William Quan Judge (1851 - 1896)
"Remember that life is the outcome of the Ever-Living. If you have come to comprehend a little of the mystery of life, and can value its attractions according to their worth; these are no reasons why you should walk forth with solemn countenance to blight the enjoyments of other men. Life to them is as real, as the mystery is to you. Their time will come as yours has, so hasten it for them, if you can, by making life brighter, more joyous, better."
--from Musings On The True Theosophist's Path
William Q. Judge was born in Dublin, Ireland. He emigrated to the United States with his family when he was 13 years old. At age 21, he became a naturalized citizen. That same year he passed the New York state bar exam. As an attorney, he specialized in commercial law.
In 1874, Judge met Col. H. S. Olcott and, through him, H.P. Blavatsky. The following year the three were instrumental in founding the Theosophical Society. Following the publication of HPB's book, Isis Unveiled (1877), HPB and Olcott went to India to establish the TS there, leaving Judge to carry on the work in the United States. They corresponded regularly and Judge visited India in 1884. After his return he started a monthly magazine, The Path. He wrote many articles which continue to help the theosophical student. His book, The Ocean of Theosophy, is a standard class text. And his rendition of The Bhagavad-Gita is an invaluable devotional book. HPB repeatedly expressed confidence in Judge and gratitude for all of his work.
The law of sacrifice
The logic of discipleship is implicit in the fundamental law of cosmogenesis and cosmic evolution – the law of sacrifice. The disciple strives to gain critical knowledge and master the powers of nature, first as found in himself and then in the world, only to use them on behalf of the whole of humanity. His unfaltering allegiance to Masters of Wisdom makes him an instrument of service which can be tempered and refined for ever greater work. William Quan Judge (1851-1896) exemplified discipleship in every aspect of his thought and action and dedicated every breath to its Goal.
William Quan Judge was born in Dublin, Ireland, on April 13, 1851. A frail child, he became seriously ill in his seventh year. The attending doctor was unable to arrest the rapid deterioration in his health, and after watching the child's life slip through his hands, informed the parents that their son was dead. To the amazement of the family, however, William suddenly revived and slowly regained his health. The recuperating boy was markedly different from the child who had come to the gates of death. After his illness, his parents discovered that William could read – an ability no one had detected before – and he plunged into serious volumes on Mesmerism, phrenology, magic, religion and philosophy.
While William was still young, his mother, Mary Quan, died in childbirth. His father Frederick decided to take his children to America where they might have a better opportunity to develop their talents and earn a living. Arriving in New York in 1864, the family settled in Brooklyn where, despite hardship, William Q. Judge attended school.
Judge joined the legal staff of George P. Andrews as a clerk and soon took an interest in the profession. While preparing himself for the bar, his father died and Judge found himself thrust into the world. He became a citizen in April 1872 and was admitted shortly thereafter to the State Bar of New York where he practised for the remainder of his life, specializing in commercial law. His compassion, integrity, conscientiousness and intelligence were widely recognized, and he was called 'the Christ of the legal profession.'
In 1874 Judge married a staunch Methodist lady who bore him a child. His natural fondness for children increased his pain when his daughter died of diphtheria in infancy. In the same year Judge read Colonel Henry Steel Olcott's accounts of the spiritualistic phenomena occurring at the Eddy Homestead in Chittenden, Vermont. These articles were published in the New York Daily Graphic and included descriptions of the visit of "a Russian lady of distinguished birth and rare educational and natural endowments" – H.P.Blavatsky. Judge wrote to Olcott and asked if he might meet Madam Blavatsky. She consented and Judge met her in her apartment at 46 Irving Place, New York City. He later recalled:
This pristine encounter altered Judge for life and profoundly affected the Theosophical Movement. Having seen "the lion's glance, the diamond heart of H.P.B.," he spent many evenings learning from her. "It was after twelve midnight until 4 a.m.," Judge later wrote to Damodar Mavalankar, "that I heard and saw most while with her in New York." Materializations of solid objects as well as temporary illusions, the duplication of letters by precipitation, strange sounds and psychokinetic teleportation of objects from one room to another, were all witnessed by the eager student.
