H. P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement — Charles J. Ryan

Chapter 22


For many years W. Q. Judge's outstanding position as a theosophical leader had been widely recognized. The respect and confidence placed in him by the general membership of the Society was strongly demonstrated when the opportunity arose in 1892. Early in that year Colonel Olcott announced that he wished to resign the presidential office, giving as a reason that his health was failing. He indicated that he would be glad to devote his declining years to literary work for theosophy.

When the American Section met for its annual convention in April 1892, the members accepted, with sincere regret, Olcott's supposedly final resignation. At that time the election of a new president had to be conducted by each of the sections independently voting as a unit. The American Section, the first to vote, unanimously elected W. Q. Judge president of the Theosophical Society. This decision was, however, accompanied by the unanimous resolution, strongly supported by Judge, that Olcott should reconsider the situation and retain his office. A resolution was also passed urging the European Convention, which was to meet later, to associate itself with the Americans in requesting Olcott to remain president. As only three sections of the Society were then in existence, a majority in favor of this request would be assured if the Europeans accepted the American suggestion, however the Indian Section might vote. Judge cabled to Olcott the substance of the resolutions, and received an immediate reply saying that Olcott would "do anything that was just and fair," but must wait for further information by mail.

When, however, the European Section met in July 1892, many months after Olcott's announcement, the European members understood that his decision to resign was final, and they also elected W. Q. Judge president by unanimous vote. But, according to Colonel Olcott, this was done under a misunderstanding of the exact meaning of his words, and the outcome of this singular affair was that he withdrew his resignation and remained in office, saying that his health had greatly improved since his first statement. The Indian members were not, therefore, called on to vote, but it was understood that they would have chosen Judge if Olcott's resignation had been final. In officially announcing his willingness to remain president, he said:

I declare William Q. Judge, Vice-President, my constitutional successor, and eligible for duty as such upon his relinquishment of any other office in the Society which he may hold at the time of my death. — Theos., XIII, Suppl. xci, Sept. 1892

William Q. Judge, then, was recognized by the Society as a man worthy of its trust and of being its representative before the world; but his heart was not attracted by titles or personal prominence, and he was not willing to take the presidency so long as Olcott was able to perform the official duties. He had, however, the courage to take office when he was convinced that the welfare of the Society demanded the sacrifice. Writing to Dr. Franz Hartmann in May 1892, when the presidential succession was still unsettled, he says:

Thanks for your congratulatory letter. But — I am not yet Prest. of the T.S. . . .

For myself I would never wish this office as it is very troublesome and thankless, but H.P.B. — in whom I never lost faith — asked me to take it if O. went out or died. — Forum, IV, 132, Jan. 1933

Yet, about two years later, Judge was charged with using illegitimate means to satisfy the ambition to be president. His conduct under various circumstances, and his known character and the quality of his writings, show the absurdity of this charge. When the presidential office was actually within his grasp in 1892 he used his powerful influence with the American members to induce Olcott to withdraw his resignation. Judge's lack of personal ambition was on a par with that of H.P.B. Her attitude and that of all true spiritual leaders is shown by some interesting remarks which occur in a letter written by Judge to Olcott, dated Paris, April 30, 1884, when Judge was helping H.P.B. with The Secret Doctrine. He says there is a possibility of getting

a magnificent coadjutor, if not a successor to H.P.B. and one who has trained scientific methods of literary work, as well as psychical abilities of the kind that make H.P.B. so remarkable.

He thinks the Masters would let H. P. Blavatsky have her desire and 'vanish' if the person mentioned (Mrs. L. C. Holloway) would do, and says that while someone was extolling that lady:

H.P.B. leaned back and said, "O my God, if I shall only find in her A SUCCESSOR, how gladly I will PEG OUT!" — Theos., LIII, 202, Nov. 1931

Mrs. Holloway was found not properly qualified for the position, however, for reasons which are given in the Mahatma Letters, pages 360, 368, etc., and H.P.B. had to suffer for six years before she was allowed to "peg out." Judge did not regard himself as a possible candidate, but the time came when conditions proved that he was the best fitted for leadership.

