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ARIES  () –

Modern Western Magic and Theosophy

Gregory Tillett
University of Western Sydney

Der Einfluss der Theosophischen Gesellschaft auf die Entwicklung der modernen westlichen
Esoterik kann kaum überschätzt werden. Sowohl direkt als auch indirekt funktionierte
die Theosophie als Katalysator und Quelle für fast alles in der westlichen Esoterik, das
die Veröffentlichung der Lehren von Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (–) und die
Gründung der Theosophischen Gesellschaft im Jahre  folgte. Während der Einfluss
der Theosophie auf die westliche Esoterik gut dokumentiert ist, wird sie weniger häufig
als Vorläufer der westlichen Magie gesehen. Obwohl Blavatsky das bereitstellte, was man
als die den rituellen Magie zugrundeliegenden esoterischen Philosophie betrachten könnte,
lieferte Charles Webster Leadbeater (–) die mehr praktischen, und tatsächlich
beliebteren und schmackhafteren, Erklärungen, wie und warum sie wirksam sein könnte.
Seine Behauptung, dass rituelle Magie nicht einfach symbolisch oder psychologisch sei,
sondern eine wirkliche Transformation der Teilnehmer und der äußeren Welt verursachte,
hat die meisten modernen ritualmagischen Gruppen und Texte beeinflusst und ist da
deutlich offenkundig. Es ist ein theosophischer Einfluss aber nicht einer, der Blavatsky,
oder die Theosophische Organisationen welche das, was oft ‘Neo-Theosophie’ genannt wird,
ablehnen, erkennen würden.

Theosophical Society; Helena Petrovna Blavatsky; Esoteric Section; Rudolf Steiner; Her-
metic Order of the Golden Dawn; Temple of the Rosy Cross; Charles Webster Leadbeater;
Co-Masonry; Liberal Catholic Church; Egyptian Rite; magic

The influence of the Theosophical Society on the development of modern

Western esotericism can hardly be over-estimated. Directly and indirectly The-
osophy served as both a catalyst and a fountain-source for almost all in Western
esotericism that followed the publication of the teachings of Helena Petrovna
Blavatsky (–) and the establishment of the Theosophical Society in
. While the influence of Theosophy on Western esotericism is well docu-
mented, it is less commonly seen as a forebear of Western magic. A distinction
must be made between ritual and magic. Many traditions (including Roman
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden,  DOI: 10.1163/147783512X614821
 Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () –

Catholicism and mainstream Freemasonry) have forms of ritual at their core,

but they have not conventionally claimed, and indeed most would deny, that
their ritual represents any form of magic. Ritual magic is ritual not primarily
viewed as symbolic or even as having a psychological impact on the participants
but intended to bring about magical effects independent of the participants.
The relationship between Theosophy and modern Western magic is essen-
tially a twentieth-century development. Madam Blavatsky herself seems to
have regarded any form of magic as contrary to legitimate Theosophical (and
therefore esoteric or occult) practice. Her writings are read in vain to find
magical rituals or techniques, and disclose, rather, an emphasis on intellec-
tual endeavour and asceticism (albeit not an asceticism she herself necessarily
practised) and mental processes like concentration and meditation. She clearly
did not deny the existence of what might be called psychic powers or forces,
or non-human entities existing on planes other than the physical, or the abil-
ity for some human manipulation of them. However, attempts to make use
of such powers, to manipulate such forces or to enter into relations with such
entities was seen by her to be both inherently dangerous and spiritually destruc-
tive. Her earlier career in spiritualism having been abandoned (or perhaps she
might have said transcended), Blavatsky then tended to view practical expres-
sions of occultism, other than in a spiritual life, as undesirable and dangerous.
Even ritual which was intended to be symbolic rather than magical was to be
This position may be seen as contradictory, given Blavatsky’s reputation for
what might well be seen as magic—the seemingly magical production of letters
from the Masters or even of a tea cup. She explained these events as ‘Master’s
tricks’—that is, as having been precipitated by one of the Masters and not the
consequence of her own magical powers.1
Blavatsky expressed her distaste for theurgy or ‘practical magic’ early in
her Theosophical career. In , writing on ‘What is Theosophy’ in The
Theosophist, she commented:

Practical theurgy or ‘ceremonial magic’, so often resorted to in their exorcisms by the

Roman Catholic Clergy—was discarded by the Theosophists. … When ignorant of the
true meaning of the esoteric divine symbols of nature, man is apt to miscalculate the
powers of his soul, and, instead of communing spiritually and mentally with the higher,
celestial beings, the good spirits (the gods of the theurgists of the Platonic school), he

Blavatsky’s alleged use of tricks led to her being questioned as a fraud, and in the famous
 report to the Society for Psychical Research, Richard Hodgson reached the conclusion
that Blavatsky was an impostor. See Harrison, H.P. Blavatsky and the SPR.
Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () – 

will unconsciously call forth the evil, dark powers which lurk around humanity—the
undying, grim creations of human crimes and vices—and thus fall from theurgia (white
magic) into goetia (or black magic, sorcery) … Purity of deed and thoughts can alone
raise us to an intercourse ‘with the gods’ and attain for us the goal we desire.2

She was sufficiently concerned about an interest in magic amongst her disciples
to address the matter in ‘Occultism Versus the Occult Arts’ in her publication,
Lucifer, in May, , and to more specifically issue a warning in ‘The Dangers
of Practical Magic’:

Magic is a dual power: nothing is easier than to turn it into Sorcery; an evil thought
suffices for it. Therefore while theoretical Occultism is harmless, and may do good,
practical Magic, or the fruits of the Tree of Life and Knowledge, or otherwise the
‘Science of Good and Evil’, is fraught with dangers and perils. For the study of
theoretical Occultism there are, no doubt, a number of works that may be read with
profit, besides such books as the Finer Forces of Nature, etc., the Zohar, S#pher-
Yetzîrâh, The Book of Enoch, Franck’s Kabalah, and many Hermetic treatises. These
are scarce in European languages, but works in Latin by the mediaeval Philosophers,
generally known as Alchemists and Rosicrucians, are plentiful. But even the perusal
of these may prove dangerous for the unguided student. If approached without the
right key to them, and if the student is unfit, owing to mental incapacity, for Magic,
and is thus unable to discern the Right from the Left Path, let him take our advice and
leave this study alone; he will only bring on himself and on his family unexpected woes
and sorrows, never suspecting whence they come, nor what are the powers awakened
by his mind being bent on them. Works for advanced students are many, but these
can be placed at the disposal of only sworn or ‘pledged’ chelas (disciples), those who
have pronounced the ever-binding oath, and who are, therefore, helped and protected.
For all other purposes, well-intentioned as such works may be, they can only mislead
the unwary and guide them imperceptibly to Black Magic or Sorcery—if to nothing

Blavatsky’s reluctance to teach practical magic led to the emergence, fairly early
in the history of modern Theosophy, of a tension between what might be
thought of as the interior practice of Theosophy or occultism, and its exter-
nal practice in what is generally referred to as magic. Having learned much of
occult theory from Blavatsky, her disciples often wanted to apply it in prac-
tice rather than being content merely to attend lectures—however learned.
Blavatsky had drawn attention to key figures in the European esoteric and

Blavatsky, H.P. Blavatsky. Collected Writings. Volume II –, .
Blavatsky, ‘The Dangers of Practical Magic’, –. See also her ‘Occultism Versus the
Occult Arts’, –.
 Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () –

magical traditions (like Eliphas Lévi) and the Theosophical Society made some
of their works accessible to English-speaking students in the journals and
books the Society published. An early influential Theosophist, Franz Hart-
mann (–) wrote about magic, notably in Magic, White and Black
(), and was actively involved in a number of quasi-Masonic magical orga-
nizations, which may have explained his alienation from Blavatsky.4
The influence of Theosophy on modern Western magic has generally been
approached as deriving simply from membership of the Theosophical Society.
Indeed, the major figures in the early development of modern Western magic
were virtually all members of the Theosophical Society and significantly influ-
enced by Blavatsky. An incomplete list would include William Wynn Westcott,
Samuel McGregor Mathers, William Ayton, Florence Farr, J.W. Brodie-Innes,
A.E. Waite, and Dion Fortune. That a person was a member of the Theosophi-
cal Society or familiar with Theosophical writings, says little, if anything, about
the influence of Theosophy on their writings about or practice in magic. The
influence of Theosophy on modern Western magic became significant after
Blavatsky’s death through the teachings of Charles Webster Leadbeater (–
): he provided an occult justification for the practice of magic and sought
to give it an objective ‘scientific’ validity independent of the subjective experi-
ences of those engaged in the practice.

