Eliphas Levi and the 100BC Theory

As was noted in “Jesus in Theosophical History” in Theosophical History, Vol 1, No 3, July, 1985:38-45, the 100 B.C. theory (the precise date is sometimes given differently) was introduced by H.P. Blavatsky in Isis Unveiled (1877):ISIS

The Jewish version of the birth of Jesus is recorded in the Sepher-Toldos Jeshu in the following words:

“Mary having become the mother of a Son, named Jehosuah, and the boy growing up, she entrusted him to the care of the Rabbi Elhanan, and the child progressed in knowledge, for he was well gifted with spirit and understanding.

“Rabbi Jehosuah, son of Perachiah, continued the education of Jehosuah (Jesus) after Elhanan, and initiated him in the secret knowledge”; but the King, Janneus, having given orders to slay all the initiates, Jehosuah Ben Perachiah, fled to Alexandria, in Egypt, taking the boy with him.

While in Alexandria, continues the story, they were received in the house of a rich and learned lady (personified Egypt). Young Jesus found her beautiful, notwithstanding “a defect in her eyes,” and declared so to his master. Upon hearing this, the latter became so angry that his pupil should find in the land of bondage anything good, that “he cursed him and drove the young man from his presence.” Then follow a series of adventures told in allegorical language, which show that Jesus supplemented his initiation in the Jewish Kabala with an additional acquisition of the secret wisdom of Egypt. When the persecution ceased, they both returned to Judea.[Footnote: Eliphas Levi ascribes this narrative to the Talmudist authors of “Sota” and “Sanhedrin,” p. 19, book of “Jechiel.”]

The real grievances against Jesus are stated by the learned author of Tela Ignea Satanae (the fiery darts of Satan) to be two in number: 1st, that he had discovered the great Mysteries of their Temple, by having been initiated in Egypt; and 2d, that he had profaned them by exposing them to the vulgar, who misunderstood and disfigured them. This is what they say:[Footnote: This fragment is translated from the original Hebrew by Eliphas Levi in his “La Science des Esprits.”]

“There exists, in the sanctuary of the living God, a cubical stone, on which are sculptured the holy characters, the combination of which gives the explanation of the attributes and powers of the incommunicable name. This explanation is the secret key of all the occult sciences and forces in nature. It is what the Hebrews call the Scham hamphorash. This stone is watched by two lions of gold, who roar as soon as it is approached.[Footnote: Those who know anything of the rites of the Hebrews must recognize in these lions the gigantic figures of the Cherubim, whose symbolical monstrosity was well calculated to frighten and put to flight the profane.] The gates of the temple were never lost sight of, and the door of the sanctuary opened but once a year, to admit the High Priest alone. But Jesus, who had learned in Egypt the ‘great secrets’ at the initiation, forged for himself invisible keys, and thus was enabled to penetrate into the sanctuary unseen. . . . He copied the characters on the cubical stone, and hid them in his thigh; after which, emerging from the temple, he went abroad and began astounding people with his miracles. The dead were raised at his command, the leprous and the obsessed were healed. He forced the stones which lay buried for ages at the bottom of the sea to rise to the surface until they formed a mountain, from the top of which he preached.” The Sepher Toldos states further that, unable to displace the cubical stone of the sanctuary, Jesus fabricated one of clay, which he showed to the nations and passed it off for the true cubical stone of Israel.

This allegory, like the rest of them in such books, is written “inside and outside it has its secret meaning, and ought to be read two ways. The kabalistic books explain its mystical meaning. Further, the same Talmudist says, in substance, the following: Jesus was thrown in prison, and kept there forty days; then flogged as a seditious rebel; then stoned as a blasphemer in a place called Lud, and finally allowed to expire upon a cross. “All this,” explains Levi, “because he revealed to the people the truths which they (the Pharisees) wished to bury for their own use. He had divined the occult theology of Israel, had compared it with the wisdom of Egypt, and found thereby the reason for a universal religious synthesis.”

However cautious one ought to be in accepting anything about Jesus from Jewish sources, it must be confessed that in some things they seem to be more correct in their statements (whenever their direct interest in stating facts is not concerned) than our good but too jealous Fathers. One thing is certain, James, the “Brother of the Lord,” is silent about the resurrection. He terms Jesus nowhere “Son of God,” nor even Christ-God. Once only, speaking of Jesus, he calls him the “Lord of Glory,” but so do the Nazarenes when writing about their prophet Iohanan bar Zacharia, or John, son of Zacharias (St. John Baptist). Their favorite expressions about their prophet are the same as those used by James when speaking of Jesus. A man “of the seed of a man,” “Messenger of Life,” of light, “my Lord Apostle,” “King sprung of Light,” and so on. “Have not the faith of our Lord JESUS Christ, the Lord of Glory,” etc.,

H.P. Blavatsky Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology (1877) Vol. 2 p. 201-202.The text of Isis Unveiled is available on-line at: http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/isis/iu-hp.htm

Blavatsky quotes Eliphas Levi La Science Des Esprits. Revelation du Dogme Secret des Kabbalistes Espirit Occulte des Evangiles Apfregution des Doctrines et des Phenomenes Spirites Germer Balliere, Paris, 1865.

A digital version of the book is available on-line at: https://archive.org/details/lasciencedesesp00lvgoog


His book has not been translated, but a copy is in the Society for Psychical Research Library in London.


Éliphas Lévi (Alphonse Louis Constant)(1810-1875) was a French writer on occultism and ceremonial magic. Having trained for the Roman Catholic Priesthood, he left the seminary after being ordained a Deacon, having both fallen in love and become fascinated with esotericism. For Levi see:

Christopher McIntosh, Christopher Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival Rider, London, 1975

Thomas A Williams Eliphas Levi, Master of the Cabala, the Tarot and the Secret Doctrines Venture Press, Savannah GA, 2003

Levi’s argument for the 100BC theory is based on the Sefer Toledot Yeshum so presumably he had access to a text of that work, or to translations of it. There are at least a hundred manuscripts of the Sefer Toledot Yeshu, almost all of them late medieval, the oldest manuscript being from the 11th century. The text was first translated into Latin by Ramón Martí (or Martini), a Dominican Friar, toward the end of the 13th century.

 tela-ignae     historia

Versions to which Levi might have access were that published by Johann Christian Wagenseil (1633-1705) in 1681, a Hebrew text of the Toledot Yeshu with a Latin translation, in a book titled Tela Ignea Satanae (“Satan’s Flaming Arrow”), to which Blavatsky refers in the quotation cited above, or that published by Johann Jacob Huldreich (or Huldrich) in Leyden, Holland, in 1705, with a Latin translation, as Historia Jeschuae Nazareni.


A summary of this work is included by Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, The Lost and Hostile Gospels. An Essay on the Toledoth Jeschu, and the Petrine and Pauline Gospels of the First Three Centuries of which Fragments Remain.  Williams and Norgate, London, 1874. A digital version of this work is available on-line at: https://archive.org/details/lostandhostileg00goulgoog


Although Blavatsky did not always commit herself to the 100BC theory, she did endorse it in several places, notably in 1887 in two articles:

“The Esoteric Character of the Gospels” was originally published in Lucifer in 1887 and is reprinted in H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings VIII Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1960:172-239]. The text is also available on-line at: http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/hpb-sio/sio-eso1.htm

Notes sur l’Esoterisme du Dogma Chretien de M. l’Abbe Roca“, Blavatsky’s response in French to the Abbe Roca’s “Esotericism of Christian Dogma”, was originally published in Le Lotus (Paris, December, 1887) and is reprinted in H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings VIII Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1960:355-371 (French version); 272-391 (English translation). Paul Roca (1830-1893) was priest of the Diocese of Perpignan in France, frequently in trouble with his ecclesiastical superiors as a result of his unorthodox teachings. See: http://www.cromleck-de-rennes.com/Abbe%20Roca.html

An English translation of Roca’s article is available on-line at: http://www.katinkahesselink.net/blavatsky/articles/v8/y1887_046.htm

An English translation of Blavatsky’s response is available on-line at: http://www.katinkahesselink.net/blavatsky/articles/v8/y1887_048.htm

A significant footnote is found in “Notes sur l’Esoterisme du Dogma Chretien de M. l’Abbe Roca“: Having drawn to Madame Blavatsky’s attention that, according to certain scholars, this assertion [i.e. that Jesus may have lived a century before the Christian era] is erroneous, she answered as follows: “I say the scholars and either lying or talking nonsense. Our Masters affirm the statement. If the story of Jehoshua, or Jesus Ben-Pandira is false, then the whole Talmud, the whole Jewish Canon is false. He was the disciple of Jehoshua Ben Perahiah, the fifth President of the Sanhedran after Ezra who re-wrote the Bible. Compromised in the revolt of the Pharisees against Jannaeus in 105 B.C., he fled into Egypt carrying the young Jesus with him. This account is far truer than that of the New Testament which has no record in history. [reprinted in H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings VIII Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1960:380]



Jesus 100BC?

