William Q. Judge

APRIL 13, 1851    MARCH 21st, 1896

William Q. Judge left his body—”died,” as we say—at the time of the Vernal Equinox, in 1896. It may seem strange that Theosophists turn their thoughts especially toward the great Workers for Theosophy on death-days, rather than on birth-days—the time when people are wont to remember great public characters. When a babe is born, it brings with it a kind of plan or pattern for its life. But the pattern is not clearly defined, and only the Ego sees it. No one else knows how it will be wrought out. The coming of the babe is usually known only to family and friends, but when one “dies,” it means the pattern now shows clear. With the great soul, it means that thousands of other lives have been woven into that pattern. Death—which is really known only to those in bodies, who feel the separation—calls people to regard the pattern of the just finished life on earth, to think of and feel its influence, on lives still working out their own design.

At the time Mr. Judge died, and for several days, the world seemed to stand still for those who were close to him. They thought of his work for Theosophy, and of the gentle, strong heart, ever beating for Humanity while he lived, and even now breathing something of his will and strength and courage into theirs. So, as the cycle comes again—no matter how many the years that have gone since that Day— minds and hearts turn in gratitude to Mr. Judge for all that he did and was. They gain ever a deeper appreciation of what it means to work for Humanity, and know that the influence of so great a Soul as this is never absent from the world.

William Q. Judge was born in Dublin, Ireland, April 13, 1851, and there lived until his fourteenth year. He never lost the exquisite use of English for which Dublin is notable, and somehow he always carried with him a suggestion of the quaintness and charm of that land which still bears witness of Atlantean adepts. The movement now on foot there to restore the ancient language and literature of Eire (Erin) was begun and fostered by a group of young men whom he inspired through Theosophy. Two of these young men were the poet, W. D. Yeats, and G. W. Russell, known under the pen-name, “AE” (for Æon).

The little Judge boy was unusual, as can be imagined. In his seventh year he had a very severe illness from which it was thought he could not recover. But he did recover, and, after the illness, began to show something of what was his knowledge in former lives. He began to be an avid reader, especially of books on religion and magic. He began to exhibit that will which, later in life, caused people to say, “Judge would walk over hot ploughshares from here to India to do his duty.” The tale is told of how, when playing with other older boys, he was taunted by them because he could not swim. As they called to the little fellow on the other bank of the stream, they were amazed to see him plunge in, sink, walk on the bottom, paddle and rise again, until, repeating the process he reached the bank, where they drew him out of the water exhausted but triumphant.

In his fourteenth year, the Judge family— now motherless—sailed for New York City. They settled in quieter Brooklyn, where Mr. Judge lived till 1893, although his work was always in New York City. At twenty-one years of age, Mr. Judge was admitted to the Bar of New York. He was to distinguish himself in Commercial Law, in connection with which he travelled all over the United States, in Mexico, and in South America. At the age of twenty-three, Mr. Judge married. But the most important event of his life was to occur about a year later, for then, he met Madame Blavatsky, who had sent word to him to call on her at her rooms in Irving Place. This is the way he later wrote of that meeting:

It was her eye that attracted me, the eye of one I must have known in lives long passed away. She looked at me in recognition at that first hour, and never since has that look changed. It was as if but the evening before we had parted, leaving yet to be done some detail of a task taken up with one common end, it was teacher and pupil, elder brother and younger, both bent on the one single end; but she with the power and the knowledge that belong but to lions and sages. So, friends from the first, I felt safe. Others, I know, have looked with suspicion on an appearance they could not fathom, yet it is only through blindness they failed to see the lion’s glance, and the diamond heart of H.P.B.

From this time to the day of his death, Mr. Judge devoted himself to Theosophy. At first he studied and worked with H. P. B. while she was writing Isis Unveiled. In September, 1875, the first movements were made toward founding the Theosophical Society, which was to be publicly inaugurated November 17, 1875, with Colonel Olcott as its President, H. P. B. its Corresponding Secretary, and Wm. Q. Judge its Counsel. Still the work went on with the book which was published in 1877, and which was to be studied by Mr. Judge the remainder of his life. When in after years, it was said that H. P. B. did not know about reincarnation at the time Isis was written, Mr. Judge was able to say that she very distinctly knew it and taught it; that it was especially re-enforced to him then by the death of his own little daughter.

H. P. B. and Col. Olcott left the United States for India in 1878, and Mr. Judge was not to see them again for six long years, during which time he held meetings—whether or no anyone else was present—always beginning with a reading from the Bhagavad Gita. Then, H. P. B. summoned him to come to India, all three of the original founders of the Society meeting in Paris, before Mr. Judge proceeded to India. There he was to meet the Hindu Theosophist, Damodar K. Mavalankar, and many prominent English workers. There he was to see how the cunning plot against H. P. B. was maneuvered by the Coulombs. There he was to make, we may believe, other mysterious connections, for though he returned to New York at the end of 1884, almost at once new friends began to appear, to join and help the Society. In April, 1886, Mr. Judge’s real work began, with the publishing of the Path Magazine, which was to draw men and women to Theosophy, as to a true magnet.

