THEOSOPHY, Vol. 10, No. 9, July, 1922
(Pages 263-280; Size: 60K)
(Number 31 of a 34-part series)
THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT(1)
COLONEL OLCOTT'S two letters of March 20, 1894, to Mr. Judge -- the one to him as General Secretary of the American Section and the other addressed to him as Vice-President of the T.S. -- as detailed in the last Chapter, were drawn up immediately following the receipt of Mr. Judge's cabled denial of the "charges," and just prior to Mrs. Besant's departure from India. They were the President-Founder's only communication to the Convention of the American Section -- the largest, the most active, the most influential of all the three Sections of the Society. When one contrasts the length and character of his Annual Address at the preceding Adyar Convention with the nature of these two letters, but one inference can be drawn: The President-Founder was determined to "fight it out" once more, and this time to the hilt; he had burned his bridges behind him; it was to be a fight without quarter that should leave the victor in undisputed possession of the field. The spectacle of a living H.P.B. continually upsetting his most cherished plans to make of the Theosophical Society a world force with himself as its world-wide Head, had been well-nigh intolerable. Her continual insistence on Brotherhood as she understood it; her continual interference "in the name of the Masters" with his "practical" guidance of the Society; her "Esoteric School" pledged to Theosophy and the Theosophical Movement instead of the Society, pledged to follow her instructions instead of his "revised Rules" -- all this had been a continual thorn in his side. But each time that the "moment of choice" has been precipitated he had avoided the final wager of battle: the odds were too great, the liens established too strong.
But now -- now he was no longer dependent on H.P.B. for "messages from the Masters;" Mrs. Besant, the "sweet spirit and the guiding star" of the Esoteric School, the strongest factor in the Society as well as in the School, the most potent influence on the world at large as well as in the Society -- Mrs. Besant was now his firm ally. Opposed to his ideas, his plans and policies, stood out only Judge. Two years had shown that Judge could not be moved from his firm allegiance to H.P.B. and all that H.P.B. had represented. Sinnett, Bertram Keightley, Old, Sturdy, Edge, the Countess Wachtmeister, the Hindus en masse, the great bulk of the English and European Theosophists -- all these he could count on as imbued with the same ideas as himself. The time was come to banish the spectre of H.P.B., to force Judge into exile -- to make of the Theosophical Society what it should have been and ought to be.
The letters to Judge were well calculated to create confusion, bewilderment, uncertainty, among the American Theosophists -- to throw Judge on the defensive, a helpless defensive, far more a helpless defensive than had paralyzed H.P.B.'s activities following the Coulomb-S.P.R. bombshell in 1884-5. So much for the American field. Remained England, Europe and India to be aroused to an offensive as energetic as America had been presumably stupefied in defense. Mrs. Besant was returning to England, whence she could not only direct the battle there, but could reasonably be expected to muster succors and strong levies in the United States in spite of all that Judge or his friends could avail. And Walter R. Old was no mean understudy; he, too, was returning to England at the same time as Mrs. Besant.
The Supplement to the "Theosophist" for February, 1894, had contained a printed slip pasted to its pages and headed "To Members and Friends." It was dated January 29, 1894, and signed by "Walter R. Old, Rec. Sec. T.S." Mr. Old's notice informed the members that, "acting under medical advice received during a recent illness," he was going to England for the summer and would leave India at the end of March. The familiar "explanation" of his departure merely cloaked the fact that as his part of the tactics planned he was to return to England, aid in spreading among the English Theosophists the slanders dignified as "charges" against Mr. Judge. Old was well known in England, where he had many friends and much influence as a "psychic," as an "astrologer," as a former member of the "E.S.T. Council," as a friend of H.P.B.'s, and as an intimate in high favor with the President-Founder as well as with Mrs. Besant. For it must be remembered that the "suspension" of Old from the E.S.T. was unknown at that time except by rumor among the general membership of the Society, while his intimacy with Col. Olcott and Mrs. Besant was a matter of common knowledge.
The two letters to Mr. Judge were immediately followed up by Col. Olcott in the April, 1894, "Theosophist," with an eight-page article devoted to "Annie Besant's Indian Tour." It is given over to the most fulsome laudations. We say "fulsome" because, like his similar remarks in his preceding Presidential Address, these reiterated encomiums on Annie Besant, her abilities and status, must necessarily be construed, not merely as extraordinary tributes of personal regard and esteem, but, in the light of collateral circumstances, as carefully planned, deliberately carried out steps of a predetermined march. Step by step with the belittlements of H.P.B. and the criticisms and canards published and circulated about Judge, marched the public cumulation of official and personal tributes to Mrs. Besant. A few quotations from Col. Olcott's signed article mentioned will show both his method and his manner. He treats of Mrs. Besant's elaborate bid for Brahmanical alliance in these words:"As regards the question of her keeping within the constitutional limits of our Society's policy, I do not see how there can be two opinions. True, she has declared herself virtually a Hindu in religion almost from the beginning of the Indian part of her tour. What of that? If she had chosen to declare herself a Mussalman, a Jew, a Christian, nobody could have ventured to call her to account. What could be more clear than our printed declaration that 'no person's religious opinions are asked upon his joining, nor is interference with them permitted?'" And should Annie Besant be denied the liberty which is enjoyed as an acknowledged right by the humblest member? ... Her theme was ever Theosophy, and she ever declared herself a thorough-going Theosophist. ... I do not enjoy the company of muzzled slaves. Dr. Salzer and other esteemed colleagues in the Society have publicly protested against the T.S. having been made responsible for Mrs. Besant's Hinduism. But the fact is that, in introducing her to her audiences, it was almost my invariable custom to warn the public that, under our constitution, the Society represents no one religion, and is not in the least degree responsible for the utterances of any of its officers or members upon questions of religion, politics, social reform, or any others about which people take sides."In the foregoing, as on so many other occasions, Col. Olcott speaks with exactitude the "letter of the law" while in the very act of violating its spirit. On the basis of his last sentence above quoted the whole "case" against W. Q. Judge falls to the ground, as he who runs may read. Col. Olcott describes the wonderful reception accorded Mrs. Besant wherever she traveled, speaks of her answering "offhand the most difficult and abstruse questions in science, philosophy, symbolism and metaphysics;" of her "grand orations;" of her "formal meetings with