The OH and The Manor

The Manor Foundation Ltd is a registered charity (Charity ABN 84000099356) and therefore details about it are publicly available from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. See:

The Articles of Association of The Manor Foundation Ltd make repeated reference to “the Outer Head” and Clause 26 states: “The Outer Head for the time being of the Esoteric School of Theosophy shall be the Chairman of Directors and each such Outer Head shall hold office for life or until he resigns or ceases to be Outer Head and Articles 23 and 24 and clause (f) of Article 30 shall not apply to him.”

Details of the “Responsible Persons” of the Foundation are published and show that the current Chairman (or as the document now states, Chairperson) is Linda Oliveira – who must, therefore be the OH of the ES. A rather circuitous way of obtaining this information but, presumably, legally definitive.

Court action by the Foundation in 1983 to preserve its charitable status involved evidence being given about the inner activities of The Manor at that time:

Members of the Manor were and are required to respect the Manor as a Spiritual Centre and to dedicate themselves to the ideals of the School. Those who were engaged in occupations outside the Manor or the Society itself were and are required to protect the Spiritual Centre from exterior influences and disturbances, although it was and is regarded as important that members of the Community at the Manor should be in touch with the `outside world’ and be able to spread the knowledge gained by them as members of the Society. In addition to the general admonition to the Community of residents at the Manor to devote their lives to the ideals of the School and of the Society, there was also a number of specific spiritual and educational disciplines to which they were expected to subject themselves. These involved attendance at a service of the Holy Eucharist which was a religious ceremony of the Liberal Catholic Church, somewhat similar to a communion service in the Anglican Church. This was held in the Manor Chapel each morning. There was also held each morning in the temple a short service of the Egyptian rite, which is the Theosophical ceremony of invocation and dedication referred to in para. 22 of the said affidavit of Jack Gibson Patterson. A solemn benediction service, also a service of the Liberal Catholic Church, took place every Monday night in the Chapel. Also on Monday nights a further Egyptian rite service was held in the Temple. This is the service referred to in para. 21 of the said affidavit of Jack Gibson Patterson and involved ceremonies exchanges of questions and responses by participants….

In addition to attending the services mentioned in para. 5 hereof, a resident was then and is now expected to engage in personal morning meditation on spiritual subjects, to spend a period in personal study of Theosophical subjects each day and to spend time in preparation for either speaking at or assisting in the local Lodge, a branch of the Society. There were personal meditative periods at noon and in the evening before residents retired. In addition to personal study on Theosophical principles, religious instruction was also given each Monday evening by Dr. Van den Broek, the Head of the Manor and representative of the Outer Head of the School during the year ended 31st October 1969 both for a period prior to the solemn benediction on Monday nights, which period was usually devoted to how Theosophical principles should be applied in daily life and conduct, and during the Egyptian rite service on Monday nights referred to in para. 5 hereof.

The whole decision in this case – The Manor Foundation Ltd. v. Commissioner of Land Tax (N.S.W.)., Supreme Court of New South Wales, 18 October 1983  – makes interesting reading:

The OH of the ES?

Undoubtedly the most important archives relevant to Leadbeater’s later Theosophical career, and to the history of the Theosophical Society in the period, 1909-1934, are those of the Esoteric Section (or Esoteric School) of Theosophy. Although it has been claimed that the ES is a body entirely independent of the TS, this is a manifest untruth.

So how can a researcher – assuming that one can – access the ES Archives? Who has control of them? To whom can enquiries be directed?

Prior to the death of Radha Burnier, the succession of the Outer Heads (OHs) of the ES was well known. Following Burnier’s death, the situation was less clear. Each OH of the ES was supposed to nominate his/her successor. But, it is said, that Burnier failed to do so, and that an OH of the ES had to be chosen by the Council of the ES. Who is that OH? It is said that it was Linda Oliveira, National President of the Theosophical Society in Australia, and wife of the Education Officer of the Theosophical Society in Australia, and former Liberal Catholic Bishop, Pedro Oliveira. There does not appear to have been any public announcement of this appointment. Nor any announcement as to whether this also means that Mrs Oliveira has also inherited the position of Grand Master of the Egyptian Rite.

