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Charles Webster Leadbeater 1854-1934 
A Biographical Study
by Gregory John Tillett
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Chapter 22: Epilogue

          In his eighty years, Charles Webster Leadbeater had risen from an obscure birth in an English industrial town, through a dull curacy in the Church of England, to an international reputation as saint, seer and sage, or charlatan, paederast and hypocrite.  The legacy he left behind included a large quantity of books, pamphlets and journal articles, several organizations which regarded him as an infallible psychic and agent of the Inner Government of the world, enthusiastic disciples in almost every nation, and enemies throughout the world still eager to denounce him.  And several amounts of ashes carefully deposited in places sacred to his memory.

          In the file marked "C.W. Leadbeater - Biographical" in the TS Archives at Adyar also reposes an envelope labelled "C.W. Leadbeater - Hair" in which is a small quantity of yellowy-white hair removed, according to the label, by Harold Morton after Leadbeater's death in Perth.  And there was a legend that one Liberal Catholic bishop, until his death in recent years, always kept a small portion of Leadbeater's ashes in a case on his watch-chain. [1]

          From 1906 onwards Leadbeater had endured an


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extraordinary amount of criticism, ridicule and quite obvious slander;  he replied to but one of his critics, and took none of his slanderers to court.  To his disciples this evidences sanctity.  To his critics it proves that the allegations were true.

          Leadbeater created a Vehicle for the Coming Christ, and lost interest in the Vehicle.   He saw Krishnamurti grow away from him and denounce the very things he held most dear.  Yet publicly he made no real reply.

          He was a man of many interests, many obsessions, and all focussed essentially on himself.  In everything in which he participated, he was the centre of attention, authority and power.  Well into his seventies he was extremely active, physically and mentally, writing, talking, planning for future activities.  And he died without any indication of regret or anxiety, to enter into a new dimension with which, in life, he had claimed a personal familiarity.

          His closest friend, colleague, and one should say, disciple, Annie Besant had predeceased him by five months.  But his other disciples remained.  Krishna had clearly broken from him and from the Theosophical mileau, and was to declare a few years after Leadbeater's death that


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there was no common ground on which he could meet Theosophy.  He has continued as a teacher in his own right, proclaiming a philosophy without Masters, Initiation or World-Teachers. [2]  And, surprisingly, commands a strong following in the TS, including members who were involved with the Order of the Star prior to its dissolution. [3]  His talks are usually published, and transcripts of most of them are available.   Krishnamurti Foundations in India, England and the USA administer his work, with organizations in other parts or the world doing likewise.  Several schools have been established based on Krishna's ideas of education.  At The Feet of The Master, by whomever it was written, continues to be published in many editions, and to sell widely. [4]

          George Arundale, who succeeded Annie Besant as President of the TS, continued to travel throughout the world.  His election on June 20th, 1934, came too late for Leadbeater to know, at least in the physical world, that one of "our people" (as he used to call them) had been elected.  Arundale continued in the Leadbeater style, though less subtle than his mentor, and messages from the Masters and details of Initiations and progress on the Path continued to be given by him.

          After his death in August, 1945, Rukimini Devi Arundale devoted herself to work for the arts in India,


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especially dance, establishing the world famous Kalekshetra school in Adyar.  She continues in this work, and is a prominent figure in cultural and welfare work in India. [5]  However, her position in the TS is less favoured, especially since the election in 1980 of her niece, Radha Burnier, as President.  Mrs Arundale is seen to represent the old, pro-Leadbeater, anti-Krishna regime (of Leadheater, Arundale and Jinarajadasa), away from which the Society moved with the election of Mrs Burnier's father, Sri Ram, as President in succession to Jinarajadasa in 1953.

          Jinarajadasa succeeded Leadbeater as the OH of the ES, and, after Arundale's death in 1945, was the only candidate for the Presidency of the TS, which he held until his death in 1953. [6]  He caused a great deal of historical material to be published in his endeavour to show the validity of Leadbeater's claims in various fields, though some of it would seem to the outsider to do just the opposite.  He and his wife, Dorothy, separated not long after their marriage, and Mrs Jinarajadasa, after becoming involved in the arguments over the Arundale-Wood battle for the Presidency, drifted into other areas of activity.