pandits for discussions:" "this for five months on end." Then begins his panegyric:"Over all, through all, and lingering with me like the strain of a sweet symphony dying in the distance, the recollection of the most splendid series I ever listened to in my life, and of intimate companionship during these sunny months with one of the purest, most high-minded, most intellectual and spiritually elevated women of our generation, or of any previous age, of whom I have read in history.The investigator of today will naturally compare and contrast these declarations of Col. Olcott in the quoted article and in his Presidential Address, with the numerous statements made by him in regard to H.P.B., both those hitherto quoted and those with which the whole series of "Old Diary Leaves" is larded. He will off-set the President-Founder's strictures on H.P.B. and Mr. Judge with his laudations of Mrs. Besant and his scarcely less veiled extolments of himself. He will consider scrupulously the attendant circumstances and the "controlling impulse" governing Col. Olcott in his "Old Diary Leaves" as recounted by himself in his "Foreword" to the first published volume. He will compare them with the various statements and acts of H.P.B. and Mr. Judge, and he will be under no illusions as to the workings of consciousness in the one case and in the other.
"Unlike as H.P.B. and I were in many respects we were akin in more ways than Annabai and myself can ever be. My praise of her is not tinged with blind partiality. She is religious fervor and devotion personified, the ideal female devotee who in time evolves into saint and martyr. ... Her 'Hinduism' is the lofty spiritual concept of the Bhagavadgita; a splendid, perhaps unattainable, ideal. ... As the lark sings in soaring, so Annabai's heart is filled with the overwhelming joy of finding in the Secret Doctrine of Aryan philosophy all her intellect had ever craved, and in the Aryan religion even a greater field for devotion than she had ever yearned for in the days of her youth. H.P.B. and I had no spark of this love of worship in our constitutions, though, I believe, that, as regards the actual sentiment of religion, we were not more deficient than others. Of the two paths which S'ri Krishna says must be followed in the seeking after Mukti (salvation), that of knowledge and that of devotion, H.P.B. and I, in this incarnation at least, have trodden the former; Annabai has trodden the one, but is now by preference treading the other; and, but for her controlling impulse of self-effacement and her sense of the duty she owes to the sin-burdened and ignorant masses, she would, I think, retire to some quiet spot where she might commune with the soul and more speedily gain liberation. A more consistently religious woman I never met, nor one whose life is a more joyful self-sacrifice. My blessings attend her wherever she goes."
The extraordinary article on Mrs. Besant was followed in the Supplement to the May "Theosophist" by something more extraordinary still. In it will be found the text of an "Executive Notice," the real significance of which has never yet been grasped by Theosophists at large, any more than it was at the time. We give it in full:This "Executive Notice" shows for itself the tremendous gulf between the ostensibly "democratic" basis of the Theosophical Society -- a democracy which never had an existence except in the American Section and the British as originally constituted -- and that democracy as interpreted and applied by Col. Olcott in the Indian Section in particular and, through his plastic "General Council" to the Society as a whole by means of his personally "revised" Rules and his personally devised "discretionary powers."ADYAR, 27th April 1894."The undersigned avails of Mrs. Annie Besant's forthcoming visit to the Australasian Colonies, to invest her with the functions of President's Commissioner, with authority to represent him in all current Society business during her tour, and act for him and in his name in disposing of the same, as perfectly as though it were his individual act. Mrs. Besant is empowered to organize a Section or Sections; to authorize the formation of Branches; to admit persons to the Fellowship; to regulate disagreements and disputes within the Society; to remit at her discretion in cases of great poverty the whole or any part of any fee or other pecuniary contribution chargeable as a condition of membership; and, generally, to exercise the same powers as are constitutionally enjoyed by the undersigned in his Presidential capacity.
"Mrs. Besant will, of course, make or cause to be made to the undersigned a full report of her official actions under the above special commission and according to the revised rules of the Society.H. S. OLCOTT, P.T.S."
In this particular instance, the Presidential "discretionary powers" are officially stretched to give Mrs. Besant his official sanction in advance to a range of arbitrary and unchecked authority that becomes the more astounding the more closely it is examined. She can organize at will, and upon terms named by herself, "a Section or Sections," under "revised Rules" that will give such Section or Sections the same voice and standing in the "General Council" as the existing democratic Sections. She can "authorize the formation of Branches" to an extent and upon terms that will control the Section or Sections she is to organize. She can "admit persons to Fellowship" -- or deny them, inevitably -- upon terms that will control the Branches. She can remit dues in whole or in part. Finally, she can "regulate disagreements and disputes within the Society." What does this mean, if it does not mean that she can exercise absolute and unappealable authority, root, stalk and branch, to any extent necessary to organize and control a Section or Sections wholly pliant to her own will and purposes? What becomes of "democracy," of "neutrality," of individual liberty of conscience, under such canons of organization and government? That at any time, in any event, under any circumstances, such powers should be claimed, such authority desired, by any one soever, Master or man, is a categorical negation of every Object for which the Theosophical Society was supposed to stand. Yet the text of this "Executive Notice" is the unimpeachable proof that it was precisely such powers and authority that Col. Olcott was determined to have and to exercise, and to delegate to those who might be of service to him in his determination. The student has but to examine into the original Preamble and By-Laws of 1875, the Rules adopted in December, 1879, the Constitutions of the American and British Sections of 1887 and 1889, and compare them with the "revised Rules" adopted by Col. Olcott's obedient "General Council" in December, 1893, to discern how in the interim, the Society had been engineered into an absolute autocracy wherein, under the forms adopted, the Members had no rights whatever, "constitutionally," save such as the "General Council" might choose to allot them, no voice and no appeal save as the "discretionary powers" of the President might be "exercised" as an "act of grace." Contrast of the actions, official and personal, of Col. Olcott and Mrs. Besant with those of H.P.B. and W.Q.J. does but make more sheer the absolutely irreconcilable principles embodied in the respective protagonists: On the one hand "official authority," the "divine right of kings," "government" of the "inferior" by the "superior;" on the other hand, self-reliance, democracy, freedom of conscience, Universal Brotherhood in actu.