. Blavatsky and the Esoteric Section

Precisely what it was that Blavatsky had in mind when she inspired the founda-
tion of the Theosophical Society in  is not now known; however, from her
writings it can be deduced that she hoped for more than a literary association
of people generally interested in comparative religion and occultism.
It seems evident that Blavatsky really wanted an occult fraternity rather
than a literary society; the tension between the two is apparent in the conflict
between Blavatsky and the co-founder Henry Steel Olcott (–) over
Blavatsky’s establishment of the Esoteric Section, and runs throughout later

Hartmann, with Carl Kellner, Henry Klein and Theodor Reuss, was also one of the
founders of the Ordo Templi Orientis. His books, in English translation, included The Life
and Doctrines of Paracelsus (), An Adventure among the Rosicrucians (), Magic, White
and Black (), The Principles of Astrological Geomancy (), In the Pronaos of the Temple
of Wisdom (), The Talking Image of Urur (), The Life and Doctrines of Jacob Boehme
(), Occult Science in Medicine (), Among the Gnomes (), The Life of Jehoshua
(), and Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians ().
Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () – 

Theosophical history. Is the Society a society for the study of various subjects,
but without corporate commitment to any conclusions or any specific teach-
ings? If it has teachings, whence come they and by what authority have they
been received and are they imposed? Or is the Society in existence to propa-
gate a specific (to use the strange phrase adopted by the Adyar Society) ‘body of
truths’, and, if so, how is it to do that? Even if the Society possesses doctrines,
is it only a learned society, or is it in fact, in the traditional Eastern or West-
ern sense, an occult school, training and practicing, not merely informing? For
Blavatsky, it was the Masters or Mahatmas who were the source of the Society’s
teachings and authority.5
There has been a long tradition in western occultism of secret organiza-
tions, and of esoteric groups, or at least of higher and more exalted grades
(in many cases reaching up to Masters, Secret Chiefs, or Unknown Superi-
ors) within secret organizations. A graduated, degree-based system of esoteric
enlightenment and the revelation of hidden knowledge characterized Freema-
sonry and virtually all occult organizations from the Strikte Observanz of von
Hund (–), to modern claimants to the Rosicrucian, Templar and
Masonic traditions.6
In its early days the Theosophical Society worked as a secret society. Fellows
were admitted through a ritual initiation in which they were given passwords,
grips and signs which they undertook to keep secret and by which they were
enabled to recognize other members. But there was little practical effort to
maintain secrecy, even though applicants for membership signed a document
in which they pledged ‘to ever maintain ABSOLUTE SECRECY respecting
[the Society’s] proceedings, including its investigations and experiments, except
in so far as publication may be authorized by the society or council’.7
At the  Convention the initiation ceremony was abandoned ‘as giving
rise to misunderstanding on the part of the public, and the form of obligation
being repugnant to many’.8 But the signs and passwords were retained for some

For a discussion of Blavatsky’s Masters, see Johnson, Initiates of Theosophical Masters, and
Johnson, The Masters Revealed.
For a discussion on Masters in Western esotercism, see Hanegraaff, ‘Intermediary Beings
IV: th Century–Present’. On von Hund and the Strict Observance, see Mollier, ‘Neo-
Templar Traditions’.
Jinarajadasa, The Golden Book of the Theosophical Society, .
Ransom, A Short History of the Theosophical Society, .
 Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () –

Blavatsky had an interest in Freemasonry, and quoted in her work from

the writings of several Masons, including the English Masonic author, eccen-
tric and collector of Masonic ephemera, John Yarker (–), and the
influential American Mason, General Albert Pike (–).9 The nature of
the relationship between early Theosophy and Freemasonry was with marginal
rather than with mainstream Freemasonry, but was mutually influential never-
theless. Blavatsky’s writings were read with considerable interest by that small
group of Masons who had an interest in the esoteric aspect of the Craft, and
many of them subsequently joined the Theosophical Society. These included
the founders of both the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia [SRIA], and of the Her-
metic Order of the Golden Dawn; these organizations paralleled Masonry in
the use of secret ceremonial initiations and grades of membership, although the
Golden Dawn, unlike the SRIA, admitted both men and women, and did not
require Masonic membership as a pre-requisite. Both SRIA and the Golden
Dawn, in addition to a graded hierarchy, effectively included within their eso-
teric organizations yet other secret groups. There was some discussion in the
early days of the Theosophical Society as to whether it ought to have a formal
relationship with Masonry but this proposal was finally abandoned.
Blavatsky had begun corresponding with John Yarker, towards the end
of . Yarker had been attracted to Blavatsky as the result of reading Isis
Unveiled (). A friend of Blavatsky had sent her a copy of Yarker’s work,
Notes on the Scientific and Religious Mysteries of Antiquity (), to which she
made reference in Isis Unveiled, describing the volume as ‘brimful of learning
and, what is more, of knowledge, as it seems to us’.10 Although it has been
claimed that Blavatsky was a ‘high-degree Freemason’, she denied any Masonic
membership.11 The claim appears to have been based on a misinterpretation of
a charter issued to Blavatsky by John Yarker by which she was given high status
in a Rite of Adoption of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry: this did
not confer any Masonic authority or imply initiation into Masonry.12

On John Yarker, see Hamill, ‘The Seeker of Truth: John Yarker –’. On Albert
Pike, see Tresner, Albert Pike: The Man Beyond the Monument; Brown, A Life of Albert Pike.
Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, vol. , –.
Blavatsky’s denial of any Masonic initiation was first published in the Franklin Register on
 February,  and is reproduced in Blavatsky, H.P. Blavatsky. Collected Writings. Volume I,
–, –.
A reproduction of the charter is found as the frontispiece to Jinarajadasa (ed), H.P.B.
Speaks Volume II.
Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () – 

Yarker, who was made an Honorary Fellow of the Theosophical Society in

August, , offered Blavatsky the rituals of an order known generally as the
Sat B’hai, hoping, first, that she would comment upon them on the basis of
her great esoteric knowledge, and second, that she would use them as the basis
for developing the Theosophical Society along Masonic lines.13
In April, , Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott discussed this possibility, and
concluded that it would serve to restore ‘the vital element of Oriental Mysti-
cism’ to the higher degrees. But there were objections from Indian members
of the Society, and the scheme was abandoned. However, both Blavatsky and
Olcott were made Honorary Members of the Sat B’hai, on August , .
Blavatsky was made a member of the sixth degree, level one, Arch Auditor; the
name of this degree and level was Rad, and, like the fifth and seventh degrees,
was open both to non-Masons and to women. Olcott was made a member
of the second degree, sixth level: Arch Courier. The name of this degree was
Garuda, and it was open only to Master Masons. In Sat B’hai the first degree
was the highest, and the seventh the lowest.
The Royal Oriental Order of Sikha (Apex) and the Sat B’hai seems to have
been founded by an Anglo-Indian, Captain James Henry Lawrence Archer
(–) of the Indian Army, but the organization of the Order was largely
the work of Kenneth Robert Henderson Mackenzie (–), author of
the Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia (), and a member of the Theosophical Soci-
ety.14 The first public statements about the Order appeared in correspondence
in The Freemason in early , however although great claims were made for
its antiquity and importance, and despite Mackenzie’s efforts to establish it as
a working organization, it does not seem to have moved much beyond being
a plan. By January, , Mackenzie had concluded that the Order had fin-
ished. The Sat B’hai was never adopted for use within the Theosophical Soci-
On October ,  Blavatsky founded the Esoteric Section of the Theo-
sophical Society at London; she was the OH (Outer Head), and a Master
the IH (Inner Head). She had previously made attempts at establishing some
sort of inner group and had over the years formed small groups of disci-
ples for instruction. In , for example, a Committee was established at
the suggestion of T. Subba Row, to receive and direct esoteric teachings and

Ransom, A Short History of the Theosophical Society, –.
For the history of Sat B’hai and other associated movements, see Howe, ‘Fringe Freema-
sonry in England –’.
 Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () –

transmit them to the existing Inner Group (which had been operating under
A.P. Sinnett since ) in London.15
Blavatsky had been encouraged in plans for the Esoteric Section by the
American Theosophist, W.Q. Judge (–), who drew up the plans
and drafted the rules for the Section. Some, including Robert Gilbert, have
suggested that Blavatsky established the Esoteric Section ‘specifically to avert
the loss of would-be practical occultists to the ranks of the Golden Dawn and
to prevent a complete split between the followers of the Eastern and those of
the Western Path’.16 De facto and eventually formal relations were established
between the Golden Dawn and the Esoteric Section.
Blavatsky wrote a preliminary memorandum for the Esoteric Section, which
she described as a probationary and general purpose degree to prepare the
student for the study of ‘occultism or Raja Yoga’, and noting that ‘the real
Head of the Esoteric Section is a Master of whom H.P. Blavatsky is the
mouth-piece for the Section’.17 Candidates were required to sign a pledge; in
addition to general clauses about making Theosophy a living factor in their
lives, supporting the Theosophical Movement, constantly struggling against
the ‘lower nature’ and maintaining secrecy regarding the signs and passwords
of the Section and its documents; there was also a more controversial promise
of obedience to the Outer Head. Members were admitted by a form of ritual,
and meetings took a ritual form. The mantra ‘AUM’ was used. The Esoteric
Section had the system of passwords usual in such organizations: members
were to identify themselves by saying ‘Dhyani’ (wisdom), to which the reply
was ‘Putra’ (son), with the response ‘satri’ (dawn) bringing the reply ‘asoph’
(meaning unknown).
The Esoteric Section was administered by a Council in London headed by
H.P.B., and including Annie Besant, Countess Wachmeister, William Wynn
Westcott, and William Kingsland. In  the formal relationship between
the Theosophical Society and the Esoteric Section was theoretically severed
and the Esoteric Section became known as The Eastern School of Theosophy.
By  an Inner Group of the Eastern School was formed.18 The Inner
Group met between August, , and April, , a few days before Blavat-
sky’s death on May , . Members were invited to join subject to strictly