Although Olcott did not give up the duties of president in 1892, he found time for writing, and began to publish in The Theosophist his Old Diary Leaves, a lively, often gossipy, and semi-autobiographical narrative, chiefly notable for his picture of H. P. Blavatsky as he saw her, especially during the early days in New York when he and W. Q. Judge were in constant touch with her. Possibly from occasional lapses of memory or for other reasons, some positive errors are to be found, especially in the later volumes. His treatment of the other two cofounders of the T.S., H.P.B. and Judge, is not free from distortion in places, and a biased judgment is only too plain at times when he deals with occasions during which he was under severe emotional strain. It would be a serious mistake to rely upon his ill-advised comments in regard to the controversy that arose a few years after the passing of H. P. Blavatsky, the so-called Judge Case, and his attitude toward his Teacher's determined efforts to establish the foundation of the future school of the Mysteries is on the whole regrettable. As a successful man of affairs he gave all he had to the work, but he lacked the intuitive understanding of the esoteric and spiritual basis which makes it unique — yet his honesty and kindness of heart are undeniable, and he abandoned a promising world career to follow the call of the Masters. A comparison of his writings with those of W. Q. Judge shows why he could not penetrate deeply behind the sometimes uncouth personality which concealed the mystery of "H.P.B." When he published his first series of Old Diary Leaves in 1895 in book form he announced that it was intended "to prevent the creation of a Blavatsky sect," a notion that was taken advantage of by those who wished to minimize the esoteric trend of her work. These persons tried to turn the attention of the members toward certain Oriental teachings and practices at variance with the occult discipline.

Notwithstanding undercurrents of unrest, for more than two years after H.P.B. passed away the movement made great progress, especially in America and Europe, and the boast of its enemies that the Society would disappear with its founder proved vain. In 1893 an opportunity arose to take part in the Parliament of Religions held during the Chicago World's Fair. Distinguished representatives of Oriental religions were chosen from the ranks of the Theosophical Society, whose varied types well expressed its breadth of view and inclusive nature. Hewavitarna Dharmapala, the famous resuscitator and teacher of Buddhism in Asia, came from Ceylon; and Professor G. N. Chakravarti, mentioned above in connection with the failure to defend H.P.B. in the Coulomb crisis, represented Brahmanism, bringing credentials from three Brahmanical Sabhas. W. Q. Judge organized the theosophical meetings and was one of the chief speakers for theosophy. He attracted great attention by his clear and logical presentation of its main principles. Annie Besant aroused much enthusiasm by her brilliant eloquence. The three days' sessions were attended by such large audiences that overflow meetings had to be arranged. Following this success the movement received a great impetus in America. The official report of the theosophical proceedings alone fills a book of 195 pages.

Annie Besant was strongly impressed by the personality of the Brahmanical representative, G. N. Chakravarti, and for many years her opinions were colored by his point of view. W. Q. Judge watched his growing ascendancy over her mind with anxiety, feeling that it was not in harmony with H. P. Blavatsky's intense disapproval of the methods of what she called "religions of pomp and gold." He became more uneasy when, on Mrs. Besant's return to England with the party that included Mr. Chakravarti, she prepared to go to India on a long lecture-tour, and he warned her that it was not a propitious time to go. Before leaving, she spent a short time in London during which she saw a good deal of the Brahman, who left for India shortly before she and the Countess Wachtmeister started for the Orient. A vivid light is thrown upon this very critical time in the history of the T.S. by Dr. Archibald Keightley, a most reliable student under H.P.B. The following passage occurs in a long protest he made in defense of Mr. Judge during the crisis of 1895. After giving instances of Chakravarti's ability to throw a glamor over individuals or groups, he wrote:

I lived at Headquarters [London] during Mr. Chakravarti's visit there and knew from Mrs. Besant, from him and from personal observation, of his frequent magnetisation of Mrs. Besant. He said that he did it to, "coordinate her bodies for work to be done." To a physician and a student of occultism, the magnetisation of a woman advanced to the critical age of mid-life, a vegetarian, an ascetic, by a man, a meat-eater, one of full habit, large appetite and of another and dark race, is not wise. The latter magnetism will assuredly overcome the former, however excellent the intentions of both persons. And I soon saw the mental effect of this in Mrs. Besant's entire change of view, in other matters besides those of H.P.B. and Mr. Judge. — The Path, X, 99-100, June 1895

