Justice to William Quan Judge

Jan Nicolaas Kind – Brazil

It is about time that justice be done to one of the three main Founders of the Theosophical Society. William Q. Judge was a fine man, a great Theosophist, but also a human being. Like all of us, he had shortcomings, but so had his contemporaries. To judge Judge, to do him justice in any way, or to look at events that took place more than one hundred-and-fifteen years ago, it needs to be done cautiously.

This is the task of Theosophical historians and qualified specialists who are able to do so impartially. Ideally, members of this team, meeting the qualifications, should come from the various Theosophical organizations. A great exercise in Brotherhood indeed.


William Quan Judge

Much to my regret, in spite of otherwise admirable requests addressed to the International President of the Adyar TS to make the Adyar Archives accessible so that "Annie Besant’s Case Against Judge" may be properly examined, due to the unhelpful approach of one of the initiators of these requests, these attempts at archival accessibility could turn into a disappointing campaign. In an open letter to the International President, while attempting to build a case, aspersions were cast on  the communications, motives, and integrity of those who, during the 2008 Presidential election, questioned the advisability of said President running in that election. If one reads the related letter and some reactions on the Internet, it becomes clear that this approach is about reviving well-known and destructive sentiments. We hear stories of the “good” and “bad” guys, those who falsify and slander, and those who defend the noble “truth”. The conspiracies and coup d’états abound; Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster are riding in the distance again, it’s the O.K. Corral revisited. 

This is not doing Judge any justice. Such attitudes and actions are at their core non-Theosophical; they will not lead to anything constructive, but only to further polarization, thus creating stagnation. If indeed one crucial document, allegedly kept at Adyar, which was denied public scrutiny, could shed new light on the Judge case, it ought to be made available to serious inquirers. Furthermore, in order to reach a thorough, unbiased and productive reassessment of the case, not only the Adyar Archives ought to be accessible, but also all other Theosophical archives around the world containing related documents.

The Adyar Archives.

There is another aspect to consider. The author of this article was Officer in Charge of the Adyar Archives for a year from 2001 – 2002. From my personal observation, the Adyar Archives at that time were in a worrisome state. None of my recommendations for crucial upgrading were accepted. The problems revolved, and continue to revolve, around environment control and document preservation, but there is so much more that needs to de done without delay. It is an unpopular subject that hardly anyone dares to touch.

Ten years have passed since my tenure at Adyar, and although some work on computerizing its catalogue and scanning of documents was initiated, no major steps have been taken to preserve the documents since then in spite of the fact that many know of the dire conditions. If one were to wait a few more years, it could very well be that all the relevant Judge documents, for example, will have evaporated; destruction is at hand. A fully independent investigation conducted by professional non-attached archivists and document preservationists from India is needed to determine what should be done technically in order to save our Theosophical heritage from disappearing permanently. Although the Indian climate, particularly in the Chennai region, is extremely archives unfriendly, India has well-utilized and -organized archives all over the country, so local know-how is present.

Writing to the International President about the Judge case is one thing, but many other letters should reach her as well, urging her, as custodian of the Adyar Archives, to take immediate and transparent measures to improve their condition, or even better, to offer help to the Adyar Archives in any thinkable manner.

Back to Judge.

As Editor of Theosophy Forward, supported by a team of hard-working volunteers, I have tried to honor William Quan Judge in this and other articles. They might not have solved the Judge case, because one cannot rewrite the past, but we all can write a new present and aim at the future in order to do justice to this great soul. 

Yes, it’s time to do Judge justice, so let’s study his invaluable writings and discover that there is an Ocean of Theosophy out there. . .


Links to relevant articles from past issues of Theosophy Forward:



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