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SHIRLEY, Ralph. Anna Kingsford & Edward Maitland. Mandrake Press Booklets nº 13. Mandrake Press, Thame (Inglaterra), 1993. 24 pp. 

Informações: É um livreto com um belo ensaio de caráter biográfico. Nele o autor procura mostrar a elevada natureza e a importância do trabalho e da mensagem de Anna Kingsford e Edward Maitland. Segue o texto Html completo, em inglês:

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Ralph Shirley

[Thanks to Mandrake Press Ltd., Thame, England, who first
published this essay as Mandrake Press Booklets: No. 13, 1993.]

WE ARE ALL OF US FAMILIAR WITH THE OLD PROVERB THAT marriages are made in Heaven, though there are few of us who believe it. It may, however, well be true that there are certain spiritual marriages or associations which are made in Heaven in the sense that they have a certain cosmic foundation in the nature of things and in the relationship of one life to another. It may also be true that two lives are brought together for special and important purposes by influences working from another and a far higher plane. Collaboration is a very commonplace word, but there was certainly no element of the commonplace in the collaboration of Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland. History perhaps contains nothing more remarkable, and romance nothing more romantic, than this singular association of two strikingly diverse and original characters of opposite sexes for a single and supreme purpose. To the two individuals concerned, the sacrifice of two lives to the ideal which inspired them seemed but little in view of the momentous character of the objects to be achieved. The world may not set the same store on the high mission of Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland, may not perhaps value it at the same price as the two co-workers who gave up their all in pursuit of their aims. Many may say, as many have said already, that, like Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, they their were pursuing a will-o’-the-wisp and not the Holy Grail of their hearts’ desire. But assuming that they partially misinterpreted the end to be achieved, or, alternatively, over-estimated their own powers of achieving that end with anything like the success that so high an ideal demanded, it should still be borne in mind that those who under-estimate the greatness of their own mission must inevitably fail to impress others with its value in
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[This page contains a nice picture of Anna Kingsford.] 

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the scheme of things, and it is therefore far better to over-estimate your own powers and the importance of the object aimed at than to underrate either the one or the other.
           People are apt to look scoffingly at the man with a mission, but it is the men and the women with missions who have in fact made the world what it is to-day. “A crank,” said some wit, “is a little thing that makes revolutions.” The saying is as true as it was in the times of Jesus Christ, that God has “chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” I there is one word in our language more misunderstood than any other, it is the little word “Faith.” We have been told by the cynical that faith is the capacity for believing that which we know to be untrue, and the misinterpretation of this term by the orthodox clergy is responsible for the derision which has been cast upon it. Worst of all sinners within the fold of the Church has been the evangelical contingent. “Believe,” they tell us, “all the dry-as-dust dogmas of orthodox theology, and you will win eternal salvation.” This is not, we may be sure, the sense in which Jesus used the word. Neither is it the sense in which, in a magnificently eloquent passage, the word was employed by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, when he spoke of those who “through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions; quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”
           The faith of Jesus and the faith of his apostles and followers is the faith that implies and includes the power to achieve. It is what we call in the ordinary language of the day “self-confidence,” but it is not the confidence in the lower but in the higher self; it is the confidence which comes of the conscious placing of ourselves en rapport with what Prentice Mulford called “the Infinite Life” and the “Divine Source.” This power is the secret

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of all great achievement. The faith of the orthodox, on the other hand, corresponds to the credulity of the man in the street. It is the will-o’-the-wisp that leads fools to sacrifice the reality for a chimera. It was in condemnation and in ridicule of such folly as this that Omar Khayyám bade his friends “take the cash and let the credit go.” It was in the spirit of this true self-confidence and self-reliance that Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland entered upon the daring project of their life’s work. It was this spirit of faith that enabled them to carry it at length to a triumphant conclusion – successful in spite of those imperfections inevitably incidental to a work of the kind, achieved under the defective conditions of present-day humanity.
           A great work was certainly seldom, if ever, accomplished under such curious and such self-contradictory conditions. A man and a woman have frequently worked together before, and worked effectively and harmoniously, but they have either been in the relationship of husband and wife, of avowed lovers, independent of or having deliberately cast aside other ties, or they have been free to work together as friends owing to the fact that circumstances have left them unhampered by family conditions. The peculiarity of the present case is that the relations of Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland subsisted in spite of a husband for whom his wife had a very genuine and warm affection, and who most undoubtedly reciprocated it to the full – in spite also of the fact that the husband was fully aware of, and approved of; all that took place, without seeing anything in it to lessen his esteem for his wife or compromise their relationship – in spite also of the fact that the society of the day held up its hands in horror at the scandal and more than suspected immorality where there was none to suspect – in spite, finally, of the fact that, joined to the respect and friendly feeling which Edward Maitland felt for the husband, there was something in his whole attitude and demeanour towards Anna Kingsford which was more in the

