William Quan Judge and The Theosophical Society – part two

Dara Eklund – USA

[Based on a talk given by Dara Eklund at Krotona Institute of Theosophy in April 2010.]

Julia Keightley (Irish Theosophist, IV: 115) wrote of that early period: “It was a position in which the young lawyer seemed quite overweighted, but he did all that he could . . . [as] a neophyte, one of a band who have taken the vow of interior poverty, and whose unseen and unrecorded work is regarded as being of far more importance than exterior, visible work.

Julia Keightley

The main current of such lives runs underground. Already H. P. Blavatsky had written and said that he had been a part of herself and of the Great Lodge ‘for æons past,’ . . . and that he was one of those tried Egos who have reincarnated several times immediately after death; assisted to do so, and without devachanic rest, in order to continue his Lodge work. It is a matter of record that, when the seven years’ probation of this life were over, the Master best known in connection with the T.S. sent to Mr. Judge, through H.P.B., His photograph, inscribed upon the back ‘to my colleague,’ with a cryptogram and signature; and, a little later, a letter of thanks and advice, delivered to Mr. Judge in Paris by H.P.B. A message sent to him through H.P.B. in writing from the Lodge at about this time ends by saying: ‘Those who do all that they can and the best they know how do enough for us’.” Judge wished to do more, despairing in his first letter to Julia of the heavy karma man has accumulated. He wrote: “That deep sigh pierces through my heart. How can the load be lifted? Am I to stand for myself, while the few strong hands of Blessed Masters and Their friends hold back the awful cloud? Such a vow I registered ages ago to help them, and I must. Would to great Karma I could do more!” Letters That  Have Helped Me, letter 1: ULT ed., 1946, p. 2;, p. 7).

Eventually, over the years, with the guidance of Judge’s keen business sense, membership grew, with branches spread across the country. Once a lady who was asked if she had received psychic teachings from Judge replied: “I will tell you the kind of psychic teaching he gave me. It was this: ‘Cast no one out of your heart’” (Irish Theosophist [June 15, 1896] 4.9:167). Through H.P.B. a letter from Master came in 1887, stating that Judge “of all chelas suffers most and asks or even expects the least” (ibid., 166). Can we not see confirmed here that those early years of desolation, in which he despaired to Damodar of not hearing from the teachers, were a period of trial, especially when H.P.B. later appointed him as her “only representative in America in virtue of his character as a chela of thirteen years standing” (Sven Eek and Boris de Zirkoff, William Quan Judge, Theosophical Pioneer [Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1969, p. 16], and footnote in the E.S.T. Circular issued in London after H.P.B.’s death).

Boris de Zirkoff

Sven Eek and Boris de Zirkoff’s biography early focuses on testimonials by H.P.B., Olcott, and Besant that acknowledge Judge as one of the original founders. Apparently there were doubts, even in those days, by prominent workers like Richard Harte, who temporarily edited the Theosophist after Blavatsky left India. On September 12, 1889, she wrote to Harte regarding the magazine’s policies: “I will not permit Judge to be lowered or humiliated in it. Judge is one of the Founders and a man who has ever been true to the Masters” (Echoes 1:xx). A month after H.P.B.’s death, Annie Besant published her May 19, 1891, statement to counter slanderous newspaper imputations, establishing the names of the three founders. It was quite natural that European and Indian members might consider “the Theosophical twins,” Olcott and Blavatsky, to be the only founders, as they were so often paired together in the work. Yet, after H.P.B.’s death, we find Olcott acknowledging his cofounder William Quan Judge in several documents inviting the vice president to meet with others about the future of the Society (Echoes 1:xix-xxi).

In March 1892, when Olcott considered resigning, Judge supported Olcott’s remaining in office even after Besant’s circular favored Judge as successor if Olcott should resign (Echoes 1:xxii). Besant wrote to the American section: “You are indeed fortunate in having W.Q.J. as Chief. Now that H.P.B. has gone, it is the Americans who have as immediate leader the ‘greatest of the exiles’ ” (Letters That Have Helped Me, p. 139). The mysterious term “exile” was applied to Judge by H.P.B. herself, possibly because he had built up the society when “exiled” in America, from small and discouraging beginnings. It also suggests his occult status in relation to the borrowed body he sometimes felt constricted him.

Boris de Zirkoff stated that Judge’s brief stay in Adyar, when the Coulomb conspiracy erupted, was shrouded in mystery. We know he gave warmly received talks in various lodges in India, and these are to be found reprinted in Echoes 2. Besant’s account says Judge took an active part in the defense of the Society while at Adyar. On his return voyage via London, the Canadian T.S. president, A. E. S. Smythe, met Judge for the first time. He recalled how children sidled up to him on the ship (Lamp, April 15, 1896, p. 136; Canadian Theosophist (April 15, 1939) 20:35; and Echoes 2:xxiv). On Judge’s return to New York in 1884, his financial prospects were much improved and he was able to devote more time to the T.S. It was a period of inner change, graphically described by Col. Olcott at the 1891 Convention of the T.S. in Europe as a “divine afflatus” (Echoes 1:xxv and Proceedings, July 1891, p. 49). It was also during this period of his most active work that Judge suggested to his cofounders that an American Section be formed. In 1886 Olcott appointed Judge as permanent General Secretary of the American Section.

