Sri Raghavan Iyer MEMORIAL LIBRARY Biographical Sketch of William Quan Judge

~ Sri Raghavan Iyer~

Biographical Sketch
of William Quan Judge

WILLIAM QUAN JUDGE, son of Alice Mary Quan and Frederick H. Judge, was born at Dublin, Ireland, on April 13th, 1851. His father was a Mason and a student of mysticism. His mother died in early life at the birth of her seventh child. The lad was brought up in Dublin until his thirteenth year, when the father removed to the United States with his motherless children, taking passage on the Inman Liner, “City of Limerick,” which arrived in New York harbour on July 14th 1864. Of the years of ‘William’s childhood there is little to be said, though we hear of a memorable illness of his seventh year—an illness supposed to be mortal. The physician declared the small sufferer to be dying, then dead; but, in the outburst of grief which followed the announcement, it was discovered that the child had revived, and that all was well with him. During convalescence, the boy showed aptitudes and knowledge never before displayed, exciting wonderment and questioning among his elders as to when and how he had learned all these new things. He seemed the same, and yet not the same; he had to be studied anew by his family, and while no one knew that he had ever learned to read,* from his recovery in his eighth year, we find him devouring the contents of all the books he could obtain, relating to Mesmerism, Phrenology, Character-Reading, Religion, Magic, Rosicrucianism, and deeply absorbed in the Book of Revelation, trying to discover its real meaning. 

Perhaps the magnetic link so abruptly renewed in his illness was never fully vitalized in the physical sense, for the lad never acquired a strong physique. Without being sickly, he was frail, but indomitable and persevering beyond his years. An anecdote of his boyhood illustrates these traits. He was with other boys upon the bank of a stream. His companions swam to an island a little way off from the bank, from which vantage-ground they jeered and mocked their younger comrade, who could not swim. The small William’s heart rose hot within him; he plunged into the water, resolved to get to that island or perish. When out of his depth he let himself sink, touched bottom, ran a few steps on the river’s bed, rose, of course, kicked, sank, took a step and another, repeated the process, and thus struggling, rising, sinking, scrambling, and, above all, holding his breath, he actually reached the margin of the island, to be drawn out, half unconscious, by his astonished play-fellows. Nothing could be more characteristic of Mr. Judge. 

The elder Judge, with his children, lived for a brief period at the old Merchants’ Hotel, in Cortland Street, New York; next in Tenth Street, and then settled in Brooklyn. William began work in New York as a clerk, and afterwards entered the Law Office of George P. Andrews, who later became Judge of the Supreme Court of New York. There the lad studied law, while living with his father, who, however, died soon after. On coming of age, William Q. Judge was naturalized a citizen of the United States, in April, 1872. In May of that year he was admitted to the Bar of New York. His conspicuous traits as a lawyer, in the practice of Commercial Law, which became his specialty, were his thoroughness, his inflexible persistence, and his industry, which won the respect of employers and clients alike. As was said of him, then and later: 

‘Judge would walk over red-hot ploughshares from here to India to do his duty.” 

In 1874 he married Ella M. Smith, of Brooklyn, by whom he had one child, a little girl of great charm and promise, whose death in early childhood was long a source of deep, though quiet, sorrow to both. Mr. Judge in especial was a great lover of children, and had the gift of attracting them around him. If he sketched on the deck of a steamer the children would sidle up, coming nearer and nearer, until they were leaning against him or perching where-ever a resting-place could be had—often before he had seemed to notice their presence. The children of his friends always gave him joyous welcome, and not infrequently he was dragged to the floor, the common playground, amid their toys. A child, in the company where he was, was sure to find the haven of his arms at last, and nestle there while the metaphysical discussion went on above its curls. But, however animated the argument, you would not find that small form, so gently cradled, to be ever so little disturbed. 

Soon after his marriage, Mr. Judge heard of Madame Blavatsky, in this wise. He came across a book which greatly interested him: People from the Other World, by H. S. Olcott. Mr. Judge wrote to Colonel Olcott, asking for the address of a good medium, for at this time the tide of occult inquiry and speculation had just set in, and the experiences of numbers of people, including those of Madame Blavatsky, at the “Eddy Homestead,” were the talk of all the world. While no medium was forthcoming, Mr. Judge was invited to call upon H. P. B. 

