Gustaf Kollerstrom

Gustaf Kollerstrom was the patriarch of a leading and pioneering Theosophical family in Sydney, and a devoted disciple of Leadbeater, in whose home Leadbeater stayed and was consecrated as a Bishop.

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The Kollerstrom Family (from left): Oscar; Norna; Gustaf; Gertrude’s mother; Gertrude; Edythe. From Norna Kollerstrom Morton Hands Full of Life: Reflections and Anecdotes Butterfly Books, Springwood, N.S.W., 1993:9

Gustaf Wilhelm Kollerstrom (1864-1927) was born in Sweden, the son of Gustaf Luther Köllerström and Clara Maria Kollerstrom (nee Samuelsdotter). Kollerstrom migrated to Australia in 1892, and was naturalised as a British subject in Sydney in 1898. He married Mary Gertrude Hill (1869-1950) in 1902, and they had three children: Norna, Oscar and Edythe.

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Gertrude Kollerstrom (back, second from right) with Leadbeater and a group at The Manor, Sydney, 1925

1. Norna Hill Kollerstrom (1905-1998) who, in 1928, married Leadbeater’s disciple and long-time secretary, Harold Morton (1904-1988), a Liberal Catholic Priest, who conducted Leadbeater’s funeral rites in Perth in 1934. See: Norna Kollerstrom Morton Hands Full of Life: Reflections and Anecdotes Butterfly Books, Springwood, N.S.W., 1993. For Harold Morton, see further: https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/08/24/harold-morton/

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Edythe and Norna Kollerstrom (centre)  with Leadbeater and a group at The Manor, Sydney, 1925

2. Oscar Gustav Kollerstrom (1903-1977), for whom see further: https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/05/07/oscar-gustav-kollerstrom/

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Oscar Kollerstrom (centre) with Walter Hassell (left) and Hugh Noall (right) at The Manor, Sydney, c. 1917

3. Edythe Kollerstrom (1906-1976) who married the Italian, Renzo Piga (d. 1985) and lived for most of her life in Italy.

Gustaf Kollerstrom was one of the founders of the Cremation Society of New South Wales, formed in 1908. See further: https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/08/26/theosophists-and-cremation/

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The Sun (Sydney) 28 July, 1912

Gustaf Kollerstrom was one of Sydney’s leading manufacturing jewellers and ran a company, Gustaf Kollerstrom Pty Ltd, throughout his life. It was finally closed down in 1938. The company had premises from 1895 at 295 Pitt Street, Sydney, and from 1915 at 19 Hunter Street, Sydney, and employed more than fifty people.

Leadbeater was ordained a Priest and consecrated a Bishop on July 22, 1916, by James Ingall Wedgwood at Kollerstrom’s family home, “Crendon”, in Raymond Road, Neutral Bay, where the first services of what became the Liberal Catholic Church were held.

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See: https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/instrumentum-consecrationis/  and https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/leadbeaters-consecration-the-inner-side/

Kollerstrom was ordained a Priest by Leadbeater in Sydney on 9 September 1916.

In 1917 Kollerstrom supervised the manufacture of Leadbeater’s pectoral cross, episcopal ring and crosier. See Jenny McFarlane Concerning the Spiritual. The Influence of the Theosophical Society on Australian Artists 1890-1934 Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2012:118-119 and Jenny McFarlane “The Agency of the Object: Leadbeater and the Pectoral Cross” in Carole Cusack and Alex Norman (eds) Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Productions Brill, Leiden, 2012:133-151. See also: https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/leadbeaters-pectoral-cross/

In 1926 Kollerstrom initiated legal action for libel against “Truth” and “The Sportsman” seeking £10,000 in damages. This was essentially a case brought to defend Leadbeater against allegations of sexual misconduct. Kollerstrom was little more than a “stalking horse” nominally serving as the plaintiff to enable Leadbeater to avoid formal identification with the legal action. The newspapers announced that they would call Leadbeater as a witness and put into evidence all the Police documents relating to a Police enquiry into allegations against Leadbeater undertaken in the early 1920s (which included all the documents relating to the 1906 scandal involving Leadbeater in the USA). Kollerstrom sought to withdraw the action, but the newspapers refused to agree. The action therefore concluded in favour of the defendants, and Kollerstrom was left to pay substantial costs (about £20,000). It was claimed that Kollerstrom had been too ill to continue participation in the case (although the Court found that no evidence had been provide to support such an argument). It was also claimed that Leadbeater had been too ill to appear in court (the same explanation given for his refusal to be interviewed by the Police in 1922), although published accounts of his activities at the time suggest he was not too ill to maintain a hectic round of Theosophical activities. For the libel action, see further: https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/litigation-in-sydney-1925/

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Truth (Sydney) 6 June 1916

Kollerstrom died in Sydney in 1927. His funeral was conducted by his son-in-law, Harold Morton.

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Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney) 30 June 1927

Norna Kollerstrom Morton Hands Full of Life: Reflections and Anecdotes Butterfly Books, Springwood, N.S.W., 1993

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The first forty or so pages of the some 200 pages of the book provide an interesting account of the Kollerstrom family. The next thirty or so pages deal with Harold Morton, who Norna married in 1928. Athough Norna had lectured publicly in her young Theosophical years on Leadbeater as Theosophical hero – see, for example, https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/07/31/norna-kollerstrom-on-leadbeater/ – Leadbeater is essentially absent from this book. He is mentioned as attending Norna’s wedding (and appears, although unidentified, in a photograph from the wedding), but his dominant role in the life of the Kollerstrom family is nowhere described. Harold Morton experienced total disillusionment with his former guru’s after Leadbeater’s death in 1934 – see https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/harold-morton-reconsiders/  – and, presumably, so did his wife. So Leadbeater is essentially absent from her “Reflections and Anecdotes”, and Theosophy and the Liberal Catholic Church are barely mentioned in passing.

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