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 Form - 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 public speaker, who became a powerful influence in the spiritual revival of eastern relgions and philosophy in both the eastern and western hemispheres from the early 1900’s until her death.

As a young wife of a clergyman, Besant quickly became angered by the provincial worldview of Christianity. For Besant, the Christianity of her time represented a fundamental hypocrisy, where people would worship the suffering of their saviour, but did nothing to alleviate the poverty-stricken working classes of their communities. After refusing to take her Holy Communion in her husand’s church, she was offered an ultimatum - to participate or leave. She promptly left her village in Lincolnshire and moved with her two children to London, where she would later become a gifted political and social activist, supporting Irish and Indian self-rule, campaigning tirelessly in her early career as an editor for the National Secular Society, on social issues ranging from women's working rights, to the right to print information about birth control, in which her former husband won a court order by declaring that her views made Besant unfit to mother her children.

After experiencing such profound grief over the court cases, Besant was even more incensed to expose the deeply embedded negative social attitudes surrounding the freedom of thinking and of publishing educational material.

For Besant, politics, friendship and love were always closely intertwined, but it wasn’t until 1889, after receiving a book to review for the Pall Mall Gazette, that she became intruiged by the openness and depth of it’s spiritual insights. 
Disenchanted by western social attitudes and full of intellectual receptivity to these new ideas, Besant’s philosophical views became infused with this book - The Secret Doctrine, as well as with the book’s author HP Blavatsky - a Russian mystic, Mother of the New Age, and founder of the Theosophical movement.

After reading The Secret Doctrine, Besant sought an interview with the mysterious Blavatsky and eventually set up a meeting with her in Paris, after which Besant abandoned her secularist ideas and also to some extent the socialist philosophy. Blavatsky had inspired Besant’s approach towards understanding the root casues of all the various evils in the world and of the unseen habbits which govern existence. In many ways the Theosophical society was for Besant, a culmination of her life’s work in understanding the transcendental cause of human suffering.

By 1907, after spending the previous nine years in India, she became the president of the Theosophical movement and endeavoured to make it’s principles a practical force for shaping future societies. Her work with the Theosophists in India led to the establishment of the Indian Home Rule Movement.
During the time of the British occupation of India, when so many westerners 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. Besant became a hugely influential figure in the Hindu renaissance movement that underpinned a lot of the Theosophical teachings, and would infuse her spiritual beliefs with her divine sense of social justice when she was elected as the president of the Indian National Congress - essentially transforming the group from a gentlemen’s club into a dominant force that represented the sovereign rights of the Indian working classes, and even strongly encouraged female participation on public reform.
The mantle of her political work in India would later be taken up by a young Indian law student, Mahatma Gandhi, educated in London, after meeting Besant, Blavatsky and other radical thinkers with critical views of Victorian society. 

Not only was Besant making huge cultural and political contributions with her social and spiritual reforms in England and the far east, her collaborative works with occultist and fellow Theosophist, C. W. Leadbeater, would greatly influence art theory in central Europe. Their collaborative book, Thought-Forms, published in 1905, was a means of cataloguing the non-figurative forms that occupied the inner world of sensory archetypes.
What might be known as Yantras (the sanskrit word for ‘devices’) were a pre-eminent force behind the formalisation of Abstractionism in european art, with the likes of Kandisnky, Klee, Mondrian, Af Klint and Kapteyn being proponents of Blavatsky’s ‘The Secret Doctrine’.  

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."

“In a deep metaphysical sense, all that is conditioned is illusory. All phenomena are literally 'appearances,' the outer masks in which the One Reality shows itself forth in our changing universe.  The more 'material' and solid the appearance, the further is it from reality.”

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