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

Appendices:
Intro

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Chapter 23: Assessment and Conclusions

          In the biography of Charles Webster Leadbeater there are a number of "mysteries" that have nothing to do with the Occult Hierarchy, the depths of the atom or incarnations on the moon:  they relate to the facts of his life story.  The first of these is clearly the problem of his early life:  what was the true story of his life up until he was ordained in the Church of England at Farnham?  Where was he, and what was he doing, between 1854 and 1878?  Only a piece of major genealogical detective work - or recourse to the Akashic Records - could, at this stage, uncover that period with absolute certainty.  But it is certain that he was not born in 1847, was not born on February 17th, did not have a brother named Gerald, did not go to Oxford (or Cambridge).  The story of the adventures in Brazil is highly improbable:  if the family did go to South America, it did so at a time when Leadbeater was too young for even a person of his unique gifts to be driving railway engines or engaging in sword fights with rebel generals.  Why were these stories of a "life of manifold adventures" told?  and when were they first told ?

          It is important to understand that at the time - the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries - the proliferation of documentation which is


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regarded as an integral part of modern life was unknown.  Passports were generally not required for travel.  Identity papers were virtually unheard of in England, and the word of someone who appeared to be a gentleman was taken at its face value.  It would have been odd, and insulting, to ask for proof of someone's claim to have a particular birthdate, or even a claim to a University education, provided that the person appeared to be educated.

          The stories told by Leadbeater probably developed in two stages.  First, upon joining the London Lodge of the TS in 1884 - his application having been made on November

21st, 1883 - Leadbeater was brought into some quite distinguished company, as he himself emphasizes in his recollections of the events. [1]  Even the ordinary members of the Lodge were quite distinguished people, drawn from the upper-middle-classes and the professions.  The early years of the TS in England abound in the names of the eminent, and its members were usually people of education. [2]

          Leadbeater was at a distinct disadvantage.  He was a clergyman, and he was, from the formal Victorian point of view, uneducated.  Self-educated or self-made men were not considered acceptable in a society that believed the established order to have been divinely appointed.  Hence the need to explain both his origins and family, and his lack of


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a formal education.  To be the son of a Manchester book-keeper, who died of tuberculosis, would hardly do.  A company director, or, better still, the chairman of a company, was substituted.  His failure to attend a good public school was explained by his time in South America with his family, a time of manifold adventures.  His failure to attend one of the great Universities was explained:  he did begin a career at Oxford, but it was cut short by a terrible financial disaster, which most of his associates would have recalled.

          So the fictional early life appears, and, having appeared, cannot really ever go away.   With his increasing role as occult adventurer and explorer of the unknown, it proves yet more useful, as the lost secrets and treasures of the Aztecs, and objective proof of life after death are added.  By the time he finds Jinarajadasa in Ceylon, brother Gerald is added.  No-one is likely to check the details because it seems unlikely that anyone would lie about such matters.

          The birth date is almost certainly a later invention.  It would be too much of a coincidence if Leadbeater chose a year that just happened to coincide with the year of Mrs Besant's birth.  Clearly, that story came after he had met Mrs Besant, felt a close affinity with her, and decided that their occult relationship should be reinforced with a temporal link.  It is equally improbable


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that he simply chose February 17th at random:  again, it would be too much of a coincidence for him to have chosen at random the date on which Olcott died.   The new birthdate - February 17th, 1848 - had distinct advantages, symbolically, over the old - February 16th, 1854.  And when, in 1922, Adyar Day was instituted, it must have seemed divinely providential.

          Did Leadbeater tell these stories with deliberate to intent to deceive?  Did he begin to tell them until he believed that they were true?  Considering the nature of his claimed clairvoyance and his power of creating history visually in his mind, it seems likely that he came to believe the revised story was the truth.  Throughout his life he was not averse to modifying the past.  Thus, for example, the 1906 Committee's decision was thrown out by the 1908 Committee, including eminent barristers and judges.  Or so he said:  but there was no 1908 Committee, and the group of people to whom he referred by this title included no-one, eminent or otherwise, in the legal profession.  Yet he seemed to believe the claim, and his disciples certainly did.

          The second mystery in the Leadbeater biography concerns his relationship with Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.  Leadbeater claimed to have been a pupil of hers, and Mrs Besant claimed that she and Leadbeater were HPB's chosen


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successors. [3]   The evidence against Leadbeater's claim is virtually overwhelming.  He was never a member of HPB's group in London, nor was he a member of her Esoteric Section, or of its Inner Group.  The membership of both is known, and his name is not included.  Nor is there any correspondence between HPB and Leadbeater which suggests anything other than a fairly formal and distant friendship between them;  their letters were rare and certainly not intimate.  Boris de Zirkoff, acknowledged by Theosophists generally as the greatest authority on HPB's works, and editor of her massive Collected Writings, stated that there was no evidence in any of her papers or correspondence to suggest any special relationship with Leadbeater. [4]  Mrs Alice Cleather, one of HPB's Inner Group, specifically denied ever having heard HPB mention Leadbeater as a pupil, and says she never saw him at London Headquarters during HPB's lifetime. [5]

          There are also clear contradictions between HPB's teachings and those contained in the letters alleged to have come from the Masters, and those given out by Leadbeater, usually claiming the authority of the same Masters. [6]  Leadbeater was a member of the London Lodge of the TS, which continued an almost independent existence apart from the Blavatsky Lodge in London, under HPB, and apart from the TS as a whole for a number of years.  During this period Leadbeater was active as a psychic via whom A.P. Sinnett


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obtained communications from the Masters, and continued to teach doctrines which HPB had specifically denied.  The most notable of these is the Mars-Mercury controversy, still a Theosophical debating point.

          Yet Leadbeater stated:

          "In my own case, Madame Blavatsky taught me very much on behalf of the Master, but I was separated from her for some five years and sent out to India when she was in Europe.  Consequently, it was impossible for her, except by occasional letters and on the astral plane sometimes to give me any help.  Therefore I was put into the care of Swami T. Subba Rao." [7]

          Where are the "occasional letters"?  Those which are available are simply polite social correspondence.   Why, when Leadbeater returned from India, did he visit HPB only twice, and on both occasions merely socially?  And why did he only make public the claim to be a pupil of HPB well after her death, and once he had risen to fame within the TS?

          Similar questions might be asked regarding his claims to have been a pupil of T. Subba Rao (who was not a Swami).  These claims were only made after Subba Rao's death


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in 1890, and after the death of the one person who was known to have been a pupil of Subba Rao, and whom Leadbeater disliked intensely, A.J. Cooper-Oakley.  Subba Rao certainly talked occultism to Leadbeater, but this did not in itself make their relationship guru-chela.  Subba Rao broke with HPB over two matters:  he did not believe that the world was ready for the revelation of occult knowledge such as she proposed to make in The Secret Doctrine, and he held to a four-fold classification of man, rather than the seven-fold system which HPB taught.   On both of these issues Leadbeater was in direct contradiction with the man he claimed as his teacher:  he popularized occult knowledge extensively, and he taught very definitely the seven-fold classification as a fact verified by his psychic powers.

          If one assumes that Leadbeater was not a pupil either of HPB or of T Subba Rao, a third mystery arises:  where, when and how - if at all - did Leadbeater develop the abilities which he described as clairvoyance?   He claimed to have developed his powers under the direct supervision of the Master DK and T Subba Rao at Adyar whilst he and Cooper-Oakley were the only Europeans there.  This means that it must have been between May and October, 1885, whilst Olcott was away on a lecture tour, and before Leadbeater went to Ceylon in January, 1886.  Leadbeater, Cooper-Oakley and Subba Rao were members of the Executive Committee


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appointed by Olcott to manage the TS in his absence.  If this was the period involved, it is curious that no-one else was told about it until Leadbeater returned to London with Jinarajadasa in 1890.  Even Sinnett, who was making use of Leadbeater's psychic powers, claimed he did not know their origin until some time after Leadbeater returned from Ceylon.  Yet they had been corresponding regularly all the time Leadbeater was away from England, and the subject had never been mentioned. [8]  Nor was it mentioned in correspondence with HPB, nor was Olcott told of it.

          Despite all this, there seems no reason to doubt that, at some stage during his absence from England, quite possibly during the miserable years in Colombo (1886-1889), Leadbeater underwent some sort of psychological experience which led to the development of what he believed to be psychic powers.  This may have been the result of efforts on his part to produce such powers.  But he could never admit this;  in his own writings and those of other Theosophical authorities there are grave warnings against any attempts to awaken psychic faculties. [9]  They are said to either develop gradually over many years in the course of the individual's spiritual growth, or, in rare cases, to be developed quickly under the supervision of a Master.  Any deliberate attempt to "force" their development via systems of meditation or occult exercises is regarded as positively


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dangerous and spiritually harmful. [10]  Thus, if Leadbeater had developed his psychic powers and "unblocked" various channels by a particular type of meditative exercise alone and unaided in two months or so, this would have been regarded as a highly dangerous and unspiritual activity, producing clairvoyance of a dubious type.

