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Charles Webster Leadbeater 1854-1934 
A Biographical Study
by Gregory John Tillett
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 Chapter 13: Explorations of  Past Lives

          Although Leadbeater's research into the past lives of members of the TS had begun in the 1890's, it was with his investigations into the lives of Krishnamurti/Alcyone that this became a major preoccupation with him, and an obsession with many of his followers.

          In April, 1909, a series began in The Theosophist under the title "Rents in the Veil of Time", and provided a graphic coverage of the past incarnations of various heroes and heroines, most of whom remained anonymously veiled by star names.  The Lives spanned a period from 22,662 BC to 624 AD[?], and contained the sort of material that makes for gripping reading.  Each instalment was awaited with eager anticipation by Theosophists, most of whom hoped to find themselves in at least some minor role in one of the adventures of the selected few.

          In 1913 Man. Whence, How and Whither was serialized in The Theosophist prior to its publication as a weighty volume of 500 pages.  By this time some 280 Star names had been used, although not all were immediately connected with incarnated personalities, and a little more than forty were publicly identified.  These Works led on to The Lives of Alcyones: A Clairvoyant Investigation of the

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Lives Throughout the Ages of a Large Band of Servers. The subtitle of Man. Whence, How and Whither had been somewhat more pretentious.  It read:  A Clairvoyant Investigation of  Prehistory, Anthropology and Cosmology With Predictions for the Future.

          For Leadbeater, reincarnation was a central fact the occult life.

          "Every one of us has a long line of these physical lives behind him, and the ordinary man has a fairly long line still in front of him.  Each of such lives is a day at school.  The ego puts upon himself his garment of flesh and goes forth into the school of the physical world to learn certain lessons.  He learns them, or does not learn them, or partially learns them, as the case may be, during the schoolday of earthly life;  then he lays aside the vesture of the flesh and returns home to his own level for rest and refreshment.   In the morning of each new life he takes up again his lesson at the point where he left it the night before.  Some lessons he may be able to learn in one day, while others may take him many days." [1]

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          The process of reincarnation could be viewed by occultists of sufficiently advanced psychic development, looking down upon the sweep of human history recorded in the akashic records.  This was the work which the Lives set before Mrs Besant and Leadbeater, "two observers, two explorers" whose work represented the following of a very ancient path trodden by few feet today "but that will be trodden more and more

by thronging students as time shows its stability". [2]  And they declared:

          "Science is today exploring the marvels of what it calls the 'subjective mind', and is finding in it strange powers, strange upsurgings, strange memories.  Healthy and balanced, dominating the brain, it shows as genius;   out of equilibrium with the brain, vagrant and incalculable, it shows as insanity.  Some day Science will realize that what it calls the subjective mind, Religion calls the Soul, and the exhibition of its powers depends on the physical and superphysical instruments at its command.  If these are well-constructed, sound and flexible, and thoroughly under its control, the powers of vision, of audition, of memory irregularly welling up from the subjective mind become the normal and disposable powers of the Soul...  then its powers increase, and knowledge,

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otherwise unattainable, comes within its reach. [3]

          Those powers could tune in, as it were, to the memory of God:

          " the infant of a day contains within himself the potentialities of his sire, so do we, the offspring of God, contain within ourselves the potentialities of Divinity.  Hence, when we resolutely turn the Soul away from the earth and concentrate his attention on the Spirit - the substance whereof he is the shadow in the world of matter - the Soul may reach the 'memory of Nature', the embodiment in the material world of the Thoughts of the Logos, the reflection, as it were, of His Mind.  There dwells the Past in ever-living records;  there also dwells the Future, more difficulty for the half-developed Soul to reach because not yet manifested, nor yet embodied, though quite as "real".  The Soul, reading these records, may transmit them to the body, impress them on the brain, and then record them in words and writings." [4]

          The idea of "scientific investigation" had great appeal for

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Theosophists who, like their spiritualist counterparts, believed their work was an extension of the work of orthodox scientists, a belief supported by scientists like Sir William Crookes and Sir Oliver Lodge.  Theosophy, caught as it was in the Victorian world view, saw Science as an -?-advancing method for the acquisition of knowledge by -?- man progressively took a firmer grasp on his own destiny.   Leadbeater characteristically presented occult -?-ial in the guise of scientific research, and spoke of himself as the impartial and objective observer of the phenomena of nature.

