By Life Positive April 2011 Over the years, by holding fast to their feminine essence, many women have contributed to our evolution and helped raise collective consciousness. We profile some of them Irish body, Indian soulAnnie Besant Annie Besant was rightly described by her Indian admirers as an Indian in an Irishwoman’s body. Besant, along with Madame Blavatsky, played an important role in educating Western societies about the existence of spiritual paths and perspectives that differ from the Judeo-Christian tradition. A spokesperson for ancient Indian spiritual tradition and its mysticism, she played a seminal role in spreading ideas like the power of mantras, yantras and the efficacy of meditational approaches through her lectures across the world. A trade unionist, theosophist, advocate of birth control, women’s rights activist, writer, orator and supporter of Indian freedom from the British, she was born Annie Wood in 1847 in London into a middle-class Irish family. At 19, she married Frank Besant, a vicar, only to separate from him shortly because they disagreed on religious matters. Annie Besant met Helena Blavatsky in 1889 and over the next few years her interest in Theosophy grew and she travelled to India. In 1908, Besant became president of the Theosophical Society and became involved with the Indian National Congress of which she was elected president in 1917. Besant distanced herself from the Buddhism of the founders of the society and steered the movement towards Vedic thought. In April 1911, Annie and Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya met and formed the Benaras Hindu University. In 1909, soon after Besant’s ascension to the presidency of the Theosophical Society, an associate declared that 14-year-old Jiddu Krishnamurti was the new teacher promised to humanity. Krishnamurti considered Besant a surrogate mother – a role she happily accepted. The two remained friends until the end of her life in 1933.Read more about Annie Besant on www.occultopedia.com Voice from the leftArundhati Roy Arundhati Roy (born 24 November, 1961) is a Booker prize-winning Indian novelist, actress and aerobics instructor known for speaking her mind for the rights of those marginalised by western capitalist-military alliance and statesponsored repression. While her approach and her views fall short of being holistic or spiritual, she finds mention here because of her keen eye and bold tongue, that see and speak the truth, her capacity to see through the illusion of capitalism and for championing the underdog. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel, The God of Small Things. She has also written two screenplays and several collections of essays on various social, environmental and political issues that have attracted considerable controversy in India and abroad. Arundhati Roy was born in Shillong, Meghalaya, India, to a Keralite Syrian Christian mother, the women’s rights activist Mary Roy, and an Indian Bengali Hindu father, Ranjit Roy, a tea planter by profession. In an interview with a popular Indian daily published in August 2008, Arundhati Roy expressed her support for the independence of Kashmir from India. Roy has campaigned along with activist Medha Patkar against the Narmada dam project for which she donated her Booker prize money as well as royalties from her other books. Environmental historian Ramachandra Guha has been critical of Roy’s Narmada dam activism. Roy counters that her writing is intentional in its passionate, hysterical tone: “I am hysterical. I’m screaming from the bloody rooftops. And he and his smug little club are going ‘Shhhh… you’ll wake the neighbours!’ I want to wake the neighbours, that’s my whole point. I want everybody to open their eyes.”For more on the Narmada agitation log on to www.narmada.org When the wounds singAlice Walker Alice Malsenior Walker (born February 9, 1944), is an African-American author and poet whose writing has a stirring meditative quality leavened with sudden flashes of insight. Walker has written at length on issues of race and gender, and is most famous for the critically acclaimed novel, The Color Purple, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Walker’s all-embracing vision includes her Buddhism, her bisexuality and her blackness, making her a unique New Age voice. Her mother worked 11 hours a day a week to help pay for Alice’s college. A white plantation owner once asserted to her that blacks had “no need for education.” Mrs Walker’s response to him was ‘You might have some black children somewhere, but they don’t live in this house. Don’t you ever come around here again talking about how my children don’t need to learn how to read and write.” Stared at and sometimes taunted because of a scar in her eye, Alice felt like an outcast and turned for comfort to reading and to writing