Charles Webster Leadbeater
|Charles Webster Leadbeater|
C. W. Leadbeater in 1914 (age 60)
16 February 1854|
Stockport, London, United Kingdom
|Died||1 March 1934
|Cause of death||Diabetes and heart attack|
|Known for||Theosophist and writer|
Charles Webster Leadbeater (16 February 1854 – 1 March 1934) was an influential member of the Theosophical Society, author on occult subjects and co-initiator with J. I. Wedgwood of the Liberal Catholic Church. Originally a priest of the Church of England, his interest in spiritualism caused him to end his affiliation with Anglicanism in favour of the Theosophical Society, where he became an associate of Annie Besant. He became a high-ranking officer of the society, but resigned in 1906 after accusations that he had engaged in sex (mutual masturbation) with teenage boys in his care. With Besant's assistance he was readmitted a few years later. Similar rumours occurred throughout his career, but Leadbeater's talents as a prolific author on occultism kept him an important presence in Theosophy until his death in 1934.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Joins the Theosophical Society
- 3 Headmaster in Ceylon
- 4 Return to England
- 5 Reputed occult powers
- 6 Accusations of pederasty
- 7 Readmission to the Theosophical Society
- 8 Discovers Krishnamurti
- 9 Australia and The Science of the Sacraments
- 10 Reputed clairvoyance and legacy
- 11 Selected writings
- 12 See also
- 13 References and notes
- 14 Bibliography
- 15 External links
Leadbeater was born in Stockport, Cheshire, in 1854. His father, Charles Sr., was born in Lincoln and his mother Emma was born in Liverpool. He was an only child. By 1861 the family had relocated to London, where his father was a railway contractor's clerk. Charles Sr. died from tuberculosis in 1862, when Leadbeater was only eight years old. Four years later a bank in which the family's savings were invested became bankrupt. Without finances for college, Leadbeater sought work soon after graduating from high school in order to provide for his mother and himself. He worked at various clerical jobs. During the evenings he became largely self-educated. For example, he studied astronomy and had a 12-inch reflector telescope (which was very expensive at the time) to observe the heavens at night. He also studied French, Latin and Greek.
An uncle, his father's brother-in-law, was the well-known Anglican cleric William Wolfe Capes. By his uncle's influence, Leadbeater was ordained an Anglican priest in 1879 in Farnham by the Bishop of Winchester. By 1881, he was living with his widowed mother at Bramshott in a cottage which his uncle had built, where he is listed as "Curate of Bramshott". He was an active priest and teacher who was remembered later as "a bright and cheerful and kindhearted man". About this time, after reading about the séances of reputed medium Daniel Dunglas Home (1833–1886), Leadbeater developed an active interest in spiritualism.
Joins the Theosophical Society
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His interest in occultism was stimulated by A.P. Sinnett's Occult World, and he joined the Theosophical Society in 1883. The next year he met Helena Petrovna Blavatsky when she came to London; she accepted him as a pupil and he became a vegetarian.
Around this time he received a number of so-called Mahatma Letters which he stated influenced him to go to India; he arrived at Adyar in 1884. He wrote that while in India, he had received visits and training from some of the "Masters" that according to Blavatsky were the inspiration behind the formation of the Theosophical Society, and were its hidden guides. This was the start of a long career with the Theosophical Society.
Headmaster in Ceylon
During 1885, Leadbeater traveled with Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907), first President of the Theosophical Society, to Burma, and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). In Ceylon they founded the English Buddhist Academy, with Leadbeater staying there to serve as its first headmaster under very austere conditions. This school gradually expanded to become Ananda College, which now has more than 6,000 students and has a building named for Leadbeater.
Return to England
In 1889, Sinnett asked Leadbeater to return to England to tutor his son and George Arundale (1878–1945). He agreed and brought with him one of his pupils Curuppumullage Jinarajadasa (1875–1953). Although struggling with poverty himself, Leadbeater managed to send both Arundale and Jinarajadasa to Cambridge University. Both would eventually serve as International Presidents of the Theosophical Society. Jinarajadasa related how Leadbeater had already done some occult investigations, then in May 1894, did his first past life reading.
