W.Q. Judge: A Borrowed Body

Nicholas Weeks – USA

William Q. Judge and Henry Olcott in 1891

William Quan Judge (1851-96) was a loyal disciple of HP Blavatsky and strong worker for Theosophy.  His life and work are best known in the United States, where he was responsible for giving Theosophy a firm footing.

His occult life was deep, for he rarely spoke of it. Perhaps the most amazing part of his life was his birth.  It was highly unusual. But I will let friends of his, Cyrus Willard and Claude Wright, add to Judge's own telling of the “borrowed body.”       

I can tell, now, what I know, and saw with my own eyes, about this “borrowed body” and which was also seen and verified by at least ten other persons, who openly so stated at a meeting held in the headquarters of the Boston Branch, shortly after Judge’s death in 1896. And I think Brother Smythe [editor of The Canadian Theosophist] can vouch for my reputation for veracity.  It was at the Boston convention of 1891, where I served on a committee with Annie Besant, on her first visit to America, and was predisposed in her favor by her work for the Bryant & May match-girls.  Word was sent to all members of the E.S.T. which I had joined under H.P.B. in 1889, to be present at an E.S. meeting in the large double parlors of the Parker House. When I got in, it was early and from newspaper habit I walked down to the front row of seats and sat less than 10 feet away from Judge and Annie.  As she has seen fit to publish the E.S. instructions, it will not therefore be without justification that I relate what occurred, in order to give Judge his due.

The room soon filled up with about 200 persons, and I noticed leaning up against the pedestal behind which Judge stood as presiding officer, so all could see and exposed for the first time, pictures of the two Masters, blessed be Their name, for the knowledge they have given us. As he started to call the meeting to order, he leaned toward her, who stood on his right hand, and I heard him say to her in a low voice, “Sound the Word with the triple intonation.”  She replied in the same low voice, “I don’t dare to”...  I heard him say in a firm tone, “Then I will.” He had been twirling his gavel in his hand but laid it down, stepped to his right, pushing her aside, and stepped to the side of the pedestal, facing his audience, with her behind him, and said:

“I am about to sound the Word with the triple intonation, but before I do so, I have a statement to make which I do not care to have you speak to me about later, nor do I wish you to discuss among yourselves. I am not what I seem; I am a Hindu.” 

Then he sounded the Word with the triple intonation. Before my eyes, I saw the man’s face turn brown and a clean-shaven Hindu face of a young man was there, and you know [Judge] wore a beard.  I am no psychic nor have ever pretended to be one or to “see things,” as I joined the T.S. to form a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood. This change was not one seen by me only, and we did not discuss the import of his significant statement, until after his death when a meeting was held in the Boston headquarters to determine our future action. Then I mentioned it in a speech and his statement, and fully ten persons from different parts of the hall spoke up and said, “I saw it too.” “I saw and heard what he said,” etc. That would seem proof enough about the borrowed body. I knew Judge intimately, as he was a Mason and so was I. But I never saw anything like that before, or afterwards...  Cyrus Field Willard [Canadian Theosophist May 1932]


I [Judge] must tell you [Arch & Julia Keightley] first what happened to me in this present life, since it is in this one that I am relating to you about many other lives of mine.
I was a simple student of our high Philosophy for many lives on earth, in various countries, and then at last developed in myself a desire for action. So I died once more, as so often before, and was again reborn in the family of a Rajah, and in time came to sit on his throne after his death.

Two years after that sad event, an old wandering Brahmin came to me and asked if I was ready to follow my vows of long lives before, and go to do some work for my old Master in a foreign land. Thinking this meant a journey, only, I said I was.

“Yes,” said he, “but it is not only a journey. It will cause you to be here and there all days and years. Today here, tonight there.”

“Well,” I replied, “I will do even that, for my vows had no conditions and Master orders.”...
He went away with no other word, as you know they so often do, leaving me in my palace. I fell asleep in the heat, with only faithful Gopal beside me. I dreamed and thought I was at the bedside of a mere child, a boy, in a foreign land unfamiliar to me, only that the people looked like what I knew of the Europeans. The boy was lying as if dying, and relatives were all about the bed.

A strange and irresistible feeling drew me nearer to the child... the boy looked to me, dreaming so vividly, as if dead. The people were weeping, and his mother knelt by the bedside. The doctor laid his head on the child’s breast a moment. As for myself, I was drawn again nearer to the body and thought surely the people were strange not to notice me at all. They acted as if no stranger were there, and I looked at my clothes and saw they were eastern and bizarre to them. A magnetic line seemed to pull me to the form of the child.

