experience, was at first hand, and without prepossession on our part. The object of our quest was a philosophy of existence, and one that would account satisfactorily for all the facts of consciousness in such a way as to constitute at once a true science, a true morality, and a true religion. For, as was evident to us, only by having these – only, that is to say, by knowing how, and of what, and for what, man is made, can he realise that which it is necessarily the supreme ambition of a sane and intelligent being, namely, the turning of his existence to the utmost account in the long run. To this end, the title especially affected by us was that of Free-Thinker, meaning by it one who suffers his thought to range equally in all directions open to thought; both outwards and downwards to matter and phenomenon, and inwards and upwards to spirit and reality. For only thus, it appeared to us, was it possible to obtain the substantial idea whereby to interpret the phenomenal fact. As will be observed, this is a definition judged by which many persons who lay claim to the title of free-thinker not only are not free-thinkers, but can hardly be said to be thinkers at all, seeing that they ignore altogether the inward and upward direction of thought and make the bodily senses their sole criterion. Such persons may have large intellects, but they have no intuition. And being thus, they are as birds with
one wing, who cannot rise from the ground. Now, as we all know, the sparrow with two wings can laugh to scorn the eagle with one wing.
Well, finding ourselves possessed in a somewhat unusual degree of the more rare of the two faculties, that whereby one thinks inwards and upwards, namely, the introvision or intuition; and finding also that by combining our faculties we could obtain results far surpassing the mere sum of their dissociated efforts, we resolved to join our mental forces in a collaboration, for the effective accomplishment of which I made my home largely with my friend’s family – for she was married – so as to allow of a constant interchange of ideas, both of us adopting meanwhile the mode of life which, by those who know, has always been regarded as indispensable to intuitional perception, namely, abstinence from flesh-food and stimulants and whatever else might tend to impair the mental faculties. And so it came that, seeking ardently the highest truth for the highest ends, resolved to be content with nothing short of the highest, we found the mists and clouds disappear from our mental atmosphere and the heavens above – or rather, within – become clear, and we were able to project the perceptive point of our minds into those innermost regions of man’s system which constitute his permanent and divine part, the sphere, namely, of the Soul and Spirit, and so to come into open relations with the world of those who, having passed beyond the need for any physical environment, consist entirely of these two principles and have realised the divinity which is man’s proper birthright and destiny. These are they who are called ‘Gods’ and ‘Archangels.’ Representing the summits of human evolution, they constitute the Hierarchy of the Church invisible and celestial, and are the supreme agents of divine revelation, their function being to illuminate souls. And it was under such illumination that our teachings were received, being given expressly, not for ourselves merely, but for the restoration to the world of the truth of which its ecclesiastical systems represent either the grievous perversion or the total loss, their priests having materialised and made idolatrous and irrational, doctrines which, in their true and divinely intended sense, are purely spiritual and wholly reasonable, being founded in the nature of existence and comprehensible by those who to intellect add intuition, and seek truth in a pure spirit.
We were, moreover, enabled to recognise the restoration thus
made as the fulfilment of the numerous prophesies, Biblical and others, promising that precisely at the time, and under the conditions and in the manner in which it has actually occurred, such a revelation would be made.
There is one further remark to be made which bears immediately on the subject of the occasion. The method of the revelation thus received was entirely interior; this is to say, it consisted in our being enabled to recover knowledges acquired by our own Souls in past-earth lives as initiates of the sacred mysteries of antiquity, as well as in other states of being. Being related to and of like nature with the soul, such knowledges are retained by and stored up in the soul, constituting an everlasting possession, and are available on the condition that they be rightly sought for. For ‘Intuition is inborn experience; that which the soul knoweth of old, having learned it by experience.’
One word more. It is a noteworthy circumstance, and one that bears the aspect of being something much more than an accidental coincidence, that when the Founders of the Theosophical Society commenced the collaboration which had for its object the exposition of the mystical system which underlies the religions and sacred Scriptures of the East, we had already, a year or two before, and wholly unknown to them, commenced the collaboration which proved to have for its object the exposition of the mystical system which underlies the religions and sacred Scriptures of the West, namely, the Egyptian, the Greek, the Hebrew, and the Christian, all of which have proved to be modes of one and the same system of thought: the name given to our work by its inspirers being the ‘New Gospel of Interpretation,’ to denote that nothing new is told in it, but that only which is ancient is interpreted. It was only after the publication of our first book, The Perfect Way, which took place in 1881, (1) that we and the Founders of the Theosophical Society became aware of each other’s work, when they recognised the doctrine given to us as substantially identical with that received by them, a fact tending to shew that the human soul has in all times and places discerned one and the same truth.”
Reference has been made to Anna Kingsford’s illuminations. In 1881 she had a remarkable vision, wherein she was told that the three degrees of the heavens were purity of life, purity of heart,
and purity of doctrine. The vision is too long to fully relate here, but it is given at length in Clothed With the Sun. (1) In part of her vision she found herself within a temple, at the east end of which was a great altar, “from above and behind which came faintly a white and beautiful light, the radiance of which was arrested and obscured by a dark curtain suspended from the dome before the altar. And the body of the temple, which, but for the curtain, would have been fully illumined, was plunged in gloom, broken only by the fitful gleams of a few half-expiring oil-lamps, hanging here and there from the vast cupola.” In her account of the vision she says:
“At the right of the altar stood the same tall Angel I had before seen on the temple threshold, holding in his hand a smoking censer. Then, observing that he was looking earnestly at me, I said to him: ‘Tell me, what curtain is this before the light, and why is the temple in darkness?’ And he answered, ‘This veil is not One, but Three; and the Three are Blood, Idolatry, (2) and the Curse of Eve. (3) And to you it is given to withdraw them; be faithful and courageous; the time has come.’ Now the first curtain was red, and very heavy; and with a great effort I drew it aside, and said, ‘I have put away the veil of blood from before Thy Face. Shine, O Lord God!’ But a Voice from behind the folds of the two remaining coverings answered me, ‘I cannot shine, because of the idols.’ And lo, before me a curtain of many colours, woven about with all manner of images, crucifixes, madonnas, Old and New Testaments, prayer-books, and other religious symbols, some strange and hideous like the idols of China and Japan, some beautiful like those of the Greeks and Christians. And the weight of the curtain was like lead, for it was thick with gold and silver
embroideries. But with both hands I tore it away, and cried, ‘I have put away the idols from before Thy Face. Shine, O Lord God!’ And now the light was clearer and brighter. But yet before me hung a third veil, all of black; and upon it was traced in outline the figure of four lilies on a single stem inverted, their cups opening downwards. And from behind this veil the Voice answered me again, ‘I cannot shine, because of the Curse of Eve.’ Then I put forth all my strength, and with a great will rent away the curtain, crying, ‘I have put away her curse from before Thee. Shine, O Lord God!’
And there was no more a veil, but a landscape, more glorious and perfect than words can paint, a garden of absolute beauty, filled with trees of palm, and olive, and fig, rivers of clear water, and lawns of tender green; and distant groves and forests framed about by mountains crowned with snow; and on the brow of their shining peaks a rising sun, whose light it was I had seen behind the veils. And about the sun, in mid-air, hung white misty shapes of great Angels, as clouds at morning float above the place of dawn. And beneath, under a mighty tree of cedar, stood a white elephant, bearing in his golden howdah a beautiful woman robed as a queen, and wearing a crown. But while I looked, entranced, and longing to look for ever, the garden, the altar, and the temple were carried up from me into heaven.”
This book shows how faithfully and courageously Anna Kingsford fulfilled that part of her high and divine mission which was connected with the withdrawal of the Veils of Idolatry, and the Curse of Eve from before the face of God. In her and Edward Maitland’s Addresses and Essays on Vegetarianism, (1) I have shewn how, by attacking the practice, prevailing throughout Christendom, of sustaining life by flesh-eating, she set herself to the task of withdrawing the Veil of Blood; and I hope, shortly, to supplement the last-mentioned book by bringing out an edition of their Addresses and Essays on that worst of all crimes – Vivisection.
On the announcement in Light of the death of Anna Kingsford, the Hon. Roden Noel in a letter, dated 5th March 1888, to that paper said:
“She was surely one of the most gifted women of our day and generation. Her spiritual insight, her acute reasoning faculty, her knowledge in deep occult subjects, were most notably married to a very remarkable gift of luminous exposition, beautiful expression, and a vivid poetic imagination.
None who were privileged to hear her essays read at her own house, and at the rooms of the Royal Asiatic Society, in connection with the Hermetic Society, of which she was President, can easily forget them; their impression and influence are ineffaceable. (...) She, being dead, yet speaketh.” (Light, 1888, p. 119.)
Madame Isabel de Steiger – another member of the Society – said: “Truly she was a peerless and matchless woman, and there is no one to take her place. (...) In losing Anna Kingsford, we have lost one of the most excellent seeresses of modern times.” (Light, 1888, p. 119.)
The result to the Hermetic Society of Anna Kingsford’s death was that it forthwith fell into abeyance, (1) and it has never been revived.
Although written some years after her death, the following testimony of the late W. T. Stead is worthy of notice. In a review of The Life of Anna Kingsford he says: –
”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 wrath, 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 the ocean which lay behind.” (The Review of Reviews, 15th January 1896.)
And quite recently another well-known journalist – George R. Sims – in giving an account of his life, (“My Life,” by George R. Sims, in The Evening News, 2nd February 1916.) says of Anna Kingsford (who appears to have been a frequent visitor at his mother’s house): –
“Dr. Anna Kingsford was a lovely woman, with classical features and a mass of wonderful golden hair. I think she was the most beautiful ‘clever’ woman I have ever known.
She told me one evening at a dance at my mother’s house that she would like above all things to see a rehearsal of a pantomime, so I took her to the dress rehearsal of the Grecian pantomime, and George Conquest kindly gave me a box.
I could see that everyone on the stage was struck by the ethereal beauty of my companion. After the rehearsal was over, when I had gone behind to speak to Conquest, he told me that whenever he had looked at the box that evening he felt as if he were entertaining an angel unawares.
And then I told him that he had been.”
In a chapter on post-mortem experiences in The Life of Anna Kingsford, Edward Maitland relates the fulfilment of promises made by Anna Kingsford, to come to him after her death for the purpose of continuing their collaboration. On one occasion, on the 5th June 1889, he says, a message was received by him from her through Mrs. H–, a lady who, without being a medium in the sense of going under control, was in a remarkable degree clairvoyant and clairaudient to spiritual presences. The message was to the effect that she (Anna Kingsford) wished certain of her writings, “and, by-and-by, her Lectures on the Credo,” to be published: – her reason for desiring the postponement of the publication of such Lectures being that they were then in advance of people, but would not be so for long as people were themselves advancing. (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 406, 421.)
I first met Edward Maitland in 1894. He was then living alone, in Chambers, at Nº. 1 Thurloe Square Studios, Thurloe Square, South Kensington, London, and was busy writing The Life of Anna Kingsford – his magnum opus – and otherwise doing all he could to make known “the New Gospel of Interpretation” to which he had given the best years of his life. There was still much remaining for him to do, and time was short. His health was indifferent, his strength was failing, and at times he feared he would not live to complete his work. It was pathetic to see this man at the close of a long and arduous life, at a time when he should have been able to look for some rest, living alone and working hard in order that he might finish the work that he had undertaken or that had been given him to do. It was a labour of love. But there was no one who could have helped him even had he desired it, for his work was such that it could be done only by him. He alone had the requisite knowledge and ability. He alone was qualified for the task. The world owes a great debt of gratitude to Edward Maitland for this his last labour.
