100 Years Ago… – Awaiting the Messiah – Order of the Star in the East

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Last Updated on 19th March 2021

The Review of Religions (Urdu), March 1921

The world was expecting the arrival of a saviour when God Almighty sent the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, to reform mankind. Many people believed in the Latter-Day Messiah and experienced spiritual elevation and nearness to Allah the Almighty. Certain others continued to await the Messiah of the age in the presence of the Promised Messiahas and passed away without accepting him. This practice persisted after the demise of the Muhammadansa Messiahas and continues to date. 

In keeping with the widely prevalent idea, Mrs Annie Besant, a British theosophist, formed the Order of the Star in the East in January 1911. She founded this organisation to draw together those people who believed in the approaching advent of a great spiritual teacher. 

Annie Besant, founder of the Order of the Star in the East (OSE)

In a brochure, Mrs Besant explained the purpose of her theosophical order and set forth the reasons on the basis of which its members were expecting the coming of a saviour.  She also illustrated the possible difficulties which might be encountered in his recognition and the nature of the work he was expected to perform. The reasons and arguments presented by Mrs Besant were so rational and reasonable that with slight alterations, they emanated the teachings of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat, which, back then announced and still announces the actual fulfilment of the hope for which Mrs Besant and her movement so eloquently pleaded. 

We will now present some of the quotations from the pamphlet which delineates the purpose and reasons of the Order of the Star in the East.

Regarding the fact that God sends prophets to reform mankind in every age, it is stated:

“To whatever religion in the world we turn, we find in all alike a tradition of the existence of great spiritual beings, great sons [chosen ones] of God who are truly human and yet divine, who represent for the men and women of those particular faiths the highest and noblest ideals of the human heart; those Elder Brethren of the race who come periodically to teach this tired old world how God would lead man’s life.”

It is further stated:

“In Western lands, the name of the Christ embodies for his followers all of sweetness, strength and wisdom that the human heart can contain. But few Christians realise that, dear as their master is to them, equally dear to their brethren in the East are the sacred names of the Lord Buddha, Shri Krishna, the Prophet[sa] of Arabia, or Zoroaster.”

Referring to the arrival of the Messiah, it states:

“If the tradition holds true of the past, is it unreasonable to speculate on the possibility of such a life being once more lived among men in the present or the future? Has humanity so thoroughly learnt all its lessons that it has passed beyond the need of further teaching? Surely not. 

“Can we say as yet that brotherhood and co-operation are the ruling factors in men’s lives? This war alone would give the lie to such a statement. It is, indeed, a significant fact that for some years past, the minds of men all over the world seem to have been turning towards the possibility – nay, more the probability – of the advent of one of these great elder brothers of the race. Men saw how much in the world was out of joint; how, in spite of the increase of fabulous wealth and luxury, on the one hand, there was a corresponding increase of poverty and misery on the other hand.”

Emphasising on the need of a reformer in this age, it says:

“Is it any wonder that there were prophets and seers who, believing that the spiritual was the only real, looked for a son of God coming to earth again to lead His people out of the wilderness of selfishness and greed into the promised land of love and brotherhood? 

“It was in response to this worldwide expectation that the Order of the Star in the East was founded to draw into one body all those who shared this hope, no matter what form it was expressed in.”

Order of the Star in the East (OSE) membership certificate (the Netherlands)

Referring to the fulfilment of the signs regarding the arrival of the Latter-Day Messiah, it is stated:

“Many Christians today believe that all the signs of the times are a fulfilment of those prophecies which Christ made to his disciples, indicating the signs which should precede his second coming. It is difficult to read the 24th chapter of Matthew and not be struck by the extraordinary similarity between the conditions he outlines and those that prevail in the world today. No wonder that in the midst of the misery and bloodshed and horrors of the present time, there are yet to be found those who can ‘lift up their heads and rejoice’ because their ‘salvation draweth nigh.’ He will come, our Great Emmanuel, to bring peace and love to this war-stricken world.”

