William Q. Judge, the loyal friend and companion of H. P. Blavatsky
Here is a short review of the life and work of William Q. Judge, co-founder of the Theosophical Movement.
William Q. Judge was one of the three founders of the Theosophical Society formed in 1875. His tireless and fruitful effort in disseminating and establishing the Theosophical work in America along with his literary work – which explains and simplifies H.P.Blavatsky texts – rank him at the top of the early days Theosophical Movement’s s pioneers.
Born in Dublin in 1851, he fell severely ill when 7 years old. His attending doctor declared him dead to his parents, but, to everyone’s amazement, he suddenly came round and gradually regained good health. Once recuperated, the boy started behaving impressively differently than before when nearing death’s threshold. After that illness mishap, he was now able to read – unlike before – and he would plunge into studying serious books on hypnotism, magic, religions and philosophy.
In 1864 and following his mother’s death, his father emigrated to America together with six of his children. They settled in Brooklyn where William went on with his schooling. Later on he studied Law and specialized in commercial law. When he came of age, he became a USA naturalized citizen and as a lawyer got to be so widely recognized for his compassion, integrity, conscientiousness and intelligence that he was called “Christ of the Legal Profession”.
In the fall of 1874 – aged 23 – he met H. P. Blavatsky through Colonel Henry Steele Olcott. That meeting was to be a decisive one; it radically changed his life and deeply affected the Theosophical Movement. Having seen Blavatsky’s “lion’s glance and diamond heart” he would stay up whole nights studying at her side. From the very first moment of their meeting, he had already felt – as he put it – as if they had known each other for ages and were just keeping up with their work from where they had left off.
The founding of the Theosophical Society “to investigate the phenomena alleged to be Spiritual Manifestations” came in the following year, 1875, in New York.
Three years after the founding of the Theosophical Society, H.P. Blavatsky and Henry S. Olcott left America – due to hostile reactions against them – and transferred the T.S. headquarters first to Bombay and l then to Adyar, Madras. America’s small group was left in the hands of William Q. Judge whom H.P.Blavatsky trusted more than anyone else in the world – as she phrased it – and whom she considered
“heart and soul of the T.S. in America” telling him that “it is to you, chiefly, if not entirely, that T.S. in America owes its existence”.
When, in 1886, the T.S. American Section became autonomous and the American Esoteric Section was started, H. P. Blavatsky appointed William Q. Judge as “her only representative” and “the sole channel through whom will be sent and received all communication between the members of said Section and myself…..in virtue of his character as a chela of thirteen years standing”.
Gradually overcoming the great void in his life, owing to H.P.Blavatsky’s departure for India, together with a group of devoted collaborators he started organizing and promulgating the Theosophical work in America. Under his guidance, action was taken to assemble into groups members scattered all over the country and to create branches. He would give lectures throughout the States and undertook to do the work that would otherwise require lots of assistants. Every free moment he had, he would devote to Theosophy, sparing for himself only the time needed for meals and rest. At the beginning, he used to be the main speaker himself and later on assigned others to continuously travel all over giving lectures, forming groups and supporting the newly founded centers. He succeeded in making the T.S. American Section the most active and numerous one. In 1895, after 11 years of extremely hard work, the sections increased from 12 to 102 and the members from 264 to 3700.
He tirelessly and persistently tried to promote and realize, all over the world, the great vision of the Theosophical Movement concerning mankind’s indispensable need for a new prospect on both the self and the universe. He propounded the vision of the Movement for an upgraded human perception of spiritual goals, through the understanding and absorbing of the Theosophical Precepts as delivered in the written and oral work of the founder Helena P. Blavatsky.
He organized regular meetings, started a lending library and set out publishing theosophical texts. In April 1886, he started publishing the “Path” magazine which turned out to be the official magazine of the T.S. American Section. The magazine was a literary source wherefrom flew a constant stream of brilliant and inspiring doctrines. He, himself, wrote most of the articles under various pseudonyms with Blavatsky calling the content of the magazine “Pure Buddhi”.
