Judge, William Q.

views updated


JUDGE, WILLIAM Q. William Q. Judge (18511896) was a cofounder of the Theosophical Society in 1875, along with Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (18311891) and Colonel Henry Steel Olcott (18321907). The society was dedicated to promoting universal brotherhood and the study of the hidden laws of nature and ancient scriptures. Judge was a close associate of Blavatsky during the years when she wrote Isis Unveiled (1877) until her death in 1891. She referred to him in a letter as "My dearest Brother and Co-Founder of the Theosophical Society" (H. P. Blavatsky to the American Conventions, Second Annual Meeting, April, 1888, p. 31). Blavatsky signed a letter to him, "yours until death and after" (Lucifer, June 1891). (Judge revealed the content of some of Blavatsky's letters in articles published after her death in the journal Lucifer.)

After Blavatsky's death, Judge continued to be a clear and notable expositor of her writings and of Theosophical concepts in general. Judge's The Ocean of Theosophy (1893) is a readable synopsis of Blavatsky's great work The Secret Doctrine (1888). Although he considered himself to be a disciple of Blavatsky and a line of mahatmas (masters) behind the Theosophical movement, Judge was an author, counselor, and teacher in his own right. In 1886, Judge began the Path, an independent journal published in New York. This publication continued for ten years and ran to ten volumes, mostly of Judge's own writings under pseudonyms such as Bryan Kinnavan, Eusebio Urban, and many others. The Path was renamed Theosophy in 1896.

Judge was born in Ireland, one of the seven children of Frederick Judge, a Freemason, and Mary Alice Quan. At the age of seven, the boy had a serious illness and indeed seemed to his family to have died, but he suddenly and miraculously recovered. After this near-death experience he showed remarkable abilities. He devoured books on Mesmerism, phrenology, religion, magic, and Rosicrucianism, which was surprising because no one had taught him to read. His family was simply puzzled by the change in his behavior. However, many theosophists believe he was an actually a Hindu initiate who had entered the body of the dying Irish boy to fulfill the vow of helping to bring the wisdom of the East to the West. In an April 1891 letter, he wrote to Annie Besant (18471933): "I am not in my own body and am perfectly aware of it. It is borrowed" (Ransom, 1938, p. 305). For this reason, some called him "the Rajah."

When Judge was thirteen, his family immigrated to New York. As a youth, he became a clerk and studied law in the offices of George P. Andrews. At twenty-one, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen and was admitted to the bar. He specialized in commercial law and developed a reputation for honesty and meticulous handling of cases. In 1874 he married Ella Smith, a strict Methodist who did not share his interest in occult and paranormal matters. The couple had a daughter who died as a small child. During this difficult time Judge read Olcott's People from the Other World (1875) and wrote to the author about their mutual interest in spiritualist phenomena. Olcott invited him to call on Madame Blavatsky in New York City. Judge wrote of his first meeting with Blavatsky: "It was her eye that attracted me, the eye of one whom I must have known in many lives past away" (Lucifer 8, no. 6 [June 15, 1891]). Blavatsky wrote in an 1889 letter that "H.P.B. would give the whole esoteric brood in the U.S. for one W.Q.J., who is part of herself since several aeons" (Theosophical Forum, June 1933, pp. 192193).

The period from 1878 to 1883 was particularly trying for the young disciple, for he was virtually penniless and could do little work for the society. In addition, Blavatsky and Olcott had sailed for India to carry on the work of the Theosophical Society while he remained in New York. In 1881 he traveled on business to Central and South America and Mexico where he contracted blackwater fever. He recorded his experiences in "A Weird Tale," one of the many spiritual allegories and stories he would write. Around this time Judge corresponded with Damodar K. Mavalankar, a disciple of Blavatsky in India, about being discouraged and depressed. He was himself called to India on June 11, 1883, by a summons on the back of a letter from Damodar printed in red pencil, "Better come, M" Since Judge thought such messages were always from a master called Morya, he left as soon as possible. (Letter from the Adyar Archives, Echoes of the Orient, Vol.1, p. XXV, Sven Eek and Boris de Zirkoff.) After visiting Blavatsky in Paris for several months in 1884, he sailed to Bombay (Mumbai). Meeting there with Damodar and others about the future of the movement, Judge then traveled to several cities and gave lectures on Theosophy and the destiny of India.