The founding of the Path magazine in April, 1886, marked the beginning of Judge’s most fruitful literary production. Having established the Aryan Press, he printed (among numerous others) a widely spread tract entitled An Epitome of Theosophy, with its succinct review of the chief tenets of the Ancient Wisdom. Among the titles Judge produced during the last decade of his life were the following: In April, 1889, the Theosophical Forum appeared, edited by Alexander Fullerton, in which Judge contributed many answers to questions (Echoes 2). Also in 1889, assisted by James Henderson Connelly, Judge published his interpretation of The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, dedicated to H.P.B. and the T.S. Beginning in 1890, a newspaper series appeared in Kate Field’s Washington, with the title “Echoes from the Orient.” The title was chosen by Kate Field, who also chose the pseudonym of “Occultus” for Judge. These articles drew many to Theosophy and eventually were printed in booklet format (Echoes 3). By far the most important devotional study by Judge was printed at first serially in the Path and in 1890 in book format: his recension of The Bhagavad Gita, which is a treasure to many students of Theosophy, even though more exact translations, with commentaries, became available later. In 1891 Julia Keightley, under her pseudonym, Jasper Niemand, began her Letters That Have Helped Me series in Path magazine, which she later compiled into a book (with a second volume printed in 1905 by Thomas Green of London). An edition by the Pasadena T.S. combines both volumes and contains Judge’s valuable notes for “An Occult Novel,” plus data about his life from the Thomas Green volume.  The U.L.T. edition  contains several more selections by Judge.  In 1893, The Ocean of Theosophy was published as a basic text for beginners, which Boris de Zirkoff has described as one of the most valuable and simple presentations of Theosophy. During 1890-4, Judge published the Oriental Department Papers translated by Professor Manilal Dvivedi and Charles Johnston. Also during this period, the Department of Branch Work Papers were issued. At the same time, many articles by Judge were published in Lucifer, the Theosophist, Irish Theosophist, Pacific Theosophist, New Californian, and Vahan. He contributed to proceedings of various T.S. congresses, perhaps most importantly the 1893 World’s Fair Parliament of Religions. Those accounts of an event that drew thousands to hear William Q. Judge, Annie Besant, Claude Falls Wright, and Chakravarti are reprinted in Echoes. As General Secretary, Judge also handled an immense correspondence.

Information about Judge’s part in the formation of the Esoteric Section is in Boris de Zirkoff’s biography (pp. xxx ff.), including a facsimile of a December 1888 document appointing Judge as sole representative of the E.S. in America. In it, H.P.B. states that, “in virtue of his character as a chela of thirteen years standing,” Judge is “the sole channel through whom will be sent and received all communications between the members of said Section and myself.” When Richard Harte condescendingly remarked about the effects of pledge fever upon Judge, H.P.B. countered that Judge never needed to sign a pledge, for like Olcott, “my confidence in him is sufficient to trust him without any pledges” (p. xli). In the same year as the E.S. formation, Judge was appointed vice president of the T.S. by Col. Olcott, and officially elected in 1890. At that time, H.P.B. stated that she would give “the whole esoteric brood in the U.S.A. for one W.Q.J, who is part of herself since several aeons . . . . The day W.Q.J. resigns, H.P.B. will be virtually dead for the Americans. W.Q.J. is the Antahkarana between the two Manas[es], the American thought and the Indian—or rather the trans-Himalayan Esoteric Knowledge.” During this period, we sense the duality of the Judge persona. When a high initiate or occultist sends all or part of his consciousness to embody a neophyte messenger to perform a duty or to teach in the outer world, there can arise apparent contradictions or problems, as H.P.B. described to Judge: “The trouble with you is that you do not know the great change that came to pass in you a few years ago. Others have occasionally their astrals changed and replaced by those of Adepts . . . and they influence the outer, and the higher man. With you it is the NIRMANAKAYA not the ‘astral’ that blended with your astral. Hence the dual nature and fighting” (Echoes 1:xxxiv).  C. A. Griscom (under the pen name of G. Hijo) speaks of the struggle the real Ego had in using the Judge body: “He once spent some hours describing to my wife and me the experience the Ego had in assuming control of the instrument it was to use for so many years . . . for to Mr. Judge’s dying day, the physical tendencies and heredity of the body he used would crop up and interfere with the full expression of the inner man’s thoughts and feelings. An occasional abruptness and coldness of manner was attributable to this lack of coordination . . . and it would trouble him for fear his real friends would be deceived as to his real feelings” (quoted in Letters That Have Helped Me 2:112-3, or Theosophy Company 1946 ed., p. 287).

At the close of the 1905 edition of Letters That Have Helped Me, we find notes for “An Occult Novel” that Judge had hoped Julia Keightley would write someday (Theosophy Company 1946 ed., p. 249). She demurred, but reproduced the 1891 title page Judge intended for her to use: “In a Borrowed Body: The Journey of a Soul,” signed with her maiden name, J. Campbell Ver-Planck. Judge’s occult tale “Turn of the Wheel,” written under the pen name Bryan Kinnavan, mirrors the chief features of this novel (Echoes 1:561-4).

