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Charles Webster Leadbeater 1854-1934 
A Biographical Study
by Gregory John Tillett
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Chapter 16: Work for the Advent

          While Leadbeater remained at Adyar, brooding on the letter Krishna had written to him, Krishna and Nitya were taken to Taormina by George Arundale on the advice of their lawyers, who feared a kidnap attempt if they remained in England, and were kept in hiding with great secrecy as to their whereabouts.  With them went Lady Emily Lutyens, Dr Mary Rocke and Miss Francesca Arundale.  On the night of January 10th, the evening preceding the anniversary of Krishna's Initiation, they were all filled with expectation of great occult events, and all hoped to be advanced on the Path.  However, as no-one had any clear recollections the following morning, they cabled Leadbeater:   "Last night's events vague.  Wire event."  The cable in reply from Adyar hardly pleased them.  The only people who had been advanced were members of the OSE in India and Lady Emily, George and Krishna lapsed into depression.  It was almost certainly a deliberate slight by Leadbeater, in response to the letter which had caused him such offence.

          Still dispirited, the party returned to London for the Privy Council hearing on January 27th.  It was heard and quickly settled:  a stay of execution of the original Court judgment was granted, and the matter adjourned till May.  During the interim the boys were to stay in England.


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          For the generally unhappy occultists, this added little joy.  Lady Emily was reprimanded by Mrs Besant and Leadbeater for leaving her children and going to Sicily to be with Krishna.  Arundale was jealous of the influence Lady Emily was having on Krishna, and the affection he held for her.  And they were all rather disconcerted that Leadbeater had made another "discovery".

          This time it was a thirteen-year-old Indian boy named Rajagopalacharya, an Ayyangar Brahmin from South India, and one of the disciples who have been placed on probation on January 11th.  According to Leadbeater, who had thoroughly investigated his past lives, he had a wonderful record behind him, and an even more brilliant future.  He had been St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) in his last life, and was to become a Buddha, probably following Krishna on the planet Mercury.  This last piece of information was especially distressing to Arundale, since Leadbeater had previously promised him the position of Mercurian Buddha. [1]  Rajagopal (as he was known) had been "discovered" during the annual TS convention for 1913 held in Benares.

          Shortly before the Convention Mrs Besant had initiated the one aspect of her work, or indeed her life, which did not come under Leadbeater’s domination, and of which he did not approve.  In November she said she had been


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brought into contact with the Rishi Agastya, the Master specifically responsible for supervision on the inner planes of the Indian nation.  He instructed her to initiate a movement for the reform of various social customs, like early marriage, and this in turn led to her becoming involved in the political arena.  She was summoned to Shamballa, and given an interview with the Lord of the World, who ordered her to work for Indian self-government. [2]

          Her political activities, like her work for the OSE, brought her considerable criticism from Theosophists who believed that she was using the TS as a part of her political work.  Mrs Besant announced that, in order to facilitate her political work, she had cut off her psychic powers so she would not be constantly distracted by the (mainly hostile) thoughts being directed at her.  Precisely what this meant - whether she had actually ceased to be psychic, or to be in communication with the Masters, or could no longer visit them in her astral body, or investigate past lives - remained unclear, and she was never specific about it.  In later years she did state her confirmation of various of Leadbeater's psychic investigations, which presupposes she was capable of checking them.  But she also became increasing dependant upon others for information about the inner planes and messages


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from the Masters. [3]

          Leadbeater did not publicly question, let alone deny the validity of her claims to the approval of the occult Hierarchy, but he certainly did not approve of her political work.  He believed, firstly, that the worldly powers had been placed in authority at the instigation of the Occult Hierarchy (with a few specific exceptions) and should not be opposed, and, secondly, that the British Empire under the King of England was the culmination of civilization and evolution.  Any attempt to disturb its grand design was contrary to his Tory, and he would have said occult, conservatism.  Still, he tolerated her political activities, though viewing them as a waste of valuable time which might otherwise have been spent on more important work connected with the Coming.  Other Theosophists were less tolerant, and for every one who, like George Arundale, threw himself into the political work at the Hierarchy's command, there were a dozen who claimed that Mrs Besant was misguided and misleading the TS into a sphere of activity, from which it ought to be specifically protected,

          On February 20th, 1914, Leadbeater left India to undertake a tour of Burma, Java, New Zealand and Australia.  His enemies brought up the old claims that he was fleeing from Police investigation;  it seems more likely that he was


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leaving Adyar in the hope of establishing a new sphere of influence for himself, free from Mrs Besant's political activities.  As usual, his lecture tour was a great success, and, accompanied by an eminent Dutchman, J.A. Hazel, he reached New Zealand in July, and settled in Sydney at the end of August. [4]  It quickly became his new home and a rival for Adyar in the occult scheme of things.