Only a few months before Mrs. Besant went to the Chicago Parliament of Religions, in August 1893, with a party which included G. N. Chakravarti and H. Dharmapala, she made a solemn statement in the editorial pages of Lucifer about Mr. Judge, saying:

I want to place on record here my testimony to the splendid work done in America by the Vice-President of our Society, the General Secretary of the Section, WILLIAM Q. JUDGE. H.P.B. knew well what she was doing when she chose that strong quiet man to be her second self in America, to inspire all the workers there with the spirit of his intense devotion and unconquerable courage. In him is the rare conjunction of the business qualities of the skilful organizer, and the mystical insight of the Occultist — a combination, I often think, painful enough to its possessor with the shock of the two currents tossing the physical life into turbulence, but priceless in its utility to the movement. . . . he is its life and heart in the region where lie hidden the real sources of its energy. . . . our Brother's unshakable faith in the MASTERS and in Their care for the movement is a constant encouragement and inspiration to all who work with him. — Lucifer, XII, 89-90, April 1893

In a few months her attitude began to change, and within two years she was demanding W. Q. Judge's expulsion from the Society on the grounds of questionable character.

It has been shown, in regard to Subba Row and other excellent theosophists who recognized H.P.B.'s occult relationship with the Masters, that their proud Brahmanical aversion against the release of an atom of their guarded secret knowledge to the "outcastes" was almost insurmountable. Only with the greatest reluctance did Subba Row consent to teach Hume and Sinnett some quite elementary philosophical points, although requested to by his Master. H.P.B. herself writes that much was given her for The Secret Doctrine which she never imagined would be allowed to pass the threshold of the Mystery schools. How greatly surprised and disturbed must some of the rigidly orthodox Brahmans of the temples have been. It would have indeed been strange if some of them had not tried to check the Theosophical Society or to capture it and divert its teachings, if they could not entirely suppress them.

Under the conditions described, it is not surprising that after the brilliant public success at Chicago, faint rumblings were heard of the most serious attempt since the Coulomb attack to weaken, if not to destroy the Society. It is now clear that the outward evidences of friction were only the effects of the clash of inner and very intense forces of which the general membership knew little or nothing. Even some of the most prominent members, Olcott not excepted, were confused as to the real issues and influences at work.

When Olcott wrote bitterly about the danger of creating "a Blavatsky sect" it was a sign that he had lost sight of her true position as the messenger of the Masters, and of her occult authority. Evidently her work was in danger of being undermined by subtle means. Vague charges of "dogmatism" and "worship" of H. P. Blavatsky were brought against unnamed persons by Colonel Olcott himself, as in the Foreword to his Old Diary Leaves, which was widely read. The following short extract from much more of a similar deplorable kind displays Olcott's disturbed condition:

The controlling impulse to prepare these papers was a desire to combat a growing tendency within the Society to deify Mme. Blavatsky, and to give her commonest literary productions a quasi-inspirational character. Her transparent faults were being blindly ignored, and the pinchbeck screen of pretended authority drawn between her actions and legitimate criticism. — O. D. L., I, v

At the American Convention in 1892 when the president's resignation was being discussed, W. Q. Judge had brought forward a resolution which made plain the true position of the T.S. in regard to "authority," a position which still stands and will stand so long as the Society holds to H. P. Blavatsky's cherished "original programme." It runs:

Whereas, It is frequently asserted by those ignorant of the facts of the case and of the literature of the Society, that the T.S. or its leaders seek to enforce certain beliefs or interpretations upon its members, or to establish a credal interpretation of any of its philosophical propositions; therefore

Resolved, That the T S., as such, has no creed, no formulated beliefs that could or should be enforced on any one inside or outside its ranks; that no doctrine can be declared as orthodox, and that no Theosophical Popery can exist without annulling the very basis of ethics and the foundations of truth upon which the whole Theosophical teachings rest; and in support of this resolution appeal is made to the entire literature of the Society, and the oft-repeated statements published wide-spread by H.P.B., Col. Olcott, Mr. Judge, and every other prominent writer and speaker upon the subject since the foundation of the Theosophical Society. — Report of 6th Convention, American Section, April 1892, 23-4