Ransom, A Short History of the Theosophical Society, .
Gilbert, The Golden Dawn and the Esoteric Section, .
[Blavatsky], Book of Rules, .
This has been carefully documented by Spierenburg The Inner Group Teachings of
H.P. Blavatsky.
Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () – 

observing the rules of the Esoteric School, abstaining from meat-eating and
preserving ‘absolute chastity’, regularly attending meetings, and maintaining
strict secrecy of both the teachings given by and the fact of membership in the
Group. The Group met weekly at  Avenue Road, London in a specially built
room which was not used by any other than Blavatsky or the  members
of the group, six men and six women. The members of the IG were Annie
Besant (–), G.R.S. Mead (–), Alice Cleather (–),
Isabel Cooper-Oakley (–), Laura Cooper (who married G.R.S. Mead
and died in ), Emily Kislingbury, Countessa Wachtmeister (–),
Walter R. Old, E.T. Sturdy (–), and Claude Falls Wright (–
). In addition there were two other members: the Indian Rai B.K. Laheri
and William Wynn Westcott (–).
The role and use of the ‘occult room’ remains one of the mysteries of
Theosophical history.19 However, it seems certain that the room was used, or
was intended to be used, for occult rituals of some kind; it included coloured
windows and mirrors. Blavatsky gave her teachings to the Inner Group orally,
and these were taken down in note form by the pupils present, and sent in to
two secretaries, Besant and Mead, who were then required to write them up;
the draft was then considered at a future meeting, corrected and amended by
Blavatsky. Most of the teachings of the Inner Group were made public in ,
in the so-called third volume of The Secret Doctrine () as ‘Notes on Some
Oral Teachings’.
Blavatsky died on May , . Following her death, a meeting of the Coun-
cil of the Eastern School was held in London on May , and determined that
Annie Besant and W.Q. Judge were jointly in charge of the School, although
neither claimed to be Outer Heads. Not all Theosophists who sought to find
initiation into the occult mysteries did so through official Theosophical Society
channels: in  the Theosophical Lodge of the Blue Star was established in
the flat of the novelist Gustav Meyrink (–) in Prague.20 Meyrink is
probably best known as the author of The Golem (). The ten or so mem-
bers of the Lodge engaged in various ascetical austerities, practised breathing,
visualization and meditation exercises, before finally committing themselves
to the exercises contained in Rama Prasad’s Nature’s Finer Forces which, along
with a number of other Theosophical works, Meyrink translated.21

See Spierenburg, The Inner Group Teachings of H.P. Blavatsky, xv–xvii.
For an account of this curious Theosophical by-way, see Webb, The Occult Establishment,
Prasad, Nature’s Finer Forces. Prasad was also the author of The Science of Breath & the
 Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () –

. Rudolf Steiner’s Esoteric Section and Ritual Work

It should be noted that Theosophical groups that broke from the Society
with its headquarters at Adyar (or, as they would have said, continued the
Blavatsky tradition from which the Adyar society had deviated)—such as the
Theosophical Society in America under W.Q. Judge and the United Lodge
of Theosophists—generally did not pursue any interests in magic. Many of
them developed their own Esoteric Sections, but all tended to regard any
form of ritual as an attempt at magic, and any attempt at magic as inherently
dangerous. This was also true of Rudolf Steiner (–), who separated
from Adyar and established the Anthroposophical Society, although Steiner
had what might be thought of as a brief flirtation with magic.
Steiner first contacted the Theosophical Society in , but it was not until
 that he joined the Society. In his autobiography Steiner says he deplored
the Theosophical Society’s Esoteric Section, and joined it only to find out what
was happening within it. His view of the Esoteric Section and of Blavatsky
changed over time, and he came to thoroughly disapprove of the Eastern yogic
approach of the Theosophical Society and the Esoteric Section under Annie
In  Steiner became General Secretary of the German Section of the
Theosophical Society. On May , , Annie Besant appointed him Arch-
Warden of the Esoteric Section in Germany and Australia and he led the
Section in Germany from –, although breaking from the Adyar
Theosophical Society in . The popular perception that the break related to
the adventism focused on Krishnamurti being promoted in the Theosophical
Society by Besant is not correct; tensions between Steiner, both as a Western-
oriented occultist and as an occult teacher, and Besant, as an Eastern-oriented
occultist and as a rival occult teacher, had been developing over a number of
Even while Steiner was leading the Esoteric Section of the German Theo-
sophical Society with Besant as OH, his teachings were idiosyncratic and fun-
damentally Christian, Rosicrucian, and Freemasonic as distinct from the East-

Philosophy of the Tatwas (). Nature’s Finer Forces was one of the first Theosophical works
providing practical occult techniques. Having praised the original articles by Prasad in The
Theosophist, –, Blavatsky denounced the book which expanded upon them as
‘purely Tantric, and nothing but harm can result from any practical following of its precepts
… It recommends Black Magic of the worst kind …’ Blavatsky, H.P. Blavatsky. Collected
Writings. Volume XII –, .
Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () – 

ern teachings promulgated by Besant (and Leadbeater). Steiner’s teachings

included material on cosmology and anthropology, mantras, breathing and
visualization exercises. His esoteric meetings were more ritualistic and explic-
itly religious than elsewhere in the Theosophical Society, and he claimed that
the Masters M and KH spoke through him at meetings.22
Steiner believed that the higher degrees of Freemasonry were the exoteric
manifestations of the real occult fraternities, and he claimed that Blavatsky
was a member of a lodge associated with those higher degrees but that she was
subsequently expelled and later occultly ‘captured’ by a form of ceremonial
magic by members of the lodges to prevent her betraying particular secrets.23
Within Steiner’s Esoteric Section there was, for a time, a separate Masonic
ritual group, the MD or Misraim-Dienst (Rite of Misraim), deriving from
Steiner’s link with Theodor Reuss.24 It has been claimed that Steiner was a
member of Reuss’ O.T.O., although this fact is often denied by his latter-day
followers, and held a charter to operate a Chapter of the Order.25 It appears
more likely that Steiner sought some historical authority to operate a ritual
work, and accepted from Reuss such an authority deriving from the authority
Reuss had received from John Yarker for the rites of Memphis-Misraim. The
M-D worked through regular meetings for lectures and improvised rituals
prepared by Steiner—it was unrelated to the work of the OTO. Following
World War I, when the M-D was interrupted, Steiner disbanded the group,
but it continued, and continues, to a small extent in Northern Germany.
Following his separation from the Theosophical Society and the establish-
ment of the Anthroposophical Society in , Steiner developed formally that
idiosyncratic occult system which he had been informally developing during
his time with the Theosophical Society. His teachings emphasized occult train-
ing to enable the human being to progress through three stages of spiritual
development, using imagination, inspiration and intuition. Three grades of
esoteric training were proposed: the Michael Class, the Sophia Class and the
Christ Class. Steiner founded the Michael Class, or First Class, in , in part
to revitalize Anthroposophy. However, Steiner’s death in  left the move-
ment without a spiritual leader to take it beyond the ‘First Class’, Steiner left

See Steiner, Esoteric Lessons, – and Steiner, Esoteric Lessons,  /  • –
Spierenburg, The Inner Group Teachings of H.P. Blavatsky, ,  and . See also
Steiner, Spiritualism, Madame Blavatsky and Theosophy.
See Steiner, Freemasonry and Ritual Work.
King (ed.), The Secret Rituals of the O.T.O., –.
 Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () –

no provision for a successor, and the Society generally teaches that he was a
unique teacher who cannot and will not be succeeded.26
Steiner was also instrumental in the establishment by the eminent Lutheran
theologian and minister, Friedrich Rittlemeyer (–) of an esoteric and
sacramental church, The Christian Community, in .27 It retained the seven
Sacraments, calling its principal act of worship ‘The Act of Consecration of
Man’ rather than the Mass or the Eucharist. The texts of its rites are not pub-
lished, but only made available to its priests, who can be men or women.28 The
Christian Community makes no official or public claim to possess Apostolic
Succession, although its priests are ordained by ‘Leaders’ who are effectively
bishops. It has, however, said that Steiner, who ordained the first ‘Leaders’,
claimed to possess an Apostolic Succession from the ‘Black Templars’, who-
ever they may have been.29 The Christian Community’s ambivalent relation-
ship with the Anthroposophical Society parallels the relationship between the
Liberal Catholic Church and the Theosophical Society.