          What sort of process or experience could Leadbeater have undergone which led him to develop what he believed were psychic powers?  The answer lies in his own theory of how such powers could be self-developed, a method not publicly taught, but given to his close pupils.  It was the same method employed by James Wedgwood, and is known as "forced imagination".  Ernest Wood recalled one instance of its being taught by Leadbeater:

          "One of our prominent members had been through an important ceremony on the astral plane during the sleep of his physical body, and had therefore become what was called 'an Initiate'.  It happened that he was to be called as a witness in a certain case.  He was full of anxiety about it.  'Whatever shall I say if they ask me about my being an Initiate?  I do not remember anything of it at all.'  Mr Leadbeater's reply was:  'But why don't you remember?  You ought to be able to remember.'


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"Well, if I let my imagination play on it, I can get a sort of impression about it.'  'That is just what you ought to do.  There is a cause for such imagining.  How can you expect your clairvoyant power to develop if you destroy its delicate beginnings?'  The member followed this advice and became one of the prominent clairvoyants in the Theosophical Society, though years later he mentioned in conversation, that he never really saw anything;  only he received an impression so vivid that he felt it must be so, and he was justified in saying with confidence that such-and-such a being was present and saying such-and-such a thing." [11]

          Another of Leadbeater's pupils recalled that Leadbeater had mentioned, on one occasion, the presence of a nature spirit in their vicinity.  The pupil expressed the wish that he, too, might see it.  Leadbeater assured him that there was no reason why he could not, and that he should imagine, that he could see it until the imagination became so real that he could see the spirit. [12]

          The psychological dangers in this sort of approach are quite evident, and there are, in Theosophical teaching, said to be additional occult dangers, as are also


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described in traditional Indian teachings about such matters. [13]  If, in the loneliness of a dirty and uncongenial slum in Colombo, with no European friends, in the midst of a people he loathed, as witness his frequent letters asking to be brought back to England, Leadbeater withdrew from the intolerable reality into himself, seeking a better and more congenial world within, and began desperately to cultivate the psychic gifts he so admired, there is little doubt that something would happen.  It may well have been that he began to see the Masters to whose service he had committed himself, and to perceive the worlds about which he had read so much.

          There are several factors which suggest that this may have been the case.  Firstly, Leadbeater never discovered anything via his clairvoyant faculties which conflicted in the slightest with his own beliefs or wishes.  His visions always confirmed his opinions. [14]  Secondly, his visions were virtually identical with those of the spiritualism with which he was so familiar:  the other world was simply a parallel to this one, the inhabitants behaved according to the laws of this world, the Masters were little more than the supernatural upper-classes who pontificated with the air of Victorian Anglican Bishops, in a style identical to Leadbeater's, addressing candidates for confirmation.


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          It is interesting to consider the opinion of an eminent Theosophical writer, much given to defending Leadbeater, whose comments on what might be called "imaginative clairvoyance" apply exactly to Leadbeater's perceptions.

          "Nearly everybody of experience in the Theosophical Society has on a number of occasions been approached by people claiming guidance from exalted personages who are obviously merely the mental creations of the guided persons.  Such synthetic 'Masters' are always exuberant in their approval of the persons who proclaim them or of the undertakings of those persons.  They smile their assent;  benignly they nod their heads and break into portly and long winded eloquence.   All the responsibilities of the world may be upon them, but they are never in a hurry, never have something else on hand, when there is an occasion to express approval of the opinions or projects of their devoted followers." [15]

          One has only to read The Masters and the Path to discover innumerable instances of such benign masters, and the whole history of Leadbeater's contact with them was one of approval, assent and "portly and long winded eloquence".


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          This leads on to a question which is beyond the scope of this work to answer, but which is of considerable importance in examining the life and work of Leadbeater:  was his clairvoyance genuine?  Leadbeater refused to allow his psychic powers to be tested in any scientific or objective manner, even when challenged to do so.  He stated that it was an impertinence to suggest such a test, and claimed that there were occult reasons why no-one possessed of genuine powers could ever allow them to be "proved".  Hence he rejected any suggestions of reading letters in sealed envelopes, or producing next week's newspaper headlines.  This annoyed his critics, who saw it as proof that he was a charlatan, and led his disciples to proclaim him to be a man above such sordid worldly things as tests.  Views of his clairvoyance therefore range from those which see it as absolutely and infallibly true, to those who see it all as deliberate fraud on his part.   Somewhere in the middle are those who hold it was a delusion and a fantasy on his part, for which he was not responsible.

          Johan van Manen, who lived and worked with Leadbeater on Sicily, left a description of his state during clairvoyant research:  Leadbeater became flushed, his eyes watered, and he became "abstracted", and drowsy, and began to yawn frequently, eventually having to end his


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investigations or fall asleep.  At that time he never worked for more than an hour at a time.  The actual "seeing" was intermittent, and punctuated with conversation.  Once during an attempt to examine "the permanent atom on the astral, cosmic plane", he suffered a severe headache which lasted for several days and was followed by "brain fag" for months during which no work could be undertaken. [16]  This process became more relaxed and sophisticated in later years.

          As Hugh Shearman noted, Leadbeater never tried to produce a systematic version of his psychic investigations.  A.E. Powell in a series of works based on Leadbeater's books and articles, with some material drawn from HPB, Mrs Besant and other Theosophical writers, attempted to produce a synthesized system incorporating Leadbeater's discoveries.  However, Powell's works are limited to the simpler material, and ignore contradictions. [17]  An attempt to produce a systematized world-view based on Leadbeater's teachings would involve a massive research project to work through everything he had ever written.  Despite his popularity and influence in the TS, such a detailed synthesis has never been attempted.

          There are four areas in which Leadbeater's clairvoyance might be considered in an attempt to evaluate it:  his "scientific" work, the Lives, the Coming and his


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works on life after death.

          His "scientific" work essentially refers to occult chemistry.  Initially, this work was considered to have no scientific value at all, and Hugh Shearman noted:

          "When C.W. Leadbeater tried to describe his experience of the physical atom, he seems quite simply to have expressed it in the conceptual idiom which his age and background provided .... Based upon this view of the atom, as well as upon further clairvoyant investigations, a beautifully self-consistent system of occult chemistry was built up.... There is, however, no clear correlation between this system of occult chemistry and the view of atomic structure taken by contemporary scientists." [18]

          This was written in 1959, and the conclusion - that both systems were internally consistent, but separate and distinct - echoed the findings of B. Lester Smith, FRS, V. Wallace Slater and Gerard Reilly in their work, The Field of Occult Chemistry.   They stated:

          "The task of exact correlation between occult and orthodox science has dis-?-


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difficult. The structure described by the two schools are utterly different in most cases;  apparent relationships have been shown on closer study to be merely superficial, or to lack generality." [19]

          However, by 1975, two English scientists, Dennis Milner and Edward Smart, were suggesting that Leadbeater and Mrs Besant possessed some sort of "objective mysticism", the results of which could be seen to harmonize and integrate with the latest scientific work on the atom and the structure of matter. [20]  In a later work, the same two authors further explored relationships between "objective mysticism" and modern science, and suggested that there were no fundamental contradictions.

          By 1979, The Liberal Catholic was publishing an editorial headed "C.W. Leadbeater Vindicated", reporting the work of Dr Stephen Phillips, a Cambridge graduate, who came across Occult Chemistry and began examining it in the light of modern atomic physics.  Dr Phillips, a Theosophist, suggested that whereas Leadbeater and Mrs Besant had said that they saw the atom, they had more probably seen a recently identified particle called the quark, a hypothetical structural unit from which elementary particles are believed to be constructed. [21]    Dr Phillips concluded:


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          "Progress has recently been made in formulating a comprehensive theoretical basis for understanding a body of theoretical investigations whose results were compiled and published in the three editions of Occult Chemistry.... Until now, it has proved impossible even to relate their observations with the structures established by nuclear physics and chemistry and crystallography, let alone to compare their possible differences.  There has been a theoretical impasse in the way leading to a proper scientific evaluation of occult chemistry and this has led to a questioning of its validity and significance for modern science .... In conclusion the clairvoyant description of matter appears to have very close contact with chemistry, nuclear physics and the quark structure underlying the physical universe .... At present one can with a measure of confidence claim that quarks were observed by Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater, using yogic techniques, 69 years before scientists suggested that they existed." [22]

          Dr Phillips conclusions and scientific basis for his arguments were published by the TPH in America in 1980 under the title Extra-sensory Perception of Quarks. [23]   A less


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scientific, although still difficult for the lay-person, summary of Dr Phillips' work also appeared in 1982:  Occult Chemistry Re-Evaluated, was by one of the authors of the original study, The Field of Occult Chemistry, E. Lester Smith. [24]  He commented:

          "For decades Occult Chemistry has been something of a skeleton in a cupboard, a book to keep quiet about when introducing friends to theosophy.  Now, as Dr Phillips wrote to me, Occult Chemistry is a book that theosophists can be proud of.  None of us can doubt that its authors Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater were highly competent occultists.  Their outstanding psychic powers enabled them to observe many phenomena unknown to the scientists of their time and to report them clearly and unmistakably in simple language." [25]

          And he concluded:

          "Those of us who had any doubt may now be assured that the work of Besant and Leadbeater in Occult Chemistry was largely accurate, whereas until recently it seemed the most dubious of their contributions.  The rest of their work cannot be expected to be totally correct, but at least our


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confidence in it should now be greatly increased." [26]

          However, since the subject of quarks is such a highly technical one, it is extremely difficult for anyone other than an expert in the field to properly evaluate Phillips' claims.  His work has thus far not received any detailed scientific review which supports his arguments.

