Let Him Who Thinks Himself Strong Take Heed Lest He Fall

Reflections on the Cultic Shadow of the Liberal Catholic Church and its Offshoots

by Edward J. Parkinson

This essay is intended as a warning to Liberal Catholics and other Gnostics, including Catholic Gnostics, about the dangers of seduction into cult thinking and entrapment by cults.

When I use the term "Liberal Catholic," I am using it in a generic sense to include not only the original Church—The Liberal Catholic Church Old Synod, but all Catholic Churches which derive their lineage in whole or in part from the influence of Bishops C.W. Leadbeater and Ingall Wedgwood. I am thus including such organizations as The Liberal Catholic Church New Synod, The Universal Catholic Church, The Liberal Catholic Church Theosophia Synod, The Liberal Catholic Church International, The Catholic Church of Antioch, and many others. Nonetheless, everything I say here is applicable to other Gnostic organizations and especially to Gnostic Catholic Churches, even if they do not in any way derive their apostolic succession from the two aforementioned bishops.

It might seem upon first consideration to be totally unnecessary to issue such warnings to men and women in Gnostic churches because such churches pride themselves on their anti-authoritarianism and freedom of thought. Bishops Leadbeater and Wedgwood, for instance, intended The Liberal Catholic Church to always welcome all sincere worshippers, whether or not they subscribed to the beliefs delineated in The Statement of Principles and Summary of Doctrine. Gnostics continue to maintain that no one should be—indeed that no one can be-- forced to adopt any beliefs and that a doctrine is true for a particular person only if it sincerely apprehended by the person who holds it as a result of his or her experience. Nonetheless, the Apostle Paul seemed to anticipate the insights of the twentieth-century psychoanalyst Carl Gustave Jung in regard to our shadows—those parts of ourselves which are disowned and consequently hidden from our view. We can frequently locate the shadow of an individual or even a group by looking at what they consciously value—the "good" sides of themselves they boast about. Such "virtues" are likely to hide dangerous converses or opposites which they are attempting to deny and suppress. A good example of this can be found by looking at the all-pervasive sexual misconduct and covering up of the same among the clergy and bishops in the Roman Catholic Church. Few religions have been as extreme as Roman Catholicism in valuing "chastity," which is often expressed as an unhealthy repression of sexuality. The official position has been that any voluntarily enjoyment of sex outside of heterosexual marriage with an "openness to new life," as thy so often put it, is "mortally sinful"—i.e., deserving of eternal punishment in hell if it is not repented before death. Their clergy—even diocesan priests outside of religious orders—are, except in a few unusual cases—required to embrace total and lifelong celibacy. No other major religion, including Islam, is as strict in prohibiting artificial birth control. If a "sacramentally valid" marriage comes to an end, both parties cannot remarry—and that means absolutely no sex—until the first partner dies. It would thus seem silly to warn them about the dangers of allowing sexual abuse of minors to go unchecked among their clergy and be covered up by their bishops, but a glance at the news media indicates that this is where their problems are—they seem to have a more serious problem with these issues than any other major religious institution , and certainly far more problems than churches which take "liberal" positions on such matters; these problems, with their attendant lawsuits, are almost unknown among Unitarians and Reform Jews, for two examples. So, perhaps, in view of the great valuation of "freedom" in Liberal Catholic and other Gnostic Catholic churches, it is not unreasonable to be wonder if there might be Jungian shadows concerning freedom and susceptibility to cult thinking lurking beneath the surface.

To illustrate these points I shall draw on the experience of the early Liberal Catholic Church with Krishnamurti, a young man with whom Bishop Leadbeater and other founders of the Liberal Catholic movement became unreasonably enamored and whose influence almost succeeded in totally derailing The Liberal Catholic Church from its Catholic moorings and turning it into an authoritarian cult. Krishnamurti advocated, among other things, the total renunciation of all religious ritual, including the Mass and Catholic sacramentalism, and—in spite of that—was believed for a time by many early Liberal Catholics—apparently even for awhile by Bishop Leadbeater humself –to be an incarnation of the World Teacher and hence infallible. Many continued to hold that view of him even after he himself explicitly disavowed such an identity.