. The Golden Dawn and Theosophy

Following development of an interest in ritual magic in the Theosophical
Society, a variety of groups, small and large, some directly associated with
the Society and some not, came into being.30 Some of the groups employed
minimal ritual—sitting in a circle to send positive thoughts to those in need
of healing—and some created rituals not unlike those of Freemasonry or the
Golden Dawn.
The influence of Theosophy on the founders and early members of the
Golden Dawn is evident, and the interest aroused by the Golden Dawn in
members of the Theosophical Society may well be explained by their desire
for an opportunity for active esoteric practice rather than only to receive
esoteric teaching. A number of magical groups appear to have seen what might
be described as a ‘potential market’ amongst Theosophists seeking practical

Cf. Ahearn, Sun at Midnight.
For the history of the Christian Communion, see Rittlemeyer, Rudolf Steiner Enters My
Life and Anson, Bishops at Large, –.
There appears to be no published English translation of the Christian Community
rituals. An overview of its ritual work is found in Capel and Ravetz, Seven Sacraments In
the Christian Community.
Anson, Bishops at Large, .
See Tingay, ‘The Ritual Dimension of Theosophy: Some Forgotten Endeavours’, –.
Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () – 

training. Amongst them would seem to have been the Hermetic Brotherhood
of Luxor, said to have been founded by the mysterious Max Theon (who who
probably born Louis-Maximilian Bimstein, –), but whose major
exponent was Peter Davidson (–).31 Such groups were less inspired
by Theosophy or its teachings than by the disaffection of some Theosophists.
The history of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the contro-
versies associated with it have been so well documented as to make repeti-
tion unnecessary. The Order’s founders and most influential members were all
members of the Theosophical Society and the Society may well have served
as something of a trawling ground for potential members (especially women)
just as Freemasonry so served, although only for men. While there seems little
doubt that the writings of Blavatsky and other early Theosophists were major
sources of influence on the teachings of the Order of the Golden Dawn, there
is nothing to suggest that the rituals or the magic of the Order derived from,
or even were influenced by, Theosophy. Robert Gilbert has convincingly pre-
sented his theory regarding the sources of the ‘Cipher Manuscripts’ and the
Golden Dawn rituals.32 The Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia [SRIA], when its
real as opposed to mythical, history is known, seems to have been even less
influenced by Theosophy, even though some of the key figures in the SRIA
were Theosophists.33

. The Temple of the Rosy Cross

The first organization in the Western magical tradition specifically founded in
association with the Theosophical Society was the Temple of the Rosy Cross.
This was essentially the creation (setting aside claims of the role of Masters in its
establishment) of James Wedgwood. James Ingall Wedgwood was born in Eng-
land on May , , in London, and was a member of the eminent family of
potters. After leaving school he studied chemistry at University College, Not-
tingham and was for a time employed as an analytical chemist in York, where
he also studied music at the Nottingham College of Music. Wedgwood also felt

See Godwin, Chanel and Deveney, The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor.
Gilbert, ‘Provenance Unknown’; Gilbert, ‘Supplement to “Provenance Unknown” ’; and
Gilbert, ‘Trail of the Chameleon’.
The real history is found in Kuntz (ed.), The Origins of the Rosicrucian Society in England.
The mythical history is found in Westcott’s History of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia. The
current official history is Greensill, History of the S.R.I.A (Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia).
 Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () –

he had a vocation to the priesthood of the Anglican Church, and began theo-
logical studies despite the opposition of his family. In , in the midst of his
musical and theological studies, Wedgwood attended two lectures by Besant.
Being quickly converted to Theosophy, Wedgwood renounced all thought of a
vocation in the Church of England, and devoted himself entirely to the work
of the Theosophical Society, which he joined in , becoming an enthusias-
tic lecturer for the Society. He had a sufficient private income from the family
business to live independently, and moved to London where he served as Gen-
eral Secretary of the Theosophical Society in England from –, and as
General Secretary of the European Federation of the Society from –.
By  Wedgwood had joined the Co-Freemasonic Order, of which Besant
was Very Illustrious Most Puissant Grand Commander of the British Jurisdic-
tion. By  he had risen to become Very Illustrious Supreme Secretary °
of the British Federation of International Co-Freemasonry, and in the follow-
ing year, with the help of Marie Russak (–), Wedgwood founded
the Temple of the Rosy Cross, a ritualistic body which included an adven-
tist theme, and was concerned with kabbalism, astrology, Masonry, Christian
ceremonial and symbolism. Various claims have been made as to the esoteric
or Masonic origins or ‘succession’ from which the Temple derived. The first
announcements about the Temple were concluded with the letters H, H and L
contained within a triangle. In fact, these initials represented Herakles, Helios
and Lomia, the ‘Star Names’ of Besant, Russak and Wedgwood respectively.
Only members of the Theosophical Society ‘in good standing’ could be admit-
ted, and members of other occult orders (the Esoteric Section and Freemasonry
excepted) were not eligible.34
It has been suggested that authority for the Temple had been received
from John Yarker or Theodor Reuss, or from French Martinists; that such an
authority may have been sought is not unlikely, but no evidence has been seen
that it was obtained. An elaborate Temple of the Rosy Cross was opened in
 at the Theosophical community at Krotona in California.
The ritual of the Temple was said to have been composed by Besant, under
the inspiration of the Master the Count [de Saint Germain], and involved the
lighting of candles for each of the World Teachers (Vyasa, Thoth, Zarathustra,

There are few published references to the Temple; those in Theosophical publications
tend to be vague, and those outside the Theosophical Society tend to be inaccurate—for
example, McIntosh, The Rosy Cross Unveiled, , or Wittemans, A New and Authentic
History of the Rosicrucians, –.
Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () – 

Orpheus, Buddha, Krishna and Jesus) as the stories of their lives were re-
counted. Besant seemed less enthusiastic about the ritual than Wedgwood and
others, but saw it as providing a means ‘to satisfy the ritualistic temperament
in the T.S.’. Revelations from the Masters came at Temple meetings via Wedg-
wood or Russak. Russak and Wedgwood consecrated a Temple in London with
George Arundale (–) as Pontiff, C. Jinarajadasa (–) as Pre-
ceptor and Maud Sharpe as Prelate. Lady Emily Lutyens (–) was an
active member, and the officers were said to have been nominated by Jiddhu
Krishnamurti, at that time the focus of an emerging Theosophical adventist
movement. As Kuhn described the Temple:

An elaborate regalia was required and a ceremonial was devised which a member of
the Masonic body told the author equalled in beauty and dignity anything he was
conversant with in the higher degrees of Masonry. The initiates took a solemn pledge
to do nothing contrary to the interests of their Higher Selves and the ceremonies
were said to have been attended with elevated types of spiritual experience. Great
emphasis was laid on the ‘magnetic purity’ of everything handled by the officiants.
Powerful sublimations of spiritual forces were thought to be operative through the
instrumentality of the ritual.35

The Temple was governed by a Council of Twelve, of whom three were ‘in
physical incarnation’ (presumably Besant, Wedgwood and Russak), while the
other nine existed in the spiritual realms. The Temple had an adventist theme,
and its secret teachings declared that the Master The Count, by whose authority
the order had been established, was to incarnate within its membership. By
 it was claimed that the Temple had  members in London, one
hundred in India, and others in the USA and other countries. Grand Temples
had been established at Adyar, Edinburgh, Krotona, The Hague, Paris, and
Brussels, and the Supreme Temple was located in London.
Leadbeater never approved of the Temple, basically because, having had no
part in its foundation, he had no control over it, and because it involved the
production of messages from the Masters through agents other than himself
or Besant. In  he ‘brought through’ a message from the Master ordering
its dissolution. An alternative explanation—that the Master The Count found
‘certain defects’ in the Temple—was offered by Jinarajadasa in  when he
was commissioned to prepare an alternative rite for public use. This was the
Ritual of the Mystic Star which is still, albeit rarely, used in some branches

Kuhn, Theosophy. A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom, .
 Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () –

of the Theosophical Society.36 A further alternative to the Temple, but based

upon it, was The Krotona Service, once used in the Theosophical Society in
the USA. It offered reverence to the World Teachers and looked forward to the
coming of the Maitreya who would ‘shape the destiny of a new branch race of
our Aryan root stock’.37

