Reprinted by Blavatsky Study Center
Return to Contents page of "Theosophy versus Neo-Theosophy"
A Comparison of C. W. Leadbeater's The Chakras
with the Writings of H. P. Blavatsky,
William Q. Judge, and G. de Purucker
by M. Jaqua
By far the largest selling book of any Theosophical publisher over the past fifty years has been C.W. Leadbeater's The Chakras, with 300,000 in print as of 1987. Possibly it has sold more than all Blavatsky's books combined. Today, when one tells a knowledgeable person that he is a Theosophist, he will more than likely be categorized as a student of Leadbeater and Annie Besant. Most, I doubt, have any further understanding of what Theosophy is about, and no clear conception of who our founder Blavatsky was, if they have ever heard her name, let alone the name of the even more obscure founder William Quan Judge.
With the publication of the revealing biography of Leadbeater by Gregory Tillet, The Elder Brother, the Leadbeater/Besant school of "Theosophy" may be on the wane. Things change slowly however, and if one goes to his local bookstore and looks in the "New Age" section, he is likely to find books by Leadbeater, along with shelves of "channeling" and the like, and lucky to find anything by Blavatsky or the dozens of other serious Theosophical writers.
Leadbeater's The Chakras and other writings have been promoted as "Theosophy" for the past three-quarters of a century, yet they differ considerably in philosophy from other forms of "Theosophy." This writer's own preferred authors of Blavatsky, Judge, and Purucker also call their presentations "Theosophy." Do each differ in fundamentals as to what they are labeling "Theosophy"?
If the two philosophies differ considerably, who can lay claim to correctly calling his work by that name? This would not seem a matter of mere opinion or vague intellectualizing, but something of concrete definition. A discrete system of philosophy is due a name that differentiates it from others. If "Pure Land" Buddhists began calling their system "Mahayana" Buddhism, would there be an objection from the genuine Mahayanists? Any Theosophist who is sincerely interested in the truth of the matter and not mere emotionalism or the titillation of psychic and power games would seem necessarily to be interested in coming to some conclusions. A point by point comparison of aspects of Leadbeater's "Theosophy" in his The Chakras with statements by other writers should provide some valuable insight on this crucial question to the future of Theosophy.
In his Esoteric Teachings (vol. IX, pp. 85-99) G. de Purucker states that he makes the few observations he does of the chakras:
.".. largely in order to enforce or to emphasize the warning to all Esotericists to leave the chakras and their respective pranas alone, because very serious peril to both mental and physical health will almost certainly be incurred by ignorant and consequently foolish yoga experimentation in connexion with them, such as attempting to control the breath... etc." (P. 94)
While Leadbeater specifically gives location of the chakras in his book (which differs considerably from Purucker's locations in ET IX, p. 95), Blavatsky nowhere in her Secret Doctrine gives the locations of the chakras or in any of her other writings. outside the papers for her Esoteric Group. William Judge also did not give out the locations of the chakras in any of his writings.
There are numerous contradictions within Leadbeater's The Chakras (Quest Books, 1987). on pages 90 and 91 he states that the use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs destroys a person's "etheric web" and allows entrance of negative influences. He states that in other cases these drugs cause this "etheric web" to "harden" and that no higher influences can enter. This "etheric web" is not referred to in the literature of Blavatsky, Judge, or Purucker. Leadbeater's analogies as to the effect of drugs on the "etheric web" are contradictory and similar to saying that a bullet will either pierce the flesh or turn it into concrete.
On the use of tobacco, to which Leadbeater assigns the most horrible consequences, we find that he is not in agreement with either Blavatsky, Judge, or Purucker. Leadbeater writes:
"For any person who really means to develop his vehicles, to awaken his chakras, to make progress along the path of holiness, tobacco is undoubtedly to be sedulously avoided." (P. 93)
Considering that to most Theosophists admission, H.P. Blavatsky, while being a heavy smoker, was also the greatest practical and public occultist of our movement, there seems to be a misapprehension of fact in Leadbeater's statements. Olcott, Judge, Purucker, Blavatsky, and the Adept Morya were all smokers (see Mahatma Letters, #71, p. 374, T.U.P. edition). In another contradiction along this line, Leadbeater states on page 10 of The Chakras that "unfoldment" of the chakras "seems to have no more direct connection with morality than has the enlargement of the biceps," while, contradicting himself, on pages 90-3 he states that use of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco is fatal to occult development. Blavatsky, Judge, and Purucker all state in innumerable places that only within the highest morality is any occult development safe or desirable.