During a public lecture, H.P.Blavatsky, H.S.Olcott and Judge agreed to found the Theosophical Society, which was formally inaugurated on November 17, 1875. In addition to his daily usefulness to the new Society, Judge helped H.P.Blavatsky prepare Isis Unveiled, both editing and assisting in the development of Theosophical nomenclature. He suggested the term 'elemental' to indicate centres of force acted upon by conscious agents. The publication of Isis aroused much interest in Theosophy and a constellation of brilliant intellectuals gathered around H.P.Blavatsky. But when she sailed with Colonel Olcott for India on December 17, 1878, a void was left in Judge's life. His isolation as well as domestic difficulties and the demands of his profession all conspired to withdraw Judge from active Theosophical work. During this time his inner resources were cultivated and refined.
Beginning in October 1879 and continuing into 1883, Damodar and Judge exchanged many beautiful and moving letters. Damodar's closeness to H.P.Blavatsky and the Mahatmas inspired Judge to live only for Theosophy, whatever the circumstances, and his own spiritual strength often came to the aid of Damodar. Their profound friendship, reverence and respect for one another is a paradigm of relations between disciples of the Wisdom-Religion.
Judge fervently desired to go to India, but did not do so until he was called. In June he received a clear communication to proceed, and he left New York early in 1883. He arrived in Paris on March 25, and was joined by H.P.Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott three days later. As guests of the Count and Countess d'Adhémar, Judge travelled with H.P.Blavatsky to London and Enghien in order to assist her with the initial preparation of The Secret Doctrine.
Judge travelled to India in July, arriving in Bombay on the fifteenth. Three days later he gave a lecture on "Theosophy and the Destiny of India." Warmly received, he lectured as he travelled across India, arriving at the headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Adyar, Madras, on August 10. He had barely settled in when the tragic and vicious attacks launched by the Coulombs broke around Adyar. The character of H.P.Blavatsky was assailed; she was branded an impostor and a fraud. Judge, who knew better from experience, and whose occult perception penetrated to the real causes, kept his head and emerged with a revitalized devotion to the cause of Theosophy and to his Guru. Two years later, H.P.Blavatsky wrote to Judge and explained the nature of his transformation.
Judge returned to New York via England in November. His finances and position quickly improved, and he set about reorganizing the Theosophical Society in America. In 1886 the American Section was formed with Judge as permanent General Secretary, and he gathered willing workers to expand the influence of the Movement across the country.
Branch Societies were established, and Judge started the journal The Path in 1886 to give them a continuous flow of spiritual thought. He became a literary fountain, from whom flowed a ceaseless stream of brilliant and inspiring teachings. He wrote many of the articles for The Path under various pseudonyms, and H.P.Blavatsky called its contents "pure Buddhi." In 1888 An Epitome of Theosophy was published and widely read. Robert Crosbie read it about 1890 and joined the Boston Branch of the Theosophical Society. When Judge met him for the first time, he said, "Crosbie, you are on my list." He soon became the most energetic worker in the Boston Branch.
As well as many articles, 1889 saw the publication of The Theosophical Forum, which continued under Judge's direction until his death, and The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. Echoes from the Orient appeared in 1890 followed by a rendition of the Bhagavad Gita and the first series of Letters That Have Helped Me. Judge aided in the initiation of the Oriental Department Papers, consisting of translations of Eastern scriptures. In 1893 The Ocean of Theosophy appeared.
Judge's administrative duties steadily increased. He was called upon by H.P.Blavatsky to help in critical phases of the innermost aspects of the Movement. The Theosophical Society elected him Vice-President in 1890. Under his inspiring direction the American Section became the largest of the sections and generously shared its prosperity with Headquarters.