Allowing for my IT illiteracy, I have been unable to find, after multiple searches on line, anything to identify the current OH of the ES. This is, indeed, peculiar. I can identify, and obtain the websites and e-mail addresses of, the heads of the world’s most secret intelligence organizations: ASIO and ASIS in Australia, the CIA in the USA, and MI5 and MI6 in Great Britain, for example. In a different context, I was even able to undertake historical research using the (albeit limited publicly accessible) archives of ASIO (the Australian Secret Intelligence Organization). But not, apparently, the ES of the TS.

I do not know whether Dr Pablo Sender is a member of, let alone an agent for, the ES of the TS, although he has written on the subject: Nor do I know whether, assuming that he, being a member of or an agent for the ES of the TS, is authorised to answers questions on this subject.

Given that The Manor (the ES centre in Sydney, as The Manor Foundation Ltd) is a body claiming tax exempt status under Australian law  – see, for example:  – it may be that the most appropriate means of obtaining the identity of the OH of the ES is to direct an enquiry to the New South Wales State government authority responsible for bodies claiming tax exempt status, or to the relevant federal Australian government, since the OH of the ES appears to be the authority presiding over The Manor Foundation Ltd.

So: who is currently the OH of the ES? And how can she/he is contacted?

Special Pleading for an Arhat?

The second statement in Dr Pablo Sender’s response to my comments on his “C.W. Leadbeater – A Personal Appreciation” The Theosophist Vol 137 No 10 July, 2016 to which I wish to reply relates to his appeal to “special pleading”. He writes:

Now, regarding the lies about his birthday and background that you mention. The first thing to keep in mind is that, even if they were indeed lies, this would hardly be a feature unique to CWL. H. P. Blavatsky (HPB) also “lied” about her past, and so did other occultists such as Gurdjieff, Castaneda, and many others. Why do they do this? I have no idea. It may be plain deceit (although in this case we should judge all of them in the same way). Or it could be that there is something connected to the occultist’s training or activity that somehow requires it. This statement is not unfounded. Within the Theosophical tradition, the accusation of “deceit” in connection to certain occult matters is not uncommon.

So, apparently, basic standards of honesty, integrity and truthfulness that would normally be expected from “ordinary people” – physicians, bank managers, school teachers and so on – cannot be demanded from those who claim to be “occultists”. I use “occultists” (in quotes) because I, frankly, have no idea how such a title is to be defined. Since such people are inevitably self-defined, it appears that we give a license to lie to those who define themselves thus.

Are we then to accept that “occultists” cannot be held to the same moral standards as the rest of us or, presumably, be expected to adhere to the same commonly accepted norms of behavior? This is certainly an argument that has been used in some cases by those accused of the sexual abuse (including rape) of their disciples, including children. “You cannot judge me by the same standards as other people.”

Such an argument essentially collapses when the same “occultists” argue that the standards applying to those on “the spiritual path” are necessarily higher and more demanding than for lesser mortals. Leadbeater wrote of the strict rules and high standards applying to those seeking “occult advancement”, or, in his terms, “seeking initiation(s)”. He certainly claimed, whether explicitly or implicitly (by failure to correct claims made about his spiritual status by others) to be a very “highly evolved” being. He was, after all, according to the published statements of Mrs Besant (never contradicted by him), “a man on the threshold of divinity”.

We are therefore reduced to one, or both, of two circular arguments. The first is a variant of denial mixed with special pleading: “Occultists cannot lie; Leadbeater was an occultist; therefore Leadbeater could not lie; therefore Leadbeater did not lie; and even when he did lie he wasn’t lying.” The second might be called the “occult explanation” argument and depends on an appeal to objectively untestable status: “We cannot hope to be able to explain behaviour of occultists; Leadbeater was an occultist; therefore we cannot hope to be able to explain his behavior.” There might well be a third argument, which could be called the “spiritual snobbery” argument: “Until you are an Arhat you cannot understand or judge the behavior of Arhats.”

This, alas, takes us into the domain of a whole range of fraudsters and criminals, notably in the realms of religion, who have used such arguments to (at the least) liberate people from their money or to (at the worst) commit vile crimes, including rape. “I am God’s anointed; you cannot judge me by your petty mortal standards.”