The two teachings that have characterized what came to be known as “Theosophical Christianity”, and later, inaccurately, came to be known as “Esoteric Christianity” were first, that there was a distinction between the man Jesus and the being known as “The Christ”, and, second, that Jesus was born around 100BC, and not around 5BC as accepted by all modern Biblical scholars.

The first teaching – the Jesus-Christ distinction – had an ancient history, going back to the heresy generally known as “Adoptionism” (sometimes technically known as dynamic Monarchianism), found particularly at the end of the 2nd century in the writings of Theodotus of Byzantium, and denounced by the First Council of Nicaea (325AD).

The origins of what can be called “the 105BC theory” are of very much later origin. It would seem to have first appeared in the second half of the nineteenth century in the lectures and writings of Gerald Massey (1829-1907) who contributed articles on these topics to Madame Blavatsky’s journal, Lucifer.


Massey had argued for such a position in a lecture, “The Historical Jesus and Mythical Christ”, included in a volume, Gerald Massey’s Lectures, originally privately published around 1887. He was influential in the development of Blavatsky’s own interpretation of Christianity, particularly her article “The Esoteric Character of the Gospels” (published in Lucifer in 1887), which seems to have been encouraged by Massey’s “Are the Teachings as Ascribed to Jesus Contradictory?” (also published in Lucifer in 1887).


Blavatsky further expanded on this theme in “Notes sur l’Esoterisme du Dogma Chretien de M. l’Abbe Roca” in Le Lotus (Paris, December, 1887)[H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings VIII Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1960:341-342. Paul Roca (1830-1893) was priest of the Diocese of Perpignan in France, frequently in trouble with his ecclesiastical superiors as a result of his unorthodox teachings. See: http://www.cromleck-de-rennes.com/Abbe%20Roca.html


For Roca’s article l’Esoterisme du Dogma Chretien” see L’Abbe Roca “Esotericism of the Christian Dogma” Lucifer Vol 1, January, 1888; H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings VIII (Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1960):343-354]. Roca claimed that Jehoshua Ben-Pandirathe original Jesus – “may have been born about the year 120 B.C.”

The themes established by Massey – a distinction between Jesus and the Christ, and a revision of the dates for the life of Jesus – pervaded Theosophical interpretations of Christian origins.

Theosophical interpretations were developed by Annie Besant in Esoteric Christianity (1898), G.R.S. Mead in Did Jesus Live 100 BC? (1903) and C.W. Leadbeater in The Christian Creed. Its Origin and Signification (1898) and The Inner Life (1910). Mead did not fully disclose the major source his information: he referred to “a number of people who have their subtler senses, to a greater or less degree, more fully developed than is normally the case” who assisted him in his research for Did Jesus Live 100BC?. He was, essentially, referring to Leadbeater whose clairvoyant research into Christian origins provided the basis for many of Mead’s claims.

As Jinarajadasa later recalled:

A striking research by the two investigators [Leadbeater and Besant] was into the origins of Christianity. This was done at the request of Mr. G. R. S. Mead.


Mr. Mead had dedicated himself to the subject of Gnosticism, and this meant understanding its origins and its relations to the early Christian communities scattered in Palestine and round Alexandria.

The investigations were during the years 1897-8, and were once a week in the evening at the then Headquarters in London at 19 Avenue Road. I was at Cambridge at this time, but during vacations I was present on a few occasions. Dr. Besant assisted when she was in England, but most of the work was done by Bishop Leadbeater. Mr. Mead took very full notes.

In the course of these investigations, the lives and work of many Gnostic and a few Jewish leaders were examined and recorded, including the principal personalities round the Christ during His mission, and the disciples who carried on the work afterwards, as also St. John of Revelation, who was not “the disciple whom Jesus loved” but another, a Jewish revolutionary with much psychism which gave him astral visions. The journey of the young Jesus to Egypt, the teachers with whom He came into contact, and other fascinating bits of history were all unravelled bit by bit. The life stories of Valentinus, Ammonias Saccas, Iamblichus and others, and of Aedesius, who was Mr. Mead [in a previous incarnation], were investigated.

One remarkable investigation was into the early Christian manuscripts of the Gospels. Here and there Bishop Leadbeater, whose Greek was slight, carefully spelt out word by word at Mr. Mead’s request various extracts which seemed to illuminate the problem. I regret greatly that no copy was made of Mr. Mead’s record of the investigations. A few years before his death I wrote to him offering him £100 for his transcription or for a copy, but I received no reply.

It is from these investigations that Mr. Mead began to obtain a coherent idea of the events in the early centuries of Christianity and Gnosticism. He then wrote his remarkable work, Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, which placed in an intelligible scheme the religious events of those centuries. The investigations were undertaken for his benefit, as he was doing an extremely valuable work with his contribution to the story of Gnosticism, but he was utterly at a loss, with the ordinary historical material, to understand the relation of various events recorded. The confusion was so vast that he begged for light, and so the clairvoyant research was undertaken.


It was also after these investigations that he wrote his book: Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.? This remarkable statement, that the true date of Jesus is one century earlier than that given in Christian chronology, was first made by the Master K.H. in 1883. A series of articles, which gave the English version of a French manuscript of Éliphas Lévi, appeared in The Theosophist. Many special foot-notes were appended as the articles were published. These foot-notes were signed E.O., which signified “Eminent Occultist”, a term given to the Master in the early correspondence with Mr. Sinnett, and used by Him for the foot-notes, instead of the better known K.H. If we had now the original manuscript on H. P. B.’ s desk before it went to the printer, we should find the foot-notes in blue pencil. One paper of Éliphas Lévi was not published in The Theosophist, though it had the E.O. foot-notes. All the papers were issued in 1883 as a pamphlet. In one paper in the pamphlet Éliphas Lévi said: “Jesus, like all great Hierophants, had a public and a secret doctrine.” To this E.O. added the foot-note: “But he preached it a century before his birth.– E.O.” [C. Jinarajadasa Occult Investigations. A Description of the Work of Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1938].

The Paradoxes of the Highest Science, the collection of papers to which Jinarajadasa refers, was the first of Lévi’s books to be translated into English. The original French version was published in 1856 and the English translation was first published in 1883 by the Theosophical Society. The identity of the translator is unknown. In his Foreword to the Second Edition (1922) Jinarajadasa states: “Eminent Occultist” is the Master of the Wisdom now well known among Theosophists under the initials “K. H.” It is in a footnote of the Master, in 1883, that first appears in Theosophical literature the assertion that Jesus Christ lived a century B. C.  The text of The Paradoxes of the Highest Science is available on-line at: http://sacred-texts.com/eso/levi/phs/index.htm   

Annie Besant first wrote on a Theosophical approach to Christianity in Theosophy and Christianity (c.1892), developing this in five lectures in July and August, 1898 which were published separately in 1898 under the general title Esoteric Christianity: I. The Hidden Side of Religion, II. The Trinity: Divine Incarnation, III. The Atonement and the Law of Sacrifice, IV. Sacraments and Revelation, V. Natural and Spiritual Bodies.