Upon returning to New York in 1885, he was determined to preserve the Theosophical Society. Even when most of the membership had vanished, Judge held meetings, where he spoke and recorded the minutes himself. This work by Judge was instrumental in forming the American Section of the Theosophical Society, and he was elected its general secretary in 1886. In 1890 he was appointed vice president of the international Theosophical Society. Also in 1886, Mrs. Julia Campbell Ver Planck (later Mrs. Archibald Keightley) joined the Theosophical Society. Her correspondence with Judge (for which she used the name Jasper Niemand) became Letters That Have Helped Me, a valuable book concerning the trials of discipleship on the Theosophical path.

In 1890 Judge sued the New York Sun on behalf of Blavatsky, who had been libeled in the paper by Professor Elliot Coues. Coues had charged that Blavatsky had perpetrated a hoax by persuading Mabel Collins to claim that an adept had dictated her book Light on the Path (1885). He had also accused Blavatsky of sexual immorality, fraud, plagiarism, and deception. When the Sun 's attorneys found out that Coues's allegations were "without solid foundation," they were retracted in 1892.

After Blavatsky's death in London in 1891, Judge sailed to England as the representative of the U.S. section of the Theosophical Society. Judge published articles in the Sun and in the Path in tribute to Blavatsky's life and work. He also published a rendition of The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali (1889), introduced with a succinct discussion of Oriental psychology. In 1890 he published his version of the Bhagavad Gita, in which he sought to capture the original's meaning rather than to be strict to the letter of Sanskrit grammar. These works made a deep impact on Theosophy and the further introduction of Oriental psychology to the West.

In 1893 Judge made a lasting impression when he spoke to a large audience at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. However, his final years were clouded by the charges preferred against him by Besant and Olcott for misusing the mahatmas' names and handwriting. They claimed that no contact with the mahatmas could be proved to their satisfaction. Olcott ordered Judge to resign from the vice president's position. Judge refused, however, and defended himself by stating that he had in no way abrogated his duties as vice president, and that a trial could not be held without creating a dogma as to the existence of the masters, which was his personal belief.

Because both of these objections were held to be reasonable, in July 1894 he was reconfirmed as vice president of the Theosophical Society, based in Adyar, Madras (Chennai), India. However, personal feelings against Judge ran high, and there were renewed calls for his resignation. Because Annie Besant continued to press charges, the U.S. section declared complete autonomy from the Theosophical Society at its 1895 annual convention and formed an independent body, with Judge selected as president for life (1895). However, during the early part of 1896 the acrimony of these events had a detrimental effect on his health, which was still frail because of the blackwater fever contracted years earlier, and he died that same year on March 21 in New York. His last words were "There must be calmness. Hold fast. Go slow" (Letters That Have Helped Me, p. 29). Judge's teaching and life can be best summarized by his own words: "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 of the Orient, vol. 1, p. lxv). Katherine Tingley (18471929) became head of the Theosophical Society in the United States after Judge died, and she moved its headquarters to Point Loma, California. Judge's devoted student Robert Crosbie (18491919) seceded from this group and formed the United Lodge of Theosophists in 1909.

See Also

Besant, Annie; Blavatsky, H. P.; Olcott, Henry Steel; Point Loma Theosophical Community; Theosophical Society; Tingley, Katherine.


Works by Judge

The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. New York, 1889; reprint, Los Angeles, 1967. A rendition assisted by James Connelly, this is a valuable introduction to Oriental psychology.

Echoes of the Orient. New York. 1890; reprint, Los Angeles, 1950, and San Diego, 1987. A small pamphlet broadly outlining Theosophical doctrines.

The Bhagavad Gita: The Book of Devotion. New York, 1890; reprint, Los Angeles, 1947. Also done in collaboration with James Connelly. The Notes, covering the first seven chapters are by Judge, the rest by his student Robert Crosbie.