I am a mere mortal, not (as far as I know) an Arhat or a man “on the threshold of divinity”. I claim none of the lofty moral attributes supposedly associated with the heights of spiritual attainment written about by Leadbeater. All people lie sometimes. Some lies are trivial and harmless (saying, for example, that you enjoyed a meal prepared by a friend when, in fact, you found it barely edible). Most lies are told for personal advantage (as, I think, was the case with Leadbeater’s fraudulent account of his family background which brought him status and self-importance).

Some lies are entirely justifiable. An example often used in teaching about ethics is this: You are hiding a Jewish family in your basement when Nazi officers visit your house and demand to know the location of the Jewish family – do you tell the truth or do you lie?

This is of an immeasurably different order of lie than fabricating, for personal advantage, a false account of your own background. There was no need for Leadbeater to do so beginning in 1891 – unless, of course, we wish to appeal to a “mysterious explanation” beyond the understanding of mere mortals.



Theosophy and Vegetarianism

Among the “social reform” movements promoted by Theosophists in Australia in the first half of the 20th century was “diet reform” or, more accurately, vegetarianism. Leadbeater had written about the occult benefits of vegetarianism and about the detriment to the spiritual life caused by meat-eating.


Edgar Crook Vegetarianism in Australia – 1788 to 1948: A Cultural and Social History Huntingdon Press, 2006; revised edition 2014

Chapter 5: Theosophical Vegetarianism [pp.40-46]

The text of the revised (1914) edition is available on-line at:

Australia has had for many years the highest meat consumption in the world, but conversely it also boasts one of the oldest Vegetarian Societies and the earliest Western animal cruelty laws. This book gives an alternative view of the traditional Australian dietary culture, which is normally seen as solely reliant on the barbeque and meat pie. Beginning in 1788 it tells the history of the Australian Vegetarian movement and the personalities within it that attempted to convert a society founded on a promise of ‘meat three times a day’. Through an analysis of literature and newspapers it examines how the diet became part of an artistic and cultural battle for Australian identity in the late 19th century that was waged in novels, poetry and popular journals. The growth of the health and natural food movement from the 1920s onwards is detailed and the influence and development in Australia of religious and temperance movements that promoted vegetarianism are also discussed.

For the Theosophical position on vegetarianism, see:

See: Annie Besant Vegetarianism in the Light of Theosophy Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1913, 1919, 1932 – text available on-line at:

C.W. Leadbeater Vegetarianism and Occultism Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1913 – text available on-line at:




Even if it is a Lie…

There are numerous points in Dr Pablo Sender’s response to my comments on his “C.W. Leadbeater – A Personal Appreciation” The Theosophist Vol 137 No 10 July, 2016m to which I wish to reply. However, to begin with a very basic one.

Dr Sender writes: Now, regarding the lies about his birthday and background that you mention. The first thing to keep in mind is that, even if they were indeed lies…

This follows a theme in many Theosophical responses to the problem of Leadbeater’s birthdate: “even if they were indeed lies….”. Phrases like “It appears that….” or “Apparently he was born…” are used to avoid the reality that, applying the standards of historical research and law, his birthdate is an established fact, and he lied about it. There are probably a dozen more claims made by Leadbeater about his pre-Theosophical life which are equally fraudulent (his birth place; his father’s occupation; seeing the Master M in 1851; attending Oxford (or Cambridge)…..) but the birth date is the simplest to address.

Throughout his Theosophical career – at least from 1891 – Leadbeater claimed that he had been born in 1947. He used that date on official documents (the 1891 census return, for example) and on at least one occasion when giving evidence under oath in a Court.

But Leadbeater was born in 1854. This is confirmed by his Birth Certificate (evidence provided by his father); his Baptismal Certificate (evidence provided by his father and the Minister who baptized him); his entry in the Baptismal Register (evidence provided by his father and the Minister who baptized him); the census return for 1861 (evidence provided by his father); the census return for 1871 (evidence provided by his mother); and the census return for 1881 (evidence provided by Leadbeater himself).

The first known instance Leadbeater using the false birth year in an official document is the 1891 census return.

The claim of having been born in 1847 is not a question of “even if it is a lie” – it is, plainly and simply, a lie. And, when used when giving evidence under oath in a Court, it was also perjury. It can hardly be regarded as “an inadvertent error”, as might be the case where a person has been told that he was born on February 17 but had actually been born on February 16.

