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Charles Webster Leadbeater 1854-1934 
A Biographical Study
by Gregory John Tillett
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Chapter 15: Conflict Over Krishnamurti

          The year 1911 began with enthusiastic activities for the Order of the Star in the East.  Ostensibly it was only vaguely Adventist, looking for the Coming of a Great World Teacher, and preparing for that event.  In fact, most of the Order's members were aware of the Vehicle's identity and the nature of the World Teacher who was to come.

          Each member received a certificate of membership, and could purchase the badge of the Order, a silver five-pointed star.  The National Representatives and other high officials of the Order were permitted to wear gold stars, and all badges were, at Leadbeater's suggestion, suspended from a ribbon of the same shade of blue as the aura of the Lord Maitreya.  Only Leadbeater could identify this highly spiritual colour and a considerable number of samples had to be submitted to him for examination and comparison;  it was not until he had spent eighteen months looking for the right shade of blue that a ribbon purchased in Paris was approved.

          An Order of the Servants of the Star was also established for members of the OSS (as it inevitably, and to Leadbeater's horror, became known) under twenty-one-years of age.


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          The enthusiasm of Theosophists for this new activity was dampened only slightly by the considerable dissension it caused throughout the Society.  This was nowhere more evident than in Germany, and most of the German lodges eventually broke away from Adyar under the leadership of Dr Rudolph Steiner and formed the Anthroposophical Society. [1]  The loss of Steiner and his followers meant the loss of 55 lodges and 2,447 members in Germany, together with smaller losses elsewhere. [2]  But the TS quickly recovered from this loss, re-established the "loyal" Germany Section, and gained members rapidly.  The world membership increased from some 16,000 in 1911, to over 36,000 in 1920, reaching its highest ever with 45,000 in 1928.

          But Leadbeater and Mrs Besant had to concern themselves not only with critics of the OSE but also with a number of personal attacks.  The Hindu newspaper, one of the largest and most influential in India, and published in Madras, began what appeared to be a campaign against the two Theosophical leaders.  Representatives of Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Islam wrote to the paper condemning Theosophy, and noting that while in theory members of any religion could join the TS and continue to practice their faiths, in fact they were obliged to adopt a collection of doctrines and ideas which were inconsistent with any of them.  There was also reference to "the preaching and


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practice of the sin of Onan by a high initiate". [3]

          More alarmingly, the former physician of Colonel Olcott, Dr M.C. Nanjunda Rao, wrote a letter presenting a vitriolic attack on Leadbeater, Mrs Besant, Krishnamurti and the OSE.   He revived the story of the Coulombs and their allegations against HPB, the investigation of the Society by the Society for Psychical Research (the Hodgson Report), and mentioned the scandalous material that was published in The Theosophic Voice.  Leadbeater's "troubles" of 1906 and their aftermath were mentioned.  Dr Rao also dismissed the "Adyar manifestations", the alleged appearances of the Masters to Olcott on his deathbed, saying that he (the Doctor) had been in attendance at the time and saw nothing.  He swept aside Mrs Russak's evidence as a story spread by an emotional and hysterical person.  Letters for and against everything Dr Rao had written appeared in subsequent issues of The Hindu.

          Mrs Tingley in California, hearing of these attacks on her rivals, quickly stirred her own forces into action, and Joseph Fussell, Secretary of The Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society, and formerly private secretary to W.Q. Judge, produce a lengthy pamphlet headed "Unofficial", but clearly representing the views of the Point Loma Theosophists. [4]  It was titled Mrs Annie Besant and the Moral Code. A Protest, and was "Addressed to the


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public:  to fathers and mothers:  to all lovers of the home:  to all self-respecting men and women - lovers of decency and saneness of life". [5]  It began:

          "There are certain matters, from dealing with which decent people shrink with disgust.  Our minds turn away from them revolting;  although they may be perils that are a present menace to society, society will neither, if it can help itself, name or notice them.  Such a matter is unnatural sexual vice." [6]

          It sated that Leadbeater was "teaching boys, under a pledge of secrecy, a private vice", and that he was endorsed and defended in this by Mrs Besant.  Lengthy quotes were made from some of the documents in the original 1906 charges, and Fussell noted carefully that in his letter to Alex Fullerton, and in his evidence before the Committee of enquiry, Leadbeater had admitted teaching boys masturbation.

          Fussell paralleled Mrs Besant's rejection of Leadbeater and his teachings in her letter to the ES - in which she declared the teachings "earthly, sensual and devilish" - and her announcement that "Any proposal to reinstate Mr Leadbeater .... would be ruinous to the Society,"


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with later declarations that "The Theosophical Society has no moral code" and that Leadbeater was her "Friend and Fellow-Initiate".  She had further originally stated that she would oppose his reinstatement in the TS until and unless he said publicly that "the teaching is wrong".   And, as Fussell noted, Leadbeater had never made this statement;  at most, he had said that, since other people found it inappropriate, he would not longer teach it.

          Fussell concluded his attack by declaring:

          "These teachings thus put forward by Mr Leadbeater, supported by Mrs Besant, are the more subtle, the more devilish, because these people profess 'Theosophy', which stands for everything that is clean and pure.  Finally:  it is as a student of Theosophy, as an humble disciple of H.P. Blavatsky, of William Q. Judge, and Katherine Tingley that I make this protest:  and more than all as a man, a lover of HOME and all that this sacred word implies." [7]

          A copy of this pamphlet was directed to the Editor of The Hindu.

          Mrs Besant declared, with her inevitable


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confidence, that these attacks were equivalent to children throwing mud, or snakes hissing at the base of the Himalayan peaks.  But the mud-throwing and the hissing continued.  The Hindu included an article entitled "Psychopathia sexualis in a Mahatama", an article based on material published in a Madras medical journal, the Antiseptic, by T.M. Nair, a Madras doctor.  Nair's interest in the TS had been aroused after he received copies of The Theosophic Voice from the USA.   He claimed that Leadbeater has been "initiating" selected pupils into the "mysteries of Onanism", and declared that the cypher letter was evidence of homosexual tendencies in him.