The Blavatskian idea is basically to avoid any type of attempt at psychic or occult development, as virtually no one can live the life required. These faculties will be natural at a later stage of evolution. The Leadbeater school, in contradiction, centers their whole scheme on the psychic glamors. Blavatsky, Judge and Purucker promote philosophy and the practical results in living a high philosophy, while the Leadbeater/Besant school of "Theosophy" promotes primarily the excitement of the lower psychic realms, which appeals more to everyone's baser and emotional being, the "lower iddhi". Without the higher philosophy and understanding, the lower psychic is ever and absolutely undependable'.
Blavatsky states about tobacco in her rules for the Esoteric Group that:
"The moderate use of tobacco is not prohibited, for it is not an intoxicant; but its abuse, like that of everything else, even pure water or bread - is prejudicial." (Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. XII, p. 496)
Purucker likewise with Blavatsky on tobacco states that:
"There is no occult reason against smoking; but there is an occult reason for smoking in certain cases, for it takes the place, to a degree, of incense, which is an aid or a help in driving away certain elemental and evil forces." (ET I, p. 104fn)
Judge, while implying that tobacco is only a protective on more material levels and that real occult protection stems from inner strength, states:
"Tobacco may protect the carcass from germs and disease, but that security to safety is needed by all men, whether they are studying Occultism or not. The whole question of tobacco or no tobacco is purely material. It has been discovered that it does not degrade except by abuse, but at the same time it was found and declared that other narcotics and stimulants, such as hemp, opium, and spirits, do dynamically obstruct and spiritually degrade. Hence these tears - and tobacco." (Echoes of the Orient, Vol. II, p. 264)
Use of alcohol was prohibited in both the Purucker and the Blavatsky/Judge Esoteric Groups.
In another contradiction within The Chakras, Leadbeater states on pages 71-2 that the astral chakras are in "full activity" in all cultured, later races - while on page 86 he states that Hindus, who are of an earlier race than our own, are "by heredity more adaptable" to awaken the higher centers. His first statement implies that our western race is superior to the eastern occultly, while his second statement contradicts his first viewpoint. (In The Mahatma Letters, #23b and #28, one might see that the Hindu race is less materialistically intellectual, but more spiritual than our western race. The first and later sub-races in a root-race are seen as more spiritual in nature but less materialistically intellectual like our own mid-race.)
On pages 46-7 and 57 of The Chakras Leadbeater states that the reason persons become tired is because they can no longer absorb sufficient energy from the environment. They thus have to sleep to absorb more vitality and charge the body up, so to speak, while it is inactive in sleep. He says people of rude health are able to "absorb" more energy than those of weak constitutions (which, incidentally, is also descriptive of vampirism.)
"When vitalized atoms are.. more sparsely scattered, the man in rude health increases his power of absorption, depletes a larger area, and so keeps his strength at the normal level; but invalids and men of small nerve-force, who cannot do this, often suffer severely, and find themselves growing weaker and more irritable without knowing why."
