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  Posted: Tuesday, January 01, 2008, 12:09AM

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"No Religion Higher Than Truth"
by Ernest Wood, 1964


Ernest Wood (1883-1965)
Ernest Wood


 much regret to find in the July 1964 issue of The American Theosophist, in an article by Hugh Shearman criticizing Mr. E.L. Gardner's booklet "There is no religion higher than truth," a comment denying Mr. Gardner's statement that it was Mr. Leadbeater, not Mrs. Besant, who discovered Krishnamurti. I wish to inform Mr. Shearman and the readers of his article that it was Mr. Leadbeater who made the discovery. Mr. Leadbeater was the source of the proclamation of the coming of the World Teacher, bur Mrs. Besant made the proclamation later with full confidence in him. In this matter Mr. Gardner was perfectly correct.

Krishnamurti (right) 1895-1986
Krishnamurti (right)


Having been present on the occasion of the "discovery" of Krishnamurti, I am in a position to give a direct eye-witness account of the matter. I am not trusting entirely on memory, as I still have with me a large collection of notes, among which is my article "Ten Thousand Hours with Mr. Leadbeater," written and published in a theosophical sectional magazine while he was still alive. There is also the very abbreviated account of the incident which was presented in my old out-of-print book unfortunately entitled (by the publishers in London), Is This Theosophy? I have, in fact, a large collection of notes and cuttings on this and kindred subjects, weighing no less than 30 pounds - a mine of information which may possibly be sorted and edited by someone after my death.

Let me now proceed, then, to the defense of my old friend, Mr. E.L. Gardner, and what he has written in his pamphlet "There is No Religion Higher than Truth", every bit of which I think I can endorse - remarking incidentally that he is quite possibly the oldest living Theosophist, aged 94, and has all along, since 1907, been very active in the movement in England.

Charles Leadbeater [1854-1934] and Krishnamurti
Charles Leadbeater [1854-1934]  and Krishnamurti


Mr. Leadbeater came to Adyar from Italy early in 1909. Already at Adyar, I soon came to know him well and helped him to clear up his arrears of correspondence - some hundreds of letters from all over the world, mostly asking for occult assistance, which he freely gave, refusing outright the offers of considerable money gifts in this connection, which were occasionally made. We used to work together at his desk or table - as the case might be - up to as much as fourteen hours a day, perhaps an average of ten or twelve. In the evening, after 5:00 p.m., we used to knock off for an hour or so and go to swim in the Bay of Bengal. After a while, a group of boys began to come and watch us, and a little later they joined us in the water, at the invitation of one of our group of four, which included Mr. J. van Manen from Holland, who was an old friend of Mr. Leadbeater's, and a young South Indian Brahmin graduate of Madras University named Subrahmanyam Aiyar, who had a room near mine in the Indian Quadrangle at Adyar.

One evening, Mr. Leadbeater, on our return to his room after our swim, told me that one of the boys had a remarkable aura. I asked which one, and he said it was the boy named Krishnamurti. I was surprised, for I already knew the boys, as they had been coming to me and to Subrahmanyam in the evenings to help in connection with their school home work, and it was evident that Krishnamurti was not one of the bright students. Then Mr. Leadbeater told me that Krishnamurti would become a great spiritual teacher and a great speaker. I asked, "How great? As great as Mrs. Besant?" He replied, "Much greater." And shortly after that he said that Krishnamurti would be the vehicle for the Lord Maitreya, the coming Teacher, who had inspired Jesus. He was directed to help in training the boy for that purpose, which would be fulfilled, he told me, "unless something goes wrong." This I want to emphasize, in justice to Mr. Leadbeater. He wrote Mrs. Besant, who was then abroad, telling her of his "discovery." The following is an extract from his letter to her, dated September 2, 1909:

"Naraniah's children are very well behaved, and would cause us no trouble; van Manen and I have taught some of them to swim, and have also helped the elder with English composition and reading ... It seems to me that if we are to have the karma of assisting even indirectly at the bringing up of one whom the Master has used in the past and is waiting to use again, we may as well at least give him a chance to grow up decently."

Later, the plan did go wrong in his eyes.

We may now return to the development of Krishnamurti's education. Krishnamurti's father came to Mr. Leadbeater one day in great distress. I was present. He said that the boy had been treated very roughly at school. It was true that he was a very dreamy boy and therefore not good at his lessons, but this cruelty was really unbearable. Mr. Leadbeater's advice was simple: "Take him away from the school."

This was not practical, the father replied, since the schools were registered by the government and if the boy did not pass through this Government system he could not afterwards take up any of the traditional occupations of the literary classes - government service, the law, medicine, engineering, teaching, etc.