Sigmund Freud used the term “denial” (or abnegation; German: Verneinung) to refer to the psychological defence mechanism in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and therefore rejects it, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. “Denial” can be manifested not only in individuals but in organizations, and in apologists for organizations.

One of the indicators of maturity in individuals and organizations is the capacity to deal with unpleasant realities with honesty and openness. The most obvious contemporary organizational example is that of the Roman Catholic Church in which the obsessive, indeed pathological, denial that clergy could engage in sexual abuse of children persisted for decades (and, in some cases, persists still).

One can speculate endlessly about why Leadbeater lied about his birthdate (and the other claims about his family background and pre-Theosophical life). The uncomfortable fact is that he did so.

Theosophists and Cremation

One of the social reforms promoted by some Theosophists in Australia in the early years of the 20th century was for the provision of facilities for cremation.

Theosophists, notably Dr John Mildred Creed, were involved in the establishment of The Cremation Society of New South Wales (1908), The New South Wales Cremation Company (1922) and The Cremation Society of Australia (1923). A crematorium was finally constructed at Rookwood Cemetery (Sydney) in 1925.

Northern crematorium

When Leadbeater died in Perth (Western Australia) in early 1934, his body had to be embalmed and taken to Sydney for cremation, there being no facility for cremation in Perth at that time. The Northern Suburbs Crematorium at North Ryde, where Leadbeater was cremated was opened at the end of 1933.

The first two known cremations of Europeans in Australia, in the years before any officially sanctioned facilities for cremation existed and prior to the practice being made legal, were of Theosophists.

In March 1895 Mrs Elizabeth Henniker, an eighty-three year old woman of Richmond (Victoria) who had died from pneumonia, was cremated at her request on the beach at Black Rock, Sandringham (Melbourne).



“Is cremation preferable to burial? What a strange question to ask me!” wrote a French literary man lately when invited to give an expression of opinion upon the latest method of disposing of the dead. “But yet after all you only ask me whether I would rather become a puff of smoke or a violet.”

The Frenchman left the question poetically unanswered, but the members of the Melbourne Cremation Society will no doubt mark with satisfaction an event which occurred yesterday in a little seashore bay, between Sandringham and Beaumaris, where the body of the late Mrs. Elizabeth Inger Henniker, an aged lady of English birth, who has resided in Victoria for nearly 40 years, was formally cremated with the sanction of the Chief Commissioner of Police, and in the presence of a little gathering of relatives and friends. This is the first time that a European has been cremated in Victoria, although as recently as last week the corpse of a Hindoo was reduced to ashes near the same spot, according to the rites of his religion.

It was by her own express wish that the body of Mrs. Henniker was disposed of by fire, and the ceremony was carried out in a decent and orderly manner, which minimised as far as possible the natural shock to the feelings of the onlookers which the novelty of the spectacle excited.

Mrs. Henniker died on Saturday last at her residence, No. 8 William-street, Richmond, having reached the ripe age of 83 years, and as she had repeatedly expressed the wish that her body should be cremated after death, her son, Mr. Frederick Henniker, set about making the necessary arrangements for complying with her request.

Eventually Mr. J. R. Le Pine, undertaker, of 385 Bridge-road, Richmond, agreed to carry out the process of cremation at a moderate cost, and fixed upon a remote and picturesque little spot on the seashore, between Half-moon Bay and Blackrock, as the scene of the ceremony. A short funeral service, including the reading of a few passages of Scripture and a prayer or two, was held yesterday morning at the house in Richmond by the Rev. E. C. Holten, Congregational minister, and then the funeral procession, consisting of a hearse and mourning coach, started for Sandringham, which was reached soon after 2 o’clock. A van containing three tons of firewood and a keg of kerosene had been sent on in advance, and everything was ready when the procession arrived at the chosen spot, where a knot of curious sightseers gathered quickly at the unwonted spectacle of a hearse drawn up in a sandy track in the middle of the ti-tree scrub which clothes the cliff on the Beaumaris-road. Then the undertaker’s men, bearing the coffin aloft on their shoulders, made their way slowly and carefully down the steep and narrow pathway that led from the summit of the cliff to the beach, where the funeral pyre was rapidly built round the shell of kauri pine in which the body was enclosed. It was an ordinary coffin, with plain iron handles and a plate upon the top, on which was engraved the name, age, and date of death of the deceased, and when the logs had all been piled about it in a solid structure the coffin was completely hidden from view. Some dry brushwood sprinkled with kerosene was laid among the logs, and then the undertaker’s men having finished their task withdrew. No clergyman was present, but the mourners carrying wreaths of white flowers stood round the pyre, and the only son of the deceased lady bending down on his knees beside the heap of wood set fire to it with his own hand.

