Cooper, Irving Steiger (1882-1935)

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Cooper, Irving Steiger (1882-1935)

Irving Steiger Cooper, the first regionary bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church in the United States and a leading writer of Christian esoteric literature, was born March 16, 1882, in Santa Barbara, California. He grew up in the state and graduated from the University of California. As a young adult he was introduced to Theosophy and within a few years had become a popular lecturer for the Theosophical Society. In 1911 he traveled to India for the international meeting of the society and stayed there to become the secretary of Charles W. Lead-beater, an Anglican priest who had become a close associate of the society's president, Annie Besant.

Cooper was in India in 1915 when several priests who also were Theosophists were forced out of the Old Catholic Church in England and established the Liberal Catholic Church. The church elected James Ingall Wedgewood as their first presiding bishop. He was consecrated in February 1916. Wedgewood then went to Sydney, Australia, where Leadbeater had relocated, and consecrated him as a regionary bishop for the church in Australia. While these events were taking place, Cooper remained in India, where he was writing his first books: Methods of Psychic Development (1912), Theosophy Simplified (1915), and Reincarnation (1917). In 1917 Cooper moved to Australia and through Leadbeater was quickly involved in the new church. He was ordained a priest in 1918. He assisted Wedgwood and Leadbeater in the preparation of The Liturgy of the Mass (1917), published as The Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist (1918).

Meanwhile, the Liberal Catholic Church had been established in the United States, and Wedgwood chose Cooper to lead it. Cooper was consecrated as reginary bishop for the United States on July 13, 1919, at St. Alban's Liberal Catholic Church in Sydney by Wedgwood and Leadbeater, and he moved to the United States in 1920. Headquarters for the church were established in Hollywood in a cathedral built adjacent to the Theosophical Society's community called Krotona.

Cooper remained active in the Theosophical Society, which became the natural recruitment pool from which members of the church were initially found. He was a firm believer in the messianic role Besant assigned to the young Jiddu Krishna-murti, and in the late 1920s he traveled the United States with Besant promoting Krishnamurti as the vehicle for the coming world savior.

Cooper led the Liberal Catholic Church until his death on January 17, 1935, though his activity was severely curtailed the last five years due to ill health. He worked for many years perfecting the liturgy and in 1934 saw it published as Ceremonies of the Liberal Catholic Church, his major literary production. It remains the standard liturgy of the church.


Cooper, Irving Steiger. Ceremonies of the Liberal Catholic Church. Los Angeles: St. Alban Press, 1924.

. Methods of Psychic Development. Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1912.

. The Secret of Happiness. Chicago: Theosophical Publishing House, 1925.

. Theosophy Simplified. Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Publishing House, 1928.

Ward, Gary L. Independent Bishops: An International Directory. Detroit: Apogee Books, 1990.

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Cooper, Irving Steiger (1882-1935)

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