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Annie Besant. A. L .S. to John Varian, London, July 13, 1893.

Considered by George Bernard Shaw to be England’s greatest orator, Annie Besant was a social activist who supported Fabian Socialism, birth control, and improved conditions for the poor. After converting to Theosophy, she became the head of its Eastern School in London and ultimately its world leader. In this letter, she advises John Varian to encourage his wife to join him as a Theosophist because “It is best when husband & wife come in together, & then there is no feeling in either of conscious concealment.”

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A group of Theosophists from Syracuse, New York, moved to Oceana, California, in 1903 to form the Halcyon community. They rejected the teachings of Katherine Tingley, the head of the movement at the time, in favor of a return to the original work of Madame Blavatsky. They built a sanatorium for the treatment of liquor, morphine, and opium addiction. Socialism and communal property marked the group and drew the attention of reformers like novelist Upton Sinclair.