Douglas William Lawrence Pettit was born in 1890 in Calgary, Canada, the son of Frederick William Pettit and his wife, Emmeline. He moved to the USA and was naturalized as an American citizen in California in 1915. He died in California in 1918.
Douglas was mildly physically disabled, and was placed by his parents, at the age of fourteen, into the care of Leadbeater during his tour of the USA in 1903-1904.
One of particular interest had been written by Frederick Pettit, father of Douglas Pettit, the boy central to the case. It was a circular entitled: “To All Parents Throughout the World”. It was dated 18 August 1909, and bore Pettit’s signature and that of a Notary Public. See: https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/to-all-parents-throughout-the-world/
Pettit stated that his son, Douglas, had first met Leadbeater in Vancouver in 1903 when he was thirteen years old. He had initially gone on a trip with Leadbeater to California, but the trip had been extended to the eastern United States. Pettit had not considered or discussed placing his son with Leadbeater for “occult training”. On the boys’ return in July 1904, Douglas had appeared over-anxious, regarded women with contempt, and sneered at parental authority, saying that that was how Leadbeater had taught him to behave.
Douglas began back at school. He suffered an epileptic fit, and when consulting a physician, told him that Leadbeater had “taught” him to masturbate to make him “woman proof”. He also stated that Leadbeater had slept with him and “in other ways acted in a disgustingly familiar way towards him”.
In 1909, concerned that their son’s health seemed to be deteriorating, the Pettits took Douglas to the headquarters of the (rival) Theosophical Society at Point Loma (California). It was under the leadership of Katherine Tingley. That visit led to two consequences which cannot have helped Douglas.
The Theosophical Headquarters at Point Loma
In February 1910, Alexander Fullerton (1841-1913), a former Episcopalian Priest and Attorney, for a time General Secretary of the (Adyar) Theosophical Society, and General Secretary of the American Section until 1907, was charged in the Federal District Court in New York by the New York Society for the Prevention of Vice with sending obscene letters to Douglas Pettit. Copies of the letters had been forwarded to the Postal Inspector by Mrs Tingley, and criminal charges followed. Fullerton was adjudged insane and sent to an asylum for the criminally insane where he spent the remainder of his life. That, at least, meant that Douglas was not require to give evidence in court.
Also while at Point Loma in 1911, Douglas Pettit made an even more incriminating statement when Mrs Tingley interviewed him about his relationship with Leadbeater. He swore that he and Leadbeater had actually had sexual relations, that Rigel and George Nevers (two others boys named in the case) had also had sexual relations with Leadbeater, and that Leadbeater told them the Masters preferred this form of sexual relationship to heterosexual intercourse. Mrs Tingley, unsurprisingly, ensured that those claims were publicized.
Katherine Tingley (1847-1929)
This supports the Sworn Statement of Douglas D. Pettit presented as Exhibit CC No 1778 1913 Madras – see: https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/08/13/the-pettit-statement/
Mr Charles W. Leadbeater and myself occupied the same bed, habitually sleeping together. On the morning succeeding the first night that we slept together, and before we rose to dress, Mr Charles W. Leadbeater explained to me the practice and urged me to engage in the practice, giving as a reason therefore that it would aid me in overcoming any desire to have sexual intercourse with women – which desire, he told me, would develop in the course of nature at my age very soon.
Mr Charles W. Leadbeater told me that the practice was recommended by his Master and teacher for that reason and advised me not to speak of the matter to anyone.
This reciprocal practice continued for the greater part of seven months.
Sworn Statement of Douglas D. Pettit. Exhibit CC No 1778 1913 Madras
Leadbeater was informed of this statement by Mrs Marie Russak in a letter dated March 1, 1911. He concluded: “One of the black magicians has seized the weak mental state of Douglas.” Leadbeater, who, as usual, did not deny the charges made against him, replied that he had had problems with all the American boys who were “thrust upon him”.
Leadbeater, in his usual way, had dealt with all his American critics in a letter to Mrs Besant on October 9, 1906 when he concluded: “There is a certain unscrupulousness and want of honour in the American character which may be a troublesome factor in the new sub-race; and it seems to need only a little stress to bring it to the surface even in the better class of Americans.”
On his website, Pedro Oliveira reproduces the wills of Frederick William Pettit and Emmeline Pettit, Douglas’ parents – http://www.cwlworld.info/html/archives.html – presumably to imply that the boy’s parents rejected any allegations against Leadbeater regarding Douglas since those documents appointed “Charles William [sic] Leadbeater” to be their son’s guardian in the event of their deaths. However, both wills are dated 10 November 1903, just when Leadbeater, having only recently met the boy, was setting out on a trip with Douglas, and some three years before the boy had made any allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
Mr Oliveira also reproduces, both photographically and in text form, a letter from Frederick Pettit to Alexander Fullerton, then General Secretary of the American Section, dated June 16 1906, demanding more information and evidence in regard to the charges against Leadbeater (who is referred to as “X” in the correspondence) and demanding a full inquiry into the matter. “Whether I find personally that C.W.L. has wronged my son and has deserved what has been meeted out to him or whether I decide otherwise”.
He concludes: “As I have said, I am not attempting to whitewash X. If there is anyone in the wide world who should be “boiling over with righteous indignation”, It should be I, — the father of one of the ruined boys.” Needless to say, Mr Oliveira does not provide any information about the criminal charges brought against the same Mr Fullerton in relation to Douglas.
The future fate of Douglas seems not to have been a matter with which anyone in either Theosophical Society was concerned.