Some of the stories in this book were written by Mr. Judge under different names for the Path. He wrote practically the whole of each issue of the Magazine in its beginning, and it was necessary to give variety by adopting a style according to the character assumed—like Bryan Kinnavan, Murdhna Joti, Euse bio Urban, William Brehon, (Brehon is the old Irish word for Judge), Hadji Erinn and Rodriguez Undiano.
H. P. B. seemed to have Mr. Judge in mind when she wrote:

The society has more victorious disciples than is commonly supposed. But these stand aside and work instead of de claiming. Such are our most zealous as well as our most devoted disciples. When they write they hide their names; when they read garbled translations of sacred books, they see the real meaning under the veil of obscurity that western philologists have thrown upon them, for they know the mystery language.

Mr. Judge drew about him a number of talented men and women in the next five years, who wrote and spoke, and travelled from city to city in the United States, lecturing for Theosophy. Mr. Judge also visited the branches of the Society from time to time, energizing the work and workers wherever he went, and also spending time in England, working with H. P. B.

When H. P. B. called Mr. Judge her “only friend,” she meant that he of all those who worked for Theosophy in her time, was the one she trusted most—”perhaps more than my self,” she once said. He knew the plan of the work; he understood her; he had proved his loyalty and devotion to Theosophy since 1875. But, after her death, there were many ambitious Theosophists who became jealous of Mr. Judge, as they had been of H. P. B., and who became his active enemies. From 1893 to the day of his death in 1896, their hostility did not cease, and it is only since the United Lodge of Theosophists—founded by Mr. Judge’s friend and pupil, Robert Crosbie, started re-publishing his books and studying them that his true position in the Theosophical Movement has become re-established. Only his work, of all that done in the last century, stands beside that of H. P. B., but he never forgot and never ceased saying that he but handed on what had been taught by her.

Aside from Mr. Judge’s magazine articles, we have his books: the Ocean of Theosophy; Letters That Have Helped Me; Echoes From the Orient; Epitome of Theosophy; Notes on the Bhagavad Gita. His renditions of the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Aphorisms are better by far than hundreds of scholarly translations, because he knew the teaching. His encouragement made possible the translation of many Upanishads, and other ancient Hindu works. We can scarcely estimate the extent and variety of the work which Mr. Judge accomplished. Nor should it be forgotten that it was he who first started Theosophical work for children. He was a great lover of children, and children loved him. He was so gentle, so kind, so wise, so full of sweet fun! Never a word of condemnation did he have for anyone—not even for those who tried to harm him—but only patience and charity. In this, all history affords no nobler example than his.

“Life would be a contest of smiles, if we only knew our business,” Mr. Judge once said. He knew his business! Even more, Mr. Judge knew how to help others learn theirs, when they asked for his guidance. These sayings of his, in letters, will help anyone:

“Nothing is gained, but a good deal is lost by impatience — not only strength, but also sight and intuition. So decide nothing hastily. Wait; make no set plan. Wait for the hour to make the decision, for if you decide in advance of the time you tend to raise a confusion.”

“Patience is really the best and most important thing, for it includes many. You cannot have it if you are not calm and ready for the emergency, and as calmness is the one thing necessary for the spirit to be heard, it is evident how important patience is. It also
prevents one from precipitating a thing, for by precipitation we may smash a good egg or a good plan, and throw the Karma, for the time, off and prevent certain good effects flowing. So, keep right on and try for patience in all the very smallest things of life every day, and you will find it growing very soon, and with it will come greater strength and influence on and for others, as well as greater and clearer help from the inner side of things.”

“You can solidify your character by attending to small things. By attacking small faults, and on every small occasion, one by one. This will arouse the inner attitude of attention and caution. The small faults and small occasions being conquered, the character grows strong. Feelings and desires are not wholly of the body. If the mind is deliberately taken off such subjects and placed on other better ones, then the whole body will follow the mind and grow tractable. This struggle must be kept up, and after awhile it will be easier.”

“The very first step towards being positive and self-centered is in the cheerful performance of duty. Try to take pleasure in doing what is your duty, and especially in the little duties of life. When doing any duty put your whole heart into it. There is much in this life that is bright if we would open our eyes to it. If we recognize this, then we can bear the troubles that come to us calmly and patiently, for we know that they will pass away.”

These and countless other wise words were said by Mr. Judge to be applied to the frictions and confusions of our daily conduct. For it is not enough that another tells us how wise was Mr. Judge. We need to study what he wrote, and his example, for ourselves. As we prove his wisdom by doing, we shall come to know him. Knowing him, we shall understand ourselves better. Knowing him, we shall understand H. P. B., and the meaning of the Theosophical Movement down the ages.