          After a consideration of the nature of "auto-eroticism", psychologically and physiologically, Nair concluded by asking whether Leadbeater, in his explorations of his own past lives, had perhaps discovered that he had been "Onan the son of Jude and Sua and grandson of Israel". [8]  Dr Nair accused Mrs Besant of supporting "the Leadbeater practice of carefully selecting boys who were satisfactory subjects for receiving instruction in the practice of [masturbation]".  Mrs Besant, not unexpectedly, denied this. [9]

          The Editor of The Hindu, Srinivasa Iyengar, took up the theme and considered sexual aberrations in the


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religious traditions of India, especially Tantrism, together with the opinions of authorities like Krafft-Ebing and others.  He noted that only Theosophy appeared to advocate "pathological conditions to be adumbrations of future morality." [10]

          Whilst Mrs Besant was endeavouring, unsuccessfully, to deal with the Indian attacks, John Bull in London had also decided that there was good copy in Leadbeater.   In 1909, Mrs Besant's former friend and the editor of John Bull, Horatio Bottomley had run headlines reading "A Teacher of Filth. Pitiful Degradation of the London Theosophical Lodge".  This was followed by details of Leadbeater's resignation and arguments over his re-admission to the TS.  Bottomly described Leadbeater as

          "an individual who, instead of being permitted to work with decent men and women, should be tied to a cart tail and flogged from Temple Bar to Aldgate pump." [11]

          Bottomly announced that he was directing the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions to the matter, alarmed that the TS was

          "gathering into its ranks an army of morbid moral


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degenerates, whose teachings are calculated to undermine the character and sap the manhood of our race." [12]

          This was followed in the next issue by "Plain Words to Mrs Besant. The Theosophical Society Scandal".  Bottomley proclaimed that Leadbeater was

          "polluting the morals and undermining the character and latent manhood of youths.... Mrs Besant must either prove herself a pure woman, or stand condemned as an avowed ally of a dangerous sex pervert - a loathsome moral degenerate." [13]

          This campaign was maintained, on and off, for several years, along with exposes of various religious movements, speculators and business frauds, culminating in 1912 with the headlines:  "Deified and Defiled. Two Boys and a Beast".  The two boys were Krishna and Nitya;  the identity of the beast was not difficult to guess.  The article puritanically declared that "Details of his precepts cannot, of course, be set forth in the public press", and concluded:

          "Leadbeater, in our opinion, is not a fit person to be the guardian of a pig;   and so long as Mrs


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Besant thinks fit to associate herself with him, she cannot expect the tenets of which she is so eloquent and exponent to make progress in a civilized country." [14]

          Even the devoutly loyal Theosophists were causing trouble unintentionally.  George Arundale, at the Central Hindu College, had enthusiastically adopted the Order of the Star as an extracurricular activity for the students, and also declared the College as an instrument in the work of the Coming.  He distributed badges of the Order of the Rising Sun, which became the Order of the Star in the East, and established a group of students who were instructed to concentrate on him each morning as a focus for combined spiritual force.   It was alleged that many pupils were neglecting their studies, and staff and parents protested to Mrs Besant, as President of the Trustees of the College.  Arundale was given leave to accompany Mrs Besant to England, and about half of the College staff resigned. [15]

          Leadbeater remained aloof from all this controversy, continuing his work of preparing the Vehicle, and communicating with the Masters on their wishes in the matter.  These included, as he had previously intimated, an education in England, and on April 22, 1911, Mrs Besant, Krishna, Nitya and George Arundale sailed from Bombay for


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London.  Leadbeater received regular reports on their progress thereafter.

          The reception in London was, not unexpectedly after the details of the lives of Alcyone published in The Theosophist, very enthusiastic.  The boys began preparation for Oxford University under Arundale's supervision, studying arithmetic, algebra, Sanskrit, essay writing and English literature.  In addition, they attended innumerable meetings of the TS and the OSE, and continued their rigorous physical training programme.

          In June they went to Paris with Mrs Besant, and it was from that city that Krishna wrote to Leadbeater recording his journey (on the astral plane) with Arundale to the Master's house where Arundale was accepted as the Master's pupil.  Leadbeater's confirmation of this event was promptly given by cable.   After lectures and meetings, and the laying of the foundation stone of a new TS headquarters in London, the party returned to Adyar, arriving on October 7th.

          In December, the leading Theosophists traveled to Benares for the annual TS convention, the highlight of which was the first public intimation of the Lord Maitreya's "overshadowing" of his chosen Vehicle.  Leadbeater, in


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writing to Fabrizio Ruspoli, described the OSE meeting on December 28th at which Krishna was to hand out membership certificates.  The simple ceremony turned into an emotional proclamation of Krishna's semi-divinity.  The hall was crowded with about four hundred people, including Leadbeater and Mrs Besant.  Krishna, standing at the front, was to hand out certificates to new members as they filed past him.

          Leadbeater wrote, "l'Homme propose et Dieu dispose."

          "All at once the Hall was filled with tremendous power, which was so evidently flowing through Krishna that the next member fell at his feet, overwhelmed by this marvellous rush of force.  I have never seen or felt anything in the least like it;  it reminded one irresistibly of the rushing mighty wind and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.  The tension was enormous, and everyone in the room was most powerfully affected.  It was exactly the kind of thing that we read about in the old scriptures, and think exaggerated;  but here it was before us in the twentieth century.  After that, each one prostrated himself as his turn came, many of them with tears pouring down their cheeks.   The scene was indeed a


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memorable one, for the stream of devotees was remarkably representative in character.  There were members from almost every country in Europe, from America and from all parts of India, and it was most striking and beautiful to see white and dark alike, Brahmins and Buddhists, Parsis and Christians, haughty Rajput princes and gorgeously appareled merchants, grey-haired men and young children, all prostrating themselves in rapt devotion at our Krishna's feet.  The blessing poured forth was so obvious that every one present yearned to have a share in it, and those who had no certificates with them tore off their Star badges and handed them in, so that they also might receive something at his hands." [15]

          Nitya also threw himself prostrate at his brother's feet, provoking an enthusiastic applause from the "whole congregation".

