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Annie Besant : An Autobiography
Annie Besant : An Autobiography
Description

From the Jacket:

Annie Besant was born in 1847. Married at the age of nineteen to Rev. Frank Besant and a mother of two by the time she was twenty-three. Annie was nonetheless an independent spirit. She would often question the religion she and her family practiced, earning the displeasure of her more traditional husband. When Annie refused to attend communion, he ordered her to leave the family home. Rejecting Christianity, she went to live in London where she joined the Secular Society and also learned about Theosophy, a modern re-statement of an ancient spiritual wisdom found at the heart of the religions of the world. During these years she wrote many articles on issues such as marriage and women's rights and health, even publishing her controversial book, The Laws of Population, advocating birth control.

In the 1890s Annie Besant became a member of The Theosophical Society, founded by Madame Blavatsky and Col. H.S. Olcott in 1875, and came to live in India in 1893. At the forefront of the movement for India's cultural and spiritual resurgence, she started the Indian Home Rule Movement and became President of the Indian National Congress in 1907. The same year, she was elected President of The Theosophical Society, a position she held till her death in 1933.

Outstanding orator, reformer, humanist and educationist, Annie Besant inspired and continues to inspire thousands of men and women all over the world.

Preface

IT is a difficult thing to tell the story of a life, and yet more difficult when that life is one's own. At the best, the telling has a savour of vanity, and the only excuse for the proceeding is that the life, being an average one, reflects many others, and in troublous times like ours may give the experience of many rather than of one. And so the autobiographer does his work because he thinks that, at the cost of some unpleasantness to himself, he may throw light on some of the typical problems that are vexing the souls of his contemporaries, and perchance may stretch out a helping hand to some brother who is struggling in the darkness, and so bring him cheer when despair has him in its grip. Since all of us, men and women of this restless and eager generation-surrounded by forces we dimly see but cannot as yet understand, discontented with old ideas and half afraid of new, greedy for the material results of the knowledge brought us by Science but looking askance at her agnosticism as regards the soul, fearful of superstition but still more fearful of atheism, turning from the husks of outgrown creeds but filled with desperate hunger for spiritual ideals - since all of us have the same anxieties, the same griefs, the same yearning hopes, the same passionate desire for knowledge, it may well be that the story of one may help all, and that the tale of one soul that went out alone into the darkness and on the other side found light, that struggled through the Storm and on the other side found Peace, may bring some ray of light and of peace into the darkness and the storm of other lives.

Preface To The Third Edition

Nineteen years have passed away since I joined the Theosophical Society, as recorded at the close of this book, and during these nineteen years I have been lecturing and writing on its behalf, and have travelled pretty well all over the world in its service. Most European countries have been visited, and branches of the Society founded in each; France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, have all listened willingly to the message of Theosophy, and groups of members are to be found in most of the large towns in all of them. England, Scotland and Ireland, naturally, have had the lion's share of this propaganda work in Europe, and I regard the great change which has come over English thought - the turning away from materialism and the revival of mysticism - as due to that great wave of spiritual life of which the Theosophical Society is the crest.

To America I have travelled many times, lecturing in the larger cities, and to Australia and New Zealand the same work has led me. Most of all has India been the field of labour since I first went thither in 1893. The Indian work is, first of all, the revival, strengthening and uplifting of the ancient religions-Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and, in Ceylon and Burma, Buddhism. The success with which this has been accomplished by the Theosophical Society is acknowledged on all sides, friendly and hostile, and this revival of the old faiths has brought with it a new self-respect, a pride in the past, a belief in the future, and, as an inevitable result, a great wave of patriotic life, the beginning of the rebuilding of a nation. The work, in the second place, has been educational, and the note of this has been the wedding of Western education with Eastern religion and Eastern ethics, and the carrying on of colleges and schools under the control of Indians, instead of under the control of Government or of missionaries - the sole educationists until the Theosophical Society stepped into the field. In Ceylon, three colleges and over two hundred schools are flourishing under the care of Buddhist Theosophists. In India, two colleges and a growing number of schools, both for boys and girls, are being directed by Hindu Theosophists. Five free schools in Madras are being maintained for the pariah population, and are crowded with hitherto neglected children.

At Adyar, near Madras, where are the headquarters of the Society, an Oriental Library was raised, and it contains some unique Sanskrit and Pali MSS., as well as a great collection of palm-leaf manuscripts and other valuable books.