In my opinion Krishnamurti and the attendant problems in that period of early Liberal Catholic history represent a continuing problem for Gnostic Catholic Churches—they were one manifestation of an ongoing danger which can only be managed, never definitively eliminated. That danger affects Gnostic Catholic Churches as a whole and many, although not all, of their members . The danger I am thinking of is the ever present lure of cult thinking. Could any Church of The Liberal Catholic family turn into a cult? Are many of their members—perhaps more than in most other denominations—susceptible to cult recruitment ? The answer to these questions, I fear, is yes.

We should begin, I suppose, by defining terms: what is a cult, and what is cult thinking? Sociologists often use the word "cult" in a supposedly value-neutral sense to refer to groups holding beliefs outside a particular mainstream culture. Thus, Hindu and Buddhist organizations in the United States are by this definition cults, as are Christian churches in Japan. This definition is not germane to our purposes, so we can ignore it. We can also ignore the tendency of supposedly "orthodox" Christians to use the word pejoratively to denote "heresies," departutes from what these conservatives consider to be theologically correct Christianity. Thinkers such as psychiatrist Arthur Deikman ( The Wrong Way Home ) and comparative religionist J. Gordon Melton have, however, approached the concept in a more useful way: using the term pejoratively to designate groups possessing certain interrelated and negative characteristics which diminish the individual power of their members for the benefit of some leader or group of leaders. Thus Deikman defines "cult" as

and indoctrinates the members with his or her idiosyncratic beliefs. Typically, members are dependent on the group for their emotional and financial needs and have broken off ties with those outside. The more complete the dependency and the more rigid the barriers separating members from non-believers, the more danger the cult will exploit and harm its members (1).

Melton defines "cults" as "groups that share a variety of generally destructive characteristics. While no group may embody all of them, any 'cult' will possess a majority" (5). He then cites fourteen characteristics listed by anti-cult writer Marcia Rudin. It includes elements such as unquestioning acceptance of a leader's edicts, deceptive recruitment practices, isolation from the outside world, including family and former friends, censorship of ideas and information, secrecy about financial, sexual, and other matters about which members have a legitimate interest, lack of privacy within the group, and great fostering of emotional and intellectual dependency. These definitional approaches have the following advantages: (1) they avoid using the "cult" as an automatic label to refer to any group a given writer disagrees with; (2) they are useful in recognizing cult tendencies in a group whose philosophical premises we might share. These definitional tests could be applied to a group espousing any particular ideas, whether religious, political, or psychotherapeutic; (3) these approaches recognize that obvious cults and obviously innocent organizations are polar ends of a vast continuum which includes many complex shades of grey. Thus, judgment is involved, not unambiguous perception, and a group whose philosophy we might rightly consider sound could quietly evolve in a cult-like direction with many members not realizing what was happening until it was too late.

The characteristics these and other writers have listed as warning signs are all elements of a syndrome, and a syndrome of symptoms really—the disease itself can be characterized much more succinctly: A cult leader fosters dependency in his members to exploit them for his own advantage, and the members participate because of a variety of understandable weaknesses: a desire to submit to God in some simple, visible, concrete way (this is in itself good, a genuine religious impulse, but dangerous if not combined with certain kinds of awareness); loneliness; fear; a desire to escape responsibility; generosity combined with naivete; guilt; excessive trust; and many more. This simple pattern ties together and explains the wholesale recruitment of any who will submit, the cheap, inadequate diets of members slaving sixteen hours a day recruiting on streets or in airports or working in factories or on farms producing goods sold by the cult, the secrecy, the deception, the censorship, the isolation from influences outside the cult, the arbitrary and irrational abusiveness of cult leaders documented so many times, the demands that all worldly goods be surrendered, the sexual exploitation of cult members which occurs so often.

