Charles Webster Leadbeater

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Fast Facts
200px-CWL_1914 (1).jpg
Other Names and Nicknames: 
CWL, C. W. Leadbeater
Theosophical Society
Main Countries of Activity: 
UK, India, Australia
Date of Birth: 
February 16, 1854
Place of Birth: 
Stockport, Cheshire, England
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
Date Left His/Her Body: 
March 1, 1934


C. W. Leadbeater was an English clergyman, author, clairvoyant, and prominent early member of the Theosophical Society.

He himself was born in Stockport, Cheshire, in 1854. By 1861 the family had moved to London. His father died from tuberculosis in 1862, when Charles was only eight years old. Four years later another misfortune appears to have struck the family when a bank in which their savings were invested collapsed. Thus without finances for college, Charles had to seek work right after graduating high school to support his mother and himself. This he did in various clerical jobs. During the evenings he became largely self-educated and studied astronomy, French, Latin and Greek.

An uncle, his father's brother-in-law, was the prominent Anglican clergyman, William Wolfe Capes. By this uncle's influence, Charles was ordained an Anglican priest in 1879 at 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 minister, teacher and youth leader who was later remembered as "a bright and cheerful and kindhearted man." About this time, after reading about the séances of medium Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886), Leadbeater developed an active interest in spiritualism. After the death of his mother in 1882, Charles shared their cottage with another curate.

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. "When she accepted him as a pupil, he gave up the church, became a vegetarian, severed all ties with England, and followed her to India.

At this time he was the recipient of a few Mahatma letters which influenced him to go to India, where he arrived at Adyar in 1884. In India he wrote that he had received visits and training from some of Blavatsky's Masters. This was the start of a long career in the Theosophical Society.

In 1885, Leadbeater traveled with Henry Steel Olcott, the first President of the Theosophical Society, to Burma and Ceylon, now Myanmar and Sri Lanka. In Ceylon they founded the English Buddhist Academy, with Leadbeater staying behind to serve as its first headmaster under the most austere conditions. This school gradually expanded to become Ananda College, which today has over 6,000 students and has a building named in Leadbeater's honor.

In 1889, Sinnett asked Leadbeater to return to England to tutor his son and George Arundale. He agreed and brought with him one of his pupils C Jinarajadasa. Although struggling in poverty himself, Leadbeater managed to send both Arundale and Jinarajadasa to Cambridge University. Both would eventually serve as International Presidents of the Theosophical Society.

At the time London was a center of intellectual activity. The United States had not yet emerged as a world power, Europe was still old world, and London was the hub of the British Empire. And with such distinguished members as Sir William Crooks, naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, Sir Edwin Arnold and the Rt. Hon. William Gladstone,the Theosophical Society was an intellectual hub of the hub.
Jinarajadasa relates how Leadbeater had already done some occult investigations, then in May 1894, did his first Past life reading.

He became one of the most known speakers in the Theosophical Society for quite a number of years and was also Secretary of the London Lodge.

With Annie Besant, starting in 1895, they 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."

Leadbeater was accused of pederasty, the first accusation coming in 1906.

Mary Lutyens in "Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening" writes:

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 the TS, as he told Olcott, "to save the Society from embarrassment."

After Olcott died in Feb 1907, 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.

Discovery of Jiddu Krishnamurti

His most well-known activity was the discovery, in April, 1909, of Jiddu Krishnamurti, on the private beach that formed part of the Theosophical headquarters in Adyar, India.

Krishnamurti and his family had been living in the headquarters for a few months before this discovery. Krishnamurti was to be the vessel for the indwelling of the coming "World Teacher" that many Theosophists were expecting. This new teacher would, in the pattern of Moses, Buddha, Zarathustra (Zoroaster), Christ, and Muhammad divulge a new dispensation, a new religious teaching. Theosophists believed that the teacher was a spiritual being called Maitreya who would dwell in the body vessel.

Leadbeater knew hoe to read past lives, and did so on Krishnamurti who he code named Alcyone, publishing 30 such past lives in The Theosophist beginning April 1910 as Lives of Alcyone. "They ranged from 20,000 BC to 624 AD... Alycone was a female in eleven of them."

During the summer of 1910, C.W. Leadbeater conducted further research into the akashic records which he said he clairvoyantly inspected at the Theosophical Society headquarters in Adyar (Tamil Nadu), India. He recorded the results in his book "Man: How, Whence, and Whither?". The book records the past history of Atlantis and other civilizations. The past lives of "Alcyone" are described. The future society of Earth in the 28th century is depicted as being powered by atomic energy.

Charles Leadbeater stayed in India for some time overseeing the raising of Krishnamurti, but eventually felt that he was being called to go to Australia for the cause.

In his later life, Krishnamurti termed Leadbeater "evil"

Annie Besant had come to see Leadbeater as a liability and was relieved when, in 1915 he went to live in Sydney. He was responsible for the construction of the Star Amphitheatre at Balmoral Beach in 1924. While in Australia he came in closer contact with J. I. Wedgwood who initiated him into Co-Masonry in 1915 and then in 1916, as a Bishop himself, consecrated Leadbeater into the Liberal Catholic Church.

Public interest in theosophy in Australia and New Zealand increased greatly as a result of Leadbeater's presence there. To this day Sydney is comparable to Adyar as a center 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 leader of a community of Theosophists. The Manor became a major centre and was regarded as "the greatest of occult forcing houses". There he accepted young women students. They included Clara Codd, future President of the TS in America, clairvoyant Dora van Gelder, another future President of the TS in America who in the 1970s also worked with Delores Krieger to develop the technique of Therapeutic Touch, and Mary Lutyens, who would write the 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 TS centres, the others being the one at Adyar and one in Holland. The TS bought The Manor in 1925 and in 1951 created The Manor Foundation Ltd, to own and administer the house, which is still used by the Theosophical Society.

He remains well known and influential in his work through clairvoyance with for instance his books The Chakras and Man, Visible and Invisible dealing with the human aura and chakras, and writing on the function of the Sacraments in the Liberal Catholic Church, to name just a few subjects.



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