[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

Besant's Inaugural Address

Dec 03, 2008 07:08 PM
by MKR

Sometime ago, one of our fellow theosophists sent me the Inaugural Address
of Annie Besant. Before she came to theosophy, she was involved in many
social issues in England and after moving ot India, she continued to be very
active in many of them and even today, for this she is remembered in India.
She also got involved in Indian Independence Movement and was the only
non-Indian to be elected as the President of Indian National Congress.

Both HSO & HPB were instrumental in social humanitarian activities to help
the depressed and poor classes in India. After Besant, there is a disconnect
world-wide between the leaders and their activities relating to local social
issues of the day. They all seem to be happy and content to stay in their
cocoons and of course with computers, happily keyboarding. I think this
disconnect may have something to do with the dismal membership situation
world-wide except in India.

Some of you may find Besant's Address of interest.




June 26, 1907

Dear Friends:

By an overwhelming majority you have ratified the nomination of our
President-Founder, made by his Master's order, and have called upon me to
take up work as his successor in the high office of President of the
Theosophical Society. The Society, as a whole, has thus chosen to continue
in the path marked out from its inception, and trodden by its two outer
Founders; it has refused to reject the guiding Hand which gave it its first
President, and indicated its second; it therefore goes forward on its new
cycle of activity, with its elected President at its head, under the
benediction which rested upon it at its birth and is now repeated, as the
chosen vehicle for the direct influence of the Masters of WISDOM on the
world, as the standard-bearer of the mighty Theosophical Movement which is
sweeping through all religions, all literature, all art, all craft, through
all the activities of a humanity preparing itself to take a new step forward
in civilization.

The Society asserts itself as a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood, and its
specialty, as such a nucleus, is indicated by its nameâTheosophical. It is
its function to proclaim and spread abroad Theosophy, the Divine Wisdom, the
Brahma VidyÃ, the Gnosis, the Light of all lights, that Man may know God,
may attain the knowledge which is Eternal Life, because he is himself of
that Nature which he seeks to know.

On this fact, this all-pervading identity of nature, this UNITY, is based
the Universal Brotherhood, and, to bring the outer proofs of it, it searches
through all religions and philosophies, and dives into the hidden secrets of
nature and of man.

Because of this fact, it welcomes to its membership men and women of all
religions, of all opinions, and, provided that they recognize the
Brotherhood as universal, it demands from them no belief in any fact,
however sure, in any teaching, however vital. With a splendid faith in the
victorious power of Truth, it disregards all the barriers which
superficially divide Humanityâsex, race, creed, colour, casteâand welcomes
those as brothers who deny even the very truths on which Brotherhood is
based, and who reject even the Revealers who make its realization possible
for Humanity. Its platform is as wide as thought, its all-embracing love is
as the sun which gives warmth and life to all, even to those who are blind
to its light.

The condition of the continuing life of the Society is its perfect
toleration of all differences, of all shades of opinion. None has the right
to exclude his brother for difference of thought, nor to claim for his own
thought a fuller liberty of expression than he claims for that of another.
Complete liberty of thought must be guarded by all of usâby me, as your
President, most of allânot granted as a privilege or a concession, but
recognized as the inherent right of the intellect, as its breath of life.
Tolerance, even with the intolerant, must be our rule. And this must be our
principle in life and action, not only in words, lest a fatal orthodoxy,
checking new initiative and new growth, should stealthily spread in the
Society. We must welcome differences of thought, and give free play to their
expression, so that our windows may be kept open to all new light. This is
not only sound principle, but it is also sound policy, for thus only can new
avenues to knowledge constantly open before us. We possess only portions of
the Truth, and no searcher must be hindered or frowned upon, lest the
Society should lose some fragment that he may have found. Better the
temporary life of a thousand falsehoods, than stifling of one truth at the
hour of its birth. I claim the help of every Theosophist in this guarding of
our liberty, for universal and constant vigilance is necessary lest it
should be infringed.

