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‘Builders Of The Temple Of The New Civilisation’: Annie Besant And Freemasonry

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Chapter Summary

Annie Besant was one of the most remarkable women in British history. Besant felt increasingly dissatisfied with the materialist outlook of her friends such as Bradlaugh and Shaw. In 1889, as a result of reviewing Blavatsky?s The Secret Doctrine, Besant became profoundly interested in Blavatsky?s ideas and arranged to meet her. Besant?s introduction into Britain of Co-Masonry in 1902 marked the first stage of what was called a ceremonial revival which saw the establishment of a large number of ancillary organisations in which theosophists played the leading part. Besant?s interest in Co-Masonry, and indeed in Theosophy itself, can be seen as reflecting a thread in the British radical tradition which stretched back, through Bradlaugh and Carlile to Higgins and beyond him Paine. Besant as co-editor of the National Reformer would thus have been very familiar with Bradlaugh?s attempts to reform English Freemasonry.

Keywords: Annie Besant; Blavatsky; Bradlaugh; British radical tradition; Co-Masonry; Freemasonry



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