William Quan Judge today

The Aquarian Theosophist goes on writing about their efforts to get the TS Adyar to recognize Judge. I’m pleasantly surprised at the calm tone of their last post. They report that the German TS website mentions Judge as one of 5 theosophists who get a biography on there. I have to agree that it’s a bit small of the TS Adyar website to not mention Judge as one of their ‘Eminent Theosophists‘. In the other hand, the German TS might mention Rudolf Steiner as one of their prominent theosophists.

Working on the redesign of the Dutch TS Website (expected to go live around Juli first) has given me another perspective on this. On the old site, as you can see it now, there is a biography of Blavatsky that you have to fight hard to find. There are also biographies of around 20 other theosophists on the site. They’re hidden even more: they’re part of our magazine archives. In the redesign these biographies will be a lot easier to find. A ULT-ish theosophist looking at that list will see one name missing: W.Q. Judge. And I would agree: that’s a pity.

But I realized, looking at  how that list of people was formed, that from a TS Adyar perspective Judge’s is work is, in a sense, no more our business than the work of Alice Bailey (4) or Rudolf Steiner. All three Both left the TS. Prominent people leaving generally do so in a fuss: these three certainly did. But that doesn’t change the basics of the situation: they left, they formed organisations of their own. While individual members of the TS are free to study their work – and they often do – collectively they’re no longer our business.

A university teacher of the anthropology of religion asked me once: why is the TS crowded at the top? It was a good question. The answer I had, and I haven’t been able to come up with a better one, was that the TS attracts intelligent people. There simply was no room for Besant, Leadbeater, Judge and Olcott all being the most prominent person in the organization. Somehow Judge didn’t fit the team (those Mahatmic letters may have had something to do with it): they quarreled, he left. It doesn’t look good on any of them, but I guess it’s human.

Of course, from a wider perspective, the work of the TS Adyar includes all religion, spirituality, philosophy and science. That’s a very large field of work. In that field Judge is no more than one flower. Unlike Blavatsky, Olcott and Besant, W.Q. Judge never made much of a mark on the world. Only people calling themselves Theosophists remember him: some kindly, some not so much. Let’s put it down to him simply dying too young.

Alright, back to the controversy: The Aquarian Theosophist writes that:

From the United States, Nicholas Weeks wrote to the editors of “The Aquarian Theosophist” on May 14th. His message reports that the Adyar Society in North America held a four-day seminar on William Judge in its Krotona Center, in Ojai, California, in April 27-30. The well-attended program was presented by Dara Eklund, Judy Saltzman and Nicholas Weeks, and its title was “William Q. Judge — A Devoted Life”. Such a seminar constitutes another small but significant event along the road leading to justice and ethics.

I don’t know why that’s a ‘small’ event. How much bigger do they want? Yearly seminars? Aside from mentions on websites, that’s about as much as can be expected of the TS Adyar. Judge already has publishers and his books are for sale in theosophical bookstores. There was also an article on Judge in Quest magazine a few years ago as well, if I remember correctly. (I can’t find it, due to the magazine not being indexed by Google completely.)

Given the freedom of thought that’s central to the theosophical (Adyar) work, the most that can be expected is that lodges will start studying Judge’s teachings and that websites will mention him. Individual theosophical teachers like Radha Burnier can’t be forced into studying, let alone quoting him. If the people behind the Aquarian Theosophist expect more, they really should stop shouting from the sidelines and join the TS Adyar and become active locally – in the full understanding that they cannot force anybody to study Judge’s work, nor can they force magazines to publish what they write or he wrote.

Of course if a whole lodge were to join, they could study anything they liked.

But there’s a historical side to this as well. The Aquarian Theosophist persists in making this all the fault of the TS Adyar, when it was Judge that left the TS. Not only did he leave, but he vilified Besant as well. He started the unfortunate theosophical tradition of accusing your theosophical opponents of ‘black magic’ – and aimed those arrows at Besant herself. Given how popular Annie Besant already was, and was to become, this is something his name can be expected to get the karmic backlash for. (3)

The rest of the historical story, from the perspective of the Adyar TS, is best summed up by Col. Olcott, then president:

[I]f [they] had confined themselves to withdrawal from The [Theosophical] Society and the formation of a new body, we should have had no cause to protest, but could have worked with them in full brotherly affiliation, both Societies being moved by a common impulse. But when they went so far as to proclaim all of the Society outside their party as irregularly and unconstitutionally existing, co-operation became impossible; we might work with any other society or association, of whatsoever kind, in the whole world, but not with them. This is a parting of the ways. It now rests with us to recognise the split as an accomplished fact, and to leave our late associates in peace to go on as best they may; applauding and appreciating all the good work they do, disclaiming all responsibility for their errors, and patiently waiting for the time when they shall be ready to undo the wrong they have done us and smooth the way for closer and more brotherly cooperation. The initiative must come from them; we can do no more than what we have, viz., to declare our readiness to meet them halfway, to forget the past, and to forgive the injuries they have done us collectively and individually. (The Theosophist, July, 1896, pp. 617-8, quoted from A Short History of the Theosophical Society, Josephine Ransom, p. 317, 18)

Again I have to ask: who can we now ask to ‘take the initiative’? The people from the Aquarian Theosophist? Then again, perhaps the legal stuff is fought out now, due to the fragmentation of the theosophical organizations in the Judge line.

The editors of the Aquarian Theosophist really need to wrap their heads around this fact: that in the TS Adyar William Quan Judge is never going to be more than a small star amongst many. That’s not a reflection of his worth, but on the variety of things studied by our members. There’s Blavatsky, the Mahatma Letters, the Yoga Suttras, Kabbalah, Buddhist teachings, Besant, Leadbeater, Krishnamurti, Radha Burnier, N. Sri Ram, De Purucker, Boris de Zirkoff etc. Judge’s star may perhaps shine a bit more brightly in future, compared to now. Still, there’s no list of officially recognized teachings for him to be included on.