At once the flame crackled in the brushwood, and fanned by the fresh southerly breeze that blew in straight from the bay, soon leaped among the logs and fluttered high up against the green and grey of the grass tussocks and ti-tree that formed the back-ground. As the fire gained strength and crept round the coffin, the little band of mourners, among whom were half-a-dozen elderly ladies and two young girls, sang very softly a few verses of Moody and Sankey’s hymn “We shall Gather at the River.”

It was certainly a unique picture which presented itself to the onlooker. Twenty paces behind the mourners a party of little children were digging with their wooden spades in the sand, quite unconscious of the meaning of the strange bonfire, and a party of picnickers were camping among the tussocks at their lunch. On the broad shelf of rocks that jutted out almost from the base of the pyre into the sea a couple of anglers were plying their rods, and half-a-dozen inquisitive bystanders sat on boulders here and there, gazing with a kind of rapt fascination into the heart of the soaring flames, which the undertaker’s men fed with more logs from time to time. The thunder of the surf on the shore mingled with the crackling of the fire, and almost drowned the quavering trebles of the old ladies who stood with wreaths of flowers in their hands, singing the hymns of the revivalists.

Presently the fire smouldered and died down till nothing was left but a little heap of black and smoking ashes. Nothing remained of corpse or coffin, and but for the iron handles and the metal name plate, the most careful investigator could hardly have conjectured what had taken place. Then the mourners climbed the cliffs again, and the empty hearse rattling away at a brisk trot told that all was over.

It seems that the late Mrs. Henniker originally belonged to the Church of England, but some years ago went over to the Unitarians and drifted thence into spiritualism, the theories of which she continued to hold up to the time of her death. She was accustomed to be present at seances, and had stated that she believed herself to be influenced by her deceased sister, a Miss Bertha Brown, who also desired to be cremated, although in her case at death it was not found practicable by her relatives. Miss Brown was killed in a railway accident in England, and was buried in the ordinary way.

Although Mrs. Henniker had been bedridden for the last two years, she was in the full possession of her faculties, and according to her friends was a lady of considerable attainments, being both an excellent musician and an accomplished linguist. No headstone or other indication can be set up to mark the place where her mortal remains were reduced to ashes and dissipated to the winds, but the mourners who witnessed the last scene yesterday intend to make pilgrimages from time to time to the same spot, and so keep their dead friend in continual remembrance.

The Argus (Melbourne) 20 March 1895

In 1900 Frederick Farrant Cox was cremated in a mobile furnace constructed by a foundry at his request at Botany Bay, Sydney.


On Sunday morning, under a heavy downpour of rain, the body of Frederick Farrant Cox, late of H.M. Navy, was cremated upon a spot of Crown land a short distance from the Little Bay Road, at Botany. The deceased gentleman, who was well known in Sydney as a lecturer on theosophy and astronomy, had resided with his friends at Zanita, Johnstone-street, Annandale, and had, during many years, expressed himself in favour of cremation as a means of disposing of the dead.

He interviewed Mr. G. A. Salmon, undertaker, a few months ago, and made a request that he should consent to perform the ceremony after his death, and Mr. Salmon gave his promise that he would arrange for the cremation, and upon the undertaker receiving intimation of Mr. Cox’s death, which took place on Thursday last, he at once made preparations for the ceremony. The crematorium, which was built of boiler plate iron by a city firm, upon Mr. Salmon’s design, was taken to Botany on Saturday afternoon, the necessary authority to have the body consumed by fire on Crown land having been obtained from the Government.

The shell in which the remains were placed stood on six iron supports, about 20ft from the ground, and having a depth of 18in. About four tons of mixed oak and box firewood, with the assistance of shavings, were used in the process of burning, and the arrangements were completed on Saturday, a tarpaulin being thrown over the fuel to prevent it being soaked with the rain.