          The occult methods whereby Leadbeater undertook his research were varied, but never fitted into any scientific - in the orthodox sense - scheme.  Sometimes he used one approach, sometimes another and sometimes a variation of different approaches in the investigation of the lives.  First, he could "read" the memories of the "astral body" of the individual, which would include the basic[?] level of memories of the individual's lives, or he -?- psychometrize the causal body:  it is the "permanent body[?] of the ego in the higher mental world". [5]  In other terms, it can be thought of as a link between the -?- worlds of man, and the higher.  As vague as its nature was[?] Leadbeater's clairvoyance revealed it as an ovoid surrounding the physical body to a distance of about

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eighteen inches beyond the physical, its colour dependant upon the development reached by the individual. [6]

          The second method available to him was to psychometrize the "permanent atom", that is, the unit of continuing and unchanging "substance" which carried over from incarnation to incarnation, throughout the almost endless process of evolution. [7]  This was, Leadbeater -?-ted, more difficult to do.

          The third method involved reading the ego's experiences via one's own buddhic faculties.  Whilst a discussion of the relative advantages and disadvantages of the three methods would no doubt be fascinating, it requires specialist knowledge of Leadbeater's world view, and of the special language he created to describe it. [8]

          The physical presence of the person whose past lives were being investigated was an advantage, but not essential.  Initially, Leadbeater required the person to be present, but progressed away from that need, and could eventually look up past lives at will.  He recognized, however, that there was an ever-present danger that the clairvoyant would impose his own pre-conceptions upon his visions:  

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          "The statements of clairvoyants may and must be coloured by opinions already formed, as was clearly the case with Swedenborg, who used a very narrow Christian terminology to describe the facts of the astral plane, and unquestionably saw many things through strong thought forms which he had made in previous years.  He started with certain definite pre-conceptions and he made everything which he saw fit into these pre-conceptions." [9]

          So, cried his critics, did Leadbeater. [10]  But he believed he avoided this danger, having been specially trained by the Masters to check and double check his findings.  The question of accuracy in his clairvoyance will be considered in the final chapter of this work.

          If the inner process whereby the information on the lives was obtained appears unintelligible to the -?-an, the actual procedures employed by Leadbeater when doing this work were quite mundane. Ernest Wood, who worked closely with him on the Lives, recorded the way it -?-ed:

          "...every evening, after the roof top meetings were over, we would retire to his room.  I would sit at his roll-top desk, writing down the dramatic

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incidents of a life, as he clairvoyantly looked at them while he walked round and round the room to keep himself awake.  Thus we would go far into the night, sometimes until two or three o'clock in the morning, until the life under review was finished.  At any moment I might interrupt him with questions or suggestions.  Mr Leadbeater would become much absorbed while thus walking round, and more than once he kicked his bare toe against the corner of the desk with a force sufficient to draw blood, but without at all noticing it.  So far as I could see, he had no time during the day to invent these stories;  occasionally he would consult a book or encyclopedia with reference to some point that he wanted to verify." [11]

          Interestingly enough, Jinarajadasa, in a letter intended to defend Leadbeater from suggestions that he faked the Lives, stated that Leadbeater did indeed prepare material in advance prior to looking up the Lives concerned.  Jinarajadasa said that Leadbeater would begin his investigations by reading reference books and encyclopedias for background material to get "as it were, a framework of  history", before he settled down to the clairvoyant investigation. [12]

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          The finished products of Leadbeater's research into past live make fascinating reading.  Man. Whence, How and Whither includes an account of the incarnations of a small group of leading Theosophists on the moon when they inhabited monkey-like bodies, and were servants of those who are now the Masters.  Various complicated, and to the cynics musing, relationships occurred in the course of thousands of years.   In 40,000 BC, for example, Leadbeater was Annie Besant's wife, and their children included Krishna, Nitya and more than ten others.   Thousands of years later, Mrs Besant married Leadbeater's daughter by his wife, Nitya.  And in Peru, some 12,000 BC, Leadbeater married Francesca Arundale, producing Basil Hodgson-Smith, Bertram Keightley and A.P. Sinnett as their sons, and adopting George Arundale.

