Members of the Order of the Round Table gathering at The Amphitheatre (Balmoral, Sydney) in the 1920s.
Members of the Order of the Round Table gathering at The Amphitheatre (Balmoral, Sydney) in the 1920s.
Leadbeater with Oscar Kollerstrom and Tom Martyn
Leadbeater with Tom Martyn and Pym Heyting
Tom Martyn, Pym Heyting (back), Walter Hassel, Oscar Kollerstrom, Hugh Noall (front)
Annie Besant, born 1847, and C.W. Leadbeater, born
In the wake of the catastrophic dissolution of the Order of the Star by Krishnamurti on 3 August 1929; his abandonment (however valiantly attempts might have been made to interpret it as otherwise) of the role, or potential role, of World Teacher; his repudiation of the organizations with which he had been associated, of Masters, gurus, rites and ceremonies, occult authorities past or present, religions, sects, “new cages, new decorations for those cages” (however valiantly attempts might have been made to interpret it as otherwise); attempts were made, and indeed had to be made, to explain what had happened between the glorious promise of 1909 and the devastating loss of 1929.
Leadbeater himself declared (inevitably privately): “The Coming has gone wrong.” [Adrian G. Vreede, “An Attack on Bishop Leadbeater” The Liberal Catholic 34.7 February 1964: 150]
The possible outcomes of the anticipated Coming would seem to be:
(i) Krishnamurti was never going to be/be “occupied” by the World Teacher;
(ii) Krishnamurti was occasionally the World Teacher/“occupied” by the World Teacher;
(iii) Krishnamurti was/was “occupied” by the World Teacher permanently.
A variety of explanations were offered, relatively few of them publicly, not all of them consistently, and not all of them separately. The same people offered different, or at least variant, explanations at different times and in different circumstances. There was, of course, no formal, official explanation.
The following is not a final “winning list” of explanations offered, nor is it a definitive list of “who said what”. Suggestions for additional explanations will be very much welcomed! It is interesting that there does appear to have been any serious (let alone scholarly) study of this question.
The only serious attempt to examine The Coming and its apparent failure is Govert C. Schuller Krishnamurti and the World Teacher Project: Some Theosophical Perceptions Theosophical History, Occasional Papers, Volume V, 1997. Schuller suggests that four possible explanations are possible:
1) The project was perceived as genuine and successful;
2) The project was perceived as genuine, but failed;
3) The project was perceived as not genuine and failed (of course); and
4) The project was perceived as not genuine, but succeeded!
His text is available on-line at: http://www.alpheus.org/html/articles/thopv/index.html The foreword by Professor James Santucci is an important and value introduction to the question, and is available on-line at: http://www.alpheus.org/html/articles/thopv/kandwti.html
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 with his Collected Articles in the Theosophical Society 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. [Notation on a copy of an article from The Theosophist, February, 1937: 403-414 in A.J. Hamerster Collected Articles, 6 volumes, in the Adyar Library]
Shunamism, whether by that or other names, had a long religious and occult tradition. It was known as shunamism (or shunamitism), so-called after the girl, Abishag the Shunammite, who rejuvenated King David in his old age. For an account of the practice, see: Benjamin Walker Encyclopedia of Metaphysical Medicine Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1978:260-262.
When King David was very old, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. 2 So his attendants said to him, “Let us look for a young virgin to serve the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.” 3 Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful young woman and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4 The woman was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no sexual relations with her. [I Kings 1:1-4]
“Bathsheba, Solomon, Nathan, and Abishag tend to aging David”, c. 1435. Illuminated manuscript, MMW 10 A 19, folio 33r, National Library of the Netherlands, The Hague.
The writer of the Book of Kings is at pains to tell us that David did not, so to speak, ‘have sexual relations with that woman’: she ‘cherished the king, and ministered to him: but the king knew her not.’ Abishag’s job was to keep the old man warm and moist, which the mere nearness of her youthful breath might do. She lay in his bosom to extend not his member but his life. Into modern times, doctors prescribed ‘Shunamitism’ for just that purpose. In the 17th century, Francis Bacon approved King David’s practice, suggesting, however, that puppies might serve as well as young virgins. A bit later, the English physician Thomas Sydenham recommended Shunamitism to his patients, as did the Dutch medical professor Hermann Boerhaave and the German Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland in the 18th century. James Copeland, an English medical authority who was quoted as late as the 20th century on ‘the transference of vital power’, warned that young women married to old men suffered debilitation and shortened longevity: ‘These facts are often well known to the aged themselves, who consider the indulgence favourable to longevity, and thereby often illustrate the selfishness which in some persons increases with their years.’ Oddly, there do not seem to be any records of the medically supervised rejuvenescence of old women by the breath of boys in bed.