          James Wedgwood continued to wander between sanity and insanity until his death on March 13th, 1951, and, during the lucid periods, devoted himself to the work of the


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Centre at Huizen, and to the establishment of a lesser Centre at Tekels Park, near Camberley, Surrey, in England, where he lived almost entirely from 1937 onwards.  He wrote some defences of ceremonial in response to Krishna's attacks, and contributed articles to The Liberal Catholic.  His eventual death was the result of a fall which broke several ribs and ruptured a lung.  During his last months he had been kept from any involvement in public activities, even from eating in the communal dining room at Tekels Park, because of his unpredictable behaviour. [7]

          His death provoked extravagant eulogies from his most devoted followers.   Bishop Vreede wrote:

          "His crucifixion is at an end ... In utter defencelessness and harmlessness and in utter humility he took upon himself the vicarious atonement for the bearers of the apostolic succession he brought over to the Liberal Catholic Church and by that sacrifice occultly founded the church and opened a possibility for the redemption of the Lord's Church at large." [8]    

          Another disciple wrote that Wedgwood had taken on himself the karma of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, and.... [[missing line]]


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          However, E.L. Gardner, an eminent British Theosophist who was responsible for arranging for Wedgwood to be looked after in his declining years, wrote privately:

          "JIW was a 'dual' - at times skilled, able and impressive.  Then a bout of sensualism of the worst grade, sexual perversion." [10]

          Having considered six of the Apostles - Mrs Besant, Leadbeater, Arundale, Rukmini, Wedgwood - what of the others?  Most lists included only one more, Oscar Kollerstrom (1903-1978).  Having been a close disciple of Leadbeater, he travelled to Europe with Wedgwood (contrary to Leadbeater's wishes), and was eventually ordained to the priesthood by Wedgwood at Huizen.  He studied psychoanalyst under Georg Groddeck (1866-1934) at Baden, and spent some time in China lecturing on English and philosophy at the University of Peking.  He returned to England, and established himself in a successful psychoanalytical practice.  He had no continuing association with Theosophy or the LCC, although he maintained an interest in the Mass, and published a work concerning liturgy in his final years. [11]  Later editions of The Science of the Sacraments included additional notes of a different clairvoyant investigation of parts of the Eucharist which were the joint work of


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Kollerstrom and Wedgwood. [12]

          Some lists of the Apostles included three more:  Lady Emily Lutyens, Theodore St John and Rajagopal.  Lady Emily Lutyens resigned from the TS and associated movements in 1930 in following Krishna, although she admitted that she could never really understand his teachings.  She remained closely devoted him until her death in 1964, when she was eighty-nine.  In 1957 she published a moving autobiographical account of her involvement in the TS and the Coming, entitled Candles in the Sun.  It caused a great flutter in Theosophical and Liberal Catholic circles, and was generally denounced as "all lies", or as a breach of confidence, frequently by people who had not read it.  Dr Adrian Vreede, then Presiding Bishop of the LCC, however, declared that the book was "absolutely true as to the facts therein". [13]

          Theodore St John, once Leadbeater's favourite boy, was killed in a motor cycle accident in England while still quite young.  Leadbeater told Dick Balfour-Clarke one morning that he had foreseen Theodore's death;  that afternoon a telegram was delivered containing news of the accident. [14]  Rajagopal followed Krishna, and was for many years associated with Krishnamurti's work in America.  He married and established his home in California. [15]


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          What of the pupils, the young boys (and much later, girls) who had been placed in Leadbeater's special care to be "brought on" occultly, and of whom he had such great hopes?  Virtually none of them remained in the Theosophical movement, and most of them left Leadbeater and Theosophy.   Hubert van Hook studied law and became an attorney in Chicago, having rejected both Leadbeater and Theosophy after his four years at Adyar from 1909.  He later accused Leadbeater of "misusing" him. [16]  Basil Hodgson-Smith graduated from Oxford in 1913, and joined the Royal West Kent Regiment in 1914.  He was severely wounded in 1917, and remained a prisoner of war until 1918.  He died in 1929.  Basil was said to have died as the result of the "great cloud of sadness" which hung over him from his past lives, and therefore lost the will to live.  The great promise of his early years (and the predictions of the Masters) thus came to nought. [17]

          Fritz Kunz settled in the USA, where he edited a journal, Main Currents in Modern Thought, and was involved in educational work until his death in 1972.  He remained on the edge, rather than in the midst, of Theosophical work.  His wife Dora (nee van Gelder) continued active in the TS, and is currently National President of the TS in America.  She is also a noted clairvoyant and has published material


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based on her psychical research.  She had been the only girl at The Manor in its early days, and had been much respected by Leadbeater for her natural clairvoyance. [18]

          The Seven Virgins of Java, Leadbeater's last group of students, gradually drifted away from Theosophy, in which, according to one of them, they had had no real belief even in their days at The Manor.  It had been an experience, partly colourful, mostly dull, into which they had been placed by their parents.   It was, one of them recalled, not very demanding, and therefore bearable.

