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Charles Webster Leadbeater 1854-1934 
A Biographical Study
by Gregory John Tillett
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Chapter 21: Final Years

          If Leadbeater spent his final, years in disillusionment and regret, he gave no indication of it.  Krishna seemed to be as quickly forgotten, as he had been discovered.  Various explanations were presented by leading Theosophists to deal with the failure - or the apparent failure, in some theories - of the Coming.  Publicly, Leadbeater said only:  "The Coming has gone wrong". [1]  Privately, he explained that Krishna's personality had got in the way, and prevented the Lord from occupying the body which had been prepared for him as a Vehicle.  No explanation was offered as to why other Vehicles, temporary or permanent, could not have been found, or why one of the Twelve Apostles could not have been a suitable Vehicle.

          Leadbeater believed that Krishna's teachings were destructive and dangerous.  Above all, he resented the authority with which they were vested by some Theosophists, and the fact that they intruded into his own sphere of influence.   The "Two Paths" theory had failed to satisfy many Theosophists who saw the basic contradiction in the idea that the World Teacher was presenting only one of two equally valid Paths.  And, of course, Krishna said there were no paths.


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          Other eminent Theosophists found consolation in more exotic theories.  Wedgwood claimed that the Blacks had got to Krishna, hinting thus at dire and unseen conspiracies.  But Wedgwood had never really accepted the idea of the Coming in the sense that Leadbeater had foreseen it, and had not found Krishna especially attractive as a potential Vehicle.  His own work was never really concerned with the Coming, except insofar as Leadbeater brought the church and ceremonial activities into the Plan via messages from the Masters.  Wedgwood's sanity was precariously danced, and he was receiving treatment from the German analyst, Georg Groddeck, encouraged by Oscar Kollerstrom, one of the Groddeck's pupils. [2]  His visions and meetings with Masters, angels, archangels and denizens of the higher realms increased, and continued to be taken seriously by his devoted band of disciples. [3]

          Arundale supported Leadbeater's "obstructive personality" theory to explain the failure of the Coming.  His original close relationship with Krishna had faded as a result of Krishna's increasing criticism of Arundale's visions and messages, and his ridicule of ceremonial -?-ments in which Arundale had become increasingly involved.

          Jinarajadasa believed that the Coming had been,


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deliberately delayed by the Occult Hierarchy, since they could foresee the coming War (1939-45), and a "period of universal peace" was necessary, both for "the Coming of a new Messiah, a great spiritual teacher bringing a new religion" and for the drawing together of the branches of the fifth sub-race (the Teutonic) in preparation for the emergence of the sixth sub-race.  But Jinarajadasa believed that Krishna had a role to play in "World Reconstruction".  Most of the problems leading to the postponement of the Coming derived, so Jinarajadasa said, from the fact that Germany had never been properly defeated in World War I, and its "Maleficent forces of opposition" had been allowed to continue. [4]

          There were some Theosophists who declared quite simply that the Coming did not happen because it was all in the imagination of those who propagated the idea, and there were others who claimed that it had indeed happened:  Krishna is the World Teacher, and the fact that he taught things which were in clear contradiction to the teachings of his mentors was in accord with the predictions of those same teachers.  Indeed, Mrs Besant and Leadbeater had both stated, prior to 1928, that when the World Teacher came he might teach things which seemed unacceptable, contrary to their existing beliefs and undermining of their beloved  institutions.  If he did this, they said, his followers would


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simply have to lay aside their old beliefs and ideas and institutions, and take up the new ones he offered.

          Most Theosophists however, were simply disillusioned and confused, and many of them left the TS and associated movements.  Even those, like Lady Emily Lutyens,

who were at the heart of the movement, found the shattering of their hopes profoundly disturbing. [5]   A few, more sceptical than the rest, felt betrayed by the inadequate explanations offered by their leaders.  Dr van der Leeuw, for example, wrote:

          "It takes the mental acrobatics of trained theosophical students to reconcile the contradictory facts contained in the earlier revelations and the subsequent teachings of Krishnamurti.  Even though he himself strongly denies being used by another consciousness, they claim to know better than he does what is actually taking place in his own person, the 'real' World Teacher, living in the Himalayas, who occasionally speaks through Krishnamurti.  This real World Teacher entirely endorses all previous revelations, especially the Liberal Catholic Church.  The fact that Krishnamurti denies the value of all these is then explained by the fact


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that he, being 'only a vehicle', cannot express fully the 'glorious consciousness' which they, the speakers, know so much more intimately than he.  Thus it means nothing that he should contradict things previously revealed, it only shows that at that time, it was not the World Teacher speaking but only Mr Krishnamurti." [6]

          And regarding the psychic powers and occult standing of the Theosophical authorities, van der Leeuw commented:

          "One is inclined to think that the source of unseen authority for each is a strictly individual and subjective one, an exteriorization of their own unconscious motives.   This is still more evident with regard to all messages revealed as coming from the World Teacher during the last fifteen years." [17]

          Throughout 1930 plans had been underway to celebrate HPB's Centenary in August, 1931, and there had been hopes that all Theosophical groups could unite for this reunion as an act of solidarity and a preparation for a permanent union in the future.  Whilst Leadbeater and Mrs Besant had been in Geneva, they met with a representative of Point Loma TS, now headed by Dr Gottfried de Purucker


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1874-1942) following the death of Mrs Tingley in 1929. [8]  He hoped that the heads of what he referred to as the Adyar Society would join him at Point Loma, in California, for the centennial of HPB's birthday.  Mrs Besant was enthusiastic, and cabled her acceptance of the invitation for herself and Leadbeater.  However, de Purucker replied that those who attended must come as delegates of a Section or Lodge of the TS,  the implication being that Leadbeater could attend only accredited by some Section or Lodge, not simply in his own right.  Mrs Besant (or, more probably, Leadbeater through Mrs Besant) took offence at this, interpreting it as a deliberate slight to Leadbeater, and accordingly, Adyar was not represented at Pt Loma.