          Finally, at Mrs Besant's request, Krishna held out his right hand over the heads of the audience and pronounced a benediction:  "May the blessings of the great Lord rest upon you for ever."

          And so we came down to the ordinary world again,


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and left the Hall, feeling that we had passed through one of the greatest experiences of our lives, and that indeed it had been good for us to be there, for that this had been for us none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven." [16]

          The inner side of the event was even more splendid and wonderful as Leadbeater described it:

          "I have seen many things in occultism, but never on the physical plane an outpouring of force as this, nor anything which moved all present so profoundly.  I suppose most of them saw nothing, but what they felt shook them to their very souls.  It is not easy to expressed it in words, but the sense of a mighty living Presence was unmistakable and overpowering.  The occult side of the phenomenon was wonderfully beautiful.  A great circle of the characteristic blue fire of the Lord Maitreya appeared some feet above our Krishna's head and then stretched down into a funnel.  Just above the funnel floated the rosy cross of the Master Jesus, and high above all, near the ceiling of the lofty Hall, flashed the Star of the Lord of the World.  Down through the funnel poured a


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torrent of blue fire tinged with rose, and all permeated by the indescribable electric glow of the Star.  This stream rushed into our Krishna's head through the highest of the force centres, and poured through his hands upon each person he blessed.  Round the Hall stood of circle of great green devas, with forms twenty feet high, and as Krishna gave that final blessing the Bodhisattva Himself stood in the air above him, smiling benignly on those who had done him reverence through the person of the disciple." [17]

          Of course, this description was not available to the ordinary members of either the TS or the OSE.  Members of the ES were able to read Mrs Besant's account of her clairvoyant perception of the event.  This agreed with Leadbeater's, complete with the "great, green Devas, a quadrangle of coruscating light and colour, glorious, ever enriching the ranks of beauty and joy", providing a guard against the forces of evil.

          It was not true, however, that all present were overwhelmed by the power and significance of the occasion.  Bhagavan Das, for example, suggested that most of those present noticed nothing at all, except a "very embarrassed Indian boy handing out slips of paper to a crowd of


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strangely behaving people". [18]  He was also disconcerted by the fact that although Mrs Besant forced Miss Arundale, George's elderly aunt, to prostrate, neither she nor Leadbeater did so, and refused to provide reasons for thus remaining aloof. [19]

          The following day, December 29th, Mrs Besant addressed a meeting and declared that it was no longer possible "to make even a pretence" of concealing the fact that Krishna was the chosen Vehicle of the Lord Maitreya/Christ.  It was also announced that Krishna had been awarded the Subba Row Medal for At the Feet of the  Master, however curious it might seem for the Theosophical award for outstanding literary work to go to someone for a book of which he had declared, "These are not my words". [20]   The 28th of December became a special day for the OSE.

          The events of the 28th were repeated on the 30th, on a lesser scale.  It included the prostrations of Mrs van Hook and Hubert, the latter by now completely deprived of his promised role as Vehicle.  Narayaniah neither joined in the prostrations at the feet of his son, nor approved of them.  Returning to Adyar via Calcutta, Mrs Besant received a letter from Krishna's father threatening legal


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action for the recovery of his sons' custody.  At Adyar, she confronted him, in the presence of witnesses, regarding his wishes for his sons, and he insisted on a complete separation from Leadbeater, and that even correspondence between Krishna and Nitya and Leadbeater should cease.  He was later to claim that Mrs Besant agreed to this, and on January 19th, 1912, he signed a document giving his consent for Krishna and Nitya to go to England with Mrs Besant to be educated.  He was torn between his suspicion and hatred of Leadbeater and the hope that his sons might receive an Oxford education, even if this meant breaking caste.

          Narayaniah's wishes or opinions were never allowed to stand in the way of what Leadbeater declared to be the Master's wishes for the boys.  Believing that Krishna was due for his Second Initiation, Leadbeater wanted to take him into the Nilgiri Hills for some months to prepare.  [As] the boy's father had now made this impossible, Leadbeater went to Europe to find some suitable, isolated location there to enable the necessary preliminary training to be undertaken without interference, physical or psychical.   Narayaniah and his supporters declared that Leadbeater had fled the country to avoid arrest, and no doubt felt relief at being rid of him.

          Krishna and Nitya were taken by Mrs. Besant to


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England on February 16, supposedly to remain there for their education.  They were accompanied by Jinarajadasa and Dick Balfour-Clarke, and, after a few weeks of continued study and exercise, they moved to Holland.  Mrs Besant, meanwhile, had written to Narayaniah, and order him to leave the TS Estate.

                   On March 25, accompanied by Jinarajadasa and Balfour-Clarke, the boys left Holland, and went via Paris to Taormina at the foot of Mount Etna in Sicily, were Leadbeater was awaiting them at the Hotel Naumachia. [21]   They remained in Sicily for four months, and Mrs Besant was with them from May until July.

          On the night of the full moon of May 1st, Krishna and Jinarajadasa took their Second Initiations, for which they had to cast off the Three Fetters:  delusion of self, doubt or uncertainty, and superstition.

          The ceremony of the First Initiation takes place in the astral body, but the Second in the mental body.  On this occasion the Initiation was to take place at the house of the Lord Maitreya, and Master Morya had issued an instruction that those concerned should be present no later than ten o'clock.   So Mrs Besant, Leadbeater, Krishna, and others, traveling in their mental bodies, visited the house


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of the Master KH, where the Master M joined them, arid then went to the Lord Maitreya's residence.   This lay on a southern slope of the Himalayas overlooking the vast plains of India, sheltered by a pine forest behind it, beyond which lay the ancient stone house of the Lord Vaivasvata, the Manu.

