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Rev. Leadbeater Off the Trail

by R. S. Gherwal (1)


The harm to Yoga philosophy that has been done by misinformation thru the "Theosophist" Rev. C. W. Leadbeater is indeed very great.

Most readers of Theosophical and occult literature believe Rev. Leadbeater to be a friend to the Hindus, but after reading his book, The Inner Life and The Chakras, I am forced to say by the information he has given, he is the greatest enemy of Yoga philosophy, and has given a bad name to Yoga. This may have been done unconsciously. Nevertheless, it is hard to believe, as in The Chakras he in no instance has corrected the misinformation made in The Inner Life. For example, in The Chakras he tries to prove a difference in the petals of the different centers from that which is given in Yoga philosophy.

According to Rev. Leadbeater all the Yogis of the past and present, even the founder of Yoga philosophy are wrong about the Chakras, and their petals.

All Yogis and our books claim Sahasrara, has one thousand petals but in one of his chapters, Rev. Leadbeater says he found there were only Nine Hundred and Sixty and not "One Thousand". The Ajna Chakra has two petals, according to Yoga, but Rev. Leadbeater claims he found Ninety-six petals in the Ajna Chakra. All his counts are opposite the Yogis' Chakras, except one. He claims he found NineHundred and Sixty and Ninety-six.

Every Yogi cannot help but laugh, because there are really no petals at all. I will explain here, the symbols these petals stand for.

 Every Yogi knows, and the students of Yoga Philosophy know, that Rev. Leadbeater, is "off the trail," and did not stop to consider the origin of our One Thousand Petals, but undoubtedly he had something else in mind.

In Yoga Philosophy these Chakras are symbols:  the first - Earth, the second - Water, third - Fire, fourth - Air, fifth - Ether and sixth Mental. The "Thousand - Petaled" we do not call a Chakra, as it is above the nature element and mind.

In these six symbols we have the "Garland of Letters," as there are fifty letters in the Sanskrit alphabet and each petal of these centers represent a letter. In the first or Root Chakra, Yoga puts four petals, six in the second, ten in the third, twelve in the fourth, sixteen in the fifth and two in the sixth, between the eyes. That includes the occult symbol of the Sanscrit alphabet. By repeating all of the fifty alphabetical letters twenty times we have One Thousand - the symbol of the "Thousand - petals". We would like to know just where Rev. Leadbeater gets his idea that there are only 960. Now is he not off the trail, reader?

Now I will give you his own words about awakening the Kundalini:

"One very common effect of rousing it prematurely is that it rushes downwards in the body instead of upwards, and thus excites the most undesirable passions - excites them and intensifies their effects to such a degree that it becomes impossible for the man to resist them, because a force has been brought into play, in whose presence he is as helpless as a swimmer before the jaws of a shark".

The reader will find this kind of "stuff" in Chapter Four and in the next Chapter he contradicts as follows:

"It is said in some cases Kundalini has been awakened not only by the will, but also by accident; by a blow or by physical pressure. I heard recently from one of our Theosophical lecturers that he had come across an example of the kind when touring in Canada. A lady, who knew nothing at all of these matters fell down the cellar steps in her house. She lay for some time unconscious, and when she awoke she found herself clairvoyant, able to read the thoughts passing in other people's minds, and to see what was going on in every room in the house; and this clairvoyance has remained a permanent possession. One assumes that in this case in falling, the lady must have received a blow at the base of the spine exactly in such a position of such a nature as to shock the Kundalini into partial activity."

The miseries and dangers spoken of in the previous chapter, do not appear to have been monstrous in this case.

I will now show my readers at what Rev. Leadbeater is driving. And he does not hesitate, if, at the same time he gives a bad name to the Yoga Philosophy, because he wants followers of his method of opening the Kundalini, and really one can hardly blame Rev. Leadbeater, as it seems to be the custom of the West to first give the other man a bad name and then, seek his followers. For nearly half a century I have met Master Yogis who have awakened their Kundalini and not in a single instance did they claim they had opened it. Rev. Leadbeater is the first man to come to my attention, who claims he has opened his Kundalini. For the rest of the people he says:

"...but most people cannot gain it during the present incarnation, if it is the first in which they have begun to take these matters seriously in hand, but it is really for the majority, the work of a later round altogether. The conquest of the serpent-fire has to be repeated in each incarnation, since the vehicles are new each time, but after it has been once thoroughly achieved these repetitions will be an easy matter."