So much for the general significance that must be attached to this "Executive Notice;" it is integral with the battle openly begun at the Adyar Convention at the end of 1888, the "Revised Rules" of 1893 but the full bloom of the "revised rules" of 1888. But what of its special portent? That also must be inquired into.
The answer is simple. Judge's circular and that of Mead and Keightley had reached Adyar; the news of the action taken by the Convention of the American Section had been received. The plans of the accusers were completely upset; the tables were turned; what was to be done? To appreciate Colonel Olcott's dilemma, to understand his consternation, the student should marshal the opposing situations as before him at the end of April, 1894. Thus:
1. Backed by the "revised Rules," confident that the prestige of Mrs. Besant and himself with the membership and the world would make their "charges" carry the assumption of guilt, and convinced of that "guilt" themselves, the unavoidable inference was that Judge would avail himself of the "option" to resign. On the contrary, Judge had denied absolutely any wrong-doing and, instead of retiring to the shelter of silence, had himself made public the full facts, and had announced his determination to meet the issues: first, that the whole proceeding was utterly unconstitutional; second, that he would not oppose but would submit himself to any competent investigation that did not involve the neutrality of the Society or set up a dogma; in other words, try out the facts of who was and who was not "in communication with the Mahatmas."
2. Mead and Keightley, counted on as allies and aids in the fight on Judge, had risen in rebellion; had declared that it was the President-Founder himself who was guilty of gross violation of the Constitution and the neutrality of the Society; had appealed to their respective Sections -- the European and Indian -- with a statement of the facts, and had announced their opposition to any attempt to set up a dogma on the subject of Mahatmas, and had demanded of the President-Founder a categorical official reply to the points raised by them.
3. The Convention of the American Section, with all the correspondence before it, had, as a democratic body, unanimously voted its protest against the spirit and the substance of Col. Olcott's actions; had re-elected Judge its General Secretary; had declared its entire confidence in him as a man, as a Theosophist, as an officer in the Society; had taken a firm stand against any official interference with the freedom of speech and conscience of any member, high or low; had declared, if any "Judicial Committee" were to sit upon the question of Mahatmas and communications from them, that such investigation must be complete and must include Col. Olcott, Mrs. Besant, Mr. Sinnett and all others as well as Judge who had claimed to be in receipt of "messages from the Masters."
Olcott had counted with the confidence based on fifteen years experience that the Indian Section would follow his lead and support any action he might choose to take. He had counted that since the members and the other Sections had not hitherto actively opposed his repeated tampering with the Rules and his repeated executive ukases, no organized resistance would be offered to his plans to force Judge into exile by charges that in their very nature would paralyze any defense. Mrs. Besant had counted that her influence was strong enough with the British-European Section to make the members accept as proven any charges she might make, merely because she made them. Both she and Olcott had counted that Mrs. Besant's prestige was so great in America that no concerted defense could be made of Judge in the American Convention by those who might still believe in him. Sure of India, sure of Britain, sure at worst of a split in America, they had nothing to fear even when Judge cabled on March 10 his denial of the charges and his refusal of their "options." If the matter came to a trial before a "Judicial Committee," they held that Committee in the hollow of their hands by a majority. If the matter should go before the Sections they controlled two out of the three absolutely, with the assurance that at best Judge could count on nothing more than a division and a split in the American Section. Mrs. Besant and Mr. Old, therefore, sailed confidently for England toward the end of March to complete their preparations at home for the forthcoming "trial." Olcott, on his part, went forward as confidently in India.
Now, in a little month, the whole situation was reversed. Desperation took the place of confidence. The conspirators were divided by distance; deserted by two of their strongest allies; America unanimous in support of Judge; counter-issues raised that they could not meet. What was to be done?
This was the situation in which Colonel Olcott found himself toward the close of April, 1894. Yet he could not retreat; the battle was joined; he must go forward along the route chosen by himself. What hurried interchanges took place between the conspirators any thoughtful reader can infer for himself from merely visualizing the status of affairs and studying the President-Founder's consequent steps. The first of these was the "Executive Notice" given. Its purpose is clear: if the warfare should be carried before the Sections, as it was certain now that it must at last, two Sections were absolutely requisite even to assure a "drawn battle." India was safe for the conspirators; America had already declared for Judge; Britain was still a hopeful prospect, but no more. Judge had friends there; who could say what might happen? But if Australia were organized into a Section -- organized by Mrs. Besant robed with the Presidential "discretionary powers" to accept or reject whom she would -- then the new Australasian Section could be made as safely and entirely a "pocket borough" as India was already. Hence the "Notice" dated April 27th, 1894.
