The Singapore Lodge Theosophical Society
The following articles are reproduced from the October 2019 Newsletter to members. Non-members may or may not be able to relate to the contents.
Dr Annie Besant
By Geoffrey Hodson
Reprinted from Sharing the Light, Vol. II
In commemoration of the birthday of Annie Besant on 1st October
ALL biographies, however authentic and complete, inevitably fail to record the whole life of their subject. Whilst the events of the outer life may be accurately stated, the far more important, vital and essential inner life can never be fully revealed. This is especially the case when the life stories of the world’s occultists come to be told. True, therefore, it is of the great Initiate whom the world knew as Annie Besant. Dramatic, tragic, marked by grandeur, shot through with compassionate love for the world, as the events of her life undoubtedly were, far more dramatic and exalted, filled with a deeper compassion and love, was the inner life which she lived as a disciple of one of earth’s great Adepts.
The two founders of The Theosophical Society would appear to have recognized at their first meeting with Annie Besant both her greatness and the contribution which she was destined to make to the progress of the Society. H. P. Blavatsky received her into membership and began immediately to train her. Colonel Olcott had been forewarned by his own Master of her advent. Here is the story as he records it in Old Diary Leaves (Chapter VIII, Page 93): ‘Just before daybreak on the 10th of February, 1892, I received clairaudiently a very important message from my Guru telling me, among other things, that a messenger from him would be coming and I must hold myself in readiness to go and meet him. Nothing more than this was said, neither the name of the person nor the time of his or her arrival being indicated. In the absence of exact information, I jumped to the conclusion that the most likely person to be sent would be Damodar, who, after a residence of seven years in Tibet would, presumably, and judging from his state of psychical development when he left us, be ready to carry out the Master’s orders in co-operation with myself.
‘So things remained until the early morning after our [Colonel Olcott and Annie Besant] arrival at our third Indian station, viz., Trichinopoly, when the familiar voice again spoke as I lay in that state, between sleeping and waking, and said: “This is the messenger whom I told you to be ready to go and meet; now do your duty”. The surprise and delight were such as to drag me at once into the state of waking physical consciousness, and I rejoiced to think that I had once more received proof of the possibility of getting trustworthy communications from my Teacher at times when I could not suspect them of being the result of auto-suggestion. The development of Mrs Besant’s relations with our work in India have been, moreover, what, to me, is the best possible evidence that she is, indeed, the agent selected to fructify the seeds which have been planted by H.P.B. and myself during the previous fifteen years’.
Such, in brief, was the entry of the President-Mother, as she later came to be called, upon the Theosophical stage. The same great Teacher who was the Guru of the two Founders later on accepted her as a disciple, trained her for her great mission, and aided in her rapid progress along the razor edged Path into the ranks of that great Adept-Fraternity which lives and labours from eternity to eternity.
As a result of this training, and of her own endeavours and progress in this and preceding lives, and possibly because of her Celtic lineage, her latent seership began rapidly to develop. Swiftly she moved through the normal Theosophical phases of discovery, study and contemplation of the teachings of Theosophy as propounded by others, to the first hand realization of their truth. The bodily encasement ceased to imprison her ardent and profound intelligence. The inner eye was opened, the sixth and seventh senses developed and used. The power was attained to leave the body in full consciousness, explore the invisible worlds, meet the great Teachers face to face and grasp the basic principles upon which the emanation, involution and evolution of a universe are founded. Annie Besant thus became an inspired seeress under the direct guidance of her great Guru.
A matchless intellect and an unrivalled mastery of the art of oratory enabled her to give to the world in a most lucid, convincing and beautiful form the fruits of her studies and investigations. She travelled the world addressing great multitudes of people in country after country and drawing into membership of the Theosophical Society many hundreds of seekers for the truth. To the inner life also she attracted large numbers, thereby enriching both the lives of those who followed and were taught by her and that of the Society in which so many of them became prominent and valuable workers.
Perhaps it was in India that she rose to her greatest heights. When first she landed on those sacred shores, she found a great Nation virtually asleep and many of the followers of a great Religion largely insensitive to and unaware of its greatness. In consequence they were steeped in degrading superstition and assenting to the materialism of the West. The vision of India’s great ness through thousands of years of the past, and into the future when she should be free, then awoke in Dr Besant the determination to try and arouse the millions of the people of ancient Aryavarta to a realization of their own inherent greatness as a nation. She thereupon began to write and speak of the necessity for India’s freedom and of the magnitude of the part which, if they would, the Indian peoples in partnership with the Western Powers were destined to play in the progress of the human race.
The Hindu Religion appealed to her profoundly philosophic mind. The all-embracing nature of the various schools of Hindu religious thought, the sacred writings, the Sanskrit mantras, the inner meaning of Hindu allegories and symbols, the immediate practical application of such pronouncements as the Laws of Manu — all these were revealed to her. Upon this revelation followed one of her greatest achievements. Traveling throughout the length and breadth of the Indian Motherland, she aroused not only the political, but the religious life and conscience of the people, inspired them to study anew their own Faith and restored to them their confidence and pride in the great spiritual, philosophical and cultural heritage which was theirs.