Besant summarized the distinction between Jesus and the Christ, and the revision of the dates for the life of Jesus, thus:

The child whose Jewish name has been turned into that of Jesus was born in Palestine B.C. 105, during the consulate of Publius Rutilius Rufus and Gnaeus Mallius Maximus. His parents were well-born though poor, and he was educated in a knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. His fervent devotion and a gravity beyond his years led his parents to dedicate him to the religious and ascetic life, and soon after a visit to Jerusalem, in which the extraordinary intelligence and eagerness for knowledge of the youth were shown in his seeking of the doctors in the Temple, he was sent to be trained in an Essene community in the southern Judaean desert. When he had reached the age of nineteen he went on to the Essene monastery near Mount Serbal, a monastery which was much visited by learned men travelling from Persia and India to Egypt, and where a magnificent library of occult works — many of them Indian of the Trans-Himalayan regions — had been established. From this seat of mystic learning he proceeded later to Egypt. He had been fully instructed in the secret teachings which were the real fount of life among the Essenes, and was initiated in Egypt as a disciple of that one sublime Lodge from which every great religion has its Founder. [Annie Besant Esoteric Christianity or The Lesser Mysteries (Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1914):112-117]


Leadbeater outlined what became a standard Theosophical approach to Biblical exegesis, and summarized his approach to the origins of Christianity, in one section of The Inner Life:

The truth is that the four gospels at any rate were never intended to be taken as in any sense historical. They are all founded upon a much shorter document written in Hebrew by a monk named Matthaeus, who lived in a monastery in a desert to the south of Palestine. He seems to have conceived the idea of casting some of the great facts of initiation into a narrative form and mingling with it some points out of the life of the real Jesus who was born 105 B. C., and some from the life of another quite obscure fanatical preacher, who had been condemned to death and executed in Jerusalem about 30 A.D.  [C.W. Leadbeater The Inner Life. Theosophical Talks at Adyar. First Series (Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1917):273-275.]

There would seem to be some significant – indeed insurmountable – problems for those who advocate then 100BC theory.

  1. No reputable Biblical scholar in the past hundred years has questioned the traditional date for the birth of Jesus beyond taking it back to around 5BC. Even the scholars most critical of traditional Christian teachings have found no evidence to go beyond that. All modern New Testament scholarship has tended to confirm the more traditional dating for the origins of Christianity (for example, the dates for the writing of the Gospels).
  1. The usual source cited by Theosophical writers in support of the Jehoshua Ben-Pandira-100BC theory is the Toledoth Yeshu (literally “Generations of Yeshu”). Cf. G.R.S.Mead Did Jesus Live 100BC? An Enquiry into the Talmud Jesus Stories, The Toldoth Jeschu, and Some Curious Statement of Epiphanius – Being a Contribution to the Study of Christian Origins (Theosophical Publishing House, London, 1903). Toledoth Yeshu is the title of several mediaeval manuscripts containing legends and folktales which are not part of rabbinic literature and are not considered canonical or normative. The original text came into being in the 5th century, at the earliest, and more probably (and according to most scholars) in the 10th century, and subsequently spread, in Hebrew and Yiddish versions. Jewish scholars do not claim any historical basis for it, and most critics suggest that it appeared during periods of widespread persecution of the Jews (for example, the Crusades). The Toledoth Yeshu blends and blurs the stories of three men who lived from the second century BC to the second century AD: the late 2nd century BC religious leader Yeshu Ha Notzri who was executed; an early second century AD Ben Stada who was alleged to have practiced some form of “sorcery”; and an early first century AD Ben Pandera whose disciples were healers. The Toledoth Yeshu combines stories about of these three men, and others like the 5th century AD Rabbi Tanhuma Bar Abba, creating what one commentator has described as “one satirical and cautionary would-be messiah tale”. Cf. Morris Goldstein Jesus in the Jewish Tradition Macmillan, New York, 1950:148-154. All Theosophical claims in support of the Toledoth Yeshu are wholly demolished by the most recent scholarly study of the work, Michael Meerson and Peter Schäfer Toledot Yeshu (“The Life Story of Jesus”) Revisited 2 vols. Mohr Siebeck, Tubingen, 2014.


For H.P. Blavatsky, see:

“The Esoteric Character of the Gospels” Studies in Occultism. A Series of Reprints from the Writings of H.P. Blavatsky No. V New York Theosophical Corporation, Boston, 1895. A digital version is available on-line at: http://blavatskyarchives.com/theosophypdfs/blavatsky_studies_in_occultism_volume_5.pdf  The text of “The Esoteric Character of the Gospels” is available on-line at: http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/hpb-sio/sio-eso1.htm

For a summary Blavatsky’s teachings on Jesus and the origins of Christianity, cf. Josephine Ransom The Occult Teachings of the Christ (Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1955).

For Gerald Massey, see:


The text of the lectures is available on-line at: https://archive.org/details/GeraldMassey-Lectures  See also: http://gerald-massey.org.uk/massey/cpr_lectures_index.htm

For G.R.S. Mead, see:

Did Jesus Live 100BC? An Enquiry into the Talmud Jesus Stories, The Toldoth Jeschu, and Some Curious Statement of Epiphanius – Being a Contribution to the Study of Christian Origins (Theosophical Publishing House, London, 1903) A digital version of this work is available on-line at: https://archive.org/details/didjesuslive100b00meaduoft


Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, some short sketches among the Gnostics mainly of the first two centuries – a contribution to the study of Christian origins based on the most recently recovered materials (Theosophical Publishing Society, London, 1906) A digital version of this work is available on-line at: https://archive.org/details/fragmentsoffaith00meaduoft

For Annie Besant, see:

Theosophy and Christianity [Theosophical Publishing House, London, c. 1882]

Esoteric Christianity. I. The Hidden Side of Religion [Theosophical Publishing Society, London, 1898]; Esoteric Christianity. II. The Trinity: Divine Incarnation [Theosophical Publishing Society, London, 1898]; Esoteric Christianity. III. The Atonement and Law of Sacrifice [Theosophical Publishing Society, London, 1898]; Esoteric Christianity. IV. Sacraments and Revelation [Theosophical Publishing Society, London, 1898]; and Esoteric Christianity. V. Natural and Spiritual Bodies [Theosophical Publishing Society, London, 1898].


Esoteric Christianity, or The Lesser Mysteries Theosophical Publishing Society, London, 1901

A digital version of Esoteric Christianity is available on-line at: https://archive.org/details/esotericchristia019589mbp A digital version of the John Lane, New York, 1901 version, is available on-line at: http://blavatskyarchives.com/theosophypdfs/besant_esoteric_christianity.pdf


A new edition of Esoteric Christianity, with an introduction and notes by Richard Smoley has been published: Quest Books, Wheaton Ill, 2006.

For C.W. Leadbeater, see:


The Christian Creed. Its Origin and Signification Theosophical Publication Society, London, 1904. A digital version of the second edition, revised and enlarged, is available on-live at: https://archive.org/details/cu31924095631291

The Inner Life. Theosophical Talks at Adyar. First Series (Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1910 The Inner Life was originally published by the Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, in two volumes in 1910-1911. The text of The Inner Life (First Series) Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1917 is available on-line at: http://www.anandgholap.net/Inner_Life_Vol_I-CWL.htm The text of The Inner Life (Second Series) Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1912 is available on-line at: http://www.anandgholap.net/Inner_Life_Vol_II-CWL.htm

An Enquiry into the Failure of Christianity Unpublished manuscript in the Theosophical Society Library at Adyar [Reference L*091 Lea SF], c. 1924


A Christian Gnosis St Alban Press, Sydney, 1983


Christian Gnosis Quest Books, Wheaton Ill, 2011

The most substantial work arguing for the 100BC theory remains unpublished: The Lost Century in the Early Church and the Dead Sea Scrolls. A Reorientation of Christian Origins by G. (George) Nevin Drinkwater (1904-1970), an English Liberal Catholic Priest; a copy of the manuscript is in the author’s collection. Drinkwater was also the author of Food in the Early Church: A Study of Christian Vegetarianism in the Light of Modern Biblical Research (Reprinted from The Liberal Catholic, April 1955-July 1956) (St Alban Press, London, n.d.), Corroborations of Occult Archaeology (London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1935) and Theosophy and the Western Mysteries (London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1944).