My Indian work, from 1893 to 1907, was carried on in close collaboration with the President-founder of the Theosophical Society, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, the colleague of our much-revered H.P. Blavatsky. To his initiative and continued support were due the wide-spreading Buddhist work in Ceylon, the raising of the Adyar Headquarters, the Oriental Library and the pariah schools, as well as the pioneer work of arousing Hindus and Zoroastrians to the realization of the priceless treasures hidden in the sacred books, on which they were allowing the dust to gather. When he passed away, in February, 1907, he left a well-organised and world-wide movement, capable of indefinite extension along the lines so wisely planned and laid. At his death, by his Master's wish, on his nomination and the Society's ratification, I succeeded to the Presidency of the Society.

It is right that I should here place on record the fact that during these nineteen years of strenuous work all over the world, Theosophy has been to me an ever- increasing strength, peace, and joy. Never once, for a single instant, has my faith in it faltered, nor the slightest cloud of distrust flitted across my sky. Each year has added something to knowledge, some verification of 'things heard,' some proof of what had been theory. Life has grown more and more intelligible; death a negligible incident in an ever-widening life. My gratitude to H.P. Blavatsky is no longer the warm but half-blind faith of the pupil in the teacher, but the glad thanks to one who gave knowledge which experience has verified, and an ever-increasing recognition of the priceless value of the gift she gave. When, in future days, a world rejoicing in a Universal Religion shall count over the great souls who laid thereof the foundation, not the least of those Master- Builders will be revered as H. P. Blavatsky.

CONTENTS

 

Preface to Third Impression vii
Preface xi
CHAPTER  
I. Out of the Everywhere into the Here 1
II. Early Childhood 17
III. Girlhood 33
IV. Marriage 49
V. The Storm of Doubt 84
VI. Charles Bradlaugh 111
VII. Atheism as I knew and Taught It 121
VIII. At Work 155
IX. The Knowlton Pamphlet 181
X. At War all Round 219
XI. Mr Bradlaugh's Struggle 226
XII. Still Fighting 249
XIII. Socialism 270
XIV. Through Storm to Peace 299

Sample Pages

















Annie Besant : An Autobiography

Item Code:
IDE610
Cover:
Paperback
Edition:
2005
Publisher:
Penguin Books
ISBN:
0143033409
Language:
English
Size:
8.4" X 5.5"
Pages:
344 (B & W Illus: 10)
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 394 gms
Price:
$32.00   Shipping Free
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From the Jacket:

Annie Besant was born in 1847. Married at the age of nineteen to Rev. Frank Besant and a mother of two by the time she was twenty-three. Annie was nonetheless an independent spirit. She would often question the religion she and her family practiced, earning the displeasure of her more traditional husband. When Annie refused to attend communion, he ordered her to leave the family home. Rejecting Christianity, she went to live in London where she joined the Secular Society and also learned about Theosophy, a modern re-statement of an ancient spiritual wisdom found at the heart of the religions of the world. During these years she wrote many articles on issues such as marriage and women's rights and health, even publishing her controversial book, The Laws of Population, advocating birth control.

In the 1890s Annie Besant became a member of The Theosophical Society, founded by Madame Blavatsky and Col. H.S. Olcott in 1875, and came to live in India in 1893. At the forefront of the movement for India's cultural and spiritual resurgence, she started the Indian Home Rule Movement and became President of the Indian National Congress in 1907. The same year, she was elected President of The Theosophical Society, a position she held till her death in 1933.

Outstanding orator, reformer, humanist and educationist, Annie Besant inspired and continues to inspire thousands of men and women all over the world.

Preface

IT is a difficult thing to tell the story of a life, and yet more difficult when that life is one's own. At the best, the telling has a savour of vanity, and the only excuse for the proceeding is that the life, being an average one, reflects many others, and in troublous times like ours may give the experience of many rather than of one. And so the autobiographer does his work because he thinks that, at the cost of some unpleasantness to himself, he may throw light on some of the typical problems that are vexing the souls of his contemporaries, and perchance may stretch out a helping hand to some brother who is struggling in the darkness, and so bring him cheer when despair has him in its grip. Since all of us, men and women of this restless and eager generation-surrounded by forces we dimly see but cannot as yet understand, discontented with old ideas and half afraid of new, greedy for the material results of the knowledge brought us by Science but looking askance at her agnosticism as regards the soul, fearful of superstition but still more fearful of atheism, turning from the husks of outgrown creeds but filled with desperate hunger for spiritual ideals - since all of us have the same anxieties, the same griefs, the same yearning hopes, the same passionate desire for knowledge, it may well be that the story of one may help all, and that the tale of one soul that went out alone into the darkness and on the other side found light, that struggled through the Storm and on the other side found Peace, may bring some ray of light and of peace into the darkness and the storm of other lives.