His writing-style was simple, direct and clear. He had the talent of simplifying – in his articles, speeches and discussions – very difficult and complex teachings so they could be grasped by the many who were not acquainted with them. He used to teach as simply as understandably: What Theosophy is, where it comes from, what it teaches on the great issues of birth and death, of ethics and morality, of Karma and Reincarnation, of good and evil, as well as what it teaches on the mysteries of Divinity.
Three years later, he started the “Theosophical Forum”, a few-pages- publication for researchers, where he gave answers to questions posed by members and readers. He also wrote articles for the Adyar (India) “Theosophist” magazine, for the London “Lucifer” and for 2 or 3 other magazines. Practicing “law” during the day, he would work at home far into the night.
In 1888 came the circulation of his “Epitomy of Theosophy”, a gem of concise presentation of the main lines of Ancient Wisdom and till 1893 he had published such books as “The Aphorisms of Yoga” by Patanjali commented on by W.Q.Judge, himself, the “Echoes from the Orient”, “Bhagavad Gitta” again with his own comments, “The Letters That Have HelpedMe” and the landmark “The Ocean of Theosophy” which is the very essence of the Theosophical Teaching, given in a simple and tangible way. His last important plan, a plan he did not manage to carry out though, was to write a book on Occultism.
In 1893, he was invited to the World Congress of Religions held in Chicago during the International Exhibition and spoke on the “Fundamental Principles of Theosophy”. On the same occasion, Annie Besant addressed the Congress, as well. The following year, the Congress of Religions was held in San Francisco. There, too, William Q. Judge was officially invited and spoke on “The Points of Agreement in All Religions”.
When, in May 1891, H.P.Blavatsky passed away, the Theosophical Society lost its cohesive force. It is true that initially, her loss intensified the bond among the members but, soon afterwards, that bond began to gradually slacken as personal strife was awakened. The autonomous American Section of the Theosophical Society headed by W.Q. Judge was thriving and firmly expanding thanks to William Judge’s commitment to faithfully think and act according to the oral and written legacy of H.P. Blavatsky and the Masters.
The 1894/1895 period was marked by the “Judge Case”, something that immensely embarrassed both him and the T.S. American Section. William Q. Judge was accused of having received messages from the Masters, a process that had been discontinued following Blavatsky’s death, as had been pre-announced by the Masters. Owing to the fact that the trial was a sheer violation of the Society’s neutrality where convictions were concerned, the case was dismissed.
The members’ discontent due to the defamation against William Judge was more than evident and led to the complete severance of the American Section from the Theosophical Society in 1895.
William Judge’s health had already been very frail for a long time. Yet, despite its sudden aggravation he went on dictating letters and keeping notes for future activities. He finally died in March 1896, just before reaching the age of 45.
It was then that Catherine Tingley assumed the Presidency of the American Section; her work – mainly social but also Theosophical – was very extensive. Robert Crosbie chose not to share the Presidency but silently offered everything he could spare, time, money and vigor for the Theosophical work. It was Crosbie who essentially continued Judge’s work.
Reaching the end of this short review, we ought to highlight the fact that William Q. Judge remained absolutely consistent with his principles till the very end of his life, a life that can be depicted in three words: mission- purpose – struggle. His vitality, fastidiousness, his sincerity and truthfulness, his vigor and vision, his simplicity and clarity when teaching very comprehensive and abstruse occult precepts, were some of the most accredited and obvious aspects of his. Humility was yet another high quality in him. Never did he run after promoting himself. He was the only one to take the helm, to hold up the theosophical torch when H.P. Blavatsky was gone.
He taught and kept on studying for a better absorption and awareness of the Laws, the Tenets and Ideas of the Secret Doctrine, three of which he gave special emphasis to:
“…. (First) that there is a great Cause – in the sense of an enterprise – called the Cause of Sublime Perfection and Human Brotherhood. This rests upon the essential unity of the whole human family, and is a possibility because sublimity in perfectness and actual realization of brotherhood on every plane of being are one and the same thing….
The second Idea is that man is a being who may be raised up to perfection, to the stature of the Godhead, because he himself is God incarnate.
And the third Idea is….the high result of the others. It is that the Masters those who have reached up to that perfection…. are living, veritable facts and not abstractions cold and distant…”