          At the Annual Convention of the TS held at Benares in December, 1930, the subject was "The Future of th Theosophical Society".  It was a timely theme, considering the continuing problems in the Society over what was become known as "the Krishnamurti affair", as the result which the TS, the LCC, Co-Masonry and associated elements had suffered considerable losses in membership, -?-her by members leaving to follow Krishna, or by members becoming disillusioned and simply dropping away.

          The Society's membership and number of lodges had risen steadily during Mrs Besant's presidency, reaching


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their peak in 1928, from whence they moved into a steady and continuing decline.

Year Number of Lodges Number of Members
1907 567 12,863
1910 778 20,356
1915 991 25,696
1920 1,244 36,250
1925 1,571 41,645
1928 1,586 45,098
1930 1,490 39,311
1933 1,279 30,836
1935 1,226 30,317
1937 1,160 29,182
1939 1,105 28,105

[9]

          That membership figures for the period of apparent rapid growth leading up to Krishna's dissolution of the Order of the Star are somewhat misleading:  they imply an ever-increasing membership, but they fail to show the substantial departure of old members.  For example, in 1927, --% of former members in Australia resigned.  The rapid influx of new members concealed this loss. [10]  The loss of older members undermined the foundation of the Society making Krishna's departure more devastating since it involved also


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the departure of those who rushed into membership on account of him.

          Between 1908 and 1925 81,436 new members joined the TS, but the net gain was only 25,562. [11]  Census figures for Theosophists in Australia during this period show both a rise and a fall, but under-state the numbers:

Census Number Society's Records
1901 358 no record
1911 781 1,004
1921 1,102 2,168
1933 540 1,433 [12]

          Mrs Besant, in her Convention addresses, considered the two questions which she saw as being the most immediate concerns of the Society:  the place of the Masters in the lives of Theosophists, and the need for more attention to be given to Adyar.  The latter issue was, she said, raised at the suggestion of the two Masters who had encouraged the establishment of the Society, KH and M.  This so led her to direct that the publication of The Theosophist, which she had temporarily transferred to the USA, should be returned to Adyar so that members might again receive it from "the Centre on earth for the forces of


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Shamballa".  Ernest Wood, recently settled at Adyar as Treasurer and Secretary of the TS, was disconcerted to hear Leadbeater deliver a message that the Masters had disapproved of the transfer to America, since Mrs Besant had undertaken the transfer because she said the Masters had ordered it. [13]

          Mrs Besant's health and mental state had begun to decline seriously.  She had never fully recovered from the sickness resulting from being told that Krishna rejected the message about the Apostles.  Her memory now began to fade, she became increasingly concerned about the past, and found it difficult to focus on the problems of the present.  The journey to Europe in 1930 had proved too much for her, and her broken health was never restored. [14]

          Both Dick Balfour-Clarke and Ernest Wood, who had not seen her for some years, were shocked when they met her in 1928 and 1930 respectively.  Ernest Wood recalled:

          "Her memory with regard to material things had been failing for some time.  It was not unnatural at her advanced age - she was eighty-five - and would not have seemed so pathetic had not a few devotees who looked after her physically tried to hide the facts of her decline.  She spent her time in


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reading and quiet reflection, they announced, and was really doing more work than ever before by radiating beneficial forces upon the world.  But the fact was that she did not attend to the practical work any more because she could not." [15]

          He was saddened by his last conversation with her, occupied as they were with "little fairies" and why little animals die young.  He concluded:

          "Her loving heart was never impaired by her decline in other respects.  It shone all the brighter when she was released from material affairs.  The world never overcame her.  It broke her strength and her mind, but it could not stain her heart, though it were betrayed by many a kiss." [16]

          Leadbeater himself, though aging, was not as old as Mrs Besant, the popular legend notwithstanding, and those who considered him remarkable for his age, did not know him

to be seven years younger than they imagined.  He continued writing, compiling yet more of his collections of lecture notes and articles.  In 1930 he published an account of his introduction to Theosophy, How Theosophy Came to Me, which had previously been serialized in Theosophy in Australia.


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          This included details of his introduction to spiritualism, his meeting with HPB, and his training in psychic development at Adyar.  The work began with an account of his last life, when he had been a pupil of Kleineas (now the Master DK), the successor of Pythagorus.

          He also published a small book, Messages from the Unseen, which seems to have been an explanation, or attempt at explanation, of the differences between his teachings, said to derive from his clairvoyance or from the Masters, and the teachings contained in the works of HPB, which she said came from the Masters, and the teachings promulgated from others on the basis of the letters which were said to lave been received from the Masters. [17]  A. Trevor Barker had published the collection of The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in 1923, much to the horror of Theosophists who, as anxious as they were to have access to these documents, considered them too sacred to be made available to the public at large. [18]  The effect of the publication of the letters was to make even more evident the differences between the teachings of Leadbeater and Mrs Besant, and the original teachings of HPB and her Masters, regardless of the origin attributed to what became known as the "Mahatma Letters."

