The demiurgical powers which Leadbeater arrogated unto himself were nowhere better displayed than in his promotion of Krishnamurti. The young Brahmin was his magical tabula rasa, upon whom he could imprint his magical power, and, through ritual and initiation, cleanse of all impurity (and indigenousness) and elevate into the high echelons of the Hierarchy. Krishnamurti has been regularly interpreted in messianic terms, and there can be no doubt that for the popular membership, and certainly for the media, such was the rôle for which he was groomed. 1) Yet, in placing Krishnamurti within the context of a half-century of Theosophy, it becomes clear that for the leaders of the Society he was, tellingly, the ultimate occultistic experiment.
There are several indicators that the Vehicle was engineered to develop into a Master, and not simply be some form of passive receptacle. Thus, although the dynamics of the Coming of the Bodhisattva Maitreya were never closely articulated, it was always assumed that the Vehicle would require significant preparation to become the requisite worthy tool. Such preparation would be equivalent to that required for the Palestinian Jesus, who himself was used by the Lord Maitreya for a comparable purpose. Consequently, the scholar is aided in assessing the predicted method of the descent of the Maitreya, and thereby also assess the relative position of the Vehicle, by reference to the vocabulary of Christology.
According to Leadbeater and Besant, Jesus had been prepared for his mission by the Essenes (who possessed a vast library of occult works, notably those from the "Trans-Himalayan regions"), and was then initiated into the Egyptian Mysteries. 2) Exactly what form this training assumed is unknown, although it is deemed to have been rigorous. At his baptism in the Jordan, the Lord Maitreya/Bodhisattva/Christ descended upon him and remained so for the remainder of his three-year ministry. 3) The Maitreya departed from Jesus at some time during the Passion, certainly by the crucifixion, and Jesus' physical body died. 4) (The disciple Jesus undertook his Fourth Initiation during his crucifixion). In reward for his self-sacrifice, Jesus was reborn only twice more (as Apollonius of Tyana and Ramanujacharya), was granted the Fifth Initiation, and soon thereafter became the Master Jesus: 5)
There are several discernibly significant ramifications for Krishnamurti's candidacy as the Vehicle to be drawn from Leadbeater's and Besant's accounts of the Palestinian Jesus. In the first place, there is neither a hypostatic union of substance (ousia), nor an identification of the Lord Maitreya's nature (his physis) with that of Krishnamurti. 7) At most, there can be discerned an occasional prosopic union, most readily identifiable as a highly simplistic Nestorian adoptionism. 8) In other words, the Christ's subtle bodies descended into Jesus' physical body for a portion of the latter's incarnation; there are distinguishable occasions when the "divine" Person is speaking, and other occasions when the human person is speaking. 9) In due course [Jesus] received the reward of his self-sacrifice, and attained the Asekha Initiation, thereby becoming one of the Masters of the Wisdom. We reverence Him now, therefore, no longer as the disciple, but the Master Jesus. 6)
In accord with such adoptionism, the preparation of the Vehicle is entirely predictable and necessary; Krishnamurti would need to be perfectly versed in Theosophy, and be physically and psychically fit in order "to become the temple of a loftier Power". 10) Unlike a Spiritualist medium (from whom the Theosophists were ever ready to separate themselves), Krishnamurti was not to be occupied or invaded by a spirit entity, but "overshadowed". To be thus capable, his preparations were presumed to be identical to those required to become a Master. It is highly significant in this context that the Palestinian Jesus was very nearly a Master himself after his service as a Vehicle, and became one very soon thereafter. 11) It is evident that Krishnamurti was considered by Theosophical elders to be about to be similarly blessed and exalted.
