The FOTA (Friends of Theosophical Archives) Newsletter No 6 Spring-Summer 2016 Included an interview with me by Leslie Price regarding what was then a new blog: https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/
See: http://hypatia.gr/fota/images/newsletter/Fota_Newsletter06.pdf Earlier and later issues of this excellent newsletter can be accessed at: http://hypatia.gr/fota/index.php/newsletter
I have added some additional information in .
What is the purpose of the new blog?
As described on the site: “This blog has been established to encourage and promote scholarly research into and discussion and dialogue about the life of Charles Webster Leadbeater (1854-1934). It will publish details of works about Leadbeater and sources of information about his life. It will also publish articles and comments about Leadbeater, his work and works about him provided that these maintain a scholarly standard.”
Traditionally, academics cling to research materials until they are published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Putting research into the required form for such journals is time-consuming and tedious, and publication takes a very long time. Leadbeater and matters associated with him are unlikely to attract much interest from scholarly journals and the number of papers that would ever be accepted will be very small.
I want to make as much material as possible available to the widest possible readership – including but not limited to scholars interested in the field – as quickly as possible in the most easily accessible way.
The blog will also serve as a clearing-house, providing information on sources (libraries, archives, theses, books, articles), especially those which may not be well-known. New researchers in the field should not have to “re-invent the wheel”. Information should be freely available and readily accessible.
How important were archives in your Leadbeater research?
Particularly regarding Leadbeater’s early years, archives were essential resources since all the published material was simply factually inaccurate. Fortunately for the early years, the archival material was almost all outside Theosophical archives and therefore in the public domain.
Is there significant Leadbeater material still withheld from scholars?
The major sources of material still being withheld are those within the archives of the Esoteric Section (or School) of Theosophy, notably that held at Adyar, but there are also ES archives in the USA and at The Manor in Sydney, and, possibly, at Naarden (formerly Huizen).
What will happen to your own archives?
Following the untimely death of John Cooper in 1998, his family asked me to serve as the literary executor of his estate, and to locate a repository for his extensive library and archives. Stringent conditions were to be imposed on any recipient: the collection must be
maintained as a special collection; it must be properly catalogued and preserved; the collection must be accessible to researchers; and nothing from the collection could be dispersed or disposed of which my permission. Various institutions were approached, and
the National Library of Australia was chosen as the most appropriate recipient: https://www.nla.gov.au/selected-library-collections/john-cooper-theosophy-collection
The National Library dealt with John’s library and archives in such a professional manner, and has met all the conditions imposed, that I plan to donate my Theosophical library and archives to the Library.
Given the trouble that it caused, have you ever wished that you had never found Leadbeater’s birth certificate?
The discovery certainly didn’t cause me any trouble. And I found observing how various Theosophical groups dealt with it fascinating, particularly as an example of “cognitive dissonance” which had always been an academic interest of mine. “Cognitive dissonance” is a concept in psychology referring to how individuals, or groups, deal with mutually contradictory beliefs: in this case, for example, “Leadbeater said he was born in 1847 but he was born in 1854”, or “Leadbeater would not tell a lie but he lied about his birth date”. The concept was originally developed by Leon Festinger (1919-1989), an American Sociologist, in his book When Prophecy Fails (1956). It also obviously has relevance to the failed “Coming” centred on Krishnamurti. [For cognitive dissonance, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance ]
Are there any remaining “mysteries” relating to Leadbeater?
I maintain a “checklist” of such mysteries! Three I have recently resolved:
(i) How did Leadbeater’s father’s two sisters, Jane Livesay Leadbeater (1836-1904) and Mary Leadbeater (1837-1908), move out of an impoverished working class family, with illiterate parents, and each marry very eminent Anglican clergymen who were Oxford graduates? The answer was the intervention of a fascinating and somewhat mysterious woman! I will publish more on this later. [see https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/11/08/miss-bell-and-the-leadbeater-aunts/]
(ii) How did Leadbeater acquire the influential patronage of William Wolfe Capes (1834–1914), a very eminent Anglican clergyman, Oxford graduate and Oxford academic, enabling him to become ordained in the Church of England? [see https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/william-wolfe-capes/ ]
(iii) Why did Leadbeater suddenly leave his Theosophical-Buddhist work in Ceylon? The strange story of discovering the reincarnation of his (non-existent) brother, Gerald, in the person of Jinarajadasa is insufficient. The real explanation comes from the eminent Buddhist teacher, Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933), who was involved in Leadbeater’s work at the time. [see https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/04/23/leadbeater-leaves-ceylon/ ]
The most intriguing remaining “mystery” is why Leadbeater abandoned his Anglican ministry at Bramshott so suddenly and dramatically, and secretly, on November 4 1884. His story of a message from the Master is not adequate. Research continues!
What research are you undertaking now?
I am trying to complete a book, “The Origins of the Liberal Catholic Church: 1915-1920”, on which I have been working for far too many years.
My academic career in Law, membership of a Federal appellate tribunal, and my private practice got in the way! Now that I have retired, I hope finally to complete this by the end of the year.
I am also writing a series of papers on Leadbeater: “Leadbeater: The Early Years”, “Leadbeater: The Anglican Years”, “Leadbeater and Spiritualism” and, just to maintain a reputation for being controversial, “Leadbeater, Gardner and Sex Magic”.
The eminent English Theosophist, E.L. Gardner (1892-1969) was the author of There is No Religion Higher than Truth. Developments in the Theosophical Society (1963) [text available at http://www.filosofiaesoterica.com/there-is-no-religion-higher-than-truth/ – see also https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/gardner-and-no-religion-higher-than-truth/ ] which was highly controversial because it challenged Leadbeater’s claim to psychic powers. But Gardner also wrote a series of papers, never published, claiming that Leadbeater engaged in a form of “sex magic”; he also corresponded on this topic with several eminent Theosophists, including Boris de Zirkoff. I hope to publish the papers and the correspondence, with an introduction and annotations.
Are you happy for people to contact you about the blog or your research?
Yes, but I’m not always an efficient correspondent!
[My e-mail address is now changed: email@example.com ]