          The complex and exacting detail that went into the material can be seen from the following extract from genealogical data on life in Peru, about 12,000 BC;  it is drawn from three pages dealing with this life, and containing nothing but information of this type.

          "Uranus married Hesperia, and had three sons - Sirius, Centaurus and Alcyone - and two daughters - Aquarius and Sagittarius.  The wife of Sirius was Slpica, and Pollux, Castor and Vegan were their

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sons, and Alcestis and Minerva their daughters.  Fides was an adopted son and married Glaucus.  Pollux married Melpomene and had three sons - Cyrene, Apis, Flora - and two daughters - Eroa and Chamaeleon.  Apis married Bootes, Eros Pisces and Chamaeleon Gemini.  Vega married Pomona and they had one son, Ursa, who espoused Lacerta, and two daughters - Circe and Ajax, the latter marrying Rex.  Ursa's family included Cancer (daughter), Alastor (son), Phocea (daughter) and Thetis (son).  Of these, Alastor married Clio and had one daughter, Trapezium, and a son, Markab." [13]

          It is difficult to know whether the names chosen for the personalities as they were in incarnation were intended to correspond to some individual traits.  Leadbeater said:

          "The scheme was to employ the names of planets for Those who are now Masters, the only exceptions being that the names of Vulcan and Venus were given to Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott respectively.  The names of fixed stars or constellations, and Greek heroes, indifferently were given to those other characters whom we know to be in incarnation at the present time;  the

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names of Greek letters were given to some people who recurred frequently in the lives, and took parts of some prominence, but are not known to us in the present incarnation.  In one or two cases people who were at first unrecognized have since been identified." [14]

          The identities of the Star names, with the exceptions of those who consented to having theirs published, remained a closely guarded secret.  Readers could have recourse to lists included in Man. Whence, How and Whither, or The Lives of  Alcyone, but these would reveal only forty or so names, quite a few of them famous figures from history rather than living Theosophists.  Julius Caesar was Corona, for example, and the tenth Earl of Dundonald was Deneb. [15]

          Other historical notables honoured by inclusion were Buddha (named Mahaguru), Sir William Crookes (Aries), Laotse (Lyra), Sir Thomas More (Vulcan) and Viscountess Churchill (Roxana).  Of course, private lists were kept, built up, and privately circulated. [16]  Some of those included in the Lives would presumably not have wished to be, and would, furthermore, have taken grave exception to the things they were alleged to have done, and the characteristics they were supposed to have manifested, in previous incarnations.

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          If the Lives gave great scope for the creation of heroes, they also allowed for the clearly define villains.  Great mystery surrounded some of the obvious villains, readily identifiable in every life as evil, and an enemy of the Theosophical heroes.  The principal villains were Ursa, Cancer, Hesperia, Lacerta and, the most evil of them all, Scorpio.  This little cluster was found in numerous lives as malcontents, trouble-makers and the tools of the Black Powers.  Whereas others rose and fell with different incarnations - or, as sceptics remarked, as they pleased or displeased Leadbeater - these five remained in the depths of nastiness.

