Letters from Harrogate

Following the “crisis” of 1906 and his resignation from the Theosophical Society, Leadbeater sent letters to his closest disciples explaining the situation. He was at the time living in Harrogate, a spa town in North Yorkshire, England. Basil Hodgson-Smith (1887-1929) and Fritz Kunz (1888-1971) lived with him and continued as his secretaries, though Basil was preparing for university. The Hodgson-Smith family lived in Harrogate.


Harrogate in the 1900s

Leadbeater was thinking of going to Japan, perhaps becoming a Buddhist monk, although he feared this would mean that he had to leave Basil behind in England, preparing for his University work, and take only Fritz, and a new young man, Johan van Manen (1877-1943), with him.

For Basil Hodgson-Smith, see: https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/05/08/basil-hodgson-smith/

For Fritz Kunz, see: http://theosophy.wiki/w-en/index.php?title=Fritz_Kunz

For Johan van Manen, see: http://www.theosophy.ph/encyclo/index.php?title=Van_Manen,_Johan He was Leadbeater’s private secretary from 1909-1916.

Many of the letters Leadbeater sent at this time were carbon copies with the recipient’s named added. The following is an example.

10 East Parade,

Harrogate,  England.

June 11th., 1906.

My dear ……….,

I have a piece of news for you –unpleasant news– which I think will surprise you greatly.  I have resigned my membership in the Theosophical Society—not in the least because there is anything wrong with it, nor, I hope, anything wrong with me.  But a serious difference of opinion has emerged between the principal officials of the American Section and myself, and as they strongly condemn action which I have taken and advice which I have given in consequence of that opinion, I resign in order to free the Society from the embarrassment of a possible imputation to it of theories with which the majority do not agree.

I need hardly say to you that, though I have thus ceased to be nominally a member of the Society, my interest in it and its work, in all that it means and in all that lies behind it, is as keen as ever.  I cannot lecture publicly for it, but the inner astral work will of course continue unchanged.  I am specially anxious that you and all who have been my closest friends in the Society should press forward more eagerly than ever in its work, so that no one may be able to think that, now I have left it, my influence is in any way hostile or hindering to it.

Naturally this disarranges my plans, so that I do not now know whether I shall go out again to India.  Perhaps I may, for my friendship with Mrs. Besant is not in the least affected by the change.  I am awaiting instructions from her, and until I receive them I do not know what even my next move will be; but at any rate letters will be always forwarded from this address.  With very much love from us both

I am ever

Yours most affectionately

C.W. Leadbeater.




C.W.L. Speaks: A Review (1)

It is all but impossible to write a scholarly hagiography (from Greek ἅγιος, hagios, meaning “holy”, and -γραφία, -graphia, meaning “writing”). A hagiography is an account of a saint or holy person (or, in Leadbeater’s case, “a man on the threshold of divinity” as Mrs Besant described him) written essentially for the edification of believers. Saints, of course, cannot lie, cheat or steal, and their hagiographies rarely include allegations that they did so, or else attempt, somehow, to explain away such allegations, which are, necessarily, lies or slanders.

A hagiography cannot, by its very nature, take an objective approach. CWL Speaks is, essentially, a form of hagiography.

CWL Speaks cover

The major problem with CWL Speaks is the lack of a bibliography or other means of identifying the sources that Mr Oliveira used. Some time ago I began the compilation of a comprehensive bibliography for the “1906 Case” and published a draft on this site: See https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/publications-relating-to-the-1906-case/ and https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/the-1906-scandal-sources/

Had Mr Oliveira asked me, I would have been happy to give him permission to reproduce my bibliography (with suitable acknowledgement).

Mr Oliveira provides sources for a few of the quoted materials, but the references to them are mostly inadequate – for example, failing to give page numbers. Most quotations do not include information regarding the source, or if they do, the information is incomplete. The basic principle of citing sources is to enable the reader to consult the source. Naming a source – for example Krishnamurti. The Years of Awakening [p.273] – without providing bibliographic details for that source – publisher, place of publication, date of publication – and the page from which quotation is taken is plainly of no use.

Where, importantly, did Mr Oliveira access the considerable range of correspondence to and from and about Leadbeater which constitutes the bulk of the book? Where did he access the minutes of the meeting held to discuss the allegations against Leadbeater in 1906? Did he consult the original documents? If so, where are they to be found? If he is quoting from publications reproducing those documents, which publications did he use? On what basis can he be satisfied that the secondary sources – primary sources quoted in secondary sources – are reliable?

The major source for the whole 1906 scandal is the Helen Dennis Collection at the University of Chicago Library. Did Mr Oliveira consult that collection? It appears that he did not since, for example, he comments that “It is said that the Cipher Letter is not among the Helen Dennis’ Collection” [p.125] Is the “Cipher Letter” in that collection or is it not? And what is the origin of the “Cipher Letter” quoted by Mr Oliveira?

In reproducing letters from Mrs Besant to Mrs Dennis, Mr Oliveira leaves gaps where the identification of the boys who made allegations of sexual misconduct against Leadbeater were included [see pages 37, 39, 40, 42, 43, 44]. Presumably, had he consulted the original documents, those names would have been included. Who were those identified only as “____”?