He added seven years to his stated age. For a ship's manifest in 1903, he listed his age as 56, and his occupation as "lecturer" when he did a lecture tour to Vancouver and San Francisco. He also stated that he had come previously to Seattle in 1893.
Reputed occult powers
Mary Lutyens stated that starting in 1895 Leadbeater and Annie Besant reputedly made "... occult investigations together into the cosmos, the beginnings of mankind, chemistry and the constitution of the elements, as well as frequently visiting the Masters together in their astral bodies".
Accusations of pederasty
||This section may lend undue weight to certain ideas, incidents, controversies or matters relative to the article subject as a whole. (November 2013)|
In 1906 Leadbeater was accused of having encouraged adolescent boys, pupils under his spiritual and secular instruction, to masturbate. Mary Lutyens wrote in Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening:
Then in 1906, after Leadbeater's return to England, the fourteen-year-old son of the Corresponding Secretary of the Esoteric Section in Chicago, whom Leadbeater had taken with him to San Francisco on his first lecture tour, confessed to his parents the reason for the antipathy he had conceived for his mentor, to whom he had at first been greatly devoted—- Leadbeater had encouraged him in the habit of masturbation. Almost simultaneously the son of another Theosophical official in Chicago charged Leadbeater with the same offense without apparently there being any collusion between the two boys. Then a typewritten, unsigned, undated, cipher-letter was produced; it had been picked up by a suspicious cleaner on the floor of a flat in Toronto in which Leadbeater had stayed with the second boy and was said to have been written by Leadbeater. The code was simple and when broken revealed one passage of such obscenity, for those days, that the letter could not by law be printed in England. When decoded the offending passage read: "Glad sensation is so pleasant. Thousand kisses darling."
A commission was appointed by the American Section, but before the meeting Leadbeater resigned from the society to, as he told Olcott, "save the Society from embarrassment." On the nature of the accusation itself, Leadbeater wrote to Annie Besant:
So when boys came under my care, I mentioned this matter to them [masturbation], among other things, always trying to avoid all sorts of false shame, and to make the whole appear as natural and simple as possible.
Leadbeater argued that the build-up of natural sexual pressure could lead boys to seek sexual relief either with prostitutes or with each other. He claimed that by discharging the pressure at regular intervals through masturbation, the boys could avoid the more serious karmic and moral consequences of illicit sexual encounters: "If he [one of the boys] finds any accumulation, he should relieve."
A similar accusation was made later by Hubert van Hook of Chicago, who at age 11 was selected by Leadbeater as a candidate for the "vehicle" of an expected "World Teacher". Of this accusation, Mary Lutyens states: "Hubert later swore to Mrs Besant that Leadbeater had 'misused' him, but as he was extremely vindictive by that time, his testimony, though unshaken, was perhaps not altogether reliable." On a separate occasion, Lutyens had this to say regarding Leadbeater and another of his favorite boys:
[Leadbeater] came prancing down the wharf like a great lion, hatless and in a long purple cloak, holding on to the arm of a very good-looking blond boy of about fifteen. This was Theodore St John, an Australian boy of great charm and sweetness, who was Leadbeater's current favourite and who slept in his room.
Author John Kersey, in Arnold Harris Mathew and the Old Catholic Movement in England 1908–52, offers the following assessment:
Leadbeater was not interested in defending his position, but in a letter to Annie Besant wrote: "a natural function exists, which in itself is no more wrong than eating or drinking." Besant did not agree with this, taking an attitude more typical of her time ... Leadbeater's approach was not that of the libertine, for he taught self control and moderation in sexual habits ... but certainly he was frank in his talk of sex, as well as promoting a generally open attitude to the body that was forward-looking in the early years of the century.
Leadbeater ... believed that by teaching masturbation and encouraging it, he was making it less likely that sexual experimentation would lead to unwanted pregnancies, since contraception was not widely available at this time. A factor in this approach was also that initiates in the Theosophical Society, including Leadbeater himself, were expected to remain chaste and not engage in sexual relationships with others. In this context, Leadbeater's teachings on auto-eroticism were a means, as he saw it, to enable initiates to remain within these bounds.