          The identity of the first four are relatively clear:  Dr Elizabeth Chidester or Robert Dennis (Ursa), Mr Knothe (Cancer), Mrs Helen Dennis (Hesperia) and Mrs Kate Davis (Lacerta).  These are all the "villains" of Leadbeater's 1906 "troubles" in the United States, and its aftermath.  Scorpio has been identified with Dr Eleanor Hiestand-Moore, but however much Leadbeater may have hated her for her vitriolic attacks on him in The Theosophic Voice, the journal she established for that sole purpose, she remained an improbably insignificant figure. [17]  It is more likely that Scorpio was retained as a mysterious, never-specified villain capable of being recognized in

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anyone who filled the role at any time, a subtle threat to any would-be enemies who might have found it uncomfortable to have been so identified in Theosophical gossip.

          The major characters are identified in the following table.  An analysis of the significance of the names attributed to them is an interesting, and not altogether unprofitable exercise.

          George Arundale - Fides

          Francesca Arundale - Spica

          Annie Besant - Herakles

          Esther Bright - Beatrix

          Bhagavan Das - Capricorn

          H.P. Blavatsky - Vajra

          G.N. Chakravarti - Cetus

          Alex Fullerton - Alastor

          Basil Hodgson-Smith - Vega

          Alfred Hodgson-Smith - Tiphys

          Hubert van Hook - Orion

          Weller van Hook - Aldebaran

          Mrs van Hook - Achilles

          Jinarajadasa - Selen

          W.Q. Judge - Phocea

          Krishnamurti - Alcyone

          Fritz Kunz - Rigel

          C.W.Leadbeater - Sirius

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          G.R.S. Mead - Markab

          Nityananda - Mizar

          Narayianiah - Antares

          H.S. Olcott - Ulysses

          Mrs Marie Russak - Helios

          Johan van Manen - Aletheia

          James Wedgwood - Lomia

          B.P. Wadia - Polaris

          Ernest Wood - Xulon [18]

          If it seems complicated to the reader, it must have seemed even more complicated to those who were working on the compilation of the Lives.  Ernest Wood recalled:

          "When the number of persons in the 'Lives' had grown to over three hundred, the list was closed, as the investigation had become unwieldy.  I used to keep a ledger showing each 'star' name and where the character was in relation to others in all the lives.  With this ledger I assisted Mr Leadbeater to compile his charts, by informing him of the periods during which a character might so far be missing, so that he might be looked up and accounted for throughout the whole period covered by the investigations.   We regarded the use of such a ledger as quite legitimate for the saving of

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psychic energy, though it deprived the 'Lives' of any evidential value for those of us who knew the process." [19]

          In addition to the ledger, enormous genealogical charts were compiled showing the inter-relationships between individuals in specific lives.  "Accounts" were also prepared showing an individuals specific number of relationships to another character through the period of the lives. [20]

          Thus, someone could be reassured that he or she had been Krishnamurti's brother twice, cousin eight times, and had married him once.  Closeness to Alcyone meant closeness to the Masters, and spiritual development;   it was therefore important.  There were a few Theosophists who could even claim that he had been the offspring or spouses of the Masters themselves.

          Detailed charts were prepared for the more significant individuals, providing data on the intricate details of lives from the present back some two hundred thousand years.   The following represents a portion of such a chart prepared for Sirius (Leadbeater himself).

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          Subject A  -  Last 20 Lives

          Average life on earth 66-1/3 years

          Average period between incarnations 1208-1/2 years


Date of Birth - Place - Race - Sex - Age - Between Lives


BC 23,650 - N. America - IV.1 - M - 56 - 929

          22,665 - N. America - IV.2 - M - 64 - 1,135

          21,466 - Poseidonis - IV.3 - M - 84 - 1,826

          19,556 - Bactria - IV.4 - M - 71 - 1,276


BC 12,095 - Peru - IV.3 - M - 82 - 1,266

          10,747 - China - IV.4 - M - 79 - 1,050

          9,618 - Poseidonis - IV.5 - F - 54 - 1,262


BC 1,907 - Arabia - V.2 - M - 45 - 1,338

          524 - Greece - V.4 - M - 70 - 2,301

AD 1,847 - England - V.5 - M



          The quality of Leadbeater's writing of the Lives was typical of all his works:  precise, scientific, detailed.  As, for example, in this description of how Sirius, Alcyone, Herakles and Mizar achieved individualization and left the animal world while living as monkey-creatures on the Moon.