Letters That Have Helped Me. Compiled by Jasper Niemand. New York, 1891; reprint, Pasadena, Calif., 1953 and 1981. Contains correspondence between Judge and Jasper Niemand (Mrs. Archibald Keightley), Judge's notes for "An Occult Novel," and information about his life.

The Ocean of Theosophy. 1893; reprint, Los Angeles, 1915. Originally published as a series of articles for the Fort Wayne Sentinel. The simplest and clearest exegesis of basic theosophical ideas and of Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine.

Reply by Mr. Judge on Charges of Misuse of Mahatmas' Names and Handwritings. London, 1895. Reprinted as Two Replies (Los Angeles, 1992).

Practical Occultism. Edited by Arthur Conger. Covina, Calif., 1951. Contains private letters of William Q. Judge not previously printed.

Echoes of the Orient. 3 vols. San Diego, 1987. The most thorough publication of Judge's collected works.

See also The Path, vols. 110, New York, April 1886March 1896. Judge owned this independent journal. It was renamed Theosophy in in 1896, and again renamed Universal Brotherhood in 1897. It became Universal Broherhood Path in 1900. After a series of changes, a similar journal began publication as Sunrise, issued by the Theosophical University Press in Pasadena. A journal with the same purpose has continued since 1912 in Los Angeles as Theosophy.

Works on Judge

Blavatsky, H.P. H. P. Blavatsky, to the American Conventions, 18881891. Pasadena, 1979. Blavatsky's messages to American Theosophists.

Deveney, John Patrick. "An 1876 Lecture by W.Q. Judge on his Magical Progress in the Theosophical Society." Theosophical History 9 (July 2003): 12. Discusses the young Judge's experiments with clairvoyance and astral travel as an effort of will not mediumship.

Forray, Brett. "William Q. Judge's and Annie Besant's Views of Brahmin Theosophists." Theosophical History 10, no. 1 (January 2004): 534. Discusses their divergent views on the Esoteric Section and on the importance of Hinduism for theosophy.

Gomes, Michael. "The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to William Q. Judge." Theosophical History 6, p.129, Letter dated Nov. 19, 1890. Blavatsky praises Judge's loyalty and warns him about Olcott and the latter's possible resignation as president.

Greenwalt, Emmet A. The Point Loma Community in California, 18971942: A Theosophical Experiment. Berkeley, Calif., 1955. Discusses the association of Judge and Tingley, and of Tingley's "successorship."

Johnson, K. Paul. Initiates of the Theosophical Masters. Albany, N.Y., 1995. A discussion of a number of international figures of varying backgrounds who were "initiated" into theosophy.

Nethercot, Arthur H. The First Five Lives of Annie Besant. Kingswood, U. K., 1961. Examines the JudgeBesant association.

Nethercot, Arthur H. The Last Four Lives of Annie Besant. Chicago, 1963. Examines the JudgeBesant association.

Ransom, Josephine. A Short History of the Theosophical Society. Adyar, India, 1938.

Ryan, Charles J. H. P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement. Pasadena, 1975.

United Lodge of Theosophists. The Theosophical Movement, 18751950. Los Angeles, 1951. Contains thorough discussions of Judge's relationship to Blavatsky and of Besant's allegations against Judge and his replies.

See also Sunrise (Vol. 45, April/May 1996); this entire issue of Sunrise magazine (published by Theosophical University Press) was devoted to articles about Judge in honor of the centennial of his death. The Theosophical Forum, Vols. VI-XXIX (Point Loma and Covina, 19291951), a monthly journal started by Gottfried de Purucker, is also of interest.


The website of the Theosophical Society (http://www.theosociety.org) includes biographies, letters, articles, and other useful information. The Theosophical University Press website (http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/ts/tup.htm) also provides a plethora of information about Judge and Theosophy. The Theosophy Library Online (http://theosophy.org/JudgeWorks.htm) contains The Ocean of Theosophy, The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, Occult Tales, and other books and articles by Judge.

Judy D. Saltzman (2005)