          "But most of us had never really believed it all, and, once we'd heard Krishnamurti, we began to question and the whole thing became unbelievable." [19]

          The rituals, the occult work, the ER and the angels were things in which Leadbeater believed intensely, and which the girls accepted merely because there was nothing else to do.

          Harold Morton, one of Leadbeater's closest disciples in later years, summarized his feelings in a letter written to another close disciple, Dick Balfour-Clarke, ten years after Leadbeater's death:


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          "At that time I believed in his wisdom, etc. as a complete devotee does.   Then came my complete rejection of his teachings.  I cannot accept his occult claims any longer, can you?  Do you still accept Initiations and the whole story woven by C.W.L. along those lines?  The World Mother?  red and green angels from Alpha Centauri!!!  and what about the five (or seven) sacred virgins of the Java legend?  My, what an imagination, what audacity;  what a set of mad followers to listen to such stories." [20]

          And, at the bottom of the letter, Dick Balfour-Clarke had written that, when he received the letter in 1944 he could not sympathize with its views but now "I have changed my views so much that I can no longer take issue with" Morton.  That comment was dated 1977.

          At any time, Leadbeater had two sets of pupils:  those who were really close to him, and few in number, and a peripheral group, greater in number, but more distant from him.  Of this latter group, many remain in the TS and are ardent defenders of their teacher.

          What of the movements with which Leadbeater was so closely associated?  The TS has continued, though


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declining in numbers and influence, with its headquarters at Adyar in India.  Jinarajadasa was succeeded as President by N. Sri Ram, Rukmini Arundale's brother in 1953, and he, in turn, by John Coats from Great Britain in 1974.  Following Coats' death in 1980, Sri Ram's daughter, Radha Burnier, was elected President.  Membership of the TS based at Adyar underwent a slight increase as the result of the "occult revival" of the early 1970's, but remains less than at the height of the era of Leadbeater and Mrs Besant. [21]

          The splendid expectations which the early leaders had for the Society have failed to be fulfilled.  Arundale, for example, proclaimed at the 1935 Annual Convention that by 1975 the TS Estate would extend to both sides of the Adyar River, with the two parts being linked by a bridge, and speak to the world directly through radio and television:  the world, he said, would eagerly await advice from the TS on all matters of importance.  He promised that a World University would be based there, with branches throughout the world.  He also proclaimed that by 1975 the Adyar River would be "so pure and clean" that it could safely be used for bathing. [22]  Not one of these prophecies has been fulfilled.

          The centenary of the TS in 1975 was celebrated with functions drawing together representatives of most of


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the rival claimants to HPB's original society. [23]  There had been much speculation about the occult significance of 1975 and HPB's promise of a new "Messenger" to the Society in that year.  The failure of anything significant to eventuate has simply been ignored in Theosophical publications.

          The Manor remains as a centre for the ES, its Heads having included Jinarajadasa, Dr van de Broek, James Perkins, Jack Patterson, and, currently, Norman Hankin.  The chapel in the basement is still used for occasional Liberal Catholic services.  In a letter to the ES in October, 1951, Jinarajadasa described the "inner purpose" of The Manor as the Centre for the Southern Hemisphere, organized by the "Supreme HEAD of the Hierarchy" and the "representative on the physical plane of SHAMBALLA". [24]

          The Liberal Catholic Church has expanded in the sense of spreading throughout the world, although numerically it seems to have undergone a steady decline.  It has, in some places, attracted people from outside the Theosophical movement, although its links with the TS remain close. [25]  Leadbeater was succeeded as Presiding Bishop by Frank Pigott in 1934, and he was followed by Adrian Vreede (of The Netherlands) in 1956, Sir Hugh Sykes, Bart.,(of Great Britain) in 1966, Sten von Krusenstierna (of


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Australia) in 1973 and Eric Taylor (of Great Britain) in 1984.  As Regionary Bishop of Australia, Leadbeater was succeeded by David Tweedie (1932), Lawrence Burt (1943), Sten von Krusenstierna (1961), Christopher Bannister (1975) and William Hill (1984).

          Within the TS there has been a degree of suspicion of the LCC.  When Arundale became President of the TS he felt obliged to state publicly that he would give up his episcopal activities altogether, although he occasionally acted as a bishop.  Similarly, when John Coats, also a Liberal Catholic bishop, was elected President he was obliged to give up public activities as a bishop.

