Annie Besant

She was successively a catholic, a Socialist, an atheist, masona, teósofa and politics.

annie besant 1897
Photo: Wikipedia.

Annie Wood was born in 1847, in London, in a family of middle class of Irish origin and along his life it was always proud to be an Irish. His father, doctor, died when she was five years old, leaving the family in a difficult economic situation. His mother could not support Annie and there asked his friend Ellen Marryat - sister of the acquaintance writer captain Frederick Marryat - to take her charge. Ellen made sure that Annie should have a good education, a high sense of the duty inculcated him for with the society and the confidence of which a strong and independent woman can achieve what is proposed. Of young man, Annie traveled to France and Germany to learn languages.

With nineteen years he married the Anglican shepherd Frank Besant, who soon turned into vicar of Sibsey, into Lincolnshire, so that Annie moved there with his husband. They had two children: Digby and Mabel. If I impede, the marriage was a disaster. The first conflict arose because of the money and Annie's independence. She was writing infantile stories and articles but, according to the law of that epoch, the money gained by a married woman did not belong to her but to his husband and Frank was remaining with that of Annie.

Another misunderstanding point was the politics. While Annie was supporting the struggle of the agricultural workers to create trade unions and to improve his labor conditions, Frank was a 'Tory' (conservative) and it lined up with the landowners. Annie tells in his autobiography that, like wife of a shepherd, it tried to help the parishioners of his husband who were spending need, but finally it came to the conviction of that to relieve the poverty and the suffering, beyond the charity what is needed are deep social changes.

It began to lose the catholic faith that it had had from girl. One day refused to receive communion and Frank threw it of house. Annie returned to London and formalized his separation. She would stay to the care of his daughter and his husband of the boy. Nevertheless, the legal divorce was unacceptable for Frank and Annie remained for the rest of his life with the surname Besant.

annie besant 1880
Photo: Wikipedia

Once free of his husband, Annie began to question not only his religious beliefs, but also the totality of the conventional thought. He began writing texts criticizing to the churches and the form in which they control the life of the persons. It kept on fighting for the causes that she was considering to be jousts, as the freedom of thought, the rights of the women, the laicism, the birth control and the rights of the workpeople. Soon it began gaining a weekly salary for a column that there was writing for National Reformer, the newspaper of National Secular Society, association that took like the lay state as objective.

She became a big friend of the secretary of the above mentioned association, a Charles Bradlaugh, an old wolf of sea, an atheist and republican, who was separated from his wife. In 1880 Bradlaugh had been elected a representative by Northampton in the House of Commons, but he refused to swear on the Bible and he was not allowed to occupy the bench.

They edited a book on birth control, The Fruits of Philosophy, of which he was author Charles Knowlton. The three were accused of publishing a “obscene libel”, with content “inclined to the moral corruption of those which minds are opened for immoral influences” and they were processed. In the judgment they showed in his defense: "We think that it is more ethical to avoid the conception of the children than to kill them after his birth, for lack of food, air and garments”. They were condemned to six months of jail, although they appealed and finally the cause was annulled by form defects. During this time, Annie and Bradlaugh had the support of the liberal press.

It does not satisfy with this, Annie Besant decided to write her own book on birth control, The Laws of Population, which The Times qualified of “lewdly, dirtily, indecently and obscenely”. In 1887, he published, together with Bradlaugh, “Why I Do Not Believe in God”. But all this should cost him expensively: Frank Besant managed to snatch the care of his daughter, alleging before the judge Annie's immorality.

She became a friend, and probably loving, of George Bernard Shaw, in this epoch one of the leaders of the Society Fabiana, of socialistic reformers. His approach to the socialism, distanced it of Bradlaugh, which was an individualist.

On the other hand, from 1884 Annie had developed a narrow friendship with Edward Aveling, a young socialistic teacher who had translated for the Englishman the most important works of Marx. Annie fell in love with him, but it was not corresponded: Aveling went away to live with Eleanor, daughter of Carlos Marx. Nevertheless, Edward Aveling had big influence in Annie's thought in that epoch.

Ideologies and personal feelings were mixed: Aveling and Eleanor were in Social Democratic Federation, of Marxist ideology; Annie had entered the Society Fabiana. When the two first ones went away to Socialist League, of William Morris, Annie entered the SDF. In this period, it took part in numerous campaigns and supported strikes, like that of the workers of the matchbox or that of the stevedores of the wharf.

“Never forget that be able only to be inspired the life and nobly if you take it with value and gallantry, like a splendid adventure in which you are left in a country known to face to innumerable dangers, to enjoy many happy moments, to know numerous companions, to gain and to lose more than one battle.” (Annie Besant)

Annie's following adventure was to join the Freemasonry, in a French lodge in which there was equality between men and women, International Order of Co-Freemasonry, Him Droit Humain.

