Bishop Leadbeater

Charles Webster Leadbeater (1847-1934) was a significant figure in the late 19th and early 20th-century spiritual and occult movements. He was an influential member of the Theosophical Society, a prolific author, and a prominent lecturer on esoteric subjects.

Early Life and Education

Charles Webster Leadbeater was born on February 16, 1847, in Stockport, Cheshire, England. He was the son of Charles Leadbeater, a railway contractor, and Emma Leadbeater. His early education was at a private school, and later, he attended the prestigious University College School in London.

Clerical Career

Leadbeater was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1879. He served as a curate in Bramshott, Hampshire, and later in a parish in Westminster, London. During this period, he developed an interest in spiritualism and the paranormal, which eventually led him to explore the teachings of the Theosophical Society.

Theosophical Society

In 1883, Leadbeater joined the Theosophical Society after reading “The Occult World” by A.P. Sinnett. The Theosophical Society, founded by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, aimed to promote universal brotherhood, study comparative religion, and explore the mysteries of nature and human existence.

Leadbeater quickly rose within the ranks of the society due to his keen interest and extensive study of esoteric subjects. In 1884, he met Blavatsky in London and became one of her close associates.

Travels and Studies in India

In 1885, Leadbeater traveled to India with H.S. Olcott and other Theosophists. During his time in India, he claimed to have developed clairvoyant abilities and studied various Eastern religions, philosophies, and occult practices. He was particularly influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism, which significantly shaped his later teachings.

Publications and Teachings

Leadbeater was a prolific writer, and his works covered a wide range of esoteric topics, including clairvoyance, reincarnation, and the afterlife. Some of his most notable books include:

  • “Clairvoyance” (1899)
  • “The Astral Plane” (1895)
  • “The Devachanic Plane” (1896)
  • “The Inner Life” (1911)
  • “The Hidden Side of Things” (1913)

His books and lectures contributed significantly to popularizing Theosophy and its teachings in the Western world. Leadbeater’s clairvoyant investigations into the nature of the afterlife, the structure of the cosmos, and human evolution were particularly influential.

Leadbeater wrote over 60 books and pamphlets during the period from 1895 to his death in 1934, many of which continued to be published until 1955. Two noteworthy titles, Astral Plane and the Devachanic Plane (or The Heaven World) both of which contained writings on the realms the soul passes through after death.

“For the first time among occultists, a detailed investigation had been made of the Astral Plane as a whole, in a manner similar to that in which a botanist in an Amazonian jungle would set to work in order to classify its trees, plants and shrubs, and so write a botanical history of the jungle. For this reason the little book, The Astral Plane, was definitely a landmark, and the Master as Keeper of the Records desired to place its manuscript in the great Museum.”

Highlights of his writing career included addressing topics such as: the existence of a loving God, The Masters of Wisdom, what happens after death, immortality of the human soul, reincarnation, Karma or the Law of Consequence, development of clairvoyant abilities, the nature of thought forms, dreams, vegetarianism, Esoteric Christianity.

He also became one of the best known speakers of the Theosophical Society for a number of years and served as Secretary of the London Lodge.


Leadbeater’s life and work were not without controversy. In 1906, he was accused of inappropriate conduct with young boys under his care. These accusations led to his temporary resignation from the Theosophical Society. However, he was later reinstated after an internal investigation cleared him of the charges.

Role in the Liberal Catholic Church

In 1916, Leadbeater became involved with the Liberal Catholic Church, which combined Christian liturgy with Theosophical teachings. He was consecrated as a bishop in 1916 and played a significant role in shaping the church’s doctrines and practices.


“Seeing” of music: a piece by Gounod (from a book Thought-Forms by Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater).


Clairvoyance is a book by Leadbeater originally published in 1899 in London. It is a study of a belief in seeing beyond the realms of ordinary sight. The author mainly appeals readers “convinced of the existence of clairvoyance and familiar with theosophical terms.” Leadbeater claims that the “power to see what is hidden from ordinary physical sight” is an extension of common reception, and “describes a wide range of phenomena.”

Astral consciousness

Professor Robert Ellwood wrote that from 1884 to 1888, Leadbeater engaged in a meditation practice that “awakened his clairvoyance.” During this period, the Master Kuthumi visited him and inquired if Leadbeater had ever tried a specific type of meditation linked to the mysterious power known as kundalini. The Master suggested that Leadbeater make “a few efforts along certain lines” and assured him that he would personally oversee these efforts to ensure no harm would come. Leadbeater accepted the Master’s guidance and diligently practiced this form of meditation daily.

After forty-two days of dedicated practice, Leadbeater felt he was close to achieving a significant result. At this point, Kuthumi intervened and “performed the final act of breaking through,” which completed the process. This intervention enabled Leadbeater to use astral sight while retaining full consciousness in his physical body. In other words, his “astral consciousness and memory became continuous,” regardless of whether his physical body was awake or asleep.

Possible Application

In the chapter “Simple Clairvoyance: Full,” the author argues that an occultist-clairvoyant can “see” the smallest particles of matter, such as a molecule or atom, magnifying them “as though by a microscope.” This suggests that a clairvoyant could potentially observe and study microscopic structures in detail without the use of physical instruments.

Historical research

In the chapter “Clairvoyance in Time: The Past,” Leadbeater claims that a historian with full possession of this clairvoyant power would encounter remarkable possibilities:

“He has before him a field of historical research of most entrancing interest. Not only can he review at his leisure all history with which we are acquainted, correcting as he examines it the many errors and misconceptions which have crept into the accounts handed down to us; he can also range at will over the whole story of the world from its very beginning.”

This implies that such a clairvoyant historian could explore and verify historical events with unparalleled accuracy, providing insights and corrections to the established historical record and accessing previously unknown or misunderstood periods of the world’s history.

Later Years and Legacy

Leadbeater spent his later years in Australia, where he continued to write and lecture on Theosophical and esoteric subjects. He passed away on March 1, 1934, in Perth, Western Australia.

Despite the controversies, Leadbeater’s contributions to Theosophy and the broader spiritual movement of his time remain significant. His works continue to be read and studied by those interested in esotericism, spirituality, and the occult.

Home > Bishop Leadbeater