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”; and, he added:
“I am greatly curtailing in the same way also the account of our relations with the Theosophical Society, which I have related with much fullness, 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.” (1)
Notwithstanding drawbacks, the biography was, at length, completed, and in January 1896 it was published. Until then, though failing in health, he had retained his faculties and sufficient strength for his work; but, from that time, his decline – both mental and physical – was remarkably rapid, and it soon became evident to all who saw him that he was fast breaking up.
The strain of his work had been too much for him, or the effort to hold himself together being then no longer required, could no longer be continued. He had accomplished his task, he had lived to see the completion of his life-work, and he was now free to depart in peace to the place where he would be. So rapid was his decline that, after the lapse of a few months, he was not in a fit state to continue living alone without anybody (other than the housekeeper and his wife) to look after him, and many of his friends felt very anxious about him.
In the latter part of the year – I think it was in September – I went to the Studios to see him, when I was informed by the housekeeper that he was ill in bed, having had “a stroke,” and that he was not well enough to see anybody; and some short time afterwards, when I again called to learn how he was progressing, I was told that he had left London, and was staying with some friends in the country. The friends, I afterwards learnt, were Colonel and Mrs. Currie, who lived at Tonbridge, and their house proved to be his last home.
On the 22nd December I received from Mrs. Currie, who was then a stranger to me, a letter as follows: –
“THE WARDERS, TOMBRIDGE,
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,
C. G. CURRIE.”
I accepted Mrs. Currie’s invitation, and on the day following the receipt of her letter I went to “The Warders,” and there, for the last time, saw my friend, and was satisfied that Mrs. Currie’s description of his condition was correct. He was physically helpless. He could speak only with great difficulty, and his
words were so incoherent, that it was difficult to understand what he said. Conversation was impossible. His intelligence had gone. His body only lived. Psyche had fled. I do not think he knew me. None of us thought that he could continue for many days, but we were mistaken. He lingered on in this condition for some months, most of his time being passed in sleep. It was not until the 2nd October 1897 that he obtained the release for which he had so long waited. On the evening of that day, at the close of his seventy-third year, “he breathed his last, quite quietly and painlessly.” Thus ended the life of Anna Kingsford’s friend and collaborator – one of the best and most noble lives ever lived for God and humanity. And this is my testimony: When I was hungry, he gave me food; when I was thirsty, he gave me drink. It was he who put into my hands their book The Perfect Way, and to him and his dear colleague I owe more than I can repay. Those who would know more of him and Anna Kingsford and their work must read that wonderful biography – which is also an autobiography – which he spent his last years in writing.
When at Colonel Currie’s, realising Edward Maitland’s hopeless condition, it occurred to me that if he had left at the Studios any MSS. of value the same ought to be safeguarded, and I suggested that Colonel Currie was the proper person to take charge of them; but, not having any legal right or authority, he did not see his way to take any action in the matter; at the same time he wished me, on my return to London, to go to the Studios and ascertain if there were there any MSS. of value and to let him know. This I consented to do, and as soon as possible I went to the Studios, where I saw the housekeeper who, in reply to the questions I put to him, informed me that he was not aware of the existence of any MSS. at the Studios, and he thought it most unlikely that there should be any there, because, he said, Edward Maitland, immediately prior to his leaving for the country, had “spent three days in tearing up and burning old papers”; and, while he could not give me any information as to the nature of the papers that had been so destroyed, he left no doubt in my mind that the destruction had been wholesale. I paid one further visit to the Studios, thinking that, perhaps, in the meantime, something might have been discovered; but I learnt nothing fresh about any MSS., the housekeeper merely repeating what he had told me on the former occasion. On one of the above-mentioned visits – I forget which – he told me that,
in addition to the papers that had been burnt, Edward Maitland had thrown away a number of old newspapers, etc., which had been taken downstairs into the basement, and which were then being used for lighting fires; there were still some of them left, and if I cared to go down and look through them, I was welcome to do so, and should there be anything among them that would be of use to me, I was at liberty to take it. I availed myself of the invitation, and was shewn a large heap of papers – all printed material – which I went through, and picked out some numbers of Light and possibly some other papers that I thought might be of use to me, but there was little or nothing among the papers that I saw that was of any value. There were not among them any MSS. I reported to Mrs. Carrie the result of my visits, and there the matter ended.
On the 11th April 1897 Mrs. Carrie wrote to me: “I suppose you know that his chambers have now been emptied and the furniture disposed of. All his books are being stored by his niece for the time being, while all manuscripts, letters, and papers are with us to be taken over after his demise.” The above-mentioned letter was the first information I had of the facts therein referred to.
As already stated, Edward Maitland died on the 2nd October 1897. He died intestate, and, after his death, Colonel Currie, on behalf of those entitled, took possession of his effects. Soon afterwards, I was informed that Colonel Currie had received from the late Secretary of The Esoteric Christian Union (1) “a box presumably containing all the papers of the E.C.U.”; and a few months later, Colonel Currie asked me to take over all the E.C.U. papers that has been sent to him, and also the MSS. which had been left by Edward Maitland; and this I agreed to do, and in due course they were sent to me. The papers sent to me consisted of (inter alia) the MSS. of many of Edward Maitland’s Lectures – including those given by him to the Hermetic Society, – but they did not include the MSS. of any of Anna Kingsford’s Lectures to the Hermetic Society or otherwise, with the exception of a MS., in Edward Maitland’s handwriting, of Anna Kingsford’s Inaugural Address to the Hermetic Society.
In 1906 I purchased all Anna Kingsford’s copyrights, the purchase to include all her MSS., etc. The copyrights were duly
assigned, but no MSS. were handed over, as none could be found. On my agent enquiring of the Rev. A. G. Burton (formerly the Rev. A. G. Kingsford) (1) about them, he received a reply as follows:
“21st August 1906.
I have none of the MSS. you want. I should think Mr. Hart has them; as they were in possession of Mr. Maitland. I never had them. (...)
A. G. BURTON.”
In order to leave no stone unturned I, on the 8th September 1906, wrote to Colonel Currie, informing him of my purchase and of the assignment to me of Anna Kingsford’s copyrights; and, with reference to her MSS., I said:
“I am under the impression that you sent to me everything that was in E. M.’s possession in the nature of MSS., whether his or A. K.’s MSS. Will you kindly confirm this or otherwise, as it is now important that I should know where the MSS. are that are not in my possession? What I particularly want are A. K.’s MSS. of any Lectures given by her – particularly her Lectures on the Christian Creed given to the members of the Hermetic Society. Can you throw any light on the subject? If you can, it will be welcome. My idea is that poor E. M., when he was not responsible for his actions, just before he left London to go to stay with you, destroyed a great number of valuable papers under the impression that they were of no value, and I am afraid that he has destroyed the MSS. that are now wanted.”
In due course I received from Colonel Currie the following reply: –
“24th September 1906.
(...) We have none of the manuscripts of either Anna Kingsford or E. Maitland, or would send them to you. I think it is very likely that E. M., as you say, may have destroyed them, thinking them of no further value. – Yours truly,
Since then, and until recently, I have been endeavouring to trace the whereabouts of the missing MSS., but without success. That there must have been MSS. of Anna Kingsford’s Lectures
to The Hermetic Society I am convinced, because, it will be remembered, Anna Kingsford, on the 22nd July 1886, “re-read” to the Hermetic Society her third Lecture on the Creed (See Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 258.), and this she could not have done without a MS.; and, after her death, she desired her Lectures on the Creed to be published; and the Hon. Roden Noel wrote of her Lectures to the Hermetic Society as having been “read”; and Edward Maitland speaks of their “papers” as having been followed by discussions; and he says, “In acknowledging the receipt of the MSS. of some of our Hermetic Lectures, sent to her to read them in full, Mrs. Atwood wrote to me, etc.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 266) It would appear that the last-mentioned MSS. included MSS. of some of Anna Kingsford’s Lectures, because Edward Maitland uses the word “our.” Apart from evidence such as this, I do not think it possible that Anna Kingsford’s Lectures to the Hermetic Society could have been delivered on the spur of the moment without carefully prepared MSS. or notes of some kind to which to refer; and, assuming their existence, I have long believed that they were among the papers said to have been destroyed by Edward Maitland when he was in the failing condition of mind and body to which I have referred. At the same time, until the occurrence of a recent event about to be related, I never quite gave up hope of tracing their whereabouts, and partly for this reason I have delayed the bringing out of this book until the present time.
I must now relate my story. On the 9th February 1914 I received from a Mr. George Cripps, who was then unknown to me, a letter informing me that he had recently bought a copy of The Life of Anna Kingsford, the two volumes of which were “studiously pencil-marked,” and he thought that they might have belonged to Edward Maitland, and could I help him? I replied, asking him to come and see me at my office on the following Thursday afternoon. In a letter accepting my invitation, he informed me that he was “an old mystic student and a practical Pythagorean”; and that in the writings of Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland he had found all he wanted; and, he added, he was “clairvoyant, and especially so in the sleep-making condition.”
On the appointed day Mr. Cripps called on me as arranged,
and brought with him two second-hand volumes of the first edition of The Life of Anna Kingsford. They contained some marginal notes written in pencil, but not in the handwriting of Edward Maitland, nor were the notes of any value whatever. On returning to him the books, I said that, although they had been the means of bringing us together, I was sure that it was not in connection with them that he had come to see me, though, at the moment, I could not say for what purpose he had come. He then said that he felt the same, but he had been told by Anna Kingsford to come. For some time past he had wanted to come and see me, but until then he had not been allowed to do so. However, yesterday morning, at about 5 a.m., a picture of a harvest-field had been shewn to him in a vision, and Anna Kingsford had said to him: “Go and see Mr. Hart, and tell him of the picture you have seen; and give him this message: ‘The Harvest is Ripe; the Reapers are few.’” He gave me an account of his vision (which he promised to write out for me), but except for the above-mentioned command, it did not, at the time, appear to me to have any particular import. (1) He also told me that this was not the
first symbolic vision he had received, he had received other communications purporting to come from the same source, all which he had learnt to regard as authentic. In particular, he said it was through a similar communication that he had become the happy possessor of the two volumes which he then had with him. Having long wanted to possess a copy of the Life of Anna Kingsford, and not being able to afford it, he had mentally asked Anna Kingsford if she could help him to obtain the book, and, in answer to his request, she had come to him in sleep and told him that if he would go to a certain shop in a certain street in London he would find what he wanted. Acting on the information thus received, he, as soon thereafter as possible, went to the place indicated, and there he saw, and obtained at the low cost of 12s. 6d., a second-hand copy of the book. It was the only copy in the shop, and before he left, a clergyman entering and seeing the book offered him, £1, 1s. for it, which he declined. That was how he had come to possess his treasure. He had obtained it through information given to him by or purporting to come from Anna Kingsford.
The man was, apparently, sincere in all that he said, and – knowing the possibility of such communications – it occurred to me that if Anna Kingsford could so circumstantially direct him as to enable him to obtain possession of a certain book that he wanted, she could also direct him sufficiently to enable me to trace the whereabouts of her missing MSS. – assuming them to be in existence; and I thought it possible that she had sent him to me expressly for that purpose. So, without saying anything to Mr. Cripps about my fears as to their having been destroyed – for I did not want to influence his mind in any way – I told him that I was endeavouring to trace the whereabouts of some of Anna Kingsford’s MSS. which I had purchased but which could not be found; and (as it then came to me) I said: “Now I know why you have come to see me; it is to help me to trace the whereabouts of these missing MSS.”; and asked him, if possible, to obtain from Anna Kingsford replies to the following questions which I then wrote out and handed to him: “1) Have you any message for me? 2) Can you give me any information about your MSS.?” I also aske1d if Edward Maitland had any message for me. Mr. Cripps took the questions away with him, and promised to do his best for me, and if he should receive anything to let me know.