The 100BC theory has also been argued on the basis of allegedly clairvoyant investigations, not only by Leadbeater but also by another Liberal Catholic Priest and eminent Theosophist: Geoffrey Hodson Clairvoyant Investigations of Christian Origins and Ceremonial (St Alban Press, Ojai, 1977). Hodson wrote: “The Master Jesus undertook in Palestine, about 100 BC, the dual task of a visiting Arhat and completely Gnostic Essene who sought to liberate degraded Hebraism of the time and its self-seeking priests by spreading the light of pure Gnosticism throughout the land including the attainment of Adeptship and beyond. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) In the first of these tasks he failed and surrendered his physical life at the hands of an almost barbarian populace driven on by the organised hierarchy of the priests. Nevertheless, he very greatly inspired and helped all fellow countrymen and women who responded to his teaching, observed and participated in his miracles, and thus made progress upon the spiritual path. It is the memory and records of these various experiences that are partly and in some places accurately recorded in the New Testament, Canonical and Apochryphal. The priestly power, supported by government officials proved too strong. He can be said to have failed in the more public purpose of his mission while very greatly helping forward the spiritual unfoldment of many people and therefore of the human race.”

See also: “Jesus in Theosophical History” in Theosophical History, Vol 1, No 3, July, 1985:38-45.


Christian Gnosis

Following the publication of The Science of the Sacraments (1920) and The Hidden Side of Christian Festivals (1920), Leadbeater had intended to publish a third volume to complete a trilogy of works on the Christian sacraments, the Christian calendar and Christian theology.

 sciencesacramen00leadgoog_0015    hidden-side-festivals

He had first published an account of his eccentric reinterpretation of Christian theology in The Christian Creed. Its Origin and Signification Theosophical Publication Society, London, 1904. A digital version of the second edition, revised and enlarged, is available on-live at: https://archive.org/details/cu31924095631291


The third volume in the proposed trilogy had been completed, but not published, by the time of Leadbeater’s death, and the manuscript can – or could in late 1979 – be found in the Theosophical Society Library at Adyar [Reference L*091 Lea SF]. The 194 page typescript manuscript of this proposed third volume has the title An Enquiry into the Failure of Christianity. That work was never published essentially because both James Wedgwood (Leadbeater’s predecessor as Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church) and Frank Pigott (Leadbeater’s successor as Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church) considered that Leadbeater’s inadequate knowledge of theology had produced a work which would cause embarrassment.

Post-Leadbeater editors and publishers of his works do not seem to have felt any discomfort in dishonestly revising and selectively editing the original texts, probably the most glaring example being the editing out of embarrassing material (sometimes even single sentences) from later editions of The Masters and the Path.


Thus those who do not have copies of the early editions are left with versions worthy of Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), the English physician and philanthropist, best known for publishing The Family Shakspeare, in which nothing is added to the original text; but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family by Thomas Bowdler in 10 volumes (1st edition 1807; 2nd edition 1818), an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare’s works, from which anything “unsuitable” had been removed so that, for example, in Hamlet, the death of Ophelia was referred to as an accidental drowning, omitting the suggestions that she may have intended suicide.

In the case of An Enquiry into the Failure of Christianity this dishonesty extended to simply not publishing the original work, as written by Leadbeater, but, rather, cobbling together small portions of that work with various other material written by Leadbeater on related topics.

With the publication of “reconstructions” of An Enquiry into the Failure of Christianity the seeds of a mythical history of the work have been laid. In a review (an extract of which is quoted below), Elwood (a Liberal Catholic Priest although not identified as such) refers to “The Christian Gnosis (as Leadbeater originally titled it)”, when Leadbeater did no such thing. He titled it, as the original manuscript clearly shows, An Enquiry into the Failure of Christianity. Ellwood also claims that “The book’s origins lie in an incomplete theological manuscript”, and a review by Nash (an extract of which is quoted below) declares that Sten von Krusenstierna “resolved to complete and publish the work”. But the work – that is, An Enquiry into the Failure of Christianity – was completed in manuscript form, and what von Krusenstierna  did, and what he said that he did, was to compile “the present book by extracting what he considered useful from that manuscript, adding to it articles from The Liberal Catholic magazine, plus various unpublished talks and sermons.” He did not, and did not claim to, publish Leadbeater’s original work, An Enquiry into the Failure of Christianity.

Leadbeater wrote a work on what he considered to be theology, An Enquiry into the Failure of Christianity, the completed manuscript of which exists. I have seen it, read it, and taken detailed notes of its contents. The primitive resources for photocopying at Adyar at the time (late 1979) made copying the manuscript impossible. Presumably a copy was made for von Krusenstierna to allow him to work on his revision. Perhaps the Theosophical Society at Adyar might now be prepared to make a digital version available? I will later post more details on the contents of the work. The work may be embarrassing to Leadbeater’s contemporary disciples, but it exists. To publish something that purports to be, but isn’t, that work, is simply dishonest.

The first such “reconstruction” of Leadbeater’s work was published by the St Alban Press under the title A Christian Gnosis (1983), although the title on the cover was The Christian Gnosis, edited by then then Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church, Sten Von Krusenstierna. [1]


Now a new “sanitised” version is available, with a foreword by, and presumably edited by, Richard Smoley: Christian Gnosis (neither A nor The Christian Gnosis) Quest Books, 2011. This contains the full text of the 1983 edition. The original brief biography of Leadbeater by Sten Von Krusenstierna (then Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church) has been replaced by Smoley’s foreword which contains basic, and factual, biographical material.


This is a welcome new edition of a provocative and important work by a prolific Theosophical writer of the Society’s second generation, C.W.Leadbeater (1854–1934). The new Quest Books edition is beautifully published, and benefits greatly from a fine contemporary introduction and notes, corrective when needed, by Richard Smoley. The Christian Gnosis (as Leadbeater originally titled it) was among Leadbeater’s more challenging books, even within the genre of esoteric Christianity. That is because it takes the complex intellectual structure of Leadbeater’s Theosophical worldview and adapts traditional Christian theology, based on the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds, to his elaborate but often profound system.

The Christian Gnosis was not originally published until 1983, nearly fifty years after Leadbeater’s death, and behind that event lies an interesting story. The tale is told in a foreword by the editor, Sten von Krusenstierna, then presiding bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church. The book’s origins lie in an incomplete theological manuscript Leadbeater showed to F.W. Pigott, another Liberal Catholic bishop, in 1924. The latter discouraged the author from pursuing this project, later writing that “it was mostly a very Leadbeaterish harangue against a variety of Christianity which by then was obsolete or at least obsolescent amongst Christians of education.” Von Krusenstierna compiled the present book by extracting what he considered useful from that manuscript, adding to it articles from The Liberal Catholic magazine, plus various unpublished talks and sermons. This editorial labor of love is admirably done. The compiler also includes a brief biography of Leadbeater…

Those familiar with Leadbeater’s other writings will recognize the basic intellectual structure into which he fits Nicene Christianity. Foundational to it are three outpourings of the Logos or creative divine energies, which he identifies with the Christian Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Solar Logos, the central intelligence of our solar system, is essentially equated with the traditional God; that which is above him is also quite above our comprehension. The Seven Rays are important, as is Our Lady as personification of the virginal primordial matter over which the Holy Spirit, first of the divine three to descend, brooded to begin the process of creation; all this is likewise re-enacted in the Christ mythos, and within our own spiritual lives. Here we find the incarnational drama of the imprisonment of the divine in matter, and its emancipation or resurrection therefrom.

