Call for Papers

International conference on Annie Besant (1847-1933), London, 30 September - 1 October 2017

Annie Besant in 1897

The Theosophical Society in England ( ) is holding a two-day international conference on Annie Besant (1847-1933) at the TSE Headquarters at 50 Gloucester Place, London W1U 8EA on Saturday and Sunday, 30 September and 1 October 2017.

The chair of the first day of the conference, which is primarily concerned with Annie Besant’s public work as a feminist, secularist, socialist and anti-imperialist, will be Dr Muriel Pécastaing-Boissière of the University of Paris-Sorbonne, Paris 4 (author of the new biography Annie Besant (1847-1933) : la lutte et la quête, soon to be published in English).

Those who wish to submit a paper for the first day on any aspect of the subject should send a summary of not more than 200 words by 1 June 2017 to Mr Leslie Price, secretary of Programme Committee, at TSE History & Archives (history&, copied to Speakers will normally have 30 minutes including questions.

Conference participants will be responsible for their own travel, meals and accommodation.  Those presenting papers will be exempt from registration fees and will also be admitted free to the second day, chaired by Kurt Leland (author of Invisible Worlds: Annie Besant on Psychic and Spiritual Development), which is a study day concerned with research problems in assessing Besant’s Theosophical work. If you wish to register for the conference, or to be kept informed of the programme, please contact The Theosophical Society in England (

[Muriel Pécastaing-Boissière writes:] It is impossible to study late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Britain without coming across Annie Besant’s name. So the fact that she has fallen into relative obscurity, at least among the general public, remains difficult to understand.

From a historiographical point of view, Besant seems to have become a victim of trends in historical research that increasingly favour highly specialised and circumscribed studies. Most research has been limited to specific struggles, especially her pioneering fight in 1877–78 for the right to information on birth control and her support of the Match Girls’ Strike of 1888. Her influence on British secularism and socialism are just beginning to be re-evaluated. Yet the logic behind her personal evolution, leading from an early religious crisis to secularism, socialism, Theosophy, and Indian nationalism, has barely been addressed.

Besant’s conversion to Theosophy remains poorly understood and has even been ridiculed by researchers who underestimate the scope of the late-Victorian spiritual and occult revival, in which the Theosophical Society played a critical role. Some writers even lose interest in the second half of Besant’s life or evaluate her earlier struggles with scepticism in light of this conversion. Conversely, though the Theosophical Society has done a remarkable job in preserving and making available Besant’s Theosophical texts, many of its members remain unfamiliar with Besant’s life prior to her conversion.

Furthermore, in a climate of understandable post-colonial guilt, the role that this British woman played in India is an embarrassment to some Western historians, who tend to minimise it. Thus her presidency of the Indian National Congress in 1917 has been almost completely forgotten in the West — even though Indians themselves have preserved the memory of Besant as one of their freedom fighters. Streets in Chennai, Mumbai and indeed many other places in India bear her name and a prominent golden statue of Besant stands on the Chennai seafront alongside monuments to other influential Indian leaders. Despite the criticism of her cautious reformist approach that was expressed in her lifetime by more radical nationalists — including Gandhi — and that are occasionally repeated by Indian historians, Besant remains sufficiently well-known for the State Bank of India to have used her name and image in a publicity campaign in the early 2010s, with a slogan proudly proclaiming: “The banker to this Indian.”

Sadly, Annie Besant’s having been a woman may also have prevented her from passing into posterity. Though she worked and fought alongside a number of talented men in a spirit of brotherhood, many of them would be surprised today to learn that their memory has often eclipsed that of their female comrade.

The purpose of the Theosophical Society in England’s two-day international conference on Annie Besant is to bring together researchers on all aspects of her public life and work, so as to reflect on Besant’s ideological and spiritual evolution within the religious, ethical, social, and political context of her time.

HIMALAYAN ENERGY HEALING: Chakras, Breath, Yoga & Singing Bowls.

Leader: Lola Lhamo - Saturday 20 May, 11 am – 4 pm

Lola 3. april 17. IMG_0308

People have been practicing powerful energy healing methods In the Himalayas for over 3000 years. There are thousands of energy channels in our body, and prana, the breath of life, flows through them. By activating and purifying the chakras, we ensure this life force energy circulates properly in the body, for our good health. It also helps us to go beyond and connect with the universal consciousness and cosmic energy.

This full day retreat is dedicated to discovering and practicing powerful energy healing practices of the Himalayas:  breathing techniques (pranayama), inner vibrations (mantras) and physical exercises (yoga asanas) for purifying our energy centres (chakras) and releasing physical and emotional tension, Yoga Nidra for brain rejuvenation, and Himalayan singing bowls for deep meditation and connection to ourselves.

Attendees will learn simple yet powerful techniques; with regular practice one will improve the vitality of body and mind, and obtain spiritual wholeness. Recommended for complete beginners and intermediate yoga practitioners.

11 am-1 pm    Chakras purification with yogic breath, mantras and postures. Yoga Nidra.

1 – 2 pm            Lunch (feel free to bring vegan food to share)

2 – 4 pm            Nada Yoga. Tibetan Singing Bowls: self-healing and Sound Bath.

A more detailed synopsis is available from the Theosophical Society in London –

Leader: Lola Lhamo (Yoga Alliance UK) is the founder of the Himalayan Yoga & Sound network, Vibroacoustic Therapy Association, and has practised yoga for more than 20 years.

Admission: full day – £40 (Theosophical Society members – £20)

Full day event: £40 (members: £20)

Half-day (morning or afternoon): £20 (members: £15)

To book, visit

Or pay at the door

Yoga workshops and a lecture, Plus a sitar concert with Ram Vakkalanka. Tuesday – Thursday, 4 – 6 July.

Vakalanka, Ram._S_R8264 copyTuesday 4 July, 1- 4 pm
Mantras are Sacred Vibrations that embody specific energies of the Universe. Repetition of Mantra attracts the Cosmic Energies, channels them inward and ignites corresponding energies inside the practitioner. In this workshop, we will learn about the various Cosmic Energies, prerequisites of a Mantra, accurate pronunciation of a few energizing Mantras, practical applications of Mantras and how to practice Mantra Meditation.

Wednesday 5 July, 7 – 9:30 pm
Yoga is a system of philosophy and a discipline of practical application at the same time. The ultimate goal of Yoga is to help us live in perfect harmony with everything and everyone around us.

In this workshop, we go on a fascinating journey from the ancient roots of Yoga, explore the different spiritual sciences Yoga encompasses and look at its evolution over thousands of years. This workshop draws its substance from the Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata and many other ancient texts of India. We end the journey with a Nada Yoga meditation, involving live Sitar music.

Thursday 6 July, 1 – 4 pm
Mudra means “sealing or locking in” in Sanskrit. Mudras involve igniting and sealing in inner energies through the medium of the physical body. Energy, when sealed, is focused and unlimited in power. Accessing our unlimited inner power through the right application of Mudra can be learned.
In this workshop, we will learn some simple and complex Mudras from Tantra and Hatha Yoga, their application as well as tips for their practice.

Leader: Ram Vakkalanka is a Nada Yogi, yoga philosopher, Sanskrit expert and Kirtan artist. Born in India, he currently is based in Toronto and travels the world sharing his deep wisdom of the Yogic tradition.

Admission: £20 for each event (£10 to members of the Theosophical Society)

To register and pay for the above events, visit the following links

July 4:

July 5:

July 6:

Or pay at the door