Wood's Book (V) 1 of 2
Feb 04, 1997 03:22 PM
by M K Ramadoss
Here is some more of excerpts from Wood's book "Is This Theosophy?".
We were in California again in the spring of 1924. There we met Mr. A. P.
Warrington former President of the American Section of the Theosophical
Society and still a prominent figure in the movement. He had recently been
to Australia and was filled with enthusiasm for Mr. Leadbeater's work there.
He told my wife that Mr. Leadbeater had been asking about me and wishing
that I would come there, and saying what a great opportunity there was for
me to make rapid occult advancement-"three initiations at least." He and she
both wanted me to go.
I hesitated for a long time, because of my lack of confidence in Mr.
Leadbeater's clairvoyance in connection with the past lives of Krishnamurti,
and also because my personal affection for the old gentleman might cause me
to get caught again (as I put it to myself) in the work of book-making for
him. However, Mr. Warrington was very impressive on the point and I at last
yielded, fulfilled an engagement to lecture for the British Section of the
Society, returned again to America to complete engagements there, and sailed
from San Francisco for Sydney in October, 1924.
In this and other trips across the Pacific Ocean my wife and I had
opportunities to see several of the Pacific Islands. The Cook Islands, with
Avarua on Rarotonga as capital, are boldly beautiful. Papeete, on Tahiti,
chief of the Society Isles, has less rocky and more floral charm. Pango
Pango on Tutuila, of the Samoan or Navigator Islands, is superb- mountains
and the sea at their best in a lovely land-locked harbour.
The Samoans are said to be the tallest race in the world. Those at Pango
Pango seemed more accessible than most of the Polynesians, perhaps because
of the sociable tendencies of the Americans who govern it and use it as a
naval base. When a ship comes into harbour these people seat themselves in
rows in the public gardens, with specimens of their handicraft spread in
front of them-mainly carved wooden bowls and model catamarans, beaten bark
"cloth," and bead work. These articles are for sale, but also for exchange,
especially for your umbrella. The people have a passion for umbrellas and
pyjamas; we exchanged nearly all we had for wooden bowls and bark curtains.
No doubt they felt towards us as our English felt towards the Maoris when
they acquired land in exchange for a few Birmingham toys (with the
difference that the Maoris afterwards maintained that they did not
understand that they were parting with their land).
Fiji was somehow a pathetic place, no doubt because of the unhappy
condition of the colonists from India, who number two-fifths of the
population. Apart from economic conditions, there seems always a touch of
pathos about Hindus-and Spaniards. Lost glories, felt in the blood.
New Zealand and Australia, which are usually felt to be near together from
the distance of England, though really they are more than twelve hundred
miles apart, stand in considerable contrast as regards both their natural
features (New Zealand has all the rugged beauty of Japan-both volcanic
countries, which might well compete for first place in a beauty contest) and
their people (the New Zealanders are very British and the Australians rather
American in appearance and mode of life).
We travelled throughout New Zealand. In several places we saw the Maoris
at their farming work and travelling on the railway-very gentle people they
seemed. But the women who act as guides at Potarua were altogether too
pushing and personal. They seemed to think that we wanted to see them rather
than the natural wonders of the place. We looked at the giant geyser, which
happened to spurt while we were there, at the ponds of boiling mud, which
jumps up in little lumps, giving one the illusion of a colony of lively
frogs, and at the people cooking their food in vessels placed in the waters
of the boiling springs. In the South Island, Christchurch especially seemed
a little bit of old England, with its Avon (river) and its very English
One day I rowed some ladies on that Avon, and as we were going round a
bend a man cutting off the corner ran his prow on one of our rowlocks,
causing our boat to heel over and half fill with water. I begged him not to
back off but he did so, with the result that we rolled over on the other
side, completely filled and slowly sank. The ladies behaved with perfect
calm, sitting still, and only rising to their feet as the boat entirely
disappeared under the water which was fortunately only about three feet
deep. It was very amusing to see them holding up their little handbags and
wading in three inches of mud and three feet of water to the bank, whence we
hurried home in motor-cars
Sydney is a crowded town with narrow streets, but beautiful suburbs,
containing over a million people of the finest physical race in the world. I
have said that the Australians are something like the Americans, but
physically they have got them beat. The Americans are a little soft, but not
so this outdoor race, everywhere fond of physical sports and pastimes,
especially swimming, which is convenient for the Australian population, as
it resides mostly round the coast. It is a race good for the eyes, I never
tired of looking at them, although they made me feel rather small.
Our destination was a suburb named Clifton Gardens and a fine old house,
renamed " The Manor," when it became the residence of Mr. Leadbeater and his
colony of Theosophists. I must, however, now call him Bishop Leadbeater,
because since I had met him last he had become a Bishop of the Liberal
Catholic Church, a new organization which some Theosophists had founded,
with ceremonials closely following those of the Roman Catholic Church but a
platform intended to allow entire freedom of thought with reference to all
religious dogmas, except of course the belief in Jesus Christ as "our
Bishop Leadbeater had always said that churches and their ceremonies
radiated "force." Long before, he and Mrs. Besant had inspected at Rome the
holy water of St. Peter's and also that of an independent preacher who had
not the Apostolic Succession, and they had found the unofficial water more
influential. But this was regarded as an exceptional case, because of the
superlative goodness of the independent preacher, while the organization of
the Apostolic Succession, on the other hand, provided for an allowance of
force to pass through the body of any person properly initiated into the
Succession, if the sex be male, even if the personal character be quite
immoral and the body unclean.