          Meanwhile, in May, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council heard and allowed Mrs Besant's appeal.  The Committee held that the Court should have given more careful consideration to the wishes of the boys, and that Mrs Besant could not have been expected to force them to return to India as the Court had directed her to do.  It awarded costs to Mrs Besant, but her delight in final victory was such that she made no claim for them.   The arguments were purely on legal grounds relating to jurisdiction, and the appeal was allowed

without prejudice for any application the respondent may think fit to make to the High Court of England touching the guardianship, custody and maintenance of his children. [5]

          Since it was later argued, both by Mrs Besant and Leadbeater, that the Privy Council had finally cleared


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Leadbeater of all the charges against him in overthrowing the actions of Krishna's father, it is important to note that the Privy Council did not touch upon the questions of Narayaniah's claims.  It merely held that the lower Court had not acted properly according to the law, but that if the father wished to initiate a new action he could do so.  He did not.

          For Krishna and Nitya their new freedom meant that they were able to continue studying for University admission.  Mrs Besant returned to India to continue her political career in the fight for Indian home rule.  Her success in the custody case was complemented by the results of the election for the Presidency of the TS.  Although she was the only candidate, she received 16,983 votes, with only 238 opposing her, and 3,970 abstaining.

          Leadbeater, meanwhile, was beginning the establishment of an occult community in Sydney.  His interest in Krishna had waned, and, although he said there was nothing more he could do in the preparation of the Vehicle, whose duty it was now to study hard in order to enter Oxford, it was obvious that his enthusiasm had passed on to other pupils, and he no longer even wrote to Krishna.  But if his interest in the person of the Vehicle had diminished, neither he nor Mrs Besant hesitated in their continuing


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proclamation in TS and OSE publications of the imminence of the advent of the World Teacher, and warnings of the dangers of failing to acknowledge him when he came.

          Away from the esoteric environment of Adyar, Leadbeater was building an occult domain for himself, and developing interests far removed from the metaphysical adventism of the OSE.  The success of his work in Australia and New Zealand had been increased by a continuing round of activities within subsidiary organizations of the TS - the OSE, the Lotus Circle, the Servants of the Star, the Golden Chain, and the Order of the Round Table.  Of the latter, an "order of chivalry" for young people, Leadbeater was Senior Knight. [6]  On Sunday nights in Sydney he gave lectures for the TS, and on Tuesdays he delivered talks on At the Feet of  the Master for the ES.  Once a month he conducted "church services" for the OSE, suggesting that both he and his "congregation" missed the pleasant warmth of Sunday morning, church-going they had sacrificed for the more intellectual activity of Sunday night lecture-attending.  Certainly those who took part in the services interpreted them in terms of established Anglicanism;   one enthusiastic participant wrote to The Theosophist:

          "After the address comes the inevitable collection, and the meeting closes with the Benediction, which


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the lecturer intones in orthodox 'High Church' fashion, the audience joining in the final 'Amen'". [7]

          These meetings also included the singing of "hymns" specially composed by Leadbeater, or, more usually, Anglican hymns altered to suit the new theology, much as he had adjusted the traditional versions to suit his Buddhist philosophy when in Ceylon.

          From her position "On the Watchtower" in The Theosophist, Mrs Besant commented on the excellent work being done by Leadbeater in Australia, and gave him permission to remain there at the general request of the Theosophists in that country.  Certainly his work as a lecturer was impressive.  At the Theosophical Convention in Melbourne in May, 1915, he attracted an audience of more than two thousand to hear his Easter Sunday address.  In this lecture he commented on the differences - which the uninitiated could be excused for not noticing - between the TS and the OSE.

          If Theosophists were almost entirely fascinated with the promise of the Coming, the outside world was more concerned with problems on the physical plane.  On August 4th, 1914, the simmering political and military conflict in


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Europe was officially declared to be war, and the Great War, guaranteed to end all other wars, began its agonizing course.  Those who viewed the War as a wholly undesirable and destructive process could take comfort from Leadbeater's assurance that it was part of the Divine Plan for the Coming:

          "Realize that this Great War is part of the world preparation and that, however terrible it may be, there is yet the other side - the enormous good that is being done to individuals." [8]

          Leadbeater proclaimed that the War was the result of the "Lords of the Dark Face" battling against the Powers promoting evolution, as they had done in Atlantis some