But let it not be supposed that this perfect freedom of opinion connotes
indifference to truth in any who hold definite convictions as to any facts,
or should prevent them from full expression of their own convictions, of
their beliefs, or of their knowledge. There is perfect freedom of
affirmation among us as well as of denial, and scepticism must not claim
greater rights of expression than knowledge. For the Society as a whole, by
its very name, affirms the existence of the Divine Wisdom, and the
affirmation would be futile if that Wisdom were beyond human attainment.
Moreover, the Society would be without a reason for its being if it did not,
as a whole, spread the Teachings which lead up to the attainment of that
Wisdom, while leaving to its members as individuals the fullest freedom to
give to any of those teachings any form which expresses their own thinking,
and even to deny any one of them. Each Truth can only be seen by a man as he
develops the power of vision corresponding to it; the Society, by refusing
to impose on its members any expressions of Truth, does not mean that a man
should remain blind, but declares that man's power of vision increases in
the open air of freedom better than in the hot-houses of unreasoned beliefs.
Hence the Society does not impose on its members even the truths by which it
lives, although the denial of those truths by it, as a Society, would be

The Theosophical Society thus offers to the thinkers of every religion and
of none a common platform, on which they may meet as Lovers of Truth, to
learn from and to teach each other; it stands as the herald of the coming
time when all religions shall see themselves as branches of One Religion,
the WISDOM of GOD. As its President, I say to all men of peace and goodwill:
"Come, and let us labour together for the establishment of the kingdom of
religious Truth, religious Peace, and religious Freedom upon earthâthe true
Kingdom of Heaven."

So much for our principles. What of our practice?

We owe to the President-Founder a well-planned organization, combining
complete divisional liberty with the strength ensured by attachment to a
single centre. Some details may need amendment, but the work of organization
is practically complete. Our work is to use the organization he created, and
to guide it to the accomplishment of its purposeâthe spread of Theosophical
ideas, and the growth of our knowledge.

For the first, our Lodges should not be content with a programme of
lectures, private and public, and with classes. The members should be known
as good workers in all branches of beneficent activity. The Lodge should be
the centre, not the circumference, of our work. To the Lodge for inspiration
and knowledge; to the world for service and teaching. The members should
take part in local clubs, societies, and debating associations, and should
both offer Theosophical lectures, and lectures in which Theosophical ideas
can be put forth on the questions of the day. They should, when members of
religious bodies, hold classes outside the Society for members of their
faith, in which the spiritual, instead of the literal meaning of Hindu,
Buddhist, Christian, and other doctrines should be explained, and the lives
of the great mystics of all religions should be taught. They should see that
children receive religious education, according to their respective faiths.
They should in every way hand on the light which they have received, and
replenish their own torch with oil at the Lodge meetings.

People belonging to kindred movements should be invited to the Lodge, and
visits should be paid to them in turn. Lodges with a numerous membership
should form groups for special work. For the second, the growth of our
knowledge, groups should be formed for study under each of our Objects.
Under the first, the intellectual and social movements of the day should be
studied, their tendencies traced out and their methods examined; the results
of these studies would help the outside workers in their choice of
activities. It would be useful also if, in every Lodge, a small group of
members were formed, harmonious in thought and feeling, who should meet once
a week for a quiet hour, for combined silent thought for a given purpose,
and for united meditation on some inspiring idea; the members of this group
might also agree on a time at which, daily, they should unite in a selected
thought-effort to aid the Lodge. Another group should study under the second
Object, and this group should supply lecturers on Theosophy to the outer
world, and no lecturer should be sent out by a Lodge who was not equipped
for his work by such study. A third group might take up the third Object of
the Society, and work practically at research, carrying on their work, if
possible, under the direction of a member who has already some experience on
these lines, and thus increasing our store of knowledge.

There are many other lines of useful work which should be taken up, series
of books to be planned, concerted activities in various lands. These are for
the future. But I trust to make the Presidency a centre of life-radiating
force, inspiring and uplifting the whole Society.

In order that it may be so, let me close with a final word to all who have
aided and to all who have worked against me in the election now over. We all
are lovers of the same Ideal, and eager servants of Theosophy. Let us all
then work in amity, along our different lines and in our different ways, for
our beloved Society. Let not those who have worked for me expect me to be
always right, nor those who have worked against me expect me to be always
wrong. Help me, I pray you all, in filling well the office to which I have
been elected, and share with me the burden of our common work. Where you
agree with me follow and work with me; where you disagree, criticize and
work against me, but without bitterness and rancour. Diversities of method,
diversities of thought, diversities of operation, will enrich, not weaken,
our Movement, if love inspire and charity judge. Only through you and with
you can the Presidency be useful to the Society. Help me so to fill it as to
hand it on, a richer legacy, to my successor. And so may the Masters guide
and prosper the work which they have given into my hands, and blessed.


[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application