Then on the same page he gives his own personal experience:

"It may be of use if I mention my own experience in this matter.  In the earlier part of my residence in India forty years ago I made no effort to rouse the fire, not indeed knowing very much about it, and having the opinion that, in order to do anything with it, it was necessary to be born with a specially psychic body, which I did not possess. But one day one of the masters made a suggestion to me with regard to a certain kind of meditation which would evoke this force. Naturally I at once put the suggestion into practice, and in course of time was successful. I have no doubt, however, that He watched the experiment, and would have checked me if it had become dangerous. I am told that there are Indian ascetics who teach this to their pupils, of course keeping them under careful supervision during the process. But I do not myself know of any such, nor would I have confidence in them unless they were specially recommended by someone who I knew to be possessed of real knowledge."

 

Rev. Leadbeater claims he has opened the Kundalini, still he will not have the confidence in the Hindu Master, unless they were specially recommended by some ghost on the Astral Plane. Following, I will show how he wants you to open the Kundalini:

"People often ask me what I advise them to do with regard to the arousing of this force. I advise them to do exactly what I myself did. I recommend them to throw themselves into theosophical work and wait until they receive a definite command from some Master who will undertake to superintend their psychic development, continuing in the meantime all the ordinary exercises of meditation that are known to them. They should not care in the least whether such development comes in this incarnation or in the next, but should regard the matter from the point of view of the ego and not of the personality, feeling absolutely certain that the Masters are always watching for those whom They can help, that it is entirely impossible for anyone to be overlooked, and that They will unquestionably give Their directions when They think that the right time has come."

It would really be a great joy to all Yogis if, Rev. Leadbeater will leave the Yoga Philosophy alone and give to the world what he wants, but by all means, call it by some other name.

This is not a pleasure to me to criticise some other writer, but I believe it is the duty of every Yogi, to give to those who are seeking information, only that which he (the Yogi) knows to be correct about the Kundalini the Mother of the Universe.

The following is an article on the same subject, by Arthur Avalon. He, too, questions Rev. Leadbeater's remarks.

From pp. 6 to 18 Mr. A. Avalon's, The Serpent Power:

"We may here notice the account of a well-know 'Theosophical' author (Mr. C. W. Leadbeater), regarding what he calls the 'Force Centres' and the 'Serpent Fire,' of which he writes that he has had personal experience. Though Mr. Leadbeater also refers to the Yoga Shastra, it may perhaps exclude error if we here point out that his account does not profess to be a representation of the teaching of the Indian Yogis (whose competence for their own Yoga the author somewhat disparages), but that it is put forward as the Author's own original explanation (fortified, as he conceives,  by certain portions of Indian teaching) of the personal experience which (he writes) he himself has had. This experience appears to consist in the conscious arousing of the 'Serpent Fire,' [1] with the enhanced 'astral' and mental vision which he believes has shown him what he tells us. [2] The centres, or Chakras, of the human body are by Mr. Leadbeater described to be vortices of 'etheric' matter [3] into which rush from the 'astral' [4] world, and at right angles to the plane of the whirling disc, the sevenfold force of the Logos bringing 'divine life' into the physical body. Though all these seven forces operate on all the centres, in each of them one form of the force is greatly predominant. These inrushing forces are alleged to set up on the surface of the 'etheric double' [5a] secondary forces at right angles to themselves. The primary force on entrance into the vortex radiates again in straight lines, but at right angles. The number of these radiations of the primal forces is said to determine the number of 'Petals' [6] (as the Hindus call them) which the 'Lotus' or vortex exhibits. The secondary force rushing round the vortex produces, it is said, the appearance of the petals of a flower, or, 'perhaps more accurately, saucers or shallow vases of wavy iridescent glass.' In this way - that is, by supposition of an etheric vortex subject to an incoming force of the Logos - both the 'Lotuses' described in the Hindu books and the number of their petals is accounted for by the author, who substitutes for the Svadhishthana centre a six-petalled lotus at the spleen, [5b] and corrects the number of petals of the lotus in the head, which he says is not a thousand, as the book of this Yoga say, 'but exactly 960.' [6a]