In Victorian England such ideas and practices were considered shocking and unacceptable; they were universally condemned even by the most radical of medical writers. Medical warnings about the physical and emotional damage caused by "self abuse" were seconded by clergymen, and the consequent fears were exploited by quacks who touted patent devices and heroic cures for the affliction of masturbation. Scores of books and pamphlets encouraged young men to a higher standard of chastity. These pamphlets blended medical rhetoric with religious exhortation, and encouraged boys to store up these sexual energies for a more moral use.
None of the accusations resulted in trials in a court of law. A judge in a related custody case in India (Naranian vs. Besant, regarding the legal guardianship of Jiddu Krishnamurti and his brother Nityananda) remarked in his ruling that Leadbeater held "immoral ideas" – this prompted Annie Besant to support Leadbeater in a letter regarding the facts of the case and its coverage by The Times of London.
Readmission to the Theosophical Society
Olcott died in February 1907 in Perth, Australia. Annie Besant, after a political struggle, became president of the society. By the end of 1908, the International Sections voted for Leadbeater's readmission. He accepted and came to Adyar on 10 February 1909.
In 1909 Leadbeater "discovered" fourteen-year-old Jiddu Krishnamurti at Adyar. Leadbeater believed Krishnamurti to be the "vessel" for the indwelling of a concept known as World Teacher, whose imminent appearance he and many Theosophists were expecting. Like Moses, Siddhārtha Gautama, Zarathustra (Zoroaster), Jesus of Nazareth, and Muhammad ibn 'Abdullāh, the new teacher would reputedly divulge a new religious dispensation.
Leadbeater assigned the pseudonym Alcyone to Krishnamurti and under the title "Rents in the Veil of Time", he published 30 so-called past lives of "Alcyone" in a series in The Theosophist magazine beginning April 1910. "They ranged from 22,662 BC to 624 AD ... Alcyone was a female in eleven of them."
Leadbeater stayed in India until 1915, overseeing the education of Krishnamurti; he then relocated to Australia. During the late 1920s, Krishnamurti disavowed the role that Leadbeater and other Theosophists expected him to fulfil. He disassociated himself from the Theosophical Society and its doctrines and practices, and during the next six decades became known as an influential speaker on philosophical and religious subjects.
Australia and The Science of the Sacraments
Leadbeater moved to Sydney in 1915. He was responsible for the construction of the Star Amphitheatre at Balmoral Beach in 1924. While in Australia he became acquainted with J. I. Wedgwood, a Theosophist and bishop in the Liberal Catholic Church who initiated him into Co-Masonry in 1915 and later consecrated him as a bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church in 1916.
Public interest in Theosophy in Australia and New Zealand increased greatly as a result of Leadbeater's presence there, and Sydney became comparable to Adyar as a centre of Theosophical activity.
In 1922, the Theosophical Society began renting a mansion known as The Manor in the Sydney suburb of Mosman. Leadbeater took up residence there as the director of a community of Theosophists. The Manor became a major site and was regarded as "the greatest of occult forcing houses". There he accepted young women students. They included Clara Codd, future President of the Theosophical Society in America, clairvoyant Dora van Gelder, another future President of the Theosophical Society in America who during the 1970s also worked with Delores Krieger to develop the technique of Therapeutic touch, and Mary Lutyens, who would later write an authorized Krishnamurti biography. Lutyens stayed there in 1925, while Krishnamurti and his brother Nitya stayed at another house nearby. The Manor became one of three major Theosophical Society sites, the others being at Adyar and the Netherlands. The Theosophical Society bought The Manor in 1925 and during 1951 created The Manor Foundation Ltd, to own and administer the house, which is still used by the Society.