The funeral left the late residence of the deceased at 5 a.m., a few friends following the hearse in a coach, the rain falling steadily. The crematorium was reached at a few minutes before 7 o’clock. The tarpaulin was removed from the frame, and the coffin, which was suitably embellished with silver and a carving of the Union Jack, was placed in position. Kerosene was applied to the wood, and Mr. Salmon, who conducted the whole arrangements, applied the light. In spite of the heavy rain, the cremation was a success, having occupied a period of four hours. The ashes of the deceased were preserved.

Evening News (Sydney) 19 November 1900.

Theosophical Schools in Sydney

One seriously under-researched area of Australian Theosophical history is that of the Theosophical Schools: notably, the Morven Garden School at North Sydney (NSW) and the King Arthur School at Neutral Bay (NSW).

Leadbeater had provided a “school” of sorts for boys placed under his care, but that was essentially a form of private tutoring and not a school in any conventional sense. Leadbeater had no direct involvement in the schools, although his close disciples were active in them – the van Gelders and Dr van der Leeuw, for example.

Lily Arnold and Jessie Macdonald ran three private schools which provided a Theosophical education. The first, Apsley House Girls School, Stanmore (Sydney) established in 1913. After this closed, in 1918 they established the Morven Garden School at Gore Hill with funds provided by the Theosophical Society. The Morven Garden School was a coeducational boarding school with a vegetarian diet. It operated from 1918-1923, and at its peak in 1920 had some 112 students.

Garden School

In 1924 Morven closed and the two women opened a Garden School in “Glen Carron”, Stanton Road, Mosman, which operated until 1936 when it was relocated to a neighbouring suburb, Seaforth, and continued until after World War II. Both women were members of The Order of the Star in the East.  The purpose of their school was to provide a comprehensive education that included eurhythmic dancing, tuition in Esperanto, camping and swimming.


In the afternoon the foundation stone of a new school building was, laid at the Morven Garden School, Lane Cove-road, North Sydney, a property lately acquired by the Theosophical Educational Trust of Australia. There was a large gathering to witness the laying of the stone by Mr. C. W. Leadbeater. In his address Mr. Leadbeater said they were trying in a humble way to set an example of the manner in which a school should be carried on. The idea that children should be managed by love and not fear would be a prominent plank in their platform. Every effort would be made, while leaving the children as free as possible, to develop the individual qualities of each student.

Sunday Times (Sydney) 31 March 1918

Garden School 2

Morven Garden School

Morven Garden School, of which Miss Macdonald and Miss Arnold are principals, is situated in a delightful spot on Lane Cove-road, North Sydney. The grounds, embrace 23 acres, and are divided into playing fields, flower, and vegetable gardens.

Schools have been promoted by the Theosophical Educational Trust in late years in various parts of the world, and have met everywhere with immediate success and growing support.

The main principles laid down may be summarised thus:

(1) That every child has its own peculiar temperament, character, and abilities, and those must be studied and developed individually.

(2) That kindness and love must dominate in the treatment of the child, and fear be eliminated if the best results are to be obtained.

The North Sydney School was opened in 1917, and quickly outgrew the buildings provided. The Trust added new School Halls, dormitories, and dining halls, and these are wonderfully bright, spacious, and perfectly ventilated. The school is now designed to accommodate 139 boarders.

At Morven both boys and girls are prepared for matriculation and the various exams, but at the same time examination is regarded as a means to an end rather than the ultimate aim of the school. It is recognised that the standard of education for boys is essentially different to that for girls, but the aim of co-education is to secure for both sexes the virtues of each.

In a co-operative school life mutual consideration is inculcated and expresses itself in chivalry on the part of the boys – self-dependence on that of the girls. With boys it is found a robust, active life is natural, and they quickly adopt a traditional code of honor, with a horror of pretence, while they almost worship physical excellence. Girls on their part bring a higher standard of work and intellectual emulation, and so extend the schoolboy code of honor, where at present it is weakest. This, it is found, helps in a school community (as much as in society) where strength is apt to be the readiest arbiter and the girl acquires what she now often lacks self-dependence.