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nature of the devotion of a lover to his mistress than anything else which the ordinary terms of language can express. When Anna Kingsford passed away to another sphere early indeed in life (she was but forty-two), but with her life’s work accomplished, the two who joined hands over her grave and who mourned her most deeply and most sincerely were the devoted husband who loved her without understanding the most remarkable side of her character, and the friend who loved and understood, but, better even than the woman whom he loved, loved the work of which her presence and being were to him the divine symbol and seal.
           People of the type of Anna Bonus Kingsford are too sensitive and impressionable ever to be really happy for long. The acuteness of their feelings exaggerates their own sufferings, and at the same time makes the consciousness of the sufferings of others an ever present torture and martyrdom. Mrs. Kingsford’s life, indeed, at times when her health, always far from robust, was below the usual level, became absolutely unbearable. The thought of bringing a child into the world to share her own anguish and despair seemed in itself a crime. 

I long (she writes, in one of these moods of depression), I long for a little rest and peace. The world has grown very bitter to me. I feel as if every one were dead!
           Ah, what a life is before me! – a life of incessant struggle, reproach, and loneliness. I shall never be as other women, happy in their wifehood and motherhood. Never to my dying day shall I know the meaning of a home.
           And behind me, as I look back on the road by which I have come, all is storm and darkness. I fought my way through my lonely, sad-hearted childhood; I fought my way through my girlhood, misunderstood, and mistrusted always; and now, in my womanhood, I am fighting still. On every side of me are rebuke and suspicion, and bitter,

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abiding sorrow. Pain and suffering of body and of spirit have hung on my steps all the years of my life. I have had no respite.
           Is there never to be peace? Never to be a time of sunlight that shall make me glad of my being? 

Her spirit was indeed naked and without defence against the arrows of the world. Endowed with courage far greater than falls to the lot of most women, with great independence and an utter fearlessness of conventionality, she had no hesitation in avowing her own profound belief in her divine mission. To one who, meeting her for the first time, observed with ill-timed jocularity, “I understand, Mrs. Kingsford, that you are a prophetess,” she retorted with the utmost solemnity, “I am indeed a prophetess,” and on her interrogator continuing his banter by inquiring: “But not, I suppose, as great as Isaiah?” “Yes,” she returned, “greater than Isaiah.” Such mockery, however boldly she faced it, caused her the most acute pain. There was, indeed, nothing undignified about her avowal of her claims, nothing that jarred, nothing of the charlatan in her composition. If she was deceived herself, at least she never dreamed of deceiving others. She never posed or attempted to gain a hearing by acting a part which was not natural to her. She was too genuine, too intense in her convictions, and withal too natural and too unaffected to be otherwise than always and everywhere true to herself. She was essentially a child of nature, and in some of the traits of her character she retained to the end the simplicity and wayward playfulness which most people say good-bye to when they reach years of discretion. Animals, of course, always appealed to her strongest sympathies, and for nine long years she could not bear to be parted except for occasional very brief periods from her favourite guinea-pig, Rufus. Nature in its varying moods made the strong appeal which it always does to people of so emotional a temperament. Once after recovering from a serious bout of illness she was taken to convalesce at
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Dieppe. An incident occurred here very illustrative of her susceptible nature. Having stayed for some time and being greatly benefited by the change, she was proceeding in company with Mr. Edward Maitland to see her husband off by the steamer. Says her biographer: 