poetry. She realised that her traumatic injury had some value: it allowed her to begin ‘really to see people and things, really to notice relationships and to learn to be patient enough to care about how they turned out’. In 1982, Walker would publish what has become her best-known work, the novel The Color Purple. The book became a bestseller and was subsequently adapted into a critically acclaimed 1985 movie as well as a 2005 Broadway musical play.Know more about Alice Walker on her offi cial website alicewalkersgarden.com Torchbearer of justiceAung San Suu Kyi Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the struggle of the Burmese people against the military dictatorship in their country, is an iconic figure known across the world. Her non-violent, democratic movement has been suppressed by the Burmese junta intent on retaining its hold on the country. Her emphasis on servant leadership, ethical conduct, value-based politics and complete adherence to the principle of nonviolence makes her a New Age leader like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Like them, she brings spiritual principles that were earlier considered too lofty to be used in the rough and tumble of agitational politics. Her shaping of politics can be seen as the unfolding of the forces of light into ordinary human consciousness. Not surprisingly, Suu Kyi’s release was welcomed by the world media. Aung San Suu Kyi, born on 19 June, 1945, is the daughter of one of the Burma’s most cherished heroes, the martyred General Aung San, who led his country’s fight for independence from Great Britain in the 1940s. After he was murdered in 1947, Suu Kyi took on his mantle. Her calm but passionate advocacy of freedom and democracy in the country now called Myanmar, against one of the most insensitive and brutal military dictatorships in the world, won her a Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991.Read Aung San Suu Kyi’s detailed profi le on www.nobelprize.org Poet of lightElla Wheeler Wilcox Poet, mystic, occultist and an early New Ager, Ella Wheeler (November 5, 1850– October 30, 1919) was born in a farm in Wisconsin, the youngest of four children. She began writing the poems that have been a source of inspiration to millions of her admirers at a very early age. However, it was only on February 25, 1883, with the publishing of her poem, Solitude in The New York Sun that her reputation as a poet was established. At the age of 28, she married Robert Wilcox. So many gods, so many creeds, so many paths that wind and wind while just the art of being kind is all the sad world needs.– Ella Wheeler Wilcox The only child they had – a son – died shortly after his birth. The couple became interested in Theosophy and husband and wife decided that whoever died first would contact the other to confirm that death of the body was not the end of life itself. Months after Robert Wilcox died in 1916, she wrote an affirmative prayer that she said over and over “I am the living witness: The dead live: And they speak through us and to us: And I am the voice that gives this glorious truth to the suffering world: I am ready, God: I am ready, Christ: I am ready, Robert.” While cancer claimed Ella Wheeler Wilcox, poetess extraordinaire, on October 30, 1919, her poems continue to breathe with immortal life.Read Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s poems on www.poemhunter.com Divine forgivenessGladys Staines In the morning of January 23, 1999, newspapers screamed out the deaths of an Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young boys, Phillip(9) and Timothy (7). They were burnt alive in their vehicle by religious extremists in Orissa. India hung its head. The heinous murder reflected shamefully on our much-vaunted standards of hospitality and humanity. The murder condemned us as a nation itself. Which is why Gladys Staines, the widow of the missionary, is an iconic figure. Soon after the killers were identified and sentenced, she issued a statement saying that she had forgiven them and held no bitterness against them. Her statement came as a powerful and positive shock to the national system. It redeemed us from our collective guilt but more, it earned our awe and admiration. In an interview with Life Positive she said, “When I heard that the family was dead, I told Esther, my daughter: ‘We’ll forgive those who killed them, won’t we?’” And she said: “Yes, Mummy, we will.” She adds, “Forgiveness brings healing. If I forgive you, the bitterness leaves me. It also allows you to move on. Forgiveness liberates both the forgiver and the forgiven.” Sometimes it takes just one act to raise human consciousness. By choosing forgiveness instead of revenge in a moment of extremis, Gladys Staines elevated us all. From Miss to MsGloria Steinem
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