Here is my personal—incomplete, but, I hope, valuable—definition of a cult: a group which exercises a great deal of (1) detailed and (2) external control over its members (3) to their detriment and someone else's benefit, (4) which engages in (5) universal and (6) often deceptive recruitment, (7) which forbids members the right to think for themselves and deprives them of needed information through (8) censorship and (9) secrecy, and (10) imposes on them some rigid system of all-inclusive belief. This is not an exhaustive definition, but I consider it a very useful checklist. Let us comment briefly on these elements.

(1 and 2): All organizations impose some control on their members' behavior, even social clubs. The first point to consider is how detailed it is. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, promulagates detailed stipulations for some things, such as marriage, but leaves members in many areas free to interpret very broad moral guidelines. Some cults, however, have very detailed rules governing every aspect of a person's day-to-day life—consider, for example, Hasidic Judaism as practiced in some communities. It is also important to consider the degree to which such control is externally imposed. Most churches rely on people to police themselves regarding gossip, excessive eating, sexual behavior, etc., but some Mormon communities send a bishop's representative to check on compliance with such matters.

(3, 4, and5): A Carmelite convent or a Trappist monastery would exercise a great deal of external control over an individual, but the superiors of such orders have lifestyles similar to those of other members of their orders; in many cults, on the other hand, gurus are often wealthy and sexually promiscuous while the rank-and-file membership slave away in poverty to support such excesses. Cloistered Catholic religious communities take only candidates they consider suitable for such a life and turn many away; cults, in contrast, take anybody they can exploit, recruiting on the streets of New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco, in airports, etc. Additionally, such orders are honest about the life they offer prospective members; cults, by contrast, often invite people to "workshops" or "retreats" in isolated areas and then prevent their leaving until quite a bit of brainwashing has been done, accompanied by lack of sleep, constant intrusive questions, exhausting chanting, etc.

(6, 7,8,9, and 10): Any church has to have some doctrine and some acceptable doctrinal parameters, so, obviously, this is a matter of degree. The Roman Catholic Church under Pope John Paul the Second and under Pope Benedict the Sixteenth , for example, has obviously been more cult-like than was the Roman Catholic Church under Pope John the Twenty-third, Pope Paul the Sixth, and Pope John Paul the First. Indeed , Pope John Paul the Second, unlike his recent predecessors, demanded total assent for even non-infallible pronouncements—in effect, making almost every papal opinion beyond debate. Arthur Deikman refers to

Pope John Paul the Second 's attempt to banish dissent by revoking the right of a distinguished Catholic scholar, the Reverend Charles Curran, to teach at Catholic University. Curran had dissented at some points from non-infallible but traditional church teachings on sexual ethics. Archbishop Hickey explained the unusual and severe step taken by the Pope: 'the Holy See has gone on to clarify for us, to say there is no right to public dissent.... A Vatican official commented further that 'we now have a situation in the United States where many theologians teach not only church doctrine but also the dissident view … then these professors ask the students to pick their choice…an absolutely unacceptable practice.'

In a similar vein, as the years progressed, Ayn Rand's demands on her followers became

more and more inclusive, even stipulating what music and paintings they could or could not approve of.

But let's get back to The Liberal Catholic Church and Krishnamurti. The Liberal Catholic Church is certainly not a cult by any of the above definitions, and neither are any of its offshoots at the present time—indeed, it would seem, with its tolerance and high valuation of personal freedom to be beyond the possibilities of any such dangers. Similarly, those attracted to cults would not, it would seem, ever be found in The Liberal Catholic Church, nor would those in any Liberal Catholic or other Gnostic Catholic denominations ever evince the weaknesses which could lead to successful cult recruitment.