I did not see Mr. Cripps again until the beginning of April,
but during the remainder of the month I received from him several letters, written chiefly for the purpose of recording visions that he was receiving, but none of which was related to or connected with the one matter concerning which I desired information, and I began to think that, perhaps, after all, he would not be able to throw any light on the subject.
In one of his letters he asked me if I had ever had any idea that Edward Maitland might have put Anna Kingsford’s MSS. in her coffin and had them buried with her, to which I replied that I had never had any such idea, nor had I reason to suppose that such a thing had been done, because Edward Maitland would have required them when writing her Life, and the particular MSS. that I then sought would have been required for publication after her death.
From the 25th February until the 23rd March I did not receive any communication from him whatever, but on the morning of the 23rd March I received from him a letter as follows: –
“22nd March 1914.
DEAR MR. HART, – Alone in my den today. I am impressed to break the silent spell and ask if you have received any message (re our Quest), and to tell you that I have had one, but as I did not receive it personally, I have been waiting all this time expecting it to be verified thro’ myself. Up to the present, I am sorry to say, it has not.
My wife (who resides at Rowledge, Farnham, Surrey) was awakened from her sleep by a voice which said (Those papers of A. Kingsford’s, Mr. Maitland burnt them all). This occurred on the Thursday night Feb. 26. Thinking it over next day she decided not to say anything about it, but when she saw me as I entered the Cottage on the following Sat. evening, it was the first salute I had. To use her own words, it flew out of her. She tells me the voice was distinctly clear and external. The spiritual source of this voice she does not know more than she recognised it as the same one that has brought her a message on about five different occasions extending over a period of twenty-five years, all of them in relation to me, and three of them I only knew the truth of the message she received. I am not sure if I told you anything about her. She is a Natural Medium of an honest, truthful, and independent disposition. Not well read or studied at all in the Spiritualist’s Craft, and no leaning towards any form of religion. Knows nothing of
A. K. or E. M. works, except what I have told her. Lives rather a lonely life. Our girl, her cottage and garden is the sum total of her existence, but ever ready to give a helping hand if she can.
Now why this message should come in this way, rather puzzles me, as I have had several messages in the interim.
On receipt of this letter I at once wrote to Mr. Cripps and, for the first time, informed him of Edward Maitland’s failing condition of health after the publication of The Life of Anna Kingsford; and of my visit to the Studios, and what was then told me by the housekeeper; and that, taking these things into consideration, I felt that the message which his wife had received was true.
On the 26th March he wrote to me: “The message was confirmed by a vision this morning. I will write it out for you tonight. I am now convinced (it is true), and so far as I am concerned (personally) the search is over. It remains true for me until proved to the contrary.”
This letter was followed by another (written
on the same day) giving an account of his
In July 1915 I, for the first time, met Anna Kingsford’s only child – Eadith Kingsford – who told me that she had not and never had any of her mother’s MSS., nor did she know of the existence of any, but she had always understood that whatever MSS. (if any) her mother had left, were, in accordance with the provisions contained in her will, handed over to or left in the possession of Edward Maitland; and in confirmation of this, at my request she afterwards wrote to me as follows: –
“7th July 1915.
DEAR MR. HART, – You have asked me if I have in my possession or know the whereabouts of any of my mother’s MSS.
On my father’s death, in 1913, all the articles in his house that belonged to my mother were handed over to me, and there were not among such articles any MSS.
I have not and never had in my possession any of my mother’s MSS. I always understood that on her death all her MSS. were handed over to or retained by Edward Maitland, because my mother left to him a life interest in her writings. Apart from this, I do not know of the existence or whereabouts of any of my mother’s MSS. Yours sincerely, E. KINGSFORD.”
As stated, I had long previously come to the conclusion that the MSS. of Anna Kingsford’s Lectures on the Creed were among the papers destroyed by Edward Maitland, my belief being that he destroyed them under an overwhelming impulse that they were too sacred to be allowed after his death – which he then knew to be impending – to pass into the hands of any third person; and the message received through Mrs. Cripps, coupled with the information given to me by Miss Kingsford, has confirmed my opinion. To me, of course, the loss of these MSS. is irreparable. Had the Lectures been published, it would not have been so disastrous, because, in that case, the text at least would not have been lost. As it is, the best – the only – thing I could do was to give the “abstracts,” of them which were published in Light; and these, scanty though they be, are most precious, for, in addition to their authoritative value, they are, I believe, the only records that have come down to us of Anna Kingsford’s inspired Lectures on the Credo of Christendom. Though incomplete and fragmentary, and on that account difficult in places to follow, they nevertheless contain that which, so far as I know, is not elsewhere to be found in any literature. They are as “leaves given for the healing of the nations.” Those who have eyes that see and ears that hear will see and hear.
The question will be asked: What is the Hermetic Gnosis which the following Lectures are intended to expound, and of which Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland speak with such admiration and respect? Edward Maitland says:
“The Hermetic System may be summarised as follows: Spirit is the one real Being, of which all things are modes. Creation represents the manifestation of Spirit, by means of its descent or ‘fall’ into lower modes, of which matter is the lowest. But, inasmuch as matter is spirit, it can revert to its original condition of spirit. Such reversion constitutes Redemption; and this occurs in man by means of Regeneration, or the re-constitution of the individual of the higher mode of his own substance, wherein from consisting of material elements, he becomes constituted of spiritual elements, – that is, of pure soul substance, and Divine Spirit. Hermetic science consists in the systematisation of the process whereby this redemption by regeneration is accomplished.” (1)
In an admirable article on “The Hermetic Books” in The Virgin of the World, Edward Maitland says:
“Those who, enamoured of conventional methods, are unable to recognise any organon of knowledge except the superficial faculties, or any plane of knowledge transcending the range of those faculties, are necessarily intolerant of the idea that there has been in the world from the earliest times a system of esoteric and positive doctrine concerning the most hidden mysteries of Existence, of such a character, and so obtained as to fulfil all the conditions requisite to constitute a divine revelation. Nevertheless, this is the conclusion to which we have found ourselves compelled by sheer force of evidence, at once exoteric and esoteric. It is in Hindostan and Egypt that we find its earliest traces; (1) and if, as assuredly is the case, there are coincidences between the ancient doctrines of those lands and those of Greece, Judaea, and Christendom, (2) it is because the same truth has passed from people to people, everywhere finding recognition, and undergoing re-formulation
according to the genius of the time and place of its sojourn. And this, we may add, is a process which must inevitably continue until man has become either so far degenerate as to lose all care for and perception of truth; or so far regenerate as to attain to the full perception of it, and fix it for evermore as his most precious possession.”
In a further article – “The Hermetic System and the Significance of its Present Revival” – in the same book, he says:
“The system designated the Hermetic Gnosis – the earliest formulation of which, for the Western world, belongs to the prehistoric times of ancient Egypt – has constituted the core of all the religio-philosophical systems of both East and West, Buddhism and Christianity, among others, being alike intended as vehicles for and expressions of it, though the fact has been recognised by only the initiated few. The great school of scholastic mysticism which was the glory of the Church of the Middle Ages had, although unavowedly, the same basis. This school represented a strenuous and sustained endeavour to rescue religion from the exclusive domain of the historical and the ceremonial, and the control of a sacerdotalism, grossly materialistic and idolatrous, by restoring its proper intuitional and spiritual character. That the endeavour failed to secure a lasting success, and the Church of the Middle Ages continued to sink deeper and deeper into superstition, with its usual accompaniment of religious persecution, was due to no fault of the system itself. This requires for its reception, that the spiritual consciousness of the many should have attained a development hitherto possessed only by the few. And the world was not then ripe for a doctrine which represents reason in its highest mode.”
He then proceeds to give the following “general sketch” of the nature of the Hermetic Doctrine “which has played so important a part in the past, and bids fair to do as much, and even more, in the future.” He says: –
“Starting from the axiom that from nothing nothing comes, and recognising Consciousness as the indispensable condition of existence, the Gnosis, with resistless logic, derives all things from pure and absolute Being, itself unmanifest and unconditioned, but in the infinity of its plentitude and energy possessing and exercising the potentiality of manifestation and conditionment, and being, rather than having, life, substance, and mind, comprised in one Divine Selfhood, of which the universe is the manifestation.
Regarding all things as modes of consciousness, the Gnosis necessarily regards consciousness as subsisting under many modes, and as being definable as the property whereby whatever is, affects, or is affected in, itself; or affects, or is affected by, another; which is really to say, as constituting the things themselves. There is, thus, a mechanical consciousness, a chemical consciousness, a magnetic, a mental, a psychic, consciousness, and so on up to the divine, or absolute, consciousness. And whereas all proceed from this last, so all return to this last, in that every entity possesses the potentiality of it. Herein lies the secret of evolution, which is no other than the expression of the tendency of things to revert, by ascension, to their original condition – a tendency, and therefore an expression, which could have no being were the lowest or material mode of consciousness to be the original and normal mode.
By thus making matter itself a mode of consciousness, and therein of spirit (1) – spirit being absolute consciousness – the Gnosis escapes at once the difficulties which stand in the way of the conception of an original Dualism, consisting of principles inherently antagonistic; and also those which arise out of the kindred conception of non-consciousness as having a positive existence. All being modes of the One, no inherent antagonism, or essential difference, is possible; but that which is regarded as unconsciousness is but a lower mode of consciousness – consciousness reduced, so to speak, to a minimum, but still consciousness so long as it is. Total unconsciousness is thus not-being; and bears to consciousness the relation of darkness to light, the
latter alone of the two being, however reduced, positive entity, and darkness being non-entity.
However various the manifestations of the universal consciousness, or being, whether as regards its different planes, or its different modes on the same plane, they all are according to one and the same law, which, by its uniformity, demonstrates the unity of the informing spirit, or mind, which subsists eternally and independently of any manifestation. For, as said in the ‘Divine Pymander’ (B.V.): –
‘He needeth not to be manifested; for He subsisteth eternally.
‘But in that He is One, He is not made nor generated; but is unapparent and unmanifest.
‘But by making all things appear, He appeareth in all and by all; but especially is He manifested to or in those wherein he willeth.’
And again: –
‘The Essence of all is One.’
From the oneness of original Being comes, as a corollary, the law of correspondence between all planes, or spheres, of existence, in virtue of which the macrocosm is as the microcosm, the universal as the individual, the world as man, and man as God. ‘An earthly man,’ says The Key, ‘is a mortal God, and the heavenly God is immortal man.’ The same book, however, is careful to explain that by man is meant only those men who are possessed of the higher intelligence, or spiritual consciousness, and that to lack this is to be not yet man, but only the potentiality of man. It avoids also the error of anthropomorphism by defining Divinity to be, itself, neither life, nor mind, nor substance; but the cause of these.
