Annie Besant (1847 – 1933) was a British socialist, theosophist, women’s rights activist, writer and orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self-rule.
In 1867, Annie at age 20, married Frank Besant, a clergyman, and they had two children, but Annie’s increasingly anti-religious views led to a legal separation in 1873. She then became a prominent speaker for the National Secular Society (NSS) and writer and a close friend of Charles Bradlaugh. In 1877 they were prosecuted for publishing a book by birth control campaigner Charles Knowlton. The scandal made them famous, and Bradlaugh was elected M.P. for Northampton in 1880.
She became involved with union actions including the Bloody Sunday demonstration and the London matchgirls strike of 1888. She was a leading speaker for the Fabian Society and the Marxist Social Democratic Federation (SDF). She was elected to the London School Board for Tower Hamlets, topping the poll even though few women were qualified to vote at that time.
In 1890 Besant met Helena Blavatsky and over the next few years her interest in theosophy grew while her interest in secular matters waned. She became a member of the Theosophical Society and a prominent lecturer on the subject. As part of her theosophy-related work, she travelled to India. In 1898 she helped establish the Central Hindu College and in 1922 she helped establish the Hyderabad (Sind) National Collegiate Board in Mumbai, India. In 1902, she established the first overseas Lodge of the International Order of Co-Freemasonry, Le Droit Humain. Over the next few years she established lodges in many parts of the British Empire. In 1907 she became president of the Theosophical Society, whose international headquarters were in Adyar, Madras, (Chennai).
She also became involved in politics in India, joining the Indian National Congress. When World War I broke out in 1914, she helped launch the Home Rule League to campaign for democracy in India and dominion status within the Empire. This led to her election as president of the India National Congress in late 1917. In the late 1920s, Besant travelled to the United States with her protégé and adopted son Jiddu Krishnamurti, who she claimed was the new Messiah and incarnation of Buddha. Krishnamurti rejected these claims in 1929. After the war, she continued to campaign for Indian independence and for the causes of theosophy, until her death in 1933.
The Ancient Wisdom
This book is intended to place in the hands of the general reader an epitome of theosophical teachings, sufficiently plain to serve the elementary student, and sufficiently full to lay a sound foundation for further knowledge. It is hoped that it may serve as an introduction to the profounder works of H. P. Blavatsky, and be a convenient stepping-stone to their study.More info →
Death and After
FEW words are needed in sending this little book out into the world. It is the third of a series of Manuals designed to meet the public demand for a simple exposition of Theosophical teachings.Some have complained that our literature is at once too abstruse, too technical, and too expensivefor the ordinary reader, and it is our hope that the present series may succeed in supplying whatis a very real want.More info →
Investigations Into the Superphysical
As evolution steadily carries on the mass of humanity, the crest of its wave must ever be advancing towards new and hitherto unexplored — or only partially explored — regions. Great religious teachers have laid down certain doctrines, far-reaching in their consequences, drawn from a knowledge of super-physical worlds, and their followers have accepted these doctrines on faith, since they were incapable of acquiring for themselves the knowledge of the facts on which they were based.More info →
No more graphic picture of the essential nature of Karma has ever been given than in these words, taken from one of the early letters of Master K. H. If these are clearly understood, with all their implications, the perplexities which surround the subject will for the most part disappear, and the main principle underlying karmic action will be grasped.More info →
Seven Principles of Man
Man, according to the Theosophical teaching, is a sevenfold being, or, in the usual phrase, has a septenary constitution. Putting it in yet another way, man's nature has seven aspects, may be studied from seven different points of view, is composed of Seven Principles. Whatever words may be used, the fact remains the same — that he is essentially sevenfold, an evolving being, part of whose nature has already been manifested, part remaining latent at present, so far as the vast majority of humankind are concerned.More info →
The Birth and Evolution of the Soul
THESE two lectures might better perhaps be described as one lecture in two parts, for I am really going to try and give you in the two a connected tracing of the progress of the soul. There is so much confusion in thought as to the origin of the individual, as to what the individual really means, as to how he is developed, and what is to be his ultimate destiny, that I thought I could take no better subject for a Lodge, which ought to be a Lodge of students, than to trace out somewhat in detail this most important matter in the light of Theosophy.More info →
An Introduction to Yoga
THE NATURE OF YOGA
In this first discourse we shall concern ourselves with the gaining of a general idea of the subject of Yoga, seeking its place in nature, its own character, its object in human evolution.