Chakravarti was a lawyer along with his other accomplishments; N. D. Khandalavala was a Judge in one of the Indian Courts. Them and others the President-Founder consulted and the result was still another "Executive Notice," published in the Supplement to the May "Theosophist" immediately following on the "Notice" transferring to Mrs. Besant his extraordinary, emergency-planned "discretionary powers" to organize an Australasian Section. Because of its telltale significance, both in connection with the preceding events narrated and with what followed, we give it in full for the careful study of all students. It is dated on the same day as the "Special Commission" to Mrs. Besant -- April 27th, 1894 -- and reads:"The following facts are published for the information of members of the Society:--Taking this Notice of the President-Founder seriatim, careful examination and comparison will disclose,--
"On February 6th last, while at Allahabad, Mrs. Annie Besant handed the undersigned a written demand that certain accusations 'with reference to certain letters and in the alleged writings of the Mahatmas,' injurious to the public character of Mr. W. Q. Judge, Vice-President of the Society, should be dealt with by a Committee as provided by Art. VI, Secs. 2, 3 and 4.
"On the following day, from Agra, a copy of this letter was forwarded by the undersigned to Mr. Judge without the expression of any opinion as to the validity or otherwise of the accusations in question. No specific charges having then been filed, this was merely a preliminary measure.
"From a motive of delicacy no question was asked the accused as to his guilt or innocence, but the undersigned, in the exercise of his discretion, gave Mr. Judge the option of resigning his office or submitting the case to investigation. The implication being, of course, that if guilty, he would wish to retire quietly, or if innocent, to be brought before the Committee, and thus set at rest, once and for all, the injurious rumors afloat, in different parts of the world.
"The alternative offered carried with it, as will be clearly seen, no intimation that the rumors were true, nor that the undersigned believed them so, or the contrary.
"Mr. Judge having cabled a denial of his guilt, the first step prescribed by the Constitution for such cases was then taken, viz, the ordering of a 'Judicial Committee' as provided for under Art. VI; the official notification of the same to the accused and the members of the General Council; and the serving upon each of a copy of the detailed charges and specifications, then drafted by Mrs. Besant as Accuser. The provisions of our Constitution were thus strictly followed out, and there has been no deviation whatever.
"It was hoped by the undersigned that the whole matter would have been kept private until the Committee had met, disposed of the charges and rendered its verdict, which would then have been officially promulgated by him.
"But the opposite policy having been adopted by the accused and the General Secretaries of the European and Indian Sections, and printed circulars having been distributed by them throughout the whole world, secrecy is no longer possible, and hence the present Executive Notice is issued, with the deepest regret for its necessity.
"The undersigned deplores that his colleagues Mr. Mead and Mr. Keightley, should have acted in such haste as to have committed the indiscretion of censuring him for breaches in procedure and a violation of the Constitution of which he was not guilty. He regrets also that the fact of Mrs. Besant's being the accuser should not have been mentioned, if the public was to be taken into confidence at all at this preliminary stage.
"A detailed reply to Messrs. Mead and Keightley's letter is in preparation and will be circulated to all Branches.
"To correct misapprehensions, the undersigned has to state that in the opinion of eminent counsel (Members of the Society) the trial of the charges against Mr. Judge does not involve the question of the existence or non-existence of the Mahatmas or their connection with the Society.
"The Judicial Committee is notified to meet in London on June 27th and the undersigned finds himself compelled to attend, contrary to his wishes and expectations. He will leave Adyar about the middle of May for London, via Marseilles.""H. S. OLCOTT, P.T.S."
That it is published officially as a statement of the "facts" and for "the information of the members;"
That its second paragraph conveys that Mrs. Besant made "demand" for the Committee. The fact being, as we shall soon see over Col. Olcott's own signature that the alleged "demand" was made at his own request;
That his own letter to Mr. Judge, conveying the same "demand" was forwarded "without expressing any opinion as to the validity or otherwise of the accusations in question." The fact being, as we shall abundantly verify over Col. Olcott's own signature, that he was at the time and for more than a year had been, firmly of the opinion that Mr. Judge was guilty of transmitting bogus messages. The third paragraph discloses that such was the prejudgment of Col. Olcott and Mrs. Besant that both the "demand" was made and Col. Olcott's letter of February 7th written when no specific charges had been filed, even; yet Col. Olcott did not hesitate to require of Judge that he should either resign or be tried for charges not yet even formulated. By referring to Col. Olcott's two letters to Mr. Judge dated March 20, 1894, and reproduced in full in the last Chapter, the student will note that in the intervening period the charges had been formulated and the two letters drawn up on the eve of Mrs. Besant's departure from India. On the strength of these "formulated" charges Col. Olcott arbitrarily "suspended" Mr. Judge from the Vice-Presidency, in advance of any evidence, any trial. These items all show unmistakably both bias and conspiracy, to conceal which and give the impression of impartiality and legality to the steps taken is the manifest purpose of the "Notice" of April 27, put out for the "information" of the members.
The ensuing paragraphs are obviously so to twist the facts as to cause the members to believe, not only that he had acted impartially and only as compelled by the constitutional provisions on Mrs. Besant's demand, but that Mr. Judge and Messrs. Mead and Keightley had behaved in a manner to be "deplored" by making known the actual facts and conditions to the whole theosophical world; furthermore, he evades and denies his own primary responsibility in the phrase that he "regrets that the fact of Mrs. Besant being the accuser should not have been mentioned." The fact being that Mrs. Besant was merely a private member of the Society and President of the "Blavatsky Lodge," a London Branch, she had neither duty, right, nor privilege, under the Constitution and Rules of the Society, to bring any charges against any officer of the Society, or against any member, save of her own Branch.