Preface To The Third Edition

Nineteen years have passed away since I joined the Theosophical Society, as recorded at the close of this book, and during these nineteen years I have been lecturing and writing on its behalf, and have travelled pretty well all over the world in its service. Most European countries have been visited, and branches of the Society founded in each; France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, have all listened willingly to the message of Theosophy, and groups of members are to be found in most of the large towns in all of them. England, Scotland and Ireland, naturally, have had the lion's share of this propaganda work in Europe, and I regard the great change which has come over English thought - the turning away from materialism and the revival of mysticism - as due to that great wave of spiritual life of which the Theosophical Society is the crest.

To America I have travelled many times, lecturing in the larger cities, and to Australia and New Zealand the same work has led me. Most of all has India been the field of labour since I first went thither in 1893. The Indian work is, first of all, the revival, strengthening and uplifting of the ancient religions-Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and, in Ceylon and Burma, Buddhism. The success with which this has been accomplished by the Theosophical Society is acknowledged on all sides, friendly and hostile, and this revival of the old faiths has brought with it a new self-respect, a pride in the past, a belief in the future, and, as an inevitable result, a great wave of patriotic life, the beginning of the rebuilding of a nation. The work, in the second place, has been educational, and the note of this has been the wedding of Western education with Eastern religion and Eastern ethics, and the carrying on of colleges and schools under the control of Indians, instead of under the control of Government or of missionaries - the sole educationists until the Theosophical Society stepped into the field. In Ceylon, three colleges and over two hundred schools are flourishing under the care of Buddhist Theosophists. In India, two colleges and a growing number of schools, both for boys and girls, are being directed by Hindu Theosophists. Five free schools in Madras are being maintained for the pariah population, and are crowded with hitherto neglected children.

At Adyar, near Madras, where are the headquarters of the Society, an Oriental Library was raised, and it contains some unique Sanskrit and Pali MSS., as well as a great collection of palm-leaf manuscripts and other valuable books.

My Indian work, from 1893 to 1907, was carried on in close collaboration with the President-founder of the Theosophical Society, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, the colleague of our much-revered H.P. Blavatsky. To his initiative and continued support were due the wide-spreading Buddhist work in Ceylon, the raising of the Adyar Headquarters, the Oriental Library and the pariah schools, as well as the pioneer work of arousing Hindus and Zoroastrians to the realization of the priceless treasures hidden in the sacred books, on which they were allowing the dust to gather. When he passed away, in February, 1907, he left a well-organised and world-wide movement, capable of indefinite extension along the lines so wisely planned and laid. At his death, by his Master's wish, on his nomination and the Society's ratification, I succeeded to the Presidency of the Society.

It is right that I should here place on record the fact that during these nineteen years of strenuous work all over the world, Theosophy has been to me an ever- increasing strength, peace, and joy. Never once, for a single instant, has my faith in it faltered, nor the slightest cloud of distrust flitted across my sky. Each year has added something to knowledge, some verification of 'things heard,' some proof of what had been theory. Life has grown more and more intelligible; death a negligible incident in an ever-widening life. My gratitude to H.P. Blavatsky is no longer the warm but half-blind faith of the pupil in the teacher, but the glad thanks to one who gave knowledge which experience has verified, and an ever-increasing recognition of the priceless value of the gift she gave. When, in future days, a world rejoicing in a Universal Religion shall count over the great souls who laid thereof the foundation, not the least of those Master- Builders will be revered as H. P. Blavatsky.

CONTENTS

 

Preface to Third Impression vii
Preface xi
CHAPTER  
I. Out of the Everywhere into the Here 1
II. Early Childhood 17
III. Girlhood 33
IV. Marriage 49
V. The Storm of Doubt 84
VI. Charles Bradlaugh 111
VII. Atheism as I knew and Taught It 121
VIII. At Work 155
IX. The Knowlton Pamphlet 181
X. At War all Round 219
XI. Mr Bradlaugh's Struggle 226
XII. Still Fighting 249
XIII. Socialism 270
XIV. Through Storm to Peace 299

Sample Pages

















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