          At the appointed time, the Lord Maitreya and the other Masters came out of the house and gathered in the garden.  Masters KH and DK stood beside the two candidates for Initiation, with Leadbeater and Mrs Besant in the background as "the appointed guardians of the younger candidates in the lower world".  The Manu and the Bodhisattva sat side by side, and above them floated the figure of the Lord Gautama Buddha, and near him the Mahachohan, "and between Them and a little above Them flashed out later in answer to the solemn invocation of the Bodhisattva the Blazing Star of the One Initiator, the Mighty King of the Occult Hierarchy, the Lord of the Lord".  "Such," commented Leadbeater, "was the exquisite setting of the ceremony of Initiation".

          KH and DK presented the candidates to the Bodhisattva, and promised to continue to guide them, as did Leadbeater and Mrs Besant.  However,


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          "Before the man can proceed to the second Initiation, the Initiator chosen by the King demands evidence as to how the candidate has used the powers acquired by him at the first Initiation, and one of the most beautiful features of the ceremony is the part when those who have been helped by the candidates come forward to give their testimony." [22]

          Ample witness was given of Krishna's work through At the Feet of the Master:

          "And many voices cried:  'We bear witness,' and the very air seemed vocal, so multitudinous were the testimonies.  And the smile of the Bodhisattva grew sweet beyond expression as He, the Saviour of the world, listened to the answer He had evoked." [23]

          Some of those who had been helped by Krishna's little book came forward to speak personally of their experiences, but "Some who had been much helped... could not be brought on this occasion because they were awake and engaged in their ordinary avocations", and so were represented by "living images" made by the Masters.  

          The candidates were then further examined, both


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by questioning and by tests with work on the mental plane, and with cases of people in the "heaven world" such as might be placed under their care in future.

          "One case was that of a medieval monk, very full of devotion, but with exceedingly limited ideas concerning God and the Saints and the Church, and the Lord questioned them as to what they would do to help his growth." (24]

          After the testing was completed, the candidates knelt and the Lord Maitreya, turning towards Shamballa, cried aloud:

          "'Do I this, O Lord of Light and Life and Glory, in Thy Name and for Thee?'  Then over Him flashed out the Blazing Star, giving the consent of the One Initiator, and the August figure of the Lord Gautama Buddha shone out with more blinding brilliance, while He raised His right hand in blessing.  The Mahachohan also rose to add His benediction, as the Bodhisattva laid His hand in turn on each bowed head, and all bent low in reverent homage before the Mighty Ones;  and then there was silence." [25

          Krishna, in a birthday message for members of the


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OSE, expressed his hope that Arundale and Nitya would pass their First Initiations shortly, giving the TS seven Initiates:  Mrs Besant, Leadbeater, Krishna, Jinarajadasa, Nitya and Arundale, and a seventh who was not identified.   Following Krishna's Second Initiation, Leadbeater received yet further instructions from the Master on his training:

          "I must again emphasize special care of the feet.... there is even a slight commencement of distortion... Dress them always in material of the best... and remember that both head and feet should be uncovered when possible.  Do not allow your original watchfulness in these matters to diminish.... Do not let yourselves regard anything as insignificant which helps provide a perfect vehicle for the Lord." [26]

          Following the departure of Mrs Besant for London, and Arundale for India, the rest of the group travelled to Villa Cevasco near Geneva, to stay with some old friend of Leadbeater's, Mr and Mrs Kirby.  Krishna, Nitya, Jinarajadasa and Balfour-Clarke returned to England at the end of July, and Leadbeater remained in Genoa - frightened, so his enemies said, of a possible, prosecution if he returned to England.  This, however, seemed improbable, since he had remained in England after 1906 scandals without being


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arrested.

          On July 30th, Mrs Besant wrote to Leadbeater from London informing him that Narayaniah had written to her demanding the return of his sons. [27]  This letter was subsequently published in The Hindu, and followed by a renewal of the campaign against Leadbeater, Mrs Besant, and the OSE.  Narayaniah had now been informed of the continuing association of his sons with Leadbeater, and regarded this as a direct breach of Mrs Besant's agreement with him when he gave consent for the boys to go to England.

          Fearing that some attempt might be made to kidnap Krishna, the boys were placed with dedicated Theosophists in England, and remained for five months under the close guard of Balfour-Clarke, Basil Hodgson-Smith and Reginald Ferrer. [28]  The last two were former pupils of Leadbeater's.

          In September, whilst staying at Genoa, Leadbeater was introduced to a leading English Theosophist, Lady Emily Lutyens, grand-daughter of the author Edward Bulwer-Lytton, (with whom Leadbeater had claimed a childhood meeting), and daughter of Robert, Earl of Lytton, a former Viceroy of India. [29]  Lady Emily's recollections of this period, and her correspondence with Leadbeater, constitute one of the best sources of material on the development of Krishna in his


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role as Vehicle for the World Teacher, and the numerous movements associated with it." [30]

          Lady Emily's first impressions of Leadbeater were highly favourable.  On September 19th, 1912, she wrote to her husband, the architect Edwin Lutyens:

          " ...he is in appearance of course like his photographs - a very big, heavy man - and yet wonderfully active considering his age - up very early and seemingly never tired.  He has a rather funny mincing walk, a rather drawly parsonic voice, but talks a great deal - very agreeably and naturally.  He has a very courteous manner and has been most cordial to me, but under all one feels a mild contempt for all women, and I am only tolerated as the mother of Robert... He has quite a polite way of making one feel small and ridiculous, which is not pleasant.  To the children he is perfect - charming to both - and particularly careful that Barbara shall not feel out of it.  He is very affectionate - reads to them - talks to them - takes a great deal of trouble to draw them out, and make them at their ease - and is evidently really devoted to children, though bored with grown-ups." [31]


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          In the light of Leadbeater's later Masonic and ecclesiastical activities his attitude to ritual was interesting:

          "One thing agreeably surprised me - that while all his followers talk a great deal about magnetism and vibrations and how you musn't wear this or that, he seems singularly unfaddy.  He belongs to none of the offshoots of the TS except Star in the East, and pours scorn on badges and ritual and dressing up." [32]

          And she rejected the accusation made by his enemies, although she didn't see him as a Theosophical saint:

          "It is not that I believe the stories of C.W.L.  I think they are probably horrible libels got up by the people whose feelings he has hurt.  I feel him to be big, but I don't feel him to be spiritual or a bit on a level with Mrs Besant        and I realize that both can be very foolish on the physical plane." [33]

          Lady Emily was alarmed by the criticisms Leadbeater made of Mrs Besant in her absence, and by the


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distrust he showed for her judgment.

