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Heroes and heroines

Jun 03, 1996 06:43 AM
by Dr. A.M.Bain

The following letter from Mrs. Besant appeared in "The Theosophic
Messenger" in April, 1904:

                                Benares City, Feb. 17, 1904.

"My Dear Friends:

I am told, on what ought to be good authority, that there is a growing
tendency in the T.S. in London to consider me as a "sacrosanct
personality, beyond and above criticism."

Frankly, I cannot believe that any claim so wild and preposterous
is set up, or that many know me so little as to imagine that, if it
were set up, I would meet it with anything but the uttermost
condemnation. Even a few people, holding and acting on such a theory,
would be a danger to the Society. if any considerable number held and
acted on it the Society would perish. Liberty of opinion is the life-
breath of the Society; the fullest freedom in expressing opinions, and
the fullest freedom in criticising opinions, are necessary for the
preservation of the growth and evolution of the Society. A "commanding
personality" - to use the cant of the day - may in many ways be of
service to a movement, but in the Theosophical Society the work of such
a personality would be too dearly purchased if it were bought by the
surrender of individual freedom of thought, and the Society would be far
safer if it did not number such a personality among its members.

Over and over again I have emphasized this fact, and have urged free
criticism of all opinions, my own among them. Like everybody else,
I often make mistakes, and it is a poor service to me to confirm me
in those mistakes by abstaining from criticism. I would sooner never
write another word than have my words made into a gag for other people's
thoughts. All my life I have followed the practice of reading the
harshest criticisms, with a view to utilize them, and I do not mean,
as I grow old, to help the growth of crystallization by evading the
most rigorous criticism. Moreover, anything that has been done through
me,  not by me, for Theosophy, would be outbalanced immeasurably by
making my crude knowledge a measure for the thinking in the movement,
and by turning me into an obstacle of future progress.

So, I pray you, if you come across any such absurd ideas as are
mentioned above. that you will resist them in your own person and
repudiate them on my behalf. No greater disservice could be done to the
Society, or to me. than by allowing them to spread.

It is further alleged that a policy of "ostracism" is enforced against
those who do not hold this view of me. I cannot insult any member
of the Society by believing that he would initiate or endorse such
a policy. It is obvious that this would be an intolerable tyranny,
to which no self-respecting man would submit. I may say, in passing,
that in all selections for office in the movement, the sole
consideration should be the power of the candidate to serve the Society,
and not his opinion of any person - Col. Olcott, Mr. Sinnett, Mr. Mead
or myself. We do not want faction fights for party leaders, but a free
choice of the best man.

Pardon me for troubling you with a formal repudiation of a view that
seems too absurd to merit denial. But as it is gravely put to me as
a fact, I cannot ignore it. For the Society, to me, is the object
of my deepest love and service, my life is given to it, it embodies
my ideal of a physical plane movement. And I would rather make myself
ridiculous by tilting at a windmill, such as I believe this idea to
be, than run the smallest chance of leaving to grow within the Society
a form of personal idolatry which would be fatal to its usefulness
to the world. In the T.S. there is no orthodoxy there are no Popes.
It is a band of students eager to learn the truth, and growing ever
in the knowledge thereof, and its well-being rests on the maintenance
of this ideal.

                                Ever your sincere friend,

                                ANNIE BESANT."

Posted by Alan
Ancient Wisdom for a New Age

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