. Leadbeater and Theosophy as Occult Practice

It was Charles Webster Leadbeater (–) who was probably the most
significant Theosophical influence on modern magic, although the extent to
which he can be described as ‘Theosophical’ in the sense understood by Blavat-
sky, remains a matter of controversy, as does the extent to which he can, in any
meaningful way, be described as a disciple of Blavatsky.38
Throughout his life Leadbeater claimed to have been born on February ,
 (the same year as Annie Besant, and the same day as Colonel Olcott’s
death), the son of the chairman of a railway company, and that he had studied
at Queen’s College, Oxford. However, Leadbeater’s account of his life up until
his ordination in the Church of England in  is essentially fraudulent. He
was born on February , , the son of Charles Leadbeater, a book-keeper
for a railway company. He had minimal formal education and was ordained
under a provision making specific allowance for men who were not University
graduates. He served as a curate in the parish of Bramshott, Hampshire, until
 when, after exploring spiritualism and joining the Theosophical Society,
he abandoned his ministry and followed Blavatsky to India.
After a short and inconspicuous Theosophical career in India and Ceylon,
during which he claimed to have developed clairvoyance under the teaching
of a Master, he returned to England where he worked closely with A.P. Sin-
nett in a group working apart from Blavatsky. The rise of Annie Besant in the
Theosophical world also elevated Leadbeater since the two had become close
friends after their first meeting. Following Blavatsky’s death, Leadbeater’s repu-
tation for clairvoyance developed and he began publishing books based on his

See Jinarajadasa, The Ritual of the Mystic Star and Jinarajadasa, The Meaning and Purpose
of the Ritual of the Mystic Star.
The Krotona Service, no pub., np, (?), .
For Leadbeater’s life and work, see Tillett, The Elder Brother. A Biography of C.W. Lead-
beater; Tillett C.W. Leadbeater. A Biographical Study and French, ‘Charles Webster Lead-
Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () – 

psychic investigations, the first being The Astral Plane: Its Scenery, Inhabitants
and Phenomena (). He was forced to resign from the Society in 
following charges that he had committed sexual offences in relation to boys
committed to his care. However, with the election of Besant as President of
the Theosophical Society he was reinstated in , leading to a number of
eminent Theosophists leaving the Society. Leadbeater quickly became a pre-
eminent Theosophical lecturer and writer. He eventually settled in Sydney
where he developed a Theosophical community.
Leadbeater’s primary interest, if not obsession, was ‘the inner side of things’,
the invisible effects of thought, words and actions. This led him to move
from what he claimed were clairvoyant explorations of the astral plane on to
explorations of the effects of magic, although he was reluctant to refer to it
as such. His accounts of the inner effects of ritual provided what he called a
‘scientific’ explanation as to how and why it worked. From his observations,
Leadbeater offered not only explanations but directions for magical work—for
example, how to psychically cleanse an object and how to charge talismans,
and how to direct the mind and use visual images during rituals.
Ultimately, Leadbeater taught that ritual magic could hasten the process
of spiritual evolution in those who participated in it, and through the forces
invoked in it positively affect those beyond, even if they had no knowledge or
belief in the efficacy of the ritual, and indeed positively benefited the whole
world. His claim that magic (although he tended not to use that word, prefer-
ring to talk of ritual instead) ‘works’, and that its working is confirmed by ‘sci-
entific observation’ (by which he meant his own clairvoyant observation) had a
tremendous appeal for those who sought some contemporary justification for
what the world generally tended to regard as outdated behaviour. As French
noted, ‘Leadbeater’s rationalistic exegesis of theurgy is thus a prime example
of occultism’s reassessment of esotericism in the light of modern scientific and
secular paradigms.’39
Leadbeater explored these concepts generally in works such as Man Visible
and Invisible (), The Inner Life (–), The Hidden Side of Things
(),) and The Chakras (), and in specific relation to the rituals of
Freemasonry in The Hidden Life in Freemasonry () and of Christianity
in The Science of the Sacraments (). Leadbeater saw ritual as a means of
bringing various forms of occult power into play in the world, almost as a
sort of ‘transformer’ bringing divine power down to the human level, although

French, ‘Charles Webster Leadbeater’, .
 Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () –

given the era in which he was writing he tended to use the example of steam
engines distributing force from the boiler through various pipes.
In the early s Leadbeater and Wedgwood were active in promoting a
‘revival of the Mysteries’ in the Theosophical Society, encouraging the devel-
opment of forms of ritual magic (although they did not refer to it by that
term).40 This included an attempt to establish a form of ritual for Hindu con-
gregations.41 Leadbeater had earlier been influential in the development of a
ritual movement for young people, The Order of the Round Table, which was
founded by its first Senior Knight, George Herbet Whyte (–), in
. Leadbeater succeeded Whyte as Senior Knight. The Order is composed
of Pages, Companions, Squires and Knights, is based on the Arthurian legends,
and employs a number of rituals including a Flower Ceremony, a Light Cere-
mony and a Sword Ceremony. The King’s (empty) Chair, over which hangs a
five-pointed star, is the focus of all the Order’s rituals.42
Leadbeater identified three centres—the Theosophical Society’s headquar-
ters at Adyar, India; The Manor, his home in Sydney, Australia; and the Theo-
sophical estate at Huizen (now Naarden) in The Netherlands—as centres of
focus for occult power. The rituals of Co-Masonry, the Liberal Catholic Church
and the Egyptian Rite were performed at each of the centres and they were seen
as enabling particularly close contact with the Masters. Leadbeater arranged
for magnetized jewels to be buried at various locations to simulate the spiri-
tual evolution of those in the area, and he made used of magnetised (he said
‘consecrated’) jewels in the rites of the Liberal Catholic Church.43

. Co-Masonry as Magical Masonry

Although Masonry as a form of magical practice pre-dated both Leadbeater and
Blavatsky, it was Leadbeater’s works on the inner history of Freemasonry and
the inner effects of Masonic ritual that inspired, both directly and indirectly,

See Leadbeater, ‘The Revival of the Mysteries’.
See Leadbeater, Bharata Samaj Puja.
Jinarajadasa, The Golden Book of the Theosophical Society, .
See, for example, Leadbeater, The Science of the Sacraments, –. The jewels are
consecrated in a private ritual conducted by a bishop in which different signs are made
over the different jewels (including the cross, the swastika and the pentagram). Leadbeater
prescribed a very complex construction for the bishop’s crosier involving partitions of a
substance like chalcedony in the head to prevent the flow of etheric, astral and lower mental
matter, and the placement of seven magnetized jewels in the knob. Ibid, –.
Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () – 

the emergence of approaches to Masonic ritual that saw it as essentially magical

practice. Blavatsky saw Freemasonry as something of a museum of ancient
esoteric teachings, but little more.
Although Leadbeater was influenced by the more traditional approaches to
Masonic ritual that saw it as essentially symbolic or presenting moral teachings
by allegory, he was also influenced by Masonic writers—like W.L. Wilmshurst
(–) and J.S.M. Ward (–)—who claimed that within those
rituals lay inner, esoteric teachings. Leadbeater, however, went further: he
claimed that the rituals themselves brought about (or at least had the potential
to bring about) psychic changes in those who underwent them. The rituals
stimulated forces on the inner planes and within the participants and invoked
the participation of non-human entities.
Traditionally, Masonry was strictly reserved for men, but on January ,
, a French Lodge, La Loge Les Libres Penseurs, initiated a woman, Maria
Deraismes (–), and was, accordingly, suspended from the group of
lodges to which it belonged.44 On March ,  Deraismes, Dr Georges
Martin (–), a French Senator and advocate of equal rights for
women, and several other male Freemasons founded La Respectable Loge, Le
Droit Humain, Maçonnerie Mixte (‘Worshipful Lodge, Human Rights, Co-
Masonry’) in Paris. They initiated, passed and raised sixteen prominent French
women. On April , , La Grand Loge Symbolique Ecossaise de France, Le
Droit Humain was established, admitting women as well as men into the Craft
Degrees of Freemasonry. In , the new Grand Lodge was assisted by mem-
bers of the male Masonic Supreme Council of France, acquired the additional
degrees up to the °, and thus became an independent Supreme Council in
its own right.
The first Englishwoman to enter Co-Freemasonry was Francesca Arun-
dale (–), who pioneered its establishment in Great Britain, and
introduced Besant to the movement in . The English Federation of Co-
Freemasonry was founded by Besant and officers of the Supreme Council of Le
Droit Humain on September , , with the consecration of Lodge Human
Duty No. , London.
The French Co-Masonic lodges were non-theistic, or actually atheistic,
but Besant negotiated an agreement, known as the ‘Besant Concord’, allow-
ing English-speaking Co-Masonry great latitude, and within her jurisdiction
Co-Masonry became both theistic and esoteric. The original French rituals,

