Leadbeater's Life in his own words- Part V
Sep 11, 2004 12:10 PM
by Anand Gholap
Leadbeater's Life in his own words- Part V
"The Occult World"
I have already mentioned that the first Theosophical book which fell into my hands was Mr. A. P. Sinnett's The Occult World. I saw it advertised in a catalogue of second-hand books, and was much attracted by the title, so I sent for it immediately, and was fortunate enough to secure it. Naturally the stories which it contains interested me deeply, but its real fascination lay in the glimpses which it gave of a wonderful system of philosophy and of a kind of inner science which really seemed to explain life rationally and to account for many phenomena which I had observed.
I was of course eager to learn very much more of this, but I was so entirely unused to the ways of the literary world that I did not know in the least how to set about obtaining further information. With the benefit of later experience, I can see now that it would have been simple to write a note to the author and send it to the care of his publishers; but such a solution of the difficulty did not occur to me. At the end of his book Mr. Sinnett remarks:
Some readers who are interested, but slow to perceive what practical action they can take, may ask what they can do to show appreciation of this opportunity. My reply will be modelled on the famous injunction of Sir Robert Peel: "Register, register, register!" Take the first step towards making a response to the offer which emanates from the occult world-register, register, register; in other words, join the Theosophical Society-the one and only association which at present is linked by any recognized bond of union with the Brotherhood of Adepts in Thibet.
I was most anxious to follow this advice, but found it by no means easy to do so. The author mentioned that there was a Theosophical Society in London, but did not give its address, and I sought for it in vain in the Post Office Directory. I made many enquiries among friends, but did not happen to find anyone who could help me in my quest.
Shortly after that, however, I was in Scotland enquiring into the evidence for second-sight in the Highlands, and apparently by the merest chance (but I doubt whether anything ever happens by chance) I found on the table in the reading-room of a hotel a copy of a tiny spiritualistic magazine-hardly more than a leaflet; I think it was called Rays of Light, or some name like that. In it was an announcement referring to Dr. Anna Kingsford, President of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society, and stating that she was the wife of the rector or vicar of some West-country village or town-I think the name was Atcham. Naturally I seized upon this clue, and at once wrote to her at that vicarage, asking for further information. It was some time before I received a reply, for, as it transpired afterwards, Dr. Kingsford was away on the Continent for a holiday; and even when it arrived it proved to be only a printed circular-very beautifully printed, however, with much of silver about it. But it gave me the information which I wanted-the address of the Secretary in London, and it further told me that in order to join the Society I must be proposed and seconded by two members.
How I Joined
The Secretary was Mr. Kirby (not the Mr. Kirby so well known in later years in connection with the Society's work in Italy, but the Kirby of Kirby and Spence's Entomology, a book which I had studied in my boyhood). I promptly wrote to him, pointing out that I wished to join, but had not the pleasure of the acquaintance of any of the existing members; what was I to do? Again I had to wait a long time for an answer, for Mr. Kirby also was abroad-I think climbing peaks in Switzerland; but at length he replied austerely that the rules were inviolable, and that no exception could be made, but suggested as an afterthought that I might call upon either Mr. A. P. Sinnett or Mr. G. B. Finch.
I adopted this suggestion and wrote a note to Mr. Sinnett, hardly daring, however, to hope that he could really be the author of the book which had impressed me so deeply. His reply soon set that point at rest, and invited me to come up to London to see him. He had only recently returned from India, and was then staying temporarily at the house of his mother-in-law, Mrs. Edensor, in Royal Crescent, Notting Hill. He received me with the greatest kindness and cordiality, and of course we talked much of his books (for by that time I had found Esoteric Buddhism also) and the wonderful revelation which they contained. The more I heard of Theosophy the more anxious I became to learn all that could be told to me; but when I spoke of joining the Theosophical Society Mr. Sinnett became very grave and opined that that would hardly do, seeing that I was a clergyman!
I wondered rather why the Society should discriminate against members of the cloth; and at last I ventured timidly to put the question. Mr. Sinnett replied:
"Well, you see, we are in the habit of discussing every subject and every belief from the beginning, without any preconceptions whatever; and I am afraid that at our meetings you would be likely to hear a great deal that would shock you profoundly."
I had already, years previously, attended some of Mrs. Besant's lectures at the Hall of Science in Old Street, off the City Road, and I thought that, after that, nothing that the members of the Theosophical Society could say would be likely to offend me very seriously; so I smilingly assured Mr. Sinnett that I hoped I was not that kind of clergyman and that I should be quite prepared to join in any discussion that might arise, irrespective of the beliefs of the debaters. At this Mr. Sinnett partially thawed, and even said that, if that were really the case, he should have peculiar pleasure in admitting a clergyman; but that before finally taking so decided a step he must consult his Council. So we had to leave it at that, and I returned to my country curacy fifty miles away in Hampshire.
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