Along the way, Leadbeater makes some problematic assertions. Not many scholars of early Christianity would agree with him that Jesus really lived about a hundred years before the conventional dates, or that he was stoned rather than dying on a cross (for Leadbeater, the latter refers to the allegorical “cross of matter” to which we are figuratively nailed till liberation). Eschewing the “materializing tendency” does not require us to abandon the attempt to learn what we can about Jesus as a person; understanding both the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith are surely essential to any viable reconstruction of the religion for the twenty-first century.

An extract from a review by Robert Ellwood, the text of which is available on-line at: https://www.theosophical.org/publications/quest-magazine/3584

In 1924 Leadbeater, by then living in his adopted country of Australia, asked fellow clergyman Frank W. Pigott to comment on his unfinished manuscript. Pigott read a few chapters and  concluded that it was “not theology.” Leadbeater, who was busy writing other books, decided to shelve the project and “forget all about it” (preface to the first edition, p. xviii). Leadbeater died in 1934, and the manuscript languished among his papers.

Forty-four  years  later,  Sten von Krusenstierna, successor  to  Leadbeater and Pigott  as  presiding bishop  of  the  LCC,  resolved  to  complete  and publish  the  work. Von  Krusenstierna  filled  in missing  parts  from  lectures and  other  material left  by  the  author  and  published  it  under  Leadbeater’s name as The  Christian  Gnosis in  1983. It received little attention and is still not listed among the author’s works in most bibliographies.

The book may finally gain attention with its  recent reissuance by Quest Books (minus the definite article in the title). It comes with an informative introduction and additional end notes by Quest editor-in-chief Richard Smoley.

Christian Gnosis is not about Gnosticism in either its original form or its 19th-century revival; “Gnosis” is interpreted in its broad sense as knowledge or insight. The book addresses the broad field of esoteric Christianity, concentrating on topics of concern to both traditional Christians and esotericists. In that respect it provides better topic coverage than does either Besant’s Esoteric Christianity (1905) or Smoley’s own Inner Christianity (2002).[2] Much of the content also appears in Leadbeater’s other works, written before and after 1924. Nevertheless, the book serves a useful purpose in compiling the relevant material into a single volume.

 esoteric-christianity     inner-christianity

The book is in three parts. Part I, headed: “The Divine Plan: Evolution,” is a useful summary of material from The Inner Life (published in 1917 but based on lectures given in 1910) and other early works.[2] The material is expanded in places and given a more Christian focus, reflecting Leadbeater’s evolving interest. His description of the three outpourings from the Logos (pp. 13-17) is greatly expanded, providing an important contribution to esoteric knowledge.

Part II, “The Inner Teachings of Early Christianity,” attempts to express traditional Christian beliefs in an esoteric framework. The quality of the material is mixed. Some of it, like the discussion of the Trinity and the World Teacher, has considerable valuable. On the other hand, Leadbeater’s account of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection is tainted by a medieval Jewish theory that Jesus lived a century earlier than the customary 5 BCE30 CE. The theory, promoted in a 1903 book by George R. S. Mead, former secretary to Helena Blavatsky, had no credibility among biblical scholars but was influential for a while in the Theosophical Society. Leadbeater bought into Mead’s theory and, in consequence, was forced to explain away large sections of the gospel record. For example, he was aware that crucifixion was a Roman mode of execution and that Judea did not fall under Roman occupation until 63 BCE. So Leadbeater declared that Jesus was stoned to death, and that the “crucifixion” was to be understood allegorically, or at most was a reference to ancient Egyptian initiation rituals in which the candidate was laid on a cross (p. 132). Similarly, Leadbeater explained, “Pontius Pilate” was a mis-translation of the Greek pontus pilētos (“thick” or “solid”) and referred not to the Prefect of Judea but to the astral plane! Accordingly, “suffered under Pontius Pilate” should be understood as “He allowed himself to be limited by, and imprisoned in, astral matter” (pp. 123-124)…

Part III, headed “Various Subjects,” includes discussions of angels, saints, Mary, the sacraments, and the seven rays. This part of the book, which builds on his earlier writings and lays the groundwork for later ones, is the most valuable…

An extract from a review by John F. Nash, The Esoteric Quarterly 2012 69-70 – available on-line at: http://www.esotericquarterly.com/issues/EQ08/EQ0801/EQ080112-End.pdf

[1] Sten von Krusenstierna also published a revised and edited version of The Science of the Sacraments (1920) as The Sacraments The St Alban Press, Sydney, 1993.


He also arranged for a revised and edited version of The Hidden Side of Christian Festivals (1920) to be produced as The Inner Side of Christian Festivals The St Alban Press, Sydney, 1973.


The editor, Charles Wicks, another Liberal Catholic Bishop, noted that he had edited out Part II of the original work which had “lost much of its relevance”. Presumably, he means to say that Part III (“Addresses During The [First World] War”) had been omitted, it having included some potentially offensive comments. For example: These German soldiers under their present obsession are not men but fiends; no demon from the lowest pit of the imaginary medieval hells can rejoice in bestial cruelty more than they. The kindest thing that we can do is to destroy their physical bodies so that they may be saved from further and more awful crime… (474) and more and stronger language. As distasteful as such sentiments may now be, they were those strongly held by Leadbeater, whose racism was clearly expressed in many of his works. What might be called a “bibliographical curiosity” occurs with regard to Part III of The Hidden Side of Christian Festivals (1920). I have two versions of the book with identical title pages, and identical tables of contents, both including in the table of contents Part III (“Addresses During The War”). One, clearly identified as having been printed in Sydney (Australia), includes an index and the text of Part III (pp. 451-199). The other, which appears to have been printed in London, refers to Part III (“Addresses During The War”) in the table of contents, but the text ends at page 448: that is, pages 451-499 are not included, and nor is the index. The binding of this version has clearly has not been tampered with, so it would seem that the text of Part III was never included.

Wicks, in his foreword to The Inner Side of Christian Festivals, states: In some chapters, the expected early return of the Lord Christ, often referred to as the World Teacher, was discussed in an atmosphere of freedom and candour. In the period around the year 1920 this expectation had been assiduously promulgated by the Order of the Star in the East, a society formed for the purpose. Subsequent events did not endorse this advent, and in the new edition therefore, these references have been omitted. [x] The Coming having “gone wrong”, as Leadbeater declared, all reference to it should be “edited out”, calling to mind the removal of all references to the name of Akhenaten after his death. That the expected early return of the Lord Christ, often referred to as the World Teacher was the dominant obsession in the life of the author of The Hidden Side of Christian Festivals for more than twenty years cannot mean references to it in modern editions of his works should be permitted! References to The Coming tend to be edited out of all modern versions of Leadbeater’s works published by the Theosophical Society based at Adyar, but virtually never with such an explicit statement of “editorial policy” as is given by Wicks.

[2] A digital version of Annie Besant Esoteric Christianity, or The Lesser Mysteries Theosophical Publishing Society, London, 1901 is available on-line at: https://archive.org/details/esotericchristia019589mbp A digital version of the John Lane, New York, 1901 version, is available on-line at: http://blavatskyarchives.com/theosophypdfs/besant_esoteric_christianity.pdf


A new edition of Esoteric Christianity, with an introduction and notes by Richard Smoley has been published: Quest Books, 2006.

Richard Smoley Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition Shambhala Publications, 1st edition, 2002

[3] The Inner Life was originally published by the Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, in two volumes in 1910-1911.


The text of The Inner Life (First Series) Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1917 is available on-line at: http://www.anandgholap.net/Inner_Life_Vol_I-CWL.htm The text of The text of The Inner Life (Second Series) Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1912 is available on-line at: http://www.anandgholap.net/Inner_Life_Vol_II-CWL.htm

William Eglinton, Medium and Messenger for the Masters

The most important medium involved in Leadbeater’s explorations into Spiritualism, and, eventually, his involvement in Theosophy, was William Eglinton (also known as William Eglington) (1857–1933).


Leadbeater first made contact with Eglinton during his early explorations into Spiritualism while he was a young curate at Bramshott. As James Matley recalled:

About this time [1878-1879] C. W. L. used to go to a good few spiritualistic séances, and one Easter we spent going to a number in London, to Mr. Husk where the famous Irresistible was, also to Eglinton. He had Husk down to “Hartford” one night for a séance; I think that a Mr. Crowther came as well as we three.

