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Theos-World From Dr Gregory Tillett: Concerning Mr Sanat's Comments on THE ELDER BROTHER

May 25, 2000 10:43 AM
by David Green

Dear Mr Green:

Thank you for forwarding me a copy of Mr Sanat¹s comments on my
biography of Leadbeater. I would hardly have recognized it as a
commentary on my book had it not been identified as such, but,
having recently read Mr Sanat¹s extraordinary work on
Krishnamurti, I would not anticipate serious historical
commentary from him. For all his assertions in this commentary
that ³the facts & the evidence are the facts & evidence², Mr
Sanat appears not to apply that principle in his own work. He
notes, for example, Leadbeater¹s dates as 1847-1934 (p. 8),
apparently unwilling to allow the fact and the evidence of
Leadbeater¹s birth certificate and other documentary evidence so
to the year of his birth to get in the way of a Theosophical
myth and a Leadbeaterian falsehood. Perhaps, however, the policy
of his publisher was influential here.

I would, probably naively, have assumed that someone, like Mr
Sanat, laying claim to some sort of academic status, would at
least honestly represent the work they purport to review, but Mr
Sanat does not, apparently, feel constrained by the normal
standards of academic (or even polite) discourse in his comments
on my biography.

However, since you ask for my views on his comments on ³The
Elder Brother², I will give them.

The suggestion that the book accuses Leadbeater ³of being a
perverse, immoral person² ³almost from cover to cover² is very
odd.On what pages ? Although if one takes consistent lying as an
indication of perversity and immorality, I suppose my revelation
of Leadbeater¹s apparent incapacity to tell the truth about his
family background and childhood might be read in this way.
As to the allegations of sexual morality, Mr Sanat totally
distorts what I wrote. I would note that it would difficult not
to deal with the allegations of sexual misconduct against
Leadbeater in a biography of him, or even, given the effect they
had on the Theosophical Society at the time, on any study of the
Theosophical Society. To say that ³no one ever found any
evidence of such presumed impropriety² is simply untrue, unless
one takes an extremely liberal view of sexual propriety.
However, let me deal sequentially with Mr Sanat¹s claims.

1. I do not state that ³law enforcement agencies on three
continents were hell-bent on getting convictions against CWL².
The only country in which I note any Police interest in
Leadbeater was Australia. I know of no police investigations
into Leadbeater in Great Britain; it was other clergy of the
Liberal Catholic Church (notable Wedgwood) who attracted Police
attention there. Nor am I aware of any Police investigations in
India and the USA. Where in my book are these claims made by me
? I certainly quote an obituary from ³The New Statesman² which
alleges that Leadbeater attracted Police attention ³on three
continents², but I am not responsible for what others write.

2. Nor in my book do I state - or even suggest - that ³these
were no ordinary cops² or that they ³They REALLY wanted CWL, &
they Œwanted him BAD¹.² The Australian Police involved were
indeed ordinary Police Officers whose attention was initially
drawn to Leadbeater by letters from Theosophists in the USA. The
evidence from the New South Wales Police files (which I suspect
Mr Sanat has not read) suggests the Police knew nothing of
Theosophy and thought it simply some sort of crank religious
movement of no social importance. Perhaps Mr Sanat would like to
produce the evidence that ³these were no ordinary cops², that
they ³absolutely hated anything & everything to do with the TS.²
Given Mr Sanat¹s commitment to the principle that ³the facts &
the evidence are the facts & evidence², I look forward to seeing
his evidence to support these assertions. As for his suggestion
that they were ³VICTORIAN cops², either his geography is
defective (the Police were in the State of New South Wales, not
the State of Victoria) or his history is even more so: he needs
to be informed that Queen Victoria died in 1901.

3. I do not say anywhere that the Police ³interviewed dozens of
people in all three continents, & collaborated with each other,
to make sure they would Œget their man¹.² Perhaps Mr Sanat would
like to cite the pages on which he alleges I make these
ridiculous assertions ? Again, where are ³the facts & the
evidence² ?

4. Perhaps Mr Sanat might also like to cite the pages on which
he alleges I ³throughout² my book state that Leadbeater ³taught
sexual practices², ²dedicating some chapters largely to this
subject²: which pages ? which chapters ? what proportion of the
whole text ?

