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Concerning the Three Veils between Man and God

Dreamed March 1881 by Anna Kingsford

A golden chalice, like those used in Catholic rites, but having three linings, was given to me in my sleep by an Angel. These linings, he told me, signified the three degrees of the heavens--purity of life, purity of heart, and purity of doctrine.

Immediately afterwards there appeared to me a great dome-covered temple, Moslem in style, and on the threshold of it a tall angel clad in white linen, who with an air of command was directing a party of men engaged in destroying and throwing into the street numerous crucifixes, bibles, prayer-books, altar utensils, and other sacred emblems.

As I stood watching, somewhat scandalised at the apparent sacrilege, a voice, at a great height in the air, cried with startling distinctness: "All the idols He shall utterly destroy!" Then the same voice, seeming to ascend still higher, cried to me: "Come hither and see!" Immediately it appeared to me that I was lifted up by my hair and carried above the earth. And suddenly there arose in mid-air the apparition of a man of majestic aspect, in an antique garb, and surrounded by a throng of prostrate worshippers. At first the appearance of this figure was strange to me; but while I looked intently at it, a change came over the face and dress, and I thought I recognised Buddha--the Messiah of India. But scarcely had I convinced myself of this, when a great voice, like a thousand voices shouting in unison, cried to the worshippers: "Stand upright on your feet:-Worship God only!" And again the figure changed, as though a cloud had passed before it, and now it seemed to assume the shape of Jesus. Again I saw the kneeling adorers, and again the mighty voice cried: "Arise! Worship God only!" The sound of this voice was like thunder, and I noted that it had seven echoes. Seven times the cry reverberated, ascending with each utterance as though mounting from sphere to sphere.

Then suddenly I fell through the air, as though a hand had been withdrawn from sustaining me: and again touching the earth, I stood within the temple I had seen in the first part of my vision. At its east end 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. 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, and the Curse of Eve. 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 houdali 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. Then as I stood gazing upwards, came again the voice, at first high in the air, but falling earthwards as I listened. And behold, before me appeared the white pinnacle of a minaret, and around and beneath it the sky was all gold and red with the glory of the rising sun. And I perceived that now the voice was that of a solitary Muezzin standing on the minaret with uplifted hands and crying:--

Put away Blood from among you!
Destroy your Idols!
Restore your Queen!
And straightway a voice, like that of an infinite multitude, coming as though from above and around and beneath my feet,a voice like a wind rising upwards from caverns under the hills to their loftiest far-off heights among the stars, responded--
"Worship God alone!"

Kingsford endured slurs and snubs in medical school to become only the second female doctor in England. She was a vegetarian and backed the anti-vivisectionist and animal rights movements. She lived and died her ideals: never robust, she died of pneumonia probably caught by protesting outside Louis Pasteur's laboratory in a cold rainstorm.

She left two books of extraordinary dreams and visions, Dreams and Dream-Stories and Clothed with the Sun (of which this is the opening dream-vision). Later sections make it clear she conceived of God as female, or rather as a feminine principle living in all of us. Her dreams and visions are strangely modern: feminist, not sectarian, wary of personality cults, and always humane. Her books influenced the Order of the Golden Dawn, Yeats and the Celtic Renaissance; through them she indirectly shaped today's New Age movement, Wicca and Goddess-worship.

--Chris Wayan

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