Within the framework of Leadbeaterian Theosophy, then, selection as a Vehicle was tantamount to rapid acceleration of personal evolution and a virtual guarantee of joining the Hierarchy. Leadbeater's articulation of the Coming was thus a concomitant descent of the "Master of Masters" and an engineered ascent of the aspirant-Master, thus creating a full Master of the Wisdom. The entire process was buttressed from without by Leadbeater's insistence on the value of causative magical processes; Krishnamurti would be elevated to the status of a Master by magico-scientific ritual, whether Liberal Catholic sacrament, Co-Masonic induction or clairvoyantly-determined initiation. 12) To this degree, Leadbeater's magical apotheosising of Krishnamurti cannot but be compared with the "god-making" passages of the Hermetic Asclepius, the golem of Kabbalistic lore, and the Paracelsian homunculus. 13) Crucially, to the degree that Leadbeater's adventism was explained in scientific terms, and founded on what he considered to be empirical principles, the most significant predicate may well prove a literary one: Mary Shelley's schauerromantik, Frankenstein. 14)
Krishnamurti's reluctance to engage in ritualism (aside from the greater problem: his disavowal of Theosophy) conspired against Leadbeater's notion that causative theurgy could create a Master. Where the elderly Besant abdicated from any rôle in refashioning the Theosophical enterprise following Krishnamurti's apostasy (stating instead, "I am his inferior and where I do not understand I suspend my judgment hoping to grow into understanding"), 15) Leadbeater swept away any sense of failure by rationalising the event as a failed scientific experiment.
His next project, the Egyptian Rite, pointedly removed all contingential reliance upon the aspirant. As the graded structure of the Rite corresponded exactly with that of the Great White Brotherhood, and progress from one stage to the next was determined according to ritualised initiation, control could be maintained over the development of candidates, and initiatic grace/power could be conferred via the initiator, rather than through an exterior party (such as the Lord Maitreya). This last is of great significance because meta-empirical agency could be assumed to be present by the initiand, but not required by the initiator - who has arrogated unto himself the function of the Masters to welcome aspirants into the Hierarchy. The Egyptian Rite constituted what Leadbeater had always desired: an occult laboratory. Ernest Wood, who lived for a time at The Manor, later reflected upon his experiences:
Wood was wrong: Leadbeater wasn't painting dolls, 16) he was fashioning adepts. [Leadbeater] was running an occult beauty parlour. The auras may have come to look prettier to the clairvoyant eye, but it appeared to me that the people specially cultivated by him lacked in essential qualities of character as compared with others whom I knew, and that the atmosphere of his community encouraged the lack. He was painting dolls.
1) Catherine Lowman Wessinger has gone to some pains to determine how messianism (normally associated with premillennialism) could be found to agree with the Theosophical tendency to value human evolution and progress - which is much more akin to a form of postmillennialism. (It should be noted that the existence of strains of both forms of messianism in one formulation is not entirely uncommon). In order to coalesce these otherwise divergent philosophies, she posits for Besant a "progressive messianism":
Wessinger's entire thesis is predicated upon the assumption that Krishnamurti is to be interpreted solely as a Theosophical messiah, for, without a messiah, Theosophical "progressive messianism" becomes just a form of postmillennialism. If, as is proposed in the present research, Krishnamurti is interpreted primarily as being an experiment in Master-making, then external superhuman agency is removed, evolutionist progressivism is emphasised, and Theosophical postmillennialism is thus underscored. Consequently, the "ultimate concern" for Theosophy, which is surely "a common belief in progress", is maintained without recourse to such arbitrary compounds as "progressive messianism". Since Besant's thought combined elements that have in the past been associated by scholars with pre-millenarianism, i.e., messianism, and a sense of imminence and urgency of the total, collective, terrestrial salvation, with a belief in history that acts in a progressive, evolutionary manner, I have elected to call Besant's final pattern of ultimate concern progressive messianism. This pattern of ultimate concern was not possible until there was a common belief in progress, which in the West dates from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Wessinger, Annie Besant and Progressive Messianism, 314-315).
2) Probably the most straightforward account of Besant-Leadbeater Christian historiography/historicity is to be found in Besant, Esoteric Christianity, 126-143 et passim.
3) Ibid., 132-133.
4) Leadbeater, The Hidden Side of Christian Festivals, 28-29.
5) Leadbeater, The Masters and the Path, 285. Besant notes: "Perfecting his human evolution, Jesus became one of the Masters of Wisdom" (Besant, EsotericChristianity, 141); see also id., The Masters, 60-61.
6) Leadbeater, The Hidden Side of Christian Festivals, 29. It might be noted that Leadbeater here equated the "Masters of the Wisdom" with the Fifth or Asekha Initiation, not with the Sixth or Chohan. It appears that even by 1920 he had not fully stratified his initiatory schematics.
7) The present author is aware of the problematical variety of historical and contemporary approaches to such terms as ousia and physis, and the complexities thereby engendered by their use. Nevertheless, employing such loaded terms in a necessarily broad fashion, they seem to be the most appropriate for discussing what is, after all, a Theosophical Christology.