Leadbeater's position here is again directly contrary to that of each Blavatsky, Judge,. and Purucker. The latter all state that the reason sleep is necessary is not because there is too little vitality available, as Leadbeater states, but because there is too much, and the onslaught cannot be resisted any longer. This is also why death ensues. At death when there is no longer resistance from a unified body-system, the pranic currents destroy the body in decomposition. William Q. Judge writes:
"During the waking state the life-waves rush into the body with greater intensity every hour, and, we being unable to resist them any longer than the period usually observed, they overpower us and we fall asleep. While sleeping, the life-waves adjust themselves to the molecules of the body; and when the equilibrium is complete we again wake to continue the contest with life. If this periodical adjustment did not occur, the life current would destroy us." (Echoes of the Orient, vol. III, p. 11)
Purucker in his Esoteric Teachings, vol. XII, p. 76, quotes from Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge in expressing his views on the physical cause of sleep:
"Ask a good clairvoyant to describe the aurora of a person just refreshed by sleep, and that of another just before going to sleep. The former will be seen bathed in rhythmical vibrations of life currents - golden, blue, and rosy; these are the electrical waves of Life. The latter is, as it were, in a mist of intense golden-orange hue, composed of atoms whirling with an almost incredible spasmodic rapidity, showing that the person begins to be too strongly saturated with Life; . the life essence is too strong for his physical organs, and he must seek relief in the shadowy side of that essence, which side is the dream element, or physical sleep, one of the states of consciousness." (p. 71)
Blavatsky, Judge and Purucker (through quoting Blavatsky in this case) all state that physical sleep becomes necessary because there is too much vitality for the body and not too little as Leadbeater states. This is a fundamental difference in doctrine between Blavatsky, Judge, and Purucker as compared to Leadbeater and points to a clear-cut divergence in the Source of their teachings that goes beyond merely the point at hand.
There is some inimical power in personifying the "deity" or Absolute. It categorizes it within narrow human limitations when actually beyond all possible comprehension on the human level. Blavatsky goes so far as to say that such personification is at the root of Black Magic and all the degenerative forces against the human race. (BCW XIII, p. 256) Leadbeater personifies the Logos in The Chakras by referring to it as "He." "It," yes, but "He", hardly. The Logos is no single entity as we think of an individual entity. Blavatsky writes:
"In Esoteric philosophy the Demiurge or Logos, regarded as CREATOR, is simply an abstract term, an idea, like 'army.' As the latter is the all-embracing term for a body of active forces or working units - soldiers - so is the Demiurge the qualitative compound of a multitude of Creators or Builders." (Secret Doctrine I, p. 380fn)
Elsewhere Blavatsky remarks on the matter, of personifying cosmic powers:
"Shall we call these 'Fathers' of ours, whether individually or collectively and under any circumstances, our personal God? Occultism answers Never." (BCW XII, P. 533)
Leadbeater's description on pages 38-30 of The Chakras of the manifestation our cosmos through the First, Second and Third Logos is at complete odds with the teachings of Blavatsky, Judge, and Purucker and could only be aimed at destruction of any sense of philosophic discrimination in the student! While Leadbeater has each of the Logoi performing different Direct functions in the manifesting of the world, according to the writings of Blavatsky, Judge and Purucker As Well As Simple Logic! - only the Third or "lowest" Logos in the scheme of manifestation can possibly have anything directly to do with our material world. Leadbeater's position here can be nothing else than facetious, as he has the First and Second Logos directly involved within the physical cosmos without the intermediary of the Third Logos. It is obfuscation, pure and simple, of a true or the original and sensible doctrine of progressively material emanation through three succeeding levels of increasing materiality, or the three Logoi.
Roughly, in the genuine doctrine, the Third or "Demiourgos" as called by the Greeks, Logos, is emanated by the Second Logos, the Second Logos is an emanation of the First Logos, and the First Logos an emanation of indescribable and infinite Parabrahman. Leadbeater, "as he has long understood" (but incorrectly), has the First and Second Logos participating in our manifestation independently of the Third Logos - which is functionally impossible and something like saying that the president of General Motors is personally responsible for tightening the lug nuts on every car sold. As regards our manifested cosmos emanating only from the Third Logos, Blavatsky writes in a commentary on the New Testament:
"The... verse refers to the Third or Creative Logos. All things came into existence through it, viz., the third aspect of the Logos and source of their existence..." (BCW XI, p. 588)
Purucker writes identically as to the emanation of the First, Second, and Third Logos and the manifested cosmos through the latter:
"Manu, or dhyani-chohan, in the esoteric system, is the entities collectively which appear first at the beginning of manifestion and from which, like a cosmic tree, everything is derived or born. Manu actually is the (spiritual) tree of life of any planetary chain, of manifested being. Manu is thus, in one sense, the Third Logos..." (Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, p. 48, T.U.P. edition)
Judge writes identically to Blavatsky and Purucker:
"... all Planes of Consciousness and all the Principles of man are root-differentiations of MAHAT, the 'Great Principle' of Mind of the Universe (the Third Logos of the Secret Doctrine.)" (Echoes III, p. 310)
On page 27 of The Chakras Leadbeater writes that "The force of Kundalini in our bodies comes from that laboratory of the Holy Ghost deep down in the earth." Since he elsewhere states that the source of the physical kundalini is the basal or Muladhara chakra, he seems to be equating the third being of the Christian Trinity with the lowest chakra. In Purucker's view the Christian "Holy Ghost" is the same as the Second Logos because of its feminine/passive potency. (E.T, vol. v, p. 21) Elsewhere Purucker equates the Second Logos with "Cosmic Buddhi" or Alaya. Blavatsky at one point equates the Holy Ghost with Atma, but in one sense anything could be generically labeled "Atma" that was unmanifest to us in our cosmos. (BCW XI, p. 497)
William Judge writes identically to Purucker: "Akasa in the mysticism of the Esoteric Philosophy is, properly speaking, the female 'Holy Ghost'..." (Echoes III, p. 58) (Cosmic Buddhi, or Alaya, is of a superior hierarchy to the Buddhi principle in the human constitution. Akasa is identical to Alaya or "Cosmic Buddhi" in Akasa's higher aspects.)
