mad in pursuit notebook


Annie Besant and "Esoteric Christianity"

READING: Esoteric Christianity, or The Lesser Mysteries by Annie Besant (1847-1933) (Kindle Edition, free)

During the 19th century, with Darwin's publications on evolution and natural selection, there was not only a boom in scientific biology but also a backlash. For the first time in history, certain religious leaders insisted that the Bible creation story be taken literally. Fast forward to the 21st century, the Age of Sound Bites, when simplistic notions have us polarized between godless science and pious creationism. (See 2012 Republican presidential opinions on evolution.)

But in all ages, there are groups of people who happily blend the latest in scientific thinking with their spiritual explorations. They are courageous and imaginative thinkers, pushing limits wherever they are found. This week I'm reading work by Annie Besant, a restless English woman, who fought hard for human rights, became the President of the Theosophical Society in 1906, and brought Krishnamurti to England to be groomed as the next great World Teacher. Below is a playlist of 3 short movies from YouTube about her life.

What I'm enjoying about her book is her ability to build on and illuminate Christian dogma with the beliefs of other world religions. She is arguing that Christianity (unlike other great religions) has lost track of its early mystical/esoteric tradition -- the advanced work into the hidden Mysteries, available only to the few who are willing to put the time into studying. Without this esoteric tradition, educated people get turned off by simplified teachings meant for the general public and they turn to agnosticism. I've just read a few chapters so far, so more later...

Oct 17, 2011