OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fifth Series (1893-96)
by Henry Steel Olcott
THE JUDGE AFFAIR (Continued)
AMONG the intellectual and scholarly men who have, since the beginning, belonged to the Society, a noted personage was the late Mr. C. Carter Blake, a zoologist and, I believe, a pupil and colleague of the late Professor Owen. In the course of his investigations of spiritualistic phenomena he became intimately acquainted with my dear friend, Miss Emily Kislingbury, at that time Secretary of the British National Association of Spiritualists and, by her intellectual and moral endowments, fully qualified for the post. What she sought in Spiritualism was not mere phenomena but such proofs of the existence of the soul as would form an impregnable basis for religious belief. The superficial studies of her colleagues and their quenchless thirst for mere mediumistic wonders did not give her what she sought, so, as I have reported in one of my earlier chapters, she came to New York to see the mysterious author of Isis Unveiled and was our guest
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at the New York “Lamasery” for several weeks. On her return to London her broadened convictions of spiritual philosophy brought her more closely under the influence of Dr. Blake, and he, being a member of the Society of Jesus and acting under the orders of Father Galwey, brought him upon the scene, and the two together persuaded Miss Kislingbury that the truest ideal of Theosophy existed in Roman Catholic dogma! Finally convinced of the truth of this assertion, she, being a woman of supreme moral courage and transparent honesty, resigned her secretaryship and was received into the bosom of the Church. But meanwhile the first Branch of our Society, the “British Theosophical Society,” had, as above reported, been formed, and perhaps my readers will remember that Dr. Carter Blake showed the cloven foot at the original meeting for organisation (June 27, 1878), trying to persuade our friends to postpone the organisation because, as he alleged, we belonged, to the school of black magic. For this I expelled him and he remained for years an outsider, but was finally re-admitted at the request of H. P. B., as a repentant friend. This by way of preface to the fact that on the 4th of July, of the year we are now reviewing, I called on him and found him in a deplorable state, physically speaking. At that time I did not know the grave fact that Judge had written him a letter in the K. H. script, but by a marvellous temporary forgetfulness of the part he was playing, had signed it with his own name instead of with the initials “K. H.” If I had had that document
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in my possession, the fate of Mr. Judge would have been instantly settled as regards his connection with the Society. On the evening of the same day Mrs. Besant gave a splendid lecture at the Blavatsky Lodge, on “Symbolism, Idols, and Ideals,” the quality of which may easily be inferred.
On the following day the General Council met to begin the discussion of the merits of the case against Mr. Judge. There being at the time only three Sections in existence, the Council consisted of myself, Messrs. Keightley and Mead, representing the Indian and European Sections, and Mr. Judge, who, of course, did not vote: Mr. Keightley was appointed Secretary. An adjourned meeting was held on the 7th, when the President read a letter from Mr. Judge, stating that he had never been elected Vice-President of the T.S., was therefore not Vice-President, and consequently not amenable to trial by the “Judicial Committee” which, under the then existing Rules, was provided for in case the President or Vice-President of the Society should be found guilty of official misfeasance or malfeasance. Other points were raised by him which are so important as bearing upon the constitution and neutrality of the Society that I cannot permit myself to gloss them over with a mere summary notice; they will stand out for all time in our Society history as landmarks not to be for a moment lost sight of, so I will just reproduce here the official Report of the Council meeting, and that of its equal, the meeting of the Judicial Committee, into which it is embodied.
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The documents were issued by me in an Executive Notice, dated at London, 21st July, 1894 (Theosophist, September, 1894), as follows:
MINUTES OF A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF
THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
HELD AT 19 AVENUE ROAD, LONDON, ON JULY 10TH, 1894
To enquire into certain charges against the
“Present: Colonel Olcott, President-Founder, in the chair; the General Secretaries of the Indian and European Sections (Mr. B. Keightley and Mr. G. R. S. Mead); delegates of the Indian Section (Mr. A. P. Sinnett and Mr. Sturdy); delegates of the European Section (Mr. H. Burrows and Mr. Kingsland); delegates of the American Section (Dr. Buck and Dr. Archibald Keightley); special delegates of Mr. Judge (Mr. Oliver Firth and Mr. E. T. Hargrove).
“Mrs. Besant and Mr. Judge were also present.
