Annie Besant (October 1, 1847 – September 20, 1933) was a prominent British socialist, theosophist, women's rights activist, writer and orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self-rule. 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. She 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. After the war, she continued to campaign for Indian independence and for the causes of theosophy, until her death in 1933.
- Refusal to believe until proof is given is a rational position; denial of all outside of our own limited experience is absurd.
- In The Words of Extraordinary Women, p. 55
- Better remain silent, better not even think, if you are not prepared to act.
- Liberty is a great celestial Goddess, strong, beneficent, and austere, and she can never descend upon a nation by the shouting of crowds, nor by arguments of unbridled passion, nor by the hatred of class against class.
- In The Political Thought of Annie Besant, p. 104
- No philosophy, no religion, has ever brought so glad a message to the world as this good news of Atheism.
- In Why God, p41
- I have ever been the queerest mixture of weakness and strength, and have paid heavily for the weakness.
- In The William James Reader, Volume 1, p. 323
- Life is not a monotone but a many-stringed harmony, and to this harmony is contributed a distinctive note by each individual.
- Every person, every race, every nation, has its own particular keynote which it brings to the general chord of life and of humanity. Life is not a monotone but a many-stringed harmony, and to this harmony is contributed a distinctive note by each individual.
- It is the duty of the followers of Islam to spread through the civilised world, a knowledge of what Islam means - its spirit and message.
- A prophet is always much wider than his followers, much more liberal than those who label themselves with his name.
- I often think that woman is more free in Islam than in Christianity. Woman is more protected by Islam than by the faith which preaches monogamy. In AI Quran the law about woman is juster and more liberal.
- Muhammadan law in its relation to women, is a pattern to European law. Look back to the history of Islam, and you will find that women have often taken leading places - on the throne, in the battle-field, in politics, in literature, poetry, etc.
- That is the true definition of sin; when knowing right you do the lower, ah, then you sin. Where there is no knowledge, sin is not present.
- Empty-brained triflers who have never tried to think, who take their creed as they take their fashions, speak of atheism as the outcome of foul life and vicious desires.
- In Annie Besant: An Autobiography, p. 89
- Evil is only imperfection, that which is not complete, which is becoming, but has not yet found its end.
- For centuries the leaders of Christian thought spoke of women as a necessary evil, and the greatest saints of the Church are those who despise women the most.
- It is not monogamy when there is one legal wife, and mistresses out of sight.
- Never yet was a nation born that did not begin in the spirit, pass to the heart and the mind, and then take an outer form in the world of men.
- In Great Women of Modern India: Annie Besant, p. 278
- Thought is just not something objective in our heads. Thought is power – real, objective power. Moreover, the thoughts we create have a life of their own. They have a kind of material reality that affects other people for good or ill – hence our responsibility to chose.
- Control of the tongue! Vital for the man who would try to tread the Path, for no harsh or unkind word, no hasty impatient phrase, may escape from the tongue which is consecrated to service, and which must not injure even an enemy; for that which wounds has no place in the Kingdom of Love.
- In The Theosophist, Volume 33, p. 183
- Yet that is the most splendid privilege of man, that the true birthright of the human Spirit, to know his own Divinity, and then to realise it, to know his own Divinity and then to manifest it.
- In The Theosophist, Volume 33, p. 190
- In concentration, the consciousness is held to a single image; the whole attention of the Knower is fixed on a single point, without wavering or swerving.
- Man, according to the Theosophical teaching, is a sevenfold being, or, in the usual phrase a septenary constitution. Putting it yet in another way, man's nature has seven aspects, may be studied from seven different points of view, is composed of Seven Principles.
- In The Seven Principles of Man, p. 6
- Yoga is a matter of the Spirit and not of the intellect. For just as water will find its way through every obstruction, in order to rise to the level of its source, so does the spirit in man strive upwards ever towards the source whence it came.
- In Yoga: The Hatha Yoga and the Raja Yoga, p. backcover
- Karma brings us ever back to rebirth, binds us to the wheel of births and deaths. Good Karma drags us back as relentlessly as bad, and the chain which is wrought out of our virtues holds as firmly and as closely as that forged from our vices.
- In Theosophical Review, Volume 17, p. 139
- Sun-worship and pure forms of nature-worship were, in their day, noble religions, highly allegorical but full of profound truth and knowledge.
- But no one can eat the flesh of a slaughtered animal without having used the hand of a man as slaughterer. Suppose that we had to kill for ourselves the creatures whose bodies we would fain have upon our table, is there one woman in a hundred who would go to the slaughterhouse to slay the bullock, the calf, the sheep or the pig?
- In Humanimal, p. 140
- Against the teachings of eternal torture, of the vicarious atonement, of the infallibility of the Bible, I levelled all the strength of my brain and tongue, and I exposed the history of the Christian Church with unsparing hand, its persecutions, its religious wars, its cruelties, its oppressions.
- Mysticism is the realisation of God, of the Universal Self. It is attained either as a realisation of God outside the Mystic, or within himself. In the first case, it is usually reached from within a religion, by exceptionally intense love and devotion, accompanied by purity of life, for only "the pure in heart shall see God".
