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History of Vegetarianism - Anna Kingsford M.D. (1846-1888)

From The Vegetarian (London) March 1, 1890

The Kingsford Commemoration

THE Kingsford Commemoration at Steinway Hall on Saturday last was at once a fresh earnest of the hold which the New Vegetarianism is fast obtaining on the minds of thoughtful men and women, a splendid attestation to the living things of the soul in, perhaps, an all too materialistic age, and a graceful tribute to the memory of one of the most gifted women of her time. At the hour announced for commencing the service, the commodious hall was closely packed, and one could hardly to mark, as the eye travelled in every direction, the intelligent, high-souled expression of the large assemblage. On atable in the centre of the platform, stood a large portrait of the late Dr. Anna Bonus Kingsford, a reproduction of which we give in the centre of this page ; and this was surrounded by a colour-garland of flowers, tastefully arranged by loving hands. This was all that was attempted in the way of decoration, and it was amply sufficient.

It is needless to say Vegetarianism will always he deeply indebted to Anna Kingsford for her splendid summing-up of its principles in "The Perfect Way in Diet," a book which will always remain in itself a monument to her wonderful illumination as to much of its profound teaching. Indeed in her Theosophical treatise, " The Perfect Way ; or, The Finding of Christ," a book full of the keenest spiritual in-sight and eloquent in exposition, no reader can fail to be struck with the way in which purity of diet is pointed out as the open door to intellectual, psychical, and spiritual development. So that it is not only " a mine of occult wealth," as the late Sir Francis H. Doyle called it "harmoniously consistent and logically true," but one in which the gifted authoress demonstrates the possibility of working successfully with no other tools than those provided by Mother Nature in the simplest laws pertaining to our common life. Mrs Kingsford's also charmingly written, and edited by Mr. Edward Maitland, who was present at the service on Saturday, are all so many pledges to the glad tidings of Vegetarianism. Indeed, it was a significant fact, throughout the whole of the impressive service, that those allusions to and quotations from her writings expressive of that splendid humanitarian enthusiasm by which she was actuated, and the intelligent and profound grasp of the true spirit of Vegetarianism that she always evinced, were just those points that moved the audience to break through what may well be supposed to have been to manythe solemn restrictions of such a service, and to proclaim by voice and gesture their warm appreciation and sympathy.

Mr. Charles Carlton Massey, who occupied the chair, opened the proceedings by some graceful allusions to Mrs. Kingsford's work, the second anniversary of whose passing into the inner life they were met to com-memrate. He spoke of " mysticism" as, far from being a term of any real reproach, a word which signified the awakening of the dormant faculties of the soul - faculties which stood over against the external phenomena of life, and which might be said to be linked, the one to the other, by means of the intellect. The interpretation of the things of the soul into the outer life was the especial object of all Mrs. Kingsford's writings ; and many hearts, as that full hall testified, were full of gratitude for the light and blessing disseminated by her writings in every direction.

After an interval of instrumental music delightfully rendered by Mr. Leslie Smith a reading was given from "The Perfect Way," by Mr. George Chainey, "The Communion of Souls," the impressive delivery of which was a very pleasing feature of the service. The next event announced on the programme, the singing of Madame Antoinette Sterling was not forthcoming, to the great disappointment of everybody, a telegram being received at the hall at the last moment to the effect that the lady could not possibly keep her engagement.

Mr. Chainey's paper, which took quite an hour in the reading, embodied a very carefully prepared presentation of the life and work of Mrs. Kingsford. He said they were met in affectionate remembrance of a person, and for the promotion of a cause. The person was the lady whose departure from the earth-life they all so sincerely regretted ; the cause was the new system of interpretation given through her instrumentality - "the interpretation of the scriptures of the past, and at least the most important contribution yet made towards the formulation of those of the future." It should be stated that Mr. Chainey himself professes to have received the gift of interpretation ; and he stated that the study of the books we have named, together with the more recently published work, "Clothed with the Sun," had led him, in America and other parts of the world, to devote a large portion of his time and energies to the promulgation of their teachings. He referred especially to the city of San Francisco, in which there exists to-day a large and important school of philosophy and a chartered college, whose principals date their enthusiam for and interest in the divine life from their acquaintance with Mrs. Kingsford's writings.