The "detailed reply to Messrs. Mead and Keightley's letter," that the Notice states is "in preparation and will be circulated to all Branches," was never, so far as we know, either "prepared" or "circulated."
It will be noted that the "eminent counsel (Members of the Society)," in whose "opinion" the trial of the charges "does not involve the question of the Mahatmas or their connection with the Society," are not named. They were, in point of fact, Chakravarti and others, as stated, and although Col. Olcott lugs in this "opinion" to "correct misapprehensions" the fact is, as again we shall soon see, that he completely reversed himself and the said "eminent counsel" at the meeting of the Judicial Committee.
Finally, the reader should compare and contrast the concluding paragraph of the Notice, in which Col. Olcott announces that he "finds himself compelled to attend" the meeting of the Judicial Committee, "contrary to his wishes and expectations," with the statement in his letter to Mr. Judge of February 7th: "I shall in all probability be represented by proxy, unless something now unforeseen should arise to make it imperative that I shall personally attend." The whole procedure had been so carefully planned, and looked so entirely certain to the conspirators in the beginning, that there had been no thought other than, if Judge should have the effrontery and the hardihood to refuse to resign and, instead, stand "trial," the controlled Committee would find him "guilty" out of hand, on the mere presentation of the "charges" sponsored by Mrs. Besant, backed by the President-Founder from Adyar, who could then, "after the Committee had met, disposed of the charges and rendered its verdict," have "officially promulgated" the pre-arranged "decision."
Now, in view of all that had happened to set awry their well-laid plans, it was not enough to make Mrs. Besant the Presidential "Special Commissioner;" it was not enough to publish another "Executive Notice" for the "information of the members;" it was become "imperative" indeed that Col. Olcott should "personally attend" the meeting of the Judicial Committee, lest worse befall than had already occurred: lest the Committee not only find Judge "not guilty," but proceed to investigate on its own behalf the actions of the President of the Society in his usurpation of powers, the claims of himself and his fellow accusers to "messages from the Masters." So, skipping the intervening period of public silence and private wagging of heads, of external decorum and secret diligent planning of ways and means to avoid a defeat or a fiasco, we may attend the meeting of the Judicial Committee and then the immediately following Convention of the British-European Section, and observe what took place. The entire proceedings are officially reported in a record published in full in the "Path," in "Lucifer," in the "Theosophist," immediately following the Convention, and also in a pamphlet officially issued under the title "THE NEUTRALITY OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY. AN ENQUIRY INTO CERTAIN CHARGES AGAINST THE VICE-PRESIDENT, HELD IN LONDON, JULY, 1894. WITH AN APPENDIX. PUBLISHED BY THE GENERAL COUNCIL OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY, FOR THE INFORMATION OF MEMBERS. JULY, 1894." So runs the title-page. Let us first examine the "Enquiry" and then the "Appendix."
The President-Founder arrived promptly in London, but the Enquiry was not held on the date set, June 27th. The time until July 7th was occupied in various abortive attempts to reach a compromise that would obviate official disposition, but Mr. Judge insisted that since the whole procedure up to date had been taken officially by the President-Founder, with himself as defendant against charges of dishonorable conduct, and with issues raised prejudicial to the Society as well as himself, it could only properly be disposed of by formal official action. Accordingly, Col. Olcott summoned a meeting of the General Council on July 7. There were present Col. Olcott, who presided, Bertram Keightley who was chosen as Secretary of the Council meeting, G. R. S. Mead, and Mr. Judge who took no part in the proceedings. Col. Olcott read to the meeting a formal letter by Mr. Judge, stating (1) that he had never been elected Vice-President of the Society, and was not, therefore, legally the Vice-President of the Society; (2) That even if adjudged de facto Vice-President of the Society, he was not thereby amenable to charges of "misuse of Mahatmas' names and handwriting," since, even if guilty, such offenses would be those of a private individual and not as an Officer of the Society; hence not subject, under the Constitution, to trial by a Judicial Committee of the Society as an official malfeasance. A legal opinion from a New York lawyer, Mr. M. H. Phelps, a member of the Society, was then read in support of Mr. Judge's contentions.
The matter was then debated, Mr. Judge remaining silent. Col. Olcott informed the meeting (1) that at the Adyar Convention of 1888 he had himself "appointed" Mr. Judge Vice-President by virtue of his own "prerogative" to make such an appointment and had published such title in the official list of Officers of the Society, and that this appointment was unanimously "confirmed" by vote at the Indian "General Convention" of 1890, although the "official report" of that convention "did not record the fact." Hence, he declared, Mr. Judge "was and is Vice-President de facto and de jure."
Having heard what Col. Olcott had to say as to the first point raised by Mr. Judge, the Council meeting made no decision, but passed to the second question. On this point renewed discussion took place, Mr. Judge remaining silent as before. The minutes read:
"The matter was then debated. Bertram Keightley moved and G. R. S. Mead seconded:"'That the Council, having heard the arguments on the point raised by William Q. Judge, it declares that the point is well taken; that the acts alleged concern him as an individual; and that consequently the Judicial Committee has no jurisdiction in the premises to try him as Vice-President upon the charges as alleged.'This proceeding having been had, Col. Olcott then laid before the Council meeting a further point raised by Mr. Judge, to-wit: that Mr. Judge's election by the American, the British and Indian Sections, as successor to the President in 1892 (at the time of Col. Olcott's resignation), "became ipso facto annulled upon the President's resumption of his office as President." "On motion," reads the official minutes, "the Council declared the point well taken, and ordered the decision to be entered upon the minutes. Mr. Judge did not vote."
"'The President Concurred. Mr. Judge did not vote. The motion was declared carried.'