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          They were servants to a family of Moon-men, the principals of which are now the Masters M and KH.  The astral and mental bodies of the animals had grown under the influence of their owners' human intelligence "as those of domesticated animals now develop under our own".

          "One night there is an alarm;  the hut is surrounded by savages, supported by their domesticated animals, fierce and strong, resembling furry lizards and crocodiles.  The faithful guardians spring up around their masters' hut and fight desperately in its defence;  Mars [Master M] comes out and drives back the assailants, using some weapons they do not possess;  but, while he drives them backward, a lizard-like creature darts behind him into the hut, and catching up the child Surya [Maitreya] begins to carry him away.  Sirius [Leadbeater] springs at him, bearing him down, and throws the child to Alcyone [Krishnamurti], who carries him back into the hut, while Sirius grapples with the lizard, and, after a desperate struggle, kills it, falling senseless, badly mangled, over its body.  Meanwhile, a savage slips behind Mars and stabs at his back, but Herakles [Mrs Besant], with one leap, flings himself between his master and the weapon and receives

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the blow full on his breast, and falls, dying.  The savages are now flying in all directions, and Mars, feeling the fall of some creature against his back, staggers, and, recovering himself, turns.  He recognizes his faithful animal defender, bends over his dying servant, and places his head in his lap.  The poor monkey lifts his eyes, full of intense devotion, to his master's face, and the act of service done, with passionate desire to save, calls down a stream of response from the Will aspect of the Monad in a fierce rush of power, and in the very moment of dying the monkey individualizes, and thus he dies - a man." [22]

          Sirius, meanwhile, has been "very much chewed up by his lizard enemy", and is carried back into the hut, to spend the rest of his life as a cripple, his "dumb fidelity" to his mistress a touching sight.

          " ...gradually his intelligence, fed by love, grows stronger, until the lower mind, reaching up, draws down responses from the higher, and the causal body flashes into being, shortly before his death." [23]

          Thus, he too individualizes, as do Alcyone and Mizar,

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departing from the Moon chain as human beings, to find incarnations on earth as the life-wave moves in that direction.

          Not only individuals and their incarnations came under Leadbeater's psychic gaze;   he observed fauna and flora with similar interest, noting, for example, that in Lemuria:

          "In Lemuria there was some domestication of animals;  the egg-headed Lemurian was seen leading about a scaly monster, almost as unattractive as his master.  Animals of all sorts were eaten raw - among some tribes human flesh was not despised - and creatures of the grade of our slugs, snails and worms, much larger than their degenerate descendants, were regarded with peculiar favour as toothsome morsels." [24]

          But the main interest in the Lives centred on that group of Theosophists known as "The Band of Servers".  These were the elite of human evolution, now being reborn to prepare for the new Root Race, and they figured most prominently in the Lives;  some 250 names were known for them, although this was not regarded as a final figure.  Those mentioned in The Lives of Alcyone included 161 men and 91 women, the major of them being British (86), and Indian (59).

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or American (43).  Only a few were drawn from Australia (14), although more were found there once Leadbeater had settled in Sydney.   The rest came from Holland and the Dutch East Indies (13), France (13), Italy (8), Russia (5), Germany (4), with a few Spaniards, Burmese, Swiss and Parsis.  The Band of Servers represented the spearhead of future evolution on this planet, drawn together in this life as the result of their close association with and devoted service to the Masters in the past.

          The Lives were not without their critics, although those in the Lives claimed that their critics had generally those who had been left out.  The most outspoken and enthusiastic critic was William Loftus Hare, a British Theosophist.  Although Hare's attacks on the Lives came almost thirteen years after Leadbeater began this phase of his work, they relate to this period and offer valuable criticisms of the foundation upon which the Lives were based.