In a very brief time, Besant founded new lodges: three in London, three in the south of England, other three in the north and the northwest, and he even organized one in Scotland. Annie kept on working with such an ardor that soon new lodges formed in South America, Canada, India, Ceylon, Australia and New Zealand.

In 1889, Pall Mall Gazette they asked him to write a critique for on The Secret Doctrine, the book of our old acquaintance H.P. Blavatsky. After reading it, it requested an interview with his authoress, whom it met in Paris. In his autobiography it counts the great thing that impressed the personality of HPB and his famous look. From his relation with Blavatsky there arose a new Annie Besant, the teósofa, that was leaving the socialistic ideas and the related organizations to which it belonged.

When Blavatsky died in 1891, Annie turned into one of the principal figures of the teosofía. In 1893 he traveled for the first time to Chennai, in India, where the head office of Theosophical Society Adyar was - one of the branches into which there split the Society original Teósofica, after the death of his founder - to whose front colonel Henry Steel Olcott was.

To his return it knew London to another eminent teósofo, the Anglican shepherd Charles W. Leadbeater, with which it would form team and in the following years both would sign jointly several books. According to the teósofos, Leadbeater was possessing the gift of the clairvoyance, gift that the same way acquired Besant.

But, in spite of his clairvoyance, Leadbeater could not foresee that in 1906 his relations would be discovered with several adolescents and that it would cost him the expulsion of the Society Teosófica. There did not serve as anything the good intentions that to have was assuring: to prevent the jóvencitos from going to bed with women. Fortunately for him, his friend Annie Besant turned into the president of the Society and in 1908 it was re-admitted again.

In spite of his teosófica militancy, Besant had not left his political activity. It joined the Party of the Congress and tried to apply to India the tactics of the pro-independence Irishes, what cost him to happen for the British jails a pair of times. In 1917 it achieved that hindúes and Muslims were allied to ask for his liberation, although it obtained it for the mediation of the president Wilson, of the United States. Soon she was elected the president of the Party of the Congress.

When the figure of Mahatma Gandhi arose, Annie Besant and other militants of the party left it for discrepancies with the one that would be an indisputable leader.

annie besant tackles
He marries of A. Besant in London. Photo: P Ingerson for Wikipedia

Neither it him was too much good in the Society Teosófica: Krishnamurti, a young man whom the teósofos wanted to proclaim mesías, decided to make them planted and tackle a brilliant career as thinker and philosopher for proper account.

Annie Besant died in 1933. It was incinerated and his ashes thrown to the Ganges.

A last curiosity: some teósofos affirm that in previous lives Annie Besant was Hipatia, the philosopher of Alexandria.

Works of Annie Besant in Project Gutenberg:

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Category: Singular women

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To send Buzz Wikio
On Monday, the 15th February, 2010

3 comments to “Annie Besant“

  1. Guzmán on Tuesday, the 16th February, 2010 at 2:38 am

    Jiddu Krishnamurti and the Organizations.

    “Perhaps you remember the history of how the devil and a friend of his were walking along the street when they saw in front of them a man who was raising something of the soil and, after looking at it, one was keeping it in the pocket. The friend asked the devil:

    “What did this man gather?” “He gathered a piece of the Truth”, answered the devil. “This is a very bad business for you, then”, said his friend. “Oh, not, by no means”, answered the devil, “I am going to leave that I organized it”.

    I support that the Truth is a ground without ways, and it is not possible to approach her for any footpath, for any religion, for any sect. This is my point of view and I adhere to him absolutely and unconditionally. The Truth, on having been unlimited, unconditional, unapproachable for no way, cannot be organized; any organization cannot even form to lead or to force the people along some footpath in particular. If from the beginning they understand that, then they will see how impossibly it is to organize a belief. A belief is a matter purely individually, and they neither can nor must organize it. If they do it, it returns in something dead, crystallized; it turns into a creed, a sect, a religion that has to be imposed on the others. This is what the whole world tries to do. The Truth is minimized and it transforms in a toy for the dweebs, for those who are only momentarily discontented. The Truth cannot be exempted, it is rather the individual who must do the effort to rise towards her.

    You cannot bring the summit of the mountain to the vale. If they want to come to the top of the mountain, they have to cross the vale and climb over the slopes without fear of the dangerous abysses. They have to climb towards the Truth, this one can neither "descend" nor organize itself for you. The interest in the ideas is supported principally by the organizations, but the organizations only wake up the interest from the outside.

    Fragment of the speech of dissolution of The Order of the Star of East. (August 2, 1929)

  2. Seed drill on On Tuesday, the 16th February, 2010 at 10:13 am

    The Masonic Order to which Besant belonged exists in Spain:
    and in the World, since it is international

  3. anarkasis on On Tuesday, the 16th February, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Besant, I love the surname. It is throwing.

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