It would seem unsatisfactory to write on a subject without consulting essential primary sources.

The work concludes with three appendices, the reasons for which are entirely unclear.

Appendix 1 is “C.W. Leadbeater at Bramshott Parish” and relates to events some 28 years prior to the 1906 scandal. It is simply a reproduction of material from C. Jinarajadasa The “K.H.” Letters to C.W. Leadbeater, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1941. It provides no information about the somewhat unusual circumstances whereby Leadbeater was able to be ordained in the Church of England, or his rapid, and unannounced, departure therefrom. It is difficult to see how this material has any bearing on the 1906 scandal.

Appendix 2, “Krishnaji and CWL”, is equally irrelevant to the declared subject of the book. It appears to be an attempt to refute a claim that Krishnamurti regarded Leadbeater as “evil”. Inevitably, it does nothing of the sort.

Since I am the (published) source of the claim that Krishnamurti regarded Leadbeater as “evil”, I should comment on this. When I was writing the biography of Leadbeater, The Elder Brother (1982), I was greatly assisted by Mary Lutyens. Her generosity was unlimited. She left me, unattended, in her flat with all her archives and those of her mother, Lady Emily Lutyens, for long periods. She very much wanted me to meet Krishnamurti, but, when she had told him about the biography I was writing he expressed his opposition to any such biography being written. He agreed to meet with me, but only on the condition that the subject of Leadbeater was not to be raised. Since the subject of Leadbeater was the only matter on which I wished to talk to him, I declined the offer of a private meeting.

Mary Lutyens told me – in writing in one of her many letters to me – that when she had raised the subject of my biography and of Leadbeater with Krishnamurti, he had said to her: “Leadbeater was evil”. Obviously, since I was not present at the time, I cannot know whether that was true. However, from all I know of Miss Lutyens, and of my entire relationship with her, I cannot imagine that she would lie about such a matter, particularly given her intense devotion to Krishnamurti.

Appendix 3 is described as “C.W. Leadbeater: A Comprehensive Bibliography”. It is irrelevant to the declared subject matter of the book.

The Bibliography is presented in a confused and confusing format such as is utterly unknown to scholarly bibliographers. For example, no publishers or places of publication are included. The layout of the bibliography can be described as, at best, amateur and chaotic.

The purpose of a bibliography is to enable the reader to find the work cited. Of what use is, for example, a citation like Great War, The? It is listed between Difficulties in Clairvoyance and Law of Cause and Effect on page 298 when other works with titles beginning with “G” are on page 301. Is Great War, The a monograph, a journal article, a manuscript? Where and when and by whom was it published?  Is it referring to “The Great War”, in The Theosophist, February, 1916; The Great War, Adyar Pamphlet No 119, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, no date; or “The Great War of 1915-18”, in The Theosophist, December, 1939?

Even where dates are provided, they are of little use without publisher and place of publication. For Astral Plane, The [page 298], Mr Oliveira give seven dates (apart from a date for a Japanese translation, a Portuguese translation, and an undated Braille translation]: 1895, 1900, 1905, 1910, 1920, 1933, and 1941. But the 1895 version could be The Astral Plane:   Its Scenery, Inhabitants and Phenomena Theosophical Publishing Society, London, 1895; or The Astral Plane, Theosophical Manual No 5, 1st Edition, Theosophical Publishing Society, London, 1895, or The Astral Plane. Transactions of The London Lodge No. 24, London Lodge of the Theosophical Society, London, 1895. And he omits editions in English after 1941, for example: The Astral Plane 8th Edition, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1972.

If the bibliography is supposed to be “comprehensive” it should surely include all editions of every work. This is particularly the case in some of Leadbeater’s works in which the publisher has made significant alterations of the text in later editions. The most obvious example of this is The Masters and The Path, one of Leadbeater’s most important works. Curiously, Mr Oliveira lists nineteen editions of that book [page 304], from Greek, Kannada and Hindi to Dutch, Gujarati and Hungarian. He does not, however, seem to include any English editions, unless the entry for which the date is shown as “?” refers to the English edition. In fact, a bibliographic entry for that work should be something like: The Masters and the Path, 1st Edition, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1925; with subsequent editions and reprints added.

A “comprehensive bibliography” should also surely describe works by their full and correct titles.

The entry for Christian Creed, The which, strangely, appears within the entry for “Chakras, The” [page 299] is odd. The title of the book is, in fact, The Christian Creed. Its Origin and Signification. Mr Oliveira lists eight editions, including the Dutch and Swedish. Of the English editions, that of 1904 is listed before that of 1899 which is followed by another edition of 1904, and then that of 1909 [page 300]. I do not know of any 1909 edition, but I do not deny that one may exist. The 1st and 2nd editions were published in 1904, and the work was reprinted in 1920.