But we would all do well to heed Paul's warning quoted in the title of this essay: "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthinans 10:12). Jung maintained that our vaunted strengths and virtues point to our shadows—those disowned sides of ourselves which often contrast so sharply with the strengths we manifest on the surface. When we divine using the I Ching , a pattern of three yangs or three yings is interpredted as a "moving line," one about to turn into its opposite. Similarly a pattern of two yangs and one ying is interpreted as ying, and a pattern of two yings and one yang is interpreted as yang. This is partly because the compilers of the I ChingThe Book of Changes , as it is commonly called in English, recognized that polarities are always intimately related to their opposites. The followers of Ayn Rand consciously valued individualism to an immoderate degree and disdained all forms of self-sacrifice, yet, without realizing what they were doing, they sacrificed themselves to Ayn Rand's unhealthy obsessions in a most self-destructive way (for a most interesting account of this read Judgment Day by Nathaniel Branden and The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden). And sometimes great strength in some or even most contexts can become a weakness in some other context—courage can become foolhardiness, caution become cowardice, tolerance become tolerance of evil.

The great strengths of Liberal Catholics contain germs of weakness which must be closely watched. Liberal Catholics and other Gnostic Catholics, to their credit, are very open-minded about spiritual matters. They do not, like fundamentalists or conservative Catholics, automatically reject an idea just because it is new or because it is counter-intuitive or because it conflicts with some traditional orthodoxy. Well and good. But the walls conservatives build around themselves sometimes keep out harmful things—although, it is true, they often exclude much good. Many Liberal Catholics are involved in many New Age systems, perhaps sometimes uncritically.

Liberal Catholics are free of rationalistic and materialistic prejudices, recognizing with Hamlet that "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in [such philosophies]." But superstition can be the unintended underside of such recognition. Spiritual claims ought not to be rejected out of hand, but neither should they be uncritically accepted.

Liberal Catholics are loving, positive, trusting people, rightly eschewing gossip and negative thoughts about others because they recognize the corrupting influence such thinking can have on the physical, astral, and mental planes. Again, well and good. But suspicion of others' motives and the recognition that a malign reality can hide behind a benign exterior are great protections not only against cult leaders, but also against child molesters, rapists, confidence artists, demagogic politicians, and a host of other predators. Jesus often saw a dark interior clothed in piety—e.g., "whited sepulchers full of dead men's bones"—and the New Testament is full of exhortations to discernment. St. Paul warns that the world is full of

false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness whose end shall be according to their works (2 Corinthians: 11: 13—15).

Similarly, St. John issues this warning in his First Epistle: "Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (4:1).

Gnostic Catholic s are people of great faith. But skepticism is perhaps our single greatest protection against the claims of cult leaders. We must sometimes be reminded that faith and skepticism are not opposites but polarities—in a healthy spiritual life they go together, and both serve our evolution.

Liberal Catholics are polite and peaceful people, disliking unpleasant personal confrontations. But sometimes such confrontations must occur—sometimes even publicly—when people make inordinate claims and/or demands.

Krishnamurti did not turn The Liberal Catholic Church into a cult, but he could have.

I see no reason to accept Krishnamurti as an Incarnation of the world Teacher.