          Dr E Walker, a research physicist at the Ballistic Research Laboratories of the United States Army Aberdeen Research and Development Center at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, and a member of the Mechanics and Materials Science Department at John Hopkins University, wrote a brief review of Extra-Sensory Perception of Quarks. He concluded:

          "The awkwardly titled Extra-Sensory Perception of Quarks is a technically excellent Chariots of the Gods .... I will not question that a strong case has been made that Besant and Leadbeater saw visions that parallel current theory.  And there is something noble in Phillip's efforts to vindicate Besant and Leadbeater.  But does the case for psychic perception succeed?  At, times I felt Phillips just might pull it off.  Yet I could never


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escape the feeling that the author was searching for the origin and forms of atoms and elementary particles amid the shapes of snowflakes in the sky and figures of diatoms in the sea." [27]

          Leadbeater's work on the occult structure of man, if it may also be called scientific, has received some attention from scientists working on the aura, or in more scientific language, the subtle electro-magnetic energy field around the physical body.   In his work on this subject, Leadbeater drew on previous authors, notably A. Marque's Human Aura. [28]  In 1974 Drs J. Moss and K.L. Johnson at the Neuro-Psychiatric Institute of California, conducting research into the aura, concluded:

          "We are amazed at similarities between our photographs and the drawings and descriptions of human auras of psychics, Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater." [29]

          And a report of further investigations in the USA, concerned with "the body electric", noted that scientists had drawn attention to similarities between the illustrations in Man Visible and Invisible and their own descriptions of the electro-magnetic vibrations from the body. [30]  Evidence from what is called "Kirlian photography" has also tended to


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confirm the general conclusions of the occult investigations. [31]

          If in the areas of atoms and auras the work undertaken by Leadbeater has attracted some scientific interest, his claims about the past history of the earth, and the nature of life on other planets, has been carefully avoided by Theosophically inclined scientists, and has not attracted the attention of those outside the Theosophical movement.   This material tends to be found scattered through Leadbeater's lesser known works, and is not readily accessible in the popular format of works like Man Visible and Invisible.  None of Leadbeater's claims about other planets has been confirmed by modern scientific investigation.

          A subject on the edge of the scientific in which Leadbeater had a passing interest was the analysis of dreams.  In 1913 he and Johan van Manen jointly compiled a work entitled Some Occult Experiences, which was basically an account of various dreams experiences by van Manen, annotated in occult terms by Leadbeater. [32]  It is interesting to note that every dream, no matter how trivial, is given occult significance as the "reflection" of an experience on the higher planes.  This is true even in cases in which a dream has clear psychological importance or is a


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"classic" - for example, the sensation of falling.  Hugh Shearman suggested that Leadbeater "concentrated altogether on the psychic meaning of the dreams and was not aware of the possibility of a psychological meaning". [33]  Yet the whole analysis leads one to wonder why every dream necessarily had an occult or psychic basis.   There is no report of him determining a dream was stimulated by a meal the evening before, or some emotional entanglement.  Everything was neatly fitted into the scheme he had created.

          The second major area of his clairvoyant research was the monumental investigation into the Lives.  This is the only area in which there has been open accusation of deliberate fraud. [34]  Although the subject matter - covering innumerable situations over thousands of years and in a wide variety of locations - could have provided many instances of tangible evidence for the validity of the research, it provided none.  The two cases offered as real evidence - an inscription on a Greek statue, and some phrases in Sanskrit - were not evidence of anything more than Leadbeater's ability to recall brief phrases in other languages, which he may have acquired in any number of ways.

          This leads on to the general area of Leadbeater's


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statements on historical or archaeological matters.  Two of them can be considered as good examples of his research confirming his own preconceptions, and being contrary to all available non-occult evidence.  First, his claim that Jesus lived around 100 BC, as presented in The Inner Life and The Christian Creed. [35]  There is a not a single, reputable Biblical scholar, archaeologist or historian who supports this claim, and, on the basis of modern research, there is no reason to seriously question the traditional date for the birth of Jesus by more than five years or so.  In a similar area, Leadbeater's account of the writing of the Gospels, as given in The Inner Life, is in direct conflict with the findings of modern research, and the internal evidence of the Gospels themselves. [36]

          The second claim which might be considered is that unfermented grape juice was used at the Last Supper. [37]  There are two clear objections to this:  Jewish custom required wine, not unfermented grape juice, and it would have been practically impossible to provide unfermented grape juice at that time of the year.  There was no known way of preserving grape juice for long periods after the grapes came to their ripe state except through fermentation.  Any grape juice left for any period in the prevailing climate would have fermented naturally.


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          The third area of clairvoyance of major importance was that related to the Coming.  How did Leadbeater select Krishnamurti, a ragged, sickly, unintelligent Indian child from all the Indian children around the TS compound?  Was Krishnamurti a genius from birth who could have achieved international status as a religious teacher regardless of who had taken him out of his environment of poverty, or did he become what he is as the result of Leadbeater's training? Krishnamurti, despite his rejection of Leadbeater, offers no explanation for his "discovery".

          This leads on to the question of the failure of the Coming.  Leadbeater predicted it, and stated it as a positive fact.  But it did not, in the sense predicted by Leadbeater, occur. Leadbeater's private explanation - the theory that Krishna's personality got in the way - does not seem to satisfactorily dispose of all the promises which preceded the failure.   Others suggested that the Coming had occurred, although "not as expected". [38]  A few, like Bishop Pigott, said simply that, "Leadbeater was wrong".   Yet a whole edifice of revelation and vision had gone to establish the foundation of the Coming.  Does the failure of the prophecy lead to the collapse of all the associated expectations?

          The final area of special interest, in a


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consideration of Leadbeater's clairvoyance is that regarding the life after death.  Here he is in direct conflict with HPB and the teachings given in the "Mahatma Letters".  His accounts derive, essentially, from his spiritualist period, and represent precisely the sort of after-death state that was given out by Victorian clairvoyants and mediums.  It was a model based firmly on the Victorian world order, roles clearly defined, the social order well established.  The "invisible helpers", led by Leadbeater, paralleled the charity work of the upper classes amongst the less fortunate.  Duty was all important, on both sides of the grave.  However clear the distinction between Theosophy and spiritualism in Leadbeater's mind, in practice there was little with regard to life "beyond the veil".   Even the Masters and the Occult Hierarchy, complete with charts of duties and responsibilities, follow the model of the society which he knew and held to be the best.  Here, as in all his work, his own preconceptions were confirmed.

          Amongst Theosophists there have tended to be three views of Leadbeater's clairvoyance.   The first, and the majority opinion, has been that he was genuinely possessed of extraordinary occult powers, and that these powers were as he claimed them to be.  The second, and a minority view, has been that he possessed no such powers, was a fraud and a charlatan who fabricated material to establish and maintain


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his own position of power;  this would be the position taken, for example, by The Canadian Theosophist and by the most of the Back-to-Blavatsky groups.  The third opinion, an even less widely held view, is that Leadbeater was neither really possessed of psychic powers, nor a fraud;  he did indeed see things, and reported what he saw, but what he saw had no real existence, being an illusion created in his own mind.  This is not to say he was psychologically disturbed or subject to hallucinations.  The explanation is more complex than that, relating to a view of the nature of mind, will, and imagination in Theosophical theory.

          In November, 1963, the Theosophical Publishing House in London published a booklet by an eminent British Theosophist, E.L. Gardner. [39]  Entitled There is No Religion Higher Than Truth, it was a serious questioning of Leadbeater's clairvoyance and presented a theory explaining his supposedly psychic powers. [40]  Gardner began by reminding his readers of that most painful experience in the history of the TS - the failure of the Coming of the World Teacher.

          "About forty-five years ago announcement of the Coming of the World Teacher was made by Mrs Besant and Bishop C.W. Leadbeater.  Most of the Sections and Lodges of The Theosophical Society accepted


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this proclamation with confidence and diverted much of their energy to the Star Campaign - in preparation for his Coming.  Obviously there has been no Coming." [41]

          After a brief outline of the Theosophical career of Leadbeater, Gardner then examined his clairvoyant investigations, noting that all his discoveries confirmed and endorsed the views that Leadbeater himself held.

          In suggesting a theory which would explain Leadbeater's clairvoyance, whilst not attributing conscious fraud to him, Gardner considered the occult doctrine of "unconscious kriyashakti".  In another work he defined kriyashakti:

          "The creative power of the mind, now becoming increasingly well known, was familiar knowledge in earlier times.  The Sanskrit terms Ichchha = Will and Kriya = Thought are evidence of this.  Linked to Shakti = Power the two functions of 'destroyer' and 'creator' are defined ... The will clears the way and controls the flow of power, the mind creates forms in and through which power can play.  Kriyashakti is thus thought power in action ... The power maybe exercised consciously and


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purposefully, or almost wholly unconsciously, and the latter may be nearly as effective although unseen and unknown." [42]

          The mind has the power to create "thought forms", and it can then "see" the things that it has created.