8) Although one hesitates to call Nestorius (d. circa 451) a Nestorian, the term "Nestorianism" has gained tenure in every Christological debate and cannot be dislodged. "Nestorianism" is also favoured because it has become something of a catchall for the multifarious Antiochene Christologies: in the present context the closest approximation is probably to that of Theodore of Mopsuestia (d. 428), who advocated a union effected through grace, and not by nature - although, even here, there is every indication of Theodore's basic orthodoxy (just a tendency to attempt to rationalise the abstract through necessarily limited discursive language: a tendency of which Leadbeater would have thoroughly approved!). It should be noted that Theodore did not advocate the disengagement of the Logos prior to the crucifixion, as Theosophists have done. For Nestorius and Theodore see Aloys Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, vol. 1, 2nd ed., Mowbrays, London, 1975, 488-519; Gerard H. Ettlinger, Jesus, Christ & Saviour, Michael Glazier, Wilmington, Delaware, 1987, 160ff; Frances M. Young, From Nicaea to Chalcedon: A Guide to the Literature and its Background, SCM Press, London, 1983, 199-240.
9) When Krishnamurti began to teach that he was one with his "beloved", and spoke consistently in "one" voice, so to say, Besant began to believe that rather than an occasional message from the Lord Maitreya, there was to be "more like a blending of consciousness": Jayakar, Krishnamurti, 72. She further suggested that he had been accounted worthy to "blend his consciousness with that of a fragment, an amsa, of the omnipresent consciousness of the World Teacher": Mary Lutyens, The Life and Death, 73. Such statements appear suspiciously like ex post facto rationalisations for a Vehicle "gone off the rails".
10) Besant, Esoteric Christianity, 130-131.
11) See supra ch. 19.
12) It should be remembered that Leadbeater considered ceremonial (particularly Eucharistic services) as a means to speed up evolutionary processes:
13) For the Hermetic "god-making" see infra ch. 23. One is reminded of Wouter Hanegraaff's comments in the context of an analysis of the Renaissance Christian Hermetist, Ludovico Lazzarelli (1450-1500): The great advantage of ceremonies is that they offer an easy way of doing a great deal of good in a short space of time (C. W. Leadbeater, "Ritual and Its Use" in The Morning Star: Journal of the Eastern Federation of the British Empire. Order of International Co-Freemasonry, V:2, April, 1939, 32). Space disallows treatment of the Golem mythologem as an analogue to Leadbeater's "creation" of Krishnamurti, other than to note certain suggestive sympathies. First , the creation of the Golem has a relationship of affinity with the formation of Adam. Thus the fashioning of the artificial anthropoid is an imitation of the divine activity, and a usurpation of the divine prerogative. Second , the Golem is invariably silent and remains the subject of its creator. It cannot - even if it possessed such an Adamic trait - express free will. Third, the creation of the Golem is indication of the realisation of mature theosophico-theurgic powers by the magician. Each of these motivations can be discerned in Leadbeater's magico-scientific attempt to transform Krishnamurti into a Master. For the Golem gestalt see Idel's masterful work: Moshe Idel, Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1990, esp. 165-195 & part 4; see also Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah, Meridien, New York, 1978, 351-355. For the (erroneous) ascription of Golem-making to Rabbi Yehuda Loew ben Bezalal of Prague (the "Maharal") see Idel, Golem, 251-258; Byron L. Sherwin, Mystical Theology and Social Dissent: The Life and Works of Judah Loew of Prague, Associated University Press, East Brunswick, New Jersey, 1982, 17ff; Ben Zion Bokser, The Maharal: The Mystical Philosophy of Rabbi Juda Loew of Prague, Jason Aronson, Northvale, New Jersey, 1994, 55-58. The goal was, rather, the attainment of a superior gnosis, which naturally entailed the attainment of superhuman powers. The "true human being", who had "discovered the nature of God" himself, would partake of the latter's creative/generative power; and he would indeed know "how to make it", i.e. how to procreate a "divine offspring" (Hanegraaff, "Sympathy", 30).
14) Like the Monster, Krishnamurti also turned on his creator. For Mary Shelley see infra ch. 29.
15) Quoted in Wessinger, Annie Besant, 296.
16) Wood, Is This Theosophy...?, 288.
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