          "I was also shocked and distressed by the way in which C.W.L. and the Kirbys discussed and criticized Mrs Besant.  They gave instances of her complete lack of judgment in the choice of the people around her, and of how she was constantly deceived by unworthy people whom she had taken into her confidence.   I felt very miserable at what I considered to be disloyalty to Mrs Besant on the part of her closest friend and colleague." [34]

          However, as she spent more time with him, and watched him teaching her children about the occult, and became more accustomed to his critical manner, Lady Emily grew to like him more and more.  She wrote again to her husband on September 21st;

          " ...I am struck by his wisdom and level-headedness.... He is full of joie de vivere and has absolutely no cant or sham about him." [35]

          Afater her return to London, and his to India, Leadbeater wrote to Lady Emily regularly, and in October informed her:


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          "Krishna's objectionable old father has at last filed the suit against Mrs Besant which he threatened, professedly in order to recover possession of his sons and remove them from my evil influence.  It is of course a farce because it is brought when he knows that they are actually separated from me for a period of four or five years because of their university education in England.  The truth is that the man is a tool of that political party here in India which is disaffected to the British government, and he is simple being used as a weapon of attack upon Mrs Besant and upon the Theosophical Society, because that organization has always stood for loyalty and order." [36]

          On October 4th, 1912, Narayaniah had submitted a written statement to the Court of the District Judge of Chingleput in which he had made a number of accusations against Leadbeater, and stated that he had frequently made complaints about him to Mrs Besant, and been given assurances that she would prevent any further contact between Leadbeater and his sons. [37]  His charges ranged from accusations that Leadbeater had sexual relations with Krishna, to imputations of fraud regarding the authorship of


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At the Feet of the Master.  In this original statement, he also claimed to have actually witnessed an "unnatural act" between Leadbeater and Krishna.

          "In or about the latter part of March 1910 the plaintiff [Narayaniah] discovered that his son J. Krishnamurti was being led into improper habits by C.W. Leadbeater, who held a very high position in the Theosophical Society;  and on one occasion the plaintiff himself saw Leadbeater committing an unnatural offence with the first minor [Krishna]." [37]

          However, also according to his own statement, Narayaniah had not been prompted by what he claimed to have seen to take any action.

          "A few days later, the plaintiff strongly remonstrated with Mr Leadbeater and made preparation for leaving Adyar with his sons but on the persuasion of Sir Subramania Iyer, the Vice-President of the Theosophical Society, agreed to stay until the return of the defendant (Mrs Besant) who was then on tour, and in deference to the request of the defendant by wire, the plaintiff did not carry out his intention." [38]


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          Narayaniah related how he had been told by Mrs Besant that the boys would be moved away from Leadbeater.  Then, when in fact Leadbeater had moved closer to them, she told him she was taking the boys to Benares where they would have nothing to do with Leadbeater.  But Narayaniah claimed:

          "In spite of this, they were again being allowed to associate with the said Leadbeater, and it was about this time that [Narayaniah] heard from other Theosophical friends that one Luxman [sic], a personal attendant, had seen C.W. Leadbeater and J. Krishnamurti in the defendant's room engaged in committing an unnatural offence." (39]

          Yet again, the statement gave no indication that Narayaniah had taken any action as the result of this alarming revelation, other than a further discussion with Mrs Besant, who this time promised to take the boys to England.

          Narayaniah summarized his feelings of loathing for Leadbeater in submitting that:

          "having regard for the filthy and unnatural habits, character and antecedents of the said Leadbeater, it is extremely undesirable that the boys should be allowed to associate with him, or that he


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should be allowed to have access to them. [40]

          Narayaniah then recounted the occult aspects of the case, beginning with Krishna's Initiation:

          "In or about November 1911 the defendant told the plaintiff that the boys were making rapid spiritual progress and were approaching initiation by the Masters (a set of superhuman gurus living on the eastern slopes of the Himalayas) believed in by the Theosophists.  She therefore proposed to keep the boys with Mr Leadbeater at Ootacamund preparatory to their initiation.   On the plaintiff's objections the boys were not sent to Ootacamund.  The plaintiff met the defendant in Benares in December 1911 and insisted on an absolute separation of the boys from Mr Leadbeater.  But for the first time, to the plaintiff's great surprise, the defendant refused to adopt such a course, and alleged that the boys and Leadbeater was an Arhat or Saint [sic], 'who is on the verge of divinity ". [41]

          Narayaniah then turned his attention to the suggestion that Krishna was to be the Lord Maitreya (a popular misconception of what Leadbeater and Mrs Besant


--- 535 ---

actually claimed for the youth) and stated that:

          " ...the defendant has been stating that the first boy [Krishna] who is named Alcyone, is, or is going to be, the Lord Christ, and sometimes he is the Lord Maitreya, and she has induced a number of persons to believe in this theory, with the result that the boy is deified, and that a number of respectable parsons prostrate before him and show other signs of worship." [42]

          And he submitted that the alleged authorship of At the Feet  of the Master was fraudulent:

          "It is also given out that the elder boy wrote a book called At the Feet of the Master, which the plaintiff has reason to believe to be a compilation made by Leadbeater.  In any case, the boy who is not capable to write a decent English letter is absolutely incapable of producing such a work." [43]

          To round off his allegations, Narayaniah implied that Leadbeater, Mrs Besant and their colleagues were all part of a plot to corrupt his sons.