          The popular view of these letters was that they


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had been sent in the normal manner, having been written by Masters, or had somehow been precipitated supernaturally by the Masters, in much the same manner as the original letters to Leadbeater.  Others, more critically, said that HPB had forged them, or procured them to be forged. [19]  However, if the "Mahatma letters" were genuine, and had been written (in whatever manner) by the Masters, it would have been difficult for Leadbeater and his followers to explain away direct contradictions between the teachings written in the letters of the Masters, and the teachings given by Leadbeater as coming from the same Masters. [20]  Leadbeater himself did not believe that the "Mahatma letters" were written by the Masters directly.  When Mr W.G. John, the General Secretary of the Australian Section, wrote to him in 1912 asking for clarification of apparent differences between his teachings and those of HPB, Leadbeater replied:

          "Remember that the letters to Sinnett and Hume were not written or dictated directly by a Master, as  we at the time supposed, but were the work of pupils carrying out general directions given to them by the Masters, which is a very different thing... But we do not trouble ourselves in the least about reconciling the earlier statements - we just describe what we ourselves see, or repeat what is said to us by those whom we trust." [21]


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          In Messages from the Unseen, he repeated this theory:  it was a convenience in much the same way as the theory that sometimes Krishna was speaking as the World Teacher, and sometimes as an individual Indian youth.  Any differences could be accounted for satisfactorily by the careful selection of material.

          Leadbeater's widely circulated statement on Krishna and his mission came under attack from E.A. Wodehouse, who wrote in the Adyar Theosophist expressing his indignation at Leadbeater's suggestions about Krishna. [22]  Krishna did not, said Wodehouse, appeal only to those interested in horse-racing, prize-fighting and football, nor was his mission to these people.  Wodehouse reminded Leadbeater that, although in his explanation he stated that Krishna as the Vehicle of the World Teacher was an idea based on "the testimony of our great President", it was essentially Leadbeater's testimony which began the whole movement, and was taken up by Mrs Besant.  

          "Krishna, for the Bishop, has no importance except as the puppet at the end of a string, or, at best, as the telephone through which a voice is occasionally, but by no means always speaking." [23]


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          But Leadbeater's ideas about the Coming had not completely vanished, for he was able to write in The Theosophist almost twelve months later - four years after Krishna had dissolved the Order of the Star - an article on "The Vehicle of the World Teacher", and state:

          "I think there is a certain danger that before the Lord comes we shall have built up in our minds a definite thought form of what we expect Him to do and be, and that some of us may feel hurt and a little doubtful if He does not conform to our idea of Him.   This is quite a possibility." [24]

          Included in the same volume of The Theosophist were articles by Leadbeater on "The Lives of Acor", "The Fifth Root Race and its Migrations", and "The Great War and the Sixth Sub-Race", almost as if the time-scale had been altered, and 1929 had never happened.  In The Australian Theosophist he was making his contribution to the problem of widespread unemployment in an article entitled "A New Industry."  He suggested that those unemployed by day should devote themselves to helping the newly dead entering the astral world.  The angels had previously been responsible for this, but they now had other work to do, and would be


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grateful for the assistance.  Wedgwood had already informed those who might be interested that the angels originally did the "invisible helping" of those in trouble on the astral plane, but had turned this over to Leadbeater and his pupils. [25]

          Leadbeater had come to see his own particular work as being concerned with "invisible helping" to bring about a change in the world, initially on a small scale.   He now no longer felt that a massive world movement - incorporating all the pretentiously titled schemes which had seen their birth in 1925 - could accomplish this, and with the departure of Krishna the rapid progress towards the birth of the sixth sub-race seemed even further away.  Even by 1928 his focus had been turned to two areas of special work:   a community of young people, and ceremonial.

          Ernest Wood, who worked very closely with Leadbeater at The Manor from 1928 onwards, described Leadbeater's concept in this way:

          "I think that Bishop Leadbeater had come to the conclusion that his clairvoyance and the powers associated with it were useful only for occult purposes.  He wanted humanity to undergo a change of heart.  People were too self-centred, thinking


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of personal comfort, pleasure, ambition, pride and acquisition.  Could they be persuaded to come out of themselves and look at life from the standpoint of the general good instead of individual desires, the whole world would change.  This was the one essential of progress, from his point of view, both for the individual and the world.  One could do little for the world at large, for who would take heed of the preaching of this truth.  Therefore he would (1) concentrate his attention upon a small community of people, especially young people, earnestly trying to become unselfish in thought, feeling and life, and (2) work for the ceremonial movements by which occult forces could be caused to play upon the auras of people, and thus facilitate the impersonalizing process from the outside." (26)

          Wood did not agree with this idea.  He felt that Leadbeater was operating "occult beauty parlours", where the auras of his people became more and more beautiful every day, looking prettier to the clairvoyant eye, but lacking in essential qualities.  Wood felt that community life encouraged such inadequate personalities, and concluded that Leadbeater was "painting dolls."  Wood saw little use in "making vlack salamanders turn yellow by keeping them in yellow boxes."


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          And it would seem that Leadbeater himself eventually came to a similar conclusion.   He had not retained any of the pupils of his earlier years except Raja, and none of the pupils had gone on to greater things in the Theosophical movement, or, indeed, in the world.  In fact, most of the pupils had either definitely rejected Theosophical work, or drifted away from it into other fields.  The Manor, as an "occult forcing house" (as Mary Lutyens called it) had not achieved any impressive results on the visible planes, whatever forces may have been churned out at higher levels.

          Leadbeater's final attempt to achieve his desired effect of merging the idea of a community of young people with ceremonial work came in his last group of pupils.  These were all girls from the Dutch East Indies, chosen by Leadbeater during one of his visits to Java.  The girls were sent to The Manor by their parents, willingly or otherwise, in 1927-8, and remained there with Leadbeater until he moved to settle permanently at Adyar early in 1929.   They were known as "The Seven Virgins of Java", and were related in Leadbeater's scheme of things to the World Mother, who would manifest her special force through them, to the powers behind the LCC and Co-Masonry, and to the still-surviving idea of the World Teacher.