5. The Police - in Sydney - concluded, NOT that there was
nothing underlying the charges against Leadbeater (as a reading
of the Police file makes clear), but that they would be unlikely
to gain a conviction. Mr Sanat¹s knowledge of law may be as
defective as his grasp of history, but it is a common, if
unfortunate, legal reality that prosecutions are not undertaken
because of a belief that a case may not be sustained - even
though the legal authorities are satisfied that a crime has been
committed. It is worth noting that Leadbeater would never make
himself available to be interviewed by the Police, despite their
attempts to interview him. Perhaps Mr Sanat is unaware of a
summary of the conclusions of the Police investigation prepared
by a member of the Sydney Lodge of the Theosophical Society
(using his influence with the then Minister for Justice to gain
access to the files). I summarize this on page 200 of ³The Elder
Brother², and a copy of the ³Precis² is in my possession. Mr
Sanat fails to quote my summary of the reasons the Police gave
for their conclusion that a prosecution would fail: ³The general
opinion of the police seems to have been that, whilst there
could be little doubt that there was a sexual relationship
between Leadbeater and at least some of his boys, it would have
been virtually impossible to prove the matter in court, given
the unquestioning loyalty and devotion of the boys for their
teacher, and their belief that whatever he did was motivated by
spiritual or occult principles.² (pp. 200-201)

6. Mr Sanat seems sadly confused about the allegations against
Leadbeater. The so-called ³1906 case² related to allegations,
deriving from the USA, that Leadbeater ³taught masturbation².
The whole transcript of the committee set up by Olcott to
inquire into the matter needs to be read; I did not include it
all for the simple reason that space did not allow. In that
transcript Leadbeater is reported as making several interesting
admissions. He stated that he ³taught² (as opposed to condoned
or did not disapprove of) masturbation. He stated that this
³teaching² may have ³involved some indicative action², and, in
some cases, ³touch². He also said he gave this teaching in some
cases to pre-pubescent boys. I cannot judge Leadbeater¹s
clairvoyant claims - although, given that he lied about basic
matters on this plane, I am reluctant to attribute honesty to
him in matters to do with the world invisible - but ³teaching²
masturbation to pubescent and pre-pubescent boys (as opposed to
providing non-judgemental counselling to those who might already
be doing it) would seem to be perverse and immoral. It would, if
there was ³indicative action², let alone ³touch², also seem to
be criminal. The second set of allegations - also emanating from
American Theosophists - led to the Police investigations of the
early 1920¹s in Sydney. These allegations included those that
were more serious and those which were less directly sexual.
Certainly, there is no doubt that Leadbeater regularly slept and
bathed with naked prepubescent and pubescent boys while in
Sydney. Whether this is perverse or immoral is, I suppose, a
matter of opinion.

7. What I did not clearly present in the biography were two
sources which (although referred to indirectly - see p. xii) I
had consulted; I withheld them out of concern for the
individuals involved. Russell (Dick) Balfour Clarke, author of a
memoir of the boyhood of Krishnamurti, spoke with me at length
at Adyar (and made a written statement summarizing his
recollections) about his knowledge of Leadbeater¹s interactions
with the ³boys². Dick was, at the time of our discussions,
living on the Adyar Estate and was concerned that he, in great
old age and poverty, would be evicted if his disclosures became
known. He did not ask me to refrain from identifying him, but my
respect for that wonderful old man motivated me to do so. Dick
described habitual ³bathing² in the morning at The Manor in
which Leadbeater insisted all the ³boys² and he (Leadbeater)
were naked together, and in which he (Leadbeater) would be given
an enema by a boy chosen for the occasion. He told me that
Leadbeater always took a naked boy into the bath with him,
supposedly ³because he had a weak heart². Perhaps this is not
perverse and immoral. It is, at the very least, unusual
behaviour. Brigit Kollerstrom, widow of Oscar Kollerstrom, one
of Leadbeater¹s favourite ³boys² (and one widely believed to be
the ³Vehicle² for ³the Coming² prior to the discovery of
Krishnamurti) gave me access to Oscar¹s diaries for the period
of in which he was a favourite pupil of Leadbeater. She later
wrote to me describing ³pressure² she had been put under as a
result of it becoming known that she had shown me the diaries
and I therefore also omitted too explicit a reference to her.
Very sadly, Brigid took her own life some time later. Those
diaries recorded Leadbeater as teaching the version of ³magical
masturbation² I discuss in the biography. I subsequently had
contact with Dr Jean Kollerstrom (a former wife of Oscar) who
confirmed (in writing) that Oscar had told her of this, just as
I had recorded it. All this is dealt with in my doctoral thesis,
which was completed after Dick and Brigid had died.