The response was dramatic in the extreme. Hope sprang anew in the breasts of tens of thousands of the Indian peoples. A new life began to flow throughout the nation. From north to south, from east west, like a second Shri Shankaracharya, she travelled not once but repeatedly, founded centres of spiritual activity, Theosophical lodges and that wonderful School in Benares, the Central Hindu College, which afterwards became the Hindu University.
By these and other means, including such newspapers as New India and The Commonwealth, she reached and called to freedom and greatness vast numbers of Indians, teaching and attracting both young and old to the service of the Motherland. Many leaders and workers does India owe to Annie Besant.
As these words are being written, India’s freedom is close at hand. By the time they appear in print it may already have been attained. Probably to Annie Besant, more than to any other single individual, is India indebted for this greatest of all gifts. Indian leaders themselves do not fail to recognize the greatness of her contribution to the life of the nation.
If a personal note be permitted, the author himself owes to Annie Besant his decision to become a member of the Theosophical Society. In 1912 he heard her speak in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, upon the Inner Government of the World and work of the Bodhisattva. In however slight a degree, inner vision then awoke. Her great and shining aura was seen filling the large Hall and extending far beyond. In addition those remarkable searchlight rays depicted in the illustration of the Causal Body of an Arhat, shone out on either side of her head far into the upper air. The revelation, spiritual, intellectual and psychical was overwhelming. As, has been the case with so many thousands of others in similar circumstances, there and then came the decision to join the Society and the resolve to seek, and, if it might be to find, the Great Teachers of the Race. Such was power to inspire, to elevate and to draw the very highest in those who were privileged to come under her influence.
Other unforgettable memories include attendance at the series of lectures which, year by year, she gave in the Queen’s Hall, London. One such scene arises before me as I write. It is that of the celebration of her Golden Jubilee of Public Life. The great Hall was packed with those who had come to pay her reverence, to do her homage and participate in the great occasion. Leaders from many of the noblest fields of human endeavour in the West, and splendid representatives of the East, including Indian Princes, were present. As was ever the custom, all rose as she came on to the platform. For over two hours she listened to a paean of praise from men and women of every rank and walk of life, from British factory workers to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer of England, from altruists and humanitarians of the West to great statesmen, patriots and potentates of the East.
At last came her turn to reply. In one of the greatest and most inspiring examples of her oratorical power, after giving thanks, she lifted all that praise from herself as a Personality and laid it at the feet of Him who is the only worker, the only sacrifice. Here are her closing words: ‘The God who unfolds within us pushes us onwards, even when our eyes are blinded to His Glory, and it is He who is the only worker, He who is the only sacrifice, He who living in our hearts is the only inspiration to Service. And just as we come to know that this is true, then it is that we know that nothing that our bodies and our brains and our hearts can do is our work at all, for all work is His alone and there is none other. And we realize that we work in His power, and He is never weak; in His strength, and He is never feeble; in His youth, the strong immortal Youth who never grows old. And I would say to every one of you that that Power dwells within you, and that strength is the strength of the Divine Spirit and the body is only the Temple of the Living God; and then you will realize that it is not you that works, but it is He. It is not you who plan, but He who plans, and that all you have to do is to make yourselves a channel for that mighty life in which the Universe is living. And who shall dare to say that anyone in whom that life abide’s — and He abides in every one of you — that you cannot make a new Heaven and a new Earth by the Christ and the God within you, for whom alone you can ever be strong, by whom alone you can ever conquer the obstacles in the way’.
Such, in part, was the outer life lived before all men of the great teacher, scholar, statesman, leader and servant of humanity who was Annie Besant. On all sides she was recognized as the greatest orator in the world and by many as the greatest woman of her time.
Of her inner life, sacred and secret as almost all of it must be, it may be said that through her own interior unfoldment, her spiritual vision and the prodigal bounty with which she shared all her gifts with her fellow men, thousands have been drawn to the Way of Holiness. Many are those who have followed her along that Path which leads steeply upwards to the summit of the evolutionary mount and through that gate which opens only inwards, passing through which there can be no return.
Homage, obeisance and gratitude are owing to the great soul who sacrificed life itself for truth as Hypatia and Giordano Bruno and who, as Annie Besant, exalted both womanhood and the whole human race. Thousands throughout the world still miss and still mourn her. Let none be dismayed. She lives, and will come again when the Teachers whose selfless servant she was and is decide once more to send her forth.
47th Edition of A Course in Theosophy
As part of our continuing effort to achieve our twin-object of popularizing a knowledge of theosophy and induction of new members, we will be starting our 47th edition of A Course in Theosophy on Saturday, 23 November 2019.
Theosophy encompasses the science of life and the philosophy of living and has helped many people in the world. All members can help in the mission of popularizing a knowledge of theosophy. You will be doing humanity a great service by reaching out and bringing newcomers to the Society, to expose them to the theosophical teachings. As the Master has said, “Spheres of usefulness can be found everywhere. The first object of the Society is philanthropy. The true Theosophist is a philanthropist who—‘not for himself but for the world he lives’…” “This, and philosophy—the right comprehension of life and its mysteries—will give the ‘necessary basis’ and show the right pathway to pursue. Yet the best ‘sphere of usefulness’ for the applicant is now in his own land.”
The schedule of the next combined course is posted on our website at singaporelodge.org/btc_dates.htm.