William Quan Judge and the Theosophical Society – part one
- Published: Saturday, 25 March 2017 10:18
Dara Eklund – USA
[Based on a talk given by Dara Eklund at Krotona Institute of Theosophy in April 2010.]
Annie Besant wrote the following in the October, 1922 [p. 351], issue of the Theosophist: “William Quan Judge [was] a much-loved friend and pupil of H.P.B.’s, and the channel of life to the American Branch of the T.S. A highly evolved man, with a profound realization of the deeper truths of life, he built up the Society in America from small and discouraging beginnings. No difficulties daunted him, and no apparent failures quenched his fiery devotion. . . . He was beside H.P.B. through those early days, saw the exercise of her wonderful powers, and shared in the founding of the Theosophical Society. And throughout the remainder of her life on earth, the friendship remained unbroken, and during the later years she regarded him as her one hope in America, declaring that, if the American members rejected him, she would break off all relations with them, and know them no more. . . . Spiritual and intuitional, he was also extraordinarily capable as an organizer and a leader. Then came the revelation of what was hidden under the reserved demeanor... an unquenchable energy, a profound devotion, an indomitable will. And these were held together by a single aim – the spreading of the truths of Theosophy, the building of an organization which should scatter the seeds over the land.
His real work, the spread of Theosophy in America, was splendidly performed, and his memory remains a lasting inspiration. . . . William Quan Judge must ever have his place among Theosophical Worthies.”
William Quan Judge
William Quan Judge, son of Frederick H. Judge and Alice Mary Quan, was born in Dublin, Ireland, on April 13, 1851. His mother died in giving birth to a seventh child. At the age of thirteen, Judge emigrated with his bereaved father and family to New York City, arriving via the City of Limerick steamship on July 14, 1864. Very little is known of William’s early years prior to coming to America. At age seven he survived a major illness, ordinarily fatal, which changed him entirely. Boris de Zirkoff’s biography states that the doctor pronounced him dead. Under her pen name Jasper Niemand, Julia Keightley wrote: “During convalescence the boy evinced aptitude and knowledge which he had never before displayed, exciting wonder as to when and how he had learned these things, these rudiments of art and of literature . . . and from his recovery in his eighth year we find him interested in religion, magic, Rosicrucianism, and deeply absorbed in the Book of Revelations of the Christian Bible, trying to settle its meaning. He also devoured the contents of all the books he could lay hold of relating to mesmerism, character-reading, phrenology and so on, while no one knew when he had so much as acquired the art of reading at all. The emigration to America . . . broadened his thought and experience as the era of definite work and training came on” (Irish Theosophist 4.5 [February 15, 1896]: 91). Julia Keightley also relates an incident of the boy’s will power, in spite of his frail health, when some playmates jeered at Judge because he could not swim across a stream to an island. He determined to walk across the river’s bed; when out of his depth, periodically rising for breath, he was finally drawn out half-conscious by his astonished playfellows.