“Cum ergo natus esset Jesus in
I propose to set before the readers of L’Aurore, as briefly and succinctly as I can, that system and method of applied theology which, under various names and disguises, whether as Neoplatonism, as Gnosticism, as Alchemy, or as the Hermetic art, has constituted the wealth of Mystics of all ages; identical always
although presented under so many differing modes, but finding its fullest and most perfect formation by the mouth and in the dogmas of the Catholic Church.
Mysticism may, perhaps, be helpfully defined as experiential Theosophy. While theosophy, in its broader signification, represents and includes the entire range of Transcendentalism, the science of the Mystic is strictly and finely spiritual. It is the science of the Saint rather than of the Adept, and occupies itself immediately and concentratively with the interests of the Soul and the aspirations of the Heart. It takes scant account of occult physics and dynamics, or of the intellectual ceremonials of la Haute Magie. In intent and scope it is interpretative rather than exegetic or constructive, and occupies itself with the conversion of the exoteric, material, and general formulae of faith and doctrine into esoteric, spiritual, and particular meanings, enfranchising the concerns and interests of the Soul from the bondage of the Letter and the Form, and lifting the plane of belief from the level of Tradition to that of Revelation. Thus the religion of the Mystic is essentially spiritual, and all its articles relate to interior conditions, principles, and processes. It is based upon experimental knowledge, and its central figures are attributes, qualities, and sacraments; not personages nor events, no matter how great or remarkable. These latter, with all the material accessories and accidents they imply, are by the Mystic regarded as constituting the Vehicle, not the essential element of religion, since they are not, and cannot be, noumena or absolutes.
I have used the term “applied theology” to express the personal and inward application to the life and in the heart of man of the great dogmas which form the outward and visible fabric of Religion. It is not by any means my purpose to criticise or meddle with these dogmas in their historical sense. I take them as the Church enunciates them, and intend to shew their secret and particular sense as illustrated and developed in the interior world of devout human experience. And in this work I shall endeavour at the outset to distinguish between false and true Mysticism, giving a few simple rules by observing which it will not be difficult to avoid the one and appropriate the other.
First, then, the science of true Mysticism has three salient characteristics: form is no more, time is no more, personality is no more. Instead of Time is Eternity, instead of the Formal is the
Essential, instead of Persons are Principles. So long as the dross of any merely intellectual or physical concept remains unconverted into the gold of spiritual meaning, so long, for the true Mystic, the most inward and secret application of religious dogma is unattained. In all our essays, therefore, at the transmutation of historical into hermetic theology, we must take care that we do not stop halfway at pseudo-psychologic interpretations, and mistake the physiological or the merely recondite for the spiritual. We must get rid of personae, of places, of events occurring exteriorly to ourselves, or ideas compelling association with material conditions. Suggestive and attractive though some such half-and-half mysticisms may be, they are full of danger, and terribly liable to mislead into spurious theosophy, bewildering hallucination, and even madness. This the old initiates knew right well when they imagined the hermetic allegory which has, for ages, in many lands and under various guises, done duty as a fairytale none the less poetic because of its divineness; – how the true Knight, armed with a sword and a silver thread bestowed on him by his fairy godmother, goes in search of the sleeping Beauty in the wood, and by means of that magic clue winds his way safely through labyrinths and tangled mazes in which many other less fortunate knights had become lost, until at last he penetrates into the very heart of the enchanted bower and finds and awakens her who is his destined bride. That silver thread is the secret of the Mystic; it is the test of Spirituality, by holding fast and following which continually, he passes by with safety all the distractions of divergent interpretations and sideways of thought which is not ultimate and absolute in its application, and so emerges finally into the very core and essential of his being where the Divine Beauty sleeps, awaiting his kiss of recognition.
Secondly, and lastly, true Mysticism is strictly orderly, obedient, and reverent of congruities. It is systematised and coherent; it is disciplined and sane. Having found and determined the spiritual value and correspondence of any dogma, personification, or symbol, it abides by it, and does not perpetually shift and break correspondences and meanings, catching at new ones and letting go the old, as fancy may suggest. Recognising many planes of Truth, it is, nevertheless, careful to categorise these planes in orderly sequence, and to relate them appropriately; never transgressing the disciplines of scientific restraint, nor violating the natural and proper harmonies of far and near, real and illusory, ideal and actual. It is thus homogeneous, methodic,
law-abiding. It creates no new dogmas or fancy beliefs at hazard, but follows scrupulously and obediently the teaching of the Church Catholic, whose exponent and minister it is.