The call was paid at 40, Irving Place, New York, and H. P. Blavatsky then for the first time in this life met her most devoted pupil and friend face to face,* in a relationship which continued unbroken, and justified that which H. P. Blavatsky herself wrote of it—’ ‘till death and after.” Storms there were, no doubt, as well as fullest sunshine, for the pupil was a powerful mind and the teacher was the sphinx of her era, so that intellectual tussles followed as a natural sequence; but whatever the pupil thought of the teacher was said to her, boldly—not a doubt nor a fear concealed when these arose, as arise they must when the hour of occult teaching and trial dawns. That H. P. B. honored this openness is evidenced by her long letters—there are some of forty-eight pages—in which many a puzzle is explained with profound affection. 

There has been a recent attempt to make capital out of some passing episode, turning it into a prolonged enmity on the part of Mr. Judge toward H. P. B. New, perhaps, to their odious trade, the slanderers were more silly than expert; they were unaware of the existence of these letters of H. P. B., which not only show how complete was the final understanding, but which also show through what arts, and of what individual, the temporary want of comprehension arose. Never was karmic line more plainly marked out nor karmic tool more mercifully—yet plainly—exposed by H. P. B. This effort was as vain as will be every other attempt to separate that teacher and that pupil. The final verdict of H. P. B. upon the relationship is an ample one. It extends over the ten years previous to her departure from our midst and is replete with a noble gratitude constantly poured forth. The splendid friendship went on its rejoicing way, a thing of life immortal, destined to pass beyond the confines of the tomb, as beyond many a mortal life. 

Mr. Judge spent much of his time with H. P. B. at Irving Place, New York, in study, under her direction and instruction, and helped her with Isis Unveiled [as indicated in his Paris letter, p. 199]. He was one of the number present at her rooms on September 7, 1875. when the first proposal for the Theosophical Society was made, and its organization begun. Isis was published in 1877, and a little over a year later, Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott went to India, while Mr. Judge was left to carry on the T. S. in New York as best he could—these three being, as H. P. B. subsequently wrote, the only founders who remained true to the Cause and to the Society. It was a position in which the young lawyer seemed quite over-weighted, but he did all that he could. Much or little it might have been on the external plane, and at that time. We cannot say. He was a disciple under trial, soon to be accepted and recognized, but already, so far as this life goes, a neophyte, one of a band who have taken the vow of interior poverty, and whose unseen and unrecorded work is regarded as being of far more importance than exterior, visible work. The main current of such lives runs underground. Already H. P. Blavatsky had written and said that he had been a part of herself and of the Great Lodge “for aeons past” (her exact words), and that he was one of those tried Egos who have reincarnated several times immediately after death; assisted to do so, and without devachanic rest, in order to continue his Lodge work. It is a matter of record that, when the seven years’ probation of this life were over, the Master best known in connection with the T. S. sent to Mr. Judge, through H. P. B., his photograph, inscribed upon the back “to my colleague,” with a cryptogram and signature; and, a little later, a letter of thanks and advice was delivered to Mr. Judge in Paris by H. P. B. A message sent to him through H. P. B. in writing from the Lodge at about this time ends by saying: “Those who do all that they can, and the best they know how, do enough for us.” 

Mr. Judge’s was a difficult task, indeed, when she, who was then the one great exponent, had left the field, and the curiosity and interest excited by her original and striking mission had died down. The T. S. was henceforth to subsist on its philosophical basis, and this, after long years of toil and unyielding persistence, was the point attained by Mr. Judge. From his twenty-third year until his death, his best efforts and all the fiery energies of his un daunted soul were given to this Work. We have a word picture of him, opening meetings, reading a chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, entering the Minutes, and carrying on all the details of the same, as if he were not the only person present; and this he did, time after time, determined to have a society. Will, such as this, makes its way through every obstacle. Through his unremitting labour, he built up the T. S. in America, aiding the Movement as well in all parts of the world, and winning from The Master the name of “Resuscitator of Theosophy in America.” His motto in those days was, “Promulgation, not Speculation.” “Theosophy,” said he, “is a cry of the Soul.” 

The work went slowly at first. There was no very great activity, but the link was kept unbroken, and correspondence with H. P. Blavatsky was brisk. Amid such external work as he could find to do, the young disciple still kept up the inner search. It was a period of darkness and silence, the period of probation. Through such a period had passed H. P. Blavatsky, and of it she said and wrote: “For long years I thought Master had quite deserted me.” She had seen the Master in London, in the physical body, following, as if an official, in the suite of some Indian prince, and, in an interview which was given to her in Hyde Park, the Master told her she might come to Thibet, but left her to find her way thither unaided, and also to discover where she should go when she reached that country, all of which she accomplished after several failures and some years of search and apparent desertion. Of such a period the author of Light on the Path wrote in some explanatory notes in Lucifer, that though the Master might really be near the neophyte and might extend to him the utmost comfort which one soul could give to another, yet the neophyte would feel himself utterly alone, and that not one has passed through this period of suffering without bitter complaint. Complaint was wrung from this strong soul, whose portrait is feebly attempted here, in letters of sacred privacy to his teacher, H. P. Blavatsky, and to Damodar, his fellow student. 