Neither Blavatsky, Judge, or Purucker place the Holy Ghost "deep down in the earth" as Leadbeater does. Even conventional Christianity places the Holy Ghost as something detached from the earthly-material, not operating within the bowels of the earth, where many place their hell.
On page 28 of The Chakras Leadbeater states that the Third Logos ("He'' in his personification) "is engaged in building denser and denser chemical elements." This is again directly contrary to the teachings of Blavatsky and Purucker and against the very spirit of their Theosophy - thus again pointing to another source of Leadbeater's teachings, which is most likely his own imagination. According to Blavatsky and Purucker, we have now passed the low point in materiality for our round - during Atlantean times - and now matter is becoming LESS DENSE and more ephemeral as we ascend the arc of spirituality, and not MORE DENSE as Leadbeater states. Leadbeater gives the perspective that we should be looking to the more material and away from the spiritual, which is of course the direction of sorcery and not of spirituality. Spirituality's direction is away from and progress from dense materiality. Evolution is away from dense matter and not towards it as Leadbeater infers.
"From now on, all the globes and all the life-waves which up to the present have shown a tendency to sink into matter, now having reached their balance, will hereafter show a tendency to become more ethereal. The very earth we live on, as the ages pass, will show a tendency to etherealize itself, spiritualize itself; and I may point out that the discoveries in radioactivity, such as that of uranium, and certain other elements of high atomic weight, are merely examples of the steady disintegration of the grossest chemical elements known. They would naturally be the first to etherealize." (Studies in Occult Philosophy, p. 97)
Leadbeater states that the kundalini is aroused by bringing of the first or Mulhadara chakra fully into activity (pp. 77-8). This method, of what he calls "Laya Yoga," is the method of Tantra Yoga, its coined "Laya Yoga'' name notwithstanding. Leadbeater states (p. 119) that the term "laya" is somehow derived or associated with the english word "latency," to which this writer doubts it has any philological relationship other than sounding similarly. "Laya" is from the Sanskrit root li, meaning "to dissolve" or "disintegrate." In Purucker's Occult Glossary a "laya center" is described as "the mystical point where a thing disappears from one plane and passes onwards to reappear on another plane." "Laya Yoga" could not be described as one of the "seven recognized systems of Yoga" in India as Leadbeater states, but as a derivation of often or usually degenerate Tantra Yoga - the system used by eastern sorcerers.
In another contradiction. within The Chakras (pp. 72, 77), Leadbeater states that the first chakra or Muladhara is the home of the serpent fire or kundalini, while elsewhere (pp. 81-2) he states that the greatest danger in rousing the kundalini is that it will rush downwards instead of upwards, and thus excite the lower passions. One may wonder how, if its base is in the lowest chakra, the kundalini can rush downwards any lower than this lowest chakra?