Ignorance of God is pronounced to be the greatest evil, but God is not to be discerned in phenomena, or with the outer eye. The quest must be made within oneself. In order to know, man must first be. This is to say, he must have developed in himself the consciousness of all the planes, or spheres, of his fourfold nature, and become thereby wholly man. It is to his inmost and divine part, the spirit, that the mystery of existence appertains, since that is Pure Being, of which existence is the manifestation. And, as man can recognise without him that only which he has within him, it is essential to his perception of spiritual things that he be himself spiritual. ‘The natural man,’ says the Apostle Paul, following at once the Hermetists and the Kabalists, who are at one in both doctrine and method, and
differ only in form, ‘receiveth not the things of the Spirit, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned,’ that is, by the spiritual part in man. In such degree as man develops this consciousness he becomes an organon of knowledge, capable of obtaining certitude of truth, even the highest; and from being ‘agnostic’ and incapable of knowledge, he becomes ‘gnostic,’ or has the Gnosis, which consists in the knowledge of himself and of God, and of the substantial identity of the two.
From this it is obvious that what is demonstrated by the agnosticism of the present age, is simply the immaturity of its professors. This is to say, the philosophy of the day represents the conclusions of men who, how developed soever intellectually, are still rudimentary in respect of the spiritual consciousness, and fall short, therefore, of their spiritual and true manhood – the manhood which belongs to the highest plane. Being to such extent not human but sub-human, and ignorant of the meaning and potentialities of man, they confound form with substance, and mistake the exterior and phenomenal part of man for man himself, and imagine accordingly that to gratify this part is necessarily to benefit the man, no matter how subversive of the real humanity the practices to which they have recourse. Out of this condition of spiritual darkness the Gnosis lifts man, and, giving him the supreme desideratum – which it is the object of all divine revelation to supply – a definition of himself, demonstrates to him, with scientific certainty, the supremacy of the moral law, and the impossibility either of getting good by doing evil, or of escaping the penalty of the latter. The attempt to get good by evil doing only puts him back, making his fate worse. The doctrine of Karma is no less Hermetic than Hindu, the equivalent term in the former being Adrasté, a goddess to whom is committed the administration of justice. In the Greek Pantheon she appears as Nemesis and Hecate. They all represent the inexorable law of cause and effect in things moral, in virtue of which man’s nature and conditions in the future are the result of the tendencies voluntarily encouraged by him in the past and present.
The Hermetic method to the attainment of perfection, on whatever plane – physical, intellectual, moral, or spiritual – is purity. Not merely having, but being, consciousness, man is man, and is percipient according to the measure in which he is pure; perfect purity implying full perception, even to the seeing of God, as the Gospels have it. In the same proportion he has
also power. The fully initiated Hermetist is a Magian, or man of power, and can work what to the world seem miracles, and those on all planes – physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual – by force of his own will. But his only secret of power is purity, as his only motive is love. For the power with which he operates is spirit, and spirit is keen and mighty in proportion as it is pure. Absolutely pure spirit is God. Hence the miracles of the Magian, as distinguished from the magician, are really worked by God – the God in and of the man.
A word on the organon of Hermetic knowledge. This is emphatically the mode of the mind termed the intuition. (1) Following this in its centripetal course, man comes into such relations with his own essential and permanent self – the soul – as to be able to receive from her the knowledges she has acquired of divine things in the long ages of her past. But this implies no disparagement to the mind’s other and centrifugal mode, the intellect. This also must be developed and trained to the utmost, as the complement, supplement, and indispensable mate of the intuition – the man to its woman. Perfecting and combining these two, and only thus, man knows all things (2) and perpetuates himself. For he knows God, and to know God is to have, and to be, God, and the ‘gift of God is eternal life.’
A foremost Hermetic doctrine is that of the soul’s multiple re-births into a physical body. Only when the process of regeneration – an Hermetic term – is sufficiently advanced to enable the spiritual entity, which constitutes the true individual, to dispense with further association with the body, is he finally
freed from the necessity of a return into materiality. The doctrine of correspondence here finds one of its most striking illustrations, but one which nevertheless was wholly missed by the chief modern restorer and exponent of that doctrine, Emanuel Swedenborg. This is the correspondence in virtue of which, just as the body uses up and sheds many times its external covering of integument, plumage, shell, or hair, to say nothing of its artificial clothing, so the soul wears out and sheds many bodies. The law of gravitation, moreover, pervades all planes, the spiritual as well as the physical; and it is according to his spiritual density that the plane of the individual is determined, and his condition depends. The tendency which brings a soul once into the body, must be exhausted before the soul is able to dispense with the body. The death of the body is no indication that the tendency has been overcome, so that the soul will not be again attracted to earth. But it is only the soul that thus returns; not the magnetic or ‘astral’ body which constitutes the external personality.
Such is the rationale of the orthodox doctrine of transmigration, according alike to the Hermetic, the Kabalistic, and the Hindu systems. It permeates, occultly, the whole of the Bible, and is implied in the teaching of Jesus to Nicodemus, the whole of which, as is also the entire Christian presentation, is, in its interior sense, Hermetic. Not that the new birth insisted on by Jesus is other than purely spiritual; but it involves a multiplicity of physical re-births as necessary to afford the requisite space and experiences for the accomplishment of the spiritual process declared to be essential to salvation. Seeing that regeneration must – as admitted by Swedenborg – have its commencement while in the body, and must also be carried on to a certain advanced stage before the individual can dispense with the body, and also that it denotes a degree of spiritual maturity far beyond the possibility of attainment in a single, or an early, incarnation; it is obvious that without a multiplicity of re-births to render regeneration possible, the Gospel message would be one, not of salvation, but of perdition, to the race at large. What is theologically termed the ‘forgiveness of sins’ is dependent upon the accomplishment in the individual of the process of regeneration, of which man, as Hermetically expressed, has the seed, or potentiality, in himself, and in the development of which he must co-operate. Doing this, he becomes ‘a new creature,’ in that he is re-born, not of corruptible matter,
but of ‘water and the spirit,’ namely, his own soul and spirit purified and become divine. Thus reconstituted on the interior and higher plane of the spirit, he is said to be born of the ‘Virgin Mary’ and the ‘Holy Ghost.’
While purely mystical and spiritual, as opposed to historical and ceremonial, the Hermetic system is distinguished from other schools of mysticism by its freedom from their gloomy and churlish manner of regarding nature, and their contempt and loathing for the body and its functions as inherently impure and vile; (1) and so far from repudiating the relations of the sexes, it exalts them as symbolising the loftiest divine mysteries, and enjoins their exercise as a duty, the fulfilment of which, in some at least of his incarnations, is essential to the full perfectionment and initiation of the individual. It is thus pervaded by an appreciation of beauty and joyousness of tone which at once assimilates it to the Greek, and distinguishes it from the Oriental, conception of existence, and so redeems mysticism from the reproach – too often deserved – of pessimism. The Hermetist, like the Prophet who found God in the sea’s depths and the whale’s belly, recognises divinity in every region and department of nature. And seeing in ‘ignorance of God the greatest of all evils,’ (2) he seeks to perfect himself, not simply in order the sooner to escape from existence as a thing inherently evil, but to make himself an instrument of perception capable of ‘seeing God’ in every region of existence in which he may turn his gaze. The pessimism ascribed to some Hermetic utterances, especially in the ‘Divine Pymander,’ is but apparent, not real, and implies only the comparative imperfection of existence as contrasted with pure and divine being.
It is to this end that the renunciation of flesh as food is insisted on, as in the ‘Asclepios.’ Belonging neither by his physical nor his moral constitution to the order of the carnivora, man can be the best that he has it in him to be only when his system is cleansed and built up anew of the pure materials derived from the vegetable kingdom, and indicated by his structure as his natural diet. The organon of the beatific vision is the intuition. And not only is the system, when flesh-fed, repressive of this faculty, but the very failure of the individual to recoil from violence and slaughter as a means of sustenance or gratification is an indication of his lack of this faculty.
In no respect does the Hermetic system shew its unapproachable superiority to the pseudo-mystical systems than in its equal recognition of the sexes. True it is that the story of the Fall is of Hermetic origin; but it is no less true that this is an allegory, having a significance wholly removed from the literal, and in no way implying blame or inferiority, either to an individual or to a sex. Representing an eternal verity of divine import, this allegory has been made the justification for doctrines and practices in regard to women which are altogether false, unjust, cruel, and monstrous, and such as could have proceeded only from elementary and sub-human sources.
In conclusion. All history shews that it is to the restoration of the Hermetic system in both doctrine and practice that the world must look for the final solution of the various problems concerning the nature and conduct of existence, which now – more than at any previous time – exercise the human mind. For it represents that to which all enquiry – if only it be free enquiry, unlimited by incapacity, and undistorted by prejudice – must ultimately lead; inasmuch as it represents the sure, because experimental, knowledges, concerning the nature of things which, in whatever age, the soul of man discloses whenever he has attained full intuition. Representing the triumph of free-thought – a thought, that is, which has dared to probe the consciousness in all directions, outwards and downwards to matter and phenomena, and inwards and upwards to spirit and reality – it represents also the triumph of religious faith, in that it sees in God the All in All of Being; in Nature, the vehicle for the manifestation of God; and in the Soul – educated and perfected through the processes of Nature – the individualisation of God.”
Speaking of the evil of flesh-eating, Anna Kingsford, in a note to the “Asclepios on Initiations,” says: –
“The key to the Hermetic Secret is found when the aspirant adopts the Edenic Life: the life of purity and charity which all mystics – Hebrew, Egyptian, Buddhist, Greek, Latin, Vedic, with one consent, ascribe to man in the golden age of his primeval perfection. The first outcome of the Fall, or Degeneracy, is the shedding of blood and eating of flesh. The license to kill is the sign-manual of ‘Paradise Lost.’ And the first step towards ‘Paradise Regained’ is taken when man voluntarily returns to the manner of life indicated by his organism as that alone befitting him, and thus reunites himself to the harmony of Nature and the Will of God. No man who follows this path and
faithfully keeps to it will fail to find at length the Gate of Paradise. Not necessarily in a single life-time, for the process of purification is a long one, and the past experiences of some men may be such as to shut them out for many lives from the attainment of the promised land. But, nevertheless, every step faithfully and firmly trodden brings them nearer to the goal, every year of pure life increasingly strengthens the spirit, purges the mind, liberates the will, and augments their human royalty. On the other hand, it is idle to seek union with God in the Spirit, while the physical and magnetic organism remains insurgent against Nature. Harmony must be established between man and Nature before union can be accomplished between man and God. For Nature is the manifest God; and if man be not in perfect charity with that which is visible, how shall he love that which is invisible? Hermetic doctrine teaches the kinship and solidarity of all beings, redeemed and glorified in man. For man does not stand aloof and apart from other creatures, as though he were a fallen angel dropped from some supernal world upon the earth, but he is the child of earth, the product of evolution, the elder brother of all conscient things; their lord and king, but not their tyrant. It is his part to be to all creatures a Good Destiny; he is the keeper, the redeemer, the regenerator of the earth. If need be, he may call on his subjects to serve him as their king, but he may never, without forfeiting his kingship, maltreat and afflict them. All the children of God, in every land and age, have abstained from blood, in obedience to an occult law which asserts itself in the breast of all regenerate men. The mundane Gods are not averse to blood, for by means of it they are invigorated and enabled to manifest. For the mundane Gods are the forces of the astral element in man, which element dominates in the unregenerate. Therefore, the unregenerate are under the power of the stars, and subject to illusion. Inasmuch as a man is clean from the defilement of blood, insomuch he is less liable to be beguiled by the deceptions of the astral serpent. Therefore, let all who seek the Hermetic secret do their utmost to attain to the Hermetic life. If entire abstinence from all forms of animal food be impossible, let a lower degree be adopted, admitting the use of the least bloody meats only – milk, fish, eggs, and the flesh of birds. But in such a case, let the intention of the aspirant be continually united with that of Nature, willing with firm desire to lead, whenever
possible, a yet more perfect life; so that in a future birth he may be enabled to attain to it.” (The Virgin of the World, pp. 94-95.)