It was a day of days for beauty. While waiting, we sat watching the gambols of a flock of sea-gulls, whose gleaming white wings, as they circled round and round against a sky of clearest and tenderest blue, approaching each other to give loving salute with their bills, and then darting off only to return and repeat the act, uttering the white shrill notes of joy and delight, made a spectacle of exquisite beauty, and one that went to file invalid’s inmost heart, inducing an ecstatic sense of the possibilities of happiness in the mere fact of a natural and healthy existence. Though entranced by the scene no less than my companion, I did not fail to note the effect upon her, and the thought arose in my mind, “This is the best remedy of all she has yet had.”
           As we were thus gazing and feeling, a shot was fired from a boat containing some men and women, which, unperceived by us, had glided out from behind the opposite pier; and immediately one of the birds fell into the sea, where it lay fluttering in agony with a broken wing, while its companions fled away with harsh, discordant cries; and in one instant the whole bright scene was changed for us from one of innocence and joy into one of the darkest gloom and misery. It was a murder done in Eden, followed by the instant eclipse of all that made it Paradise. Mary was frantic. Her so lately injured organism gave way under the shock of such a revulsion of feeling. Her impulse was to throw herself into the sea to succour the wounded bird, and it was with difficulty that I restrained her; and only after giving vent to an agony of tears, and pouring on the shooting party a storm of reproaches, at the imminent risk

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of being given into custody as they landed bearing the bird, now dead, as a trophy, did I succeed in getting her back to the hotel. For the next twenty-four hours her state was one of raving mania. 

No incident could be more characteristic of her temperament or of her outlook upon life. The charm and beauty and joy of life were all on the surface and only served to conceal the horror and anguish which lurked beneath. She felt, with the apostle, that all creation groaneth and travaileth together, and to her hyper-sensitive spirit life itself was all too frequently a very hell. One can well understand the ardour with which a spirit like hers pursued the campaign against vivisection. But it is rare indeed to find this temperament joined with a courage which faced the presence of the horrors she so dreaded to go through the entire medical course and qualify as a doctor at a time when obstacles innumerable were placed in the way of women candidates for the profession. It is in connection with this phase of her career that a story is narrated which has attained for her a somewhat unenviable notoriety. This is the record of the boast she is stated herself to have made that she had brought about by her magical powers the death of one of the most prominent supporters of vivisection in its worst form in the medical wor1d. The doctor in question was the well-known Professor Claude Bernard, and the claim that she made will probably be regarded by the occultist as not wanting foundation in fact. The narrative had better be given in her biographer’s own words: 

It was in mid-February, when, having occasion to visit the École de Médicine, I accompanied her thither. It was afternoon. On reaching the place we found it shut up, and a notice on the gate apprised us that the school was closed for the day on account of the obsequies of Professor Claude Bernard. We had not heard even of his illness. A cry, or

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rather a gasp, of astonishment escaped her, and she exclaimed, “Claude Bernard dead! Claude Bernard dead! Take hold of me! Help me to a seat or I shall fall. Claude Bernard dead! Claude Bernard dead!” The only seat available near was on the stony steps by which we were standing, and I accordingly placed her on these, seeing that emotion had deprived her of all her powers. Once seated she buried her face in her hands, and I stood before her awaiting the result in silence. I knew that such an event could not fail greatly to move her, but no special reason occurred to me. Presently she looked up, her face strangely altered by the intensity of her emotion, and asked me if I remembered what she had told me some weeks ago about Claude Bernard, and her having been provoked to launch her maledictions at him. I remembered perfectly. It was in the latter part of the previous December. Her professor had forced her into a controversy about vivisection, the immediate occasion being some experiments by Claude Bernard on animal heat, made by means of a stove invented by himself, so constructed as to allow of observations being made on animals while being slowly baked to death. Her professor had agreed with her as to the unscientific character and utter uselessness for any medical purpose of such a method of research. But he was altogether insensible to its moral aspects, and in answer to her strong expressions of reprobation, had taken occasion to deliver himself of a tirade against all sentiments generally of morality and religion, and the folly of allowing anything so chimerical to stand in the way, not merely of science, but of any object whatever to which one might be inclined, and setting up a transcendental standard of right and wrong, or recognising any limits to self-gratification saving the physical risks to oneself Even the feeling which makes a mother weep over her child’s suffering he sneered at as hysterical, and gloried in the prospects of the time when science and intellect should be utterly unrestrained by what people call heart

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and moral conscience, and the only recognised rule should be that of the bodily self.
            Thus speaking, he had worked his pupil into a frenzy of righteous indignation, and the vision rose before her of a future when, through the teaching of a materialistic science, society at large had become wholly demonised, even as already were this man and his kind. And seeing in Claude Bernard the foremost living representative and instrument of the fell conspiracy, at once against the human and the divine, to destroy whom would be to rid the earth of one of its worst monsters, she no sooner found herself alone than she rose to her feet, and with passionate energy invoked the wrath of God upon him, at the same moment hurling her whole spiritual being at him with ah her might, as if with intent, then and there, to smite him with destruction. And so completely, it seemed to her, had she gone out of herself in the effort that her physical system instantly collapsed, and she fell back powerless on her sofa, where she lay awhile utterly exhausted and unable to move. It was thus that, on rejoining her, I found her, with just sufficient power to recount the experience, and to ask me my opinion as to the possibility of injuring a person at a distance by making, as it were, a spiritual thunderbolt of oneself; for, if such a thing were possible, and had ever happened, it must, she was convinced, have happened then. 