8. Mr Sanat¹s claim of lack of evidence presupposes a rejection
of the statements from the boys which led to the ³1906 Case²
(Robin Dennis, Douglas Petit and Hubert van Hook, for example)
and of the further statements which were produced around 1922
(for example, those of the devout Leadbeater disciples, Mr and
Mrs Martyn). It also pre-supposes that the so-called ³cypher
letter² was a fraud. It is difficult to read the encoded section
of that letter as other than perverse. Perhaps Mr Sanat can
offer his own interpretation ? It is notable that at no time -
despite repeated calls for him to do so - did Leadbeater deny
writing the letter. He offered various and evasive responses,
but never said simply and clearly that he did not write the
letter (or write the encoded passage).

9. Mr Sanat must also be unaware - as I was at the time of
writing the biography - of the evidence collected by the English
Theosophist, E.L. Gardner; this was detailed in his extensive
correspondence with Boris de Zirkhoff, and in a series of papers
(headed ³Private²) in which Gardner presented his arguments and
evidence against Leadbeater. Not having this material at the
time of writing the biography I could not, obviously, include
it. It is summarized in my doctoral thesis, and I possess copies
of all the Gardner correspondence and papers, together with
additional material provided to me by Gardner¹s literary
executor, Rex Dutta (a Theosophist who lived on the Tekels Park
Theosophical estate in England).

10. Mr Sanat states that he had ³been fortunate enough to meet
some of these people². One must assume he does not mean the boys
involved in the 1906 matter (which occurred 94 years ago). Does
he mean the boys involved in the allegations in the 1920¹s ? If
so, which boys ? Disingenuous Theosophical apologists often
refer to Leadbeater¹s ³disciples² as issuing all sorts of
statements about their knowledge of him. However, the
allegations did not relate to ³disciples² broadly defined. That
would, for example, include people like Lady Emily Lutyens and
Mary Lutyens in the 1920¹s. Which of the then pre-pubescent and
pubescent boys who lived with Leadbeater at the time of the 1906
or 1920¹s scandals did Mr Sanat meet ? Where are their
statements? Again, if ³the facts & the evidence are the facts &
evidence², it would be helpful to have the facts and the
evidence. It is worth noting that some of those ³boys² made
public statements of support for Leadbeater which they later
retracted. A notable example is Harold Morton, for many years
Leadbeater¹s secretary. I have in my possession a letter from
Morton to Dick Balfour Clarke doing just this. And, although
Krishnamurti made broadly supportive statements during the
1920¹s troubles, he later declared to Mary Lutyens: ³Leadbeater
was evil.²

11. Lest it is the suggestion that Leadbeater had a sexual
relationship with Krishnamurti that so troubles Mr Sanat, I
would note that I do not allege such a relationship in my
biography; the only such allegation of which I am aware was
made, and abandoned, by Krishnamurti¹s father during the Indian
custody case. I was recently criticized by an American
bibliographer for generally not devoting enough attention to
Leadbeater¹s sexual activities, and for failing to record that
he raped Krishnamurti. In an interview with the author of a
forthcoming biography of Krishnamurti I was also asked about
³evidence² of a sexual relationship between Leadbeater and
Krishnamurti. I know of no evidence whatsoever to suggest any
sexual relationship (including the ³teaching² of masturbation)
between Leadbeater and Krishnamurti.

12. Mr Sanat¹s representation of my final chapter is a crude,
and dishonest, distortion. The final chapter is clearly
indicated as speculative. My familiarity with Leadbeater¹s
writings would, I suspect, hardly be likely to lead me to any
evidence of ³perverse sexual teachings²; it is hardly likely
that he would have written, or that the Theosophical Publishing
House would have published, anything on the subject. As I note
in the final chapter, the question of whether he taught some
form of sexual magic and, if so, what it origins might have
been, remains one of the mysteries about the man. All I do is
present such fragmentary evidence and speculation as there is -
most of it not originating with me - in exploring what I think
is an interesting area of Leadbeater¹s life.

13. Whether Leadbeater ³committed any perverse sexual acts² or
³taught any perverse sexual teachings to his disciples² is very
much a matter of opinion. He certainly - as the statements in
the Sydney Police file record - taught the ³boys² to ³have
nothing to do with women². Whether he taught anything else, or
did anything else, is necessarily (as I point out in my final
chapter) a matter of speculation.

14. Mr Sanat concludes by noting that ³the facts & the evidence
are the facts & evidence². I challenge him to provide ³the facts
and the evidence² - the page numbers, the chapters - to support
his dishonest and silly misrepresentation of my account of the
sexual scandals that followed Leadbeater throughout his
Theosophical career, and to produce the evidence to which he
alludes but fails to identify.

[ Forwarded to theos-talk from Dr Gregory Tillett.
Note: THE ELDER BROTHER: A Biography Of Charles Webster Leadbeater by Gregory Tillett may be ordered from Point Loma Publications at ]

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