Obviously, to be a Mystic after such a manner is by no means an easy thing. Much knowledge, much discretion, much experience are needed for the guidance of the aspirant. What, then, is the criterium, what the guarantee of a successful issue in the enterprise? These are found in the exercise of three supreme functions, each a sovereign principle in man: Right Perception, Right Aspiration, Right Judgment. They are, spiritually, the Kings of the East, and their apparition announces the Epiphany of the Divine Life. Theirs it is to cognise, to interpret, to illumine the interior nature, and to demonstrate the perfect reasonableness of the divine science. They are, so to speak, the sponsors for Christ, the Godfathers of the heavenly Babe. They affirm and declare Him; their presence at His cradle and their united act of adoration are the supreme ratification of His supernal origin. Their respective offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh symbolise the recognition of the Inward Light in Man by the prophetic, priestly, and kingly attributes of his nature. These three wise principles, whose testimony to the Deific Source of that Light is necessary to our acceptance of It as “God with us,” – Emmanuel – arise themselves in the East or place of the Aurore, and are the accredited ambassadors of the Most High.
So lowly, so humble, so insignificant seem the beginnings of the Divine Life when first the holy Soul brings It forth in the seclusion and darkness of her retreat from the world, that she can scarce believe in Its ineffable and miraculous nature. In her deep humility she lays this precious Offspring in a modest cradle concealed from the general gaze, and awaits events in reverent silence. Then come the “Magians,” unerring in their witness to the Truth, proclaiming by their act of adoration that this is indeed the Son of God who is born among men, that the reign of Herod – or the lower nature – is at an end, and that henceforward the kingship of the Christ is established and attested. Not that the new king will escape opposition and persecution, for Herod is not to be deposed without a struggle. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit,” the law of Death wars against the law of Life eternal.
“Futurum est enim ut Herodes quaerat puerum ad perdendum eum.”
The advent of the kings signifies, therefore, the time of interpretation, of unveiling, of making known; and the office which
they come to fulfil is that of Illumination. The manifestation of the holy Child is the Epiphany in Man, collectively and individually, of the Divine Life, but this can only be discerned and proclaimed for what It is by the consensus of our highest mental, psychic, and spiritual faculties, right perception, right aspiration, right judgment. By the combined verdict of this royal council God certifies to us the truth. And it is thus that Mystics have always apprehended the birth of the Lord within their own hearts, and have unmistakably recognised and joyfully saluted Him. And now, it seems that the day of the Kings of the East is coming in its fulness; not for a few individual Mystics merely, but for the Catholic Church in her entirety; that the hour of making known is at hand, and that, from the rising of the sun, the messengers of God are approaching us with good tidings.
It is my object to unfold the mission of the Rois Mages, for this is none other than the evangel of Mysticism itself; the evangel of Manifestation and of Interpretation; the Life of Christ declared and exposed after its spiritual and individual meaning. “Et si cognovimus secundum carnem Christum: sed nunc jam non novimus” (2 Cor. V, 16). (1)
(225:1) This Article on “The Mystic Magi, or Kings of the East,” and the following one on “Christian Mysticism,” were written by Anna Kingsford, in 1886, for publication in the then new French monthy L’Aurore, which was under the editorship of Lady Caithness (Duchess of Pomar). They were written in English, and translated into French for publication, but by whom they were translated I know not – it was not by Anna Kingsford. I have in my possession the original MS. of “The Mystic Magi, or Kings of the East,” and it is from this that the present Article has been copied. After considerable trouble, I obtained copies of the two Articles in L’Aurore. That on “The Mystic Magi, or Kings of the East,” appeared in L’Aurore (No. I. p. 30) in December 1886, under the title “Les Rois Mages Mystiques”; and that on “Christian Mysticism” in L’Aurore (No. iv. pp. 204-211) in March 1887, under the title “La Sainte Vierge Mystique”. (See Light, 1887, p. 212.)
The above-mentioned copies of the Articles in L’Aurore have been translated into English by my friend Mrs. D.S. Hehner, who says: “These articles seem to have been originally written in English, which no doubt was Anna Kingsford’s own clear and terse English, and then translated – very inadequately – into French. The typing of the copies of the French Articles in L’Aurore, too, is so defective, that it is in places difficult to make out the sense. In some cases, words have been omitted; in others, changed altogether. Several sentences read anything but clear in spite of my efforts to render them as well as possible. (...) I have added between brackets words which I thought helpful in order to render the idea. (...) As to the rest, and generally speaking, you can rely on accuracy. I should have liked to be free at times, but have not yielded to the temptation. You will find much to alter in order to make the whole perfectly lucid.”
The Article on “Christian Mysticism” has – with the exception of a few verbal alterations – been copied from. Mrs Hehner’s translation from the French, which, it is seen, cannot be a correct rendering of Anna Kingsford’s original Article from which the French translation was made, but as it is the nearest idea that I can give of the original, I have thought it better to give it as it stands, coupled with the above explanation. – S.H.H.
(225:2) [Transcriber’s note: Matt. 2:1-2 – “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the King, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalém. Saying, where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and are come to worship him.”]
(229:1) [Transcriber’s note: 2 Cor. 5:16 – “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.”]