At the moment the discussion on this subject was dropped, but further evidence was subsequently sought which it was hoped would confirm or disprove the idea that Anna Kingsford had been responsible for the great French doctor’s death. Eventually, our heroine carne across an acquaintance of the deceased Professor in the person of a practical student of occult science. It appeared from his narrative that Claude Bernard was one of the few members of the profession who also took an interest in this subject, which had served as a link between them. He informed
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Mrs. Kingsford that the doctor had described his earliest symptoms to himself and had regarded them as somewhat mysterious. He was engaged, it appears, in his laboratory in the Collège de France, being at the time in his usual health, suddenly struck as if by some poisonous effluvium which he believed to emanate from the subject of his experiment. The effect, instead of passing off became intensified, and manifested itself in severe internal inflammation, from which he eventually died. The doctors pronounced the complaint to be Bright’s disease. This was the disease which Claude Bernard had chiefly endeavoured to investigate by inducing it in animals. The possibility of such an incident is of course familiar to students of occultism, and Paracelsus, with others before and since, have maintained its feasibility. The great German occultist writes that it is possible that the spirit without the help of the body may, “through a fiery will alone, and without a sword, stab and wound others.” This is purely in accordance with the general trend of his doctrine, a large part of which is based on the belief that the will is a most potent operator in medicine.
           Anna Kingsford was, it is well known, one of the earliest and foremost champions of the movement for women’s rights, but the line she took in this movement was supremely sane and wise, and was devoid of all the extravagances which have since brought certain sides of one of the greatest and most important movements of the day into well-deserved contempt. Edward Maitland was in entire sympathy with her in this matter, and in endorsing one of her communications to him observes: “I send you to-day’s Times, with a report of the debate on the Women’s Suffrage Bill, which will show you how much you are needed in that movement. For the debate shows why it does not advance. They are all on the wrong tack, supporters and opponents alike. The franchise is claimed in hostility, not sought in love. The women are demanding it as a means of defence and offence against man, instead of

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as a means of aiding and perfecting man’s work. They want a level platform with man expressly in order to fight him on equal terms. And of course the instinct of the majority of men and women resents such a view.” “Justice, in fact, as between men and women, human and animal,” was among Anna Kingsford’s foremost aims; for, as her biographer well says: “All injustice was cruelty, and cruelty was for her the one unpardonable sin.” “Her love,” he adds in a curiously revealing passage, “was all for principles, not for persons. The last thing contemplated by Anna Kingsford was an aggravation of the existing divisions and antagonisms between the sexes.” “And,” continues Mr. Maitland, “so far from accepting the doctrine of the superiority of spinsterhood over wifehood, she regarded it as an assertion of the superiority of non-experience over experience as a means of education.” But that which most of all she reprobated was “the disposition which led women to despise womanhood itself as an inferior condition, and accordingly to cultivate the masculine at the expense of the feminine side of their nature.” “It was by magnifying their womanhood and not by exchanging it for a factitious masculinity that she would have her sex obtain its proper recognition.” This recognition no one more ardently desired than herself. She compares the modem woman to Andromeda bound to the rock on the seashore, shackled by the chains of ignorance and a helpless prey to that terrible monster whose name is ennui. “When,” she asks, “will Perseus come to deliver the fair Andromeda, to loosen her fetters and to set her free?” Much has happened to better the position of women since this was written, but much yet remains to be done.
            All who knew Anna Kingsford unite in testifying to the impression conveyed to them by her striking personality with its originality, freshness, and force, no less than by her many-sidedness and the strange contradictions of her character. Her biographer gives the following description of her appearance at

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the date when he first met her: 

Tall, slender, and graceful in form. Fair and exquisite in complexion. Bright and sunny in expression. The hair long and golden, but the brows and lashes dark and the eyes deep set and hazel, and by turns dreamy and penetrating. The mouth rich, full, and exquisitely formed. The broad brow prominent and sharply cut. The nose delicate, slightly curved, and just sufficiently prominent to give character to the face. And the dress somewhat fantastic as became her looks. Anna Kingsford seemed at first more fairy than human and more child than woman. For though really twenty-seven she appeared scarcely seventeen, and made expressly to be caressed, petted and indulged, and by no means to be taken seriously. 