H.P.B. called Judge “the Resuscitator of Theosophy in the United States.” When he was under attack, she wrote: “Brother Judge . . . refuses to defend himself. . . . No man who knows himself innocent ever will. But is that a reason why we should let him go undefended?” (Preliminary Explanation E.S. Instruction No. 3, 1890). However, he also defended H.P.B. during this period. When Elliot Coues publicly accused the founders of being frauds, while at the same time attempting to usurp the American Section and declaring himself in charge of E.S. matters, Judge became counsel for Blavatsky in a law suit against the New York Sun. Although the suit was terminated by her death, the Sun printed its retraction of the Coues article. In that same issue (September 26, 1892) the editor included Judge’s article “The Esoteric She” to expose those slanders. It drew widespread interest to Theosophy, being reprinted under various titles, even as far away as Sri Lanka, where it appeared in the Buddhist (Colombo) under the title “Madame Blavatsky” in November and December, 1892 (Echoes 3: 204-12).

On H.P.B.’s death, May 8, 1891, a great cohering influence was removed from the T.S. Shock momentarily united everyone, according to Boris de Zirkoff, who added that the contest of strong wills could, however, only be delayed.  (Echoes 1: xli) In January 1892, Olcott, ailing at the time, submitted his resignation. On March 11, 1892, Besant proposed that T.S. vice president Judge become successor. Even though the European Section voted him president, Judge refrained, urging Olcott to revoke his resignation. Backed by the Indian Section and restrained from resigning his office by his Master, Olcott declared Judge, as vice president, to be his constitutional successor only after his death, and so Olcott remained president for the remainder of his life. (ibid xlii-xliii)  A bright period followed. Participation in the Parliament of Religions at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago was due to Judge’s suggestion. He and Annie Besant, as well as Chakravarti and Dharmapala, drew large crowds, at one point 4,000 persons, requiring an extra hall for Theosophy. The T.S. congress for members was held at its own venue, and branches grew in America because of enquirers who had heard Judge’s talk “Theosophy Generally Stated” (Echoes 2:135-9).

Despite the elation of all those events, a dark shadow pursued Judge’s last years and affected the Theosophical Society as well. It was to become known as “The Judge Case” (involving charges that he falsely claimed contact with the Masters). Sven Eek and Boris de Zirkoff’s biography of Judge provides three main sources on the Judge case trials, as well as facsimiles and transcriptions of two letters from the Masters received by Judge (Echoes 1:liv-lvi). However,  there are fine Theosophists in all organizations which formed following  the split after the Judge case, who have been fair to W.Q. Judge.   Nor do I believe that  most of those involved in accusing Judge of falsely claiming contact with the Masters were acting out of conspiratorial motives. The Judge case charges were eventually dismissed with Olcott’s historically important statement as to the neutrality of the T.S. in matters of belief in the Masters. At the time of those accusations, The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett had not yet been printed. Had they been published at the time (instead of in 1923), they might have prevented such recriminations. We learn from them (specifically letters 74 and 75 of the chronological edition of Vic Hao Chin and from The Mahatmas and Their Letters, by Geoffrey Barborka) that often a chela will transmit his teacher’s message in his own particular handwriting. On July 12, 1894, Annie Besant at the European Convention read a statement supporting Judge as receiving some messages for other people from Masters, but not via direct precipitation. Judge’s own quiet defense was that he had a right to declare his belief in the existence of Masters, and this was the conclusion by Olcott in dismissing the charges. However, the Judge Case proceedings were unfortunately reprinted in the Westminster Gazette, and after further denunciations at the Adyar convention of 1894, the American Section at its Boston convention in 1895 voted to become an independent body as “The Theosophical Society in America” under the presidency of Judge. Two years prior Olcott had written to Judge: “If you want separate Theosophical Societies made out of Sections, have them by all means. I offered this years ago to H.P.B., and even to A.P.S.” (Report of the American Convention 1895, p. 23).

W.Q. Judge

His health being poor because of a fever he had contacted years earlier in South America, as well as the onset of tuberculosis, Judge was barely able to speak above a whisper at the Boston convention. Katherine Tingley, a former Civil War nurse, rented a house in Mineral Wells, Texas, where she nursed him and became his amanuensis. After the convention, Judge had traveled south to ease his conditions; but being weaker, despite the warmer climate, he returned to New York, while dictating letters and notes for future work. Boris de Zirkoff concludes his biography with a description of W.Q.J.’s death on March 21, 1896. Some of his last words were “There should be calmness. Hold fast. Go slow.” On a blank page of The Ocean of Theosophy, several witnesses saw his astral hand writing the following: “There is no room for sorrow in the heart of him who knows and realizes the Unity of all spiritual beings. While people, monuments and governments disappear—the self remains and returns again. The wise are not disturbed; they remain silent; they depend on the Self and seek their refuge in it” (Echoes 3:223).

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