Much foolish misapprehension has arisen on the subject of 'popery' in the Theosophical Society. Popery is not a synonym of leadership. It is properly used, as Judge uses it above, to express a tyranny of thought or opinion, the domination of some person, or some council claiming to speak with divine authority in regard to matters of faith and morals, and demanding obedience to such dogmas on pain of expulsion or worse. Such a mental tyranny is abhorrent to the first principles of theosophy. But leadership is entirely different. H.P.B. never dreamed of exercising a censorship or dictatorship of thought over her followers, but when the interests of her work were at stake she rightly took over the direction of the policy of the British and European sections as already described. She even threatened to leave the Society and start a new one! Since her time, changes have been made in the Constitution of the T.S., but the original principle of freedom of thought and expression remains unchanged.

In 1893, controversial articles began to appear in certain theosophical magazines, and it soon became clear that there was danger of serious disagreement. In this brief sketch it is not possible to enter into the complications which led to is not possible the disruption of the Society, but a hint has been given on a previous page as to one of the chief disintegrating influences.

In future, when all who took part in the struggle have passed away, the theosophical historian may feel called upon to publish a full account of the so-called Judge Case. There is plenty of documentary evidence, some not yet published; but earnest students surely would prefer that these "old, unhappy, far-off things" should be treated very briefly here, for the vital importance of W. Q. Judge's contribution to the success of the theosophical movement is now admitted by all well-informed theosophists.

On February 7, 1894, Olcott wrote Judge that charges were being circulated on his "alleged misuse" of "the Mahatmas' names and handwriting" and asked whether he would immediately retire from all his offices in the Society in view of these charges, leaving the president to make "a merely general public explanation"; or would he defend himself before a judicial Committee. Judge must have been astonished at the apparent implication that he had no defense, for on March 10, 1894, he cabled in reply: "Charge absolutely false. You can take what proceedings you see fit; going London July."

On March 20, 1894, the president sent Judge a copy of "certain charges" and said that he would be "entitled to enjoy the full opportunity to disprove the charges brought against you." (Italics added.) Dispassionate observers have remarked that in American and English law the accused person is not expected to disprove his guilt, but the prosecution has first to show that there is a prima facie case against him and then to prove it if possible. Olcott was a good lawyer, but he lays himself open to criticism in his approach to this case.

The eighth annual American Convention, San Francisco, April 1894, representing sixty-one active lodges, unanimously declared its confidence in the integrity and good faith of W. Q. Judge; and that the action of the president was uncalled for, and unconstitutional because it violated the neutrality of the Society in matters of belief. But this declaration was not accepted by the president and the proceedings continued. The Judicial Committee was appointed and met in London on July 10, 1894, W. Q. Judge being present and, as Colonel Olcott said, ready "to have the charges investigated and decided on their merits by any competent tribunal." But the tribunal must be competent.

The charges which had been brought by Annie Besant against Judge — grossly exaggerated by the enemies of the movement, and by sensational journalists, as she said — were concerned with very difficult problems in occultism which few theosophists even were qualified to decide; but it would be unfair to imagine that W.Q.J. wished or tried to evade a legitimate examination into the case. He claimed to have a complete answer to every point. He said:

there will never be any objection from me to a proper investigation by a body of persons who know enough of Occultism as well as of Theosophy to understandingly inquire into these matters. — Report of 8th Convention, American Section, April 1894, 41

He strenuously objected to what is called "trial by newspaper" which so frequently entails a miscarriage of justice. In the course of his address to the convention he also declared that under the circumstances:

The form which the whole matter has taken now compels me to say . . . that not only have I received direct communications from Masters during and since the life of H. P. Blavatsky, but that I have on certain occasions repeated such to certain persons for their own guidance, and also that I have guided some of my own work under suggestions from the same sources, though without mentioning the fact. — Ibid., 42