Reference has been made to the fourfold nature of Man. This is in accord with the Hermetic division, which was adopted by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland. But Man may also be regarded as threefold and as sevenfold. The Spiritualists generally adopt a threefold division of Body, Mind, and Spirit (which last must be understood to include Soul). Those who follow the esoteric teaching of the East as distinct from that of the West, adopt a sevenfold division. The different divisions are not, of course, contradictory to nor are they inconsistent with each other, and with the object of shewing how the fourfold and sevenfold divisions agree, I give the following table (See The Theosophist for October 1881 and April 1884 (Supplement, p. 58); and The Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 73-74.), which may be of use: –
THE CONSTITUTION OF MAN
EXTERIOR MAN (1)
1. Physical Body.
1. Material Body (Sthûla-sharîra), composed wholly of matter in its grossest and most tangible form.
2. Vitality (Jív-âtma). Vital-Principle. Physical-Force. Nerve-Force. Animal-Vitality.
2. Astral Body (Nephesh) or Fluidic Shape. Shade. Magnetic Body. Odic or Sidereal Body. Closely connected with the Mundane Mind and Outer Reason (Ruach).
3. Astral Body (Linga-sharîra) composed of highly etherialised matter. The lowest mode of Soul-substance. The Sex-body.
4. Animal Soul or Desiring Mind (Kârma-rûpa). Related to all Covetous longings or Concupiscence.
5. Intellectual Soul or Mind (Manas). The Personality. The Earthly Mind. Concerned in the attainment of science related to physical things. The seat of the Outer Reason and of the Material Memory, Abilities, Affections, Cares, and Acquirements. The Anima bruta. Is shed at death with the body and the shade.
3. Soul (Neshamah).
6. Spiritual Soul, Mind, or Consciousness (Buddhi). The Divine Idea. The Individuality. The true Man. The Ego. Psyche. The Anima Divina. Vehicle of Âtma. By nature eternal. Retains the celestial memory, and transmigrates.
4. Spirit (Jechidah).
7. Spirit (Âtma). An emanation of the Absolute. Being. The Supreme Reason. Wisdom. God. (Cochmah). Spiritual Word or Logos of the Man. The Nous. Uncreated and Eternal.
Of the above, the Material Body represents that which is physical and vital; the Astral Body, that which is animal and intellectual; the Soul, that which is moral and human; and the Spirit, that which is spiritual and divine.
It has been said that the intuition is the organon of Hermetic knowledge, such knowledge being derived from the soul of the man and not from extraneous sources. This truth is most clearly stated in one of Anna Kingsford’s Illuminations (“Concerning Inspiration and Prophesying”, Clothed With the Sun, pt. i., Illumination Nº. ii. pt. i.), as follows: –
“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. (1)
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, shewing 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.” (1)
In 1882 Edward Maitland took part in a controversy on Inspiration, which was carried on in the pages of Light, (2) and in reply to some of the writers who contended that extraneous spirits were the sources of inspiration and divine knowledge, he said: –
“It is to the spirit of the man himself, and not to any extraneous influences, that the only true illumination is due. (...) Man himself not merely has, but is a Spirit, and does not necessarily lose his spiritual powers by his investment with a material body. The human organism is not a mere instrument dependent upon any chance wandering influences which may alight upon it. It is the peculiar habitat and mode of manifestation of an incarnated portion of Divinity, and it is through the unfoldment within him of the powers of this, his own fixed, indwelling Spirit, that he finds his true inspiration, and not through the suppression of this in favour of strangers. And yet even more than this. Even where under the overshadowing of some separate Spirit – often it may be the phantom of one of his own past selves – he finds fresh and valuable knowledge, it is due, not to actual
suggestion proceeding from such entity, but to the fact that under such magnetism he is lifted into a sphere of his own system not ordinarily accessible to him, and enabled to regain the forgotten perceptions and recollections of his own soul. Such is the nature and method of ‘inspiration’: the quality varying according to the degree of purity of the individual’s mind and life.
. . . . . . . .
“To the question, ‘How many of our past selves are in existence?’ The Perfect Way replies, ‘A single Neshamah’ (or Anima Divina – the past of the man which becomes re-incarnate) ‘may have as many of these former selves in the astral light as a man may have changes of raiment.’ And the reason why ‘the (interior and higher) spheres of our own systems are not ordinarily accessible to us,’ is that we are accustomed to live so much in the outer and lower as to incapacitate ourselves for the requisite aspiration; or, in biblical language, because ‘our conversation is not in heaven’ – the celestial kingdom within us – but on earth, the bodily and material part.
. . . . . . . .
Granting the fact that a clairvoyant can see the Guardian Angel of a person actually inspiring him with words, or more correctly, probably, with thoughts, it still remains to be known what, precisely, is the nature of such angel and its relation to its ‘client,’ before it can be decided whether the source of the inspiration is extraneous or interior to the latter. Now on this point The Perfect Way speaks explicitly, with a clearness and fullness which leaves nothing to be desired. And it declares the proper Guardian Angel, or ‘genius,’ of a person to be no extraneous Spirit, but a function of that person’s own system, whose business it is to act as a connecting link of communication between him and his own Divine, informing Spirit – a moon, as it were, to reflect the sun to the planet man, each (spiritualised) person having such ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ in himself, the human system being complex. (...) In regard to the attainment of knowledge through the operation of a ‘past self,’ it is not in such phantom that the knowledge in question mainly resides, but in the re-embodied soul itself of the man, which, under the reflective influence of one of such phantoms –always present in his system – is able to regain the memory of the experiences appertaining to the particular incarnation represented by it. (1) It is,
of course, possible to hold intercourse with Spirits other than one’s own; but this is not ‘inspiration,’ but conversation only. And no such Spirit, however friendly and assiduous, is in the true sense a ‘Guardian Angel.’ Inspiration, in the highest sense, comes only from the central Spirit, or ‘God,’ of the man, either directly or through his ‘genius.’ (1) And since all that is done by what is called Influx is to illuminate – not to inform – the soul of the recipient, the knowledge obtained under such illumination depends upon the quantity and quality of the experiences already possessed by such soul. Where this is young and inexperienced, the lamp of the Spirit can but light up a comparatively empty chamber. Hence the absolute necessity of experience to the soul’s progress; and hence, also, the absolute necessity of a multiplicity of re-births on the material plane, in order to obtain the experiences of which alone come maturity and final emancipation from matter. (...) Of man’s fourfold nature, his celestial part alone it is which undergoes re-incarnation, and only when the consciousness of this part is attained does the individual find in himself the proofs of his previous existences. Consisting, as do these proofs, in personal memories, they are incapable of communication to others, since no one can transfer his memory to another. So that the only way to obtain the desired verification of the great doctrine at issue, is by so living, in thought and deed, as to hasten the time when between his inner and outer
man shall be such closeness of intercommunion as will enable his Spirit to ‘bring all things to remembrance.’”
The letters written by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland in the controversy which took place in Light on “The Historic ‘Jesus’” are of very great interest. In this connection, Anna Kingsford had, in 1881, been the recipient of Illuminations “Concerning the Gospels; their Origin and Composition,” and “Concerning the Actual Jesus.” In the former Illumination Anna Kingsford, speaking in trance, said: –
“I am looking at the inside of the Serapeum at Alexandria. The temple is connected with a library which, as I see it, is still there, neither dispersed nor burnt, but filled with manuscripts, – mostly rolls upon sticks. I see a council of many men sitting at a table in the room of the library, and I see a number of names, as Cleopatra, Marcus Antonius, and others. This is called the second library of Alexandria, the former having been destroyed under Julius Cesar. The nucleus of this one was the gift of Antony to Cleopatra, who added to it and improved it immensely, till it contained all the existing literature of the world; and – why, they are deliberately concocting Christianity out of the books there! and, so far as I can see, the Gospels are little better than Ovid’s Metamorphoses (historically, I mean) – so deliberately are they making up the new religion by replanting the old on the Jewish system.
Write down these names and the dates which are specially shown me. Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, and Ambrosius. A.D. 390, B.C. 286. This last is the date at which the library was first of all got together. A.D. 390 is the date of the chief destruction of the documents out of which the new religion was made. If they could be recovered we should have absolute proof of its concoction from Hindu, Persian, and other originals; – the interpolations, extracts, and alterations proving this. They shew, too, that the name first adopted for the typical man was more like Krishna, and that Jesus was a later choice, adopted at Jewish suggestion, in order to suit a Jewish hero. The system was long under formation, and it took all that time to perfect. Every detail of the Gospel history is invented, the number of the apostles, and all the rest. Nothing is historical in the sense supposed.
I see the Serapeum destroyed; – not only the library but the
temple, so fearful were they of leaving any trace of the concoction. It was destroyed by Christians at the instigation especially of Theodosius, Ambrosius, and Theophilus. Their motive was a mixed one, each of the leaders having a different aim. The object of the concocters themselves was to sustain and continue the ancient faith by transplanting it to a new soil, and engrafting it on Judaism. The object of Theophilus was to make the new religion the enemy and successor of the old, by making it appear to have an independent basis and origin. Ambrose destroyed the library in order to confute the Arians by leaving it to appear that Christianity had an origin altogether supernatural. The concocters themselves did not intend it to be regarded as supernatural, but as representing the highest human. And they accordingly fixed and accumulated upon Jesus all that had been told of previous Christs – Mithras, Osiris, Krishna, Buddha, and others, – the original draft containing the doctrine of the transmigration of souls most explicitly and distinctly. The concoction was undertaken in order to save religion itself from extinction through the prevalence of materialism, – for the times corresponded in this respect exactly to the present. And the plan was to compose out of all the existing systems one new and complete, representing the highest possibilities and satisfying the highest aspirations of humanity.
The great loss, then, is not that of the first but that of the second library of Alexandria. The Serapeum was destroyed by Christians in order to prevent the human origin of their religion from being ascertained. The object was to have it believed that it all centred in one particular actual person, and was not collected and compiled from a multiplicity of sources.
All the conversations in the Gospels were fabricated by the aid of various books in order to illustrate and enforce particular doctrines. I cannot recognise the language of many of the ancient manuscripts used. The Latin ones which I see are all in capitals, and without any division between the words, so that they look like one long word.
I am shewn the actual scene of the destruction of the library and dispersion of the books. There is a dreadful tumult. The streets of Alexandria are filled with mobs of people shouting and hastening to the spot. They do not know the real object. They have been told that the library contains the devil’s books, which, if allowed to remain, will be the means of destroying Christianity. The noise and tumult are dreadful. I cannot bear it; pray recall
me, it hurts me so. It is extraordinary how exactly alike the two times are both politically and religiously. Everything established is breaking up in both; and that which comes out of each is the fuller revelation of the divine Idea of Humanity. All works for us and the new revelation. But the world suffers terribly in the birth. Afterwards things gradually become much better.” (Clothed With the Sun, pt. i. Illumination Nº. xxxii.)