          Gardner quotes from the Indian philosopher, Patanjali:

          "The mind may be compared to a lens in the form of a sphere, so constructed as to be capable of giving a three-dimensional image inside itself of every external object." [43]

          In simple terms, Gardiner was stating that it was possible, and indeed usual, for men to build up pictures in their minds of the objects of their thought, their affection and their belief.  This visualizing power - kriyashakti - in its "raw" form is the material from which visions, dreams and revelations are built.  In Gardner's scheme communication from the Masters to their pupils involves the use of this power to build the forms through which the communication is made.  However, he notes, while this power can be used by man to create image in his own mind, in its unconscious manifestations it represents a real danger to the


--- 889 ---

clairvoyant who allows his personal attitude to create artificial images which will distort his perception.

          The clairvoyant can create a seemingly real world in his own mind which obstructs the actual objects of his perception, and his vision then becomes a reflection of his own creation.  He has turned the lens through which he should be seeing into the world into a mirror in which he is seeing only a reflection of his own unconscious mind.  If this occurs at a conscious level - that is, if the occultist deliberately creates a thought-image and then observes it - it remains an interesting and useful exercise, since his ability to judge between the artificial and the real, the objective and the subjective, is unaffected.  However, if the artificial forms are created by the unconscious mind, and lie outside the conscious awareness of their creator, distinctions between the subjective and the objective are blurred, if not totally obscured.  Leadbeater argued that in the after death state, when the creative power of the mind was freer, each man would create his own "heaven" and believe it to be objective reality. [44]

          The theory behind such ideas does not apply only to the man free from his physical body.   Gardner notes that "where personal vibrations are allowed to enter any thought form" these are enhanced and


--- 890 ---

the elemental enclosed within the consciously created thought-form, if vitalized by the skandhas of its creator - i.e. personal desire vibrations will be awakened into a desire to live." [45]

          Gardner's basic thesis is this:  Leadbeater unconsciously created an entire, artificial system, based upon his own strongly held views, and, again unconsciously, used his occult power to visualize this system into a state where it had the appearance of reality, and appeared as an objective reality to him when he viewed it clairvoyantly.  Gardner wrote:

          "I am sure that his 'forced vision' and the confidence that it gave him, was the real cause of his errors.  Coupled with that, however, was the memory of an incarnation in GREECE.  It was there that he cultivated the creative force of the male sex given a certain hatha yoga practice." [46]

          There is a further implication of this for those who accept the occult thesis:   will not other clairvoyants "tuning in" to Leadbeater's work also see the "artificial reality" he


--- 891 ---

has created, and therefore give apparently independent verification to his perceptions?

          Gardner's book, not surprisingly, caused a furor in Theosophical circles, and attacks on Gardner were forthcoming from many of Leadbeater's disciples and

followers.   A response to Gardner was prepared under the title C.W. Leadbeater. A Great Occultist. [47]  This did little more than defend Leadbeater against allegations of deliberate fraud, of which, in fact, Gardner did not accuse him, and note minor historical errors in Gardner's booklet.  The kriyashakti theory was largely ignored by the reply, although Geoffry Hodson, whose work is seen in Theosophical circles to parallel that of Leadbeater, and who had also done psychic research into occult chemistry, argued that his independent research had validated Leadbeater's material. [48]  Although Hodson had not explored more than a few of the areas investigated by Leadbeater, and, in all cases, had access to Leadbeater's findings before he began his own exploration.  Hodson ignored the fact that Gardner's theory could be extended to take account of supposedly independent verification of Leadbeater's findings.  Hodson went on to deny that Leadbeater was "a self-deceived, deluded man".

          Hugh Shearman, in his contribution to the defence, criticized Gardner for minor historical


--- 892 ---

inaccuracies, but had himself said of Leadbeater: 

          "What he brought out of the occult world as observations took on the colouring of his own personal microcosm as well as his memories and anticipations.  This seems often the more evident the deeper the experiences that he was trying to express." [44]

          Gardner, of course, says very much the same thing.  The defence concluded with a statement - "C.W. Leadbeater - A Self-illumined Man, by Some of His Pupils".  They protested at Gardner's "attack" on a man who was no longer alive to defend himself, rejected claims of deception and criticized Gardner for minor historical errors.  They affirmed that Leadbeater was "a great occultist, a seer, a sage, and a selfless servant of the human Race".  The list of "Some of his Pupils" appended to the statement includes twenty-four names.  Of those, only one (Axel Poignant) could really be described as a "pupil".  Russell Balfour-Clarke (better known as "Dick"), whose name appears on the list, had subsequently changed his mind about Leadbeater.  Most of those on the list had met Leadbeater, even lived at The Manor, but certainly did not rank as


--- 893 ---

"pupils" in any meaningful sense of that word.

          Then followed a list of the things for which "Humanity Today is Indebted to C.W. Leadbeater".  These included the revitalization of Buddhism in Ceylon (usually attributed by scholars to Colonel Olcott), the reintroduction of esoteric teaching into Christianity, the writing of the Liturgy of the LCC (for which he was only partly responsible), and "the presentation of occult science in modern language".

          Dr Adrian Vreede, Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church, responded to Gardner with an editorial in The Liberal Catholic entitled "An Attack on Bishop Leadbeater". [50]  He declared that

          "Bishop Leadbeater was right in announcing the intention of the Lord Christ to come and give a message to the civilization of the present time." [51]

          Vreede seemed to blame that failure of the Coming on "announcements, dreams, and revelations" deriving from the "phantasies" of Wedgwood, Arundale, Jinarajadasa and others.  It was, he said, other men's "spiritual inflation" not


--- 894 ---

Leadbeater's "unconscious kriyashakti" that occasioned the "going wrong" of the Coming.  Vreede defended Leadbeater on the ground that he was "precision itself", as his handwriting showed, though it does not seem to follow logically that one who is precise is necessarily precisely right.  However, Vreede concluded:

          " ...the reputation of trustworthiness of the greatest seer of this and the previous century should be upheld by those who like me, have followed all these events, if not close at hand at no great distance." [52]

          He noted Lady Emily Lutyens' Candles in the Sun as confirmation of his explanation of the Coming "going wrong" because of the "most fantastic - and untrue - revelations" at Huizen.

          Yet not all who had "followed all these events" chose to support Leadbeater.  Ernest Wood, already in the ranks of the apostate, replied to a criticism of Gardner by Hugh Shearman. [53]   Wood recalled that he had been present on the occasion of the "discovery" of Krishna, and had spent some ten thousand hours working with Leadbeater on clairvoyant research.  Wood endorsed "every bit" of Gardner's


--- 895 ---

booklet.   He rejected Shearman's assertion that it had been Mrs Besant, not Leadbeater, who was the source of the proclamation that Krishna was to be the Vehicle for the World Teacher.

          Wood made three statements which are important with regard to Leadbeater's clairvoyance.  First, Leadbeater and Mrs Besant had "an arrangement" whereby she would accept his clairvoyance as if it was her own and he would support her decisions as to what to do:  this led to his refusal to contradict her statements about the Apostles and associated revelations from Huizen, which Leadbeater told Wood were wrong and "due to her impulsive eagerness".  Second, The Lives of Alcyone were written in fact by Leadbeater alone, with the exception of one life which Mrs Besant wrote, although her name appeared equally on the title page.  And, third, Leadbeater objected to the letters from the Masters to Mr Sinnett, regarding them as unreliable.   When The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett was published, Leadbeater referred to "that abominable book".

          Wood stated:

          "[Gardner's] 'unconscious kriyashakti' theory is undoubtedly correct... I have found and physically confirmed its operation in many clairvoyants who


--- 896 ---

were colouring what they saw, or in some cases what they thought they saw, being affected by their own desires, though sincerely unaware of the process in themselves.  Some people have such strong "visualization" that sometimes, even when they do actually obtain something quite correctly by clairvoyance or by intuition, they are likely to embellish it from their own subconscious mind and cannot distinguish it from actual seeing or hearing ... I too came to the conclusion that Mr Leadbeater... was largely 'seeing his own thought forms' and this not merely on theory, but on material evidences." [54]

          In 1966, writing to Dick Balfour Clarke, in response to a letter from Balfour Clarke criticizing his booklet, Gardner said:

          "In 1932 I learnt how the many 'Pupils' and 'Initiates' were 'made'.  His brilliantly built thought forms of the Lord M. and the Masters assembled and acquiesced and that was that ... His strength lay in his sincerity and honesty for he undoubtedly believed he himself was 'right'... The


--- 897 ---

pamphlet explains an honest mistake and clears C.W.L. of the charges of fraud and roguery in Nethercot's book and the reviews." [55]

          Gardner concluded by suggesting a link between the charges of sexual misconduct made against Leadbeater and his "forced vision" variety of clairvoyance, and that will be considered in more detail later in this chapter.