Mr. Leadbeater, obviously much troubled, then said, "But anyhow you cannot allow that cruelty to go on. And it is all the worse in the case of such a sensitive boy."

Annie Besant, 1897 (1847-1933)
Annie Besant, 1897 (1847-1933)


Regarding Krishnamurti as one who was destined to become a great spiritual teacher, Mr. Leadbeater then added that if the father liked he would write to Mrs. Besant and ask her interest in the boy's career. She might probably arrange for him to be educated in England later on - the desire of the heart of many Indian fathers for English education brought in its train considerable economic and social advantages in those days. In the meantime, he and his friends would see that Krishnamurti did not lack private tuition, pending Mrs. Besant's return.

The father accepted this solution of his difficulty, and the result was that Krishnamurti and his younger brother, Nityananda, became constant members of our party. Several people volunteered to give them private tuition, two subjects falling to my lot.

The following is an extract touching on this subject, from a letter from Mr. Leadbeater to Mrs. Besant dated October 14, 1909:

Naraniah has had a providential difference of opinion with his schoolmaster, who seems to have been utterly inefficient, so the two boys in whom He is most interested are at present at home, and I am utilizing the opportunity to have them taught as much English as possible, taking them myself when I can spare the time, and getting Clarke, Wood, Subramania and others to assist ... When you are here I shall be bolder, and can do more of what He wishes.

In Mrs. Besant's reply to Mr. Leadbeater's letters, and with reference to his trouble, she approved of the arrangement that had been made and, on her return to Adyar from abroad, she accepted legal guardianship of the two boys.

Some months later Mrs. Besant went to pay visits at several places in the north of India, including a long stay in Benares, where she had a bungalow of her own near the Central Hindu College, in the management of which she was one of the most prominent figures. She took the two boys with her, to give them experience. There were then frequent gatherings and meetings in Mrs. Besant's bungalow, in which Krishnamurti was caused to play a prominent, though characteristically simple and gentle part. It was at those meetings that various movements which culminated in "The Order of the Star in the East" were born.
While Mrs. Besant was still in Benares, I had occasion to make a trip into the Telugu country for about a week. I arrived back in Adyar in the early evening and immediately went over to Mr. Leadbeater's room, as usual - a new apartment, upstairs, to which he had comparatively recently moved. He was typing away on his little Blickensderfer. He looked up with a greeting, continued typing for a few minutes, and then finished with a flourish and an air of great satisfaction. He gathered his papers together while rising from his roll-top desk, and came over to the square table in the center of the room where he usually sat to work. He put the typewritten manuscript into my hands and told me it was Krishnamurti's first book, and that he was surprised at such early publicity.

Krishnamurti had made a great impression upon some members of the staff and some senior students of the Central Hindu College, particularly the then principal, Mr. G.S. Arundale. Some of them had been at meetings in the evenings in Mrs. Besant's bungalow, and at these he had been answering questions for them, and giving them something from the notes which he had made of his morning memories. The notes had now been put together, and here was the result, a little book. Would I take it home with me and tell him - Mr. Leadbeater - in the morning what I thought of it?

The Introduction began: "These are not my words; they are the words of the Master who taught me." Next day I delivered my opinion - a delightful little book, but extremely simple. Would the instructions contained in it be sufficient to bring one to the "Path proper," to the "First Initiation," which Mrs. Besant had described in her books? Yes, said Mr. Leadbeater, more than that; if completely carried out, these instructions would lead one to Adeptship itself.

I remarked that there were one or two curious things about the manuscript. It was very much in Mr. Leadbeater's own style, and there were some sentences which were exactly the same as in a book of his which we had already prepared for the press. He told me that he wished indeed that he might have been able to write such a book himself. As to the sentences I mentioned, he said he had usually been present when Krishnamurti was being taught in his astral body by the Master; he remembered these points and had made use of them in meetings of Theosophists, and so I had noted them down and had incorporated them into the material of his book, The Inner Life. As to style, he said, it was but natural that he himself should have adopted something of his own Master's style after himself being taught by him for so many years.

I prepared the little book for the press and it was duly published, after Mrs. Besant's return from Benares, under the title which she gave to it: At the Feet of the Master. It created a sensation, and practically a new cult within the Theosophical Society, in view of its containing the actual instructions of one of the Masters, and being the output of a child who was to become in effect the very incarnation of the Masters of Masters Himself.