--- 536 ---

superhuman and was completely under her influence and control, and he took her to be his preceptress who should be obeyed implicitly and make any sacrifice demanded...[45]

          "The plaintiff submits that this course of conduct is calculated to warp the moral nature of the boys and to make them moral degenerates." [44]

          And he suggested that his own failure to take action in the past was a direct result of the power Mrs Besant held over him.

          " ...the plaintiff believed the defendant to be superhuman and was completely under her influence and control, and he took her to be his preceptress who should be obeyed implicitly and make any sacrifice demanded..." [45]

          He stated that it was not until he received the letter of February 7th, 1912, from Mrs Besant, in which, so he said, she threatened to keep the boys away from him until their majority, that he "awoke" to what was really happening.  He even admitted sharing the "illusion" that Krishna was in some way divine, and claimed to have been misguided by this.

          "The plaintiff's delay in taking action against the defendant has been due only to the faith which until recently he shared with many other persons that the defendant was semi-divine and that the


--- 537 ---

plaintiff was exceptionally fortunate in getting the defendant to take charge of the boys.  The plaintiff was also led to believe that the boy Krishnamurti was also possessed of divine attributes, and the plaintiff had to change his belief only on discovery of the circumstances connected with Leadbeater's connection with the boys and on the confession of the boy himself that At the Feet of the Master was not written by Krishnamurti and on the discovery of the present imperfect state of their education." (46]

          Narayaniah sought judgement from the court declaring that he was entitled to the guardianship of Krishna and Nitya, and to their custody, and that Besant was not so entitled, or was unfit to have charge and guardianship of them.  He also sought a court order for the return of his sons to him, and costs against Mrs Besant.

          Mrs Besant took her own defence, as she had done previously in the case for the custody of her own daughter thirty-six years previously, and Krishna, writing from his "hideaway" in England, gave her his support, suggesting that the whole affair was part of her "trials for the 5th Initiation", and promising never to abandon her.  Krishna, at the Master's directions, as communicated through


--- 538 ---

Leadbeater, had now parted his hair in the middle, and had begun underlining his name whenever he signed it - both invariable practices of Leadbeater's to which he attributed deep esoteric significance.  The hair style was in imitation of the Lord Buddha, and a considerable number of Krishna's disciples, eastern and western, adopted a similar coiffure.

          The case suffered delays and postponements, but eventually came up in the High Court of Madras on March 20th, 1913, before Mr Justice Bakewell.  Narayaniah's case was, simply, that having transferred guardianship of his sons to Mrs Besant by the document dated March 6th, 1910, he had transferred it to her alone, and it could not be given to someone else.  He further argued that the boys were being morally corrupted, and not properly educated.  Mrs Besant countered this by pointing out that the boys were in England, far away from Leadbeater, that Krishna was only five weeks away from his eighteenth birthday when Indian boys came of age and he would be free to decide whether or not to return to India, and that their education would never be completed if they were returned to Madras.  She further suggested that the civil case was being used as a criminal trial of Leadbeater, Krishna and herself, on a number of serious charges.  She placed all documents relating to Leadbeater, including those of the 1906 "troubles", before the court, and suggested that the charges against him were


--- 539 ---

contradictory and highly improbable, with different stories being presented as concerning the same event.

          Leadbeater, in giving his evidence, stated that Mrs van Hook and Dr Mary Rocke had been in his room every morning from October 1909, to the end of April, 1910, at the times Krishna was supposed to have been involved in sexual relations with him. [47]  In cross examination, somewhat more interestingly, he stated that he had seen the Solar Logos and the Lord of Evolution, and said that he could see thought forms.  He also admitted teaching masturbation to adolescent boys on the basis of a theory learned whilst a clergyman of the Church of England.  But, unlike his evidence in the 1906 enquiry, he denied any physical contact with the boys.   However, he almost immediately contradicted this statement by admitting that, in one case, he had sought to help a boy overcome the necessity of circumcision by "indicative action". [48]

          The witnesses for the plaintiff included Bertram Keightley, now a disciple of Mrs Besant's former guru, Chakravarti, and Bhagavan Das.  Keightley recounted some of the 1906 hearing and stated that he had left the TS when Leadbeater was readmitted.  Mrs, Besant’s servant, Lakshman, told of seeing Leadbeater and Krishna in "semi-nakedness," but did not commit himself to seeing an "unnatural offence."


--- 540 ---

          For the defence, Mrs Besant gave evidence herself, declaring that "as Initiates, no sexual activity is possible", and called as witnesses Ernest Wood, George Arundale, Mrs Van Hook and B.P. Wadia.  Of his own evidence, Leadbeater wrote to Lady Emily:

          "I had an opportunity not only of denying these recent falsehoods, but also of clearing up some of the unpleasant matter of 1906.  The report of that London Advisory Board was cast aside as obviously valueless, though the opposing counsel asked me two or three questions about it, which I answered very plainly:  The forged cypher letter was put

into the hands of our opponents by the President, but they were afraid to produce it in Court, so [I] did not get an opportunity of actually repudiating it.  The general impression seems to be that this evidence has cleared up matters a good deal and put a much better complexion on them." [49]

          This was no exactly an objective view of the proceedings.

          Mrs Besant submitted to the Court that its duty lay towards the boys and their welfare, and argued that, if the suit was granted, Krishna would be effectively found


--- 541 ---

guilty of the sexual crime alleged to have been committed.  Leadbeater was especially impressed with Mrs Besant's handling of the case, and wrote in his letter to Lady Emily:

          "She... took up the evidence, and told the whole story as it appears to her, unraveling one by one the threads of the whole skein of falsehood which the plaintiff's malignance had constructed.  This was done with wonderful cleverness, for she had the whole matter at her finger's ends;  my only doubt was whether the judge's mind was quick enough to follow her through all the intricacies.... He specially gave her an opportunity to speak about me and she took advantage of it to deliver a most eulogistic little speech intended to undo the effect of her E.S. pronouncement in 1906.  Then she wound up with an eloquent appeal to the justice of England to save her ward from the stigma cast upon him by the wickedness of an unnatural father.  This was in her best stye, and produced a tremendous effect upon the crowded audience in the Court." [50]

          The case was thus over, and they anxiously awaited the judgment of the Court.  It was given on April 15th.