These impressions as regards her character were appreciably modified on subsequent acquaintance, and Mr. Maitland observes that “when she warmed to her favourite themes, her whole being radiant with a spiritual light, her utterances were those in turn of a savant, a sage, and a child, each part suiting her as well as if it were her one and only character.”
            The relationship between the authors of The Perfect Way and the founders of the Theosophical Society in the days of its infancy affords matter of no little interest. The basic idea of the Theosophical Society, viz. the harmonising of the esoteric side of all religions, naturally suggested to the promoters of the movement that in the authors of so remarkable a work, they would find a tower of strength, and Madame Blavatsky, in particular, was most anxious to obtain their support and co-operation for the British section of the Society. Eventually, after considerable hesitation, Anna Kingsford responded to the advances made to her, and accepted the presidency of the British section. But the arrangement was not one which was destined to last long. That it was not likely to be a success might, I think, have been readily

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enough foreseen. Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland were too uncompromising in their point of view – too positive that the source of their own information could not be impugned, to accept readily the bona fides of other and, as they considered, lower oracles. This, however, was by no means all. The attitude of Theosophy in its early days towards Christianity was in the main hostile. To make the esoteric interpretation of this creed the pivot of their teaching was the last idea they contemplated. Madame Blavatsky had attacked Christianity in Isis Unveiled. Mr. Sinnett was equally unsympathetic. The basis of their actual teaching was an interpretation of Eastern religions, whereas the basis of The Perfect Way was an interpretation of Western. Anna Kingsford was just as unhesitating in giving her preference to Christianity as the leaders of Theosophy were in according theirs to Buddhism, Hinduism, and kindred Oriental philosophies. Mrs. Besant’s attitude when she joined the Society showed similar preferences. Her early experiences of orthodox Christianity were not such as to bias her in its favour, and it was not until later days that she assumed the mantle of the prophet of The Perfect Way, and openly recognised the importance of the esoteric side of Christianity to complete the circle of theosophical teachings. The views with which Theosophy commenced have in the course of time been materially modified, and a curious sidelight is thrown, by a letter of Anna Kingsford’s, on the question whether the leaders of this Society had originally adopted the reincarnation hypothesis, or whether this was in the nature of a subsequent development. Mrs. Kingsford writes under date 3rd July 1882, to her friend Lady Caithness, alluding to the reception of The Perfect Way by the Press: 

After all this reviewing and fault-finding on the part of critics having but a third of the knowledge which has been given to us, there is not a line in The Perfect Way which I would alter were the book to be reprinted. The very

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reviewer – Mr. Sinnett – who writes with so much pseudo-authority in the Theosophist, has, within a year’s time, completely altered his views on at least one important subject – I mean Reincarnation. When he came to see us a year ago in London, he vehemently denied that doctrine, and asserted, with immense conviction, that I had been altogether deceived in my teaching concerning it. He read a message from Isis Unveiled to confute me, and argued long on the subject. He had not then received any instruction from his Hindu guru about it. Now, he has been so instructed, and wrote Mr. Maitland a long letter acknowledging the truth of the doctrine which, since seeing us, he has been taught. But 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. 

Presumably in this matter Mr. Sinnett reflected Madame Blavatsky’s views, and the fact that he cites Isis Unveiled seems to me to leave little doubt in the matter. Surely if he had misunderstood her, H.P.B. would have taken pains to put him right! I think that the date given will fix approximately the period at which official Theosophy was of openly converted to the doctrine of Reincarnation. Until that time, if it was not uniformly denied, at least there were wide diversities of opinion, and apparently its opponents mustered more strongly than its supporters. Eventually Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland rounded between them the Hermetic Society. This was not destined to a long lease of life, mainly owing to the breakdown of Anna Kingsford’s health. But while Theosophy showed the greater vitality, in spite of scandals and discords which might well have shattered it to its base, the teachings of the authors of The Perfect Way exercised a profound influence in leavening the mass of Theosophical teaching. Though possessing no little dogmatism in her own intellectual organisation, Anna Kingsford had no great liking for any
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form of society that taught dogmatically, her idea being that every one must necessarily find out the truth for himself and realise it spiritually from his own individual standpoint. Theosophy was altogether too dogmatic for her, without being dogmatic on her own lines. She was readier to admit the existence of the Mahatmas than to grant the inspired source of their communications. In any case she looked upon their teaching as of a radically lower order than her own, and reflecting those vices and defects which she and Maitland were wont to associate with the denizens of the astral plane. On the subject of communications with such entities, or with those whom she suspected of belonging by nature to this region, she was never tired of inveighing. 