13,000 years ago, and, indeed "those fighting in World War I, were the same people who fought in Atlantis".  Germany, he proclaimed, was obsessed with evil and controlled by a few of the "Lords of the Dark face", including Bismarck, with whom Leadbeater has spoken at some length on the astral plane. [9]  HPB taught, according to Leadbeater, that Bismarck was an occultist, and claimed that he had planted magnetic talismans at the four corners of Germany to prevent resistance to the German armies. [10]

          If   War was part of the plan for the Coming,


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Leadbeater had no time for pacifists or peace-makers, the "well-meaning but ignorant fanatics who talked peace at any price".  The Indian doctrine of ahimsa, or harmlessness, which inspired Theosophists to become vegetarians, anti-vivisectionists and opponents of the wearing of furs, did not inspire Leadbeater to oppose the killing of Germans.  Indeed, he declared:

          "I am stating facts based on knowledge and not on supposition when I say that it is actually a kindness to these ruffians to kill their bodies, for in that way we can save their souls from this madness;  we actually help in carrying out the training which will show them that they must not again let themselves be misled and hypnotized as they have been this time... They are simply dangerous wild beasts who must be sent back into the savage tribes to which they belong." [11]

          And it was not only to the advantage of the Germans and their savage allies to die, it was equally advantageous for the Allies:

          "To die thus is to gain, for by that one supreme act of self-sacrifice they make advancement which might otherwise take them twenty lives." [12]


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          The cause of the War was not, despite popular opinion, political, but a massive example of possession or obsession, the "exorcism" of which was the wholesale slaughter of the enemy:

          "The kindest thing that we can do for them is to destroy their physical bodies, so that they may be saved from further and still more awful crime, that the devil-ridden egoes may be set free after their appalling failure - free to begin again to climb the ladder of evolution from the depths of savagery into which they have allowed their lower vehicles to be cast." [13]

          The War, being "one of God's periodical examinations of His people", was to be seen as a challenge and a "wonderful opportunity".  If the challenge was not met, the results would possibly follow the dire course which led to the destruction of Atlantis, in which, so Leadbeater discovered from the Akashic records, sixty-five million people died in twenty-four hours.  But Leadbeater was confident that the Allies would triumph, proclaiming them to be "in the very truth the Sword of the Lord," because this was a "holy war."  Those who died as heroes had the great consolation of knowing that they might be reborn in the new sub-race, and


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Leadbeater explained this whenever he expressed his sympathy to Theosophists whose sons were killed.

          But his own work was more subtle:  he patrolled the battle-fields in his astral body, accompanied by a troop of "invisible helpers", assisting the recently dead. [14]  Colonel G.F. Braund, formerly a member of the TS and the ES in Sydney, who had been killed at Gallipoli, was put at the head of the "new department of work", that is, the "invisible helpers" during the War, and assisted in the selection of those amongst the recently dead who would renounce Devachan, or heaven, and be reborn at once.  Amongst the other souls who agreed to quick rebirth to assist in the work were King Edward VII (1841-1910), and the British General Lord Roberts of Kandahar (1832-1914);  during the War they were reborn as women and joined the Army. [15]

          The War became almost an obsession with Leadbeater, and he talked about it at length, fitting it neatly into his scheme for the evolution of the world.    Similarly slotted into place was the idea of a new sub-race which was emerging in response to the Coming, and Leadbeater began talking about "Australia and New Zealand, The Home of a New Sub-Race."  Not unexpectedly, this was a popular lecture topic in Australia and New Zealand.  Leadbeater pointed out that whereas Charles Darwin (1809-82) and Alfred


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Russel Wallace (1823-1913) had expounded the theory of physical evolution, and HPB had given the spiritual theory behind the physical process, it had been left to "Theosophical investigators" (a phrase which always meant him and Mrs Besant) to discover the actual process whereby the two are united.

          He knew that the world was ready for a new sub-race, and had seen "a large number of specimens" of the new race in parts of the United States, and indeed had already located the major community of the Sixth Root Race, when it emerged, on the west coast of the USA.  Now that he was in Australia, he had also discovered specimens of the new sub-race there - "children and young people of a distinctly new type" - and therefore the emergence was not confined to America.  He predicted that in two or three generations the whole of Australia would be controlled by the new people, who would constitute "what in Europe we would call the aristocracy of the country:   that is to say, the best types..."   This new sub-race, whilst still of the Aryan race, would be characterized by the gift of intuition, leading to "wonderful mental development".

          Leadbeater called upon the leaders of Australia to improve the quality of life in their country so that the new sub-race would have the best possible environment in


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which to be born.  Many things were, he noted, "still somewhat crude" in Australia, rather devoid of the "beauty and splendour" which ought to have been created.  He also called upon potential parents to prepare themselves as the best possible vehicles for the birth of the new sub-race, and placed great emphasis on the needs for parents to listen to the counsel of authorities who knew about the "inner side" of child raising.  The implication was just as it had been at the beginning of the century:  Leadbeater should be consulted about "Our Relation to Our Children".