Cf. Wedgwood, Universal Co-Masonry. What is it? and Leadbeater, Glimpses of Masonic
History, –.
 Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () –

translated by Arundale, were used until new versions, incorporating references

to a Supreme Being, and in some versions esoteric and Theosophical material,
were developed by Besant, Wedgwood and Leadbeater.45
All the founding members of Co-Masonry in England were also members of
the Theosophical Society. In  a Grand Council for Great Britain was estab-
lished with Besant as Grand Master, Ursula Bright (–) as Deputy
and Wedgwood as Grand Secretary, a position he held until . Prior to his
involvement in Co-Freemasonry, Wedgwood had made contact with leading
figures within the fringes of Freemasonry, and Yarker who, on  December,
, made him an honorary member of the Royal Order of the Sat B’hai.
Through Yarker’s influence, in  Wedgwood also became a member of the
Ordo Templi Orientis.
In  Wedgwood received from Yarker the ° of Sovereign Grand
Inspector-General of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (Cerneau), the
° of Prince Patriarch Grand Conservator of the Rite of Memphis and the °
of Absolute Grand Sovereign of the Rite of Misraim.46
In  Wedgwood initiated Leadbeater into Co-Masonry in Sydney, and
Leadbeater set about investigating the ‘inner side’ of Masonic rituals, and
revising those rituals both on the basis of guidance he claimed from the Master

English-speaking Co-Masonic lodges have used a variety of rituals, from the traditional
versions used in male Freemasonry to explicitly Theosophical revisions prepared by Besant,
Leadbeater and Wedgwood, the first of which was the Dharma Ritual (, revised ).
They claimed guidance from the Masters for their revisions, especially the inspiration of the
Head of the Seventh Ray, generally known as the Count de St. Germain, and referred to in
some of the revised rituals as the H.O.A.T.F. (‘Head of All True Freemasons’). Leadbeater
declared that the  revision was made of the rituals ‘in accordance with their ancient
occult meanings’, and with the advice and approval of the H.O.A.T.F; it included passages
of Christian Scripture which were also found in the Liturgy of the Liberal Catholic Church.
In  the same Master was said to have provided advice on the revision of the th Degree,
Rose-Croix, ritual. A portrait of the H.O.A.T.F. was placed in most Lodges under Besant’s
jurisdiction, just as portraits of the Masters were used in the Esoteric Section and a portrait
of the Lord Maitreya was to be placed in Liberal Catholic Churches.
For the history of these fringe Masonic groups, cf. Howe, ‘Fringe Masonry in England,
–’. It should probably be noted that what might be called mainstream Freema-
sonry, as, for example, in the Grand Lodge of England, would not have recognized either Co-
Masonic initiations or those from the Cerneau Rite, or Memphis and Mizraim. Wedgwood
attended meetings of the Ancient and Primitive Rite, established by Yarker, but became
involved in a dispute with Aleister Crowley as to whether a Co-Mason was entitled to par-
ticipate. Cf. ‘Crowley’s letters in the early O.T.O.’; ‘Report of the Proceedings at Manchester,
with a Note on the Circumstances which led up to them’, xxix; and Starr ‘Aleister Crowley:
Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () – 

responsible for Masonry, and to make the rituals magically more effective.
Leadbeater ‘averred that Co-Masonic initiations under the Master the Count
were innately efficacious in conferring elevated evolutionary status’.47
Magical Masonry as found in Leadbeater’s approach to Co-Freemasonry had
some unexpected influences. Besant’s daughter, Mabel Besant-Scott (–
) was a high ranking Co-Mason in England when she resigned suddenly in
. She thereafter became involved with George Alexander Sullivan (–
), founder of the Crotona Fellowship of Rosicrucians in Christchurch,
England, in the late s.48 It was through his contact with the Fellowship’s
Rosicrucian Theatre that Gerald Gardner (–), popularly known as
the ‘Father of Modern Witchcraft’, came into contact with what he claimed
was a living continuation of ancient witchcraft. His work based on what he
said he had been taught by the witches laid the foundations for the modern
‘re-birth’ of witchcraft or, as it is better known, Wicca. The members of that
original coven, if indeed that was what it was, were almost all Co-Masons, as
Philip Heselton’s research has established. Those who have examined Gardner’s
rituals for the three degrees of Wicca have, inevitably, noted some parallels
with the three degrees of Craft Freemasonry. However, Gardner was only ever
claimed to have been admitted to the ° of Freemasonry, Entered Apprentice,
in Colombo. There is some evidence that he subsequently became a Co-Mason
when living in England.49 The Wiccan rituals contain elements that seem to
be influenced by traditional craft Freemasonry, but also elements that are not
found in that form but are unique to the rituals of Co-Masonry as revised by

. Liberal Catholicism as Magical Sacramentalism

In addition to his influence on the emergence of an approach to Freemasonry
as magical practice, Leadbeater was the key influence in the development of
an approach to Christian ritual as a form of magical practice. This culminated
in development of the Liberal Catholic Church.50 Wedgwood had retained his
interest in Christianity after joining the Theosophical Society, and in 

French, ‘Charles Webster Leadbeater’, .
Heselton, Wiccan Roots. Gerald Gardner and the Modern Witchcraft Revival, –.
Heselton, Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration. An Investigation into the Sources
of Gardnerian Witchcraft, –.
For the history of the Liberal Catholic Church, see Tillett, The Elder Brother, –;
Anson, Bishops at Large, –; Hooker, ‘The Liberal Catholic Church’, –.
 Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () –

made contact with Arnold Harris Mathew (–), a former Roman

Catholic priest who had been consecrated as a bishop in  by the Old
Catholic Bishops of Europe. Mathew had separated from the Old Catholics
in , and had but a tiny following in England, although he had conse-
crated six or more bishops, all of whom had broken with him. Wedgwood
joined Mathew’s small church and was ordained Priest in . Wedgwood
later claimed that Mathew had known of his Theosophical beliefs prior to
ordaining him, a claim Mathew vigorously denied. Wedgwood introduced fel-
low Theosophists to the church and they eventually constituted a majority of
clergy and laity. In  Mathew declared that his clergy and laity could not
belong to the Theosophical Society or associated movements, or hold Theo-
sophical beliefs (like reincarnation, or that Jesus had undergone successive
incarnations). Only one priest, who was not a Theosophist, and a few laity
accepted Mathew’s direction, and the remainder broke from him and contin-
ued as an independent body.
Wedgwood was consecrated as a bishop in  by Frederick Samuel
Willoughby (–), a former Anglo-Catholic priest consecrated by
Mathew in . Mathew had dismissed Willoughby from his clergy in 
when he became aware of the sexual scandals that had led to Willoughby’s
resignation from the Church of England the previous year. On a visit to Aus-
tralia, Wedgwood resumed his association with Leadbeater. Following discus-
sions with Wedgwood, Leadbeater became interested in the prospect of estab-
lishing a Theosophically-inspired church and was secretly consecrated a bishop
by Wedgwood in . However, Leadbeater’s status was quickly made public
and he became the dominant influence in the new Church, which eventually
took the name ‘The Liberal Catholic Church’ and served as a means for what
was believed to be direct communication between the Christ (or, in Theo-
sophical terminology, the Lord Maitreya) and the new church. Leadbeater and
Wedgwood both believed, as did many Theosophists at the time, that the Lord
Maitreya was about to come again, and to manifest through a young Indian
boy, Jiddhu Krishnamurti (–). They saw the Liberal Catholic Church
as the new church for the new era that would be initiated by this manifestation.
Wedgwood and Leadbeater compiled a new liturgy for the Church, based
largely on Mathew’s English translation of the Old Catholic Missal and Ritual
(), and on Leadbeater’s psychic observations of Catholic ritual, of which
he later wrote at length in The Science of the Sacraments (). Although the
liturgy and the other official documents suggested only a somewhat mystical
interpretation of traditional Christianity, Leadbeater taught explicitly Theo-
sophical doctrines (for example, that Jesus was a man who had been ‘overshad-
Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () – 

owed’ by a Being known as The Christ or The Lord Maitreya), and all the early
clergy, and most of the laity, were members of the Theosophical Society. Wedg-
wood resigned as Presiding Bishop of the Church in  after allegations of
sexual immorality were made against him, and was succeeded by Leadbeater
in .
Leadbeater presided over an esoteric community at ‘The Manor’ in Clifton
Gardens on Sydney Harbour and at the Cathedral of St Alban near Cen-
tral Station in Sydney. Until Leadbeater’s death in , Sydney was the
major centre of the worldwide Liberal Catholic Church. Recognizing the tra-
ditional Christian refusal to ordain women, although esoterically reinterpret-
ing it as being connected with the psychic structure of women in distinction
to men rather than the more conventional theological arguments, Leadbeater
sought to develop what might almost be seen as a female equivalent to male
Christianity—a new (although he suggested ‘revived’) sacramental system of
ritual work in which women could be ordained apart from the Liberal Catholic
Esoteric ‘work for the World Mother’ was initiated by Leadbeater in an
inner group of members of the Esoteric Section in Sydney in . Dr Mary
Rocke, a wealthy Theosophist and physician, established the Temple of the
Motherhood of God, with an elaborate ritual. Rocke and Lady Emily Lutyens
were consecrated in  (probably by Wedgwood) by the laying on of hands
to lead the Temple. However, it was not successful and dissolved after Rocke’s
death in .
In later years Leadbeater also sought to establish a further esoteric group: a
feminine equivalent of the Christian Religion for the revival of ancient women’s
mysteries. He claimed that a form of ‘apostolic succession’ from the World
Mother was transmitted through him to four young women among the ‘Seven
Virgins of Java’, a group of young Dutch girls who came to Sydney from Java,
whom he ‘consecrated’ as the female equivalents in this feminine religion of
bishops in the masculine Christianity. Most of these girls were daughters of
Liberal Catholic Priests. Jinarajadasa commented in an E.S. document of :