The secret (she says) of the opposition made in certain circles to the doctrine set forth in The Perfect Way is not far to seek. It is to be found in the fact that the book is, throughout, strenuously opposed to idolatry in all its forms, including that of the popular “spiritualism” of the day, which is, in effect, a revival, under a new guise and with new sanctions, of the ancient cultus known as Ancestor-worship. The Perfect Way, on the contrary, insists that truth is accessible only through the illumination, by the Divine Spirit, of man’s own soul; and that precisely in proportion as the individual declines such interior illumination, and seeks to extraneous influences, does he impoverish his own soul and diminish his possibilities of knowledge. It teaches that “Spirits” or “Angels,” as their devotees are fond of styling them, are untrustworthy guides, possessed of no positive divine element, and reflecting, therefore, rather than instructing, their interrogators; and that the condition of mind, namely, passivity, insisted on by these “angels” is one to be strenuously avoided, the true attitude for obtaining divine illumination being that of ardent active aspiration, impelled by a resolute determination to know nothing but the Highest. Precisely such a state

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of passivity, voluntarily induced, and such veneration of and reliance upon “guides” or “controls,” are referred to by the Apostle when be says: “But let no man beguile you by a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels.” And precisely such exaltation of the personal Jesus, as The Perfect Way repudiates and its opponents demand, is by the same Apostle condemned in the words: “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.” 

Accordingly, as Maitland and Kingsford fell foul of the Theosophical Society on the one hand, they fell foul of the Spiritualists on the other. But the cleavage between Spiritualism and the teaching of The Perfect Way was far deeper than that between this teaching and Theosophy. With Theosophy indeed, in its broadest sense, there was nothing in Kingsford and Maitland’s teaching that was radically antagonistic. The Perfect Way might in fact be accepted to-day, with some reservations on minor points, as a theosophical text-book, and, looked at from this point of view, it is the fullest, the most complete, and the most coherent exposition of Christianity as seen through theosophical spectacles. Anna Kingsford had indeed herself been received into the fold of the Roman Catholic Church, though certainly Roman Catholicism never had a more rebellious or more independent subject. On the doctrine of authority she would never have made concessions, and, without this admission, one fails to see what status the Roman Church can be held to occupy. It is indeed a case of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. Her leanings, however, towards the ancient mother of Christian churches was, even in its modified form, gall and wormwood to her partner and collaborator, and in the end it brought about some very unhappy and regrettable scenes in connection with her last hours, and a dispute as to the faith in which she died, which must have been
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exceedingly painful to all concerned.
           Perhaps in no single point does Roman Catholicism present a worse and more undesirable aspect than in the manner in which its missionaries besiege the last hours of the passing soul in the effort to induce its victims, when too weak for resistance, to say “ditto” to the formulae which their priests pretend to regard as constituting a password to the celestial realms. Certainly, in Anna Kingsford’s case, the admission of a Roman Catholic Sister of Mercy to tend her in her last illness was productive of the worst results, troubling her last hours with an unseemly wrangle that did not cease even after her body was consigned to its final resting-place.
           A sidelight is thrown on Mrs. Kingsford's attitude towards Roman Catholicism by the record of a conversation which her biographer cites her as having had on one occasion with a Roman Catholic priest. She was calling on a Catholic friend on the occasion, and speaking as usual in her very free and self-confident manner with regard to the religious views which she held. Some remark which she made elicited from the priest the rebuke, “Why, my daughter, you have been thinking. You should never do that. The Church saves us the trouble and danger of thinking, by telling us what to believe. We are only called on to believe. I never think: I dare not. I should go mad if I  were to let myself think.” Anna Kingsford replied that what she wanted was to understand, and that it was impossible to do this without thinking. Believing without understanding was for her not faith but credulity. “How, except by thinking,” she asked, “does one learn whether the Church has the truth?”
           When the Hermetic Society was founded, W.T. Stead was editor of the Pall Mall Gazete, and Mrs. Kingsford wrote for him an account of the new Society. Stead, with his usual taste for dramatic headlines, entitled it “The Newest Thing in Religions.” This was the very last description that its founders were likely to