The “K.H. Letters” to C.W. Leadbeater Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1941:105


The details of Eglinton’s role as a conduit of communication to and from the Theosophical Masters is outline in Leadbeater’s How Theosophy Came to Me Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1930, with further details, including both the texts of and reproductions of the letters purportedly received from the Masters as a result of Eglinton’s involvement is found (with commentary and notes by C. Jinarajadasa) in The “K.H. Letters” to C.W. Leadbeater Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1941.


In the course of my inquiries into spiritualism I had come into contact with most of the prominent mediums of that day, and had (as I have said before) seen every ordinary phenomena about which one reads in books upon that subject. One medium with whom I had much to do was Mr. Eglinton; and although I have heard stories told against him, I must bear witness that in all my own dealings with him I found him most straightforward, reasonable and courteous. He had various so-called controls—one a Red Indian girl who called herself Daisy, and chattered volubly on all occasions, appropriate or inappropriate. Another was a tall Arab, named Abdullah, considerably over six feet, who never said anything, but produced remarkable phenomena, and often exhibited feats showing great strength. I have seen him simultaneously lift two heavy men, one in each hand.

A third control who frequently put in an appearance was Ernest; he comparatively rarely materialized, but frequently spoke with direct voice, and wrote a characteristic and well-educated hand. One day in conversation with him something was said in reference to the Masters of the Wisdom; Ernest spoke of Them with the most profound reverence, and said that he had on various occasions had the privilege of seeing Them. I at once enquired whether he was prepared to take charge of any message or letter for Them, and he said that he would willingly do so, and would deliver it when opportunity offered, but he could not say exactly when that would be.

I may mention here that in connection with this I had later a good example of the unreliability of all such communications. Some considerable time afterwards some spiritualist wrote to Light explaining that there could not possibly be such persons as the Masters, because Ernest had positively told him that there were not. I wrote to the same newspaper to say that I had it on precisely the same valueless authority that there were Masters, and that Ernest knew Them well. In each case Ernest had evidently reflected the thought of the questioner, as such entities so often do.

To return to my story, I at once provisionally accepted Ernest’s offer. I said that I would write a letter to one of these Great Masters, and would confide it to him if my friend and teacher, Mr. Sinnett, approved. At the mention of this name the “spirits” were much perturbed; Daisy especially was very angry, and declared that she would have nothing to do with Mr. Sinnett under any circumstances; “Why, he calls us spooks!” she said, with great indignation. However, I blandly stuck to my point that all I knew of Theosophy had come to me through Mr. Sinnett, and that I therefore did not feel justified in going behind his back in any way, or trying to find some other means of communication without first consulting him.

Finally, though with a very bad grace, the spirits consented to this, and the séance presently terminated. When Mr. Eglinton came out of his trance, I asked him how I could send a letter to Ernest, and he said at once that if I would let him have the letter he would put it in a certain box which hung against the wall, from which Ernest would take it when he wished. I then posted off to Mr. Sinnett, and asked his opinion of all this. He was at once eagerly interested, and advised me promptly to accept the offer and see what happened.

Thereupon I went home and wrote three letters. The first was to the Master K. H., telling Him with all reverence that ever since I had first heard of Theosophy my one desire had been to place myself under Him as a pupil. I told Him of my circumstances at the time, and asked whether it was necessary that the seven years of probation of which I had heard should be passed in India. I put this letter in a small envelope and sealed it carefully with my own seal. Then I enclosed it in a letter to Ernest in which I reminded him of his promise, and asked him to deliver this letter for me, and to bring back an answer if there should be one. That second letter I sealed in the same manner as the first, and then I enclosed that in turn with a short note to Eglinton, asking him to put it in his box, and let me know whether any notice was taken of it. I had asked a friend who was staying with me to examine the seals of both the letters with a microscope, so that if we should see them again we might know whether anyone had been tampering with them. By return of post I received a note from Mr. Eglinton, saying that he had duly put the note for Ernest into his box, and that it had already vanished, and further that if any reply should come to him he would at once forward it.

A few days later I received a letter directed in a hand which was unknown to me, and on opening it I discovered my own letter to Ernest apparently unopened, the name “Ernest” on the envelope being crossed out, and my own written underneath it in pencil. My friend and I once more examined the seal with a microscope, and were unable to detect any indication whatever that any one had tampered with the letter, and we both agreed that it was quite impossible that it could have been opened; yet on cutting it open I discovered that the letter which I had written to the Master had disappeared. All that I found inside was my own letter to Ernest, with a few words in the well-known handwriting of the latter written on its blank page, to the effect that my letter had been duly handed to the Great Master, and that if in the future I should ever be thought worthy to receive an answer Ernest would gladly bring it to me.

I waited for some months, but no reply came, and whenever I went to Eglinton’s séances and happened to encounter Ernest, I always asked him when I might expect my answer. He invariably said that my letter had been duly delivered, but that nothing had yet been said about an answer, and that he could do no more. Six months later I did receive a reply, but not through Ernest, and in it the Master said that though He had not received the letter (nor, as He remarked, was it likely that He should, considering the nature of the messenger) He was aware of what I had written and He now proceeded to answer it….

It will be remembered that in a previous chapter I mentioned a letter which I had addressed to the Master Kuthumi, confiding it to a spirit named Ernest for delivery. I received a reply eventually—but not through Ernest and not until the very eve of Madame Blavatsky’s departure for India. The text of the Master’s letter to me will be found in Mr. Jinarājadāsa’s book Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, p. 27. He told me that it was not necessary to be in India during the seven years of probation—that a chela could pass them anywhere. He warned me that as a Priest of the Christian Church I had a certain share in the collective karma of that body, and He distinctly intimated that there was much in that karma which was terribly evil. He suggested that I might go to Adyar for a few months, to see whether I could work with the Headquarters staff, and added the significant remark: “He who would shorten the years of probation has to make sacrifices for Theosophy.” His letter concluded with the words:

“You ask me what rules you must observe during this time of probation, and how soon you might venture to hope that it could begin I answer: You have the making of your own future in your own hands, as shown above, and every day you may be weaving its woof. If I were to demand that you should do one thing or the other, instead of simply advising, I should be responsible for every effect that might flow from the step, and you acquire but a secondary merit. Think, and you will see that this is true. So cast the lot yourself into the lap of Justice, never fearing but that its response will be absolutely true. Chelaship is an educational as well as a probationary stage, and the chela alone can determine whether it shall end in adeptship or failure. Chelas, from a mistaken idea of our system, too often watch and wait for orders, wasting precious time which should be taken up with personal effort. Our cause needs missionaries, devotees, agents, even martyrs perhaps. But it cannot demand of any man to make himself either. So now choose and grasp your own destiny—and may our Lord’s the Tathagata’s memory aid you to decide for the best.”

I wished to say in answer to this that my circumstances were such that it would be impossible for me to come to Adyar for three months, and then return to the work in which I was then engaged; but that I was perfectly ready to throw up that work altogether, and to devote my life absolutely to His service. Ernest having so conspicuously failed me, I knew of no way to send this message to the Master but to take it to Madame Blavatsky, and as she was to leave England on the following day for India, I hastened up to London to see her.

It was with difficulty that I induced her to read the letter, as she said very decidedly that such communications were intended only for the recipient. I was obliged to insist, however, and at last she read it and asked me what I wished to say in reply. I answered to the above effect, and asked her how this information could be conveyed to the Master. She replied that He knew it already, referring of course to the exceedingly close relation in which she stood with Him, so that whatever was within her consciousness was also within His when He wished it.