“A letter was read by the Chairman from the General Secretary of the American Section, stating that the Executive Committee of that Section claims that one of the delegates of that Section should have an additional vote on the Committee, in view of the fact that the General Secretary himself would not vote, or that an extra delegate be appointed.
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“Resolved: that a substitute be admitted to sit on the Committee in the place of the General Secretary.
“Mr. James M. Pryse was nominated by the other American delegates and took his seat.
“The Chairman then declared the Committee to be duly constituted and read the following address.
“ADDRESSES OF THE PRESIDENT-FOUNDER
“GENTLEMEN AND BROTHERS,
“We have met together to-day as a Judicial Committee, under the provisions of Section 3 of Article VI of the Revised Rules, 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.
“Section 2 of Article VI says that ‘the President may be deprived of office at any time, for cause shown by a three-fourths vote of Judicial Committee herein, after provided for [in Section 3], before which he shall be given full opportunity to disprove any charges brought against him’; Section 3 provides that the Judicial Committee shall be composed of (a) members of the General Council ex-officio, (b) two additional members nominated by each Section of the Society, and (c) two members chosen by the accused. Under the present organization of the Society, this Committee, will, therefore, comprise the President-Founder, the General Secretaries of the Indian and European
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Sections, two additional delegates each from the Indian, European and American Sections, and two nominees of Mr. Judge; eleven in all—the accused, of course, being debarred from sitting as a judge either as General Secretary of the American Section or as Vice-President.
“Section 4 of Article VI. declares that the same procedure shall apply, mutatis mutandis, to the cases of the Vice-President and President; thus making the former, as well as the latter, amenable to the jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee for offences charged against him. Under this clause, the Vice-President is now arraigned.
“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, and the Sections and the accused have nominated their delegates respectively. I also suspended the Vice-President from office pending the disposal of the charges by this Committee.
“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
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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.
“Three very important protests have been made by the accused and submitted to me, to wit:
“1. That he was never legally Vice-President of the T. S. That an election to said office of Vice-President has always been necessary, and is so yet.
“That he has never been elected to the office.
“That the title has been conferred on him by courtesy, and has been tacitly assumed to be legal by himself and others, in ignorance of the facts of the case.
“The legitimate inference from which would be:
“That not being Vice-President, de jure, he is not amenable to the jurisdiction of a Judicial Committee, which can only try the highest two of the Society.
“2. That, even if he were Vice-President, this tribunal could only try charges which imply on his part acts of misfeasance or malfeasance as such official; whereas the pending charges accuse him of acts which are not those of an official, but of a simple member; hence only triable by his own Branch or Lodge (vide
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Section 3 of Article XIII), at a special meeting called to consider the facts.
“3. That the principal charge against him cannot be tried without breach of the constitutional neutrality of the Society in matters of private belief as to religious and other questions, and especially as to belief in the ‘existence, names, powers, functions or methods of “Mahâtmâs” or “Masters”’: that to deliberate and decide, either pro or con, in this matter would be to violate the law, affirm a dogma, and ‘offend the religious feelings’ of Fellows of the Society, who, to the number of many hundreds, hold decided opinions concerning the existence of Mahâtmâs and their interest in our work.
“These points will presently be considered seriatim.
“At the recent (eighth) annual meeting of the American Section T.S. at San Francisco, in the first session of April 22nd, the following, with other resolutions, was unanimously adopted, to wit:
“Resolved: that this Convention, after careful deliberation, finds that the suspension of the Vice-President is without the slightest warrant in the Constitution and altogether transcends the discretionary power given the President by the Constitution and is therefore null and void.
“I now return to Mr. Judge’s protests:
“That he practised 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:
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“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 Mahâtmic 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 offence than simple falsehood or any other act of an individual, and to amount to a debasement of his office, if proven. The minutes of the General Council meeting of July 7th, which will presently be read for your information, will show you how this question was discussed by us, and what conclusion was reached. To make this document complete in itself, however, I will say that, in the Council’s opinion, the point raised by Mr. Judge appeared valid, and that the charges are not cognizable by this Judicial Committee. The issue is now open to your consideration, and you must decide as to your judicial competency.