When the Judicial Committee considered the situation, it was found that as the charges were inextricably bound up with the belief in the existence of the Mahatmas, it was impossible to try them officially because of the absolute neutrality of the Society, as set forth in its Constitution. The Constitution was neutral upon that subject as upon all subjects except the belief in universal brotherhood. The American Convention had pointed this out in April, and the Judicial Committee fully admitted it. In an attempt to get round this difficulty an informal Jury of Honor without legal jurisdiction was suggested, but this plan was found unsatisfactory to all and was quickly abandoned. Finally Mrs. Besant and Mr. Judge made two Statements to the European Convention, then in session, which appeared to clear up the difficulties, and the matter was regarded by the members in general as being adjusted satisfactorily. The more deep-seated trouble — the obscure but very real rivalry between those who preferred H. P. Blavatsky's teaching and methods of spiritual discipline, and those who wished to follow other paths tending toward the psycho-intellectual, and perhaps hatha-yoga practices of the Orient, already mentioned in connection with Sinnett's early inclinations — was not openly discussed, as it could not be a matter of judicial decision but of individual preference.

It should be clearly understood that Annie Besant in her Statement told the Convention that the charges had been terribly exaggerated by unnamed persons and that in no way did she charge W. Q. Judge

with forgery in the ordinary sense of the term, but with giving a misleading material form to messages received psychically from the Master in various ways, without acquainting the recipients with this fact. — Lucifer, XIV, 459-60, Aug. 1894

In regard to this charge, trifling as it was, being merely a matter of occult technique, it is worthwhile to quote a few sentences from the Mahatma K.H.:

Another of our customs, when corresponding with the outside world, is to entrust a chela with the task of delivering the letter or any other message; and if not absolutely necessary — to never give it a thought. Very often our very letters — unless something very important and secret — are written in our handwritings by our chelas. — Mahatma Letters, 296

In noticing M's opinion of yourself [Sinnett] expressed in some of his letters — (you must not feel altogether so sure that because they are in his handwriting, they are written by him, though of course every word is sanctioned by him . . . ) — Ibid., 232

Similar statements in regard to the material form in which the chelas reproduced the instructions from the Adepts are given by H. P. Blavatsky and others. It is evident that W. Q. Judge was following a procedure fully endorsed by the Masters, even if he did transcribe some telepathic messages received by him on certain occasions.

The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, containing the above instructive quotations had not been published in 1894, though Mr. Sinnett had received the letters about ten years before. Sinnett took no part in Judge's defense, with which he had little or no sympathy, as might be expected from Sinnett's record and from his aloofness from H.P.B. in her latter years. Had the testimony of the Master as to methods of communication through chelas been presented to the Judicial Committee, the charge of "giving a misleading material form to messages received psychically from the Master" would have carried no weight.

The European Convention closed with the outward appearance of harmony, and the resolve to work unitedly for theosophy.

Unfortunately, this desirable condition did not last long. Grossly distorted reports and scurrilous articles about the recent difficulties appeared in sensational newspapers, written by enemies of theosophy, upon documentary information supplied by a suspended member of the E.S., who said he found it "Intolerable" to be left in the position of "having brought charges without proving them." Within the Society sides were again taken. Mrs. Besant pressed her charges still more strongly, and Mr. Judge's defenders supported him with vigor. It soon became apparent that no satisfactory agreement could be reached between the contending parties. A temporary separation, at least, was the only way out of the difficulty. The final outcome was the decision of the American Section, the largest of the sections, to work henceforth as "The Theosophical Society in America" with complete independence, under the presidency of W. Q. Judge. This was effected with great enthusiasm at the Boston Convention on April 28-9, 1895, by a majority of 191 votes against 10.

A large number of the English lodges immediately took a similar course and formed "The Theosophical Society in England" under the same leadership. Many lodges and individual members in continental Europe and some of the Australians ultimately withdrew from the jurisdiction of Adyar, and affiliated with the new organizations that supported W. Q. Judge. The general feeling of the delegates was expressed in these words:

The Unity of the Theosophical Movement does not depend upon singleness of organization, but upon similarity of work and aspiration; and in this we will "KEEP THE LINK UNBROKEN." "— Report of 9th Convention, American Section, April 1895, 24

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