Steven Shapin “Abishag’s Revenge”, a review of David Boyd Haycock’s Mortal Coil: A Short History of Living Yale University Press, 2008 in London Review of Books, Vol. 31 No. 6 · 26 March 2009: 29.
“David and Abishag” (1879) by Pedro Américo (1843-1905)
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 such contacts. [quoted in Benjamin Walker Encyclopedia of Metaphysical Medicine Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1978:261]
Both Thomas Sydenham (17th century) and Herman Boerhaave (18th century), early physicians, prescribed shunamism for their patients. The practice was particularly popular in the 18th century as a “rejuvenation” technique. In France in the 18th century, one “hostess” named Madame Janus owned a house with fifty virgins who catered to rich old men without any sexual contact.
Some, critical of the technique, have described it as “psychic vampirism”.
Most advocates and practitioners of shunamism required young girls for old men, but there were those who preferred boys.
Leadbeater’s habit of sleeping naked with young male pupils, and of sharing his bath with them led to speculation on his motives, even both those who attributed no immoral purpose to his practices. 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. Dick Balfour-Clarke recalled that this could have given rise to “misinterpretations”.
Whether Shunamism has the desired effect in reality is less important than whether it was believed by its practitioners to have that effect. Did Leadbeater seek to be “revitalized” by the boys with whom he associated?
When did the Masters cease communicating?
The foundation years of the Theosophical Society were characterised by communications from the Masters, and both Besant and Leadbeater made frequent claims to receiving messages and directions from the Masters. Similar claims were made by Arundale and Jinarajadasa.
When did Mahatmic communications cease? And, one might wonder, why?
I have found no references to communications from the Masters in the ES documents issued by Taimni. Some ER documents issued by Sri Ram imply, but do not explicitly claim, Mahatmic directions. Were there claims of communications from the Masters under their successors?
And if, as was previously claimed, the OH of the ES is the representative of the IH of the ES (a Master), how is authority for appointment to be such a representative established? Can one person claim to be the representative of another without the means of communication with the principal?
At the end of 1921, and at the suggestion of Madame de Manziarly, the Russian widow of a Frenchman and a close friend of Krishnamurti, it was decided to set aside February 17th each year in thanksgiving for three heroes of Theosophy: Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) (an Italian Dominican friar and philosopher who was burnt as a heretic on that day in 1600, and who reincarnated as Mrs Besant), Henry Steel Olcott (who died on that day in 1907) and Charles Webster Leadbeater (who said he had been born on that day in 1847).
A small booklet was produced describing the celebration of what was to be called “Adyar Day”, and containing statements in praise of the three heroes. It included a brief biography of Leadbeater, which declared the story “Saved by a Ghost” to be true, and referred to his career at Oxford. This account was reproduced from The Theosophist for November, 1911.
See: The Theosophist, February, 1922:533-534, and Adyar Day. 17th February Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1934
Then how did Olcott Day become Adyar Day? According to an article in the Theosophical Messenger of 1928, the process began with Fritz Kunz, husband of past president Dora Kunz. Fritz returned to the United States after an extended stay in India and realized that “there were very few appeals before us in this country. . . . Adyar is the Mother of us all, and her claims come first.” So he conceived of the Adyar Fund in 1922 and formed the Adyar committee to raise funds for Adyar and to help with the construction of the buildings. The first unofficial Adyar Day was celebrated February 17, 1923, in the United States, with members here raising money to send overseas. That date was chosen because it was not only the day Olcott passed away, but also the day Giordano Bruno, a student of Pythagoras was burned at the stake and the day Charles W. Leadbeater was born. Annie Besant, however, declared February 17 Adyar Day after a suggestion in 1925 from a Frenchwoman named Madame de Manziarly. In February 1926, to commemorate the first official Adyar Day, a pamphlet about Adyar was published with beautiful black and white photos of the estate.