One of the distinctive features of the Morven system is freedom from mental overstrain at an age when physical growth is making immense demands on the child’s stock of energy. Preparation is reduced to a minimum, not more than one hour homework per day being allowed, except during preparation for matriculation, or school leaving exams.

Co-operation replaces competition, no marks or prizes are used as stimulants to study, and the highest reward of attainment is to be appointed captain to help coach and guide the weaker or younger children.

The school in entirely non-sectarian, all divisions of Christianity, as well as other religions are studied and discussed whenever circumstances render it desirable. The wishes of the parents are always ascertained and respected with regard to church attendance.

Any illness if treated at the isolated sanitarium in the school grounds under the care of a fully trained nurse, who is a permanent member of the staff.

Every attention is paid to the health of the child, and the nutrition of the body. A non-meat diet is advocated and adopted unless parents desire otherwise.

A special feature this year will be the teaching of many subjects by the use of lantern slides, a hall having been specially fitted for this purpose.

Evening News (Sydney) 10 January 1921


R.C. Petersen “Australian Progressive Schools. 1. Theosophical Schools” The Australian Journal of Education Vol 13 No 3 October 1969:241-250

Jill Roe Beyond Belief: Theosophy in Australia 1879-1939 (The Modern History Series), University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, 1986: 240-243

For the Theosophical Educational Trust, see:

Kevin J. Brehony “To Letchworth via India: The Transformation of the Theosophical Educational Trust” Paper available on-line at:

W. A. C. Stewart, W. P. McCann The Educational Innovators: Volume II: Progressive Schools 1881–1967 Springer, 1968: 55-64

A Theosophical Historical Tour of Sydney

I am occasionally asked to provide a “Theosophical Historical Tour of Sydney”, usually by overseas visitors with an interest in the history of the Theosophical Society. Such a tour would be possible but, one suspects, intensely boring. It would have something of an “Ozymandias” theme about it:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822): “Ozymandias” (1818)

Although Leadbeater, and after him Arundale, prophesised great things for Theosophy in Australia – “the home of a new sub-race” – what remains almost fifty years after their optimistic assurances is not much more than “lone and level sands”.

The grand “King’s Hall”, headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Sydney (named not after the monarch, King George V (reigned 1910-1936) of Great Britain and Australia, but after “The King” in the occult hierarchy of the world), is long gone – first, carried off by a split in the Theosophical Society in Sydney (essentially a division provoked by opponents of Leadbeater) and then by financial failure and demolition. The even grander headquarters, built as a replacement by those loyal to Adyar, is also long gone, and the Society in Sydney is reduced to offices in two separate buildings.

The decaying (as it was even when initially purchased) Liberal Catholic Cathedral Church of St Alban in Redfern, Sydney, has long been demolished and replaced by apartments, as has been its architecturally hideous, modern, and very much smaller, successor near Hyde Park. The sole remaining Liberal Catholic Church in Sydney – once there were half a dozen – is an unprepossessing former Protestant conventicle on the north shore.

Chippendale Co-Masonic Temple

The Co-Masonic Temple, also dedicated to St Alban, which stood next to the Cathedral, survived for some years, but now exists only as a façade on the face of an apartment block, and, after some time moving between premises, Co-Masonry (which has itself significantly fractured internationally) operates in an inconveniently remote Western suburbs location.

The great Grecian Amphitheatre, constructed for the Order of the Star overlooking Balmoral Beach and Sydney Harbour in Mosman, is likewise long gone, replaced by an unattractive red brick block of flats, after brief careers as a theatrical venue and a mini-golf course.

The only original building remaining from the peak of Theosophical activity in Sydney is The Manor, “the occult centre of the Southern Hemisphere”, in Clifton Gardens, Mosman, overlooking Sydney Harbour. A once magnificent, if truly weird, building in a priceless location, it is now in a state of manifest decay. This is hardly to be wondered at, given that its 54 or so rooms are occupied by (perhaps) four people, and the funds obviously essential for maintenance of both building and gardens are lacking. A tourist inspecting it from the outside might well assume it was serious neglected, if not actually abandoned. Presumably the day is coming when it will simply have to be sold for other purposes.

