Hands Full of Life

Norna Kollerstrom Morton “Hands Full of Life”


The most significant group Leadbeater’s career in Sydney in the early years of the Liberal Catholic Church was the Kollerstrom family. It was in the home, “Crendon” – see https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/crendon/  – of Gustav Kollerstrom that Leadbeater was ordained a bishop by James Wedgwood – see https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/instrumentum-consecrationis/ – and where the Liberal Catholic liturgy was developed and “tested”.


As Oscar Kollerstrom, Gustav’s son and a devoted pupil of both Leadbeater and Wedgwood, recalled of that time:

“I sat in the same room in which, day after tremendous day, those two men worked out and planned The Liberal Catholic Liturgy – planned, for the first time in two millennia, a Christian and sacramental worship that opened wide the way to communion with all other faiths, indeed with all individual interpretations. The bond with God incarnated in freedom, there before my amazed eyes. Our oak sideboard became the first altar of the new faith, and after the services were over, the dining room furniture would be reassembled for a great meal. My mother would sometimes leave the service immediately after communion to see about the cooking, for in those days there was always at least a dozen to feed. It was all so intimate, personal, and natural, and there was such tumultuous rush of doings – my mother making vestments, Pellegrini, of the Catholic shop, being charmingly voluble, the preparation of the hymn book, endless typing, and the running of errands, buying a church, and – vivid in memory – the great day when I took my first minor orders. What with the candles, and the incense, and the singing, I was intoxicated anew each day.”

Norna Kollerstrom Morton’s memoirs, Hands Full of Life, provide a fascinating and intimate, if all too brief, account of that period.

 Norna Kollerstrom photo

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

Norna Hill Kollerstrom (1905-1998) was the daughter of the eminent Sydney Theosophist, Gustaf Wilhelm (1864-1927), and his wife, Mary Gertrude Kollerstrom (1869-1950) (nee Hill) – see: https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/gustaf-kollerstrom/ – and the sister of Oscar Gustav Kollerstrom (1903-1977), a leading boy pupil of both Leadbeater and Wedgwood – see https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/05/07/oscar-gustav-kollerstrom/ – and Edythe Kollerstrom (1906-1976). In 1928 she married Harold Morton (1904-1988), another of Leadbeater’s leading pupils, and later a priest of the Liberal Catholic Church and General Secretary of the Theosophical Society in Australia – see: https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/08/24/harold-morton/ .

In 1928 Norna Kollerstrom gave a lecture in defence of Leadbeater in which she presented an account of his life (presumably received from Leadbeater) – see https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/07/31/norna-kollerstrom-on-leadbeater/ It is probably unnecessary to note that the descent from Charlemagne and the “noble lineage”; the walk “across South America” at the age of thirteen; the excitement of the “rising among the Indians in South America”; the murder of the (non-existent) brother; the short time at Oxford; the loss of the family fortune in the bank “smash”; the time at St. Ethelberga’s and St. Alban’s, Holborn; and the travels “over the whole of Europe”, let alone the visit “to Transylvania to encounter vampires and werewolves”, were all elements of fiction fabricated by Leadbeater and, naively, repeated by Mrs Kollerstrom Morton. The original account was published in The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Queensland) 14 August 1928.

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


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