          Interestingly enough, Gardner's theory finds support in Leadbeater's own writings, although Leadbeater always pointed out that trained Theosophical clairvoyants (by which he always meant himself and Mrs Besant), under the direct supervision of the Masters, were immune from such dangers.

          Much of Leadbeater's clairvoyant research yielded material based on his Anglican background, or his spiritualism phase.  The origin of the distinctly occult material is less clear.  His works fall into two fairly distinct divisions:  those published (or written, at least) prior to his resignation from the TS in 1906, and those written after his return to the Society in 1908.  In the former category are his major clairvoyant "classics"':  The Astral Plane, The Devachanic Plane, Thought Forms, Man


--- 898 ---

Visible and Invisible.  The origins of Occult Chemistry also lie in this period.  The books written after his return to the TS take a distinctly different approach and deal with more extravagant and fantastic subject matter;  they include The Inner Life, Man. Whence, How and Whither, The Masters and the Path, and The Lives of Alcyone.  In these works, there is far more emphasis on the importance of Leadbeater's position:   he is no longer the detached observer reporting what he sees.  He is the agent of the Masters, engaging in regular meetings with the Occult Hierarchy, scanning worlds and millennia with ease.  Many of his critics still make use of his earlier works as sound clairvoyant investigations, whilst rejecting his later works.

          Much of Leadbeater's occult material derives from Blavatsky, albeit in reinterpreted and almost unrecognizable form, and much of it from the period when Leadbeater worked with A.P. Sinnett.  The oft-repeated Mars-Mercury controversy is a relic of those days, a doctrine held by Sinnett and rejected by HPB and her Masters, and taught by Leadbeater and his.

          One possible origin for the material contained in The Masters and the Path, and for material on the Occult Hierarchy and Initiations lies in a wholly unexpected

source.  Although she was regarded as "misguided" because she


--- 899 ---

had both left the TS and claimed to be inspired by a Master, Alice Bailey (1880-1949) held a fascination for some Theosophists from the time she began her independent career outside the TS, in 1920-21.  Leadbeater owned, read and highly regarded her earlier works, and although she was criticized officially with the TS for "falsely claiming to be in communication with DK" and others, Leadbeater did not criticize her.  The material in her first "inspired" (that is, by the Master DK, better known as "the Tibetan") was Initiation Human and Solar (1922), and it bears interesting similarity to some of Leadbeater's work, in content, although not in style.   It is unclear which set of teachings appeared first. [56]

          The final "mystery" in the life of Charles Webster Leadbeater related to the allegations of sexual immorality which followed him throughout his Theosophical career, reaching peaks in 1906 and 1922.  Was there anything to substantiate these allegations?  And, if not, why did he consistently refuse to answer his critics publicly, or to take legal action against any of them for libel?  The standard Theosophical answer, of course, is that the allegations were totally untrue, and that Leadbeater refused to take action against his enemies because he was far too spiritual for such things.


--- 900 ---

          First, the allegations.  Initially, Leadbeater was accused of teaching masturbation to adolescent boys, though this was quickly extended to include teaching masturbation

to pre-pubescent boys, and to giving some form of "indicative action", though the precise meaning of that euphemistic phrase was never explained.  In later years he was further accused of committing sodomy with his pupils, and of engaging in mutual masturbation with them.  Some of the allegations he admitted.  In the 1906 "trial" he admitted that he had taught (as opposed to condoning) masturbation.  He also admitted that this might have occurred with pre-pubescent boys, and boys who had not actually sought his advice on sexual matters.  Further, it might also have involved "indicative action", including touch.   This seems to have so shocked the Committee that far from endeavouring to clarify what was meant, they promptly changed the subject.

          Leadbeater later claimed that much of the evidence against him in the transcript of the 1906 hearing had been "fabricated" or was the result of transcription errors, but failed to clarify these claims.  However, in the custody case over Krishnamurti in Madras in 1913, Leadbeater again admitted that he taught boys masturbation;  the precise meaning of the word "taught" was never fully explored.  He denied touching the boys, but in answer to one question talked about a case in which he had done so.  He declared


--- 901 ---

that he gave specific sexual advice to boys on the basis of the thought forms he could nee hovering about them, indicating their aroused sexual and emotional disturbances.

          Claims that he had initiated sexual activities were specifically made by two of his pupils in the USA in relation to the 1906 "troubles'", when it was claimed that he had indulged in mutual masturbation, claiming that this would promote physical vigour, manliness and occult development.  Hubert van Hook also alleged, in later years, that Leadbeater had "engaged in sexual relations" with him.  Douglas Petit, in a statement elicited by Mrs Tingley (of the rival TS in the USA) and presented as evidence in the Krishnamurti custody case, declared that he and Leadbeater habitually slept together, that Leadbeater had explained to him the practice of masturbation, and urged him to engage in it.  This, Pettit claimed Leadbeater taught him, would not only help him to overcome any desire for intercourse with women, but also carried the recommendation of his "Master and Teacher" for that reason.  Leadbeater also urged him, claimed Petit, "not to speak of the matter to anyone".  Petit declared that "This reciprocal practice continued for the greater part of seven months" [italics added], and that his health was broken as a result. [57]  Other students and colleagues, including Dick Balfour-Clarke, reported that Leadbeater habitually slept with a pupil in his bed, and


--- 902 ---

usually had one share his bath. [58]

          But, apart from these boys, and one other in Australia, none of his pupils ever offered any public evidence for sexual relations with their teacher.  Mrs Besant stated that for an Initiate "sex was not possible", and his pupils all stressed that Leadbeater placed great emphasis on sexual purity.   There were, however, some actions of his which led the suspicious to wonder.  His habit of sleeping naked with young male pupils, and of sharing his bath with them led to speculation on his motives.  His insistence on mutual (for him and his boys) and wholly nude bathing at The Manor did likewise.  He was given an enema every morning by one or other of the naked boys, in the presence of the others who carried on bathing.  [59]  Dick Balfour-Clarke recalled that this gave rise to "misinterpretations".

          There was a strange relationship between Leadbeater and his close pupils, which seemed to many to have unhealthy implications.  In his article, "A Modern Socrates", A.J. Hamerster recalled that the pupil-teacher relationship often employed "spiritual induction" whereby the pupils not only receive something from their teacher, but also give "something from their vital energy whereby the ancient Teacher was enabled to recuperate some of his failing strength".  In his own copy of this article, bound in


--- 903 ---

with his Collected Articles in the TS Library at Adyar, Hamerster has noted, in handwriting:

          "Often was this phenomena observed by me in C.W. Leadbeater's latter days in Adyar and many times have I heard from the lips of his young disciples how they actually felt their strength being drained from them." [60]

          This practice had a long religious and occult tradition.  It was known as shunamism (or shunamitism), so-called after the girl who rejuvenated King David in his old age. [61]  The practice, which involved bringing a healthy, active young person into contact with one who needed rejuvenation, was based on the belief that the breath, body heat, physical contact and "vibrations" of the young person can restore the vitality of the aged.  This idea found popularity amongst the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese.  It was not uncommon amongst European nobility and popes.   Francis Bacon wrote;

          "The spirits of young people can restore vitality to an aged body and keep it in good health for a long time.  It has been observed that old men who spend much time in the company of youths live long, for their spirits emerge strengthened from


--- 904 ---

such contacts." [62]

          Most advocates and practitioners of shunamism required young girls for old men, but there were those who preferred boys. [63]

          There were a few amongst Theosophists who acknowledged Leadbeater's sexual teachings and defended them in a way which suggested there was more to the teachings than popularly assumed.  Some suggested that the teachings were already given occultly in Mrs Besant's work, The Pedigree of Man, a complex study of material originally confined to the ES. [64]  Others argued that Leadbeater's sex teachings were a necessary means for humanity to return to the original hermaphroditic state, and yet others said that it was too esoteric a system for anyone other than a disciple of Leadbeater to understand.  The O.E. Library Critic even suggested that Leadbeater's book, The Monad, included a reference to some form of "psychic orgasm". [65]

          Eventually, in research for this work, evidence was found that Leadbeater had taught a sexual technique, other than masturbation as understood in the 1906 enquiry, to a highly select group of his closest pupils.  Details of the teachings were revealed in the written record of a


--- 905 ---

deceased pupil, in the recollections of that pupil's statements about the teachings by one of his widows, and in an interview with one of the few close associates of Leadbeater then still living.   The diaries were those of Oscar Kollerstrom, but access to them was given but briefly, and withdrawn when authorities within the TS discovered that his source had been found. [66]  Both Brigit Kollerstrom, and Jean Kollerstrom, Oscar's second and third wives, gave details of the teachings recalled for them by their late husband. [67]  The close associate, Dick Balfour-Clarke, ascribed the teachings in detail, both to the author and to Rex Henry at Adyar, who transcribed the recollections in detail and had the written statement endorsed as accurate. [68]

          In simple terms, Leadbeater taught that the energy aroused in masturbation can be used as a form of occult power, a great release of energy which can, firstly, elevate the consciousness of the individual to a state of ecstasy, and, secondly, direct a great rush of psychic force towards the Logos for his use in the spiritual development of the world.   Leadbeater declared:  "The closest man can come to a sublime spiritual experience is orgasm". [69]  During masturbation, the mind should gradually be elevated towards the Logos, and, in Leadbeater's words, "as soon as the seed can be felt in the tube", the consciousness should be so


--- 906 ---

exalted that the great release of physical and psychical energy is directed to the Logos or to an image of him.