She then told me to wait by her, and not to leave her on any account. She adhered absolutely to this condition, even making me accompany her into her bedroom when she went to put on her hat and, when a cab was required, declining to allow me to leave the room and go to the door to whistle for it. I could not at all understand the purpose of this at the time, but afterwards I realized that she wished me to be able to say that she had never been out of my sight for a moment between the time when she read my letter from the Master and my receipt of the reply to it. I remember as vividly as if it were yesterday how I rode with her in that hansom cab, and the bashful embarrassment that I felt, caused partly by the honour of doing so, and partly by my fear that I must be inconveniencing her horribly, for I was crushed side ways into a tiny corner of the seat, while her huge bulk weighed down her side of the vehicle, so that the springs were grinding all through the journey. Mr. and Mrs. Cooper-Oakley were to accompany her on the voyage to India, and it was to their house that I went with her very late that night—in fact, I believe it was after mid-night, so I really ought to say very early the next morning.

Even at that hour a number of devoted friends were gathered in Mrs. Oakley’s drawing-room to say farewell to Madame Blavatsky, who seated herself in an easy-chair by the fireside. She was talking brilliantly to those who were present, and rolling one of her eternal cigarettes, when suddenly her right hand was jerked out towards the fire in a very peculiar fashion, and lay palm upwards. She looked down at it in surprise, as I did myself, for I was standing close to her, leaning with an elbow on the mantel-piece: and several of us saw quite clearly a sort of whitish mist form in the palm of her hand and then condense into a piece of folded paper, which she at once handed to me, saying: “There is your answer.” Every one in the room crowded round, of course, but she sent me away outside to read it, saying that I must not let anyone see its contents. It was a very short note and ran as follows:

“Since your intuition led you in the right direction and made you understand that it was my desire you should go to Adyar immediately, I may say more. The sooner you go the better. Do not lose one day more than you can help. Sail on the 5th, if possible. Join Upasika at Alexandria. Let no one know that you are going, and may the blessing of our Lord and my poor blessing shield you from every evil in your new life.

Greeting to you, my new chela.”

C.W. Leadbeater How Theosophy Came to Me Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1930


For Leadbeater’s later views on Spiritualism, see C.W. Leadbeater Spiritualism and Theosophy Scientifically Examined and Carefully Described Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1928 – text available on-line at: http://www.anandgholap.net/CWL_Spiritualism_And_Theosophy.htm


Eglinton was born in Islington, London. He claimed to materialize spirits in his séances.  It was discovered that the materializations were fakes.

In 1876, Eglinton was exposed as a fraud when the psychical researcher Thomas Colley seized the “spirit” materialization known as “Abdullah” and cut off a portion of its cloak. It was discovered that the cut piece matched a cloth found in Eglinton’s suitcase.  Colley also pulled the beard off the materialization and it was revealed to be a fake, the same as another one found in the suitcase of Eglinton.

In 1882, the American magician Harry Kellar was baffled by an alleged levitation of Eglinton.  Massimo Polidoro has written that Kellar did not “impose any form of control” and “couldn’t see anything” in the dark séance room but still convinced himself Eglinton levitated. According to the magician Harry Houdini although Kellar was originally baffled by Eglinton’s levitation when he gave the subject fuller consideration he was able to reproduce the same phenomena by trickery. Houdini wrote “it was not strange that Kellar did not detect Eglinton’s method instantly nor is it strange that he acknowledged that he was baffled. No magician is immune from being deceived and it is no way beneath a magician’s dignity or demeaning to professional reputation to openly admit that he cannot always account for what he thinks he sees.” Magic historian Barry Wiley wrote that Eglinton was exposed as a fraud several years later.

In 1886 the spiritualist John Stephen Farmer wrote a biography of Eglinton.


Eglinton performed slate writing mediumship and his leading critics were the psychical researchers Eleanor Sidgwick and Richard Hodgson. In 1886 and 1887 a series of publications by S. J. Davey, Hodgson and Sidgwick in the Journal for the Society for Psychical Research exposed the slate writing tricks of Eglinton. Due to the critical papers, Stainton Moses and other prominent spiritualist members resigned from the SPR.

Hereward Carrington has written that Eglinton was involved with Madame Blavatsky in producing fraudulent Mahatma letters.  Frank Podmore wrote “Eglinton had on at least two occasions been detected in fraudulently simulating occult phenomena… Moreover, several observers claimed to have seen Eglinton actually writing on the slates with his own hands.” Professor Carvill Lewis during a séance with Eglinton heard him write on the slates and observed writing movements. Lewis had also discovered that Eglinton had looked up answers to questions in a dictionary.


For Eglinton’s view of the Theosophical Masters, see his “Spiritualism and Theosophy” Light (London), June 24, 1882:301-302 – text available on-line at: http://blavatskyarchives.com/eglinton1.htm – and his “Mr Eglinton and ‘Koot Hoomi’” Light (London), January 30, 1886:50-51 – text available on-line at: http://www.blavatskyarchives.com/eglinton2.htm

See also:




John S. Farmer Twixt Two Worlds: a narrative of the life and work of William Eglinton The Psychological Press, London, 1886 – digital version available on-line at: https://archive.org/details/twixttwoworldsna01farm

Cecil Husk

One of the mediums consulted by Leadbeater in his explorations of spiritualism was (James) Cecil Husk. As James Matley recalled:

About this time C. W. L. used to go to a good few spiritualistic séances, and one Easter we spent going to a number in London, to Mr. Husk where the famous Irresistible was, also to Eglinton. He had Husk down to “Hartford” one night for a séance; I think that a Mr. Crowther came as well as we three.

The “K.H. Letters to C.W. Leadbeater Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1941:105

Some people might consider it odd, or even inappropriate, for Leadbeater to have been taking boys of about nine and twelve years of age to London from Bramshott to participate in séances, or even to participate in séances at Leadbeater’s home in Bramshott.

Cecil Husk (1847-1920) was a British professional singer and spiritualist medium.

Husk was a professional singer and member of the Carl Rosa Opera Company. His eyesight deteriorated and he became a full-time medium. He claimed to materialize spirits and be able to perform psychokinesis.

In 1891 at a public séance with twenty sitters Husk was exposed as a fraud. He was caught leaning over a table pretending to be a spirit by covering his face with phosphor material. It was noted by investigators that the materializations of Husk had fine singing voices and sounded similar to himself.

Husk also claimed to have the psychic ability to push his entire arm through an iron ring with a size that did not allow its passage over the hand, however, it was discovered that he performed the trick by using a local anesthetic on his hand.

The magician Will Goldston also exposed the fraud mediumship of Husk. In a séance Goldston attended a pale face materialization appeared in the room. Goldston wrote “I saw at once that it was a gauze mask, and that the moustache attached to it was loose at one side through lack of gum. I pulled at the mask. It came away, revealing the face of Husk.”


Despite the claims that Husk had been shown to be fraudulent, there were numbers of detailed accounts of his séances by commentators satisfied that he was genuine.


“Husk, Cecil” in Nandor Fodor An Encyclopedia of Psychic Science The Citadel Press, Secaucus NJ, 1966:177-178

“Husk, Cecil” in Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, on-live edition, available at: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/husk-cecil-1847-1920

The Church Society

According to James Matley:

The Church Society was also formed, this for boys and by C. W. L. In this I think we promised not to tell lies, and to be pure and good as far as in us lay. If any other boy wished to join, he had to be proposed and seconded; then if any one had any objection on the score that he had not been truthful or had done that which was not right, he was (so to speak) black-balled for a certain time. At the meetings held every fortnight, we had songs, told stories, or had readings, also C. W. L. provided refreshment in the shape of cake, fruit and nuts; hence there was keen competition to get into the Society, which I think was for all boys over ten. I fancy that it caused some jealousy, as of course only Church boys joined, and there was a fairly strong crowd of Dissenters there.                 The “K.H. Letters to C.W. Leadbeater Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1941:105

The Church Society as such was only formed in 1950 by the merger of the Anglican Church Association (founded 1865) and National Church League (founded in 1906 by amalgamation of two earlier bodies), one of its predecessors being the Protestant Association (founded in 1835) established “To uphold the principles and order of the United Church of England and Ireland, and to counteract the efforts now being made to assimilate her services to those of the Church of Rome.” The origins of the Protestant Association go back well beyond 1835, however, at least to a campaign to repeal the Catholic Relief Act of 1778.