And now beside me I saw the old Brahmin standing. He smiled.
“This is the child,” he said, “and here must you fulfill a part of your vows. Quick now! There is no time to lose, the child is almost dead. These people think him already a corpse. You see the doctor has told them the fatal words, ‘he is dead!'"

Yes, they were weeping. But the old Brahmin put his hands on my head, and submitting to his touch, I felt myself in my dream falling asleep. A dream in a dream. But I woke in my dream, though not on my mat, with Gopal near me. I was that boy, I thought. I looked out through his eyes, and near me I heard as if his soul had slipped off to the ether with a sigh of relief. The doctor turned once more and I opened my eyes—his eyes—on him.

The physician started and turned pale. To another I heard him whisper “automatic nerve action.” He drew near, and the intelligence in that eye startled him to paleness. He did not see the old Brahmin making passes over this body I was in and from which I felt great waves of heat and life rolling over me—or the boy...      And then I feebly smiled, whereon the doctor said:

“Most marvellous. He has revived. He may live.”

He was feeling the slow-moving pulse and noting that breathing began and that vitality seemed once more to return to the child, but he did not see the old Brahmin in his illusionary body sending air currents of life over the body of this boy, who dreamed he had been a Rajah with a faithful servant named Gopal. Then, in the dream, sleep seemed to fall upon me. A sensation of falling, falling, came to my brain, and with a start I awoke in my palace on my own mat. Turning to see if my servant was there, I saw him standing as if full of sorrow or fear for me.

“Gopal, how long have I slept again?”

“It is just morning, master, and I feared you had gone to Yama’s dominions and left your own Gopal behind.”

No, I was not sleeping. This was reality, these my own dominions. So this day passed as all days had, except that the dream of the small boy in a foreign land came to my mind all day until the night when I felt more drowsy than usual. Once more I slept and dreamed.

The same place and the same house, only now it was morning there. What a strange dream I thought I had had; as the doctor came in with my mother and bent over me, I heard him say softly:

“Yes, he will recover. The night sleep has done good. Take him, when he can go, to the country, where he may see and walk on the grass.”

As he spoke I saw behind him the form of a foreign-looking man with a turban on. He looked like the pictures of Brahmins I saw in the books before I fell sick. Then I grew very vague and told my mother: “I had two dreams for two nights, the same in each. I dreamed I was a king and had one faithful servant for whom I was sorry, as I liked him very much, and it was only a dream, and both were gone.”  My mother soothed me, and said: “Yes, yes, my dear.”...

I knew those dreams about a sick foreign boy were not mere dreams, but that they were recollections, and I condemned each night to animate that small child just risen from the grave, as his relations thought. But I knew that his mind for many years would not know itself, and would ever feel strange in its surroundings, for, indeed, that boy would be myself—inside—and he— without—his friends not seeing that he had fled away and another taken his place. Each night I, as sleeping Rajah, who had listened to the words of sages, would be an ignorant foreign boy, until, through lapse of years and effort unremittingly continued, I learned how to live two lives at once...  After I should become accustomed to this double life, perhaps my foreign mind and habits would so dominate the body of the boy, that existence there would grow full of pain from the struggle with an environment wholly at war with the thinker within.

But a vow once made is to be fulfilled, and Father Time eats up all things and ever the centuries. [Letters That Have Helped Me pp. 256-9, United Lodge, ULT edition.]

Mr. Judge has lived hundreds of lives. So have all men, but very few have any recollection of them. Mr. Judge’s existence has been a conscious one for ages, whether alive or “dead,” sleeping or waking, embodied or disembodied. In the early part of his last life I do not think he was completely conscious twenty-four hours a day, but several years ago he arrived at the stage where he never afterwards lost his consciousness for a moment. Sleep with him merely meant to float out of his body in full possession of all his faculties, and that was also the manner in which he “died”—left his body for good. In other bodies, and known under other names, he has played an important part in the world’s history, sometimes as a conspicuous visible figure. At other times, he worked quietly behind the scenes, or, as in his last life, as a leader in a philanthropical and philosophical movement.  Claude Falls Wright [Letters That Have Helped Me 297]

[Compiled & edited by Nicholas Weeks]

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