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annie besant

︎Painting, Philosophy, Spirituality,  
︎ Ventral Is Golden

“A myth is far truer than a history, for a history only gives a story of the shadows, whereas myth gives a story of the substances that cast the shadows.”

Thought-forms are a curious phenomena, often associated with pseudo-scientific methods in the West of articulating the non-physical worlds of ideas, that rose in popularity through the pioneering social and political work of a woman from Clapham, South-West London, in the late 1800's

︎Thought-form - by Annie Besant & C.W Leadbeater, 1901

Annie Besant (1 October 1847 – 20 September 1933) was a British Socialist, Theosophist, Women's Rights Activist, writer and orator. As a young wife of a clergyman, she quickly became restless with the provincial worldview of Christianity. For Besant, Christianity represented a fundamental hypocrisy, where people would worship the suffering of their saviour, but did nothing to alleviate the poverty-stricken working classes, especially of rural England. Besant later became a supporter of Irish and Indian self-rule, women's working rights, secularism, the right to print information about birth control, and the Fabian Socialism, in an effort to compensate for the philosophical and moral void she thought had been created by the Church's dogmatic approach to the social function of Religion.

For Besant, politics, friendship and love were always closely intertwined. Her decision in favour of Socialism came about through a close relationship with George Bernard Shaw, a struggling young Irish author living in London, and a leading light of the Fabian Society, who would later persuade and sponsor Besant in joining the movement.
In its early days, the Fabian Society was a gathering of people exploring spiritual, rather than political, alternatives to the capitalist system. This kind of mental environment would provide the foundations of Besant's later political works and deep interest in Theosophical teachings.

In 1889, Besant received a book to review for Pall Mall Gazette. The title of the book was The Secret Doctrine, it's author HP Blavatsky, Russian Mystic, Mother of the New Age, and founder of the Theosophical movement.

After reading it, Besant sought an interview with its author, meeting Blavatsky in Paris. Besant's intellectual journey had always involved a spiritual dimension, a quest for the transformation of the entire person. In this way she was converted to the holistic approach that Theosophy seemed to support.

So what relevance, if any, does Theosophical teaching have for the artists, graphic designers, musicians, poets and political campaigners of today?

As the nature of communication has expanded through digital means, so too must the perspectives that fuel the creative process (as it must with any new technology).
In some sense, the desire to find alternatives that distinguished Theosophy from the established mental and political environments of the Christian church, are manifest in today's Multimedia environments, particularly in relation to newspapers.

“During the time of the British occupation of India, when so many were looking towards the East for spiritual inspiration, the majority of Indians were being sent to Britain to learn the ways of their imperial rulers.”
When previously established sources of information are dissolved and apparently untrustworthy or misrepresentative, who will present the validity of an alternative world view? What shall we take to be the instruments of our expression, and what forms shall we begin to create in an attempt to integrate the artistic, social and political domains, to fully express the needs of each other?

An historical example of this kind of relationship was during the time of the British occupation of India, when so many were looking towards the East for spiritual inspiration, the majority of Indians were being sent to Britain to learn the ways of their imperial rulers. In 1890, a young law student in London met Besant and HP Blavatsky and began discussing the philosophical aspects of Theosophy. The law student then grew the desire to reconnect with Hindu literature and spirituality, that had otherwise been reduced to mere superstition by British intellectuals and mercenaries. Along with the two women, and over a period of 30 years, the group began campaigning to create a Hindu renaissance in India, that would sow the seeds for great cultural change. The name of the law student was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, later known as Mahatma Gandhi.

About the Thought-forms, Besant wrote that "many people are aware that sound is always associated with colour—that when, for example, a musical note is sounded, a flash of colour corresponding to it may be seen by those whose finer senses are already to some extent developed. It seems not to be so generally known that sound produces form as well as colour, and that every piece of music leaves behind it an impression of this nature, which persists for some considerable time, and is clearly visible and intelligible to those who have eyes to see. Such a shape...may well be the result of the thought of the composer expressed by means of the skill of the musician through his instrument."

Annie Besant, whether fancifully utopian in her political and spiritual endeavours, represented the need for alternative models of thought in the face of social inequality. In her lifetime, this cost her the custody of her children (for one court declared that she was unfit to look after them) and in light of her own personal struggle, she was also able to represent political allies and the economically impoverished working classes, to continually campaign for better working conditions, and simulaneously read a science degree in only one year. There is a lot to be learned from this incredibly voracious pioneer of equality.

Further Reading ︎
Thought Forms & their meanings
Annie Besant, Documentary by Don Cupitt (Part 1)
Don Cupitt, Full Documentary on Multi Culturalism


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