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1906 Controversy Sources

Mar 16, 2006 06:01 PM
by gregory

I have received an e-mail regarding sources on the 1906 allegations against
Leadbeater, and have replied to that correspondent privately. But the following
may be of more general interest.

“A Short History of the Theosophical Society” by Josephine Ransom, published by
the Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1938 provides a basic account of the
1906 case (pp.356-361) and of the Advisory Board which met under Olcott’s
chairmanship. No claim is made in Ransom’s semi-official history that
Leadbeater denied any of the allegations.

Copies of the transcript of the proceedings of the Committee are to be found in
various archives: I saw them in the archives of the TS at Adyar, the archives
of Pt Loma Publications in San Diego and the TS International at Pt Loma. The
original documents and related material in the matter were donated by Mrs
Dennis to the Harper Library at the University of Chicago, and she gave copies
of the material to the Special Collections Department at Columbia University.

The transcript and other documents are published in “The Evolution of Mrs
Besant…” published by the Editors of “Justice”, Madras, 1918. A further source
is F.T. Brooks  “Neotheosophy Exposed”, Vyasashrama Bookshop, Madras, 1914, and
“The Theosophical Society and Its Esoteric Bogeydom”, Vyasashrama Bookshop,
Madras, 1914  - more detailed and otherwise unpublished information is found in
the “Private Supplement” to these work which Brooks published privately in 1914.
Brooks had stayed with Leadbeater in 1895, and was something of a rising star of
the TS. He became a tutor to Jawaharlal Nehru and persuaded him, as a young man,
to join the TS.

In his book, “Nehru: A Tryst With Destiny” (Oxford University Press, New York,
1996), Stanley Wolpert, Professor of South Asian History, University of
California, Los Angeles, refers to Brooks and Leadbeater. In his review of the
book, “Nehru may have had gay tendencies, reveals biographer”, Chidanand
Rajghatta writes:  “Wolpert claims Nehru's first attachment was with a young
man called Ferdinand Brooks who was his French teacher. Brooks was a
Theosophist but Wolpert says before coming to India the "handsome” man was a
disciple and lover of Charles Webster Leadbeater, a renegade Anglican curate
who was accused of child molestation and pederasty on several continents.
Leadbeater openly advocated mutual masturbation among young boys.” (“Indian
Express”, February 5, 1997)

A range of other sources of material exists on the 1906 case. For example,
Herbert Burrows and G.R.S.Mead (who was a member of the Committee which
inquired into the allegations against Leadbeater) published” The Leadbeater
Case”, London, 1908. Numerous pamphlets were circulated in Britain and the USA
when it was proposed to reinstate Leadbeater in the TS, and many of these
contain parts of the transcript and the evidence.

A detailed account of the immediate consequences of the 1906 affair is found at

Dr. A.M. Bain's Theosophy International website, used to include an interesting set
of "Documents of the "Leadbeater Affair" of 1906-1908," including
transcriptions of various of Helen Dennis's letters, the Famous "Cipher
Letter," and the famous and touching letter of T.H. Martyn to Annie Besant
(from “The O.E. Library Critic”) but this site does not now seem to be

Sections of the transcript of the Committee are reproduced in Margaret Thomas’
“Theosophy or Neotheosophy” – the relevant part of that work is available at

The question of why the matter did not end up in court is an interesting one.
Had the allegations related to acts occurring in Great Britain, Olcott and
every other member of the Committee would probably have been guilty of the
common law offence of misprison of a felony for failing to report the
allegations to the Police. But for a prosecution to occur in relation to the
American boys it would have had to be initiated in the USA and in the State in
which the offences were alleged to have occurred, and it would have
necessitated the boys concerned giving evidence. I don’t know of any allegation
relating to an offence in Britain (although curiously, Jinarajadasa subsequently
stated that Leadbeater had taught masturbation to boys during his time as an
Anglican clergyman – see ‘The Theosophist”, February, 1927:519).

Dr Gregory Tillett

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