On page 77 of The Chakras Leadbeater states that "all schools of yoga recognize... the importance of the chakras" and that "The plan of the Raja Yogi is to meditate upon each in turn and bring them into activity by sheer force of will..." THIS IS A FALSE STATEMENT AND WOULD BE KNOWN TO BE FALSE BY ANYONE WHO HAD EVEN SUPERFICIALLY STUDIED THE DIFFERENT SYSTEMS OF YOGA. Raja-yoga, which is the method of Theosophy and Blavatsky, Judge, and Purucker, does not regard study of especially the lower chakras as important but inimical and dangerous, and as a method used in black magic. It sees concentration on the chakras below the head as harmful or fatal to spiritual development. It is a concentrating on the perishable physical and astral qualities instead of the truly valuable mental and spiritual qualities. It is a directing of the attention in the wrong course, towards the material and away from the spiritual. Blavatsky writes in her Esoteric Instructions:
"He who has studied both systems, the Hatha and Raja-Yoga, finds an enormous difference between the two: one is purely psycho-physiological, the other purely psycho-spiritual. The Tantrists do not seem to go higher than the six visible and know plexuses, with each of which they connect the Tattvas; and the great stress they lay on the chief of these, the Muladhara Chakra (the sacral plexus), shows the material and selfish bent of their efforts towards the acquisition of powers. ...with the followers of the old school it is different. We begin with mastery of that organ which is situated at the base of the brain, in the pharynx, and called by Western anatomists the Pituitary Body." (BCW XII, p. 616)
In reference to the higher centers that Blavatsky states Raja-yoga is solely concerned with, Leadbeater claims that the brow center or pituitary chakra exerts its special faculties of spiritual sight by means of a special "etheric microscope." He writes:
"A tiny flexible tube of etheric matter is projected from the center of it, resembling a microscopic snake with something like an eye at the end of it. This is the special organ used in that form of clairvoyance, and the eye at the end of it can be expanded or contracted, the effect being to change the power of magnification according to the size of the object which is being examined." (p. 79)
Leadbeater also states that this "etheric microscope" was the basis of the serpent-crown worn by Egyptian initiates.
The powers of the "third eye" are mental. and spiritual powers and have no need of etheric devices modeled after modern microscopes. Leadbeater's explanation of the "third eye" as a microscope is absurd and infantile. Size is a mental and relative concept or dimension or quality and has no bearing on the relative size of the clairvoyant. It would seem that an adept with such an occult ability would merely have to bring his mind in rapport with an object, whether its scope be, to us, the size of a speck of dust or a planet. The serpent is an ancient symbol of wisdom and initiation and it was such on the Egyptian headdress -a symbol.
In Egypt the serpent in one aspect was Hermes-Thoth and represented "divine creative wisdom." "... the 'Serpent' and 'Dragon' were names given to the 'Wise ones', the initiated adepts of olden times." (SD I, p. 404) As to the Egyptian serpent headdress in particular, Blavatsky writes: "It has been repeatedly stated that the Serpent is the symbol of wisdom and of occult knowledge... The crown form of an asp, the Thermuthis, belongs to Isis, goddess of Life and Healing." (SD II, p. 26fn)
In the diagram opposite page 524 in BCW XII, Blavatsky states that the lower physical organs are "used only by Dugpas in Black Magic." (The lower ternary is only used in sorcery, its symbol being the inverted triangle. One might consider whether the inverted triangle used in the heart chakra on page 99 of The Chakras is a symbol of such.)
Leadbeater states on page 87 that "...one day one of the Masters made a suggestion to me with regard to a certain kind of meditation which would evoke this force." (the kundalini) The practice, while remaining a mystery to most for sixty years, was recently unearthed by Gregory Tillet in his biography of Leadbeater, The Elder Brother, and is a low tantric autoerotic one - and thus by Blavatsky's definition concerning the lower ternary is a black magic practice. The "Master" could not have been one from the Lodge that utilized Blavatsky as a presenter of their doctrines, and thus Leadbeater is found self-deluded, a pawn, or a presenter of teachings of the left-hand path.