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“1. As to his legal status as Vice-President. At the Adyar Convention of the whole Society in December, 1888, exercising the full executive power I then held, I appointed Mr. Judge Vice-President in open Convention, the choice was approved by the Delegates assembled, and the name inserted in the published Official List of officers, since which time it has not been withdrawn. At the Convention of 1890, a new set of Rules having come into force and an election for Vice-President being in order, Mr. Bertram Keightley moved and I supported the nomination of Mr. Judge, and he was duly elected. It now appears that official notice was not sent him to this effect, but nevertheless his name was duly published in the Official List, as it had been previously. You all know that he attended the Chicago Parliament of Religions as Vice-President and my accredited representative and substitute; his name is so printed in his Report of the Theosophical Congress, and the Official Report of the San Francisco Convention of our American Section contains the Financial Statement of the Theosophic Congress Fund, which is signed by him as Vice-President, Theosophical Society.
“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 instant, my ruling has been ratified; and is now also concurred in by Mr. Judge. He is, therefore, triable by this tribunal for ‘cause shown’.
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“2. 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 President. Nothing can possibly be clearer than that. Now, what are the alleged offences?
“3. Does our proposed enquiry into the alleged circulation of fictitious writings of those known to us as ‘Mahâtmâs’ carry with it a breach of the religious neutrality guaranteed us in the T.S. Constitution, and would a decision of the charge, in either way, hurt the feelings of members? The affirmative view has been taken and warmly advocated by the Convention of the American Section, by individual branches and groups of ‘Theosophical Workers,’ by the General Secretaries of the European and Indian Sections in a recently issued joint circular, by many private members of the Society, and by the accused. As I conceived it, the present issue is not at all whether Mahâtmâs 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 name. 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. And I must refer to my official record to prove that I would have been the last
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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 defence, 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 defence is that he is not guilty of the acts charged; that Mahâtmâs 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. You will at once see whither this would lead us. 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 the Masters, yet I would resign my office unhesitatingly if the Constitution were amended so as to erect such a belief into a dogma: every one 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 farther; we may not break our own laws for any consideration whatsoever. It is furthermore my opinion that
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such an enquiry, begun by whatsoever official body within our membership, cannot proceed if a similar line of defence 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.
“Candour compels me to add that, despite what I thought some preliminary quibbling and unfair tactics, Mr. Judge has travelled 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.
“Having disposed of the several protests of Mr. Judge, I shall now briefly refer to the condemnatory Resolutions of the San Francisco Convention, and merely to say that there was no warrant for their hasty declaration that my suspension of the Vice-President, pending the disposal of the charges, was unconstitutional, null and void. As above noted, Section 4 of Article VI of our Constitution provides that the same rules of procedure shall apply to the case of the Vice-President as to that of the President; and, inasmuch as my functions vest in the Vice-President, and I am suspended from office until any charges against my official character are disposed of, so, likewise, must the Vice-President be suspended from his official status until the charges against him are disposed of; re-instatement to follow acquittal or the abandonment of the prosecution.
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“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, and restore him to the rank of Vice-President.
“In conclusion, Gentlemen and Brothers, it remains for me to express my regret for any inconvenience I may have caused you by the convocation of this Judicial Committee, and to cordially thank Mr. Sturdy who has come from India, Dr. Buck, who has come from Cincinnati, and the rest of you who have come from distant points in the United Kingdom, to render this loyal service. I had no means of anticipating this present issue, since the line of defence was not within my knowledge. The meeting was worth holding for several reasons. In the first place, because we have come to the point of an official declaration that it is not lawful to affirm that belief in Mahâtmâs is a dogma of the Society, or communications really, or presumably, from them, authoritative and infallible. Equally clear is it that the circulation of fictitious communications from them is not an act for which, under our rules, an officer or member can be impeached and tried. The inference then is, that testimony as to intercourse with Mahâtmâs, and writings alleged to come from them, must be judged upon their intrinsic merits alone; and that the witnesses are solely responsible for their statements. Thirdly, the successorship to the Presidency is again open (vide Gen. Council
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Report of July 7th, 1894), and at my death or at any time sooner, liberty of choice may be exercised in favour of the best available member of the Society.