          And both the new sub-race and the War were closely related to the Coming.

          "We cannot but see how powerful an influence this approaching advent of the World Teacher will have upon the new sub-race.  Those members of it who are coming into incarnation now will be just as the most impressionable age at the time when we expect his arrival.  It is for us to see that they are so trained that their ears will be open to His message - that they will be among the faithful few who receive it and profit by it, and not among the majority who will pass by indifferently on the other side, and so lose an opportunity which comes but once in thousands of years." [16]


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          In preparation for both the Coming and the new sub-race no better textbook could be found than At the Feet of the  Master, and Leadbeater delivered a series of talks on this small volume to a fascinated audience in Sydney.  It bore, he declared, the "imprimatur of the Lord Maitreya Himself". [17]

          On the eve of what Leadbeater claimed to be his birthday, February 17th, 1915, Krishna sent a congratulatory telegram to him from Bude, in Cornwall.  This was followed by a long letter which revealed the friction between the two, although Krishna tried to disguise it.  He began by reflecting upon their past times together:

          "When I was with you I did not appreciate what you did but now it is all different.  You are the same old C.W.L. to me and I love you very much.  I was foolish and an idiot not to see it and love you when I was with you.  I am devoted to you too.  Of course now I know what you did was good for me and I did not see it.  I want to forget all that and turn over completely a new page.   You were the first person who picked me up and I am grateful and you brought me to great things and I owe all that to you my dear C.W.L.  It is very difficult


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for me to write what I feel but you will understand what I mean.  When I was with you I hurt you in many ways and now I see it all and I am very sorry.  Let us forget the past, except the happy bits, and I hope I shall make you happy yet.  I wonder if you understand what I mean about all this.  I want to be worthy of you and make your name shine like a light to everybody.  I want everybody to know what you really are." [18]

          Krishna described his own life at the present time - living in a household supervised by Miss Arundale, taught mathematics and Sanskrit by Shiva Rao [19], and English by Arundale, with Dick Balfour-Clarke looking after his physical training.  He then defended his relationship with Lady Emily, and expressed the earnest desire that she should be accepted by the Master.

          Krishna concluded his local news with some expressions of concern for Nitya, whose health vas poor and whose eyes had been causing trouble as a result of the intensive study he was doing.  His comments on Nitya's feelings undoubted express his own desire for basic human affection, found in his relationship with Lady Emily, but otherwise carefully kept from him as part of his occult training.


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          "[Nitya] feels very lonely, like most of us do, and there is nobody whom he specially likes or loves and it makes double harder. [sic]  He is very bitter and hard and cold.  He suffers a lot.  I am afraid and I can't help him much.  He wants somebody to love him first and foremost and to whom he can pour out all his troubles.  He wants a mother to love as I have Lady Emily." [20]

          And he finished his letter with the words:

          "My dear C.W.L.  I love you very much and I hope this will bring us closer together." [21]

          Leadbeater's reply, if indeed there was one, is not known.  Krishna continued his studies in England, and Leadbeater continued his occult work in Sydney:  the barrier between them had not been healed by Krishna's letter, nor would ever be.  But Leadbeater continued to proclaim the Coming.

          In June, 1915, Leadbeater spoke to a large gathering of members and friends of the TS and the OSE, answering the question, "Why a Great World Teacher?".  This address, perhaps unconsciously, foreshadowed a change of emphasis in his teaching and lecturing.  It had a distinctly


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Christian flavour.  It was also dogmatic in its assertion that the World-Teacher was on his way.

          " ...the coming forth of a Great Teacher is a thing which happens periodically in the world's history.  It is about time that another should come, and those of us who have been into touch with the Great Ones behind, whose privilege it has been to be taught by Them know because we have seen for ourselves Who this Great Teacher is Who is to come.  We know for ourselves from Him, from His own word, that He will come soon - that as soon as the world can be prepared for Him, He will come forth." [22]

          He traced various arguments, from philosophy and from history, supporting the concept of the Coming, and then reiterated that which was for him the most convincing.

          "So our fundamental reason, which stands at the back of all these others, is that many of us know and have seen this Great Teacher Who is to come, and have it on His own word that He will come soon." [23]

          The OSE was working, he declared, to "prepare the way of the


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Lord, and make His paths straight", and he looked forward to a time when "brotherhood and love will reign".

          Leadbeater was staying at the house of Mr and Mrs Thomas Martyn in the fashionable Sydney suburb of Neutral Bay. [24]  Mrs Besant noted in The Theosophist that "it was good to know that he is being cared for and honoured as he should be", but the irony of these comments became apparent only in later years, when the Martyns joined the ranks of the apostate, and their guest's activities in their home became the subject of considerable speculation.