          St Alban's Cathedral no longer stands next to Mortuary Station in Redfern;  it fell into disrepair and the cost of renovations was prohibitive.  It was sold and has

been replaced by a petrol station.  St Alban's Co-Masonic Temple, however, remains, and the Co-Masonic Order continues to function throughout the world.  The former General Secretary of the TS in Australia, Elaine Murdoch, now holds the office of Administrator General for Australia, once held by Leadbeater.  The current President of the TS, Radha Burnier, represents the Supreme Council in India, just as Mrs Besant did in her day.


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          The Egyptian Rite continues in major TS centres, although it appears to have changed the requirements for membership;  it is no longer necessary to be a member of the ES.  Leadbeater appointed Arundale to succeed him as Grand Master, and Mrs Arundale currently claims the title as, it seems, does Radha Burnier. [26]

          The ES has diminished substantially in numbers, but remains an important influence in the TS, with all major Society leaders also being members of the ES.  It had some

5,000 members in August, 1935 [27], and is generally believed to involve something less than ten percent of the overall membership of the Society.  Jinarajadasa was succeeded as Outer Head by Sri Ram in 1953, followed by I.K. Taimni in 1974, and, since 1978, Radha Burnier, now also President of the Society.

          The Amphitheatre at Balmoral continued as something of a Theosophical "white elephant" until it was sold in 1931.  After being used for a variety of secular purposes, it was demolished in 1951, and replaced by a block of flats. [28]  The failure of the project, as also of the Coming itself, led to some remarkable changes of mind in the TS.   By 1931, Harold Morton, as General Secretary of the TS in Australia, was declaring that the TS was "in no way responsible" for the Amphitheatre, and in a letter to the


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Sydney Morning Herald on November 6th, 1931, proclaimed it had been a witness to the faith of Dr Rocke and her supporters.

          The World Mother has attracted continued interest, both within the Liberal Catholic Church where various attempts have been made to establish a Christianized version of devotion to the World Mother [29], and in the TS where people like Sandra Hodson, wife of the Theosophical clairvoyant, Geoffrey Hodson, have promoted the concept.

          In his last years Leadbeater claimed to have been Instructed by the World Mother to establish a form of ministry for her worship, including a type of "apostolic succession" which would be passed on through women, and lead to the foundation of a feminine religion to parallel the masculine religion of Christianity.  Claiming the authority of the World Mother, Leadbeater transmitted this "succession" from her to several women disciples, who were instructed to pass it on to other women.  This feminine religion has not made any public appearance, but it is said the "succession" is perpetuated within Theosophical circles privately. [30]

          The World University, more as an idea than as a practical reality, carried on until 1934, when its work was


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given to the Theosophical Research Centre in London.  But the Council of the World University continued to meet annually to encourage the establishment of other research centres.  In 1964, Sri Ram, as President of the TS and Rector of the World University, changed the title to Theosophical World Trust for Education and Research, feeling that the term "University" gave a wrong impression. [31]  The influence of Theosophy on innovative educational systems, including educational experiments in Australia, was significant in the first half of this century, but has subsequently faded. [32]

          The Order of the Round Table, as a chivalric movement for young people, has continued since Leadbeater's time, although its ideals seem rather too old-fashioned to attract great interest.  The current Chief Knight is Mrs Arundale.

          Throughout all the movements which do continue, and throughout the TS, especially in Australia, India and America, the influence of Leadbeater continues to dominate thought.   Although there have been various attempts at "Back to Blavatsky" moves in the TS, these have never been especially successful, and most officials of the Adyar-based TS are reluctant to talk about contradictions between Leadbeater's teachings and Blavatsky's. [33]


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          Leadbeater's books remain in demand.  In modern format, some of his "classics" have achieved high sales throughout the world in paperback editions published by Quest Books, a subsidiary of the TS in America. [34]  As one Theosophical commentator has noted:

          "[Leadbeater] was the author of some of the most popular works of Theosophical literature and wrote English prose of exceptional clarity and sometimes achieved passages of quite distinguished classical simplicity.  Much of his work is devoted to describing the phenomenological side of theosophy, the nature of man and the universe, and other subjects suited to his clairvoyant capabilities.  His books are among the most popular in theosophical literature because of their apparent simplicity;  but at the same time they contain much more than meets the eye and imply principles that they do not express." [35]

          One would need to add that Leadbeater also wrote a lot of ponderous, rambling prose devoid of any literary skill.  Leadbeater's popularity - especially through his major works on the psychic nature of man:  The Chakras, Man


