This book published by Edward Maitland in 1896 describes one of the foremost proponents of Hermeticism in the nineteenth century. Anna Kingsford was also one of the more colorful eccentrics in the history of the Theosophical Society. It is surely more than coincidence that Kingsford’s Hermetic Society was created in the same year and the same country as Davidson/Burgoyne’s Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. Both resulted from a crisis that year in the British Theosophical Society. Not only the controversy about Blavatsky’s phenomena, but also the imposition by A.P. Sinnett of the authority of his pseudonymous correspondents M. and K.H., caused the rupture. Another striking parallel between the Hermeticism of Kingsford and that of the HBofL is the insistence that 1881 marked the pivotal shift into a new era. But a major difference is that Kingsford’s beliefs were more rooted in esoteric Christianity, whereas the HBofL reflected the Free Thought leanings of Emma Hardinge Britten.
The reprinting of Maitland’s work by Cambridge University Press is the second instance of this reprint series yielding treasures relevant to Church of Light history. Archibald Grimke’s biography of William Lloyd Garrison was the subject of a previous blog post. This reprint is more directly relevant to the history of neo-Hermeticism; Kingsford is a precursor of the Church of Light in her ideas, although not organizationally. Her Hermetic Society did not long survive her.