It was also during his stay in Australia that Leadbeater became the Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church and co-wrote the Liturgy Book for that denomination, still in use today. This work represents an adaptation of the Roman Catholic liturgy of his time, for which Leadbeater sought to remove what he regarded as undesirable elements, such as (in his view) the blatant anthropomorphisms and expressions of the fear and wrath of God, which he regarded "as derogatory alike to the idea of a loving Father and to the men He has created in His own image." "If Christians," he wrote, "had been content to take what Christ taught of the Father in heaven, they would never have saddled themselves with the jealous, angry, bloodthirsty Jehovah of Ezra, Nehemiah and the others - a god that needs propitiating and to whose 'mercy' constant appeals must be made."
Thus the Credo of the Liberal Catholic Church Liturgy written by Leadbeater reads:
- "We believe that God is Love and Power and Truth and Light; that perfect justice rules the world; that all His sons shall one day reach His Feet, however far they stray. We hold the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of man; we know that we do serve Him best when best we serve our brother man. So shall His blessing rest upon us and peace for evermore. Amen."
Previously Leadbeater had written on the energies of the Christian sacraments in The Science of Sacraments: An Occult and Clairvoyant Study of the Christian Eucharist, one of the most significant works of Christian esotericism. In his prologue to the latest edition of this book, John Kersey refers to the Eucharist proposed by Leadbeater as "a radical reinterpretation of the context of the Eucharist seen within a theological standpoint of esoteric magic and universal salvation; it is Catholicism expressing the love of God to the full without the burdens of needless guilt and fear, and the false totem of the temporal powers of the church."
Reputed clairvoyance and legacy
Leadbeater remains well-known and influential in New Age circles his work through his reputed clairvoyance with, for instance, his books The Chakras and Man, Visible and Invisible dealing with the human aura and chakras. In his book The Inner Life he wrote that there is a population of human-like beings on the planet Mars (a popular belief at the time).
His writings on the sacraments and Christian esotericism remain popular, with a constant stream of new editions and translations of his opus magnum 'The Science of the Sacraments'. His Liturgy book is still used by many Liberal and Independent Catholic Churches across the world.
- Dreams (What they are and how they are caused) (1893)
- Theosophical Manual Nº5: The Astral Plane (Its Scenery, Inhabitants and Phenomena) (1896)
- Theosophical Manual Nº6: The Devachanic Plane or The Heaven World Its Characteristics and Inhabitants (1896)
- The Story of Atlantis (with William Scott-Elliot) (1896)
- Reincarnation (1898)
- Our Relation to Our Children (1898)
- Clairvoyance (1899)
- Thought Forms (With Annie Besant) (1901)
- An Outline of Theosophy (1902)
- Man Visible and Invisible (1902)
- Some Glimpses of Occultism, Ancient and Modern (1903)
- The Christian Creed (1904)
- The Inner Life (1911)
- The Perfume of Egypt and Other Weird Stories (1911)
- The Power and Use of Thought (1911)
- The Life After Death and How Theosophy Unveils It (1912)
- A Textbook of Theosophy (1912)
- Man: Whence, How and Whither (With Annie Besant) (1913)
- Vegetarianism and Occultism (1913)
- The Hidden Side of Things (1913)
- Occult Chemistry (book) (1916)
- The Monad and Other Essays Upon the Higher Consciousness (1920)
- The Inner Side Of Christian Festivals (1920)
- The Science of the Sacraments (1920)
- The Lives of Alcyone (With Annie Besant) (1924)
- The Liturgy According to the Use of the Liberal Catholic Church (With J.I. Wedgwood) (Second Edition) (1924)
- The Masters and the Path (1925)
- Talks on the Path of Occultism (1926)
- Glimpses of Masonic History (1926) (later pub 1986 as Ancient Mystic Rites)
- The Hidden Life in Freemasonry (1926)
- The Chakras (1927) (published by the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, Illinois, USA)
- Spiritualism and Theosophy Scientifically Examined and Carefully Described (1928)
- The Noble Eightfold Path (1955)
- Messages from the Unseen (1931)
References and notes
- 1861 Census of England
- Tillett, Gregory John "Charles Webster Leadbeater 1854–1934, A Biographical Study", 1986, http://hdl.handle.net/2123/1623
- 1881 Census of England
- Warnon, Maurice H., "Charles Webster Leadbeater, Biographical Notes," http://kingsgarden.org/English/Organizations/LCC.GB/LCIS/Scriptures/Liberal/Leadbeater/Leadbeater.HTM
- Lutyens, Mary (1975). Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening. New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux. p. 13. ISBN 0-374-18222-1.