Ananya S. Rajan “The History of Adyar Day” Quest 93.1 (January-February 2005): 32 – available on-line at: https://www.theosophical.org/publications/1248
In recent years, the official version of Adyar Day seems to have changed in some places:
17 February – Adyar Day. Passing of Col. Henry S. Olcott (1842-1907) and J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986). Col. Olcott was the President-Founder of the TS from 1875 to 1907 and author of Old Diary Leaves, his record of the early history of the Society. Krishnamurti was a religious philosopher who questioned belief, knowledge and human conditioning and is the author of First and Last Freedom, The Awakening of Intelligence and Freedom from the Known.
The Friends of Theosophical Archives (FOTA) is an organisation being formed to promote knowledge of, and support for, the Theosophical archives across the world: http://hypatia.gr/fota/index.php
FOTA publishes an excellent newsletter: http://hypatia.gr/fota/index.php/newsletter
The Facebook site is both very interesting and provides valuable information, as well as facilitating discussion: https://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheosophicalarchives
In an interesting paper, “Tibetan Master or Christian Priest? Uncovering the Real Inspiration Behind the Alice Bailey Books”, the unnamed author implies, but does not actually state, that the inspiration behind the writings of Alice Bailey was not the Tibetan Master, D.K., but, in fact, Leadbeater. The author does not suggest any direct communication between Bailey and Leadbeater – and, indeed, there is no evidence to suggest any – but rather than Bailey’s work was based essentially on Leadbeater’s writings.
Text available on-line at: https://blavatskytheosophy.com/tibetan-master-or-christian-priest/
Just like the later books that were to be published by Bailey (who, not insignificantly, had previously been an evangelical Christian missionary), the dominant and central theme was the impending reappearance on the world scene of the “Lord Christ.” The concept and proclamation that the so-called “Lord Christ-Maitreya” is the “World Teacher” for humanity and is preparing for his “return” or “reappearance” on the world scene, is a Leadbeater invention. He originated this teaching in 1909. Bailey’s initial exposure to Theosophy was to the Adyar version of Theosophy, based almost exclusively on the self-proclaimed discoveries and revelations of Leadbeater.
She somehow chose to turn a blind eye to the many sexual scandals and complaints and accusations of paedophilia that always followed Leadbeater throughout much of his life and Theosophical career (he had been forced out of the Society in shame and disgrace in 1906 after admitting under oath at a “theosophical trial” to having been sexually intimate with young boys in his care but was later invited back and readmitted by Annie Besant, much to the disgust of many other Theosophists) and accepted most of his teachings and statements as genuine and important. She incorporated them into her own work and teachings, so that almost everything in the Bailey books – at least all the foundational material, concepts, definitions and use of terminology – is derived from the writings of C.W. Leadbeater and most definitely not from HPB, of whose teachings Leadbeater’s were the very antithesis….
there are those amongst the Bailey supporters who are bold enough to say, “AAB taught these things first. If there was any copying or borrowing of teachings, it was CWL who did the borrowing from her.”
When shown that the exact reverse of this is the case and that all the defining features of the Bailey teachings appeared in print in Leadbeater’s own books years before Bailey began to write hers and even in some cases years before she had even heard of Theosophy or joined the Theosophical Society, they then typically say something to the effect of, “Well, both AAB and CWL were working closely with D.K. so no wonder there are lots of similarities. What does it matter anyway, seeing as they’re the Masters’ Teachings?”…
When Leadbeater along with James Wedgwood effectively appointed themselves as “Bishop” Leadbeater (later humbly conferring upon himself the even more grandiose title of “Archbishop”) and “Bishop” Wedgwood and established the Liberal Catholic Church as a so-called “Theosophical” church, Leadbeater’s teachings took on an even more distinctly Christian and Catholic tone, purportedly under the authority of the Masters and of Christ “himself”!
HPB’s assertion in “Isis Unveiled” that apostolic succession is “a gross and palpable fraud” was not satisfactory to the Bishop. “My clairvoyant investigation into those early periods absolutely confirms the contention of the Roman Church,” he wrote. “They know that there has been no break in apostolic succession.” (C.W. Leadbeater, “Science of the Sacraments” p. 286) More than that, the Liberal Catholic Church encouraged confession of sins to its bishops and priests who, according to Leadbeater and Wedgwood, had priestly power to absolve the penitents of the effects of their wrongdoing. So much for the Law of Karma!