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          Leadbeater long had an interest in Java, and wrote a book on its occult history. [27]  The seven girls were treated as a group, an innovation for Leadbeater, since he had always previously emphasized the need for individuality and individual attention.  They were told that they had to function as an organic whole, and would pass through Initiations and other psychic experiences corporately.   They were all trained in Co-Masonry, and rigidly drilled in ceremonial by Leadbeater's secretary, Miss Maddox. [28]  Eventually, despite their youthful years, they were all elevated by Leadbeater to the highest grade of Masonry, the 33rd Degree, and were all made members of the ES.

          Leadbeater planned to established yet another ceremonial movement in which these seven girls would have a vital function.  It was known as the "Egyptian Rite of Ancient Freemasonry", and remains a secret inner group within the TS.  It traditionally required potential members to be members of the TS and the ES, and to be Co-Masons, although these requirements seem to have been liberalized in recent times.  Although the Egyptian Rite (or ER, as it was came to be known) now has few members, it continues to work its six degrees in centres throughout the Theosophical world. [29]


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          Leadbeater planned that the ER would draw together the angels associated with Church ceremonial, and those of Co-Masonic working, and in this he claimed the encouragement and inspiration of the Master The Count, who assisted in the drafting of the rituals.   The rituals were originally compiled by Wedgwood, since he was said to have a special relationship with The Count.  However, Leadbeater did not like the results, and submitted them to Arundale for revision.  The final work was said to constitute "the most powerful occult ritual in the world", and the seven girls were kept busy rehearsing their parts in it to ensure that they were perfect for the day when the ER could be inaugurated in the Co-Masonic Temple at Adyar.   This was done in 1929, after the ES had been re-opened.

          The published Ritual was issued on Christmas Day, 1931, bearing the imprimatur of Mrs Besant as Grand Master, and a solemn warning from Arundale, as Grand Secretary, that the ritual was the property of the "S.S." (presumably the "sovereign sanctuary") and "must be returned on demand and provision must be made for the return on the death of the member."  When not in actual use, the Ritual should be kept under lock and key.

          The Rite consists of six degrees or stages.  The


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first is the Temple of the Quest, which includes three stages, Fire, Form and Life, intended to purify the physical and emotional bodies, the mind, and the intuition and the will respectively.  Once a candidate has passed through these stages he will normally be ready for presentation to a "Lord of Light" to be placed on probation.  The rituals take place in a Temple "symbolic of the human spirit with bodies", and are to be "regarded as a dramatization of the true functions of the various principles and bodies, so externalized that, as in a mystic mirror, the individual sees himself as he is destined to become". [30]

          Various officers represent different bodies and qualities, although their titles derive from several languages - thus "Artifex" and "Agni" and "Etha" work together - and some of them sound distinctly quaint.  It is noted that all participants need to have a sound knowledge of At The Feet of The Master, "the teachings of which the Rituals of these degrees are largely destined to emphasize".

          By the time the candidate completes the three stages of the Temple of the Quest, he should be on Probation.  He is then ready to advance to the fourth stage, the Temple of the Rose and the Cross.  Once accepted as the chela of a Master he can go on to the fifth stage, the Outer Temple or Temple of the Dawn, followed by the sixth stage,


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the Inner Temple or Temple of the Star.  These are the degrees to be worked by the members, and above them is the seventh stage, the Sovereign Sanctuary of the Masters of the Light, the governing body of the ER.  Beyond that is the Great Hierarchy.  It was emphasized that the ER was mainly for young people, and that wherever possible all the officers should be young people;  with the passage of time and the disappearance of young people from the TS generally, it can be presumed that this is no longer the case.

          The rituals themselves have a distinct Leadbeaterian, if such a term might be used, feeling about them, and include copious references to and quotations from At The Feet of The Master, in additional to numerous modified Anglican hymns.  "O Trinity of Burning Light" and "There is a King of Glory" are found, together with some appropriate original material drawn from The St Alban Hymnal of the LCC.  Oaths are sworn on a copy of At The Feet of The Master and a salver star, and once admitted to the Temple of the Quest members are invested with a "symbol of the Dawning of Light upon the darkness" which they wear around their necks, openly in the Temple, and concealed when in the world.  Leadbeater found that the occult effects of these most powerful of all occult rituals were very pleasing and felt they accomplished a blending of two streams of angelic assistants, and emanated highly potent evolutionary currents 


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upon the world.

          James Wedgwood meanwhile had become more and more disturbed.  The Theosophist announced that he had suffered "a most serious nervous collapse" from which there was "little hope of recovery". [31]  The O.E. Library Critic was less discrete:  it proclaimed that Wedgwood had become insane whilst on his way to a mental specialist in Germany, and had to be taken to Camberley in England, where there was a Theosophical centre. [32]  The St Michael's News had already reported that he was on his way "to receive special help at a Sanitorium, first in Germany and later in England", with Bishop Bonjer acting as Head of the Centre until Arundale arrived to take the position at Leadbeater's instruction. [33]  St Michael's was essentially a centre of the LCC, the church being the main instrument for "creating the requisite magnetic conditions in the Centre and sending abroad spiritual powers".  The Centre also served as a training institute for Liberal Catholic clergy.