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Visible and Invisible, and Thought-Forms - in the "occult revival" of the 1970's was considerable, and his books may be found alongside contemporary best-sellers in any occult or "alternative" bookshop.  Concepts such as Masters, reincarnation, karma, Askashic Records, Atlantis, Lemuria, Shamballa, the astral plane, psychic powers, kundalini and clairvoyance, so often used in modern occult writings, owe more to him than to anyone else.  Across the range of material from various occult groups, whatever exalted source they claim their special information, his influence is evident in different degrees of reinterpretation or misunderstanding.  And even those who claim that they derive any Theosophical influence they may have from Blavatsky tend, in fact, to be presenting teachings which derive instead from Leadbeater. [36]

          One of the less obvious areas of Leadbeater's influence is in modern art.  An exhibition mounted in London under the title "The Art of the Invisible", devoted a considerable amount of space to the original art work for Man Visible and Invisible and Thought-Forms, which had been discovered in the TS Archives at Adyar and were sent to London for the exhibition. [37]  These were displayed with, and in the catalogue compared with, works by Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) and Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944).  The suggestion of the compiler of the catalogue was that the


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"inner side" paintings had inspired the artists. [38.]  The catalogue drew some interesting comparisons between the writings of Leadbeater and Kandinsky.  Kandinsky had written:

          "Is everything material - or is everything spiritual?  Can the distinction we make between matter and spirit be nothing but relative modifications of one or the other?  Thought is matter, but of a fine and not coarse substance." [39]

          Even a brief reading of Kandinsky's theories of art immediately brings to mind parallels in Leadbeater's writings, and also in the works of Blavatsky and other Theosophists. [40]

          The compilers of "The Art of the Invisible" viewed their collection as representative of an expression of something new, a new view of man, of science and of religion, which had begun to emerge at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries.  They concluded:

          "Participants in the system of mutually supportive beliefs we have been examining thought themselves


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to be the harbingers of a new cultural epoch which would embody a new science, a new religion, and a new art.  They foresaw a world in which materialism and the envious striving that goes with it would be set aside.   The art certainly emerged and proliferated, contemporary physics has left the certitudes of 19th century rationalism far behind, but whether there has been a corresponding moral advance remains debatable."       [41]

          In his lengthy and scholarly analysis of the work of Kandinsky, Sixten Ringbom examines both Leadbeater's influence on that painter and considers those sources which could have influenced Leadbeater. [42]  He concludes:

          "The chief value of Thought Forms was that it presented Kandinsky with a glimpse of the appearance of that 'fine matter' which was to become the content of the new art.   The observations of the theosophists showed that fine matter did indeed look different from hard matter, and that on the higher levels it is the thoughts and feelings that count, not the material things." [43]

          Kandinsky, he noted, owned a copy of the first German


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edition of Thought Forms, translated as Gedankenformen, published in 1908, and was still referring to it in the 1920's.

          The most forceful claim on behalf of Leadbeater as an influence on modern art comes from T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings. [44)  He notes that Thought Forms was widely read and discussed in artistic circles in Paris in the early years of this century, and he suggests that the similarities between the first abstract paintings of Gino Severini (1883-1966), Robert Delauny (1885-1941), Albert Gleizes (1881-1953), Frank Kupka (1871-1957) and Kandinsky are more than coincidences.   He notes "striking similarities" between Thought Forms and Man Visible and Invisible (published in 1903 and 1905 respectively in their first English versions) and Kandinsky's "non-objective" compositions which were begun in 1911.  There are also interesting similarities between Kandinsky's idea of the "language of form and colour" and Leadbeater's theory of astral coloration. [45]

          Whereas most modern art authorities say that non-objective art (that is, art without a vestige of recognizable subject matter) was ''a German innovation, beginning in Munich with Kandinsky, Tobbsjohn-Gibbings declares it to have been "a by-product of astral


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manifestations as revealed by Theosophy, spiritualism and occultism".  He concludes:

          "In view of the fact that many of the first abstract paintings .... bear a striking resemblance to the thought forms, it is highly probable that further investigations will place Annie Besant and Mr Leadbeater among the pioneers of modern art." [46]

          While few authorities are likely to be this enthusiastic, it is an interesting by-way of what might be called "Leadbeaterian influence". [47]  The extent of this influence in scientific areas will be considered in the next chapter.

          The legacy left after Leadbeater's death was substantial, in terms of literature, organizations and influence.  It reached those who knew nothing of the man beyond his name and his status as a clairvoyant;  it even reached those who didn't even know his name but were indirect recipients of his teachings and the concepts he popularized.  As the organizations he inspired diminish with the passage of time, it is evident that the indirect influence continues, even increasing in times of renewed popular interest in occultism.


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