To cut a long and tragic story short, it was in the midst of all this madness that Bailey first encountered the “Tibetan,” who she believed to be the same “Master Djwhal Khul” with whom Leadbeater claimed to be personally acquainted. Her “Tibetan” said of Leadbeater that “of his sincerity and of his point of attainment there is no question,” (“D.K.” via Alice Bailey, “Esoteric Psychology” Vol. 2, p. 302-303) which seems rather odd, considering that research and investigation after his death into Leadbeater’s life and work proves him to have been a thoroughly insincere man; a chronic liar, conscious fraud, black magician, and unrepentant sex criminal.
He undoubtedly did have some form of psychic perception and clairvoyance but as this was forced and initially awakened deliberately through auto-erotic sexual magic practices – as shown in the book “The Elder Brother: A Biography of Charles Webster Leadbeater” by Gregory Tillett – it was of a very misleading and delusional type and of a low grade. Either the “Tibetan” was unaware of the real facts, which doesn’t say much for his own “point of attainment,” or had a very twisted view of things in general. The latter is probably the case, as will be seen shortly.
Alice Ann Bailey (1880-1949) was a prolific writer of books on Theosophical subjects. Born in England, she spent some time in India before settling in the USA where she joined the Theosophical Society in 1917 and became editor of its magazine, The Messenger. In 1922, Foster Bailey (1888–1977), who was to become her second husband, became National Secretary of the Theosophical Society. Although her writings were initially received favourably in the Theosophical Society, she as eventually forced out
Bailey claimed that her writings were, essentially, dictated by “The Tibetan”, the Master D.K. She founded The Lucis Trust in 1922 to promote her work.
All the books of Alice A. Bailey can be read online at The Lucis Trust: https://www.lucistrust.org/online_books/welcome_obooks_website
For Bailey, see:
Alice Bailey The Unfinished Autobiography (1951)
Nicholas Weeks “Theosophy’s Shadow. A Critical Look at the Claims and Teachings of Alice A. Bailey” Fohat Summer, 1997. Text available on-line at: http://www.blavatskyarchives.com/baileyal.htm
“Bailey asserted that her teachings are grounded in and do not oppose in any fundamental way Theosophy as lived and taught by HPB and her Gurus. This assertion is false. Her books are rooted in the pseudo-theosophy pioneered by CW Leadbeater. For example, one of CWL’s favorite revelations was the return to earth of “Maitreya” the Christ. Bailey accepted this fantasy.”
Victor Endersby “Alice Bailey and her Christianised Pseudo-Theosophy” (1962) Text available on-line at: https://blavatskytheosophy.com/alice-bailey-and-her-christianised-pseudo-theosophy/
Dion Fortune (Violet Mary Firth) (1890-1946), was a prominent British occultist and writer on esotericism in both fiction and non-fiction works, who established the Fraternity of the Inner Light (1927).
Fortune had joined the Christian Mystic Lodge of the Theosophical Society, which was run by Daisy M. Grove, on the basis, she claimed, of contacts with the Masters, and became its president. She subsequently later resigned from the Theosophical Society over the influence of Leadbeater, and for a time was associated with the “Back to Blavatsky” movement.
In the wake of the sexual allegations involving Leadbeater (1906) and, more significantly Wedgwood and the Liberal Catholic Church (early 1920s), Fortune alleged that there was a conspiracy of male occultists who used “homosexual techniques” to build up what she called “dark astral power”. She did not identify the male occultists, but her writings on the subject suggest that she was referring to Leadbeater and Wedgwood. See Chapter XII “The Left-hand Path” (pp.117-124) and Chapter XIII “Occultism and Immorality” (pp.125-132) of Dion Fortune Sane Occultism The Aquarian Pres, London, 1967.
For Dion Fortune, see:
Gareth Knight Dion Fortune and the Inner Light Loughborough: Thoth Publications, 2000.
Alan Richardson Priestess: The Life and Magic of Dion Fortune Loughborough, 2007
John Selby Dion Fortune and her Inner Plane Contacts: Intermediaries in the Western Esoteric Tradition Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Theology, University of Exeter, 2008. Text available on-line via: https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10036/41936