Such an appearance by the World Teacher in the twentieth century would, I believe, be contrary to God's plan for our spiritual evolution. All religions seem to include some version of the Second Coming. Buddhism—at least in some of its forms—looks forward to another Buddha—Maietreya, and Islamic belief includes some mysterious savior-figure, the Imam Mahdi, to come near the end of the world, although this is not often emphasized in Islam. And, of course, Jews live in the expectation of the coming of the Messiah. But these are all appearances at the end of an age made to souls wo have completed a certain dispensation and attained a higher level of consciousness. The Second Coming of Jesus corresponds with the end of the world as we know it—a time of "great tribulation, such as was not seen since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew : 24:21), an end-time for the universe in which "shall the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken" (Matthew: 24:29). The coming of the Messiah, according to Erich Fromm, corresponds with "the cataclysmic end of all history… a change in the situation of mankind …. " (107). In the meantime Gautama Siddhartha is not with us. "If you meet the Buddha kill him," says a popular Zen saying. The Buddha after the earthly visitation is to be an internal Buddha, not an external one. Similarly, in Islam there are no prophets after Mohammed—the faithful are on their own to struggle with and interpret the message he left. Deuteronomy ends with a stipulation probably inserted by Northern Elohists to curb the excessive cultic claims of "anointed" Southern kings and Jerusalem Temple priests: "And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face" (34:10). Again, one definitive revelation, and then the people are on their own. Jesus specifically states that His ascension –His ceasing to be present physically in one part of the world—is necessary for God to be fully present with us: "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you" (John: 16). The External Christ must be completely internalized before he can manifest perfectly, both internally and externally; we must fully access the Kingdom within, putting on our wedding garment before we can be invited to the completed exterior and interior feast. In other words, we must, through a long process, make ourselves ready before we can expect such a Second Coming. Similarly, says Erich Fromm, many Jewish thinkers have held that

The messiah will come…as the result of man's own continuous improvement. This is the meaning of the following statement: 'If Israel were to keep two Sabbaths according to the laws thereof, they would be redeemed immediately…'(111).

Meanwhile, during the present dispensation, Christians are not to look for another human manifestation of the World Teacher:

Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth; behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not ((Matthew: 24:23—26).

When the Lord comes for the second time, our consciousnesses will be so expanded that it will be impossible for us to miss it: "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew:24 :27).

Those Liberal Catholics who abandoned their Catholic moorings for the words of Krishnamurti would have done well to have heeded the fear expressed by Paul:

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him (2 Corinthians: 11:2—4).

Apart from such theological considerations, however, a cool-headed consideration of Krishnamurti's life and teachings would militate against an acceptance of him as an Incarnation of the World Teacher. I see nothing major to object to in his early work, At the Feet of the Master , but I see nothing new: it seems to be a restatement of very basic Gnostic ideas promulgated by saints and mystical writers of all major religions throughout the ages. It would seem to be an uneconomical expenditure of divine energy for the World Teacher to manifest in the flesh to deliver this message. One is reminded of a line from Hamlet : "My lord, it needs no ghost come from the grave to tell us this!"

In the nineteen twenties, however, Krishnamurti's advice evolved in a direction unacceptable to any Catholics. In At the Feet of the Master he had written the following:

You must learn that no ceremonies are necessary; else you will think yourself somehow better than those who do not perform them. Yet you must not condemn others who still cling to ceremonies. Let them do as they will; only they must not interfere with you who know the truth—they must not try to force upon you that which you have outgrown…. Now that your eyes are opened , some of your old beliefs, your old ceremonies, may seem to you absurd, perhaps, indeed, they really are so. Yet though you can no longer take part in them, respect them for the sake of those good souls to whom they are still important. They have their place, they have their use; they are like those double lines which guided you as a child to write straight and evenly, until you learnt to write far better and more freely without them. There was a time when you needed them; but now that time is past (47—49).

What Krishnamurti says in this passage is not untrue, strictly speaking: ceremonial is not absolutely necessary for anyone, and at a very high stage of evolution we outgrow it—indeed, a commonly used Roman Catholic hymn looks forward to the time "when sacraments shall cease." But the passage seems unbalanced. Very few people are at such a high level that they have "outgrown" Catholic ceremonial, although a larger number might think they have, grossly overestimating their spiritual progress. Anent this, bishop Wdgwood makes the following trenchant observation:

It is worth noting that such dependence is an obstacle that has to be surmounted only as we are preparing to take the second of the great initiations. There need be, for most of us, no burning hurry to disembarrasss ourselves of ceremonies! (11).