In her Illumination “Concerning the Actual Jesus,” Anna Kingsford, also speaking in trance, said: –
“I am shewn that there is but little of real value in the Scriptures. They are a mass of clay, comparatively modern, with here and there a bit of gold. The Angel whom I saw before, and who told us to burn the Bible, now puts it in the fire, and there comes out a few pages only of matter which is original and divine. All the rest is interpolation or alteration. This is the case with both Old Testament and New. (...) Here and there is an original piece of the ancient Revelation, but these are largely interspersed with additions and embellishments, commentaries, and applications to the times by copyists and interpreters. And when the Angel told us to put the Bible in the fire, he meant separate the gold from the dross and clay. (...) As for the Gospels, they are almost entirely parabolical. Religion is not historical, and in nowise depends upon past events. For, faith and redemption do not depend upon what any man did, but on what God has revealed. Jesus was not the historical name of the initiate and adept whose story is related. It is the name given him in initiation. (...) The Scriptures are addressed to the soul, and make no appeal to the outer senses. The whole story of Jesus is a mass of parables, the things that occurred to him being used as symbols. (...) The gospel life of Jesus is made up of the lives of all the divine teachers before him, and represents the best the world had then, and the best it has in it to be. And it is therefore a prophecy. The recorded life of Jesus epitomised all the teachers before him, and the possibilities of mankind some day to be realised.” (1)
I have long believed that these wonderful illuminations received by Anna Kingsford contain the best answer that can be given concerning the origin of the Gospels, and I have recently received what I cannot but regard as a remarkable corroboration. Some few months ago my wife gave to me a book called The Restored New Testament, by James Morgan Pryse. It was published in New York and in London in 1914, and it is in every respect a remarkable book. It claims to give “The Hellenic Fragments [in the New Testament], freed from the pseudo-Jewish Interpolations.” In his Preface, Mr. Pryse says that the text of the Gospels is not in its primitive form, – the founders of the Christian Church having deliberately falsified it throughout. But, he says, freed from these falsifications:
“(…) the allegory of the Crucified is Hellenic in form, and embodies in its simple majesty the profoundest truths of archaic religion. (...) All those portions of the New Testament which may be regarded as genuine are, with the exception of a few fragments of the Epistles, prose plagiaries from ancient Greek sacred poems, the allegorical dramas forming part of the ritual in the Mysteries; and all the passages by which the Jesous-mythos is connected with the Old Testament, staged in Judaea, and given a semblance of historicity, are the work of forgers, who employed stolen notes of the Greek Mystery-ritual in fabricating a ‘sacred’ scripture upon which to found a new religion.”
Thus, the Apocalypse is by Mr. Pryse treated as a prose version of a Greek Mystery-poem; but, regarding this, he says, “the version seems to have been made with honest motives by a writer conversant with the esoteric meaning of the original, and who presumably gave it a superficially Jewish colouring to preserve it from being destroyed by the fanatics of the new faith, who were endeavouring to suppress everything in ancient literature which betrayed, or tended to prove, the fact that the new religion they had invented and instituted was founded on a fabricated ‘history,’ and was merely a travesty of the older religions.” Further, in his Introduction to the Anointing of Jesous – referring to the Synoptic Gospels – he says:
“The original source from which they were drawn is considered to have been an allegorical drama which formed part of the ritual of the Greek Mysteries. (...) Judging by portions of the text, the original drama was a superb poem; but the compilers of the Synoptic Gospels had only incomplete prose notes of it, presumably made from memory, and these notes they could have obtained only by dishonourable means.”
I first read the above-mentioned Preface and Introduction one evening just before going to bed. When reading them, I could not help remarking how much there was in common between Mr. Pryse’s theory concerning the origin of the Gospels, and Anna Kingsford’s Illuminations on that subject. I was particularly struck with Mr. Pryse’s theory of the Gospels being founded on an allegorical drama which formed part of the ritual of the Greek Mysteries. I went to bed with these thoughts uppermost in my mind, and was soon asleep. It is not usual for me after going to sleep to wake until it is time to get up; and, so far as I know, I have never in my life walked in my sleep, and I have no reason to believe that I did so on this night, in fact, I am sure I did not – had I done so it would certainly have waked my wife, who was with me, and who is a very light sleeper. Well, in the middle of the night I was surprised to find myself, without any apparent cause, wide awake. My wife was fast asleep by my side. Both my arms were under the bed-clothes, and there was not a movement in the bed or in the room. It was dark, and all was still and quiet. Under these conditions I suddenly felt something come into one of my hands, both of which were empty. On feeling this, I immediately closed my hand, when, to my surprise, I found that I was holding a key. How it came into my hand I do not know, and I have no theory to offer. I simply relate the fact. My first thought was, “How came this key into my hand? Am I awake or am I asleep? Am I in my right mind or am I dreaming?” But no sooner had these thoughts passed through my mind – which they did in far less time than I can tell them – than I knew the meaning of what had happened, for these words came to me with great force, filling my mind: “You have the key,” – meaning thereby: “You have in Anna Kingsford’s Illuminations and in Mr. Pryse’s theory the key to the origin of the Gospels.” I was certain that this was what I was intended to understand, and that it was true. In order that there should not be any doubt as to the reality of my experience, I put the key under my pillow, saying to myself, “If I find it there when I wake in the morning, I shall know that I have not been dreaming.” On waking, my first thought was “the key”; I felt under my pillow, and there I found it. I had not been dreaming. It was a small iron key which, my wife informed me, belonged to a drawer in another room, and which she had on the previous night, before going to bed, put on her dressing-table which stood at the other end of
our bedroom. My wife assured me that she did not take the key to bed with her, and I am positive that I did not take it to bed with me. I did not even know that it was in the room – or, indeed, of its existence, – until it came into my hand in the manner related.
I will conclude with an extract from one of the Lectures given by Edward Maitland to the Hermetic Society, when he gave a master-key for the interpretation of Holy Scripture and the dogmas of the Catholic Church. At the close of his Lecture on “Revelation as the Supreme Common Sense,” he said: –
“To the interpretation of all mystic symbols, whether they be creeds, dogmas, ceremonial rites, images, scriptures, or edifices, the key is one and the same. And it is twofold, having two parts which are expressed in two words. These are Now and Within. The first of them implies that Religion is not a thing relating to history, whether in the past, present, or future, but is an ever-occurring actuality, an eternal verity, representing for every man one and the self-same process, inherent in the nature of existence, and necessary to be enacted in each man in its entirety, irrespective of all other men whatsoever. So that, were there but one man in existence, the whole stupendous drama of Creation, Fall, Incarnation, Atonement, and Redemption, to their minutest details as set forth in the Christian history and symbology, would be enacted in his case precisely as for an universe of men. This is because it relates, not to particular men, but to Man.
The other term of the key, the word Within, implies that Religion is purely interior, mystic, spiritual, and addressed, therefore, not to the body and lower reason – though finding manifestation through these – but to the soul, and has no concern with persons, events, or other things belonging to the external and historical plane – ‘which things,’ as St. Paul says, ‘are an allegory’ – that to which it relates being the spiritual nature of man.
This being so, it is not with the faculties of the superficial or external man that the Mysteries of Religion can be comprehended, or its verities discerned; not even if such man be what is called a ‘religious man,’ however devoted and sincere. For, it is not to mere pious zeal, but to ‘zeal according to knowledge,’ that the discernment of Divine things appertains.
The prevailing diversity of interpretation and the
consequent multiplicity of sects which divide and distract Christendom, are due to the ignorance of this fact. Humanity is brimming over with love and piety and zeal, and eager to do God and man service. But, for want of knowledge, its enthusiasm and force are wasted, or worse than wasted, and all parties are engaged in fighting or circumventing each other, instead of combining against the common foe, the demon at once of negation and superstition. Meanwhile, the Truth which alone can save and make free is in our midst, shut up in Bible parable – mistaken for history – and in Church symbol and formula, because the common sense which originally discerned and formulated it has long ceased to interpret it.
St. Paul, so hard, apparently, upon woman on the social plane, does her full justice on the spiritual plane, when he declares that ‘the man is not without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord.’ For in this he admits the necessity of both the man and the woman to the comprehension of Divine things. The intellect and intuition, which are the man and woman of the mind, must co-operate to the production of the divine child, Truth. And to separate them is to destroy the equilibrium of the universe. For, alone, intellect rushes outwards to the void of negation; and, alone, intuition rises into the spiritual only to become a prey to superstition. However genuine the religious instinct, the mind must always retain its force, or, like the lion who, to please the princess, consented to have his claws cut, and was thereupon torn to pieces by jackals, it will be impotent to defend itself from the meanest adversary. (...)
Nevertheless, the symbols we have loved need not be cast aside, but may still remain as forms to enclose the living spirit, if only we are careful to remember that they are but forms. For, remembering this, and cherishing them only as forms, they will be so transmuted as to permit the indwelling reality to shine forth from within them, and will, therefore, be no longer as cerements of the historical and dead, but as robes of the ever-living garments of God, transmitting, even while veiling, the brightness of the divine glory.
And if to some the proposed task appear as a vain attempt to resuscitate the dead and decayed, we would point, in answer, to the apologue of Ezekiel as at once an encouragement and, possibly, an anticipation. Here are the prophet’s words. Let
us suppose the creeds and other symbols of the Churches to be the dry bones: –
‘The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones. (...) and, lo, they were very dry.
‘And he said unto me, Son of Man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, Thou knowest.
‘And again he said unto me, prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
‘Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
‘And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. (...)
‘So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.’” (Ezekiel xxxvii. 1-10.)
SAMUEL HOPGOOD HART.
CROYDON, October 1916.
[S. H. H. are the initials of the author of this Biographical Preface: SAMUEL HOPGOOD HART.]
(2:1) In the case of her Lectures on the Creed, I have been able to give only abstracts of such Lectures, the original MSS. (if any) thereof having been lost or destroyed. The Articles and Letters which are given in this volume have been to a great extent taken from Light. Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland are said to have been “the ablest contributors that Light ever had”. (Mad. de Steiger in a letter to Light, 1886, p. 71). – S. H. H.
(2:2) The Life of Anna Kingsford, by Edward Maitland, in two large volumes: first edition, 1896; third edition, complete with additions, 1913. All references in this book to The Life of Anna Kingsford are to the third edition. – S. H. H.
(3:1) A fourth edition of this book was published in 1909. – S. H. H.
(3:2) The Theosophical Society was founded in America in 1875. In the following year a branch was formed in London. – S. H. H.
(3:3) Edward Maitland says:
“The revelation made to us was identical in source, method, and kind with that which had been delivered to the inspired of old, and of which the Bible is the chief surviving depository, being described by the Rabbins of the Kabala as given by God to Adam in Paradise, and to Moses on Sinai, expressions which denoted the state of illumination.” – Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 31.
(4:1) E. M.’s letter, dated 22nd October 1891, to the Echo.
(6:1) Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 19, 20. See also letter, dated 3rd July 1882, from A. K. to Lady Caithness, giving an account of this interview with Mr. Sinnett (ibid., p. 74).
(6:2) The reference is to certain divine Illuminations which had been received by Anna Kingsford, and which – with other of her Illuminations – were subsequently published in Clothed With the Sun. The Illuminations referred to appear as chapters vii.-x. of part ii. of that book. – S. H. H.
(7:1) This paper, Edward Maitland says, “proved a channel for the enunciation of our knowledges when the general Press was entirely closed against us, and therein a stimulus to ourselves to write what otherwise would have remained unsaid” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 49). – S. H. H.
(7:2) The Theosophist was founded in India in October 1879.
(7:3) The letter is signed “One of the Writers of The Perfect Way.” – S. H. H.
(8:1) As regards Spiritualism, Edward Maitland says: “It is simply a practice consisting in holding or seeking intercourse with unembodied intelligences or forces; and nothing in the world can make it anything else” (Light, 1884, p. 519). – S. H. H.