          In June, another guest arrived in Australia.  James Ingall Wedgwood, a cultured and good-looking Englishman, made an immediate impression on Leadbeater, and stimulated a whole range of new interests and activities for him.  Wedgwood had been born in England in 1883, a member of the eminent family of potters, and as a youth had been associated with a variety of Anglo-Catholic movements, including the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament and the moribund remnants of the Order of Corporate Reunion. [25]   After leaving school he studied chemistry at Nottingham, and was for a time employed as an analytical chemist. His main interest, however, was music, and he studied the organ both in Nottingham and at York Minister. [26]


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          Wedgwood also developed a vocation to the ministry of the Church of England, and began theological studies whilst staying with the Rector of All Saints', York.  In 1904, in the midst of his musical and theological studies, Wedgwood attended two lectures by Mrs Besant.  As he set off for the second, he declared that she would not convert him, but she did, and he was obliged to leave the lodgings with the Rector, who disapproved of his newly found heretical views.  For a brief period he stayed with the Anglican Benedictines at Painsthorpe, and Abbot Aelred Carlyle endeavoured unsuccessfully to convince him that he could find all the mysticism and metaphysics he required within the Catholic faith. [27]  Wedgwood, however, renounced all thought of a vocation in the Church of England, and devoted himself entirely to the work of the Theosophical Society.  He had sufficient private income to live independently.

          From 1911 to 1913 he was General Secretary of the TS in England, and in 1912, with the help of Mrs Marie Russak founded the Temple of the Rosy Cross, a ritualistic body which included an adventist theme, and was concerned with Qabalism, astrology, Masonry, Christian ceremonial and symbolism. [28]  The ritual was said to have been composed by Mrs Besant, under the inspiration of the Master the Count, and involved the lighting of candles for


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each of the World Teachers.  Revelations from the Masters came at Temple meetings via Wedgwood or Mrs Russak.  Leadbeater never approved of the Temple, basically because, having had no part in its establishment, he had no control over it, and because it involved the production of messages from the Masters through agents other than himself or Mrs Besant.   He later claimed that its rituals, perhaps as the result of some mistake by the Count, produced "adverse forces", and he tried to persuade Lady Emily, who was understudy to Mrs Russak, to have it reorganized along lines which he suggested.  This attempt was unsuccessful, and in 1914 he brought through a message from the Master ordering its dissolution. [29]

          Wedgwood intended to obtain episcopal consecration from some source - presumably an episcopi vagante, or "wandering bishop" - for use within an occult group, which would in fact be a continuation of the Temple of the Rosy Cross.  But Mrs Besant, with whom he discussed his intention, told him that the episcopate could only be used within the Christian church for which it was created, and therefore Wedgwood began looking for a church in which he could maintain his occult and ceremonial interests. [30]  He seems to have generally supported the theory of the anticipated Coming, rejecting the idea of a "spiritual" as opposed to a material and personal advent. [31] 


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          Wedgwood was also actively involved in the OSE, and by 1910 had joined yet another TS subsidiary movement, the Co-Masonic Order, of which Mrs Besant was Very Illustrious Most Puissant Grand Commander of the British Jurisdiction.  By 1911 Wedgwood had risen to become Very Illustrious Supreme Secretary 33' of the British Federation of International Co-Freemasonry.  Freemasonry is known as a secret society, although Masons declare it rather to he a "society with secrets", and "a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols". [32]  Traditionally, Masonry was strictly reserved for men, but on January 14th, 1882, a French Lodge initiated a woman, Maria Deraismes, and was, accordingly, suspended from the group of lodges to which it belonged. [33]  In 1893, La Grand Loge  Symbolique Ecossaise de France, Le Droit Humain was established, admitting women as well as men to the mysteries of Freemasonry.

          The first Englishwoman to enter Co-Masonry was Miss Francesca Arundale, who pioneered its establishment in Great Britain, and introduced Mrs Besant to the movement in 1902. [34]  The first Co-Masonic Lodge in London was established in September, 1902, and it quickly became popular with members of the TS. [35]  Co-Masonry was established, in Australia 1911 when three Australian


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Theosophists, initiated into the Craft (that is, the first three) degrees in Adyar, established a group in Melbourne;  several orthodox male Masons joined them, and towards the end of 1911 two Lodges were established.  The first Lodge in Sydney was founded in February, 1912, by seven orthodox male Masons, the first women - amongst them Mrs Gertrude KoIllerstrom - being initiated the following March.  During that year, many Theosophists from all over Australia took the Craft degrees in Melbourne, and by Easter Lodges were established in Brisbane and Adelaide.  Lodges for the higher degrees were established soon afterwards. [36]

          In June 12, 1915, Wedgwood initiated Leadbeater into Co-Masonry in Sydney.  Initially, Leadbeater had felt no interest and indeed some little antagonism to ceremonial movements, but Wedgwood reassured him that a ceremonial revival was part of          preparation for the Coming, and he agreed to accept initiation.

