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. Leadbeater,
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 Krishnamurti,
and in the late 1920s he traveled the United States with
Coons, Peter Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
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.