My First Meeting with William Quan Judge

Katherine Tingley

I remember that day well. Snow was falling when I started out in the morning to go down to the Mission to meet those discouraged persons in their poverty, an ordinary snowstorm that gave little warning of the tremendous blizzard that was to rage later in the day, the fury of which was beginning to be apparent when I arrived. In that fierce storm, now increasing momently, over six hundred women and children were waiting in the street for relief. They were but half-dressed — they had pawned most of their clothes — they were perishing with the cold; they were wailing out loud, many of them, and clamoring for help. . . . I could not send them away hungry, and it would be some little time yet before the food that was being prepared would be ready.

There was nothing for it but for me to go out and talk to them, to keep them as well as I could in humor and patience while waiting. . . . All the while the crowd and the storm kept increasing, and with them my own distress, till I felt my heart almost at breaking-point to see so much keen misery and to know that all I could do was so wretchedly little, so ineffectual: to lift them out of their present trouble and keep them secure against as bad or worse tomorrow or the next day.

Suddenly my attention was caught by a pale face on the outskirts of the crowd — the face of a man standing under an umbrella, with his coat collar turned up and buttoned round his neck and his hat low down over his face — clearly not one of the strikers; a gentleman, I thought, suddenly reduced to destitution and ashamed to come forward with the rest and ask for the food he sorely needed. A face fine of feature and strikingly noble of expression, with a look of grave sadness, too, and of sickness — caused by hunger no doubt. All this flashed through my mind in that one glance, and I turned to call one of our attendants to send her to him. But when I looked round again, he was gone.

Two days later he presented his card at my home: it was William Quan Judge, a leader of the Theosophical movement and H. P. Blavatsky's successor. He told me he had read of my work among the poor and had gone down there to see it for himself. He had found it, so far, practical and valuable, he said; but also had divined my discontent with it and my hunger for something that would go much deeper, removing the causes of misery and not merely relieving the effect. It was then, when I came to know him, that I realized I had found my place. The more I became acquainted with him and with his work, the more I felt assured that some of my old dreams and hopes might yet come true. Fully and accurately to describe him would be beyond my power, he so stood out above the run of men in deep wisdom and lofty nobility of character. He had made theosophy the living power in his life, and none could be so bitter against him as to exhaust his tolerance or his compassion.

It was he who first gave me glimpses of the power of thought and made me realize what it will do to build or ruin the destiny of a human being. And in doing so, he showed me how to find in theosophy solution of all the problems that had vexed me: how it points the way to the right treatment of the downtrodden and outcast of humanity, and to the real remedies for poverty, vice, and crime. On all these subjects the first word of theosophy is this: he who would enter upon the path that leads to truth must put new interpretations on the failings and mistakes of his fellowmen. He must come to understand the law of eternal justice — karma, that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" — and to know the necessity it implies for an unconquerable compassion . . .

(From The Gods Await, 2nd ed., pp. 62-6)

Theosophical University Press Online Edition