The lecturer certainly seemed to have caught the spirit of the gifted lady who was the subject of his address, with whose extraordinary claims and eccentricities of thought many of us may not find it so easy to sympa-thise, as with the great leading features of her work, to which we have already alluded There are, in all possibility, in such books as we owe to -Mrs. Kingsford's pen, serious pitfalls for the feet of the unwary, as well as stupendous heights and depths for the aspiring soul and the profound thinker and the friendliest reverence for the memory of such a woman, as well as the most effective means of truly perpetuating her work, is to recognise as firmly her infirmities as we emphasize enthusu-siastically her gifts and graces.

Mr. Chainey described his visit to the birth-place of Jeanne D'Arcthe purpose of studying the spiritual interpretation of the life and work of the Maid of Orleans, and "exhibiting the parallel subsisting between the deliverance she achieved for her country, and that of which Anna Kingsford has been the agent for the world." The whole lecture was founded on this archetypal idea, involving the doctrine of re-incarnation, and much mystical learning by which ordinary people may perhaps fear to be driven mad. "So remarkable was the parallel," said the lecturer, "as to indicate that the former was a divinely prepared prophecy of the latter."

Leaving out of the question the pretty fiction so cleverly purloined from the Maid of Orleans, the facts of Mrs. Kingsford life, as stated by the lecturer, and the many extracts from her works which were read, went to make the commemoration service, not only worthy of notice, but really contributory to the furtherance of those great and living principles of humane dealing and pure living into which all things truly divine flow as naturally as the sparkling rivulets into the sea, or the golden sunlight into the depths of the soul. Our friends are mistaken who would evolve a new gospel from the writings of the devoted Anna Kingsford; or who would attempt to crown the splendid work of her life with a false nimbus, either borrowed from Jeane D'Arc, or from the idea of "mediumship" and "illumination" specially possessed by certain individuals, bound by silver cords and contained in golden bowls which are to be sacred to their fortunate owners in life and broken in death. The New Vegetarianism, into the spirit of which Dr. Anna Bonus Kingsford in such happy measure entered, would step in and rescue, onc and for all, her memory from such narrow tramels and such false pretences; and speed her work anew in spirit and in truth, as it points to "the better way" - nay, may we not catch her own glowing inspiration, and say, the Perfect Way in which God deals with all his creatures, in these days of glorious light and liberty, by throwing open wide the doors of the heavens within us, whether within this great collective humanity that makes a living, moving, breathing world, or within the indicidual life that throbs and pulsates everywhere as the spark divine illumines the soul, and kindles it into fervour till it breaks through everything that would enthral it, and is "manifest in the flesh," in that purity of our daily, hourly life that it is the grand mission of Vegetarianism to proclaim and spread through all the world, and which begins now and for ever in the commonest habits of the people, the purification and ennobling of which are the first steps in the way back to God.

Let this be the silver cord of the Kingsford Memorial Service - a cord that includes all men everywhere in its circle of light and purity, and which shall never he broken ; and let us hasten to join hands with those who are gone before to strike the fetters from the great throbbing heart of humanity, till the "Golden Bowl" and all it contains shall be pure. and all-containing, and all-mighty even as God himself - so that it can never be broken. The true inspiration of the age is the breaking down of all the barriers that divide heaven and earth, and - as in all the ages that have gone before - many are called to the work, but few are chosen. And the reason is always the same : men themselves do not choose to do it ! A common heaven for common humanity ! It is altogether too-too - well too common ! They would call upon Jeanne D'Arc and her soldiers, or the very rocks and hills - anything, anywhere - to fall upon them and hide them from such a calamity ! Yet the time is fast approaching, or Vegetarianism is a lying herald - and that is not what Mrs. Kingsford said.