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tolerate. Anna Kingsford wrote back an indignant letter of repudiation. “So far,” she says, “from being the newest thing in religions, or even claiming to be a religion at all, that at which the Society aims is the recovery of what is really the oldest thing in religion, so old as to have become forgotten and lost – namely, its esoteric and spiritual, and therefore its true signification.” Elsewhere she writes of The Perfect Way as not purporting to be a new gospel. “Its mission,” she says, “is that simply of rehabilitation and re-interpretation undertaken with the view, not of superseding Christianity, but of saving it.” She continues: 

For, as the deepest and most earnest thinkers of our day are painfully aware, the Gospel of Christendom, as it stands in the Four Evangels, does NOT suffice, uninterpreted, to satisfy the needs of the age, and to furnish a perfect system of thought and rule of life. Christianity – historically preached and understood – has for eighteen centuries filled the world with wars, persecutions, and miseries of all kinds; and in these days it is rapidly filling it with agnosticism, atheism, and revolt against the very idea of God. The Perfect Way seeks to consolidate truth in one complete whole, and, by systematising religion, to demonstrate its Catholicity. It seeks to make peace between Science and Faith; to marry the Intellect with the Intuition; to bring together East and West, and to unite Buddhist philosophy with Christian love, by demonstrating that the basis of religion is not historical, but spiritual – not physical, but psychic – not local and temporal, but universal and eternal. It avers that the true “Lord Jesus Christ” is no mere historical character, no mere demi-god, by whose material blood the souls of men are washed white, but “the hidden man of the heart,” continually born, crucified, ascending and glorified in the interior Kingdom of the Christian’s own Spirit. A scientific age rightly refuses to be any longer put off with data which are more

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than dubious, and logic which morality and philosophy alike reject. A deeper, truer, more real religion is needed for an epoch of thought, and for a world familiar with Biblical criticism and revision – a religion whose foundations no destructive agnosticism can undermine, and in whose structure no examination, however searching, shall be able to find flaw or blemish. It is only by rescuing the Gospel of Christ from the externals of history, persons, and events, and by vindicating its essential significance, that Christianity can be saved from the destruction which inevitably overtakes all idolatrous creeds. There is not a word in The Perfect Way at variance with the spirit of the Gospel of the “Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Nothing shows the method adopted in their Gospel of Interpretation by the two authors more clearly than their teaching with regard to the story of the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man. It is curious how literally this story has been taken through many ages of the Church’s history, in view of the fact that such a writer as Origen in the early days of the infant Church observed that: “No one in his time would be so foolish as to take this allegory as a description of actual fact. Kingsford and Maitland refer the interpretation firstly to the Church, and secondly to individual man. “The conscience,” they say, “set over the human reason as its guide, overseer, and ruler, whether, in the general, as the Church, or in the particular, as the individual, falls, when, listening to the suggestions of the lower nature, she desires, seeks, and at length defiles herself with, the ambitions and falsehoods of this present world.” “Ceasing to be a trustworthy guide she becomes herself serpent and seducer to the human reason, leading him into false paths until, if she have her way, she will end by plunging him into the lowest depths of abject ignorance, there to be devoured by the brood of unreason and to be annihilated for ever. For she is now no longer the true wife, Faith, she has become the wanton,
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Superstition.” On the other hand, “the Church at her best, unfallen, is the glass to the lamp of Truth, guarding the sacred flame within and transmitting unimpaired to her children the light received upon its inner surface.” Hitherto this fall has been the common fate of all Churches. “Thus fallen and degraded, the Church becomes a church of this world, greedy of worldly dignities, emoluments, and dominion, intent on foisting on the belief of her votaries in the name of authority fables and worse than fables – a Church jealous of the letter which killeth, ignorant of, or bitterly at enmity with, the spirit which giveth life.”
            We now come to the interpretation of the Fall as applied to individual Man. This is allegorically described as “the lapse of heavenly beings from their first happy estate and their final redemption by means of penance done through incarnation in the flesh.” The authors tell us that this imagined lapse is a parable designed to veil and preserve a truth. This truth is the Creative Secret, the projection of Spirit into matter, the descent of substance into Maya, or illusion. From a cosmic standpoint “the Tree of Divination or Knowledge becomes Motion or the Kalpa – the period of Existence as distinguished from Being; the Tree of Life is Rest or the Sabbath, the Nirvana. Adam is Manifestation; the Serpent – no longer of the lower, but of the higher sphere – is the celestial Serpent or Seraph of Heavenly Counsel.” By the Tree of Divination of Good and Evil in this interpretation must be understood that condition by means of which Spirit projected into appearance becomes manifested under the veil of Maya, a necessary condition for the evolution of the individual, but carrying with it its own inevitable perils. It is not, say our authors, because matter is in itself evil that the soul’s descent into it constitutes a fall. It is because to the soul matter is a forbidden thing. By quitting her own proper condition and descending into matter she takes upon herself matter’s limitations. It is no particular act that constitutes sin. Sin does not consist in fulfilling any of the