"'On Mr. Mead's motion, it was then voted that above record shall be laid before the Judicial Committee. Mr. Judge did not vote.'"
Col. Olcott then called the meeting's attention to the resolution of the American Section Convention which declared in effect that the suspension of Mr. Judge was without warrant in the Constitution and transcended the President's discretionary powers. On this it was moved, seconded and passed, Mr. Judge not voting, that "the President's action was warranted under the then existing circumstances" and that the American Section's "resolutions of protest are without force."
Next, by motion (Mr. Judge not voting), "the council then requested the President to convene the Judicial Committee at the London Headquarters, on Tuesday, July 10th, 1894, at 10 a.m. The Council then adjourned at call of the President."
The Judicial Committee met on July 10, as required. There were present all the members of the Committee, as follows: Col. Olcott as President-Founder, in the chair; G. R. S. Mead and Bertram Keightley as General Secretaries of the European and Indian Sections; A. P. Sinnett and E. T. Sturdy as Delegates of the Indian Section; Herbert Burrows and W. Kingsland as Delegates of the European Section; Dr. J. D. Buck and Dr. Archibald Keightley as Delegates of the American Section; Oliver Firth and E. T. Hargrove as special Delegates representing the accused -- all as provided for under the "revised Rules" adopted at the Adyar Convention in December preceding. Mr. Judge was present as the accused, but not voting as General Secretary of the American Section. Mrs. Besant was present as the accuser. It should be noted that of the eleven members of the Judicial Committee, the Chairman, Col. Olcott, E. T. Sturdy and A. P. Sinnett were already fully convinced in advance of the guilt of Mr. Judge; Bertram Keightley and G. R. S. Mead convinced of Judge's guilt, but equally convinced that he could not be "tried" for his offenses; Herbert Burrows, W. Kingsland and Oliver Firth, strong friends of both Mrs. Besant and Col. Olcott, but still in doubt as to Judge's guilt and the legality of the whole proceedings. Of the remaining members of the Judicial Committee Dr. Buck and Dr. Archibald Keightley were fast friends of both the accused and the accuser, as well as of Col. Olcott; E. T. Hargrove was a young Barrister of excellent family just then coming into prominence among the London members of the Society, friendly to all parties, but, as the after events showed, well assured in his own mind, like Dr. Buck and Dr. Archibald Keightley, both that Judge was innocent of any wrong-doing and that the whole affair was a colossal blunder as well as legally defective.
The meeting of the Judicial Committee being opened by the President-Founder, he read to the assembled Committee a formal letter from Mr. Judge as General Secretary of the American Section, stating that in the opinion of the Executive Committee of the American Section that Section was entitled to an extra vote in the Judicial Committee by reason of the fact that its General Secretary, being the accused, would not vote in the proceedings. On motion James M. Pryse, well-known both in New York and London, was added to the Judicial Committee as a substitute for the General Secretary of the American Section.
Col. Olcott, as Chairman, then declared the Judicial Committee to be duly constituted, and at once proceeded to read the following remarkable address as "President-Founder" of the Society. We give it in full, omitting only those parts already covered in the various documents quoted from:--"GENTLEMEN AND BROTHERS,Having thus followed up the line adopted in the Notice of April 27th which we have given, Col. Olcott proceeds in his Address to the Judicial Committee to argue and give his own opinions and conclusions on the various questions raised by Mr. Judge at the meeting of the General Council three days preceding, as recited, and concludes this portion of his address by stating:
"We have met together today as a Judicial Committee. ... to consider and dispose of certain charges of misconduct, preferred by Mrs. Besant against the Vice-President of the Society, and dated March 24th, 1894 [it should be noted that the two letters to Mr. Judge, purporting to give the "charges" as an enclosure, and "suspending" the Vice-President in consequence, were both dated March 20th, 1894, four days before the date here given]....
"In compliance with the Revised Rules, copies of the charges brought by the accuser have been duly supplied to the accused and the members of the General Council....
"Upon receipt of a preliminary letter from myself, of date February 7th, 1894, from Agra, India, Mr. Judge, erroneously taking it to be the first step in the official enquiry into the charges, from my omission to mark the letter 'Private,' naturally misconceived it to be a breach of the Constitution, and vehemently protested in a public circular addressed to 'the members of the Theosophical Society,' and of which 5,000 copies were distributed to them, to all parts of the world. The name of the accuser not being mentioned, the wrong impression prevailed that I was the author of the charges, and at the same time intended to sit as Chairman of the tribunal that was to investigate them. I regret this circumstance as having caused bad feeling throughout the Society against its Chief Executive, who has been the personal friend of the accused for many years, has ever appreciated as they deserved his eminent services and unflagging devotion to the Society and the whole movement, and whose constant motive has been to be brotherly and act justly to all his colleagues, of every race, religion and sex.""From the above facts it is evident that W. Q. Judge is, and since December, 1888, has continuously been, de jure as well as de facto, Vice-President of the Theosophical Society. The facts having been laid before the General Council in its session of the 7th inst., my ruling has been ratified; and is now also concurred in by Mr. Judge. He is, therefore, triable by this tribunal for 'cause shown.'"The President-Founer then passes to the second point raised by Mr. Judge. It is interesting to note that in this passage he enlarges the original charge as contained in his letter of February 7. He says:"The second point raised by the accused is more important. If the acts alleged were done by him at all -- which remains as yet sub-judice -- and he did them as a private person, he cannot be tried by any other tribunal than the Aryan Lodge, T.S., of which he is a Fellow and the President. Nothing can possibly be clearer than that. Now, what are the alleged offences?Although the original charge was "misuse" -- i.e., imitating -- "the handwriting of the Mahatmas," yet Col. Olcott proceeds to give it as his opinion that--
"That he practiced deception in sending false messages, orders and letters, as if sent and written by 'Masters; and in statements to me about a certain Rosicrucian jewel of H.P.B.'s.