"There are some resemblances between this account and the teaching of' the Yoga Shastra, with which in a general way the author cited appears to have some acquaintance, and which may have suggested to him some features of his account. There are firstly seven centres, which with one exception correspond with the Chakras described. The author says that there are three other lower centres, but that concentration on them is full of danger. What these are is not stated. There is no centre lower, that I am aware of, than the Muladhara (as the name 'root-centre' itself implies), and the only centre near to it which is excluded, in the above-mentioned account, is the Apas Tattva centre, or Svadhishthana. Next there is the Force ' the Serpent Fire,' which the Hindus call Kundalini, in the lowest centre, the muladhara. Lastly, the effect of the rousing of this force, which is accomplished by will power (Yogabala) [8] is said to exalt the physical consciousness through the ascending planes to the 'heaven world.' To use the Hindu expression, the object and aim of Shatchakrabheda is Yoga. This is ultimately union with the Supreme Self or Paramatma; but it is obvious, that as the body in its natural state is already, though unconsciously, in Yoga, otherwise it would not exist, each conscious step upwards is Yoga, and there are many stages of such before complete or Kaivalya Mukti is attained. This and, indeed, many of the preceding stages are far beyond the 'heaven world' of which the author speaks. Yogis are not concerned with the 'heaven world,'  but seek to surpass it; otherwise they are not Yogis at all. What, according to this theory, manifested force apparently does is this: it enhances the mental and moral qualities of the self-operator as they existed at the time of its discovery. But if this be so, such enhancement may be as little desirable as the original state. Apart from the necessity for the possession of health and strength, the thought, will, and morality, which it is proposed to subject to its influence must be first purified and strengthened before they are intensified by the vivifying influence of the aroused force. Further, as I have elsewhere pointed out, [9] the Yogis say that the piercing of the Brahmagranthi or 'knot' [10] sometimes involves considerable pain, physical disorder, and even disease, as is not unlikely to follow from concentration on such a centre as the navel (Nabhipadma).

"To use Hindu terms, the Sadhaka must be competent (Adhikari), a matter to be determined by his Guru, from whom alone the actual method of Yoga, can be learned. The incidental dangers, however, stated by Mr. Leadbeater go beyond any mentioned to me by Indians themselves, who seem to be in general unaware of the subject of 'phallic sorcery', to which reference is made by Mr. Leadbeater, who speaks of schools of (apparently Western) 'Black Magic' which are said to use Kundalini for the purpose of stimulating the sexual centre. Another author says:  [11] 'The mere dabbler in the pseudo-occult will only degrade his intellect with the puerilities of psychism, become the prey of the evil influence of the phantasmal world, or ruin his soul by the foul practices of phallic sorcery - as thousands of misguided people are doing even in this age.' Is this so? It is possible that perverse or misguided concentration on sexual and connected centres may have the effect alluded to. And it may be that the Commentator Lakshmidara alludes to this when he speaks of Uttara Kaulas who arouse Kundalini in the Muladhara to satisfy their desire for world-enjoyment and do not attempt to lead Her upwards to the Highest Centre which is the object of Yoga seeking super-worldly bliss. Of such, a Sanskrit verse runs 'they are the true prostitutes.'  I have, however, never heard Indians refer to this matter, probably because, it does not belong to Yoga in its ordinary sense, as also by reason of the antecedent discipline required of those who would undertake this Yoga, the nature of their practice, and the aim they have in view, such a possibility does not come under consideration. The Indian who practices this or any other kind of spiritual Yoga ordinarily does so not on account of a curious interest in occultism or with a desire to gain 'astral' or similar experiences. [12] His attitude in this as in all other matters is essentially a religious one, based on a firm faith in Brahman (Sthiranishtha), and inspired by a desire for union with It which is liberation.