          On August 11th, the HPB Centenary was celebrated at Adyar.  The following day Leadbeater informed a meeting, that he had recently met HPB in her new body, and invited her to attend the celebrations for the anniversary of the birth of the old one.  She (or, as far as the new body was concerned, he) declined the invitation. [34]


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          The year ended with the 56th Annual Convention held at Adyar.  The addresses were intended to reveal "The Practical Application of Theosophy to the Problems of Life", and Leadbeater spoke on "The Ground-work of Human Relations".  Mrs Besant was too ill to attend, except briefly on two occasions.  On one of these she delivered her last address to the Society, urging members to make more use of their "higher bodies" so that they might be of more help to the people amongst whom they lived.

          Her declining years were an appropriate time for a biography to appear, but Gertrude Marvin Williams' The Passionate Pilgrim was hardly the sort of biography

calculated to win prizes at a TS convention, especially with its reference to Leadbeater as Mrs Besant's "astral Svengali". [35]  The conclusions to be drawn from the biography, as from the past year, were sombre ones.

          The official history notes that "The Society was in a state of pause." [36]   Membership was continuing to decline, and there were quite serious financial problems in a number of Sections.  The ES had "suffered from suspension":  members were leaving or becoming disillusioned by the continuing critical comments of Krishna.  Leadbeater's literary activities were slowly diminishing, and no new


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material was forthcoming, although some previously unpublished material was released after his death.

          On February 25th, 1932, Leadbeater left Adyar for visit to Australia, intending to undertake a lecture tour which would include New Zealand.  However, he injured his foot, contracted a severe chill and was unable to fulfil all its obligations.  Although he did not visit New Zealand, the facilities of 2GB were used to enable him to broadcast across the Tasman Sea to members there.

          After his arrival in Sydney on March 17th he had intended to preside over the Australian Convention, but ill-health prevented this, so 2GB was again employed and he broadcast his Convention address to the assembled members.  He had also planned to consecrate a successor to himself as Regionary Bishop of the LCC in Australia, and plans were prepared for this to take place in St Alban's Cathedral in Redfern.  However, continuing ill-health kept him from any large public functions, and he performed the consecration, without assistants, in the chapel of The Manor, on May 14th, the day before Whitsunday. [37]  This consecration of David -?-orton Tweedie was Leadbeater's last.  He broadcast over 2GB on two Sundays, and managed to celebrate High Masses in St Alban's on Palm Sunday and Easter Day, and on both occasions the Church was filled to overflowing.


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          Leadbeater departed for Adyar at the end of May, arriving there on June 18th, and taking with him a copy of the recording of him talking "To Those Who Mourn" and on "The Great White Lodge" which had been released on Columbia records in Sydney, and which was sale for five shillings.  He continued his work on occult chemistry with the encouragement of Jinarajadasa, who saw in this field ample opportunity for scientific proof of the claims of Theosophy.   The explorations into atoms and molecules which had begun in 1895, and continued, sporadically, throughout the years until 1932, had produced great masses of material which Jinarajadasa compiled and collated, and which he intended to publish. [38]  It was the one area of clairvoyant investigation which Leadbeater pursued up until his death.

          Jinarajadasa obtained samples of various compounds from a firm of chemical suppliers in London, and looked for less usual materials in local chemists.  Sometimes he was unable to obtain a sample, and on those occasions Leadbeater would astrally visit the showroom of Helger and Company, in Camden Road, London, where he could examine chemicals without having to wait for them to arrive in Adyar.  But some elements were so extremely rare that no suppliers seemed able to provide specimens.  On some such occasions even astral visits were useless if


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Leadbeater did not know where to find specimens.  In the quest of one such rarity Leadbeater asked the help of a sea nature spirit in Ceylon to search in the mines of -?-abaraganuwa for Polonium atoms.  Heeding the request, given astrally whilst Leadbeater was lying in bed in Adyar, the sea spirit and its friends engaged in what they thought was a new game, and finally produced some atoms of the rare element for examination.  They were at a loss, however, to understand why Leadbeater wanted such a thing. [39]  Jinarajadasa claimed that, on several occasions, had Leadbeater's research been published when his results were first known, he would have beaten orthodox chemists with their discoveries of various facts about the elements, and thus have "proved" the validity of occult chemistry.

          At the 1932 Convention, Leadbeater spoke on the theme "A World In Distress:   The Remedies as Seen by the Theosophist".   And the Society, also in considerable stress, observed amongst the reports from its Sections a continuing decline in membership.   The highest rise in membership had occurred in 1925, with a 15% increase:  1930 had produced a 16% decrease. [40]

          Throughout 1933, Leadbeater continued to work slowly and patiently for the Society in decline.  Mrs Besant's health was deteriorating.  Eventually she was unable


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to eat, refused to drink, and was unconscious for much of the time.  On September 20th, Leadbeater went to her bedside, accompanied by Jinarajadasa, her Secretary, Sri. Ram, and her physician.  Also present was the servant, Lakshman, whose testimony caused such trouble in the Krishna custody case, but whom Mrs Besant had retained.  At 4.00 p.m. Mrs Besant died.  Leadbeater commented that he did not understand why her departure from the body had taken such a long time, "except that the Masters needed to use the body as a focus for their forces".