Though the original four consecrated by the Holy Mother have lost interest in the
work, nevertheless the succession given to them has been passed on, though for the
moment it remains in abeyance.51

Jinarajadasa, Work for the World Mother, .
 Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () –

And Jinarajadasa foreshadowed

a secret organization confined to women only, working through one or more rituals
under their officers, which the World Mother will use as a special channel of Her forces
for the world. Such a secret organization will not be confined to women of one race
or faith only; it will be for all women, provided they qualify themselves, as is the case
with all secret organizations. If such a ritual body is to be Her channel, it must begin
with those on whom She has conferred her ‘apostolic succession’. … When those who
have the ‘succession’ inform me that they have begun the work, then will be time to
make an announcement to the E.S.52

Leadbeater’s view of Catholic ritual as ritual magic is summarised in The Science

of the Sacraments:

It must be remembered that true religion has always an objective side; it acts not only
from within by stimulating the hearts and minds of its votaries, but also from without
by arranging that uplifting and refining influences shall play constantly upon all their
vehicles; nor does it confine its efforts to its own adherents, but also seeks through them
to influence the ignorant and heedless world around. The temple or church is meant to
be not only a place of worship, but also a centre of magnetic radiation through which
spiritual force can be poured out upon a whole district.
It is necessary that such radiation should be done as economically as possible. The curi-
ous unscientific idea of miracles which has obtained among Christians for centuries has
had a paralysing effect upon ecclesiastical thought, and has prevented intelligent com-
prehension of the method adopted by Christ in providing for His church. We should
realize that such provision is made through the action of intermediate Powers, whose
resources are by no means infinite, however stupendous they may be in comparison
with ours. It is consequently the actual duty of such Powers to economize that force,
and therefore to do what They are appointed to do in the easiest possible manner. For
example, in this outpouring of spiritual force, it would be distinctly wasteful to pour it
down indiscriminately everywhere like rain, because that would require the effort of its
materialization to a lower level at thousands of places at once. It is obviously far more
practical to establish at certain points definite magnetic centres, where the machinery
of such materialization may be permanently arranged, so that when force is poured out
from above it can be at once distributed without unnecessary waste in the erection of
temporary machinery.
The plan adopted by the Christ with regard to this religion is that a special compart-
ment of the great reservoir of spiritual force is set apart for its use, and that a certain
order of officials is empowered, by the use of appointed ceremonies, words and signs of
power, to draw upon it for the benefit of mankind. The scheme chosen for passing on
this power is the Sacrament of Ordination … Through the ceremony of the Eucharist,

Jinarajadasa, Work for the World Mother, .
Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () – 

each time it is celebrated, there passes forth into the world a wave of peace and strength,
the effect of which can hardly be overrated, and we can scarcely be in error in regarding
this as the primary object of the Service, for it is achieved at every celebration of the
Holy Eucharist, whether it be High or Low, whether the Priest be alone in his private
oratory or ministering to a vast congregation in some magnificent cathedral.53

Numerous small churches have developed obviously influenced by Leadbeater’s

teachings, both about an esoteric tradition within Christianity and regarding
Christian ritual as a form of ritual magic. Some of them have derived, whether
directly or indirectly, from the Liberal Catholic Church. Amongst the notable
individuals thus influenced were William Bernard Crow (–), author
of numerous works on or related to magic,54 and J.S.M. Ward, best known
as a writer in the symbolic or esoteric school of Freemasonry.55 Both became
independent bishops and established their own churches presenting esoteric
approaches to both theology and liturgy.56
Underlying most of the churches influenced by the Liberal Catholic
Church, and thus by Leadbeater, can be found the basic assumptions drawn
from Leadbeater that the possession of a ‘genuine succession’ (all but regardless
of the intellectual or moral character or theology of the individual) and the use
of the necessary rituals is sufficient to bring about real, albeit invisible, effects.
Some have also taken up what is effectively ‘Work for the World Mother’.

. The Egyptian Rite

The culmination of Leadbeater’s development of magical practice came in what
was originally known as ‘The Egyptian Rite of Ancient Freemasonry’ which,
despite the name, was not based on Cagliostro’s so-called ‘Egyptian Freema-
sonry’.57 If magical ritual could bring about psychic effects on individual

Leadbeater, The Science of the Sacraments, –.
His works include the -part Mysteries of the Ancients (), A History of Witchcraft,
Occultism and Magic (), Precious Stones: Their Occult Power and Hidden Significance
(), The Occult Properties of Herbs (), and The Arcana of Symbolism ().
His works include The Hung Society, or the Society of Heaven and Earth (), The Sign
Language of the Mysteries (), Told Through the Ages () and Who Was Hiram Abiff?
For Crow, cf. Anson, Bishops at Large, –, and for Ward, cf. Anson prev.cit. –
The only known published reference to the Egyptian Rite is found in the author’s
biography of Leadbeater: The Elder Brother. More information is found in his PhD thesis:
C.W. Leadbeater. A Biographical Study. The most extensive analysis of the Egyptian Rite and
 Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () –

participants and hasten their spiritual evolution, why would it not be possible
to develop that ritual to such a peak of performance that it could, in fact, create
super-humans who might not be the Mahatmas of Blavatsky’s Theosophy, but
would at least be beings who had transcended their fellow humans on the scale
of spiritual evolution? This was the practical intention of the Egyptian Rite
and, at least in its early years, this was what it was supposed to accomplish.
Leadbeater claimed that this new esoteric organization was designed to be
the most secret, the most exclusive and the most powerful occult group in the
world. He gathered together a group of girls from the Dutch East Indies known
as ‘The Seven Virgins of Java’, who were related in Leadbeater’s scheme of things
to the World Mother and who would manifest her special force through them.
The girls were treated as having particular occult status and were given blue
robes and opal rings—opals being associated in Leadbeater’s occultism with
the World Mother.
The girls were all trained in Co-Masonry, and rigidly drilled in ceremonial
by Leadbeater’s secretary. Eventually, despite their youthful years, they were
all elevated by Leadbeater to the highest grade of Masonry, the °, and were
all made members of the Esoteric Section. They were to be involved in the
establishment of the ‘Egyptian Rite of Ancient Freemasonry’, now known as
the ‘Egyptian Rite of the Ancient Mysteries’. Potential members were required
to be members of the Theosophical Society and the Esoteric Section, and to
be Co-Masons, although these requirements seem to have been liberalized in
recent times.
Leadbeater planned that the Egyptian Rite would draw together the angels
associated with Church ceremonial, and those of Co-Masonic working, and in
this he claimed the encouragement and inspiration of the Master the Count,
who assisted in drafting the rituals. The rituals were originally compiled by
Wedgwood, since he was said to have a special relationship with the Count.
However, Leadbeater did not like the results, and submitted them to Arundale
for revision. The final work was said to constitute ‘the most powerful occult
ritual in the world’, and the seven girls were kept busy rehearsing their parts
in it to ensure that they were perfect for the day when the Egyptian Rite could
be inaugurated in the Co-Masonic Temple at Adyar. This was done in . A
formal charter for the Egyptian Rite was issued by the Sovereign Sanctuary of
the Rite of Memphis at Palermo (Italy) which was, at the time, controlled by

its place in Leadbeaterian Theosophical ritual is found in Brendan French’s PhD thesis: The
Theosophical Masters. This account of the Rite is based on the author’s collection of Egyptian
Rite documents and rituals.
Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () – 

a Theosophist, Reginald Gambier Macbean (–), who had become

Grand Master in July,  while serving as the British Consul for Sicily.
Macbean, originally a ° Mason of the French jurisdiction, had become a Co-
Mason, and had admitted Leadbeater, Wedgwood, Arundale, Jinarajadasa and
Oscar Kollerstrom (–) to the Rite of Memphis. When the Palermo
Sanctuary was suppressed by Mussolini, Macbean transferred his rights in it to
those five brethren.
The published Egyptian Ritual was formally issued on Christmas Day, ,
bearing the imprimatur of Besant as Grand Master.58 It contained a solemn
warning from Arundale, as Grand Secretary, that the ritual was the property
of the ‘S.S.’ (presumably the ‘Sovereign Sanctuary’) and ‘must be returned
on demand and provision must be made for the return on the death of the
member’. When not in actual use, the Ritual should be kept under lock and
key. Admission was to be by invitation only—‘an application would ipso facto
disqualify the individual making it’.59 The degrees of the Egyptian Rite were
largely based on At The Feet of the Master, a work attributed to Krishnamurti
and first published in . Subsequent rituals were issued for Temple of the
Rose and the Cross, the Outer Temple or Temple of the Dawn, and the Inner
Temple or Temple of the Star, together with a volume of rituals for use at
meetings when initiations were not being performed.
The Temple of the Quest ritual ‘may be regarded as a dramatization of the
true functions of the various principles and bodies, so externalized that, as
in a mystic mirror, the individual sees himself as he is destined to become.’60
The Temple required eleven officers: Voluntas (the Master), Sapientia, Artifex,
Mente, Astra, Etha, Ardua (the Guardian outside the door), Angelus, Agni,
Scriba and Rector (the Master of Ceremonies), each with an identifying symbol
(for example, Voluntas has the lion, Sapientia the elephant, Scriba a book).
Voluntas presides in the East, with a portrait of the Hierophant above him
under a Blazing Star.61 Various Masonic symbols are used: for example, a cube
of white marble on the altar, the investiture of candidates with an apron. The
Egyptian Rite apron is, effectively, that illustrated in Leadbeater’s The Hidden
Life in Freemasonry with some modifications (for example, the hieroglyphs at
the apex of the triangle are replaced by the letters INRI).