"Assuming for argument the alleged correspondence, then the 'etheric centres' or Chakras of Mr. Leadbeater's account appear to be centres of energy of Prana-vayu - or Vital Force. The lotuses are also this and centres of the universal consciousness. Kundalini is the static form of the creative energy in bodies which is the source of all energies, including Prana. According to Mr. Leadbeater's theory, Kundalini is some force which is distinct from Prana, understanding this term to mean vitality of the life-principle, which on entrance into the body shows itself in various manifestations of life which are the minor Pranas, of which inspiration is called by the general name of the force itself (Prana). Verses 10 and 11 says of Kundalini: 'It is She who maintains all the beings (that is, jiva, jivatma) of the world by means of inspiration and expiration.' She is thus the Prana Devata, but, as She is (Comm., vv. 10 and 11) Srishti-sthitilayatmika, all forces therefore are in Her. She is, in fact, the Shabdabrahman or "word" in bodies. The theory discussed appears to diverge from that of the Yogis when we consider the nature of the Chakras and the question of their vivification. According to Mr. Leadbeater's account, the Chakras are all vortices of 'etheric matter,' apparently of the same kind and subject to the same external influence of the inrushing sevenfold force of the 'Logos" but differing in this, that in each of the Chakras one of other of their sevenfold forces is predominant. Again, if, as has been stated, the astral body corresponds with the Manomayakosha, then the vivification of the Chakras appears to be, according to Mr. Leadbeater, a rousing of the Kamik side of the mental sheath. According to the Hindu doctrine, these Chakras are differing centres of consciousness, vitality, and Tattvik energy.

Each of the five lower Chakras is the centre of energy of a gross Tattva - that is, of that form of Tattvik activity or Tanmatra which manifests the Mahabhuta or sensible matter. The sixth is the centre of the subtle mental Tattva, and the Sahasrara is not called a Chakra at all. Nor, as stated, is the splenic centre included among the six Chakras which are dealt with in this account.

'In the Indian system the total number of the petals corresponds with the number of the letters of the Sanskrit Alphabet, [13] and the number of the petals of any specific lotus is determined by the disposition of the subtile "nerves" [or]Nadis around it. These petals, further, bear subtile sound-powers, and are fifty in number, as are the letters of the Sanskrit Alphabet.

"This work also describes certain things which are gained by contemplation on each of the Chakras. Some of them are of general character, such as long life, freedom from desire and sin, control of the senses, knowledge, power of speech, and fame. Some of these and other qualities are results common to concentration on more than one Chakra. others are stated in connection with the contemplation upon one centre only. Such statements seem to be made, not necessarily with the intention of accurately recording the specific result, if any, which follows upon concentration upon a particular centre, but by way of praise for increased self-control or Stuti-vada; as where it is said in v. 21 that contemplation on the Nabhi-padma gains for the Yogi power to destroy and create the world.

"It is also said that mastery of the centres may produce various Siddhis or powers in respect of the predominating elements there. And this is, in fact, alleged. [14] Pandit Ananta Shastri says: [15] 'We can meet with several persons every day elbowing us in the streets or bazaars who in all sincerity attempted to reach the highest plane of bliss, but fell victims on the way to the illusions of the psychic world, and stopped at one or the other of the six Chakras. They are of varying degrees of attainment, and are seen to possess some power which is not found even in the best intellectuals of the ordinary run of mankind. That this school of practical psychology was working very well in India at one time is evident from these living instances (not to speak of the numberless treatises on the subject) of men roaming about in all parts of the country.'  The mere rousing of the Serpent power does not, from the spiritual Yoga standpoint, amount to much. Nothing, however, of real moment, from the higher Yogis' point of view, is achieved until the Ajna Chakra is reached. Here, again, it is said that the Sadhaka whose Atma  [aim?] is nothing but a meditation on this lotus 'becomes the creator, preserverer and destroyer, of the three worlds; and yet, as the commentator points out (v. 34), 'This is but the highest Prashangsa-vada or Stutivada - that is, compliment - which in Sanskrit literature is often void of reality as it is in our ordinary life. Though much is here gained, it is not until the Tattvas of this centre are also absorbed, and complete knowledge [16] of the Sahasrara is gained, that the Yogi attains that which is both his aim and the motive of his labour, cessation from rebirth which follows on the control and concentration of the Chitta on the Shivasthanam, the Abode of Bliss.