And, as for the few who really have attained such a level—it would seem strange to attempt to communicate with them by writing a book for general publication! Krishnamurti refers to "some" ceremonial as "asbsurd," but surely the Catholic Mass is not "absurd." An absence of ceremonial, it is true, would not make spiritual evolution impossible, but Krishnamurti seems to fail to appreciate how immeasurably slower and more difficult the path would be. Bishop Leadbeater puts it very eloquently:

As Sri Aurobindo insisted, maya is only partly maya . If we would reach the ultimate heights (figuratively) our ladder must be firmly based on earth; the full scope of energy and life is called into fullest vitality only by the tension between the two. From ultimate, densest areas of material worlds we must bring all in offering, to be transformed through developmental process into divine fullness. We must not fly off into some quietist fantasy world, forgetful of the brotherhood of being. We must be at one with that before we can become at one with the greater levels of consciousness. Unity is indivisible—a trite saying, but seemingly forgotten by some ( Science xxii).

Bishop Wedgwood makes telling concomitant points:

…however much we profess to have outgrown ceremonies, we cannot really escape from them. The manifestation of God in His world implies the fundamental duality of spirit and matter, or life and form. Ceremony is the science of form. Our bodily movements throughout the day are one long ceremonial. There is an elaborate process of eating, of dressing, of locomotion, and our relations with one another all require self-expression through form. The Quaker who objects to forms and ceremonies only substitutes his own simpler, and perhaps, therefore, less effective, use of forms for those he disapproves of in others (13—14).

Krishnamurti's attitude seems to me to evince an element of smug ungratefulness to the Great Ones by whose labors we have been blessed with Catholic ceremonial. It seems the attitude not of a great mystic but of a limited mind laboring under the limitations of many at the beginning of the modern period, as described so tellingly by Leadbeater:

But when the change of Rays was just beginning to manifest itself, and at the same time the lower mind—the analyzing rather than the synthetic mind—was coming into prominence, people began to be impatient of ceremonial and to think of it as a useless appendage, or even as something which came between themselves and God rather than a help to worship and to understand Him. Then a great wave of Puritanism and, almost at the same time, one of atheism passed over Europe ( Christian Gnosis 288).

Leadbeater also points out that "ceremonial, since it is a channel for the outpouring of spiritual force, is in itself a definite work, and …those who take part in it are doing something distinct and definite for the helping of evolution" ( Christian Gnosis 289). This also seems to point to a defect in Krishnamurti's understanding. In At the Feet of the Master he tells us that

He who is on the Path exists not for himself, but for others; he has forgotten himself, in order that he may serve them. He is as a pen in the hand of God, through which His thought may flow, and find for itself an expression down here , which without a pen it could not have. Yet at the same time he is also a living plume of fire, raying out upon the world the Divine Love which fills his heart (70—71).

Krishnamurti seems not to have been perspicacious enough to recognize that, just as God might need human instruments to effect certain transformations in the lower planes, human beings might need ceremonial instruments to do such work effectively. As Wedgwood points out, this observation disposes of much objection to ceremonial.

In the nineteen twenties, however, Krishnamurti's message appears to have become much worse. He began to demand that his hearers eschew ceremonial entirely. This caused many people to leave The Liberal Catholic Church and many Theosophists to leave other religions. As he grew more radical he insisted not only on the abolition of ceremonial but on the dismantling of all religious institutions. The Third General Episcopal Synod of The Liberal Catholic Church wisely refused to adopt officially the idea that he was the Word Teacher, but it is disturbing that so many Liberal Catholics seriously considered such a step. Even Bishop Leadbeater appeared to be taken in by him, at least for awhile--although, to his credit, he never tried to impose these views on Liberal Catholics. An article Bishop Leadbeater wrote for the magazine The Liberal Catholic in 1930 contained the following tendentious reasoning and special pleading:

Some have refused to believe that Krishnaji can possibly be a manifestation of the World-Teacher because of certain statements which he has made—such, for example, as: 'You cannot approach Truth by any Path whatsoever, nor through any religion or rite or ceremony whatever. Forms of religious ceremony may be intended to help man, but I maintain that they cannot help…'

This is in flat contradiction to the experience of thousands of people; we have been greatly helped and uplifted by ceremonies, and (what is of far more importance) we have been able through them greatly to help others…

Cannot you see that if a great reformer is to move a supine and inattentive world, he must speak strongly, he must insist upon the particular point which he is emphasizing, he must ignore all considerations which tell against it. He must be entirely one-pointed, he must see no side but own—in short he must be fanatical (qtd. In The Liberal Catholic Institute of Studies 030.001-1-49—50).