          In The Occult Review for February, 1923, Hare criticized the Lives in particular and Leadbeater's clairvoyant work in general, saying that the material was either related to a period or place which lay beyond any possibility of confirmation or disproof, or, if it related to an historically accessible period, concerned such trivia

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that no verification would be possible.  There were, Hare noted, a few remarkable exceptions to this when Leadbeater was prepared to totally dislocate history when it suited him, as in the case of the 105 BC birthdate for Jesus.

          Hare's criticism provoked three letters to the editor.  The first came from B.P. Wadia, who agreed with Hare, and the second from a Sydney Theosophist and disciple of Leadbeater, K. van Gelder, who abused Hare and said that his criticism was simply the result of indignation at being left out of the Lives.

          But, most interestingly, The Occult Review, of September, 1923, contained a reply from Leadbeater himself.  This was a remarkable departure from his consistent policy of never responding to critics or attack;  he usually had his disciples write to defend him.  In his letter Leadbeater claimed that he simply wrote down what he saw on the akashic records, and regarded Hare's suggestion that he had copied material from other sources as a "gross impertinence", and accused Hare of "the gross rudeness of unwarranted accusations of deceit". [25]

          But there were more serious allegations made by Hare and others who accused Leadbeater of actually deliberately faking the Lives.  Ernest Wood, who was probably

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in the best position to know just how the Lives had been compiled, expressed some doubts in his biographical work, Is This Theosophy? [26]  He noted that, as Krishnamurti became more and more a favourite of Leadbeater, so the Lives he was said to have lived became progressively more exalted as the history was investigated backwards.

          The first lives to have been examined showed nothing especially remarkable, because they were the most recent.

          "If the book of lives is now consulted, it will appear curious to the curious reader that Krishnamurti, one of the right hand men of the Manu, semi-divine King of the new Aryan race seventy-two thousand years ago, should gradually diminish in importance to become an ordinary man, though of fine character, in the last ten or fifteen lifetimes.  I commented to myself that Krishnamurti was obviously growing upon Mr Leadbeater, and that imagination was seriously affecting the vision, though there would be no reason to regard them as fundamentally unsound." [27]

          Wood noted that there were a few others at Adyar who also

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noted some of the discrepancies in the Lives, although most were overwhelmed at the marvel of it all, accepting them largely because Mrs Besant did so, without hesitation or qualification.  A few others simply rejected them as plainly ridiculous.

          Wood's initial doubts seem to find confirmation in the suspicions of others.  A Parsi noted that in one of the Persian lives, Leadbeater had confused the male and female names.  This was also one of the very few lives in which he had given anything as substantial as personal names.  The same Parsi produced what he regarded as additional evidence of fraud.

          "One night Mr Leadbeater had with much hesitation given me a few words in Sanskrit, to which he told me he was listening.  There was much difficulty, he said, in getting words of foreign languages clearly.   He asked me if I recognized the language.   Yes, it was Sanskrit, quite recognizable." [28]

          The following day this interesting fact came up in conversation between Wood, Leadbeater and the Parsi, who felt certain that he had heard the Sanskrit sentence somewhere else.  He and Leadbeater wondered where

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          "At that moment the Parsi gentleman's eye happened to fall upon a book that was out of alignment on the shelf.  On the instant he remembered that the passage that they were talking about was quoted in that book. 'Why' he exclaimed, 'now I remember. It was in this book, The Dream of Raven, which is out of line, that I read the sentence.'  Mr Leadbeater, he said, looked confused, remarked that the servant had been dusting the books, and diverted the conversation to some other subject." [29]

          But it was the enlargement of the list of characters in the Lives and the filling in of the genealogical charts to accommodate newly arrived Theosophists that principally undermined Wood's confidence in Leadbeater's psychic powers.  As Leadbeater was attracted to, and became interested in new people, especially boys, so their names would suddenly be added to the list, and places would have to be found for them in the Lives.  People who had previously been unmarried found themselves given husbands or wives, and couples whose charts had been completed would suddenly be blessed with additional sons and daughters.   Leadbeater even asked Wood to compile a list of prominent Theosophists who had been left out of the Lives so that he could investigate, and find places for them;  this added thirty or forty names to the list.