- In “Annie Besant Quotes”
- The true Mystic, realising God, has no need of any Scriptures, for he has touched the source whence all Scriptures flow.
- The generous wish to share with all what is precious, to spread broadcast priceless truths, to shut out none from the illumination of true knowledge, has resulted in a zeal without discretion that has vulgarised Christianity, and has presented its teachings in a form that often repels the heart and alienates the intellect. The command to “preach the gospel to very creature” – though admittedly by doubtful authenticity – has been interpreted as forbidding the teaching of Gnosis to a few, and has apparently erased the less popular saying of the same Great Teacher “Give not that is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.”
- India demands Home Rule for two reasons, one essential and vital, the other less important but necessary: Firstly, because Freedom is the birthright of every Nation; secondly, because her most important interests are now made subservient to the interests of the British Empire without her consent, and her resources are not utilised for her greatest needs.
- My own life in India, since I came to it in 1893 to make it my home, has been devoted to one purpose, to give back to India her ancient freedom.
- In Indian critiques of Gandhi, p. 82
- The destruction of India's village system was the greatest of England's blunders.
- In Essays on Indian Freedom Movement, p. 97
- My heart revolts against the spectre of Almighty indifferent to the pain of sentient being. My conscience rebels against the injustice, the cruelty, the inequality that surrounds me on every side. But believe in man, in man’s redeeming power, in man’s remoulding energy, in man’s approaching triumph through knowledge, love and work.
- In “Indian Political Thought”, p. 191
- The body is never more alive than when it is dead; but it is alive in its units, and dead in its totality; alive as a congeries, dead as an organism.
- In Death-And After, p. 19
About Annie Besant
- Besant was an amazing teacher who wrote many books and played a key role in the early years of the Theosophical Society.
- Paul Tice, in The Path of Discipleship, p. 3
- As the World's Parliament of Religions  was to meet at Chicago in the following September, and as it had been arranged that our Society should participate in it, I deputed the Vice-President, Mr. Judge, to represent me officially, and appointed Mrs. Besant special delegate to speak there on behalf of the whole Society. How great a success it was for us and how powerfully it stimulated public interest in our views will be recollected by all our older members. Theosophy was presented most thoroughly both before the whole Parliament, an audience of 3,000 people, and at meetings of our own for the holding of which special halls were kindly given us. A profound impression was created by the discourses of Professor G. N. Chakravarti and Mrs. Besant, who is said to have risen to unusual heights of eloquence, so exhilarating were the influences of the gathering. Besides these who represented our Society especially, Messrs. Vivekananda, V. R. Gandhi, Dharmapala, representatives of the Hindu Vedanta, Jainism, and Buddhism respectively, captivated the public, who had only heard of the Indian people through the malicious reports of interested missionaries, and were now astounded to see before them and hear men who represented the ideal of spirituality and human perfectibility as taught in their respective sacred writings.
- Henry Olcott reporting on the Theosophical Society presentation at World's Parliament of Religions in 1893, in OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fifth Series (1893-96) by Henry Steel Olcott
- She loved India with a fervor and devotion all her own. Our country’s philosophy, our history or legends, our spiritual heritage, our achievements in the past, our sorrows in the present, our aspirations for the future were part and parcel of Mrs Annie Besant’s own life.
- The significance of Annie Besant’s political activities lay in building up step a heightened sense of public resentment against the iniquitous and oppressive British rule in India, which other political leaders were to seize on to launch a full-scale anti-imperial agitation in the country in 1919. Thus it was from Annie Besant’s intellectual and moral capital that Mahatma Gandhi was to derive immense resources to sharpen his weapons of satyagraha to fight the British and to free the country from the fetters of foreign rule.
- V.N. Datta, in Annie Besant: a sensitive reappraisal
- Welcome sister, the ever unfortunate mother India takes you to her bosom. Now she has nothing precious of which she can make a present to you; but she is ready to receive you with Shamit (sacrificial fuel), Kushahan (a seat made of sacrificial grass), Padya (water for washing the feet with), Arghya (respectful oblation) and sweet words.
What has brought you sister, here? India is now lifeless. Here is now no chanting of the Vedas, no Tapobana (garden for practising religious austerities), no twice-born, no uttering of Mantras (mystical incantation) Now the cry of the famine-stricken people rends the sky.
We, the inhabitants of Berhampore, give a garland of flowers round your neck; please take it, simple sister, with your characteristic affability.
You are now a learned daughter of mother India, you are honoured throughout the world and your reputation is world-wide. We are glad to see you.
- Songs of Welcome in honour of Mrs. Besant during her visit to Berhampore, India in 1894 quoted, in Old Diary Leaves, Fifth Series (1893-96) by Henry Steel Olcott
- Annie Besant’s book where she put forward the idea that theosophical mystical energies could be portrayed as colours or abstract shapes was practically the invention of abstract art. A lot of artists rushed out and read it and suddenly thought, ‘oh God you could, you could portray love as a colour, or depression as a colour” All of a sudden abstract art happens, a flowering out of occultism.
- Alan Moore De Abaitua interview (1998)