          "I did not know, any more than any other candidate, what to expect when I Joined [the Lodge];  but my first sight of a Masonic Lodge was a great and pleasant surprise to me, because I found I was perfectly familiar with all its arrangements, that it recalled exactly similar arrangements which I knew six thousand years ago in ancient Egypt.  I am


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quite aware that that is a startling statement, yet I assure you that it is literally true." [37]

          The initiation had revived memories of previous lives and of the ceremonial work with which he had been involved in the past, and immediately stimulated a great interest in working with ritual again.

          "You may imagine how suprised and how delighted I was to find the old work was still going on after so many ages.  [Masonry has] kept almost all the ceremonies unchanged through these thousands of years." [38]

          This was a claim which few orthodox Freemasons, however exalted they imagined the origins of their Craft to be, would dare to have made.  It was not, however, an original suggestion, and other writers have pursued the mysterious origins of Masonry back to Atlantis, the building of King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, or to the Knights Templar.

[39]

          Leadbeater's rise in the Masonic ranks was rapid and he quickly attained the highest degree, the 33rd, and was appointed Administrator General of the Universal Co-Masonic Order in Australia.  Not unnaturally, he decided


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to apply his clairvoyant vision to investigating the origins of the order, and to this end he and Wedgwood prepared a list of questions which Leadbeater could present to the Inner Head of Freemasonry, known as the Head of All True Freemasons (inevitably abbreviated to the HOATF).  Just as Leadbeater held that all religions, being basically one, were under the control of the one member of the Occult Hierarchy, the Bodhisattva (which office was then held by the Lord Maitreya), so he held that all Freemasons, of whatever jurisdiction or obedience, were under the inner plane authority of the one Master, the Count.  And Leadbeater claimed a personal acquaintance with this occult authority.

          "You must remember that this great Master, who is to all of you, I suppose, an August and honoured name, is to [Mrs Besant], to me and to many others of us a living Man, personally known and most highly revered.  I did not know, until I had the privilege of entering [Co-Freemasonry] exactly what was His relationship to Co-Freemasonry, as I had never spoken to Him on that subject;  but when last I had the honor of meeting Him in the flesh in Rome walking down the Corso, He took me up to the public gardens on the Pincian Hill, and there we sat and talked for an hour and a half about the Theosophical Society and its work." [40]


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          So Leadbeater took the list of questions to the Master, and "He most kindly and graciously answered our questions, and gave us a good deal of information;  and He expressed pleasure at seeing us so keenly interested in the work".  The Master outlined the history of Freemasonry, and, further, instructed Leadbeater to revise the rituals of Masonry to restore their ancient occult meaning.  Leadbeater and Wedgwood set about this work with enthusiasm, concluding that Co-Masonry was a part of the Plan for the Coming, along with the emergence of the new sub-race, the War and the OSE.

          Masonry was, as Leadbeater first suspected, a "direct descendant of the Mysteries of Egypt", and he traced this descent through the Akashic records.  As he received the higher degrees of Masonry, so he traced their history, and began revising their rituals at the direction of the Master.  When he finally received the 33rd and last degree, he wrote:

          "The Sovereign Grand Inspector-General (33'] is the 'Bishop' of Masonry, and if the life of the degree is really lived he should be an ever-radiating centre of power, a veritable sun of light and life and glory wherever he goes... The power of the 33'


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is a veritable ocean of glory and strength and sweetness, for it is the power of the King Himself, the Lord who reigns on Earth as Vice-Regent of the Logos from eternity to eternity." [41]

          His investigations also solved the mystery of the origins of the Rosicrucians:

          "Despite the assertions of scholars and the absence of corroborative evidence, Christian Rosenkreutz did indeed found the Order of the Rosy Cross, and he was in fact an incarnation of the mighty Master of the Wisdom Whom we revere today as the H.O.A.T.F." [42]

          Having established himself in the highest degree of Masonry, and developed a new interest in ritual, Leadbeater was eager to hear of yet another ceremonial movement with which James Wedgwood was associated.  Wedgwood had contacted Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew, head of a tiny independent church, the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain, in 1913, and discussed with Dr Mathew his apparently renewed sense of vocation.  The Archbishop was enthusiastic and friendly, and an exchange of letters followed in which Wedgwood outline his beliefs, and sent the