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          As Wood began to study the charts with more critical analysis, a number of incongruities became evident.  Virtually all the characters had always intermarried amongst themselves, life after life.  And, if the names were divided between those who had been originally discovered, and those added later by Leadbeater, it was found that the earlier people always intermarried, and the later people intermarried;  earlier and later rarely intermarried.

          In some six thousands marriages, only two or three cases did not produce children.   And, as Wood noted,

          "Still a third improbability was that the characters always married in their own generation, sometimes the oldest child of an oldest child of an oldest child with a younger child of a younger child of a younger child.  Thus in the cases of large families, according to my most conservative calculations, a frequent difference in age between husband and wife would be fifteen years or more, as often as not the lady being the elder." [30]

          Wood saw a further problem in the fact that when Leadbeater moved to Australia in 1915, a completely new set of people came into his circle, all prominent in the Society

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and the work of the Coming.  Yet most of them had no place at all in the Lives.  Even had Leadbeater wished to include them, there was simply no more room.  Although some of his Australian disciples were given Star names, and past lives were found for them, they did not fit into the Lives as such.

          And, indeed, many of those who did feature in the Lives disappeared from the Theosophical sphere shortly afterwards, their exceptional past lives availing naught for their present rejection of Leadbeater and the Coming.

          Wood also had the experience of being told by some other psychic of a past life, mentioning it to Leadbeater, and finding it immediately discovered in the Lives.  He also spoke to an English doctor at Adyar who put Leadbeater to the test by telling him of a wholly fictitious vision he had of gigantic astral figures on either side of a stage in a theatre they had attended.  Leadbeater confirmed the vision, and the accuracy of the description given by the doctor, saying it matched his own perception of what had occurred.

          But Wood himself did not feel that Leadbeater was wholly fraudulent with regard to the Lives.

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          My own position with regard to Mr Leadbeater, therefore, was midway between the extremes of acceptance and rejection.  It was that of one who had otherwise had convincing proof of the existence of clairvoyant power (though not on anything like the lavish scale presented by Mr Leadbeater, nor of the perfect accuracy which he always took for granted in his own case), who did not see any reason why Mr Leadbeater should cheat, but many reasons why he should not do so, who, knowing him and liking him, was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt where at all possible." [31]

          Having spent hundreds of hours in solid work on the Lives and other clairvoyant investigations, taking notes of what was seen, writing the answers of hundreds of questions on slips of paper which he then classified and arranged in order for Leadbeater to go through and dictate in literary form, Wood felt that Leadbeater was using the imaginative faculty of the fiction writer, rather than clairvoyance as such, or some kind of fraud.

          "There was no confusion or clash in the material.  Still, as we know that Mr Leadbeater was very fond of H.G. Wells's scientific romances and the

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adventure stories of Rider Haggard and Jules Verne, and had often told stories on these lives to boys, we did not consider it beyond the bounds of invention by his subconscious mind.  Mr Leadbeater used to tell us how stories sometimes wrote themselves before the eyes, so to say, of some novelists, the characters in them taking matters into their own hands and conducting the whole affair, and how Conan Doyle would take up his pen and write an imaginative story without knowing what he was going to write." [32]

          Others, however, were less charitable.  Hugh Gillespie, a Theosophist who had been at Adyar when the Lives were compiled, stated that they were "faked", that a conspiracy existed in this regard, and that Mrs Besant eventually discovered the truth.  According to Gillespie, Hubert van Hook assisted in the faking of the Lives, and talked openly about this in the United States in 1917;  his sudden removal from Adyar was a result of too many allusions to the fact whilst there.

          There were, said Gillespie, rumours circulating at Adyar that one could "buy" exalted lives.  The fact of the fraud was discovered, he said, during Leadbeater's absence from Adyar.  Ernest Wood thoroughly cleaned out Leadbeater's

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cluttered room, and found "absolute proof" of the deception.  The nature of this "absolute proof", was unfortunately never disclosed.  Wood showed the evidence to van Manen, another of Leadbeater's secretaries, who checked it and agreed with its significance.  Together, they went to B.P. Wadia, who simply laughed and said that he had been sure all along that the Lives were fictional.  He examined the evidence and confirmed their findings.

