Notes by the Way
William Q. Judge
Reproduced from PSYPIONEER bulletin,
Volume 2, No 4; April 2006, pp. 91-92. Mr.
Leslie Price is a well-known British historian
of the Theosophical Movement. In the 1980s, he
founded the magazine “Theosophical History”.
Let's summarise, and then comment on a recent Theosophical development.
A Brazilian Theosophist has called on the Adyar-based Theosophical Society to reopen the case of one of its founders, later its American leader, William Quan Judge (1851-1896). In 1894, Judge was accused of misusing the name of and handwriting of the Mahatmas, the advanced men believed to have inspired the formation of the Society. This led to a schism among Theosophists which persists to this day. The United Lodge of Theosophists, the T.S. Pasadena, and the independent Edmonton Theosophical Society (Alberta, Canada) are among groups supporting Judge.
In a letter published in the Edmonton journal Fohat (Spring 2006) Carlos Cardoso Aveline suggests that 'independent students could write annual, open letters to the Adyar Theosophical Society asking it to re-examine its 'process' moved against William Q. Judge in 1894-5 and suggesting that its leaders should either show proofs of his guilt or declare him innocent of any charges whatsoever.' This letter also appears on the Edmonton web site http://www.theosophycanada.com/fohat_justice.htm
In June 2004 the Edmonton Society published a 1000 page book 'The Judge Case: a conspiracy which ruined the Theosophical Cause' by Ernest Pelletier which printed much relevant documentation. However in an Addendum to the 'Supplement' to this book, Pelletier charged that the Adyar Society was withholding relevant documentation, in order to preserve the impression that Judge was guilty.
In his letter, Aveline draws attention to the 1885 case of H.P.Blavatsky who was also accused as a fraud - in this case by the SPR. In April 1986, however, the SPR (which has no collective views) published in its Journal a paper by a senior member, Dr Vernon Harrison, which was highly critical of the previous findings. An SPR press release made Dr Harrison's new investigation widely known.
Now, does the Blavatsky /SPR case offer lessons for the Judge Case? I believe it does.
The SPR had been asked to make available its surviving documentation about the Blavatsky investigation by Walter Carrithers ( pseudonym Adlai Waterman ) and it did so about 1960. Carrithers could be regarded as a hostile critic, in much the same way as Aveline or Pelletier could be regarded as hostile, but the material was made available anyway, and it circulated in photocopied or microfilm form among theosophical historians, before bearing fruit. (It revealed, incidentally, that Blavatsky had produced bell phenomena in the presence of members of the investigating committee, but this had been deleted at proof stage of a report. The written decision to delete had survived.) 91
Later the SPR, after putting Dr Harrison's paper through its normal review procedure, published it and publicised it. Not all members of the SPR agreed with Dr Harrison, just as not all agreed with the original Blavatsky report. But the sting of the mutual antipathy which had sometimes characterised SPR/TS relations since 1885 was drawn.
Does the TS Adyar have any documents which would assist the defenders, or for that matter, the critics, of Judge? In the same issue of Fohat, Pelletier points to at least one relevant letter (Judge to Khandalavala Sept. 17 1884) of which he has a photocopy, but which he suspects may have been tampered with in the original. And he has been told by Adyar people of other relevant material at Adyar.
Any new material could be published in a suitable place, like the quarterly journal 'Theosophical History.' In due course, 'The Theosophist' (Adyar's main journal) could carry one of more articles by senior Theosophists of various views and organisations, drawing lessons from the case, in the light of what we now know. This might go some way to healing the wounds of the schism.
However, I would not want to single out Adyar in this situation. It is but one of a number of relevant Theosophical archives. In the pro-Judge TS Pasadena may be found letters of Olcott and Besant to Judge, the diaries of Judge, and the letters of the Mahatmas to Judge which featured in the Case. Someone might suggest the TS Pasadena was suppressing evidence of Judge's guilt. In fact all archives, by preserving documentation, are performing a vital service. It would be useful now to move beyond charges and for all parties to work together to get all relevant documentation into the scholarly domain.
Beyond this Case, Judge was not only a profound Theosophical thinker, whose writings merit study, but also a witness to a variety of HPB phenomena - and a severe critic of the American psychic scene of his time.