(9:1) After seeing A. K. and E. M., in 1881, he had received instruction from his Guru about the subject, but his instruction appears to have been partial only, because in a letter, dated 3rd July 1882, to Lady Caithness, A. K. says: “he does not yet know all the truth concerning it, and so finds fault with our presentation of that side of it which, as yet, he has not been taught” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 74). – S. H. H.
(10:1) Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp 67-68. The two parts of the review appeared in The Theosophist of May and June 1882, and the articles in discussion in September and October of the same year, and A. K.’s and E. M.’s final reply and the above editorial in January 1883. On 3rd July 1882, Anna Kingsford wrote to Lady Caithness, warning her not to be misled by the “misrepresentations” of The Perfect Way contained in the above-mentioned review, and pointing out one of the “mistakes” therein contained which, she said, was “so gross and palpable,” that she found it hard to believe it had been committed innocently. (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 73). – S. H. H.
(12:1) The initiation name given to Anna Kingsford by her Illuminators. – S.H. H.
(12:2) They were informed that the Chiefs of the Theosophical Society recognised in this book “knowledges of which the Eastern adepts had believed themselves to be the exclusive possessors, having been safeguarded by them from the remotest ages”. (Article on “Mr. Edward Maitland” in Light, 1893, p. 104). – S. H. H.
(12:3) Celestial personalities whom they knew as the Gods. (See Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 244, 257; and see p. 7, ante.) – S. H. H.
(14:1) The Address was reported in Light, 1883, pp. 337-338; and in a Supplement to The Theosophist, October 1883; and it is reprinted in The Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 123-126.
(15:1) Edward Maitland says:
“The arrival of Mr. Sinnett in England, and the publication of his Esoteric Buddhism, had completely revolutionised the status of the Theosophical Society. No longer now was it a private group of students engaged for their own satisfaction in mastering the philosophy of the Orient, and pledged to secrecy respecting its nature. It was a propaganda eager for notoriety, and claiming to be in possession of a doctrine resting on the infallible authority of an order of men divinised and hid away in the inaccessible fastnesses of the Thibetan uplands. This made it all the more necessary for us to see that we were committing ourselves to nothing that could impair the authority of the teaching received by us, and it was with no little interest that we looked forward to an examination of Esoteric Buddhism.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 122-123, and see pp. 163-164. – S. H. H.
(15:2) Mr. Sinnett had introduced himself to them as a Buddhist. – S. H. H.
(16:1) To a correspondent of Light who stated that “anyone who chooses to live the necessary life can soon obtain personal evidence of the existence and power of the Himalayan Mahatmas, and can, under their direction, be put into the way to attain for himself the knowledge of the hereafter,” Edward Maitland replied:
“As I read this utterance it contains two errors of first-rate magnitude: it makes salvation dependent on the chance of certain other persons existing and being accessible in some abnormal way; and it assumes that the images formed in the mind under strong previous impression are really the persons thought of, instead of being but astral emanations of one’s own system, having no necessary relation to extraneous personalities. It is of course open to your correspondent to call his objectivised ideas Himalayan Mahatmas, just as it was possible for St. Theresa to call hers Jesus Christ, and for Swedenborg to call his David, Paul, or the Virgin Mary. But the practice shews a complete want of knowledge respecting the occult side of human nature, and the image-making powers of the subtler elements of one’s own system, as well also as the teaching capabilities of one’s own spirit.” (Light, 1884, p. 139.)
(17:1) In 1870, Anna Kingsford had joined the Catholic Church. – S. H. H.
(18:1) The letter, which is one of great interest, is given in full in The Life of Anna Kingsford, vol. ii. pp. 140-146. – S. H. H.
(18:2) In a letter, dated 1st September 1883, to Light, Anna Kingsford said:
“Now that the claims of Orientalism are being so widely and popularly discussed, it is most proper and timely to point out the admirable mysticism and the profound learning of the holy Catholic Church of the West. If only the esoteric doctrine of that Church, and the sublime truths embodied in the Liturgy and Creed of Rome, were clearly comprehended and laid to heart, there would be no reason to fear lest some of us should suppose ‘Esoteric Buddhism’ to be in opposition to ‘Esoteric Christianity’” (Light, 1883, p. 404).
In her opinion, “the real enemies of the real Catholic Church” were “Atheism and Agnosticism”. (Light, 1884, p. 519.) – S. H. H.
(20:1) Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 148-154. See also pp. 163-164, where the circumstances necessitating the writing of this pamphlet are very clearly stated. – S. H. H.
(23:1) The telegram had been received by her on the 9th December 1883, i.e. it was despatched after the printing of the above-mentioned pamphlet. – S. H. H.
(23:2) Edward Maitland says that when, later on, Madame Blavatsky published her magnum opus – The Secret Doctrine – she:
“(…) threw over Mr. Sinnett’s presentation in favour of ours, having meanwhile informed us that it had been as much as she and Subba Row could do to make a plausible defence of Mr. Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism, as we were right and it was wrong through its writer’s misapprehension of the teaching received by him. ‘But,’ she added, with the candour characteristic of her in her best moods, ‘we were obliged to support him then because he represented us, but when the secret doctrine was concerned, it was necessary to tell the truth’ – a position at least intelligible.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 160.)
(24:1) Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 161-162. An interesting letter, dated 11th March 1884, written by Anna Kingsford to Lady Caithness, with reference to T. Subba Row’s pamphlet and their reply thereto, is to be found in the same volume, pp. 165-167.
(24:2) At the close of the year they resigned their membership in the Lodge. – S. H. H.
(24:3) A Charter was, in fact, granted by Colonel Olcott to the new Lodge, which was to be known as the Hermetic Lodge of the Theosophical Society (see Light, 19th April 1884, p. 154), and members of other Lodges were to be eligible for admission to the Hermetic Lodge without renunciation of any previous affiliation, and on the 9th April 1884, a meeting for the purpose of inaugurating the new Lodge was held at C. C. Massey’s, Colonel H. S. Olcott presiding; but owing to the issue by Colonel H. S. Olcott (on Mr. Sinnett’s recommendation), almost immediately afterwards, of the above-mentioned rule prohibiting membership of more than one Lodge at a time, it became necessary to make the new adventure outside of the Theosophical Society; and, at a meeting held on the 22nd April 1884, it was unanimously resolved to surrender the above-mentioned Charter, and to reconstitute the New Society independently of the Theosophical Society (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 186-187; letter of E. M. in Light, 3rd May 1884, p. 182). – S. H. H.
(25:1) I.e. in the revised Prospectus dated March 1885. For the Prospectus as originally issued, see Light, 1884, p. 186. – S. H. H.
(27:1) Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 196.
“It is, ‘she said,’ on this Hermetic Rock of inward illumination and spiritual life – called by Trismegistus ‘the Mount of Regeneration’ – that the great Mystics of all time have ever taken their stand. Hereon were founded the Pythagorean and Neoplatonic Schools, the system of the Alexandrian Gnostics, and the various lodges of semi-oriental philosophy of Egypt and Asia Minor in the centuries immediately preceding the Christian era. And in later days this self-same illumination formulated itself by the lips and pens of the initiates of the thirteenth and following centuries – the epoch of the ‘Angelic Doctor,’ of St. Bernard, of Thomas A. Kempis, of Eckhart, Tauler, Ruysbroeck, Hugo of St. Victor, and others who sought the ‘Perfect Way’ and thereby found the ‘Christ.’ These men were not Occultists, but Mystics. Though they wrought marvels, they cared little for miracles. For the Mystic aspires after the power of the Spiritual life, not after that of the physical or astral. He is no enemy of the Occult. He transcends it: and his miracles are those of the inward state – triumphs of intellectual illumination, solutions, realisations, conversions and transmutations performed in union with the Will of God, in the medium of the mind and spirit.”
Her exposition of the legend of St. George and the Dragon will be found in the story, entitled “St. George the Chevalier,” in Dreams and Dream Stories (third edition, p. 288). – S. H. H.
(27:2) Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 196. None of Edward Maitland’s Lectures to the Hermetic Society are included in the present volume. I hope, in the near future, to publish these in a companion volume. – S. H. H.
(33:1) Illumination “Concerning the Prophecy of the Immaculate Conception.” It is given in full in Clothed With the Sun, pt. i. Nº. iii.
(34:1) The overshadowing influences, denoting the Hierarchy of the Church invisible and celestial.
(34:2) Illumination “Concerning the Interpretation of the Mystical Scriptures,” Clothed With the Sun, pt. i. Nº. v.; see also Illumination “Concerning the Mosaic Cosmogony,” Clothed With the Sun, pt. i. Nº. vi.
(37:1) A Yogee or Yogi is one who practises Yoga (union). There are two kinds of Yoga: Hatha-Yoga, in which the Yogee seeks to transcend the physical by reducing his own lives to impotency; and Raja-Yoga, in which the Divine Union is sought by concentration and meditation. Anna Kingsford must be understood as referring to Hatha-Yoga only. – S. H. H.
(39:1) Baron Giuseppe Spedalieri, a native of Sicily, and a resident at Marseilles, was “the friend, disciple, and literary heir” of the Abbé Constant, who wrote under the name of Eliphas Levi (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 167-168). – S. H. H.
(43:1) Letter of E. M. in The Unknown World, 15th March 1895; Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 223, 296 and 297.
When, in 1887, Anna Kingsford was “dying of consumption,” Madame Blavatsky wrote to her:
“If you were well enough by the end of this month, I would ask you to write an answer to Gerald Massey, who, speaking of the contradictions of the New Testament, calls it ‘a volume of falsehoods and lies.’ I must do so if you do not feel strong enough, for it is absolutely necessary to shew that the Bible is as esoteric as any other Scriptures of old.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. pp. 340-341.)
(45:1) This Lecture was, subsequently, incorporated in their book The Perfect Way, or The Finding of Christ, where it appears as Lecture V. An abstract of the Lecture was published in Light, 1886, p.310.
(46:1) See illustration nº 1. Edward Maitland says: “The Seal of Solomon was the symbol used alike by Kabalists and Hermetists, in the East and the West, to represent the whole arcana of theosophy” (Light, 1884 p.302).
(46:2) See illustration in The Perfect Way, p. 325.
(46:3) Mrs. Atwood, as the writer of An Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery, and as one of the profoundest of living mystics, was, Edward Maitland says, “in the very foremost rank of those whose judgement we valued.” (Life of A. K., vol. ii. p. 265.) – S. H. H.
(47:1) A notice to this effect appeared in Light, 23rd April 1887, p. 181.
(52:1) She was born on the 16th September 1846.
(53:1) The occasion was a Lecture given by him on “Man Incarnate and Discarnate,” which I hope some day, with other of Edward Maitland’s Lectures, to publish. – S. H. H.
(55:1) The Perfect Way Lectures were delivered in 1881; the book containing them was published in 1882. – S. H. H.
(56:1) See Illumination “Concerning the Three Veils Between Man and God,” Clothed With the Sun, pt. i. Nº. i.
(56:2) Idolatry consists in the materialisation of spiritual Mysteries:
“They are Idolaters who understand the things of Sense where the things of the Spirit are alone implied, and who conceal the true Features of the Gods with material and spurious presentations. Idolatry is Materialism, the common and original Sin of Men, which replaces Spirit by Appearance, Substance by Illusion, and leads both the moral and intellectual Being into error, so that they substitute the Nether for the Upper, and the Depth for the Height.” (See Illumination “Concerning the Interpretation of the Mystical Scriptures,” Clothed With the Sun, pt. i. Nº. v.) – S. H. H.