          The book, The Lives of Alcyone, was already at the printer, parts already printed, and the first volume ready for distribution.  At the insistence of Wood and van Manen, Nadia, who was then manager of the Theosophical Publishing House, agreed to hold up distribution, although the book had been widely publicized, was in great demand, and some de luxe advance copies had already been sent out.

          Mrs Besant, absent during the discovery, returned and was confronted with it.  Initially she fervently denied the allegations, but finally accepted them.  The copies for distribution were stacked in storage in the Vasanta Press, and as many of the de luxe editions as could be recalled were added to them.  It is not known whether Mrs Besant spoke to Leadbeater about the matter. [33]

          Mary Neff, who worked on the Lives at Adyar from

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1911, denied claims that the book had been suppressed, saying that Mrs Besant (and she alone) had decided to postpone publication from 1913 to 1924 because of Krishnamurti's youth and his inability to cope with the likely results of publication.  But Miss Neff noted that, just as she was arriving at Adyar, the original accounts of the Lives were being published in The Theosophist in the "Rents in the Veil of Time" series. [34]  Since all the material had been published, and publicized, it is difficult to see what additional problems the book could have created for Krishnamurti.

          Jinarajadasa stated that the printing was suspended and the distribution delayed because of Krishnamurti's fears that he would be "ragged" at Oxford, for which University he was then preparing, if the drama of his past incarnations became public knowledge. [35]  Of course, details of the past lives had become public knowledge ever since The Theosophist articles, and newspapers had already mentioned them in less than serious articles about Krishnamurti.  They had also been discussed in connection with the custody case, which is detailed in Chapter 15.

          Jinarajadasa had The Lives of Alcyone released, at a considerably reduced price, in 1924.  There were few

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sales, although he ordered members of the ES throughout the world to purchase and study the book.

          In the light of these events it is strange that B.P. Wadia should have been able to contribute an article to The Theosophist for January, 1911, acclaiming Leadbeater's clairvoyance and making a tribute to his reliability.  By 1923, however, Wadia was writing to The Occult Review declaring that he no longer held this position, rejecting Leadbeater's accuracy and stating that he had come to this position as a result of "many circumstances, with confirming evidence in every case". [36]  This Wadia repeated in The Theosophist for May, 1938, four years after Leadbeater's death, declaring that he no longer accepted Leadbeater's accuracy "because of physical plane knowledge and experience gathered later on". [37]

          Whatever the doubts of those who worked closely with Leadbeater, the majority of Theosophists accepted the Lives, seeing them as validation of the promised Coming, and yet further evidence that Leadbeater was the greatest seer in the world.  Mrs Besant was unquestioning in her acceptance of everything he said, and the public was quite frequently given the impression that she validated, clairvoyantly, all his research, especially in the books bearing their joint names. [38]   This was not the case, although Leadbeater

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preferred it to appear that way.  Any questions that might have lingered in the minds of those who recalled the events of 1906-7 were cast aside on the assumption that if Mrs Besant verified his work it must be right, and that if it was right, he must be of impeccable morals and unquestionable spirituality, since these were (he said) the pre-requisites for psychic powers of the order he claimed.

          Whilst most believed, and a few doubted, a minority ridiculed, and enjoyed reciting a lengthy poem which began:


          In the Lives, in the Lives,

          I've had all sorts of husbands and wives,

          I've been killed and reborn,

          Many bodies I've worn,

          But my higher anatomy thrives.


          In the Lives, in the Lives,

          We've been busy as bees in their hives -

          Whether Arab or Turk,

          We were pining to work,

          In the Lives, in the Lives. [39]

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Charles Webster Leadbeater 1854-1934 
A Biographical Study
by Gregory John Tillett
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