Some entries in the bibliography are best described as bizarre. For example: “+A.B. +J.I.W. 1918 Occultism of the Mass; and the Old Catholic Church. J.I. Wedgwood and Others” [page 305]. Admittedly, the work to which I assume that this entry refers is a challenge to bibliographers, since no editor or compiler is named. In some publications it is attributed to Charles Hampton, a Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church, and there is another edition which names Hampton as the compiler. However, it really cannot be attributed to Leadbeater, Wedgwood and Besant. Of the 102 pages, some 50 pages are by Leadbeater, 2 by Besant, and 11 by Wedgwood. There is an “Introduction” of two pages signed by “M.C.T.” and “C.H.” I would probably describe it as: [Charles Hampton, compiler?] Occultism of the Mass and the Old Catholic Church movement: a collection of essays, extracts from writings and documents by Bishop C.W. Leadbeater, Bishop J.I. Wedgwood, Annie Besant and Others Theosophical Publishing House, Krotona, Hollywood, Los Angeles, 1918.

Had Mr Oliveira wanted to cite more complete bibliographical data, he could have made use of the bibliography of Leadbeater’s works included in my thesis on Leadbeater, and readily available on-line: http://leadbeater.org/tillettcwlbibliographiespart1.htm#bib1  or the extensive chronological bibliography included on the website “Charles Webster Leadbeater. His Life, Writings & Theosophical Teachings”: http://blavatskyarchives.com/leadbeaterbib.htm

The work does not include an index.

The work would have been greatly improved by competent proof-reading.

It is impossible to describe the work, as does Robert Ellwood in his Foreword as a “fine account by Pedro Oliveira of the 1906 crisis in the Theosophical Society”. The work is essentially a compilation of material from almost entirely unidentified secondary sources with virtually no serious analysis, let alone critical commentary, by Mr Oliveira.

Subsequent reviews will consider the content of the work.

CWL Speaks

Pedro Oliveira (compiler) CWL Speaks: C. W. Leadbeater’s Correspondence concerning the 1906 Crisis in the Theosophical Society Pedro Oliveira, Woy Woy (NSW), 2018

CWL Speaks cover

Pedro Oliveira, Education Officer of the Theosophical Society in Australia, and husband of the National President of the Theosophical Society in Australia, and Outer Head of the ES, has published what can best be described as an apologia for Leadbeater insofar as the “1906 Crisis” is concerned.

The book is very difficult to purchase – see http://www.cwlworld.info/

The book’s contents are:

Foreword by Robert Ellwood
Introduction: C. W. Leadbeater: the “Received Tradition”
Chapter1: Early Correspondence with Helen I. Dennis and Others
Chapter 2: Charges against Leadbeater: American Section’s Executive Committee
Chapter 3: Besant and Leadbeater reply to the Charges
Chapter 4: Correspondence between Besant, Leadbeater and others, first half of 1906
Chapter 5: Advisory Board Meeting, London, May, 1906
Chapter 6: The “Cipher Letter”
Chapter 7: Correspondence between Besant, Leadbeater and others, second half of 1906
Chapter 8: Adyar Events of Early 1907
Chapter 9: Aftermath: Return to Adyar and the Discovery of Krishnamurti

Appendix 1 C. W. Leadbeater at Bramshott Parish
Appendix 2 Krishnaji and CWL
Appendix 3 C. W. Leadbeater: A Comprehensive Bibliography

A detailed review of the book will be published on this site in the near future.


Origins of the Liberal Catholic Church

Accounts of the origins of the Liberal Catholic Church published by that church always make the claim that, as the official website of the church now declares: “The Liberal Catholic Church came into existence as the result of a complete re-organization in 1915-16 of the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain upon a more liberal basis.” http://172546454819013858.weebly.com/history.html

That claim is manifestly false. The Liberal Catholic Church was founded by James Ingall Wedgwood who had been ordained a Priest in the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain, but who had resigned from that church, and declared that he would thereafter act independently.

In a letter of November 12, 1915, addressed to the head of the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain, Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew, Wedgwood stated:

These circumstances make it totally impossible for me to continue my official relations with you, and I hereby submit my resignation from your movement. Since you have broken faith with me this resignation is tantamount to a declaration of independence and I shall continue my ministration.

Wedgwood did not “re-organize” the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain: he broke from it and, acting independently, formed a new, essentially Theosophical, church.

All those, either within the Liberal Catholic Church or outside it, who have published accounts of the origins of the Liberal Catholic Church have failed to consult the primary source for the history of the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain and the circumstances which led to Wedgwood’s separation from it. That source is Archbishop Mathew and the Old Roman Catholic Rite in England by Bernard Mary Williams (1889-1952), consecrated by Archbishop Mathew in 1916 as his Perpetual Coadjutor, and who succeeded Mathew on his death in 1919.

The failure to consult this seminal work is perhaps understandable. It existed only in manuscript form, and the only known copy was in the Archives of the British Orthodox Church.

Mathew book

The work has now, happily, been published: Bernard Mary Williams Archbishop Mathew and the Old Roman Catholic Rite in England The Seraphic Press, London, 2018. The substantial account of the origins of the Liberal Catholic Church is found in Chapter 9:II “The Theosophical ‘Liberal Catholic Church’”, pp. 195-259.


I had the advantage of access to the original manuscript when writing my thesis on C.W. Leadbeater.