          This occult knowledge of sex was regarded as too dangerous to give to the average person, or, indeed, to the average pupil.  It was reserved for the specially chosen, who were sworn to secrecy, and told that they were justified in not telling the truth about this highly occult matter.  This "justified dishonesty" was also found in some other occult contexts, as also in some Gnostic traditions, and was even advocated by Clement of Alexandria, the eminent Christian writer who lived at the end of the second century AD.  He taught that "not all true [things] are to be said to all men", and argued that lying was justified in the protection of the "secret Gospel", even lying upon oath. [70]

          Leadbeater's sexual teachings were presented as so secret and sacred a matter that a dual standard of morality - that of the ordinary man, and that of the spiritually evolved occultist - applied.  It was even said that one of the boys told police that he would kill himself rather than give evidence against Leadbeater. [71]  The select pupils, on rare occasions, engaged in a group ritual masturbation which was intended to send out especially powerful emanations. [72]


--- 907 ---

          Once the sexual passions were aroused, Leadbeater taught, they should be properly directed, and not wasted.  Such sexual exercises could lead to the development of

psychic powers and experiences of Nirvana, and the higher worlds.  In the light of this teaching, it is possible to read a passage in his book Clairvoyance in a new way:

          "Let a man choose a certain time every day - a time when he can rely upon being quiet and undisturbed, though preferably in the day time rather than at night - and set himself at this time to keep his mind for a few moments entirely free from all earthly thoughts of any kind whatever and, when that is achieved, to direct the whole force of his being towards the highest spiritual ideal that he happens to know.  He will find that to gain such perfect control of thought is enormously more difficult than he supposes, but when he attains it it cannot but be in every way most beneficial to him, and as he grows more and more able to elevate and concentrate his thought, he may gradually find that new worlds are opening before his sight." [73]

          Does this have an "inner side" which refers to something


--- 908 ---

other than meditation in the intellectual sense?

          Some of Leadbeater's critics within the TS were convinced that he was teaching sexual magic, or tantra, which they automatically equated with black magic.  They chose not to make this claim public for fear of the damage it would do to the movement, but they circulated privately within the TS documents arguing the case.  The two principal exponents of this view were E.L. Gardner, the eminent British Theosophist, and Rex Dutta, an English Theosophist, who presently produces his own Theosophical journal, Viewpoint Aquarius.  The horror with which these two, and those who agreed with them, viewed any suggestion of tantra was based on HPB's teaching that it was practiced only by the most debased, and black, of occultists, the dugpas.  The differences between schools of tantra, and the theory behind them was generally ignored, or misunderstood by the Theosophical critics. [74]  Any form of occultism which involved sexuality, let alone homosexuality, could only be evil.

          E.L. Gardner is best known in TS circles for his works developing theories on the basis of the teachings of The Secret Doctrine. [75]  But, in addition to his public work on the "Leadbeater problem," There is No Religion


--- 909 ---

Higher Than Truth (1963) he was also the author of two studies of Leadbeater, headed "Private", and circulated amongst those within the TS whom he believed he could trust.   These were The Liberal Catholic Church and the Theosophical Society (April, 1966) and The Rev. C.W. Leadbeater Problem (September, 1966).  He further expounded his theories in a lengthy correspondence with the editor of HPB's Collected Writings, Boris de Zirkoff. [76]

          This correspondence extended from 1964 to 1966.  It began with a letter dealing with There is No Religion Higher Than Truth, which Gardner said was receiving favourable reactions within the TS;  he even claimed that the then Presiding Bishop of the LCC (Sir Hugh Sykes of England)

          "told me a month ago that he accepted the booklet throughout! - But the L.C.C. was in existence and he thought it was 'doing good work'". [77]

          Gardner hinted at "certain teachings by CWL (himself clean but ignorant)" which had produced "disastrous effects", and sought de Zirkoff's advice as to whether "H.P.B. [gives] in any published or private papers any further information about the use of the powerful Sex-Force for stimulation of the higher centres".  Gardner concluded:   "The colossal


--- 910 ---

mistake due to CWL's "forced vision" must never occur again!".  In his next letter Gardner noted:

          "When I first knew the whole truth in 1928/30, I was much inclined to think the worst of [Leadbeater].  But the abundant evidence accumulated since, coupled with my personal contacts with him, I am sure [sic] that his 'forced vision' and the confidence it gave him, was the real cause of his errors.   Coupled with that however was the memory of incarnation in GREECE.  It was there that he cultivated the creative force of the male sex given a certain hatha yoga practice." [78]

          In July, 1966, Gardner again wrote to de Zirkoff, saying that he devoted the last six months to research into Leadbeater's "interest in the many boys he contacted".  He had, even in the 1920's, suspected that Leadbeater was undertaking occult experiments with semen, and had been undertaking research into the history of such practices. [79]  Four months later Gardner wrote, enclosing a copy of Jinarajadasa's On The Liberal Catholic Church, which he claimed Jinarajadasa had published in 1925 in an  attempt to bring about the closing down of the LCC, and which had only ever, at that time, been distributed privately to some


--- 911 ---

bishops and priests of the Church. [80]

          Towards the end of 1966, Gardner, having been referred by de Zirkoff to Franz Hartmann's Paracelsus for information on the occult use of semen, replied, and concluded that this represented "the blackest of black magic".  The implication in the letter is that Leadbeater was making occult use of a "special substance" in semen. [81]   A letter of December 8th, 1966, ended the correspondence (presumably with the death or incapacity of Gardner), but added nothing new.

          In his two private studies of Leadbeater, Gardner presents only a veiled version of the material he made available to de Zirkoff.  However, he included some material which, if true, is vital to the story of Leadbeater's involvement in the TS.  Gardener claimed, for example, that Mrs Besant knew "the whole truth" about Leadbeater's psychic vision, and was "about to make the whole truth known to the T.S." when she became "broken physically and mentally".  Gardner also noted that Jinarajadasa only published the letters in On The Liberal Catholic Church - which he had received as Leadbeater's executor in 1934 - in 1953 when he knew he was dying.  Even then it had a strictly limited circulation. [82]


--- 912

          In his other study, Gardner quotes a woman who had been "a devoted admirer of CWL" whom he questioned when she returned, "distressed and almost vehement" from a period in Sydney.  She refused to tell Gardner anything beyond the comments:  "Leadbeater's a beast", and "He makes them drink it". [83]  Gardner cited material on traditions associated with the magical use of semen, including a quotation from HPB in which she referred to Aristotle and others teaching of "a special substance contained within the pneuma, itself contained within the semen of man". [84]  Gardner concluded:

          "CWL's 'discovery' of the potency of the 'semen of man' he shared, at least. with one (FWP) [presumably, Frank Waters Pigott] --- and thereby others. However well meaning CWL's intentions his errors of judgment led to catastrophic results in the Theosophical Society." [85]

          Gardner took care to see that his private theories about the origin and nature of Leadbeater's clairvoyance were not widely known.  After his death his papers passed into the possession of another English Theosophist, Rex Dutta, the editor of a curious Theosophical journal, Viewpoint Aquarius, which combines Blavatskian


--- 913 ---

Theosophy with information about (and allegedly from) flying saucers, and other miscellaneous occult material.

          In the July/August, 1982, issue of Viewpoint Aquarius, Dutta reviewed the author's The Elder Brother. A Biography of C.W. Leadbeater, [86]  Dutta began a consideration of Leadbeater's claims to clairvoyance by reviewing the theory presented in There is No Religious Higher Than Truth, and HPB's teachings about kriyashakti.  However, he claimed that the "external stimulus" to Leadbeater's clairvoyance was "Semen from young boys", and he claimed:

          "He wanted the semen;  to stimulate his dense-grade clairvoyance.  He drank semen 'holy water'". [87]

          Dutta concluded:

          "Mr Tillett (pages 283-5) when he guesses at Tantrika Sexual Black Magic, doesn't realize the half of it.  Small wonder that HPB called [Leadbeater] WC." [88]

          Leadbeater's sexual teachings link him with two


--- 914 ---

movements which developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  The first appears in aesthetic and religious circles, and focused on the glorification of a spiritual relationship, with sexual implications if not sexual involvement, between a Teacher and a Pupil.  Timothy d'Arch Smith, in his study of "Uranian" poets, began by noting:

          " ...between the eighteen nineties and the nineteen thirties a boy was a very quiet, self-effacing and unobtrusive creature indeed.  The Uranians' adoration of such a person was not therefore immediately suspect as it is in modern society where the state is intolerant of any intrusion into her prerogative of wet-nurse or where certain Sunday newspapers are as thoughtlessly swift to condemn such relationships as they are immorally prompt to arouse their young readers' erotic ardour with pictures of near nude females, and it is probably that the Uranians' love of boys gave genuine help and affection where no official organization or counsel existed outside the home or school." [89]

          The term "Uranian" was coined, he notes, by those who advocated "boy love" in the period to which he refers,


--- 915 ---

and included such literary figures as Oscar Wilde, Edward Carpenter, John Addington Symonds, William Johnson Cory and Ralph Nicholas Chubb.  Of the last named, it was said that he endeavoured "to raise paederasty to a form of religious devotion". [90]  Amongst the religious figures d'Arch Smith included Fr Ignatius of Llanthony, George Reader, Frederick Widdows, Frederick Samuel Willoughby (who consecrated Wedgwood) and Leadbeater. [91]  Obviously, Wedgwood and some of his associates should also have been included. [92]

          Many of the Uranians were characterized by a retrospective longing for the days of classical Greece, when the Teacher-Pupil relationship, including a sexual relationship between an older and a younger man, was held to be the pinnacle of culture. [93]  Leadbeater, of course, made frequent references to his own last incarnation in ancient Greece, as the pupil of one of Socrates' disciples.