- Leadbeater, C.W. (1930). "How Theosophy Came To Me". The Theosophical Publishing House. Retrieved 26 March 2008.
- Lutyens 1975 p. 13.
- Oliveira, Pedro, CWL Bio, http://www.cwlworld.info/html/bio.html
- Warnon, Maurice H. Biographical Notes
- A Description of the Work of Annie Besant and C W Leadbetter, by Jinarajadasa
- San Francisco Passenger Lists 1893–1953
- Lutyens 1975 p. 14.
- Lutyens 1975 p. 15.
- Lutyens 1975 p. 16.
- Lutyens 1975 p. 17.
- Copy of C. W. Leadbeater to A. Fullerton, 27 February 1906, Document A, 4, III/46A, TSE[full citation needed]; "Minutes of Meeting Called by Colonel Olcott to Discuss Charges, May 16th, 1906", 9, III/46R, TSE.[full citation needed]
- Lutyens 1975 p. 12.
- Lutyens 1975 p. 45n.
- Lutyens 1975 p. 202n.
- Kersey, John. Arnold Harris Mathew and the Old Catholic Movement in England 1908–52. p. 194.
- Kersey p. 195.
- Dixon, Joy (1962). Divine feminine: theosophy and feminism in England.p. cm. The Johns Hopkins University studies in historical and political science 119th ser. 2001.[full citation needed]
- Hall, Forbidden by God, Despised by Men.[full citation needed]
- Besant, Annie (2 June 1913). "Naranian v. Besant". [Letters to the Editor]. The Times (London). p. 7. ISSN 0140–0460.
- Kersey p. 199n.
- Lutyens 1975 pp. 20–21.
- Lutyens 1975 pp. 11–12.
- Lutyens 1975 pp. 23–24.
- Lutyens 1975 "Chapter 33: Truth is a Pathless Land", pp. 272–275.
- Lutyens 1975 pp. 276–278, 285.
- Tillet, 1986, "supra"
- Lutyens 1975 p. 191.
- Tillet, 1982, "supra".
- The Theosophist, August 1997, pp. 460–463.
- The Liturgy according to the Use of the Liberal Catholic Church (Preface), p. 11.
- The Liturgy according to the Use of the Liberal Catholic Church (Preface), p. 249.
- The Science of the Sacraments, New 2007 edition (Preface by John Kersey), p. 11.
- Leadbeater's Observations on Mars
- Caldwell, Daniel. Charles Webster Leadbeater: His Life, Writings & Theosophical Teachings.
- Kersey, John. Arnold Harris Matthew and the Old Catholic Movement in England: 1908–52
- Kersey, John. The Science of the Sacraments by Charles Webster Leadbeater. New 2007 Edition with a Preface by John Kersey
- Michel, Peter. Charles W. Leadbeater:Mit den Augen des Geistes ISBN 3-89427-107-8 (In German; No English translation available)
- Tillett, Gregory. The Elder Brother: A Biography of Charles Webster Leadbeater.
- Lutyens, Mary. Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening; Avon Books (Discus), New York. 1983 ISBN 0-380-00734-7
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- A Chronological Listing of C.W. Leadbeater's Books and Pamphlets.
- Charles Webster Leadbeater: His Life, Writings & Theosophical Teachings
- Biography, bibliography and digital Library
- Leadbeater Collection online at global.org
- Singapore Lodge - C. W. Leadbeater Biography
- Spirit Writings Biography
- articles by and about C.W. Leadbeater
- Occult Investigations
- Picture and short bio
- Works by Charles Webster Leadbeater at Project Gutenberg
- CWL World
- Articles by and about C.W. Leadbeater
- Charles Webster Leadbeater 1854-1934, A Biographical Study by Gregory John Tillett