To my critics

Katinka Hesselink 2006

There has been tremendous speculation in Fohat, a magazine calling itself theosophical, about my motives, my relationship to Henk Spierenburg, my reading habits and so on. All this because I wrote a review of a very big, heavy, encyclopedic book on what's called in theosophical circles 'The Judge Case'. ( see that review

So let's go by the points one by one, though some are related. I'll start with my general theosophical background.

I started studying in the Groningen Lodge (The Netherlands) in September 1993. I joined the  Theosophical Society Adyar in 1994 at 19 years old. I fell in love with the three objects of that Society and also greatly enjoyed the atmosphere of the lodge. Study of Blavatsky 's The Key to Theosophy had just begun, and I loved her work. My studies soon progressed to The Secret Doctrine as I enrolled in a Secret Doctrine study group in Amsterdam - also run by the Theosophical Society Adyar. 

I get a bit tired of reading that I must have a hidden agenda to defend Besant and Leadbeater, because I'm a member of the TS Adyar. I read Besant's booklet on the great religions, and wasn't impressed. I tried to read Leadbeater's book on the Chakras and found I couldn't stay focused. For a long time that was it, as far as Besant and Leadbeater were concerned. I was studying theosophy on the lines of the Back to Blavatsky movement and could not even look at one of De Purucker's books without getting bored. I studied Barborka's Divine Plan, but only because my lodge at one point preferred that book. The Dutch TS Adyar is rather big on Jiddu Krishnamurti, so I learned a lot about his teachings at the national summer schools where Radha Burnier frequently speaks. Recently I have read Besant's book 'Esoteric Christianity' and it is the first of her books that actually makes points I can appreciate. 

I don't think I need to apologize for being a member of the Theosophical Society Adyar. Some very respectable people were members of that organization. Olcott himself was important in the revival of not only Buddhism, but Hinduism as well. Annie Besant 's translation of the Bhagavad Gita is still read and her work for India, feminism and social activism in general was quite commendable. I'm a personal fan of the writings of N. Sri Ram, Radha Burnier's father and former president of the Theosophical Society. His article ' Human Regeneration ' bridges theosophy and Jiddu Krishnamurti in a way that avoids some serious pitfalls inherent in the latter's work. The fact that the TS Adyar has a strong social outlook with its Theosophical Order of Service appeals to me as well: this is one of the aspects Radha Burnier works actively on. 

On the other hand, I feel it is an embarrassment that Henk Spierenburg 's books had to be published at Point Loma Publications, instead of a TS Adyar publishing company. I appreciate the fact that new and valuable developments in theosophy often come from outsiders - groups like the one in Edmonton who don't have a large bureaucracy to please. My own online work is done under my own flag for a reason: I don't want to ask anybody's permission, nor could I get my articles to be published in theosophical magazines. I guess this is the place to mention that although I have published articles about Paul Johnson's work, that does not mean I agree with them. I publish material that is interesting and research that I think is worthwile in a scientific sense. That means in this case that although I value the work that Paul Johnson has done for theosophical history, I don't agree with his conclusions. This is implicit in my recent article on Blavatsky's phenomena for instance.

If there was any preconception in the Judge Case on my part, it was that of an anti-Besant and anti-Leadbeater tendency. In fact, I still tend to believe the worst about Leadbeater, though his role is obviously mixed as he did find Jiddu Krishnamurti. Leadbeaters early work on the Chakras, though not my taste, can not be ignored as a valuable contribution to occult thought. For the record: I've started to move away from Krishnamurti's teachings as well, recently, though his work can't be ignored either. (see my article on Krishnamurti and theosophy )

Henk Spierenburg was a renowned Dutch theosophical scholar and compiler of many books based on Blavatsky's writings. Was he my mentor? Yes, he was in a sense. He gave me numerous books. In fact the majority of the theosophical books in my collection were given by him. He gave me the complete Blavatsky Collected Writings (or rather, those volumes that I hadn't already started collecting for myself). He gave me a large collection of theosophical history books. He gave me the ULT-copies of Blavatsky's main books and articles. He gave me W.Q. Judge's works, to the extent that they are in print. The same for G. De Purucker's works. He gave me his own books (Dutch and English). He gave me a few books on W.B. Yeats. When someone wanted to copy the originals of De Purucker's pamphlets 'Questions we all ask', Henk made it a condition that I get a copy as well. Henk subscribed me to various theosophical magazines, among which Sunrise, The Theosophist, Theosophical History Magazine and the above mentioned Fohat. Notice the lack of Besant and Leadbeater books, by the way. When Henk no longer thought he would write anything on Jiddu Krishnamurti, he gave me his whole collection of Krishnamurti's books. Given my limited budget, Henk's gifts have made my theosophical studies possible. These studies have been largely on the above mentioned lines. 