          The religious component in "boy love" was not, as d'Arch Smith notes, merely a decorative element:

          "This spiritualizing of paederasty absolves [the Uranian] from the guilt which makes him hate society and turn into a recluse.  His is no longer a common human weakness, for he has felt the cleansing fire of divinity." [94]


--- 916 ---

          But Leadbeater's sexual teachings did not only link him with an aesthetic and religious movement;  they also related directly to an occult and magical tradition which employed sexual activities to produce "power".  It is commonly believed that the oriental tradition of tantra (or, more accurately, traditions of tantra) represents the only such use of sexuality in religion.  This is not so, and in the West sexuality had been employed in a variety of religious and magical contexts, all agreeing with the principle of tantra summarized by Benjamin Walker as:

          "Sex is a natural activity, but like many other such natural activities has a transcendent and esoteric side which can be utilized in secret ways to reveal to man the hidden truths of the universe.  The sexual act is a means to salvation, and one can obtain mukti (redemption) through bhuti (pleasure).  Copulation brings siddhis (psychic powers] and knowledge of Brahma [god].  In gross sensual pleasure, as expounded in the erotics, we have the lowest and most transient form of this revelation, which in any case cannot be discerned because the participant's mind is clouded with the fumes of passion.  To transcend this carnal state one must gain an understanding


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of the true meaning of sexual activity." [95]

          The magical use of masturbation is known in some traditions of both Eastern and Western occultism.

          "The theory of sexual magic may be summarized:

          "(1) Man possesses hidden powers (often identified with the subconscious mind) which give him greater perception, raise him to states of ecstasy, expand his consciousness, stimulate increased physical, emotional and mental powers;

          "(2) These powers lie 'buried' beneath some 'barrier' which conscious control cannot penetrate, but which can be overcome by a variety of techniques, including to some extent drugs and alcohol;

          "(3) This 'barrier' can be penetrated through heightening the physical, emotional and intellectual focus of the body by sexual stimulation, leading to a 'break through' at the point of orgasm, at which energy is released." [96]

          Techniques employed in sexual magic may be heterosexual, homosexual or autosexual.


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          In the case of autosexual techniques, the aim was usually to heighten the consciousness of the practitioner and focus and stimulate his magical power, culminating in the release of energy at the point of orgasm.  The English artist and magician, Austin Spare (1886-1956) employed a technique of "magical masturbation" as a means of concentrating, releasing and directing magical energy. [97]  Aleister Crowley also employed magical sexual techniques - of every imaginable variety - in his occult work. [98]

          If sexual magic seemed inherently immoral, and was certain to attract strongly hostile reactions, homosexual magic was many times worse and, until recently, inevitably involved criminal acts.  Few magicians were prepared to openly advocate or describe their own practices of such a form of sexual magic;   even Aleister Crowley wrote about it in code. [99]  Most occultists vehemently denounced sexual magic generally, and "unnatural vice" in any form.   Dion Fortune, for example, warned against the problem of homosexual vice in various of her writings.  In her Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage she commented:

          "It is more than tragic that young boys should be foully made use of in black occultism." [100]


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          And in Psychic Self Defence (1930) she warned against the moral dangers in certain occult groups. [101]

          However, one contemporary magician, and probably the best known of all modern writers on sexual magic, Kenneth Grant, took a less critical approach, and implied that Leadbeater used sexual magic to invoke beings from another dimension, or at least was aware of the possibility of such invocation. [102]

          Assuming that Leadbeater was teaching some form of sexual magic, it would be of importance of identify possible sources.  Did he simply invent theories and practices which happened to fit into pre-existing schemes?   Or did he have contact with groups or individuals from whom he learned them?  Leadbeater claimed at the 1906 "trial" to have learned the principle of systematic masturbation as a means of overcoming moral lapses in an Anglican organization but, having made this startling statement, refused to give any further information about the matter.

          The only Anglican organisations to which he is known to have belonged seem to be most unlikely sources.  It is possible that, through his link with the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, a controversial (at the time) body which attracted many eccentrics of the ritualistic variety,


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he came into contact with some (probably informal) group of Anglican "boy lovers".  Certainly, the Confraternity was alleged to have immoral associations as far as its critics were concerned, the ideal of celibate clergy leading to general assumptions of sexual immorality, usually with women, but also with boys." [103]

          In many Anglo-Catholic circles (then and now) there has been a strong homoerotic element. [104]  This has often led to the development of theories explaining and spiritualizing homosexuality.  Frank Pigott, originally an Anglo-Catholic clergyman prior to becoming a Theosophist and (later) a Liberal Catholic Bishop, wrote, in a review of Oscar Wilde's De Profundis:

          "Even that little-understood 'offence' amongst people of refinement, where it mostly flourishes, has its purpose in the ordering of things and has a useful and necessary part to play in the working of human evolution... Some of the finest flowers of the human race have been of that way;  it is absurd to speak of such as criminals or even as moral perverts or pathological cases." [105]

          However, the subject of homosexuality in Christianity has been sufficiently taboo that even in modern times very


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little has been written about it in other than theological terms.  If Leadbeater was associated with some sort of "Uranian" group within the Church of England, it seems that no trace of it remains.

          However, if Leadbeater's sexual teachings cannot be traced directly to a religious organization, it may be possible to trace them to two sources of influence:  oriental tantra, to which Leadbeater was exposed in India, and (directly in later years, but perhaps indirectly in earlier) to an occult organziation specifically concerned with sexual magic.  This was the Ordo Templi Orientis (the Order of Oriental Templars, generally known as the OTO).  The OTO was established around 1895 by Karl Kellner, a wealthy German iron-master, who claimed to have journeyed through India and the Middle East, and to have received secret occult teachings from Arab and Hindu teachers.  The original members of the OTO were also Freemasons, and in 1902 the Order received a Masonic authority to work the degrees known as the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, the Ancient Primitive Rite of Memphis and the Egyptian Rite of Misraim, from an eccentric British Mason, John Yarker.  The OTO appears to have been dormant until around 1904 when, under the leadership of Kellner, together with Heinrich Klein and Franz Hartmann, the Theosophist, it was activated. [106]


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          The Grand Lodge was formally constituted on January 22nd, 1906, and national grand lodges were subsequently established for Germany (including Germany, Austria and Switzerland), and later for France (1908), the Slavonic Countries (1912) and Great Britain (1912).  Among the eminent figures who were at various times members of the OTO were the French occultist, Gerard Encausse ("Papus"), the Austrian occultist, Rudolf Steiner, and the English magician, Dr R.W. Felkin.  Following the death of the first Outer Head (as the leaders were called), Kellner, in 1905, Theodor Reuss had became the second Outer Head, and during his time in office the Order expanded.  In 1911 Reuss admitted the controversial English occultist, Aleister Crowley, to membership of the OTO, and in 1912 appointed him head of the Order for Great Britain.  Following the death of Reuss in 1924, Crowley assumed the office of Outer Head of the OTO, although not with the approval of all its lodges or members, and the OTO subsequently fragmented and, to a large degree, dissolved.

          The OTO was divided into nine grades or degrees, with a purely administrative tenth degree.  These generally followed a semi-Masonic model.  The first six grades were conferred ritually, the first three being similar to the first three degrees of Masonry.  The next three were based on interpretations of Masonic symbolism.  The seventh, eighth


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and ninth degrees concerned Sexual magic, but were conferred without ritual, the initiates simply being given written instructions.  The eighth degree taught an autosexual technique - called by one commentator on the degree "magical masturbation" [107] - and the ninth heterosexual magic based on the traditions of Bengali tantra.

          The teachings of the OTO were kept highly secret, and, given the small number of members, received a limited circulation.  But the sexual teachings were also writtenlargely in a form of code which would not have made a great deal of sense to the uninitiated - for example, in some writings, the penis was called "the athanor", and semen "the Serpent" or "the blood of the red lion".