No, I do not see Bishop Leadbeater's point. It contradicts many statements Bishops Leadbeater and Wedgwood made about the complexity and many-sidedness of spiritual evolution and the necessity of respecting all souls and meeting them where they are on their path to God. Fanaticism indicates a deficiency of Third Ray qualities, in addition to other deficiencies. I do not see that great reformers can "move a supine and inattentive world" by telling people to abjure the Mass and Catholic sacraments. Even if highly developed souls no longer need such ceremonial, the "supine and inattentive" most certainly do! Bishop Leadbeater, despite his usual perspicacity, seems not to have thought through the implications of his statements in this article.

And Krishnamurti seems not to have prudently considered context and audience. Gautama Siddhartha made anti-ceremonial statements, but he was speaking in India at a time when an unscrupulous priestly class was employing ceremonies superstitiously in order to take selfish advantage of others, while denying essentials of spirituality, such as love and justice. Krishnamurti was addressing, on the contrary, twentieth-century Theosophists, including Liberal Catholics, a very different matter. Jesus denounced empty formalism but still participated in Jewish Temple services and celebrated Passover. Krishnamurti's statements might have been valuable had he addressed them exclusively to a small coterie of extremely self-dependent First Ray souls following some thinker such as Patanjali, but he apparently lacked the discernment to see the necessity for such a confinement of his message.

And this lack of discernment is itself a powerful argument against subscribing to him the status of World Teacher. "A great spiritual leader," Bishop Wedgwood once asserted, "comes but rarely into the world…. He is not simple. He is the product of many lives and of innumerable experiences in the past…. Such teachers are rare, the efflorescence of an age.". This description seems to point to a higher level of awareness than Krishnamurti was able to achieve. Many of our Liberal Catholic and Theosophical ancestors in faith, to whom we owe so much, seemed to have a curious blindness about this matter. Annie Besant—never officially a member but, nonetheless, a figure worthy to considered a "Doctor" of The Liberal Catholic Church and the Liberal Catholic movement—continued to believe in Krishnamurti's World Teacher status even after he disavowed it and dissolved the Order of the Star. This is reminiscent of devotees of the Fox sisters continuing to believe in them even after they swore their effects were produced by chicanery. There is a danger here that bears watching, a weakness in people of Gnostic bent.

I've discussed earlier in this essay some possible reasons for this. I think perhaps the most important is the difficulty of analyzing inward promptings and judging g whether they come from the buddhic or nirvanic realms, or from shallower parts of ourselves on the astral or mental planes. A Gnostic Catholic may have an emotional experience different from those which occur in Pentecostal churches, but an emotional experience nonetheless; he or she may then misinterpret it as an intuitional or spiritual experience. This type of mistake is easy to make, as St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Avila, Fr. Thomas Merton, and so many other writers on these matters have so often pointed out.

I think that Krishnamurti was seriously mistaken, but I would not want to cast aspersions on his character. I have said that he perhaps "could have" turned The Liberal Catholic Church into a cult—I have not said that he tried to or wanted to. He dissolved the Order of the Star, disavowed his purported status as World Teacher, broke with the Theosophical Society at a time when he might have been able to control it, and for the rest of his life opposed organizations such as the Order of the Star and refused titles such as Christ and World Teacher. These facts would seem to indicate that he did not have a cult leader's unscrupulous motivations. But he did have the charisma, and other leaders with charisma might have different motivations, so the lessons of this period of Gnostic Catholic history deserve to be heeded not only by Liberal Catholics, but by Gnostics generally.


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