Annie Besant

From Academic Kids

Annie Besant activist, socialist and latterly theosophist
Annie Besant activist, socialist and latterly theosophist

Annie Besant (October 1, 1847 - September 20, 1933) was a prominent Theosophist, women's rights activist, writer and orator.

Besant was divorced from her clergyman husband Frank Besant, younger brother of Walter Besant, and she had to leave both her children behind. She fought for the causes she thought were right, starting with freedom of thought, women's rights, birth control, Fabian socialism and workers' rights. She was a prolific writer and a powerful orator. Her conversion to Theosophy came after reading The Secret Doctrine by H.P. Blavatsky in 1889 and writing a review on this book.

Soon after becoming a member of the Theosophical Society she went to India for the first time (in 1893). Thereafter she devoted much of her energy not only to the Theosophical Society, but also to India's freedom and progress.

Together with Charles Webster Leadbeater she investigated the universe, matter and the history of mankind through clairvoyance. The two became embroiled over Leadbeater's advice to young boys to masturbate. At the time such advice was highly controversial. He had to leave the Theosophical Society over this in 1906. In 1908 he was taken back into the fold through the agency of Besant, who had been elected president of the Theosophical Society in 1907 upon the death of the previous president Henry Steel Olcott.

Up until Besant's presidency, the society had, as one of its foci Theravada Buddhism and the island of Ceylon where Henry Olcott did the majority of his useful work. Under Besant's leadership there was a decisive turn away from this and a refocusing of their activities on "The Aryavarta", as she called central India. Besant actively courted Hindu opinion more than former Theosophical leaders. This was a clear reversal of policy from Blavatsky and Olcott's very public conversion to Buddhism in Ceylon, and their promotion of Buddhist revival activities on the subcontinent (see also: Maha Bodhi Society).

Soon after Besant's inheritance of the presidency, in 1909, Leadbeater discovered Jiddu Krishnamurti on the private beach that was attached to the societies headquarters at Adyar. Krishna had been living there with his father and brother for a few months prior to this. This discovery started years of upheaval in the Theosophical Society in Adyar, as the boy was proposed as the incarnate vessel for the Christ. Jiddu Krishnamurti and his brother Nitya were brought up by Theosophists from that moment on, with a subsequent lawsuit filed by his father.

Eventually, in 1929, Krishnamurti ended up disbanding the Order of the Star of the East, which had been founded to support him and of which he had been made the leader. [1] ( This destroyed Besant's spirit, as it went against her ideals. She tried to accommodate Krishnamurti's views into her life, but never really succeeded. The two remained friends, though, until the end of her life.

Annie Besant died in 1933 and was survived by her daughter, Mabel.


  • The Political Status of Women (1874)
  • Marriage, As It Was, As It Is, And As It Should Be: A Plea For Reform (1878)
  • The Law Of Population (1877)
  • Autobiographical Sketches (1885)
  • "Why I became a Theosophist" (1889)
  • An Autobiography (1893)
  • The Ancient Wisdom (1898)
  • Bhagavad Gita (Translation) (1905)
  • Introduction to Yoga (1908)
  • Occult Chemistry
  • The Doctrine of the Heart (1920)
  • Esoteric Christianity

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