(56:3) That is, Eve – the moral Conscience of Humanity – subject to Adam – the intellectual Force, – “whereby all manner of evil and confusion abounds, since her desire is unto him, and he rules over her until now. But the end foretold by the Seer is not far off.” (See Illumination “Concerning the Interpretation of the Mystical Scriptures,” Clothed With the Sun, pt. i. Nº. v.) – S. H. H.
(57:1) Addresses and Essays on Vegetarianism, by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, published in 1912.
(58:1) Article, entitled “Mr. Edward Maitland,” in Light, 1893, p. 104. Edward Maitland subsequently founded the Esoteric Christian Union, which, on his death in 1897, also fell into abeyance. – S. H. H.
(60:1) In the present (third) edition of The Life of Anna Kingsford I have been enabled to restore the whole or a considerable portion of the matter referred to in the above-mentioned letter as having been omitted from the first edition. – S. H. H.
(63:1) The Esoteric Christian Union had been founded by Edward Maitland in November 1891, but on his death it followed the same fate as had befallen the Hermetic Society on the death of Anna Kingsford. – S. H. H.
(64:1) The Rev. A. G. Kingsford, after Anna Kingsford’s death, married again, and took the name of Burton. He died on the 10th August 1913 in his sixty-ninth year. (Oswestry Advertiser 20th August, 1913.) – S. H. H.
(66:1) Mr. Cripps subsequently sent to me the following account of his vision: –
“Wed., about 5 a.m.
Was taken to a harvest-field very golden and ripe. I stood in a small square where cutting had commenced. Looking round, I saw you coming towards us through the corn: your shirt-sleeves tucked up: hat (scout pattern), did not notice the colour, on the back of your head: jacket slung over your left shoulder and held with your right hand. Another form was behind you, but you overshadowed him or her, don’t know which, so I could not see it clearly. You both entered the square, and as you were about to start work again, I was told to give you The Picture and this Message: ‘The Harvest is Ripe; the Reapers are few.’”
In a note to the above-mentioned account Mr. Cripps added that, since the vision, he had been told that the form behind me was Edward Maitland working with me.
It was not until I had nearly finished writing the Preface to this book that the signification of this vision became known to me. It will be remembered that, in 1884, Baron Spedalieri wrote to Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland a letter urging that her “chapters on the Credo,” which had appeared in Light, should forthwith be published, on the ground that “time pressed” and “the harvest of the earth was ripe.” Had it not been for Anna Kingsford’s illness and untimely death, the Lectures would undoubtedly have been published during her life-time. After her death, however, she desired that they should be published “by-and-by,” because “they were then in advance of people, but would not be so for long as people were themselves advancing.” I now see that the vision was intended to let me know that the time had arrived for the publication of the “chapters on the Credo” which are contained in this book. – S. H. H.
(70:1) Edward Maitland, in reply to questions put to him at the close of an Address on “The Probable Course of Development and Ultimate Issue of the Present Spiritual Movement,” given by him on the 2nd April 1889 to The London Spiritualist Alliance (Light, 1889, p. 182.) – S. H. H.
(71:1) In 1881 Anna Kingsford received an Illumination “Concerning the Great Pyramid and the Initiations Therein,” which is given in full in Clothed With the Sun (pt. i. Nº. xx.), and which contains the following passage:
“I perceive that Jesus had been initiated in the mysteries of India and Egypt long before he was incarnated as Jesus, and he appears to me as having been a Brahmin. The Egyptians and Hindus appear to be of the same race, having their mysteries in common. For I am shewn one of each people riding together on an elephant. Both countries were colonised at the same time from Thibet, and from thence all the mysteries proceeded.”
See also her Illumination “Concerning the Holy Family.” (Clothed With the Sun, pt. i. Nº. xxxv.) – S. H. H.
(71:2) Mr. G. R. S. Mead in his monumental work Thrice Greatest Hermes, speaking of the Trismegistic literature, says:
“The fragments of the Trismegistic literature which have reached us are the sole surviving remains of that ‘Egyptian philosophy’ which arose from the congress of the religious doctrines of Egypt with the philosophical doctrines of Greece. In other words, what the works of Philo were to the sacred literature of the Jews, the Hermaica were to the Egyptian sacred writings. Legend and myth were allegorised and philosophised and replaced by vision and instruction. But who were the authors of this theosophic method? This question is of the greatest interest to us, for it is one of the factors in the solution of the problem of the literary evolution of Christianity, seeing that there are intimate points of contact of ideas between several of the Hermetic documents and certain Jewish and Christian writings, especially the opening verses of Genesis, the treatises of Philo, the fourth Gospel (especially the Prologue), and beyond all the writings of the great Gnostic doctors Basilides and Valentinus” (vol. i. pp. 28-29).
And he has no doubt that the Wisdom of Egypt was the main source of the Greek Trismegistic literature: and he agrees with W. Marsham Adams that the Wisdom of Egypt formed the main background of some of the principal teachings of Early Christianity (vol. i. pp. 68 and 80).
Thrice Greatest Hermes, which is in three volumes, should be in the hands of every student of Hermetic doctrine. – S. H. H.
(73:1) In her “Prefatory Essay” to Astrology Theologised, Anna Kingsford says:
“It is not Matter that is illusion, as is commonly supposed by superficial students of Oriental theosophy, but the belief that Matter is a thing true and self-subsistent without reference to any Beyond or Within. It is not fatal to deliverance to believe that this world is, but to believe that it alone is, and no other. This world in itself is certainly not illusion, for the matter which composes it is the last expression, centrifugally formulated, of Spirit, and, in fact, is Spirit, in a specialised and congelate condition. But the illusion of it consists in apprehending Matter as eternal and absolute, and in seeing in it the be-all and end-all of Life and Substance. The image seen in the pool or the mirror is not illusion, but he would be deluded who should suppose it to be other than an image. Mr. Lilly, in Ancient Religion and Modern Thought, puts the case very clearly when he says: ‘Matter as distinct from Spirit is an abstraction, and, if taken to be real, an illusion – as the old Vedic sages saw – the mocking Maya, from which Thought alone can release.’ Here I cannot refrain from alluding to the classic myth of the wandering Io, the personified Soul, pursued and afflicted by the astral influences under the masque of Argus, the many-eyed giant, and finally delivered from his tyranny by Hermes or Thought, the Thoth or Thaut of Egyptian arcana.” (p. 43.) – S. H. H.
(76:1) In answer to one who, while he recognised the faculty of the intuition, regarded its knowledges as “speculations,” Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland replied:
“The intuition is not a creative but a perceptive and recollective faculty; and, therefore, its results are not surmises or opinions, but knowledges, inasmuch as they are founded on actual experience acquired either in the present or in past lives.” (Letter, dated 10th July 1882, to The Theosophist.) – S. H. H.
(76:2) That there is no limit to be placed on man’s power to know, is clear from the following passage taken from a letter written by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, wherein they say:
“As all things proceed from mind, mind is necessarily competent for the comprehension of all things. So that there is not ‘an infinity of truth beyond the reach of human reason.’ But all that reason has to do is so to purify and expand itself as to become one with the infinite reason which has produced all things. It is not that truth is not infinite, but that reason, when perfected, is also infinite. There is nothing that is incomprehensible or cannot be understood. The doctrine of the paragraph in question has ever been the stronghold of superstition, and worst enemy of the faith that is based on the ‘rock’ of the understanding, the only faith that ‘saves’.” (Light, 1883, p. 475.) – S. H. H.
(78:1) The term “corrupt,” which in the translation of the “Divine Pymander,” is applied to things earthly, means simply perishable. – E. M.
(78:2) The title of one of the books in the “Divine Pymander.” – E. M.
(81:1) The Principles belonging to the external man are evanescent as entities, and are not subject to the influence of Karma directly, because they are never re-born. That is to say, that Karma acting on the destiny of the Interior Personality (the Soul) creates new Outer Personalities at each birth. – S. H. H.
(82:1) The dependence of religion upon memory was pointed out by Edward Maitland in a letter to Light, in which he said:
“Tradition and intuition – the two factors in religion – are each dependent upon memory, the former dealing with its historical, the latter with its spiritual, element. (...) But even more essential to religion than the knowledge of events, historical merely and external, is the knowledge of those interior experiences which represent the Divine operation within the soul of the individual. Here it is that the intuition finds its especial office; and inasmuch as without her recollection of those experiences the soul could not communicate of them to the individual, and without his recollection of them the latter could not impart of them to others, it is upon memory, again, that religion largely depends.
‘Perception and recollection – these are the sources of Inspiration.’” (Light, 1882, p. 551.) – S. H. H.
(83:1) Says Edward Maitland:
“The practice of confounding the prophet and the saint with the mere ‘medium’ is an error of the gravest kind, and fatal to the true Spiritualism. It is true the former may have mediumistic gifts, but these are not what make him saint or prophet. Mediumship is due to a peculiar condition of the physical organism, and implies neither intellectual, moral, nor spiritual development, whereas that which makes the prophet and the saint is precisely such development and no peculiarity of organism, and the very possession of such development is a safeguard against the liability to be ‘controlled’ which is the characteristic of the mere medium.” (Light, 1887, p. 54.) – S. H. H.
(83:2) Light, 1882, pp. 434, 466, 511, 551. Edward Maitland’s letters bear the nom de plume “Cantab.” – S. H. H.
(84:1) “My ‘phantom,’” said Edward Maitland, “being a shade of my past self, is but a note-book to facilitate the recovery of my own recollections.” (Light, 1888, p. 551.) – S. H. H.
(85:1) Writing of “The Descent of the Spirit,” and to explain what he believed to be the process of Divine inspiration and illumination, Edward Maitland suggested the following illustration from the analogy of flame, between which and spirit there subsists a close correspondence. He says:
“On holding a suitable substance – such as a splinter of dry wood like the stem of a match – over a lighted candle, ignition occurs, not immediately in the wood or from the flame beneath it, but in the gas generated by the heat and at a distance above the wood; and only by means of the descent upon it of the flame along the current of ascending gas does the wood take fire, being thus ignited from above and not from below.
It seems to me that we have herein a parallel to the spiritual phenomenon in question; and that there is both an ascent of the individual and a descent of the spirit by which he is vivified and illumined. And also that although the two must co-operate to accomplish the process, the initiative may be taken by either of then. This is to say, the individual may in virtue of his own spiritual fervour so polarise himself to the highest as to kindle the Divine fire within him; or the spirit may take him even unawares, and when otherwise engrossed, and, lighting upon him, itself kindle the fire. Of course, for either to be possible the individual must have previously attained a high degree of spiritual development. For if he had not already so ‘ascended,’ the spirit could not descend upon him. He would not be responsive to its influence.” (Light, 1888, p. 57.) – S. H. H.
(88:1) Clothed With the Sun, pt. i. Illumination Nº. xxxiii. Speaking of deductions to be drawn from the loss of certain writings concerning the Mystery-rites and Mystery-myths of the Egyptians and of the Chaldaeans, Mr. G. R. S. Mead says that certain Jewish and Christian mystics, whom Hippolytus calls Naassenes, claimed “that Christianity, or rather the Good News of the Christ, was precisely the consummation of the inner doctrine of the Mystery-institutions of all the nations; and the end of them all was the revelation of the Mystery of Man.” (Thrice Greatest Hermes, vol. i. p. 141.) – S. H. H.
[The Credo of Christendom: and Other Addresses and Essays on Esoteric Christianity (O Credo da Cristandade: e Outras Palestras e Ensaios sobre Cristianismo Esotérico). Anna Kingsford e Edward Maitland. Editado por Samuel Hopgood Hart. John M. Watkins, Londres, 1916. 256 pp. (pp. 1-93)]