Presumably, the Society established by Leadbeater in Bramshott was a branch of the Anglican Church Association. In popular usage, most of the groups mentioned above seem to have been referred to as “The Church Society”.

Union Jack Field Club

G.A. Henty’s “Union Jack Field Club” was started [in Bramshott] by C. W. L. and a good few boys joined this. I think it was a club in which you promised not to be cruel to any creature, and to report anything of interest that happened amongst the creatures about you. Anyhow we at times with a crowd of boys would take walks into the Forest and across the Commons, collecting all sorts of specimens of natural history. C. W. L. of course was a favourite with boys, it was to these that he seemed to go and have most to do with.

The “K.H. Letters to C.W. Leadbeater Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1941:105


George Alfred Henty (1832-1902) was a prolific author of adventure books for boys, typically focussing on a boy or young man living in troubled times who, through “pluck”, courage, moral strength and masculinity “made his own way”. Henty wrote some 120 books with titles like In Times of Peril: A Tale of India (1881); By Sheer Pluck: A Tale of the Ashanti War (1884); A Final Reckoning: A Tale of Bush Life in Australia (1887); Sturdy and Strong: How George Andrews Made His Way (1888); Condemned as a Nihilist: A Story of Escape from Siberia (1893); and At the Point of the Bayonet: A Tale of the Mahratta War (1902).


Critics claimed that Henty was xenophobic, anti-Semitic and racist. Some of his views were not unlike those found in Leadbeater’s later writings on race. For example: “They [Negroes] are just like children … They are always either laughing or quarrelling. They are good-natured and passionate, indolent, but will work hard for a time; clever up to a certain point, densely stupid beyond. The intelligence of an average negro is about equal to that of a European child of ten years old. … They are fluent talkers, but their ideas are borrowed. They are absolutely without originality, absolutely without inventive power. Living among white men, their imitative faculties enable them to attain a considerable amount of civilization. Left alone to their own devices they retrograde into a state little above their native savagery.”


The Union Jack Field Club had more than 3000 members and 220 branches in 1881. “The Union Jack” was originally edited by H.W.T. Kingston, but then came to be edited by Henty. It was not simply a publication on nature study for “British Boys” (although it did include material on nature studies) but actively promoted British nationalism and patriotism and a model of boys reflecting that found in Henty’s adventure novels.



Archibald McNeill “The Union Jack Field Club” The Union Jack (1881): 607-8

Minna Vuohelainen “Bernard Heldmann and the Union Jack, 1880-83: The Making of a Professional Author” Victorian Periodicals Review Vol 47 No 1 Spring 2014:105-14

Church of England Temperance Society

Amongst the organizations for young people established by Leadbeater in Bramshott was a Juvenile Branch of the Church of England Temperance Society. As James Matley recalled:

The Juvenile Branch of the Church of England Temperance Society was also started by C. W. L., this for boys and girls, and was a success and a large number joined. This was in March 1888, and I see that I am No. 1 on the roll.

The meetings were made very attractive; they were opened with prayer, C. W. L. having a surplice on, and a hymn or two sung, hymns that had a go in them and were enjoyed. After that the surplice was doffed, and all sorts of songs were sung, solos by any that could; I was of use here, as I had a large stock, and the chorus was joined in by all. Readings also were read by C. W. L. or some of the boys or girls; an annual tea was given, and also some little present I fancy, in the shape of books, decent books, too, none of that sanctimonious sort telling of impossible boys and girls; the boys had Mayne Reid, Marryat, and Kingston; I don’t know about the girls’ books.

The “K.H. Letters to C.W. Leadbeater Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1941:105


The Church of England Temperance Society, which had roots in the Anglo-Catholic tradition was founded in 1862 and reconstituted in 1873. In 1875 Queen Victoria became its patron – the first in a long line of royal patrons – and the work of promoting abstinence from drink continued apace as the Society grew. By 1882 Temperance missionary work was spreading everywhere: preaching missions were organised to teach men and women about the dangers of intemperance. Juvenile branches of the Society began educational work among the young and soon over 6000 branches were set up. In 1899 The Church of England Temperance Society had 7000 branches. The Society did not advocate total abstinence (as did most other temperance organizations) but “temperance”, which caused some conflict those form whom total abstinence was regarded as the only way. The continuing use by the Church of England of alcoholic wine in the Holy Communion service also led to criticism.


Jack S. Blocker, David M. Fahey, and Ian R. Tyrrell (eds)  Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History: An International Encyclopedia, Volume 1 ABC-CLIO, 2003:155-6

Lilian L. Shiman “The Church of England Temperance Society In the Nineteenth Century” Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church Vol. 41, No. 2, Fortieth Anniversary Number June 1972:179-195


Lilian Lewis Shiman Crusade Against Drink in Victorian England Palgrave Macmillan, 1988:100-109


Thomas Leadbeater Martyn

Thomas Leadbeater Martyn (1905-1981) was, briefly, a minor player in the great drama in which Leadbeater was embroiled in Sydney in the 1920s. He was notable not only for his unusual middle name (Leadbeater), and for using his carpentry skills to construct the first altar used at The Manor, but also for testimony he gave to the Police inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct by Leadbeater.

Tom gave evidence that he had seen Oscar Kollerstrom (then about thirteen years of age) sleeping naked in Leadbeater’s bed, and, more significantly, one Leadbeater had “caught hold of” Tom’s “person” (i.e. his penis)(he then being about ten years of age) and had started to rub it. The boy found that disturbing, and simply left Leadbeater’s presence. [State Records of New South Wales, 5/7771.2 pp. 35, 37, 40. Statement to Police made on 30 May 1922]


Young acolytes (including Tom Martyn) at The Manor – from left: Stephen Leigh; Tom Martyn; Stable Ringer; Pym Heyting; Jack Rudd; Walter Hassall; Oscar Kollerstrom; Hugh Noall.

Thomas Leadbeater Martyn was the son of Thomas Hammond Martyn (1859-1924), the eminent and powerful member of the Theosophical Society in Sydney, eminent and very wealth stockbroker, and, initially an enthusiastic disciple, generous host and financial supporter of Leadbeater. He subsequently became a bitter enemy of James Wedgwood, of whose sexual misconduct he claimed to have irrefutable proof, and the Liberal Catholic Church, and then of Leadbeater himself. He led a large number of members of the Theosophical Society in Sydney to break from Adyar, and establish a relatively short-lived Independent Theosophical Society.

The mother of Thomas Leadbeater Martyn was Hilda Marie Martyn (nee Shorter) (1878-1954), and he had three siblings: Hilda Eily Martin; Phoebe Jane Martyn; and Richard Francis Martyn.

He married Joan Moreau (nee McKenzie) in 1939. He served in the Army in World War II (1941-1945).

The Other Curate of Bramshott

John Wallace Kidston was ordained Deacon and Priest on the same days as Leadbeater, and was also appointed as a Curate of Bramshott


John Wallace Kidston (1851-1926) was born in Lanark, Lanarkshire, Scotland, the son of William (1819-1857) and Hamilton Kidston (nee Campbell Wallace).

Kidston graduated from Queen’s College, Oxford, from which institution he held a Bachelor of Arts (1873), a Master of Arts (1876), and a Bachelor of Civil Law (1876). He was admitted as a Barrister-at-Law of Lincoln’s Inn in 1878.  Following his marriage, Kidston lived in “Short’s House”, Headley Road, Bramshott, after a short period as a single man sharing “Hartford” with Leadbeater.

Kidston was married to Mona Margaret Noel Paton in 1880 at St John’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh. They have three children: Noel Wallace Kidston (1883-1955); Hamilton Marjorie Bruce Wallace (1884-1935); and Valentine Kidston (1886-?).

Kidston was Curate of Bramshott, 1879-1883. He later served as Rector of Hampton Poyle, Oxford, 1883-1885; Vicar of Upton Grey, Hampshire, 1885-1889; and Rector of Weyhill, Hampshire, 1889-1897.


Clergy List, 1897