Highlighting the concept of Messiah in other religions, it states:

“In India, the holy land, ever ready to give welcome to saint and rishi, the message of our Order spreads by leaps and bounds. The Hindu has always taught of great cycles of time, following upon each other, guided in their evolution by divinely inspired teachers and leaders. So to him, it is natural to see closing of one cycle in this [age of] world war [and] the opening of a new [cycle] and all his traditions point to a spiritual advent which shall inaugurate the new age. 

“In Buddhist lands, the word has gone forth that the great rishi, Maitreya the Bodhisattva, the lord of compassion, will shortly come to earth to heal and bless the nations. In Burma a Buddhist monk is preaching of the coming of the great one, and thousands follow his teaching and are striving to live in preparation for the great event.”

Drawing attention to the fact that the world is crying for a saviour, it is stated:

“So from East and West and North and South the cry goes up, ‘How long, O Lord, how long?’” 

Mrs Annie Besant then raised certain reasonable questions and answered them quite rationally. She says:

“How can he [the Messiah] help us? What can one man, however, do to heal the world’s pain? Why do we want fresh teachings when we have not begun to live the old? […]

“Could one man, even divinely inspired, influence the world today? ‘Yes, surely, for the world is united today, as never before, by train and steamship, post and telegraph. An important speech uttered by a great statesman in one continent is before nightfall the property of the humblest reader of a newspaper in another hemisphere. Time and space have been abolished by the marvels of modern science. Today, as never before, may there ring through the world a voice which shall call the sons of men together.’ 

“But shall we recognise that greatness which is of the spirit and not of the flesh? Or are we of those who will mock and add our parrot-cry of ‘impostor’ to the herd? If history repeats itself, it is not by outward signs that we shall know him; he comes not as a king crowned in glory, a monarch clothed in the panoply of rank. Rather, are we likely to stumble over the old difficulty of familiarity?”

Suggesting that many would reject the Messiah, it is stated:

“We think, for instance, that he would certainly be a Christian, and yet to what particular sect in the Christian Church would he choose to belong! If he comes as a Catholic, Protestants would reject him; if as a Protestant, he would be rejected by Catholics and Protestants alike, except by the particular sect to which he adhered. Or supposing he came not as a Christian at all, but as the adherent of one of the more ancient of the world’s faiths? Christians would be far more concerned with trying to convert him than in learning from him.

“If he came from the East – the home of spirituality, which has sent forth all the world’s great teachers – would his greatness be recognised in the form of a despised coloured man? Would the proud and arrogant people of the West sit at the feet of a coloured man to drink at wisdom’s spring? In some British colonies, he would not even be allowed to land.”

“The supreme teacher of angels and man must of necessity be infinitely greater and more wonderful than any conceptions we may hold of him. We do not want a Christ on anyone else’s authority; indeed, he will be no Christ for us unless our recognition of him comes from the soul within. But in one way, and one way only, can we be certain that such recognition will be ours, and that is by studying his image in the world around us, his likeness in the hearts of our fellowmen.” 

The above-mentioned ideas were published by Mrs Annie Besant about the reformer of the last age. These ideas are almost all very true and a seeker of truth can benefit greatly from them. However, Mrs Besant herself did not benefit from these ideas unfortunately. The last reformer appeared but she did not pay attention to his voice. It seems that she was negligent. She has given a very good advice to others but did not follow it herself. 

The matter of the heavenly kingdom is very strange. Those who are called philosophers and sages do not pay attention to the words of God’s messengers because of their arrogance and pride, but the meek of heart accept their words and enter the kingdom of heaven before others.

Hence, Prophet Jesusas very rightly said:

“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Matthew 11:25)

However, Mrs Annie Besant’s words are very valuable and we are glad that many truths have come out of her pen. May she herself and other people reap the full benefits of her words and accept the truth. Amin.

(Adapted from an article of The Review of Religions [Urdu], March 1921, pp. 108-115)

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