But what bothers me most about this whole thing is that there’s not a letter about the injustice of Judge towards Annie Besant – who, with all her faults, was certainly a force for good in India and the UK. And, like Judge, she too was praised by Blavatsky. It’s not for nothing that they became JOINT heads of the E.S. after HPB passed.

Quoting the Aquarian Theosophist about the initiative of these letters again:

The organizers have no short term expectations about “results”.  But they say:

“The law of karma never fails. Every small effort, made in the right direction, inevitably produces good results – often in invisible ways.”

I have no problem with anybody who wants to promote Judge’s teachings. I agree that they’re useful and inspiring on the whole. In fact, I like them more than Besant’s, whose style of writing has never appealed to me.  But asking for justice without recognizing Judge’s mistakes just rubs me the wrong way. It’s a bit much to expect Judge to be sanctified (that’s what some of the letters sound like) from an Indian lady (Radha Burnier) who has continued Besant’s work for the Indian poor.

Anyhow, karma seems to already have had it’s say on this. Annie Besant is remembered in India as one of their freedom fighters and a champion of the poor. Judge’s attitude towards India was one of disdain. Despite his claims of an Indian soul, he could not manage to work there and in the flings of battle accused one of its spiritual teachers, Chakravarti, of black magic. The only thing Chakravarti seems to have done wrong is… making William Judge’s influence on Annie Besant less. And Judge’s ‘mahatmic’ letters had a lot to do with that as well. See also my review of the book ‘The Judge Case’.

Karma… has continued Judge’s legacy in a fragmented way. ULT, Pasadena – online they are significant players, but offline they shrink faster than the TS Adyar does. As one prominent theosophical historian told me: Pasadena will persist as long as the money doesn’t run out. Judge’s legacy is one of people who do not know how to work together despite differences. Besant’s legacy is a worldwide organization that, while struggling, still manages to agree to disagree. Her legacy outside the TS is even larger. In India Annie Besant is remembered more than theosophy.

Indeed, the law of karma never fails. Though of course the Aquarian Theosophist, rightly, applies this more to their present work than to the past. I just wish they’d spend their energy more wisely.


  1. It’s interesting to see that the initiative for all this comes from Brazil, where, I’m told, Adyar theosophists still generally study Besant’s and Leadbeater’s teachings. I’m told that  Carlos Cardoso Aveline, who started the ‘write letters to Radha Burnier’ campaign, was a long time active Adyar theosophist who did a lot for the Brazil TS. He worked closely with the leading people: Ulysses Riedel, Ricardo Lindemann and current President of the Brazilian section Marcos de Resende. His English being excellent he translated a number of classic theosophical texts into Portuguese.
    The turn about came when Carlos translated the chronological version of the Mahatma Letters into Portuguese. He let go of Leadbeater, Besant and Krishnamurti and chose a different path. After Aveline started to actively produce pamphlets to convince people of his new found truth, he received severe warnings from the Brazilian Board. He was told to immediately stop distributing them. Irreconcilable differences arose and Carlos left the Brazilian TS board and the section as well. He’s now involved in study of the Judge Case and active (probably) in the ULT. [My source on this wishes to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons. I do know their identity though.]
    In this case it seems the ULT grows because of shortcomings of the local TS Adyar. I wonder whether that’s a general pattern. I’m glad that Aveline had somewhere to go.
  2. I totally agree with Leslie Price‘s appeal for opening of the Adyar and Pasadena archives to a serious and impartial researcher who wants to study the case. Based on current evidence neither Besant, nor Judge looks very good in hindsight. If Radha were to open the archives perhaps Michael Gomes would be willing to study the Judge Case more fully? As an Adyar theosophist who has studied Blavatsky’s work all his life, he would surely be acceptable to all sides. But the chances of getting Radha to open the archives are so slim, I’m not going to waste my ink on it.
  3. Actually Blavatsky started the tradition of accusing her opponents of black magic. When Blavatsky and Olcott came to India they worked with the Arya Samaj of Swami Dayananda Saraswati. They too quarreled and Saraswati got accused of black magic. The difference is, as far as I can tell, there was something to her accusations. Saraswati turned out to be very dogmatic, which in Blavatsky’s terminology is a form of black magic. I think that’s an unfortunate choice of words on her part, but at least she had a point she was trying to make. Chakravarti on the other hand was a spiritual teacher who would inspire Sri Krishna Prem, who in turn taught Sri Madhava Ashish, an eclectic teacher of Sey Ginsburg. There is one thing it would not be fair to accuse this lineage of: partiality or black magic.
  4. Alice Bailey has a lot of interesting things to say about the Theosophical Society in her day. Pertinent to the question whether she resigned or not she writes (p. 171 of the 3rd printing of the paperback printing) “I, personally, never resigned from the society and it is only during the past few years that I have let my annual dues lapse.” According to the foreword she wrote that in 1945, perhaps 1948. From “The Unfinished Autobiography of Alice A. Bailey“, Lucis Publishing Company, New York; Lucis Press LTD, London; 1981 (1950), 3rd paperback printing.

One thought on “William Quan Judge today”

  1. I have never seen w.q.judge as an initiate into the occult or spiritual. None of thetheosophical classics I ever read seemed to indicate any such quality about him. Rather he seemed to have a bit of personal ego leading to a deception-prone ambitious nature. He of course probably had some good intentions or HPB would not have liked him. All other indications to me as to others like HPB,Besant, Olcott , and so forth ………..these individuals were always above suspicion as to their motives and I never had any doubts as to their connection wi9th the masters.

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