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functions of nature. Sin consists in acting without or against the Spirit, and in not seeking the divine sanction for everything that is done. Sin, in fact, is of the soul, and it is due to the soul’s inclination to the things of sense. To regard an act as per se sinful is materialism and idolatry. For in doing so we invest that which is physical with a spiritual attribute, and this is of the essence of idolatry.
            Adam signifies the manifested personality, or man, and is only complete when Eve, his soul, is added to him as helpmeet. When Eve takes of the fruit and enjoys it, she turns away from her higher spiritual self to seek for pleasure in the things of her lower self, and in doing so she draws Adam down with her till they both become sensual and debased. The sin which commences in the thought of the soul, Eve, thus becomes subsequently developed into action through the energy of the body or masculine part, Adam. One of the inevitable results of the soul’s enslavement to matter is its liability to extinction. In eating of the fruit Adam and Eve absorb the seeds of mortality. As Milton says: 

They engorged without restraint,
            And knew not, eating Death.

The soul in her own nature is immortal, but the lower she sinks into matter the weaker becomes her vitality. A continuous downward course must therefore end in the extinction of the individual – not of course of the Divine Ray, which returns to the Source whence it came. It is well to bear in mind that man is a dual being, not masculine or feminine only, but both. This, of course, applies equally to man whether manifested in a male or female body. One side is more predominant in man and the other in woman, but this does not imply absence of the other side, but merely its subordination. The man who has nothing, or next to nothing, of the woman in him, is no true man, and the woman who has nothing of the man in her, is no true woman. Man, whether
(p. 23)

man or woman, consists of male and female, Reason and Intuition, and is therefore essentially twofold. Owing to the duality of his constitution, every doctrine relating to man has a dual significance and application. Thus the sacred books not only present an historical narrative of events occurring in time, but have a spiritual significance of a permanent character in regard to which the element of time has no meaning. In this sense Scripture is a record of that which is always taking place. 

Thus, the Spirit of God, which is original Life, is always moving upon the face of the waters, or heavenly deep, which is original Substance. And the One, which consists of these two, is always putting forth alike the Macrocosm of the universe and the Microcosm of the individual, and is always making man in the image of God, and placing him in a garden of innocence and perfection, the garden of his own unsophisticated nature. And man is always falling away from that image and quitting that garden for the wilderness of sin, being tempted by the serpent of sense, his own lower element. And from this condition and its consequences he is always being born of a pure virgin – dying, rising and ascending into heaven. 

This, in brief, is one of the most essential portions of the new Gospel of Interpretation. It exemplifies the method adopted throughout which is that to which we are accustomed to apply the word “Hermetic.” It is both Christian and pre-Christian, for it is the interpretation of the meaning of life, which was the Key to the ancient Gnostic faiths which, subsisting before Christianity, became incorporated in the Christian teaching. New generations and races of men require the old truths to be put before them in a new guise. This was so when Christianity first came to birth, but in the days of Jesus Christ there were many things which the Prophet of Nazareth had to say to his disciples, but which, as he told them, they were then too weak to understand. The mystical
(p. 24)

interpretation of Christian truth fell on deaf ears then. Re-stated and re-interpreted, after a lapse of 1900 years, is it too much to hope that it may no longer prove “to the Gentiles foolishness, and to the Jews a rock of offence”?

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