Theosophical Encyclopedia

Judge, William Quan (1851-1896)

W. Q. Judge, with Helena P. Blavatsky and Henry S. Olcott, helped to found the Theosophical Society in 1875. He worked for its cause during the 21 years between that event and his death at the age of 44. He was General Secretary of the American Section (1886-95) and President for Life of the independent Theosophical Society in America (1895-96).

Of his early life, Judge wrote to Sarah A. Cape (Oct 1893): “I was born in Dublin, Ireland, April 13, 1851. My father was Frederic H. Judge, my mother Alice Mary Quan, both Irish. Father was deeply interested in Freemasonry. Mother died young on the birth of her seventh child. I was educated in Dublin. In 1864 Father decided to emigrate to America & we were six of us brought by him here . . . . I studied law, living with my father, who however, died not very long after. When I came of age I was naturalized a citizen of the U. S. in April 1872, and in May of that year was admitted to the bar of New York; after that I practiced law steadily for many years. I left home to marry in 1874, Ella M. Smith of Brooklyn . . . . At an early age I was interested in religion, magic, Rosicrucianism . . . . In 1874 thought of looking up spiritualism & finding Col. Olcott's book People from the Other World, I wrote him asking for the address of a medium. He replied that he did not then know but had a friend Mme Blavatsky who asked him to ask me to call. I called at 46 Irving Place, New York, & made her acquaintance.”

Read more: Judge, William Quan (1851-1896)

Coats, John Balfour Symington (1906-1979)


The sixth President of the Theosophical Society (with headquarters at Adyar), John Coats was born in Paisley, Scotland, at Sundrum Castle into a family of five brothers and a sister. He was educated at Eton College. His family sent him to France for eighteen months to learn French, after which he worked in the family needlecraft business of J. & P. Coats at their Glasgow office. 1928 he was transferred to the Vienna branch of the company, where he worked for about three years, learning German in the process. In 1931, Coats resigned his position in Vienna to begin work at the London Stock Exchange, where he met his future wife Betsan Horlick.

Read more: Coats, John Balfour Symington (1906-1979)

Jinarajadasa, Curuppumullage (1875 -1953)


The fourth president of the Theosophical Society (with headquarters at Adyar). C. Jinarajadasa was born in Sri Lanka on December 16, 1875, one month after the TS was founded. His parents and thus his rearing were Buddhist. In 1886 the Theosophical worker Charles Leadbeater visited Sri Lanka in connection with Buddhist education there and met Jinarajadasa. When Jinarajadasa was thirteen, Leadbeater took him to England, where he was first privately educated and then entered St. John’s College, Cambridge, from which he graduated in 1900, having majored in Sanskrit and philology. After graduation, Jinarajadasa returned to Sri Lanka and accepted an appointment as vice-principal of Ananda College (1900-1).

Read more: Jinarajadasa, Curuppumullage (1875 -1953)

Sinnett, Alfred Percy (1840-1921)

Recipient of letters from the Mahatmas, Vice President of the Theosophical Society in 1880-8, 1895-1907, and 1911-21. Sinnett was born on January 18, 1840, in England. He was educated at the London University School in Gower Street.

In 1859, Sinnett became assistant subeditor on the staff of the London newspaper The Globe and in 1865 editor of the Hong Kong Daily Press. In 1868, he returned to England, where he became an editorial writer for The Standard. During a short stay in the U.S. on his return trip, he visited the Mormons in Utah and had an interview with Brigham Young. Sinnett married Patience Edensor on April 6, 1870. In 1872, Sinnett became editor of The Pioneer, an Indian English language newspaper, published in Allahabad. The Sinnetts first made personal contact with the Theosophical Society when H. P. Blavatsky and Henry S. Olcott visited them at Allahabad in 1879, and both Sinnetts joined the Society shortly thereafter. As a result of their acquaintance, Sinnett published an account of HPB’s powers in The Occult World (1881), which caused a great stir for its matter-of-fact description of her phenomena.

Read more: Sinnett, Alfred Percy (1840-1921)

Purucker, Gottfried de (1874-1942)

Head of the Theosophical Society (now headquartered in Pasadena) from 1929 to 1942. Born in Suffern, New York, on January 15, 1874, Purucker was destined for the clergy by his father, an Anglican minister who in the late 1880s was chaplain of the American church in Geneva, Switzerland. There Purucker’s education stressed Latin, Hebrew, Greek, and the writings of the early Church Fathers. He enrolled in the Collège de Genève, but left school and went to America, settling in San Diego County. There he read a translation of the Upanishads and learned Sanskrit. In 1893 he joined the San Diego Lodge of the Theosophical Society (Adyar) and soon was leading a class on The Secret Doctrine.

Purucker returned to Europe for several years, in 1899-1900 working on the editorial staff of the Paris Daily Messenger. In 1903 he joined the headquarters staff of Katherine Tingley’s Theosophical Society, which she had moved from New York City to Point Loma, California, in 1900. He studied and taught at the Theosophical University, where he received a doctorate in literature and held the chair in Hebrew and Sanskrit.

Read more: Purucker, Gottfried de (1874-1942)

Leadbeater, Charles Webster (1854-1934)

An English clergyman and Theosophical author in the generation following Blavatsky. He was born at Stockport, Cheshire, on February 16, 1854. He became a priest in the Church of England in 1879, but became interested in Spiritualism and, after reading A. P. Sinnett’s Occult World, join the Theosophical Society 1883. He met Madam Blavatsky in1884 and followed her to India, where he developed his power of clairvoyance.

In much of 1886-9, Leadbeater directed educational and Theosophical work in Ceylon, where he met the thirteen-year-old C. Jinarajadasa, whom he took to England in 1889 to be educated there. He also tutored George Sydney Arundale and A. P. Sinnett’s son, Dennis. Leadbeater increased his occult investigations, which led to publication of The Astral Plane (1894), The Devachanic Plane (1895), and, in collaboration with Annie Besant, papers that resulted in Occult Chemistry (1908). In these works, Leadbeater presented clear, distinct, easily visualized word-pictures of forces, entities, and patterns of life on the inner planes. Thought Forms (1905), also in collaboration with Annie Besant, had a remarkable influence on modern art, especially through Wassily Kandinsky, by its vivid color illustrations representing the subtle energy patterns of various moods and feelings, as seen clairvoyantly. In 1899, Leadbeater published The Christian Creed, followed by Man Visible and Invisible (1902), An Outline of Theosophy (1902), and The Other Side of Death (1903).

Read more: Leadbeater, Charles Webster (1854-1934)

Besant, Annie Wood (1847-1933)

The second international president of the Theosophical Society, Adyar, and the most prominent woman orator and social reformer of her time. She was born on October 1, 1847, in London to parents of Irish extraction. Between the ages of 7 and 16, Annie was reared and educated by a family friend, Ellen Marryat.

In 1867, Besant married the Rev. Frank Besant. Their son, Arthur Digby, was born in 1869 and daughter, Mabel, in 1870. When the infant girl nearly died from whooping cough, Annie questioned why a benevolent God would allow an innocent child to suffer and underwent a crisis of faith, leading her eventually to refuse to take communion in her husband’s church. He insisted that she either resume taking communion or leave his house. She left and obtained a legal separation with custody of Mabel.

Read more: Besant, Annie Wood (1847-1933)

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