--- 542 ---

          The Judge dealt with the allegations against Leadbeater, and generally concluded that the charges of sexual immorality with Krishna were unfounded, pointing out the public nature of the room, and the wide discrepancies in the evidence of the witnesses and the failure of the father to take any action or make any complaint at all.  However, he held Leadbeater's views regarding the sexual development of children made him an unsuitable person for them to associate with, and denounced him as a man holding "immoral ideas".  He suggested that these ideas, "taken in conjunction with his professed power to detect the approach of impure thought forms renders him a highly dangerous associate for

children".

          In his conclusion, the Judge held that Mrs Besant had broken her understanding with Narayaniah for the welfare of his sons, declared the children to be wards of the Court,

and ordered her to hand over custody of them to their father on or before May 26th, 1913.  Because of the lengthening of the trial as a direct result of the father's accusations against Leadbeater, costs ware awarded against Narayaniah and he had to bear responsibility not only for his own costs, but for Mrs Besant's as well.   She immediately lodged an appeal against the judgment and obtained a stay of execution of the custody order.


--- 543 ---

          Meanwhile, Leadbeater wrote to Lady Emily on April 19th:

          "The Judge's decision in our case was a mixed one as we had expected.  We were warned that in order to obtain a full investigation of the facts we must risk adverse judgement on legal points - which, however, could be reversed on appeal;  so the President waived various points on which she might have insisted.  The Judge absolutely cleared Krishnaji from any imputations of crime, saying most emphatically that the alleged abominations had been invented by the father because of jealousy of men, and that their impossibility was clearly shown.  But he said in so many words:  'the fact that a man is a liar does not deprive him of his right to his children.'" [51]

          And, he informed her, while the Court had ordered the return of the boys to their father, an appeal had been lodged and victory was certain.  Losing the battle was merely a foreshadowing of winning the war.

          "... the President is so overjoyed at our overwhelming victory on the facts that it quite


--- 544 ---

overweighs for the moment the legal difficulties.  We are getting up a big festivity and feeding a vast crowd to celebrate the vindication of Krishnaji." [52]

          Leadbeater was not, however, quite so happy with his own

treatment in the judgment.

          "The Judge, by the way, expressed  an opinion that my views on sex questions were immoral and dangerous, which I thought an unnecessary remark!  The Hindu newspaper suggests that the Government ought to deport me from the country as a dangerous person - which would be an amusing end for the controversy, for I suppose there is in the whole of India no more loyal subject of the King than I, and that law was intended for political offenders!" [53]

          However, Leadbeater noted, the Judge had stated that the accusations against Mrs Besant constituted perjury "of a most aggravated and infamous nature".  That did not encourage either Mrs Besant or Leadbeater to take recourse to law, either against Narayaniah or against The Hindu, which had been energetically publishing attacks on them, and has "systematically falsified evidence in the most glaring


--- 545 ---

manner" according to Leadbeater in another letter to Lady Emily.

          Mrs Besant had earlier initiated court actions against both The Hindu and the Antiseptic for their accusations against Leadbeater, and both actions had been lost. [54]  She had by now presumably learned a painful lesson.

          A considerably more respectable newspaper, The Times of London, probably accidentally, also attacked Leadbeater when it reported that the Judge had declared him to be an immoral person, instead of correctly reporting that his ideas had been declared immoral.  This was also reported in the Madras Mail, but they published an apology when the error was drawn to their attention.  Leadbeater supposed that it was "too much to expect the infallible Times to do likewise".   The Times did however publish a letter from Mrs Besant on June 2nd in which she defended Leadbeater and, after drawing attention to the unfortunate error of reporting, commented:

          "Everyone who knows Mr Leadbeater personally is aware that his conduct is impeccable, whatever his academical opinion may be." [55]


--- 546 ---

          And, while not agreeing with the opinion, she justified his motives in adhering to it, saying that they were founded upon "the desire to shield women from ruin by a sin which destroys the woman for life while the man goes scot free".

          Also in England a decidedly less reputable source was using the material from the Court case to attack Leadbeater.  Like others before and after him, Aleister Crowley assumed that the "unnatural offence" was sodomy, whereas the most that was ever alleged was mutual masturbation.  Crowley had considerable contempt for Leadbeater and his Theosophical friends, and in a speech delivered at Manchester on June 28th, 1913, he declared:

          "I am no prude.  But I am a stickler for the value of words, and I deem that the French slang, 'Petit Jesus' is being taken too seriously when a senile sex maniac like Leadbeater proclaims his catamites as Coming Christs." [56]

          The truth of the sexual, charges against Leadbeater, in this context as elsewhere in his career, he continued to cause controversy.   There is no doubt, however, that he had no sexual relationship with Krishna or Nitya, and that the boys' father made these allegations on the basis of rumour and of his personal antipathy to Leadbeater.


--- 547 ---

          There is little doubt, however, that there were "irregularities" in Leadbeater's relationships with his other closest pupils on other occasions, and that Mrs Besant was aware of this fact, but unwilling, or unable, to take any action.

          Mrs Besant's biographer, Arthur Nethercot, relates a story told to him by B.P. Wadia, formerly a very eminent Indian member of the TS, which is sufficiently important to quote in full.