          The following morning, the body was taken to the Hall of the Headquarters Building, and placed on the stage in front of the statues of HPB and Olcott.  The Prayers of the Religions, a selection taken from the major world religions customarily used at TS gatherings, was recited, and hundreds of people poured through the Hall to pay their last respects to this remarkable woman.  Vast crowds had gathered hours before the proceedings began at 8.00 a.m., and they crowded around the buildings of the TS Estate during the funeral.  Leadbeater pronounced the First Ray Benediction - "May the Holy Ones Whose pupils you aspire to become..." - which Mrs Besant had written, and the body was then carried in procession past the TPH building to the Co-Masonic Temple, where a Masonic service was held.  The route was lined, as the Hall had been, with the flags of the


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fifty-four nations in which the TS was established.  From the Temple the body was borne to the platform of the Suryashroma, a site consecrated by Mrs Besant for the never completed headquarters of the Order of Service.  There, by the Adyar River, tributes were paid to Mrs Besant by A.P. Warrington, the Vice-President now acting President, by Leadbeater and others.  Finally, the funeral pyre, scented with sandalwood, was ignited, and verses from the Bhagavad Gita were chanted as the body was consumed by fire.

          The following day, the ashes were collected in an urn.  A portion was deposited in the Garden of Remembrance at Adyar, and another portion was carried in great state to Bombay, and thence to Benares, where Bhagavan Das carried them to the Ganges, depositing them in the middle of the river from a decorated boat.  Another portion of the ashes were taken to the Centre at Huizen.

          Adyar was inundated with tributes to Mrs Besant.  Throughout India many public offices and institutions were used in her honor;   streets were named after her in Bombay, Madras and Benares.  A large statue of her was erected in Madras, and for several days the Indian newspapers were filled with glowing tributes to her.


--- 824 ---

          Throughout the world, obituaries featured prominently in leading newspapers.   In London, on the Sunday after her death, Wedgwood celebrated a Requiem mass for her in St Mary's Liberal Catholic Cathedral, and similar services were held in Liberal Catholic Churches throughout the world.

          Four days after her death, Jinarajadasa convened a meeting at which he announced that Leadbeater had been appointed by Mrs Besant to succeed her as the Outer Head of the SS.   It was the established practice that each OH would appoint his or her successor.

          It was to be expected that messages from the recently dead Mrs Besant would be forthcoming, and they were.  Leadbeater received some of them and they were duly published in various Theosophical journals. [41]  They offered little more than friendly encouragement to continue the good work.  Arundale later recorded some conversations he had with the deceased Mrs Besant, concerned mainly with his importance in the Theosophical scheme of things. [42]

          Following Mrs Besant's death, her room (which she desired to be kept as something of a shrine) was used by Arundale and his wife, against Jinarajadasa's wishes.

          Jinarajadasa later suggested that the failure to establish a shradh, or shrine, in Mrs Besant's room, through which she 


--- 825 ---

could have continued her work for India, was one of the causes of the "horrible events in the Punjab" (i.e. the secession of Pakistan). [43]

          While most Theosophical journals excelled themselves in hymns of praise to Mrs Besant, the Canadian Theosophist, ever a thorn in Adyar's side since it had taken a distinctly anti-Leadbeater line but refused to leave the Adyar Society, was more critical.

          "The abomination of desolation was never more truly set up in a shrine than when the Theosophical Society had its sanctuaries defiled and violated in the quarter century of Mrs Besant's Presidency.  She had been Svengalized and for the most part was unaware of the wreck she was contributing to." [44]

          Krishnamurti was non-committal, simply informing the New York Times that he neither refuted nor claimed the title of Messiah, and that he held Mrs Besant in very high regard. [45]

          By November, 1933, the nominations for the coming Presidential election had been received.  George Arundale and Ernest Wood had been nominated.  Arundale was confident that


--- 826 ---

he was the chosen successor to Mrs Besant, and Jinarajadasa published some letters from Mrs Besant to Arundale stating that she had been told by the Masters that he was to succeed her. [46]  These had been deposited in the ES archives but Jinarajadasa felt obliged to publish them.

          Leadbeater wrote letters declaring that it would be wrong to oppose the Masters' wishes in their choice of President;  he said he had heard Mrs Besant speak of Arundale as her successor on many occasions, and no "true Theosophist" would oppose such a choice.  Ernest Wood, and his supporters, including (it seemed) Mrs Jinarajadasa, disagreed, and something of a fight ensued.

          Leadbeater concluded what was to be his last year with further occult chemistry work.   On October 13, 1933, he had been trying to see an electron, but was tired and unwell, and found the strain too great.  The following day, Jinarajadasa set out for a lecture tour of South America, and the work was never completed.

          The struggles for the Presidential election were temporarily set aside as Theosophists from all over the worId gathered at Adyar for the Convention in December, 1933.   The original subject, "Occultism," was set aside for a memorial convention devoted to the life and work of Mrs


--- 827 ---

Besant.  Arundale spoke of her as "Warrior", Ernest Wood lectured on her work for the Theosophical Movement, Hirendranath Datta talked about her work for India, and Leadbeater described her role as an occultist.  There was a vague suggestion of criticism in Wood's address, considered unsuitable for such an occasion, and against which a number of protests were registered.  This was a matter which reappeared during the election campaign.

          The unity and fraternity created by the memorial addresses somewhat paled in the light of the annual reports and further announcements of loss of members and financial difficulties.  The Recording Secretary, Mr Frei, suggested three reasons for the problems:  the world-wide financial depression, the lack of leadership and propaganda in the Society, and the influence of Krishnamurti's teachings.  The Society was clearly divided on the solution to the latter two, with Arundale, seen as Leadbeater's successor, having a clear majority.  His solution, like that of his mentor, was more organizations, more activities, more revelations, and more publications.