For further information on Annie Besant and Freemasonry, see Prescott, ‘ “Builders of
the Temple of the New Civilisation” ’.
The Egyptian Rite of the Ancient Mysteries, .
The Egyptian Rite of the Ancient Mysteries, .
 Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () –

Candidates in the Temple of the Quest approached initiation by stating: ‘I

am a wanderer in darkness. I seek the Light,’ and then took an oath on a copy
of At The Feet of the Master. The charge to the candidate declared that he had
been ‘baptized in the power of the Seven Fires and of the One’. Various ‘mystic
words’ were communicated to candidates in the different degrees: for example,
in the First Stage the word was Vir (= vita igne renovator), in the Second Fas
(= forma animae serva) and Via (= vehimur in atum), and in the Third Stage
Vita (= voluntas intus transformatur amore). Likewise, various mystic signs were
communicated to the candidate, for example, the Sign of Order (the right hand
on the heart). Some of the ritual suggested influence from outside Theosophy
and traditional Freemasonry. As French notes, the ‘Sign of the Blazing Star’ in
the Egyptian Rite (Temple of the Rose and the Cross) is traced in the same
way as the Invoking Fire Pentagram (for Aries) of the Hermetic Order of the
Golden Dawn.62
As in Freemasonry, the Third Stage represented death and resurrection. The
candidate was solemnly dedicated with the words:

Into a body growing pure and strong,

Into emotions growing calm and selfless,
Into a mind learning to chose the noble and the true,
Descend, O King of my life,
My Higher Self, and use them to thy purpose,
The service of THE KING.
O Hierophant of our Rite,
Lord of Will and Light and Life,
Upon this my solemn dedication
I pray Thy Gracious Blessing.63

The candidate having left the Temple, lights are extinguished and the candidate
brought back in as the Prelude to the third act of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde
is played on the organ. The candidate is then asked: ‘Are you ready to tread
the Way of Death and Renunciation?’ After the conclusion of the initiation, a
hymn is sung:

O Lord of our Rite

Thy soldier we are.
We fight for the Right,

French, The Theosophical Masters.
The Egyptian Rite of the Ancient Mysteries.
Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () – 

We follow Thy Star.

O come ye, O come ye, all children of Light,
And worship His Wisdom, His Love and His Might.64

A further hymn, varying a traditional Christian hymn, concludes the meeting:

Soldiers of the Starlight, Onward to the fray

With the Star Triumphant showing us the Way.65

By the time the candidate completes the three stages of the Temple of the
Quest—Fire, Form and Life—he should be on Probation. He is then ready
to advance to the fourth stage, the Temple of the Rose and the Cross. Once
accepted as the chela of a Master he can go on to the fifth stage, the Outer
Temple or Temple of the Dawn, followed by the sixth stage, the Inner Temple
or Temple of the Star. The sixth stage is

The entry into the Inner Temple itself, the Temple of the Star, the service of which is
restricted to members of the Great Brotherhood of Light—from the youngest Initiate
to the Masters, Lords, Princes, Rulers of Light; nay, to the very King Himself. These
are the Brothers of Light.66

These are the degrees to be worked by the members, and above them is the
seventh stage, the Sovereign Sanctuary of the Masters of the Light, the govern-
ing body of the Egyptian Rite (originally Besant, Arundale and Leadbeater).
Beyond that is the Great Hierarchy. It was emphasized that the Egyptian Rite
was mainly for young people, and that wherever possible all the officers should
be of this category; with the passage of time and the disappearance of young
members from the Theosophical Society generally, it can be presumed that this
is no longer the case.
On September , , Besant died. Leadbeater succeeded her both as
Outer Head of the Esoteric Section and as Grand Master of the Egyptian Rite.
Arundale followed Besant as President of the Theosophical Society. Follow-
ing Leadbeater’s death on February , , Jinarajadasa succeeded as Outer
Head of the Esoteric Section and Arundale as Grand Master of the Egyp-
tian Rite. Jinarajadasa was succeeded as Outer Head by Nilakanta Sri Ram

 Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () –

(–) (who was also President of the Theosophical Society), then Iqbal
Kishen Taimni (–), and thence Radha Burnier (b. ) who sub-
sequently became, and remains, President of the Theosophical Society. Some
rivalry existed over succession within the Egyptian Rite; it was claimed by
Rukmini Devi Arundale (–), Arundale’s widow, and by Sri Ram and
(from him) by Radha Burnier.
Sri Ram sent a circular to all members of the th, th and th stages in
April, , declaring that in future those admitted above the rd stage ‘should
not be presumed to be necessarily in the occult stages to which these stages
of the Egyptian Rite may be said to correspond’.67 Sri Ram made certain
modifications to the ritual to reflect this change. The question asked of a
candidate for admission to the Inner Court was amended from:

In the Inner Court you have sought earnestly and served truly, winning the recognition
of a Lord of Light. Will you, in this Inner Court, strive with all your heart to deserve
Acceptance at His hands?68


In the Inner Court you have sought earnestly and served truly. Will you, in this Inner
Court, strive with all your heart to serve the Lord of Light whom you deserve to

Burnier, exercising her control over the Rite, eventually closed down all but
the Temple of the Quest.

. Later Ritual Developments

Under Leadbeater’s influence, whether direct or indirect, numerous teachings
and groups have developed to practise Western magic. Some clearly acknowl-
edged his influence while others carefully avoided any reference to him. Dion
Fortune (Violet Mary Firth, –), founder of the Society of the Inner
Light, is an example of the latter.70 She denounced Leadbeater (although not
by name) as amongst the black magic sex perverts who sought to use magical

Sri Ram, ‘Circular to Members’.
See Richardson, The Magical Life of Dion Fortune; Fielding and Collins, The Story of
Dion Fortune; Knight, Dion Fortune and the Inner Light.
Gregory Tillett / ARIES  () – 

techniques for evil ends. However, her writings on the inner effects of magical
ritual can hardly be said to have developed without significant influences from
Leadbeater’s work, any more than her attempt at the establishment of some-
thing very much resembling a church—the Guild of the Master Jesus and the
Church of the Graal—is unrelated to Leadbeater’s Liberal Catholic Church.71
Fortune had been a tentatively enthusiastic Theosophist but the real reasons
for her break from Theosophy, other than her desire to establish her own orga-
nization and give her own teachings, remain unclear. Links between Fortune’s
Inner Light and its successors and derivatives and Leadbeaterian Theosophy
are obvious.
Walter Ernest Butler (–) also provides an excellent example of
Theosophical influence: having worked in the Fortune tradition, he became a
Liberal Catholic priest while operating his own magical fraternity, The Servants
of the Light, and also being a prolific author of books on magic.72 He was
originally trained by Robert King (–), a prominent Theosophical
lecturer and one of the original Bishops of the Liberal Catholic Church.
Although Blavatsky provided what might be thought of as the esoteric phi-
losophy underlying ritual magic, Leadbeater provided the more practical, and
indeed more popular and palatable, explanations as to how and why it could be
efficacious. His claim that ritual magic was not simply, or even essentially, sym-
bolic or psychological but brought about a real transformation of the partici-
pants and the external world has influenced, and is clearly manifested, in most
modern ritual magic groups and texts. It is a Theosophical influence although
not one which Blavatsky, or those Theosophical organizations rejecting what
is often referred to as ‘neo-theosophy’, would recognize.

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See Knight, Dion Fortune and the Three Fold Way, –. Some of the Guild’s rituals
and teaching materials are found in Fielding and Collins, above cit., –.
His books include Magic: Its Ritual, Power and Purpose (); Apprenticed to Magic
(); The Magician: His Training and Work (); Magic and the Qabalah(); How
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Publishing House .
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