Notable Books 7

Edited by Bib Leo Phyle – Planet Earth

Judge, William Quan. Echoes of the Orient. 4 volumes. 2nd ed. Compiled by Dara Eklund. Pasadena: Theosophical University Press, 2009-11. Vols. 1-3 cloth, $35.00 each; vol. 4 (index) paper, $12.00.

Reviewed by John Algeo

William Quan Judge (1851-96) was one of the founding members of the Theosophical Society and its American leader after Blavatsky and Olcott left for India. During his relatively short life, he produced an impressive body of writings on Theosophy, which have been collected and indexed by one of our leading Theosophical authorities, Dara Eklund, now in a second and revised edition.


Volume 1 contains nearly 170 articles from the periodical the Path, which Judge founded and edited, and the ghostly stories of the “Occult Tales.” Volume 2 includes contributions to the Irish Theosophist, Lucifer, Theosophist, Path, Vahan, and Theosophical Forum. Volume 3 contains the booklet Echoes from the Orient (which provides the slightly divergent title for this multi-volume compilation), various tracts and pamphlets, other journal articles, some miscellaneous pieces, and Judge’s writings for a correspondence group of the Eastern School of Theosophy (or Esoteric Section). Each of these volumes has its separate bibliography, index, and a selection of relevant illustrations. Volume 4 consists of a cumulative subject index and another index of article titles.

For his articles in the Path, Judge used a variety of noms de plume. Early examples include Hadji-Erinn, Nilakant, American Mystic, Moulvie, Pythagoras, Albertus, Ramatirtha, Eusibio Urban, A Buddhist, Rodriguez Undiano, and Dies Non. The motive for such disguises may have been the same as that of others who have had recourse to the same technique, namely, a simple wish to avoid the appearance of dominating the publication with a single name—his own. But Judge did it with extraordinary frequency, variety, and a special skill, in that his writings under various names often reflect different characters and personalities behind the pseudonymous authorial identifications.

Some of Judge’s articles are now primarily of historical interest, but a fair number are timeless in their value. For example, the 1890 article “Theosophy and the Theosophical Society” (1:179-83) is a statement of the nature of its two subjects that is as fresh and relevant today as it ever was; it is a first-rate statement of the nature of Theosophy and the purpose of the Society. Judge wrote an explication that still serves excellently as an introduction or summary of the basic ideas and of what the organization is intended for.

Another notable, but technical, article of interest to serious Theosophical students, is “The Earth Chain of Globes” (1:323-32), which clarifies the nature of the “globes” as representations of other states of consciousness expressed through variant forms of matter, but coexisting with the space of our physical Earth planet. Too often, metaphorical descriptions and diagrams of the “globes” of our “chain” have all been taken literally, whereas Judge clearly sets forth the ideas underlying those metaphors. On the other hand, an article with interestingly contemporary social relevance is the 1893 “Regarding Islamism” (1:372-5).

All three volumes contain first-rate expositions of Theosophical subjects, only a few of which can be mentioned here. One of those is the 1883 “The Adepts in America in 1776” (2:76-80), which is notable, not only for what it says about the occult aspect of the founding of the American republic, but also for its present-day relevance in exploding the myth that the United State was founded as a Christian nation. The national founders were largely deists; that is, they held that natural religion (as opposed to dogmatic “revelation”) is concerned with moral action rather than beliefs and that the intelligence that produced the universe was not a personal god who monkeys with his creation and interferes with the laws of nature.

Judge was an important figure at the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. One of his major addresses there was published in Lucifer as “Theosophy Generally Stated” (2:135-9). That lecture is a splendid, comprehensive but succinct, presentation of its subject. As Annie Besant once observed, Blavatsky was the theoretician of Theosophy and Olcott was the organizer of the Society (but also related Theosophy to religions such as Buddhism and Zoroastrianism). Judge, the third member of that Theosophical trinity, was the great explicator. As Dara Eklund (2:243) observes, Judge was noted for his “valuable everyday-life approach” to the teachings. Whereas Blavatsky is often dense, allusive, and complex, Judge is clear, explicit, and straightforward. A worthy conclusion to the second volume (2:469-519) is Judge’s 1893-4 series of sketches in the Path, “Faces of Friends,” presenting short biographical accounts of early workers in the Society, illustrated with their portraits.

The third volume in this collection continues to illustrate the wide range and high quality of Judge’s contributions to Theosophical literature. Although it is tempting to comment on many of the pieces in this volume, especially noteworthy (particularly for the serious student) is section V on “Eastern School of Theosophy: Suggestions and Aids” (3:271-466). As the American head of the Esoteric Section of the Society (rechristened the Eastern School), Judge helped its members to understand and apply Blavatsky’s prose, which was profound but often puzzling to her students. His explanations throw light on many an obscure point. Any present-day student who wants to delve into H.P.B.’s “Esoteric Instructions” (in volume 12 of her Collected Writings) would be well advised to do so with Judge’s parallel writings at hand.

In sum, then, this revised second edition of Echoes of the Orient, the writings of William Quan Judge, prepared by Dara Eklund, deserves an honored place on the bookshelves of every Theosophist. It is a major contribution to classical Theosophical literature.



Ajahn Sumano Bhikkhu. The Brightened Mind: A Simple Guide to Buddhist Meditation. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 2011. $9.95.

 

If meditation is, as the Zen koan suggests, the sound of one hand clapping—that is, complete silence—why are so many words written about it?

The book under review is a short (103), generously spaced text on the subject with three additional pages about its interesting author. The subjects covered include “The Two Levels of Consciousness” (the ordinary one and another, extraordinary one), “The Universal Mind” (which is, after all, our mind as well), “Mind-Training Exercises” (practical techniques for getting ahold of yourself—your real self, that is), and “Contemplations for the Reader” (with a meditation on loving-kindness, inspirational reflections on being, and an affirmation of spiritual friendship).

The auctorial note at the end of the little book reveals Ajahn Sumano (“bhikkhu” is a Pali word for a Buddhist monk) as a Chicagoan who lived a busy secular life of the “normal” sort through his twenties. After that, he underwent a spiritual revolution and ended up as a Buddhist monk in Thailand. Despite having given up “the world,” he is by no means anti-technological. You can find out more about him and his work on his Web site, http://www.next-life.com/.


Toussulis, Yannis. Sufism and the Way of Blame: Hidden Sources of Sacred Psychology. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 2011. Pp. xxii + 282. $18.95

Sufism is a mystical tradition within Islam. Malamatiyya (“the Way of Blame”) is a lesser-known variety of Sufi practice that emphasizes the need for self-observation/criticism to understand one’s own motivations. The first eight chapters of this book emphasize the historical development and identity of Sufism generally and Malamatiyya in particular. Chapters nine and ten focus on the spiritual practice of Malamatiyya, and an epilogue anticipates the future of the school. The style of the prose is detailed and dense.

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