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Santucci on Besant's and Leadbeater's Neo-Theosophy

Sep 19, 2003 08:03 AM
by Daniel H. Caldwell

Dr. James A. Santucci on Annie Besant's and C.W.
Leadbeater's Neo-Theosophy

[James A. Santucci is professor of religious studies
and linguistics at California State University,
Fullerton and editor of THEOSOPHICAL HISTORY ]

Dr. Santucci writes:


Although Blavatsky was certainly the most influential
and the most brilliant interpreter of Theosophy, there
was a subtle challenge to her position as protagonist
of the Theosophical movement. The challenge came
primarily from the two shining lights of the Adyar 
Theosophical Society during the first third of the
20th century: Annie Besant, the President of the
Society from 1907 to her death in 1933, and Charles
Webster Leadbeater, arguably the most influential 
theosophical writer from the early years of the 20th
century to his death in 1934. The two were largely
responsible for the introduction of new teachings that
were often in total opposition to the Theosophy of
Blavatsky and her Masters. These teachings were 
designated by their opponents as Neo-Theosophy [15] or
less often Pseudo-Theosophy. The differences between
Theosophy and Neo-Theosophy are too numerous to
mention in the context of this paper,[16] but it 
is possible to capture the broad distinctions between
the two:

1. the introduction of Catholicism and its attendant
sacraments into the Adyar Theosophical Society through
the agency of the Liberal Catholic Church and the
efforts of its Presiding Bishop, James Ingall 
Wedgwood, and his close associate, the leading
theosophical writer of the day, Charles Webster

2. the claim, based on a psychic reading by Leadbeater
in 1909, that a young Indian boy, Jiddu Krishnamurti,
would serve as the vehicle of the World Teacher, the
Christ or Maitreya. With such a claim came the
establishment shortly thereafter of an organization to
promote this belief, the Order of the Star in the

3. emphasis on the writings of Annie Besant and
Charles Webster Leadbeater as the main purveyors of
Theosophy to the almost total exclusion of those of H.
P. Blavatsky;

4. more emphasis on the acquisition of and
participation in psychic or occult powers rather than
on the theoretical understanding of the occult.

[Footnotes to Santucci's statements:]

[15] The label was most likely coined in 1914 by F.T.
Brooks, author of Neo-Theosophy Exposed and The
Theosophical Society and its Esoteric Bogeydom.

[16]An extensive overview is given in the unpublished
booklet, Theosophy or Neo-Theosophy by Margaret
Thomas, a member of the Theosophical Society in
Scotland, Wales, and England. The booklet was 
written around 1925.

The above quoted from:

Daniel H. Caldwell

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