Mr. Leadbeater did not publicly proclaim these facts. Though he was the first to see and say that Krishnamurti would be the vehicle for the coming of Christ, with the reservation already mentioned ("unless something goes wrong," which I on the spot put down in writing), he left all the proclaiming to Mrs. Besant. As I have indicated, he informed Mrs. Besant by letters of his findings and afterwards did as she wanted. He was in fact anxious to avoid publicity and quite anxious when formal groups were established to assist in the preparation. It was not his own desire that there should be any proclamation until Krishnamurti had finished his education. However, Mrs. Besant did proclaim it.

I hope that it is now clear that it was Mr. Leadbeater who "found" Krishnamurti and announced his destiny, and that Mrs. Besant later "proclaimed" the event and promoted the project with conviction and enthusiasm.

She told me afterward that she had an arrangement with Mr. Leadbeater. She accepted his clairvoyance as if it were her own and he loyally supported her decisions as to what to do. Later, especially when in Europe in 1925, she made pronouncements of great import. She said that the coming of the Lord was near at hand and that he had chosen twelve disciples, seven of whom she named. This time, she said, the apostles were to be prepared for him in advance and would also help to prepare the way for his coming. This news reached Mr. Leadbeater in Sydney while I was sitting with him. He was visibly distressed, as he did not believe in it, and said to me, "Oh, I do hope she will not wreck the Society!" He knew that she had been taking statements from others as well as himself. Still, Mr. Leadbeater kept to his contract loyally and did not let this out in public, except on one occasion, when he was caught by surprise in a question meeting. It was only after Mrs. Besant was so ill as to be unable to carry out her daily work as President  - which I used largely to carry out under her direction, as I was then Recording Secretary of the Society, and used to go to her almost daily for this business - that Mr. Leadbeater became at all active in what may, for brevity's sake, be called theosophical politics. The announcement of the twelve apostles was only one of several statements which he told me were wrong and were due to her impulsive eagerness. I need not give details here.

Gerald Gardner (1884-1964)
Gerald Gardner


So, on item 1 of the "refutations" of  Mr. Gardner, I wish to add my testimony that he was perfectly correct. I may add that his "unconscious kriyashakti" theory is undoubtedly correct also. I have found and physically confirmed its operation in many clairvoyants who were coloring what they saw, or in some cases what they thought they saw, being affected by their own desires, though sincerely unaware of the process in themselves. Some people have such strong "visualisation" that sometimes, even when they do actually obtain something quite correctly by clairvoyance or by intuition, they are likely to embellish it from their own subconscious mind and cannot distinguish it from actual seeing or hearing. It was on this ground that Mr. Gardner wrote that the Lord Maitreya and the Masters "with whom Mr. Leadbeater was on such familiar terms" (note this qualification made by Mr. Gardner) were his own thought creations - though with no intention to deceive, he believed. This second item of Mr. Shearman's criticism of Mr. Gardner's booklet is only an expression of opinion - deeply considered in a "forty years' perspective." I can testify that the lives of Alcyone - with the exception of one in which Mrs. Besant collaborated - were the work of Mr. Leadbeater alone, mostly written down by me while he was looking and talking and answering my incidental questions. I too came to the conclusion that Mr. Leadbeater then, and on many other occasions, was largely "seeing his own thought-forms," and this not merely on theory, but on material evidences - again too much to mention even briefly here.

The third item taken up by Mr. Shearman relates to Mrs. Besant's shutting off of her psychic powers in 1912. This does not bear on the present question, as there was no hard and fast evidence in this matter.

The fourth item of Mr. Shearman's criticism relates to The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, later published, and especially to Letter No. 10. That letter was inconsistent with Mr. Leadbeater's master-image. My personal contribution on this point is that Mrs. Besant certainly had a copy of the Mahatma Letters - at least all those concerning teachings and therefore including Letter No. 10. This I know because, in 1909, she lent them to me to read, with the proviso that I must not take them out of her room. I did not see a set among Mr. Leadbeater's papers and books, but I believe he was familiar with them, as he had worked closely in London with Mr. Sinnett, to whom most of the original letters belonged. No. 10 was, however, only a copy made at Simla in 1882, as the original belonged to Mr. A.O. Hume. But Mr. Leadbeater never did regard that Letter No. 10 as reliable, and after the Letters were published, he quite often spoke of the book in my hearing as "that abominable book."

So, on all counts, I can say that there are no grounds for condemning Mr. Gardner's views. They are an expression of very ripe, thoughtful and honest study, which he is surely entitled to put before his colleagues in a Society which is concerned with "No religion higher than Truth." Mr. Gardner, too, is now entitled to "a valiant defense of those who are unjustly attacked," and I am glad to do it, mostly from my own direct knowledge, although sorry to have to do it.

Wes Penre

Wes Penre is the owner of the domain Illuminati News and the publisher of the same. Please also check out his MySpace website: http://www.myspace.com/wespenre.


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