Book: How Theosophy Came to Me
Author: Charles Webster Leadbeater

How Theosophy Came to Me By Charles Webster Leadbeater

Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 81
Publication Date: 1930

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My first touch with anything that could definitely be called Theosophy was in the year 504 b.c., when I had the wonderful honour and pleasure of visiting the great philosopher Pythagoras. I had taken birth in one of the families of the Eupatridæ at Athens—a family in fairly good circumstances and offering favourable opportunities for progress. This visit was the most important event in my youth, and it came about in this manner.

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A relation of mine offered to take me, along with a brother a year or two younger, for a voyage in a ship of which he was part owner. It was a trading voyage among the Greek islands and over to the Asiatic shore, and with the leisurely methods of those days it occupied nearly a year, during which we visited many places and saw not only much beautiful scenery but many marvellous temples adorned with exquisite sculpture.

Among other islands we called at Samos, and it was there that we found the great Pythagoras, who was then a man of advanced age and very near his death. Some historians have thought that this sage perished when his school at Krotona was wrecked by popular prejudice; others, recognizing that he survived that catastrophe, believe that he died much later at Metapontum. Neither of these ideas seems to be correct; when very old, he left his schools in Magna Græcia, and returned to his patrimony in Samos to end his days where he had begun them, and so it happened that we had this very great privilege of seeing him in the course of our voyage.

His principal disciple at that time was Kleineas (now the Master Djwal Kul); and Kleineas was exceedingly kind to us, and patiently answered all our eager questions, explaining to us the system of the Pythagorean philosophy. We were at once most strongly attracted towards the teaching expounded to us, and were anxious to join the school. Kleineas told us that a branch of it would presently be opened in Athens; and meantime he gave us much instruction in ethics, in the doctrine of reincarnation and the mystery of numbers. All too soon our vessel was ready for sea (it had fortunately required refitting) and we had regretfully to take leave of Pythagoras and Kleineas. To our great and awed delight, when we called to bid him adieu, the aged philosopher blessed us and said with marked emphasis: “πάλιν συναντήσομεθα—we shall meet again.” Within a year or two we heard of his death, and so we often wondered in what sense he could have meant those words; but when in this present incarnation I had for the first time the privilege of meeting the Master Kuthumi, He recalled to my memory that scene of long ago, and said: “Did I not tell you that we should meet again?”

Soon after the death of Pythagoras, Kleineas fulfilled his promise to come and establish a school of the philosophy in Athens, and naturally my brother and I were among his first pupils. Large numbers were attracted by his teaching, and the philosophy took a very high place in the thought of the time. Except for what was actually necessary for the management of the family estate, I devoted practically the whole of my time to the study and teaching of this philosophy, and indeed succeeded to the position of Kleineas when he passed away.

My Early Attitude

It may have been owing to this exclusive devotion to this higher thought that I had a very unusually long period in the heaven-world—just over 2,300 years. To what extent that fact affected my present life I cannot say; but I arrived in this incarnation without any definite memory of all that I had learnt at the cost of so much time and trouble. In my early life I knew nothing whatever of these matters, but in looking back now upon that period, I can see that I found myself in possession of a set of convictions which I had evidently brought over from that other life.

The middle of last century was a time of widespread materialism, of disbelief or at least uncertainty as to religious matters, and scornful denial of the possibility of any kind of non-physical manifestation. Even as a child I was aware that men were arguing hotly as to the existence of God and the possibility that there might be something in man which survives death; but when I heard such discussions I wondered silently how people could be so foolish, for I myself had an unshakable interior certainty on these points, though I could not argue in defence of my belief, or indeed bring forth any reason to support it.

But I knew that there was a God, that He was good, and that death was not the end of life. Even at that age I was able to deduce from these certainties that all must somehow be well, although so often things appeared to be going ill. I remember well how horrified I was (and I am afraid very angry as well) when a small playfellow introduced to my notice the theory of hell. I promptly contradicted him, but he insisted that it must be true because his father had said so. I went home in great indignation to consult my own father on this incredible abomination; but he only smiled tolerantly and said: “Well, my boy, I don’t for a moment believe it myself, but a great many people think so, and it is no use trying to convince them; you will just have to put up with it.” So by degrees I learnt that one’s own interior conviction, however strong, was ineffective as an argument against orthodox opinion.

One other curious little fragment of half-recollection I seem to have brought over from that Greek incarnation. As a child I used frequently to dream of a certain house, quite unlike any with which I was at that time familiar on the physical plane, for it was built round a central courtyard (with fountains and statues and shrubs) into which all the rooms looked. I used to dream of this perhaps three times a week, and I knew every room of it and all the people who lived in it; I used constantly to describe it to my mother, and to make ground-plans of it. We called it my dream-house. As I grew older I dreamt of it less and less frequently, until at last it faded from my memory altogether. But one day, much later in life, to illustrate some point my Master showed me a picture of the house in which I had lived in my last incarnation, and I recognized it immediately.