It is not to be supposed that simply because the Serpent Fire has been aroused that one has thereby become a Yogi or achieved the end of Yoga. There are other points of difference which the reader will discover for himself, but into which I do not enter, as my object in comparing the two accounts has been to establish a general contrast between this modern account and that of the Indian schools. I may, however, add that the differences are not only as to details. The style of thought differs in a way not easy shortly to describe, but which will be quickly recognized by those who have some familiarity with the Indian Scriptures and mode of thought. The latter is ever disposed to interpret all processes and their results from a subjective standpoint, though for the purposes of Sadhana the objective aspect is not ignored. The Indian Theory is highly philosophical. Thus, to take but one instance, whilst Mr. Leadbeater attributes the power of becoming large or small at will (Anima and Mahima Siddhi) to a flexible tube or 'microscopic snake' in the forehead, the Hindu says that all powers (Siddhi) are the attributes (Aishvaryya) of the Lord Ishvara, or Creative Consciousness, and that in the degree that the Jiva realises that consciousness [17] he shares the powers inherent in the degree of his attainment."

The above is an excerpt from Mr. Avalon's introduction to his book, The Serpent Power. Every student of Yoga should read it.

FINIS

Om, Om, Om.

--------------------

NOTES (Arthur Avalon):

 

[1] This and the following notes compare his and the Indian theory. The Devi or Goddess is called Bhujangi or serpent because at the lowest centre (Muladhara) she lies 'Coiled' - at rest. The Cosmic Power in bodies is here at rest; when roused it is felt as intense heat.

[2] Certain Siddhis or occult powers are acquired at each center as the practitioner works his way upwards.

[3] The petals of the lotus are Pranashakti manifested by Pranavayu or vital force. Each lotus is a centre of a different form of 'matter' (Bhuta) there predominant.

(4] This is a western term.

[5a, 5b] Not mentioned in the account here given.

[6] See last note but three.

[6a] So little attention seems to be given to exactitude in this matter that one of the letters is dropped in order to make 1 000 petals - that is 50 X 20. 'Thousand' is, here only symbolic of magnitude.

[7] (Apparently editing error. No note 7 in original. -ed.)

[8] With the aid of bodily purification, certain Asans and Mudras (v. post).

[9] In the first edition of Mahanirvana Tantra, CXXIV.

[10] There are three 'knots' which have to be pierced or centres where the force of Maya is particularly strong.

[11] The Apocalypse Unsealed, by James M. Pryse, p. 62

[121 Those who do practise magic of the kind mentioned work only in the lowest centre, have recourse to the Prayoga, which leads to Mayika Shiddhi, whereby commerce is had with female spirits and the like. The process in this work described is one upon the path of liberation and has nothing to do with sexual black magic.

[13] -which are sometimes given as 50 and sometimes as 51.
[14] See Yogatattve Upanishad, where contemplation on the earth centre secures mastery over, etc. At the same time it points out that these 'powers' are obstacles to liberation.

[15] Anandalahari, p. 35.

[16] This, it is obvious, comes only after long effort, and following on less complete experiences and results. According to Indian nations, success (Siddhi) in Yoga may be the fruit of experiences of many preceding lives. Kundalini must be gradually raised from one centre to another until she reaches the Lotus in the cerebrum. The length of time required varies in the individual - it may be years ordinarily or in exceptional cases months.

[17] As this is by the Devi's grace, She is called "the giver of the eight Siddhis" (Ishitvadyashtasiddhida). See Trishati, 11, 47. She gives Aishvaryya.


(1) From Kundalini, Mother of the Universe: Mystery of Piercing the Sixth Chakra, Gerwal Singh, Santa Barbara, 1930. The excerpt in this article appeared only in the lst edition of Avalon's The Serpent Power, London, 1920.