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Archbishop a copy of Mrs Besant's little book, Theosophy, as a summary of his philosophy. [43]

          Mathew raised no objection to the heterodox theology contained in the book, and Wedgwood was baptized and confirmed sub conditione, after he had signed a declaration confessing his faith in the decrees of the Seven Oecumenical Councils, the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Seven Sacraments, the decrees of the Council of Jerusalem, and the doctrines of Transubstantiation and the Sacrifice of the Mass.  Just how these could be reconciled with Theosophy remains something of a mystery.   Wedgwood was thus formally united with the Ancient (Catholic) Church of England, Scotland and Ireland, as Mathew's small church, never very stable in name, was then called. [44]

          To venture into the erratic history of Arnold Harris Mathew would require a volume in its own right. [45]  He had begun life as a Roman Catholic, become a priest, lost his faith and become a Unitarian, then an Anglican curate, then a Roman Catholic layman.  He then associated himself with a group of disaffected Roman Catholics who persuaded him that there was a great mass of their number, not to mention many Anglicans, eager to join a movement of reformed Catholicism such as was found in the Old Catholic Church of Holland. [46]  Mathew persuaded the Dutch bishops that there


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was a potential for work in England, and, eventually, on April 28th, 1909, was consecrated a bishop in Utrecht in Holland by the Old Catholic Bishops of Utrecht, Haarlem, Deventer and Berne. [47]

          After his consecration, Mathew returned to England to find that the basis upon which he had been consecrated was little more than a fraud created by several disaffected Roman Catholic priests who had been eager, for personal reasons, to be consecrated to the episcopate.  There was no flood of converts eager to join the Old Catholic Church in England, and there was considerable antagonism and hostility both from the Established Church and its Roman Catholic counterpart.  Mathew offered to resign, but the Dutch bishops refused to allow this.  Perhaps unbalanced by the shock of discovering the deception to which he had fallen victim, perhaps simply following the pattern of instability of his earlier life, Mathew lapsed into an erratic career involving a succession of grandiose titles and claims, the consecration of a large number of bishops for non-existent flocks, and a tendency to change the name of his church with bewildering frequency.

          He was prey to many ecclesiastical adventurers, being misled and deceived into actions which brought ridicule and condemnation upon him.  In 1910, he issued a


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"Declaration of Autonomy and Independence", breaking from the Old Catholic Bishops of Europe, and proclaiming himself to be "Old Catholic Archbishop of London".   His pastoral duties were far from onerous, covering only six tiny chapels, mostly rooms in private houses, a small number of clergy, and a smaller number of laity.  But he continued leading the virtually non-existent movement, consecrating bishops for non-existent duties, and devising new names and titles up until his death in 1919.  He made various unsuccessful attempts to be reconciled with the Roman

          By the time of his death there were at least ten bishops claiming consecration from Mathew, and few of them showed any signs of stability or responsibility in the exercise of their offices.  Few of them had any laity over which to preside.  Only one of his Bishops remained loyal to him until his death, and after his death at least half a dozen small churches claimed to be his offspring and his successors. [48]

          To return to 1913:  shortly after his admission to the Ancient Catholic Church, Wedgwood was admitted to Minor Orders, ordained Deacon, and finally ordained Priest on July 22nd, 1913.  All these ceremonies were performed in Wedgwood's private oratory in his apartment almost opposite


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the headquarters of the TS in Upper Woburn Place, London.  Unfortunately, the Ancient Catholic Archbishop of London lacked a cathedral or even a church in which to pontificate.  During the two years that followed Wedgwood worked enthusiastically for the Church, and encouraged other members of the TS to join it, including Reginald Farrer, Rupert Gauntlett and Robert King, all of whom, like Wedgwood, had originally felt vocations in the Church of England.   Wedgwood also began paying the impecunious Mathew a small allowance.

          By 1914, Wedgwood was contributing articles on ritual to Theosophical publications, and in the March, 1914, issue of The Herald of the Star, he wrote an article entitled "The Modern Ceremonial Revival".  This theme was taken up by others, including Arundale, who noted in the November issue of the same journal that Co-Masonry and the Temple of the Rosy Cross were off-shoots of the TS, and therefore membership in all of them was recommended in his "Suggestions to a Would-be Occultist".  An interest in "sacramental magic" had been foreshadowed by Mrs Besant in her lecture, "The Sacramental Life" (published in her book The Changing World in 1911), in which she provided a Theosophical and occult interpretation of the traditional seven sacraments.  She also offered a "scientific" explanation for transubstantiation, in terms which