Blavatsky states elsewhere (BCW XII, p. 621) that Raja-yoga schools never publish tantra-like works or on the chakras because they "tend to Black Magic and are most dangerous to take for guides in self-training." She adds: "I hope that American Esotericists will be on their guard." In the original Esoteric Section under Blavatsky overall and Judge in America, there was a prohibition "against physical means and physical practices pursued for the finite purpose of developing psychic power." (Echoes III, p. 333)
G. de Purucker presented the same view as Blavatsky and Judge that concern over the chakras tends in the direction selfishness, psychism and the left-hand path:
"It is precisely these relatively unimportant facts of occult physiology which seem to exercise on the perverse minds of the men and women of our generation a sort of psychic fascination, as if, for sooth, it is with the human body and its functions and organs, etc., that the really sublime teachings of the occult or Esoteric Philosophy mainly deals! ... In India these truths are as well known and in fact far better known, due to ages of high philosophical teaching, than they are in the West; yet India and China and other Oriental countries are simply overrun with the dangers of quasi-occultism, whose proponents in India are called the lower classes of Yogins or Fakirs, etc., etc. Their whole attention and indeed their whole life, more or less, is given up to a study and practice of the often elaborate rules for psycho-physical development contained in the Hatha-Yoga as well as in the often infamous and bestial Tantrika works. But whereas in India, as an example, the dangers of these works through centuries of a relatively high philosophical education are more or less clearly appreciated by educated people and those who have been trained in the higher philosophical thought, there is little if any such protective knowledge abroad or common in the Occident. ... There is a complete science regarding the chakras, but it is not a science which it would be helpful for you to study now. It is mostly studied by Black Magicians or by those who unconsciously aspire to become Black Magicians, because what they want to gain is 'powers' ...even the chelas are not allowed to cultivate the powers of the chakras by concentrating upon them. They find out by following the chela-life how to use the powers naturally; and I have known chelas who did not even know the names of the chakras. They have heard vaguely that these nerve-centers are in the body, but they are not interested. They simply use the powers which flow through these chakras, because they have become evolved men..." (ET IX, pp. 85-6, 93fn)
Just what is "Theosophy?" Is it anything anyone wishes to call by that name - like a generic name for the metaphysical - or is there a valid standard of definition? The word "Theosophy" may have been used a thousand years ago, but it obtains a new and definite definition if used as a chosen label for a specific system of philosophy, as chosen and used by Blavatsky for her specific system a hundred years ago. There may be primary and secondary definitions, as in many terms. one such definition is Theosophy as the specific philosophic system presented by Blavatsky.
Leadbeater calls his book The Chakras "Theosophy" as are scores or hundreds of others in the same vein labeled, yet differing completely from Blavatsky Theosophy and producing great misconception in the public. Blavatsky, Judge, Purucker and as well The Mahatma Letters are as mutually consistent as could be possible in their presentation and thus intellectually and intuitively can be held to represent an identical Source Doctrine, as they maintain they do.
Within the present Theosophical Societies, according to the program of the original Society and still held in principle by each, there can be promulgated no dogma, "complete freedom of thought" being one of our ideals. Even if one thought Theosophy as presented by Blavatsky, Judge, and Purucker, or someone else, was "the complete truth and nothing but the truth," it would be wrong to set such up as dogma. The Theosophical Societies and THEOSOPHY, however, are two things quite different. "Our doctrine knows no compromises" one finds in The Mahatma Letters as to the technical doctrines. People have to discover truth by their own means, by their own "self-induced and self-devised efforts." To impose belief is to destroy the very function that is responsible for discovering truth.
As to Theosophy, the technical philosophic system: A system of thought has to have a label or name and Theosophy was the term used by Blavatsky to label the definite system of thought she presented. Her writings and the writings of those that agree with her's are the only writings that can be logically or truthfully called "Theosophy." This is the only reasonable definition.
In analysis and comparison of Leaadbeater's The Chakras with what in simple definition is Theosophy, it is obvious that The Chakras is not Theosophy. It is something else. It represents Theosophy's polar antithesis in its basic aspects, and to argue minor points of agreement serves no purpose as everything agrees with something else on some point. Without Blavatsky Theosophy to falsely present himself as a representative of, it is likely C. W. Leadbeater would have never received a hearing or popularity. If one prefers Leadbeater's philosophy, this is a person's prerogative (at his own delusion and peril, if one were to give credence to Blavatsky, Judge, Purucker), but it can only be called Theosophy by theft.