"That he was untruthful in various other instances enumerated.
"Are these solely acts done in his private capacity; or may they or either of them be laid against him as wrong-doing by the Vice-President? This is a grave question, both in its present bearings and as establishing a precedent for future contingencies. We must not make a mistake in coming to a decision.
"In summoning Mr. Judge before this tribunal, I was moved by the thought that the alleged evil acts might be separated into (a) strictly private acts, viz., the alleged untruthfulness and deception, and (b) the alleged circulation of deceptive imitations of what are supposed to be Mahatmic writings, with intent to deceive; which communications, owing to his high official rank among us, carried a weight they would not have had if given out by a simple member. This seemed to me a far more heinous offense than simple falsehood, or any other act of an individual, and to amount to a debasement of his office, if proven. ... The issue is now open to your consideration, and you must decide as to your judicial competency.""The present issue is not at all whether Mahatmas exist or the contrary, or whether they have or have not recognizable handwritings, and have or have not authorized Mr. Judge to put forth documents in their names. I believed, when issuing the call, that the question might be discussed without entering into investigations that would compromise our corporate neutrality. The charges as formulated and laid before me by Mrs. Besant could, in my opinion, have been tried without doing this."After this extraordinary admission and affirmation, Colonel Olcott proceeds to hasten to his own defense for having brought matters thus far and for what he now finds himself compelled to do, that is, to reverse himself completely:"... I must refer to my official record to prove that I would have been the last to help in violating a Constitution of which I am, it may be said, the father, and which I have continually defended at all times and in all circumstances. On now meeting Mr. Judge in London, however, and being made acquainted with his intended line of defense, I find that by beginning the enquiry we should be placed in this dilemma, viz., we should either have to deny him the common justice of listening to his statements and examining his proofs (which would be monstrous in even a common court of law, much more in a Brotherhood like ours, based on lines of ideal justice), or be plunged into the very abyss we wish to escape from. Mr. Judge's defense is that he is not guilty of the acts charged; that Mahatmas exist, are related to our Society, and in personal connection with himself; and he avers his readiness to bring many witnesses and documentary proofs to support his statements."The reader should engrave the foregoing upon his memory. It is Colonel Olcott's and therefore Mrs. Besant's own admission, first, that the constitutional questions raised by Mr. Judge were raised for the sake of the Society and not to evade "trial;" second, that his "line of defense" which makes the real "dilemma" for his accusers, is simply that Judge "avers," as Col. Olcott states, not only that he is not guilty, but that he is prepared to prove his connection with the Mahatmas. And although these very constitutional questions and Judge's very avowal of innocence and readiness to meet an investigation were stated in Judge's circular of March 15, and although Col. Olcott six weeks later (in the Notice of April 27) declares that in the opinion of "eminent counsel" as well as himself the trial can properly take place as summoned, the President-Founder at London finds himself in a dilemma indeed. What if the trial should proceed and Judge actually prove his messages? Not to listen to Judge's defense would be so "monstrous" that not even the dullest or most prejudiced would fail to see its inequity, however they may have been blinded to the monstrous inequity of bringing these hearsay "charges" in the first place. Now let the reader witness how Colonel Olcott himself evaded the real issue and at the same time did in fact what he had just characterized as "monstrous even in a common court of law, much more in a Brotherhood like" the Theosophical Society. He proceeds:"The moment we entered into these questions we should violate the most vital spirit of our federal compact, its neutrality in matters of belief. Nobody, for example, knows better than myself the fact of the existence of Masters, yet I would resign my office unhesitatingly if the Constitution were amended so as to erect such a belief into a dogma: everyone in our membership is as free to disbelieve and deny their existence as I am to believe and affirm it. For the above reason, then, I declare as my opinion that this enquiry must go no further; we may not break our own laws for any consideration whatsoever. It is furthermore my opinion that such an enquiry, begun by whatsoever official body within our membership cannot proceed if a similar line of defense be declared. If, perchance, a guilty person should at any time go scot-free in consequence of this ruling, we cannot help it; the Constitution is our palladium, and we must make it the symbol of justice or expect our Society to disintegrate."Thus, in this one paragraph, is the admission in Col. Olcott's own words and decision, of the impropriety and illegality of the original bringing of the "charges;" the admission that every constitutional contention raised by Mr. Judge was correct; the admission that Mr. Judge was ready and willing to produce his proofs of Mahatmic intercourse; the admission that such a "line of defense" upset the whole procedure, and that the Enquiry "must go no farther" -- thus debarring Mr. Judge, foully accused of dishonorable conduct, even from being "entitled to enjoy the full opportunity to disprove the charges brought against you," as Col. Olcott had written him March 20th, when suspending him from the Vice-Presidency pending the meeting of the Judicial Committee. In thus himself ignobly retreating from the field of battle the President-Founder in the bitterness and humiliation of his enforced reverse, cannot forebear a Parthian shot at his still untouched target as a prelude to his final admission:"Candor compels me to add that, despite what I thought some preliminary quibbling and unfair tactics, Mr. Judge has traveled hither from America to meet his accusers before this Committee, and announced his readiness to have the charges investigated and decided on their merits by any competent tribunal."We have asked the reader to impress these remarkable statements on his memory for the reason that when we come to the final debacle we shall find both Col. Olcott and Mrs. Besant solemnly affirming over and over again that Judge was "guilty," as if that "guilt" had been proven; that he evaded a trial; that he escaped a trial through pleading what the lawyers call a demurrer. Still more, because in the quarter century since these lamentable episodes, not once but a hundred and a thousand times have Mrs. Besant and Col. Olcott repeated the same statements to those who believed in all good faith their utterly untrustworthy -- to use the mildest possible expression -- testimony in any matter where the whole truth would show them grossly at fault or grievously in error. The reader should remember that the impeachment of their subsequent statements is out of their own mouths, not from other witnesses: Col. Olcott's as just given, Mrs. Besant's as shall follow in the extracts to be given from the Appendix to the "Neutrality" pamphlet.