When the book on the Judge Case came out, he made sure I got a copy. We were, as Henk proudly noted, amongst the few on the mainland of Europe to even have the book. Expensive and on an arcane subject even by theosophical standards, not many were interested in the book in the first place. Though I'd read a fair amount of theosophical history books by then, the case around Judge was mainly new to me. The book in question is encyclopedic in setup and volume. Most publishers would have split it up in at least two volumes. To give my readers an idea: it's the size of the largest dictionary I have, though on thicker paper (another curious publishing choice). 

Under those circumstances it can hardly be wondered at that when I was brave or foolish enough to attempt a review, I did not actually read the whole book. When one reviews a dictionary, one doesn't read the whole thing. When one reviews a large collection of articles, one doesn't have to read the whole collection either. It would be nice if one did, obviously, but it's not bad form not to. I realized the sensitive nature of the book in question enough to send Henk my draft of that review before publishing it. He pointed my attention to some of the work he had done relevant to this article which in the main supported my conclusions. I wanted to name him co-author, but he was quite willing to let me take the credit. The review itself is mainly a collection of questions about the Judge case, an inventory of possible explanations on a psychological level of the situation back then and comments on some of the documents that were missing. The psychological points are mine, the supporting historical material was read by me, but I would never have been able to find it without Henk's help. The review as a whole therefore suggests more knowledge of theosophical history on my part than I had back then, or even now. 

Henk's main psychological point was simply this: Besant and Olcott both lived to regret the way they had treated Judge during those years when the Theosophical Society broke in two. If Judge hadn't had the luck to die early, he too would have regretted a lot. This is obviously speculation, but it does put the testimonies of both Besant and Olcott later in life in perspective. It does seem likely that had Judge lived, he would have regretted the quarels he made with Olcott, founder of the Theosophical Society and mentor to him as well. 

The book as a whole is very difficult to read. There isn't a clearcut conclusion. Or better: it starts with the premise that Judge was not guilty of anything and attempts are made to support that premise. I was not impressed with the arguments or the explanations. The main value of the book for future researchers is that it collects much (but not all) of the essential documents on the case and has a good chronology. Chronologies are in general very useful if one wants to understand historical events, but they are rarely read through beginning to end. 

As an Adyar theosophist I have a stake in finding out who was right and who was wrong in this situation. The truth is what interests me. I do in fact feel that Judge's theosophical writings are quite good. I have published some of them on this website in fact. [ Articles by W.Q. Judge ] His occult stories are especially insightful and come close to Blavatsky's genius in that area. His explanations on karma are very good introductions to various of the questions a beginner is likely to ask on that subject. 

This doesn't mean I trust his judgment in practical cases, nor does it mean he was beyond fooling himself into thinking that certain messages he got in his head or on paper were from Mahatmas when in fact the source was closer to home. In fact, fooling oneself is one of the great risks of occultism. One steps outside the pale of ordinary thinking and into the area of belief in visions and clairvoyance and things like that - all of which have the potential of self-delusion written all over them. 

I write that in the firm belief that visions do come true sometimes, that clairvoyance and even materialization are possible and that Blavatsky's explanations on the occult path are very insightful and in general agreement with Tibetan Buddhist esotericism. In fact, one of the first of my online projects was my Esoteric Studies Guide which is a collection of articles and quotes by Blavatsky, the Mahatmas and occasionally Judge and Subba Row on the esoteric path. For that reason a recent comment in Fohat that I supplanted a Blavatsky version of the path for a Leadbeater one is especially ignorant. I recently looked at Leadbeater's Masters and the Path for an article I was writing, but wasn't impressed. (see that article on Krishnamurti and the Mahatmas )

I hope the above helps put the level of discussion on the Judge Case on a higher footing. In actual fact neither my motives, nor Henk's are important. What matters is simply an answer to the question: was Judge a messenger of the Masters? I have no answer to that question, and if that makes me less of a theosophist in the eyes of a few theosophists in Edmonton, Canada so be it.