The shadow portrayed in those letters lifted, the disciple came to know even as he was known, and in 1888 we find H. P. B. writing in certain official documents of him as being then “a chela of thirteen years’ standing, with trust reposed in him,” and as “the chief and sole agent of the Dzyan (Lodge) in America.” (This, it will be remembered, is the name by which what is called “The Lodge” is known in Thibet.) 

Mr. Judge had been in South America, where H. P. B. said there was a branch of the Great Lodge, and where he saw many strange things.* In that country he contracted the dreaded Chagres fever, which racks the system of its victims as by fire, often carrying them off in the twentieth year. Mr. Judge was always a great sufferer from this torturing disease—though he never stayed his work for it—and 1896 was the twentieth year. 

To Europe he went, too, in 1884, meeting H. P. B. in Paris and spending some little time with her there, and thence to India, where he arrived just after the outbreak of the Coulomb scandal.† After a brief stay there, Mr. Judge returned to America and the duties of his professional and theosophical life. The moment was critical, a turning-point. As so often happens, the scandal attracted public attention to the Theosophical Society, and letters of inquiry began to pour in. Mr. Judge seized the tide at the flood and carried the bark of the Society on to wider fortunes. The press took the matter up, reporters called, inquirers became members, the community became aware of the quiet, forceful worker in its midst. His method and his manner won the respect of those who heard him; the press began to accept his articles on Theosophy, and later on those of others; from scoffing and jeering and being unable to admit a theosophical item without insulting comment, it passed to giving these like other items of news. Later still, the personal influence of Mr. Judge induced the editors of the New York Sun to retract a libel which they had published against the T. S. and Madame Blavatsky, and a libel suit instituted against that journal by Mr. Judge was withdrawn 

Mr. Judge instituted The Path magazine in 1886, meeting all its deficits and carrying on its various activities, as well as those of the T. S. He wrote unceasingly, books, articles, letters. He lectured all over the States, and did the work of several men. Every spare moment was given to Theosophy. and taken from his meals and his rest. Finally, when the New York Headquarters were bought, and when the work had increased to large proportions, Mr. Judge relinquished his profession and gave his entire life and time to the Society. His health, always frail, continued to give way. A day free from pain was rare with him. Often he was in very real danger. But always he was scornful of every suffering, working when another man would have been prone, when his friends and doctors were shocked at his being about at all. As the T. S. grew, his working staff grew also, but he out-worked and out-tired them all. Dauntless, indomitable, he was ever inaugurating fresh plans of work. 

He had his sorrows, too, but the cheerfulness of his aspect, his undaunted energy, never failed him. To those who would ask his advice in the crises which were wont to shake the tree of the T. S., he would make answer: “Work! Work! Work for Theosophy!” And when at last the Great Betrayal came to him, and some of those whom he had lifted and served and taught how to work, strove to cast him down and out of the Society, in their ignorance of their own limitations, he kept the due silence of the Initiate. He bowed his defenceless head to The Will and The Law, and, passing with sweet and serene heart through the waters of bitterness—consoled by the respect and trust of the community in which his life had been spent, and by the thousands of students who knew and loved him—he exhorted all to forgiveness and renewed effort. He reminded them that there were many [mistakes] committed by the unbrotherliness of his opponents, but they them selves would in time come to see and comprehend the wrong done to the Work by action taken which at the time they did not under stand in all its bearings.* He begged the students to be ready to meet that day, and to take the hands which would then be extended by those who had ignorantly shared the wrong done to him, and through him, to all. In this trust he passed behind the veil. On the 21st of March, 1896, he encountered “Eloquent, Just and Mighty Death.” 

So much for the open and material facts of his life. There is much more that must be left unsaid. His claim upon us was that of The Work. The Work was his Ideal. He valued men and women only by their theosophical Work, and the spirit in which that work was done. He held Right Thought to be of the best Work. He worked with anyone who was willing to do Work in the real sense, careless whether such were personal friends, strangers, or active or secret foes. Many a time he was known to be energetically working with those who were attacking him, or planning attack in supposed concealment, and his smile, as this was commented upon, was a thing to be always remembered—that whimsical and quaint smile, followed by some Irish drollery.