The New York Sun published a derogatory piece on H.P.Blavatsky in July 1890. Judge represented her in a suit against the paper, but her death automatically terminated the case. Nevertheless, the Sun continued to investigate the accusations it had published and concluded that they were utterly without foundation. The paper published an apology in 1892 and printed an article by Judge on H.P.Blavatsky's life under the title "The Esoteric She." Now that the Messenger had withdrawn, the forces antagonistic to the Theosophical Movement rapidly regrouped to focus attention on Judge. They struck just when Judge was appreciated most deeply by sincere students of Theosophy. In January 1892 Olcott announced his intention to retire. The American and European Sections unanimously elected Judge President, but at his request urged Olcott to stay on. The Indian Section suggested that Judge function as President but not use the title until Olcott's death. When Olcott decided to stay on, Judge approved the decision. In 1893 the honoured place given to Theosophy at the unique World Parliament of Religions in Chicago was due in great measure to Judge. Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary of 1895 listed Judge as a specialist on Theosophical concepts and included dozens of definitions for Theosophical and Sanskrit terms written by him.
Perhaps because of his Buddhic brilliance and compassion, his exhaustless devotion and energy and his selfless service to the Masters, the wide range of accusations made against H.P.Blavatsky in her lifetime emerged again to be thrown at him. During 1893-4 he was charged with the one crime he was not capable of committing: abusing the names of Masters. Those who knew him well recognized that he was a mysterious being. Many were convinced that a Hindu Rishi occupied the instrument which bore his name. Many confirmed Cyrus Willard's account of Judge in 1891.
Willard recalled Judge's words at that time: "I am not what I seem; I am a Hindu." But others saw Judge's natural and effortless leadership as a block to their own ambitions.
Though the accusations were dropped, the ambiguous outward leadership of the Society led the American Section to consider reorganization. L.F.Wade and Robert Crosbie drew up a careful account of the situation and presented it to the Boston Convention in 1895. On a vote of one hundred ninety to nine, the Section became the autonomous Theosophical Society in America with Judge as President.
Judge had warned his closest workers at the end of 1894 that the karma of his body dictated that it should die in 1895, though it might be made to survive by extraordinary means. Early in the year, he went to Mineral Wells, Texas, for a few weeks' rest. After the Boston Conference, he again travelled, but the strain of events began to show. Curtailing his public engagements, he continued to write and make plans into 1896. On March 21, at about 9:00 a.m., he quietly passed from this world after delivering an occult aphorism: "There should be calmness. Hold fast. Go slow."
Despite the warnings given by Judge, his absence left his closest lieutenants in confusion. "Ask Crosbie," Judge often advised inquirers, "he thinks and acts as I do." Robert Crosbie eschewed public leadership but lived up to that high compliment by quietly holding the Theosophical Society in America together at its core. He gave all that he had in time, money and effort to its work and was loyal to those who guided it. For him, Theosophy meant Masters and Their Teachings as given out by H.P.Blavatsky and W.Q.Judge.
When the Society was moved from New York to Point Loma, California, Crosbie came along. But he was saddened by the drift of the Society away from the dynamic thought and one-pointed action of the Founders. When the issue of successorship produced a clamour of personalities and eventually obscured the heart of the Theosophical Teaching, he quietly withdrew to Los Angeles. Gathering together a few interested and dedicated students in 1906, he laid the foundations for a resurrected Society. In 1909 he initiated the United Lodge of Theosophists on the basis originally set out by H.P.Blavatsky and in the spirit exemplified by W.Q.Judge. Three years later, Theosophy magazine appeared to give fresh expression to the philosophy of Theosophy and to keep the writings of the Founders in print.
However chaotic the circumstances which surrounded them and whatever personal suffering they faced, neither Judge nor Crosbie allowed the light of devotion to the Mahatmas to flicker for an instant. Rather, it blazed brighter in the deepening darkness. Out of its fire arose a crystalline vision of the true work and ultimate end of all Theosophical endeavour:
Copyright 2000 Theosophy Library Online (rescued from oblivion for Eclectic Theosophical History, June 2006)
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