          On January 31st, 1934, Leadbeater left Madras, addressing meetings in Bombay and the Juhu Colony, and boarding a ship to return him to Australia.  He was extremely ill and frail, and it seemed improbable that he would


--- 828 ---

survive the journey.  Many people speculated on his reasons for such a trip at his stage of life and health.  The Canadian Theosophist suggested that he wanted to destroy the correspondence between Mrs Besant and himself remaining at The Manor, and claimed he had already destroyed that which was kept in the ES office at Adyar. [47]  Dick Balfour-Clarke stated simply that Leadbeater did not want to die in India;  he loathed the country and the people, and wanted to die in peace amongst his "own people", in a country which he had come to regard as his home. [48]  Certainly the reason must have been a strong one to force him to undertake a tiring voyage in such a weakened condition, with little prospect of survival.

          Leadbeater's health deteriorated on the journey to Australia;  it was aggravated by his refusal to adhere to the diet prescribed for his diabetes.  He struggled to deal with his correspondence, but managed to write to his old friend, W.H. Kirby, "I shall be 87 - in a few days." [49]  On February 13th the ship arrived at Fremantle, in Western Australia, and he was met by officials of the TS, the LCC and Co-Masonry, and taken by ambulance to a private hospital.   His heart was in a bad state, and he was suffering from dropsy.  The extremely hot weather in Perth did not help his condition.


--- 829 ---

          On February 18th, Harold Morton, who had been his private secretary in Sydney and was General Secretary of the TS in Australia, arrived in Perth, urgently summoned at Leadbeater's direction.  He took notes of much of what Leadbeater said, including instructions at to the future work of those organizations with which he was associated.  Leadbeater's condition continued to decline, and he was unable to see anyone other than Morton.

          Finally, on February 29th, he saw Morton for the last time, and as he left the room, Leadbeater said:  "Well, if I do no see you again in this body - carry on."  His final words - "Carry on" - have been invested with almost prophetic authority by later disciples.  At 4.15 p.m. that day, he died.  Only Miss Heather Kellett, his private secretary, and Harold Morton, had seen him alive once he entered hospital.

          His body was robed in cassock, alb and white stole, after it had been embalmed.   There was no provision for cremation in Western Australia at that time, and so it was arranged that the body would be shipped to Sydney on an inter-state steamer departing Fremantle on March 8th.  On Sunday, March 4th, a Requiem Mass was celebrated in the Liberal Catholic Church of St John the Divine, in Brewer Street, East Perth.  The coffin was placed in the sanctuary


--- 830 ---

on the Gospel side, with a mitre at the head and a cross of flowers at the foot.  Leadbeater's 33rd Degree Masonic regalia was placed on a table near the coffin.  The Church was full as Harold Morton celebrated the Mass according to the rite on which Leadbeater had devoted so much time.  That evening, in the TS headquarters in Perth, a special memorial meeting was held at which five speakers spoke in terms of highest praise for their late Elder Brother.

          The final funeral service was held in Sydney on Saturday, March 17th.  The body, which had been lying in The Manor chapel, was taken to the Ryde Crematorium, where more than three hundred people crowded into the chapel and the grounds around it for the service, led by Bishop Tweedie, assisted by the Vicar of St Alban's, Lawrence Burt, and Harold Morton.  The St Alban's choir sang the liturgy.  Krishnamurti, in Sydney on matters unconnected with Leadbeater's death, was present at the service, although he remained outside the chapel, presenting, as a writer in The Theosophist described him, a "picturesque figure". [50]

          A Requiem Mass was celebrated by Bishop Tweedie at St Alban's the following Sunday, and broadcast over 2GB.  If canonization were possible in the LCC, the Bishop 

declared in his eulogy, Leadbeater would be worthy of it, for he


--- 831 ---

lived a truly saintly Christ-like life, a man of stainless purity;  his name, his teachings, the marvellous example of his life, will be handed on throughout time for a thousand years." [51]

          Obituaries of Leadbeater appeared in all the Theosophical journals and magazines of the associated organizations.  The Theosophist, for May, 1934, was devoted to memories and hymns of praise.  It included the mis-titled "Authentic biographical notes on Bishop Leadbeater", an article on Leadbeater by Arundale, together with a reprint of Mrs Besant's biographical article about Leadbeater from an earlier Theosohist.  And there was an article on "The Last Words of Bishop Leadbeater", the "Carry on" being repeated throughout the Theosophical world as a final directive from the disciple of the Masters.  An account of his last days was presented under the title "He Lives!   He Lives!  He Lives!", and a poetic tribute by F H Aldhouse declared

"Prophet and prelate! now your work is done

You find your visions true;

And you await another morning's sun

For new days dawn for you." [52]


--- 832 ---

          Others also took to verse to express their tributes:

"He was our talisman clear inscribed

With the glyph of the ages' subtle lore,

The seal upon which our souls relied

 To value the treasures of hidden store." [53]

 

"You hear the ancient call of mystery

Spreading your spirit's wings

To see beyond this life's despondency

The Hidden Side of Things." [54]

          The Liberal Catholic hoped that he would continue to watch over the church, and help it from "the other side".

          "After working so hard and for so long for the movements to which he had devoted all his energies for at least half of his long life it is not likely that he will lose interest in them just because he is removed from the physical vehicle.  So, though we can no longer consult him by word of mouth or by correspondence we may as well try to continue to invoke his aid especially in those matters, occult matters chiefly, in which he was also so particularly useful to us.  If we invoke his aid, or even if  we do not, he will find some


--- 833 ---

way of giving it even though we know nothing about the when or the how of his giving it." [55]

          And the editor, Bishop Pigott, recalled the letters he had received from Leadbeater referring to the help Mrs Besant had been giving him since her death:  "more active and zealous for the welfare of the Theosophical Society, he said she was, than she had been for the few years immediately before her passing".  The Editorial was followed by an article of Leadbeater's on "God", and "His famous talk on the consciousness of rocks" was promised for the following month.  Wedgwood wrote a tribute in which he described Leadbeater as "by nature concrete and analytical" thereby complementing Mrs Besant who was "by nature intuitional and synthetic".