Bishop Leadbeater had attained his rank in the Church through the agency
of two or three other Theosophists who had obtained their Succession through
a man named Willoughby, who had been a Bishop in the Roman Catholic Church,
but for some reason had left that body and had been experimenting with a new
church of his own.
In addition to joining the Liberal Catholic Church Bishop Leadbeater had
entered the Co-Masonic movement (which admitted women and men on equal
terms) and become a leading figure in that also, with the aid of Mrs.
Besant, who was at the head of that movement as far as the British Empire
The great attraction of both these movements from Bishop Leadbeater's
point of view was the sacramental force of their rituals. Some of the
ceremonies were directed to help the individual - as, for example, those
connected with absolution, marriage and death. Absolution was not regarded
as removing the effects of sins but only as turning the sinner's face back
into the virtuous direction and putting him right, so to speak, with God.
But the most important sacramental actions or ceremonies, such as the Mass,
were considered to distribute "help " over a large area.
Both these movements were held to be vastly important for the work of the
World Teacher who was still to come, and two Masters were in charge of them,
personally directing their renaissance through Bishop Leadbeater, who was
helping to revise as well as revive and popularize the ceremonial forms. The
Master Jesus now living in seclusion somewhere in Syria, was held to be in
charge of the Church. Since his incarnation in Palestine he had been
incarnated, it was declared, in South India in the twelfth century as the
reformer Sri Ramanujacharya.
I already knew that Ramanujacharya had led a highly devotional revival in
South India and had established one of the largest and most vigorous sects,
in opposition to the old widespread Hindu belief that the soul of every man
is absolutely one with God. Afterwards I learned that he rejected the
movement for the substitution of " flour substitutes" for living victims in
the sacrifical ceremonies and as such support of animal sacrifices did not
seem consistent with the traditional character of Jesus, I was led by this
to further doubt as to the reliability of Bishop Leadbeater's clairvoyant
In charge of the masonic movement was a Master, it was announced, living
incognito in Europe, a man of great culture, formerly incarnated as Roger
Bacon, and again as Francis Bacon, who was responsible for the chief part of
the writings attributed to Shakespeare. Both these Masters were devoted to a
still greater Master, the World Teacher who had used the body of Jesus, and
was now to use that of Krishnamurti as soon as the occasion might be ripe.
Being of an open mind I did not regard these propositions as inherently
improbable. There are plenty of things in heaven and earth which are not yet
known to the man in the street, the man in the laboratory and the man in the
church. And I always had been predisposed to the belief that the best is the
true, that goodness sprouts from something fundamental in the Universe and
is not merely a superficial accident in man. But I disliked the ceremonials.
They seemed to me to obstruct the good and the true, and make them dependent
upon externals. How absurd to think that certain gestures and words could be
vehicles of spiritual forces. Love, truth and the will were the only
spiritual forces, and virtue was its own reward, or it was not virtue
Spiritual force could not be ladled out like soup, nor distributed to the
worthy as Sunday-school prizes, nor inherited like grandfather's pantaloons.
When I saw what Bishop Leadbeater had been doing during the eleven years
that I had been away from him I could not help thinking that there was
little to show for the unique clairvoyant powers of which he believed
himself to be possessed. I knew, of course, that it was " forbidden" to use
those powers in any way which would give proof of their actual existence to
a public which might easily, if convinced of such things, throw overboard
its rational progress and indulge in an orgy of revelation and magic, or
might at least prostitute the new science to selfish ends. In material
matters, seemingly they could be used only for prov~dmg such information as
that jazz music attracted revolting "elementals" and dead negroes, onions
polluted astral as well as the physical body, and the wearing of black
delayed occult progress. In my younger days, in the thoroughness of my
passion for perfection, I might have dyed my hair golden, and recommended
the whole Indian nation to do the same. But by now I was a confirmed
disciple only of goodness, truth and beauty-perfection lay in the balanced
synthesis of these, a terrific task, since the conditions of human life
constantly of one virtue to another called for the sacrifice.
I think that Bishop Leadbeater had come to the conclusion that his
clairvoyance and the powers associated with it were useful only for occult
purposes. He wanted humanity to undergo a change of heart. People were too
self-centred, thinking of personal comfort, pleasure, ambition, pride and
acquisition. Could they be persuaded to come out of themselves, and look at
life from the standpoint of the general good instead of individual desire,
the whole world would change. This was the one essential of progress, from
his point of view, both for the individual and the world. One could do
little for the world at large, for who would take heed of the preaching of
this truth? Therefore he would (1) concentrate his attention upon a small
community of people, especially young people, earnestly trying to become
unselfish in thought, feeling and life, and (2) work for the ceremonial
movements by which occult forces could be caused to play upon the auras of
the people, and thus facilitate the impersonalizing process from the outside.
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