Dharmapala on Besant and Leadbeater

The famous and highly revered Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933) has

"Every attempt should be made to warn true Theosophists of A.B.'s & C.W.L.'s writings. The latter is a necromancer and a diabolical liar." - Anagarika Dharmapala
“Every attempt should be made to warn true Theosophists of A.B.’s & C.W.L.’s writings. The latter is a necromancer and a diabolical liar.” – Anagarika Dharmapala

been described as “the leading Buddhist missionary of our time” and “a towering figure in the work for the spiritual resurgence of Asia.”

Dharmapala himself attributed all this to H. P. Blavatsky, who he said encouraged him to begin his work for Buddhism.

Amongst many references to her in his articles and letters, he wrote, “HPB helped me much in my effort. . . . Until the day of her departure [from Adyar] HPB took care of me. She wrote to me to follow the light that is within me. I have strictly followed her advice, and am glad to testify to her wonderful powers of mystic illumination. . . . Love to all living beings, small and great, the desire to renounce sensual pleasures that impede the progress in the realm of spirituality and the strenuous effort to do meritorious deeds for the betterment of humanity, forgetting self, have been to me a kind of spiritual pabulum which I have partaken since I came in touch with the wonderful personality of HPB.”

Having known HPB and studied and understood the Masters’ teachings which she gave out to the world, he was understandably far less appreciative about Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater, who ruled “The Theosophical Society – Adyar” from the early 1900s to the mid 1930s, and who blackened the name, public image, and reputation of Theosophy to an almost unimaginable extent, whilst completely rewriting its teachings by replacing them with Leadbeater’s self-proclaimed “clairvoyant discoveries.”

In 1922, writing to Alice Leighton Cleather (who had been one of the 12 specially chosen members of HPB’s esoteric Inner Group in London at the end of her life), he remarked:

“C.W.L. and A.B. are spiritualistic acrobats. They know the diplomacy of necromancy; but they succeed. In 1907, I attacked them furiously; but as I say they are diplomats and they know what way to go to get hold of the people who desire for occult studies. . . . Col. Olcott loved power more than truth. He feared A.B. . . . Theosophy of C.W.L. and Besant is a travesty of the doctrine taught by H.P.B. In 1900 I wrote in my diary that the 3rd Vol. of the S.D. was a fabrication of A.B. She is clever and managed to do what she willed. . . . Every attempt should be made to warn true Theosophists of A.B.’s & C.W.L.’s writings. The latter is a necromancer and a diabolical liar.”

A 1925 letter from Dharmapala to the English Buddhist and Theosophist Christmas Humphreys shows the former’s increasing concern and despair over what was happening in the Theosophical Society:

“Mrs A.B. I am afraid will eventually destroy the work of H.P.B. and the Masters. The T.S. will become under her management a Christian sect, and bishops, deacons etc. will rule the T.S. Brotherhood will disappear. Ambition, pride, the desire to rule will control the minds of those members and they will degenerate.”

As any impartial history of the Theosophical Movement plainly shows, this is more or less exactly what happened. Dharmapala was by no means alone in voicing such sentiments and warnings. For over a century, thousands of Theosophists from all branches of the Movement have been doing the same.

Even Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I do not think that Mrs. Besant is a hypocrite; she is credulous and she is duped by Leadbeater. When an Englishman suggested to me to read Leadbeater’s ‘The Life After Death’, I flatly refused to do so as I had grown suspicious of him after reading his other writings. As to his humbug [i.e. fraud and deception], I came to know of it later.” (See Gandhi on Blavatsky and Theosophy)

Dharmapala, a native of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), was personally familiar with Leadbeater’s short-lived work there in the mid 1880s, which was ostensibly for the furtherance of Buddhism and begun at the instigation of Col. Olcott. In a letter to “The Buddhist Chronicle” published in September 1922, he wrote:

“The Buddhist English School, founded by C. W. Leadbeater, has a history. Mr Leadbeater showed his fondness to a number of boys, and he started the school to teach them. The school became the centre of scandal, and Mr Leadbeater had to be sent away for a time to Adyar and the school was left in the hands of Sinhalese teachers.

“On his return from Adyar, it was found that he had not undergone any change, and he began holding seances with the few boys until midnight in a darkened room. I was one of the sitters. Mr Leadbeater made us lay our hands on the tea-table, and we observed that it began to move. Then he talked to the spirit and established a code of raps to get the answers. The first thing he did was to get the record of our past lives. Each one got a name and one boy was told that he was the wife of Leadbeater in a past birth.

“We continued on for some weeks and gave it up because of the scandal.”

This website includes numerous articles and references to help people free themselves from the deceptions and delusions of Pseudo-Theosophy (a term coined by HPB).

Some of the most important of these are The Case against C. W. Leadbeater, The Final Mahatma Letter, 14 Good Reasons to Question the Alice Bailey Teachings, Tibetan Master or Christian Priest? (Uncovering the real inspiration behind the Alice Bailey Books), Alice Bailey and her Christianised Pseudo-Theosophy, The Closing Cycle, The “Etheric” Body Does Not Exist, Why stick to the Original?, Theosophy, The Jesuits & The Roman Catholic Church, and Theosophy: The Ancient Wisdom.

For an explanation of Dharmapala’s comment about the so-called “Third Volume” of “The Secret Doctrine” being a fabrication of Annie Besant, please see the article titled The “Third Volume” of The Secret Doctrine.


~ BlavatskyTheosophy.com ~

2 thoughts on “Dharmapala on Besant and Leadbeater

  1. I became very interested in Theosophy after trying to read The Secret Doctrine.
    I managed to get to Adyar T S, I wanted to meet real Theosophists.
    After several months in Adyar, I came away feeling that the Theosophical Society in Adyar has lost the true teachings of H P B. I do not support Annie Besant or Charles W Leadbetter. I was deeply disappointed. I support what Anagarika Dharmapala has written on this subject.

    1. Thank you for sharing this Fern. Hopefully you are aware that there is much more to today’s Theosophical Movement than just “The Theosophical Society – Adyar”? The brief explanatory article “The Four Branches of the Theosophical Movement” at https://blavatskytheosophy.com/the-four-branches-of-the-theosophical-movement/ may be found useful. Those responsible for this website are connected with the United Lodge of Theosophists (ULT for short) which is the second largest international Theosophical association after the Adyar Society.

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