          "Wadia himself, who had observed Leadbeater's initial reaction when first meeting Krishnamurti on the beach, had overseen the other 'handling' a boy, and had reported the incident to Mrs Besant.  An American woman, Mrs Charles Kerr, had witnessed a similar episode in Leadbeater's room, and reported it.   But Mrs Besant would not believe them.  Most important, one day about the same time, Johann van Manen, one of Leadbeater's secretaries along with Ernest Wood, had been talking to Wadia outside, then opened the door to Leadbeater's room without knocking and immediately rushed out, crying in horror to Wadia, 'Something terrible has happened!'  Huber Van Hook himself insisted later on swearing to Mrs Besant that Leadbeater had


--- 548 ---

misused him, but it was Wadia who first took Van Manen's story to her.  She hysterically pleaded with him to keep it a secret, but he would not promise.  Then, as she later admitted to Wadia, Van Manen confirmed the story to her.  To test the boy, Wadia suggested that the ex-Judge and ex-Vice President of the Theosophical Society, Sir Subramania Iyer, question him at his bungalow.  Though Iyer applied his strictest methods of cross-examination to the lad, he could not shake his story.  When Wadia informed Mrs Besant of the result, she was 'thoroughly shaken', but still pleaded to have the scandal kept secret.  She admitted that she knew Leadbeater was using "filthy language" to the youngsters he was always gathering round him, but she could not publicly face the truth.  After all, she had to tolerate him because only through him could she meet the Masters and the Higher Hierarchy at Shamballa." [57]

          What was the truth concerning Leadbeater and the continuing rumours and accusations of sexual immorality?  The truth in this matter, like so much else in his life, was veiled in mysteries and occult terms, and had, until the publication of the author's The Elder Brother, A Biography of


--- 549 ---

C.W. Leadbeater in 1982 never been made public.  The secret lay hidden in a small circle of Leadbeater's closest and most trusted pupils, and was carefully concealed from other pupils who, however close they were to Leadbeater, were not trusted with the secrets of his most private occult teachings.  To gain a true portrait of Leadbeater, this secret should be left hidden until it is discussed in the final chapter.

          In April 25th Mrs Besant was informed that her request for a stay of execution pending her appeal had been granted, and the case was to be heard when the High Court re-opened in July.  She left Adyar for Europe, accompanied by Arundale who was now to serve as tutor to Krishna and Nitya in their preparation for Oxford.  They had moved with Jinarajadasa to Septeuil near Paris, and then to Varengeville in Normandy, where their lessons were continued, although in a slightly happier environment now for there was more company of their own ages, including Lady Emily's children, Barbara and Robert.  Lady Emily, whose devotion and love for Krishna continued to grow the more she saw of him, was put on probation on the night of August 11th, a step taken on Krishna's initiative, but confirmed by cable from Leadbeater after Krishna recalled the event.

          During his stay at Varengeville Krishna wrote


--- 550 ---

weekly to both Mrs Besant and Leadbeater - to the latter mainly about The Herald of the Star which was, upon the joint decision of Mrs Besant and Leadbeater, to begin 1914 as an enlarged monthly magazine, and to be printed in England.  It was to serve the growing international membership of the OSE, now reaching some 15,000, with 2,000 of them in England, and not all members of the TS.  Krishna was the nominal editor of the magazine, but Arundale actually did the editorial work, and stimulated the whole group to a pitch of excitement.  Lady Emily recalled:

          "[The magazine] was to review all the events of the world in the light of the Lord's Coming.... George and Dr Rocke also planned to open a Star shop, and George was full of plans for the construction of things to be sold there - Alcyone birthday books, calendars, blue blotting paper, stamp boxes in blue paper with silver stars.  All ordinary studies were abandoned.  Shakespeare was relegated to the bookshelf and we spent all out time in hectic activity over blue and silver paper.  Jinarajadasa was in despair and tried in vain to bring us back to a calmer and more studious atmosphere." [58]

          They all returned to London at the end of September, where Krishna's life was made less happy by


--- 551 ---

continual conflict between Arundale and Jinarajadasa, and Arundale and Lady Emily, often settled, as far as Arundale was concerned, by his "bringing through" a message supposed to have been received from the Masters.  Eventually he and Jinarajadasa took the boys to Cevasco near Genoa, and it was there that they received news of the outcome of Mrs Besant's appeal.

          The Court had spent most of July and August in a review of the original court hearing, but finally the Appeal Court delivered its verdict:  it reaffirmed the original judgment, but gave costs against Mrs Besant.   She had no alternative now but to appeal to the Privy Council in London.  On October 31st she cabled Jinarajadasa and Arundale, informing them of the decision, and telling them to have Krishna see a Theosophical lawyer, Major David Graham Pole, in London.

          Krishna replied with a consoling note to Mrs Besant, and an explanatory letter to Leadbeater.  The latter sounded a new note of independence and authority:

          "I think it is time now that I should take my affairs into my own hands.  I feel I could carry out the Master's instructions better if they were not forced upon me and made unpleasant as they


--- 552 ---

have been for some years.... I have not been given any opportunity to feel my responsibilities and I have been dragged about like a baby.  I have not written about this before because I did not wish to worry Mrs Besant but I think that you both know now the whole position." [59]

          He expressed his wish, depending on the outcome of the appeal to the Privy Council, to live in a house on the coast of Devonshire, with Miss Arundale, George's aunt, and Arundale as his tutor, since he had a poor relationship with Jinarajadasa.  Krishna now had sufficient income of his own, from a settlement made upon him by a wealthy American Theosophist, Miss Dodge, and could afford to be independent.  He concluded:

          " ...I am determined to make it quite clear that I know what I am about, and nothing will induce me to return to my father, nor will Nitya." [60]

          It was the beginning of a rebellion that was to alienate him from Leadbeater.

          After a tour of Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan, Krishna and Nitya returned to London and saw the lawyer, and spent much time with Lady Emily, whose own lawyer, Francis


--- 553 ---

Smith, took statements from the boys and from Jinarajadasa, regarding the allegations of misconduct between them and Leadbeater.  Lady Emily doubted that the boys even understood the questions.

          On December 1st, Mrs Besant lodged her petition in Madras to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council;  it was allowed, and she then sought to obtain from the Privy a stay of execution of the original judgment until the case was heard.  This could have taken several months.

          Krishna's letter to Leadbeater led to Jinarajadasa being summoned back to India, and the letter does not seem to have pleased either Leadbeater or Mrs Besant.  Krishna wrote to Mrs Besant on December 12th explaining that he was not being ungrateful to them for all they had done for him.  However, from that time onwards Leadbeater's role in the development of the Vehicle diminished considerably, as did his interest in the person of Krishnamurti.


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