After these remarks Col. Olcott argues in extenuation of himself against the resolutions adopted by the Convention of the American Convention, and proceeds:"It having been made evident to me that Mr. Judge cannot be tried on the present accusations without breaking through the lines of our Constitution, I have no right to keep him further suspended, and so I hereby cancel my notice of suspension, dated February 7th, 1894 [here again is a significant admission, albeit unintentional; for the date of the letter of suspension, as officially forwarded, was March 20th,] and restore him to the rank of Vice-President."The remainder of the President-Founder's Address to the Judicial Committee is a half-apology for the "inconvenience" caused the members and others by the convocation of the Committee, and a plea for "brotherhood."
Mr. Mead then submitted to the Judicial Committee the minutes of the General Council meeting of July 7th, as given. The Judicial Committee then adopted the following resolutions:"Resolved: That the President be requested to lay before the committee the charges against Mr. Judge referred to in his address.It will be observed from the foregoing that the report merely states that the resolutions were "adopted" by the Committee without giving the votes, pro and contra. The reader should understand that the delegates favorable to Mr. Judge left it to the others to decide whether to proceed or not.
"The charges were laid before the Committee accordingly.
"After deliberation, it was:
"Resolved: that although it has ascertained that the member bringing the charges [Mrs. Besant] and Mr. Judge are both ready to go on with the enquiry, the Committee considers, nevertheless, that the charges are not such as relate to the conduct of the Vice-President in his official capacity, and therefore are not subject to its jurisdiction."
Another resolution affirmed that a trial of the kind under inquiry would violate the neutrality of the Society in matters of religious opinion. On this "four members abstained from voting," according to the report. Their names are not given. Another resolution adopted the President's address, and still another resolution was adopted asking the General Council to print and circulate a report of the proceedings. The question was then raised whether the charges against Mr. Judge should be included in the printed report. On this Mr. Burrows moved and Mr. Sturdy seconded a resolution that "if the Proceedings were printed at all the charges should be included." We think, in view of all the circumstances connected, and more particularly the step subsequently taken by them, that this resolution was introduced with the full knowledge and acquiescence of both Mrs. Besant and Colonel Olcott. But when the assembled Delegates came to see the full iniquity of officially spreading broadcast a series of charges after having denied the accused the opportunity of meeting and rebutting them, this motion was too much for even the most prejudiced to stomach and be responsible for. The report says: "On being put to the vote the resolution was not carried." Once more, the report carefully abstains from mentioning who voted for and who against this infamous resolution. After this, the report states, "The Minutes having been read and confirmed the Committee dissolved."
It will be noted that every resolution adopted by the General Council in its session of the 7th July, and all the Proceedings of the session of the Judicial Committee on the 10th were taken in exact accord with the remarks of the President-Founder in his addresses to the two bodies. This shows two things, first, that the sessions were the mere carrying out of a "cut-and-dried" program arranged in advance by Col. Olcott and Mrs. Besant; second, that they controlled the majority action of both bodies. A third matter is still more worthy of note: that in the entire proceedings, both of the General Council meeting and those of the Judicial Committee, Mr. Judge and those representing him took an entirely passive part. Having in formal letters addressed to the two bodies, raised the necessary legal questions, and avowed his readiness to meet directly any trial of the real issues at stake, Mr. Judge remained silent throughout, leaving it to his persecutors to take what steps they would. He made no attack on any of his enemies; he demanded no inquiry into the gross malfeasance shown by the President-Founder; he brought no charges against those present whom he knew to be manipulating the proceedings; he did not ask that those who had themselves claimed to be "in communication with Masters" to be put upon their voir dire and submitted to the same ordeal that had been thrust upon him; he made no comments, raised no objections, demanded no retractions, no apology. He had simply met squarely all that had been rumored, circulated, charged against him; that done, he had taken no advantage of the dilemma and the wrong-doing of his opponents. He had fulfilled to the uttermost scruple the rules of Occultism, the requirements of simple Brotherhood, and uttered no word of complaint or reproach at their violation by those sworn, like himself, to the First Object of the T.S., the Pledge and Rules of the School of the Masters. His enemies he did not look upon as his personal foes, nor as intentionally dishonorable, but as probationers in the fiery furnace of Pledge Fever, knowing not what they did. As they had broken away from the lines, he could not help them, but he could, and did, abstain from pushing them further afield. He knew that now all the facts were of record, so that no student need be misled by partisan or corrupted testimony. The whole Theosophical world could know that those high in the counsels of the Society had brought charges, had racked the world for evidences to sustain them, had had the entire proceedings in their own hands, and had themselves been forced by the hollowness and inequity of their own conduct to reverse themselves completely, in order to save, not Judge, but themselves. We have seen Olcott's volte-face. In the Appendix to the "Neutrality" pamphlet we shall witness Mrs. Besant's self-impeachment.
(To be Continued)
THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT
(Part 32 of a 34-part series)
"THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT"
series complete list of articles.
Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".
ONE (1) FOOTNOTE LISTED BELOW:
(1) Corrections, objections, criticisms, questions and comments are invited from all readers on any facts or conclusions stated in this series. --EDITORS.
Back to text.