It is possible to visit the National Park in which Leadbeater, at the request of the resident Angel, had “magnetized jewels” buried, but, although the Park can be identified, the location of the jewels is yet to be found.

Likewise, it is possible to travel on the ferry across Sydney Harbour, as Leadbeater did when going from The Manor to the Theosophical Society’s headquarters, or St Alban’s Cathedral, or the Co-Masonic Temple, gathering water-spirits on his way to send to the down-in-spirit, and receiving messages from Madam Blavatsky reincarnated in her new, masculine body.

The homes in which the most eminent Theosophists of Leadbeater’s time lived (the Kollerstroms and TH. Martyn, for example) and where he and other Theosophical leaders stayed, almost all within a reasonable proximity to The Manor, remain, as does the house in which Leadbeater was ordained as a Bishop by Wedgwood. However, the houses are now all but unrecognizable as a result of substantial, and not always sympathetic, “improvements” and renovations.

It is possible to identify a number of sites in Sydney in which early Theosophical Society gatherings were held, and where the ES, the Liberal Catholic Church and Co-Masonry met (and I have photographs of them all), but the original buildings have all long gone.

So – if you are visiting Sydney and seek a “Theosophical Historical Tour”, I will be happy to oblige…..but you will need a very low boredom threshold. We might have a picnic in the National Park which surrounds most of The Manor, although you will need to ensure that I am well hidden if you are to have any hope of being allowed on the premises!

I hope that somewhere, someone, has preserved photographic archives, since I have a particular interest in geographical and architectural history.



Harold Morton

One of those closest to Leadbeater in the last decade of his life was the young Australian Theosophist and Liberal Catholic Priest, Harold Morton. As he lay dying in Perth in late February, 1934 Leadbeater summoned Morton to travel urgently from Sydney to record his last directions for the Theosophical groups over which he exercised control. Morton celebrated the Requiem Eucharist at St John’s Liberal Catholic Church in Perth after Leadbeater’s death.


Harold Morton (1904-1988) was the son of Egbert Edward Haager (1870-1959) and Laura Kate Haager (nee Mindy)(1870-1909) who had married in 1893.

He had three siblings: Frederick (1895-1972); Marjorie (1902-1950) and Eugene (Bill) (1904-1937) who was his twin.

His mother died tragically at the family home in Burton Street, Darlinghurst (Sydney) in 1909, taking her own life by consuming cyanide and leaving a note stating that was her intention. A coronial inquest held in Sydney on 23 April 1909 found that the poison had been self-administered. He body had been found by one of her sons who, believing her to be sleeping, had not attempted to wake her, and it was not until her husband returned home from work that her death was discovered.

On 6 November 1925, Morton changed his name by Deed Poll from “Harold Haager” to “Harold Morton”.

Morton became something of an “adopted son” for Enid Lorimer (May Enid Bosworth Nunn 1887-1982) from the time she arrived in Sydney from London, and he and Norna became her family and heirs. Lorimer was a British-born Australian film, stage actress and director, radio and television actress. A Theosophist, she went to Sydney in 1923 to become the Art Director at the Star Amphitheatre at Balmoral.

Morton joined the Theosophical Society in 1921. He served as General Secretary for the Society in Australia 1927-1934. He was baptized into the Liberal Catholic Church in Sydney in 1920, and ordained a Priest in 1926. He played a significant role in the Theosophical broadcasting station in Sydney, 2GB.


A group at The Manor, Sydney, 1925: Harold Morton in at the far right of the back row

Morton married Norna Kollerstrom (1905-1998) in 1928. Norna was a member of the eminent Sydney Theosophical families, the Kollerstroms, headed by Gustav and Mary. She was the sister of Oscar Kollerstrom and Edith Kollerstrom. Norna was also one of Australia’s first Montessori teachers, having trained with Madame Montessori in London.

They had three children: Charles; Karloss Norna; and Ivor Harold.

Morton added “Suryastana” to name; his wife added “Suryatt” to hers.


Morton seems to have faded from the Theosophical firmament in the years following Leadbeater’s death. Ten years after Leadbeater’s death, Morton wrote to another close disciple, Russell (Dick) Balfour Clarke:

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

See: Norna Kollerstrom Morton Hands Full of Life: Reflections and Anecdotes Butterfly Books, Springwood NSW, 1993.