Four Great Religions

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Cosimo, Inc., 2005 - 208 ˹
[A]n attempt is made to distinguish the essential from the non-essential in each religion... For every religion in the course of time suffers from accretions due to ignorance not to wisdom, to blindness not to vision.-from the ForewordAnne Besant was one of the most popular and beloved voices of the theosophical movement of the early 20th century, and here she turns that occult philosophy, which sought to find the underlying universal truths in all religions, on religion itself. This series of lectures, published in book form in 1906, was intended to help members of each religion recognize the beauty and truth in the faiths not his own. On Hinduism's "complete presentment of spiritual truth," Zoroastrianism's "perfect practical purity," the secret of the Buddha, and the spirit of Jesus' teachings, she is passionate and enlightening in demonstrating the primal essence that unifies them all.British social reformer and writer ANNIE BESANT (1847-1933) was an early public advocate of birth control and women's health care, as well as an active proponent of theosophy. Among her books are The Ancient Wisdom (1897), Death and After (1901), and Occult Chemistry (1919).
 

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LibraryThing Review

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Four Great Religions contains lectures delivered in 1906 by social reformer Annie Besant. A Theosophist, she seeks to find the universal truth in Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Christianity ... ҹԴ繩Ѻ

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In the 1870s Annie Besant had already gained notoriety as an estranged Anglican priest's wife who had rejected Christianity and embraced atheism. She was a famous orator who spoke on behalf of the Freethought movement, social reform, the right to publish information on contraception, improved education, and Fabian socialism. Besant perplexed her critics and admirers when, in 1889, she abandoned her atheistic stance and embraced Theosophy. The Theosophical Society had been founded in 1875 by Madame Helena Blavatsky and Colonel Henry S. Olcott and had its international headquarters in India. Theosophy's outlook affirmed the mystical components of each of the world's religions, but it was influenced especially by Hindu and Buddhist thought. By the mid-1890s, Annie Besant had made India her home, and she was elected the second president of the Theosophical Society subsequent to the death of Olcott in 1907. In India, Besant made it her special mission to uplift Hindu self-esteem, which had been severely battered by British imperialism and Christian missionaries. She founded the Central Hindu College, which later was incorporated into the new Benares Hindu University. She spoke out for social reform, and from 1913 onward she undertook political agitation for Indian home rule. She was elected president of the Indian National Congress in 1918, and she was the first person to make that position an active, year-round job. Immediately thereafter, she lost her popularity because of the rise to prominence in Indian politics of Mohandas K. Gandhi. Until the end of her life, Besant increasingly turned her attention to the promotion of a young Indian boy, Jiddu Krishnamurti, as the coming World-Teacher, a messiah who would bring about a collective human transformation resulting in unity and peace among all peoples. Despite the apparently contradictory stages of Besant's life, continuity can be detected in her consistent attempts to discover the means by which human suffering could be eliminated. Besant's books and lectures were an important factor in the popularization of Eastern, particularly Hindu, religious and philosophical thought in the West. Her books continue to have an international impact, and several of them are kept in print by the Theosophical Publishing House known in the United States as Quest Books. Bescant died in 1933.

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