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Leadbeater would later develop. [49]

          The whole of the TS was beginning to become pre-occupied with ceremonial and symbolism.  The "Supplement" to the February, 1912, issue of The Theosophist, for example, devoted space to specifying which badges and ribbons should be worn by members attending conventions.   ES members were to wear white, orange, rose, bright blue or green ribbons, according to their degree ("the members themselves will know the grades denoted by each"), and members of the OSE gold, purple, or pale blue, with either gold or silver stars, depending on their grade.  Members of the Sons and Daughters of India were to wear yellow ribbons. [50]

          It was but natural that, when Wedgwood travelled to Australia in 1915, at Mrs Besant's invitation, he discussed the Old Catholic Church with Leadbeater.  Wedgwood later recalled:

          "I talked with him about my ordination and he came to various celebrations of the Eucharist by myself.  He was greatly impressed with the power for good which such ordination bestowed and with the splendid scope that the celebration offered for spreading blessing abroad on the world." [51]


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          Leadbeater's interest in Christianity and the church had previously led to his study, The Christian Creed, in 1890, and his investigations into the "inner side" of the Mass during his exile in Sicily after the 1906 "troubles".  There he had turned his clairvoyant gaze on the ceremonies in the local churches:

          "Those who know that most beautiful of islands will understand that one does not meet with the Roman Catholicism there in its most intellectual form, and neither the Priest nor the people could be described as especially highly developed;  yet the quite ordinary celebration of the Mass was a magnificent display of the application of occult force.  At the moment of consecration the Host glowed with the most dazzling brightness;  it became in fact a veritable sun to the eye of the clairvoyant, and as the priest lifted it above the heads of the people I noticed that two distinct varieties of spiritual force poured forth from it, which might perhaps be taken as roughly corresponding to the light of the sun and the streamers of his corona." [52]

          Leadbeater noted that these two forces poured out


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over the congregation and into the countryside, influencing all who were touched by them as a powerful stimulant to their spiritual growth and development.

          "Many people far away from the church, walking along the village streets or pursuing their various avocations upon the lonely hillsides, felt for a moment a thrill of affection, of devotion, as this great wave of spiritual peace and strength passed over the countryside, though assuredly they never thought of connecting it with the Mass which was being celebrated in their little cathedral.  It at once became evident that we are here in the presence of a grand and far reaching scheme.  Clearly, one of the great objects, perhaps the principal object, of the daily celebrations of the Mass, is that everyone within reach of it shall receive at least once a day one of these electric shocks which are so well calculated to promote any growth of which he is capable." [53]

          It has been claimed by some Theosophical writers that Leadbeater's visions parallel those of the 12th century mystic, St Hildegarde (1098-1179), known as "the sybil of the Rhine", who observed, in a less mechanistic way, the Mass on the "inner planes".  She wrote:


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          "I saw also when the priests, robed in the sacred vestments, advanced to the altar to celebrate the Divine Mysteries, that suddenly a great radiance and a retinue of angels came down from heaven, encircling the entire altar, and remaining there until the mystery was accomplished....  [During the consecration] descended suddenly a fiery lightning of indescribable brilliancy from the open heavens down upon the sacrificial Gift, flooding it entirely with its brightness, as the light of the sun lights up everything which it penetrates with its rays." [54]

          Leadbeater was thus well-disposed to receive news of a new church in which his own discoveries, and Theosophical corrections of the errors of orthodox theology, could be implemented.  He must have been positively delighted when news was received from England that a schism of almost all the Archbishop's clergy had occurred, and that they had elected Wedgwood as their Presiding Bishop, an office he would assume as soon as he could be consecrated to the episcopate.

          Archbishop Mathew, despite his initial tolerance of Theosophical belief, finally issued a decree requiring


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that any clergy or laity who were members of either the TS or the OSE must resign from them.  He had decided that the organizations were heretical, since Catholics might not believe in reincarnation, or in the common Theosophical doctrine that Jesus was "a reincarnation of someone else".  The response to his ultimatum was that two elderly ladies and one priest obeyed him, and the rest of his clergy and laity broke away.  Mathew therefore announced that the Old Catholic movement in England had come to an end, and declared his 'absolute and irrevocable' intention of submitting to Rome. [55]  He didn't, and subsequently made several unsuccessful attempts to revive his movement.

          And the clergy who had formerly been under his jurisdiction elected Wedgwood as their new leader.  At the end of 1915 Wedgwood left Sydney to return to London for his consecration as a bishop, promising Leadbeater that he would return immediately afterwards.  Leadbeater visited New Zealand in December and January, returning to Sydney at the beginning of February, 1916, to await news of what he foresaw as a Theosophical church. [56]


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