From David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace, The People's Almanac #3, Bantam Books 1981: 647-9
Lying in a hotel room on the French Riviera, Louis Pasteur was dying. Neither the famous French medical researcher nor the dozen doctors who visited and tested him could diagnose what the strange malady was that was destroying his body. Several hundred miles away in London, another doctor, Anna Kingsford, knew exactly why Pasteur was dying. His bodily functions were rapidly degenerating because she had willed his death. Anna Kingsford believed that her will could generate what she called a "spiritual thunderbolt"-a modern rendition of the evil eye-which could strike and kill her victims. If he had known of it, Pasteur would have dismissed Anna Kingsford's curse as preposterous, as his two colleagues, Dr. Paul Bert and Dr. Claude Bernard-both of whom had also been targets of her thunderbolts-would have done had they not died recently from sudden afflictions brought on by Anna's will. For Anna Kingsford, these spiritual assassinations were reasonable and just. She was ridding the world of men who tortured animals, which she knew had souls.
Born in Stratford, England, on Sept. 16, 1846, Anna Bonus was the small, sickly, beautiful daughter of a wealthy London merchant and his domineering wife. Throughout her youth, Anna learned to be the graceful and proper young lady that Victorian society demanded she be, but she also developed in two other ways: as an intellectual and as a spiritualist. She possessed a fine mind, which she used in pursuit of academic, literary, and scientific interests, but more interesting were her occult talents, which came to light and developed as she grew older. At the age of 21 the tall, slender, golden-haired Anna married her cousin, Algernon Kingsford, who became an Anglican clergyman during the first years of their marriage. Their honeymoon ended almost before it began when Anna was stricken with a severe asthma attack. Thereafter, their marriage was largely one of convenience, though they did have a daughter. Kingsford allowed his wife to follow her own interests, and soon she had purchased a magazine and was serving as its editor. She was already a published writer of theological essays, short stories, and poems.
In 1873 Anna met Edward Maitland, who was to be her platonic companion in spiritualism for the remainder of her life. With Maitland she moved to Paris to study medicine. She graduated in 1880 as a medical doctor and returned to London to practice. In Great Britain she was a leader in the Theosophical Society, and with Maitland she established the Hermetic Society. Through these organizations she tried to reconcile her own mystic experiences with her belief in Christ and with Eastern religions and to publicize what she referred to as the restoration of esoteric Christianity.
The bedrock of Anna's personality was her belief in the mystical. As a girl she had exhibited psychic gifts and claimed to have met fairies. She had uncannily accurate premonitions of deaths within her family and had dream encounters with ghosts, genies, and angels, as well as with such historical characters as Mary Magdalene and John the Baptist. Late in life she claimed she had extensive trance contact with the Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg. Also, she believed in reincarnation and visited herself in past lives spent as Anne Boleyn, Joan of Arc, and Faustina, the wife of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Another of her talents was the ability to leave her body and travel through the universe. With Maitland, and aided by a personal genie named Salathiel, Anna Kingsford communicated with the spirit realm in seances by means of an automatic writing machine called a planchette. During these seances she sometimes communicated with the spirits of animals. Confirmed in her belief that animals had souls, she was a vegetarian and refused to wear or use anything made from dead animals, including furs and leather shoes and belts.
As a medical student in Paris, Anna was sitting in the library one day when she heard weird screams coming from a nearby laboratory. She learned from an attendant that one of her instructors, Dr. Claude Bernard, was dissecting a live dog in one of his medical experiments. Revolted by this example of what she considered hideous murder, she became an ardent and vocal opponent of vivisection, the surgical use of live animals in medical studies. She wrote pamphlets and articles and debated at the university to stop the practice, but without success since most people believed vivisection was necessary for the advancement of science. Holding her pet guinea pig Rufus, Anna would emotionally debate the problem with Maitland, and she once offered herself for vivisection if the professors would stop experimenting on animals. In December of 1877, while listening to Dr. Bernard lecture on his latest experiments, in which he had slowly baked animals to death in a specially constructed oven in order to study body heat, Anna jumped up and screamed, "Murderer!" There followed an argument between Anna and Bernard over the morality of his "torturing of defenseless animals." After storming out of the classroom, Anna stopped in the hall and summoned all of her powers. Feeling as though she were a "spiritual thunderbolt," she launched her occult self against Bernard, cursing his existence, and then she collapsed. Soon after that Bernard fell ill. Six weeks later, when Anna arrived at his classroom, she found a note tacked to the door announcing his funeral.
Anna exultantly told Maitland of her part in Bernard's death with these words: "Woe be to the torturers.... I will make it dangerous, nay, deadly, to be a vivisector. It is the only argument that will affect them. Meanwhile, thank God the head of the gang is dead." In 1886 her attention turned to Dr. Paul Bert and Dr. Louis Pasteur. She labeled Dr. Bert, a noted medical researcher, "the most notorious of the vivisecting fraternity." Occupants of buildings near Bert's Parisian laboratory frequently complained about his habit of leaving partially dissected ani- mals alive overnight. Their cries of agony made it impossible for these neighbors to sleep. Anna again hurled her thunderbolt, and Bert slowly but surely fell ill and wasted away until he died in November, 1886. Anna noted in her diary: "I have killed Paul Bert, as I killed Claude Bernard; as I will kill Louis Pasteur if I live long enough ... it is a magnificent power to have, and one that transcends all vulgar methods of dealing out justice to tyrants."
The thunderbolt directed at Pasteur struck a couple of months after Bert's death, in February, 1887. Although the ailment took Pasteur to the brink of death, he swiftly recovered within the month. A year later, on Feb. 22, 1888, Anna Kingsford died in London. A cold she had caught while investigating Pasteur's laboratory, aggravated by her asthma, turned into tuberculosis, which killed her. -R.J.F.
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