          Various newspapers throughout the world noted his passing.  The Times in London referred to him as "The Rev. Charles William [sic] Leadbeater", and briefly traced his history, with reference to the "serious charges" and the "Dissensions" leading to a split in the TS.  It mentioned that he was consecrated as an Old Catholic Bishop, and subsequent issues of the newspaper included correspondence correcting this error, both from Wedgwood and from the Secretary of the Society of St Willibrord, or Anglican and Old Catholic Union. [56]  in India, The Hindu told the


--- 834 ---

traditional story of his early life in South America and his attendance at Oxford, and recorded the memorial greeting at Adyar. [57]

          In Sydney, the Daily Telegraph included a photograph with its description of him as "over six foot tall, with athletic proportions and massive head", and noted that

          "In lifetime Bishop Leadbeater claimed communication with the 'astral world' of the Theosophists of which (according to his teachings) he is now a part." [58]

          It included the standard biography, and concluded with reference to him "purporting" to investigate worlds closed to "the commoner species of mankind".  The following day, it devoted an article to "Leadbeater as Prophet:  World of the Future", with an account of the coming of the Sixth Root Race.  It mourned the passing of "a picturesque figure" from Australian life.

          The New Statesman described him under a headline reading "A Bishop in Partibus", commenting that "The police of three continents displayed continuous interest in him" and stating that "around few adventurers of the time can a


--- 835 ---

larger dossier have been built up". [59]

          The Canadian Theosophist, not unexpectedly, recalled Leadbeater with no great affection:

          "He had infinite patience, a good memory, a persuasive pen and tongue, and a great vogue.... l saw the T.S. laid in ruins by him - and one might almost say, by him alone." [60]

          The author of the obituary was William Loftus Hare, the only one of his critics to whom Leadbeater had ever replied.  Many of his disciples recalled Mrs Besant's words written on Leadbeater's 77th birthday:

          "Our world is not the world of transient phenomena, but the world of Power, of Wisdom, of Right Activity, and we strike together to serve our Elder Brethren, careful only to make ourselves the channels of the One Will in the Service of which is Perfect Freedom." [61]

          Some Theosophists wondered whether Leadbeater himself, known to his disciples as an "Elder Brother", might not have become an Elder Brother, a Master, after his death.   Had he


--- 836 ---

really passed through the Initiations leading to Adeptship?  Was he now beyond the cycle of life and depth and rebirth?  He had told his last group of pupils, "The Seven Virgins of Java", that he would re-incarnate, and that he would have a special way of letting them know who he was in his new body:  it does not seem that he has done so.

          Despite the losses of its two greatest figures, the TS and its associated movements continued.  In the election for the Presidency of the TS, George Arundale soundly defeated Ernest Wood:  the election results were declared on June 20th, 1934, and Arundale received 15,604 votes (54.14% of those who voted) and Wood 4,825 (16.76%).  Only 72.16% of the membership voted. [62]  Arundale was inaugurated into the office on June 21st, and Wood began a gradual withdrawal from the movement. [63]

          Successors were found for all the offices Leadbeater occupied at the time of his death, and most of his successors carried on in his tradition.  Jinarajadasa succeeded as OH of the ES, and Arundale became Grand Master of the ER.  In Australia, Bishop Tweedie had already taken over as Regionary Bishop of the LCC, and in London Pigott was elected Presiding Bishop.  Leadbeater had been requested to make his choice for successor known to the Episcopal Synod, and did so in a pompously worded decree written in


--- 837 ---

November, 1930. It began:

          "We, Charles Webster Leadbeater, by the Grace of God Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church...."

          and concluded

          "Given at our Palace at Adyar, near the City of Madras ...." [64]

          Pigott, however carefully chosen, was often accused of departing from the Leadbeater tradition, and returning to more orthodox Christianity.  He had suggested Wedgwood should be reinstated as Presiding Bishop in succession to Leadbeater, but Leadbeater declared that there was an occult principle whereby a man could not take up a position he had laid down.  Wedgwood's sanity was too intermittent for him to be trusted with any major responsibility.

          If Leadbeater brought messages from the great leaders who preceded him almost as soon as they passed away, it was to be expected that his reappearance at TS gatherings would not take long.  Addressing the Annual Convention at Benares in 1936, Arundale declared that the ghosts of both Mrs Besant and Leadbeater had been present at a Congress in


--- 838 ---

Geneva earlier that year. [65]  And by 1938 Geoffrey Hodson was declaring that Leadbeater still resided at The Manor, where he was involved in supervising the work, assisted by The Manor angel. [66]  In 1939 Arundale was assuring Theosophists that when they pass from this life they will

          "certainly be met on their passing through the valley by one or other of our Elder Brethen, and, of course, by Dr Besant, to whom they were so much devoted, and by Bishop Leadbeater no less.  They will help to look after them... " [67]

          Leadbeater's mortal remains, in the form of ashes, were distributed between The Manor (where they occupy an unprepossessing concrete box set in the garden overlooking the Harbour), St John's Liberal Catholic Church, Perth (where they sit behind a memorial plaque on the wall), and the Centres at Adyar and Huizen.  At Adyar, beside the river, near the scene of meetings with Masters, occult explorations into matter, time and space, not far from the site of the discovery of Krishnamurti, and overlooking the island on which he had encountered nature spirits and evil demons, the ashes of Charles Webster Leadbeater were mingled with those of his friend and colleague, Annie Besant, in the Garden of Remembrance.


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