          Although it is possible to see similarities between the teachings of the OTO and Leadbeater, there is no evidence that, in his early Theosophical days, he was a member of the Order, or had even heard of it.  There is, however, evidence that, following the visit to Sydney of James Wedgwood in 1915, Leadbeater may have become a member of the OTO.  The probable link between Leadbeater and the OTO is the mysterious figure of Vyvyan Hereword Rowden Deacon, a descendant of the poet, Robert Browning. [108]

          Born in 1895 in England, Deacon migrated to


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Australia with his mother at the age of fourteen, and became interested in spiritualism.  He quickly developed a reputation as a clairvoyant, medium and healer.  He established a number of spiritualist and occult organizations in Sydney and Melbourne - including the Christian Mystics of the Rose Cross, the Order of the Golden Girdle, and the Church Universal - and drew around him a number of literary and artistic figures.  Norman Lindsay, for example, was a close friend, who made use of Deacon's mediumistic gifts. [109]

          Deacon's public activities were associated with spiritualism;  he led small churches, lectured, and organized the lecture tour of Australia and New Zealand by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1920-2.  In 1929 Deacon sued the Melbourne Truth for libel after it claimed he was fraudulent in his mediumship.  The newspaper was represented by a then rising star of the legal profession, Robert Menzies, but Deacon won, and was awarded a (for the time) record sum of damages.  In 1930, he returned to England.

          Privately, Deacon had a great interest in a range of unorthodox occult activities.   He had become a member of the OTO at a young age, and established lodges of the Order in Australia, in addition to experimenting with the use of psychogenic drugs for consciousness expansion.


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          Deacon had, according to his diaries, a close association with Leadbeater.  Deacon's daughter has commented:

          "In 1914 my father was trained by Bishop Leadbeater in Theosophical and Rosicrucian practices.  Leadbeater's books and Rudolf Steiner's books on Rosicrucianism and Free-masonry, although published many years after this time, reveal, many of the subjects well known to the poet [Robert Browning] and my father as family tradition." [110]

          Deacon was associated with a number of Leadbeater's activities, being a member of the TS and the ES, and attending meetings of the Order of the Star.  When the Old Catholic (later Liberal Catholic) Church was established, Vyvyan and his young wife, Eunice, were both baptized.  The ceremony took place on June 10th, 1916, and was performed by Gustav Kollerstrom;  afterwards they were both confirmed by James Wedgwood. [111]

          Wedgwood, greatly interested in the fringes of Masonry, was a close friend of John Yarker, from who the founders of the OTO received a charter in 1902.  Wedgwood


--- 926 ---

himself was admitted to the OTO in 1912 by its Outer Head, Theodor Reuss, at Yarker's request, and was attached as an honorary member to the Holy Grail Lodge in Munich. [112]  After Yarker's death in March, 1913, his widow was supported by a small pension granted to her by the Co-Masonic Order, of which Wedgwood was Grand Secretary.  While it cannot be proved beyond doubt, it seems likely, given that the evidence for the more clearly magical teachings about sex come from the post-1915 period, that Leadbeater was initiated into the OTO, probably by Wedgwood (who initiated him into Co-Masonry, and brought him into the Old Catholic Church), perhaps with some involvement by Vyvyan Deacon.

          In a "Private Supplement" to his vigorous attack on Mrs Besant and Leadbeater, Neo-Theosophy Exposed, F.T. Brooks offered some interesting theories as to the origin and significance of Leadbeater's sexual teachings.  He recalled that, whilst staying with Leadbeater in 1900, Leadbeater gave him to read some "dangerously suggestive stories by an author called Machen" and "certain papers of the Oneida Community". [113]  Of the former, Brooks recalled that the image of the "Great-God Pan", "an impersonation of sexless erethism" suggested to him "sensual psychic intoxication of an uncanny sort - commerce with some secret power of erethism (quite apart from Eros) in nature."  Brooks suggested that Leadbeater may have been referring to


--- 927 ---

"the fire of sensation" when he spoke of the "it" that "needs rubbing more often" in Leadbeater's notorious Cypher Letter.  With regard to the Oneida papers, Brooks recalled the important distinction they drew between sexuality for procreation and "amative sensuality, or erethism", "between controlled amative enjoyment and deliberate seed-projection".   Leadbeater, according to Brooks, was developing some sort of "God-Pan-Cult" on the basis of the works of Machen and the theories of the Oneida Community.

          Arthur Machen (Arthur Llewellyn Jones)(1863-1947) was, for a year or two, a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which had links with the TS.  Machen was especially interested in witchcraft and alchemy, and in the means whereby the mind could go beyond the limitations of the ordinary world.   He equated evil with "a transcendent effort to surpass the ordinary bounds" [114], and personally pursued a path, possibly involving the use of mescaline, of consciousness expansion.   Colquhoun suggests this may also have involved some "psycho-sexual technique", and argues that Machen was a member of a Golden Dawn-associated western tantra group. [115]  While it seems likely that Leadbeater would have enjoyed Machen's novels, since they contained the mixture of mystery, imagination, horror and the occult to which he was especially attracted in literature, there is no evidence that he based any of his teachings on them.


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          The Oneida Community was a utopian community in New York State from around 1848 to 1881;  it was notable for practicing both economic and sexual communism.  The founder, John Humphrey Noyes (1811-1886), who declared that he was free from sin, developed a complex religio-socio-economic system which found practical expression in the community at Oneida Reserve.  Noyes also developed a complex theory of sexuality, arguing that celibacy was unhealthy, and an affront to God.  But, unlike Leadbeater, Noyes believed that ejaculation was debilitating and to be avoided.  Discharge of semen should be avoided, even in sexual intercourse, by proper exercise of will. [116]  On the basis of Noyes' teachings, it seems unlikely to Leadbeater was influenced by him.

          The final solution to the mysteries of the life of Charles Webster Leadbeater awaits a clairvoyant who can penetrate the veil cast over his biography.  He created for himself and for others an inner world, the reality of which he didn't, and they don't, question.  The world he saw and described with such detail and appearance of scientific precision is the reality for them.  However other psychics may have seen through a glass darkly, he and probably he alone, he said, beheld face to face, protected from error and distortion.  Leadbeater was a myth-maker, not in the


--- 929 ---

popular sense of myth as the opposite of truth but in the anthropological sense of myth as a symbolic representation of the inner reality, meaning-giving and identity-providing.

          Leadbeater's vision-world was so much derived from his personality, his culture, his rigid and unvarying view of the cosmos, that, given a knowledge of his own life, one cannot argue for its objectivity, however much he or his disciples may rationalize and explain it.  This is not to say he was either a deliberate liar, as some have claimed, or an unconscious fraud, as yet others argue.  Rather, he was a visionary as others have been visionaries before him.  He explored the innermost reaches of consciousness as best he could, bringing back from his explorations visions as he believed he had seen them and interpreted them.  In this, he was like Emmanuel Swedenborg with whom he deserves comparison.

          The author of a psychological study of Swedenborg began his work with this question:

          "Is it possible for a man to discover too much, so much that others will be puzzled by his works, put them aside, and suspect he is mad?  yes, it is possible;  though perhaps very rare." [117]


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          And he described his study as "an account of a man who journeyed too far and found too much", in exploring "all the worlds beyond this one [which] are mirrored in the mind".  The same might be said of Leadbeater.  Both Leadbeater and Swedenborg went beyond fantasy and imaginative fiction into a dimension in which their individual realities assumed objectivity for others. [118]  Thus it became a myth, an integrated cosmic picture, providing meaning and identity for those who accept it, and becoming for them the reality transcending questions of history or science or "fact".

          Unlike Swedenborg, Leadbeater became something of a myth-maker in the anthropological sense, even something of a "trickster".  An anthropological study of the man and his work would bring out elements comparable to eccentric religious figures in other cultures, figures who break the normal boundaries of morality and truth in the pursuit of a higher reality.  It is the sort of character Meyrink described in his novel Meister Leonhard (1926):

          "[Dr Schrepfer] ate fire, swallowed swords, turned water into wine, thrust daggers through his cheek and tongue without drawing blood, healed possessed people, charmed away injuries, invoked spirits, bewitched men and cattle.  Daily Leohard realised that the man was a fraud who could neither read


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nor write yet performed wonders... Everything the trickster said and did had a double aspect:  he cheated men and at the same time helped them;  he lied and his speech concealed the highest truth;  he spoke the truth and the lie sneered forth.  He fantasized carelessly and his words came true." [119]

          Leadbeater's visionary picture of man in the universe presented an integrated and harmonious system, a kingdom of the inner consciousness, almost a spiritualizing of the fiction of mystery and romance he so much enjoyed.  His synthesis of vision, knowledge and his own personality created - albeit unconsciously - a vivid theosophy-theology.  His inflexible Victorian character could not allow him to appreciate its subjective origins.

          In the boredom of a quiet country parish, in a religion possessed of little occultism, he discovered the exotic, exciting realms of spiritualism and Theosophy.  From the "mysterious beginnings" of his childhood to exploration on the astral plane, from Brazil with its boyhood adventures to Shamballa and the Occult Hierarchy, the vivid image-making power of his mind merged vision with imagination, perception with pre-conception, to create a myth that survived when he journeyed from this world into that myth.

 


Table of Contents

Previous Chapter

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

Appendices:
Intro