"I now bring my remarks to a close by giving voice to the sentiment which I believe to actuate the true Theosophist, viz., that the same justice should be given and the same mercy shown to every man and woman on our membership registers. There must be no distinctions of persons, no paraded self-righteousness, no seeking for revenge. We are all—as I personally believe—equally under the operation of Karma, which punishes and rewards; all equally need the loving forebearance of those who have mounted higher than ourselves in the scale of human perfectibility.
“H. S. OLCOTT, P. T. S.”
Mr. G. R. S. Mead reported that certain Minutes of Proceedings by the General Council of the Theosophical Society were communicated to the present Committee for its information, and they were read accordingly, as follows:
MINUTES OF THE GENERAL COUNCIL
HELD AT 19 AVENUE ROAD, LONDON, JULY 7TH, 1894
“Present: President, Colonel H. S. Olcott, Bertram Keightley, George R. S. Mead, and William Q. Judge.
“Colonel Olcott called the meeting to order, and Bertram Keightley was appointed Secretary.
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“Council was informed that the meeting was called to consider certain points brought up by William Q. Judge, and other matters, to wit:
“The President read a letter from William Q. Judge stating that in his opinion he was never elected Vice-President of the T.S., and was not, therefore, Vice-President of the T.S.; whereupon the President informed the Council that at the General Convention at Adyar, in 1888, he then, exercising the prerogatives which he then held, appointed William Q. Judge as Vice-President of the T.S.; and the name was then announced in the official list of officers of that year. That subsequently, at the General Convention in 1890, the last one of such General Conventions, said nomination was unanimously confirmed by vote on motion of Bertram Keightley, supported by H. S. Olcott; hence, that although the official report of the Convention seems to be defective in that it did not record the fact, and that Mr. Judge was thereby misled, the truth is as stated. The President then declared that W. Q. Judge was and is Vice-President de facto and de jure of the Theosophical Society.
“Another point then raised by Mr. Judge was then taken into consideration, to wit: That even if Vice-President, he, Mr. Judge, was not amenable to an enquiry by the Judicial Committee into certain alleged offences with respect to the misuse of the Mahâtmâs’ names and handwriting, since if guilty the offence would be one by him as a private individual, and not in his official capacity; he contended that, under our
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Constitution, the President and Vice-President could only be tried as such by such Committee, for official misconduct—that is misfeasances and malfeasances. An opinion of Council in New York which he had taken from Mr. M. H. Phelps, F.T.S., was then read by him in support of this contention. 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.
“The President concurred. Mr. Judge did not vote. The motion was declared carried.
“On Mr. Mead’s motion, it was then voted that the above record shall be laid before the Judicial Committee, Mr. Judge did not vote.
“The President then laid before the Council another question mooted by Mr. Judge, to wit: That his election as successor to the President, which was made upon the announcement of the President’s resignation, became ipso facto annulled upon the President’s resumption of his office as President. On motion, the Council declared the point well taken, and ordered the decision to be entered on the minutes. Mr. Judge did not vote.
“The President called attention to the resolution of the American Convention of 1894, declared that
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his action in suspending the Vice-President, pending the settlement of the charges against him, was ‘without the slightest warrant in the Constitution and altogether transcends the discretionary power given the President by the Constitution, and is therefore null and void’. Upon deliberation and consideration of Sections 3 and 4, Article VI. of the General Rules, the Council decided (Mr. Judge not voting) that the President’s action was warranted under the then existing circumstances, and that the said resolutions of protest are without force.
“On 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 President.”
The following Resolutions were then adopted by the Judicial Committee:
Resolved: that the President be requested to lay before the Committee the charges against Mr. Judge referred to in his address.
The charges were laid before the Committee accordingly.
After deliberation, it was
Resolved: that although it has been ascertained that the member bringing the charges 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
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his official capacity, and therefore are not subject to its jurisdiction.
On the question whether the charges did or did not involve a declaration of the existence and power of the Mahâtmâs, the Committee deliberated, and it was
Resolved: that the Committee is also of opinion that a statement by them as to the truth or otherwise of at least one of the charges as formulated against Mr. Judge would involve a declaration on their part as to the existence or non-existence of the Mahâtmâs, and it would be a violation of the spirit of neutrality and the unsectarian nature and Constitution of the Society.
Four members abstained from voting on this resolution.
I t was also further
Resolved: that the President’s address be adopted.
Resolved: that the General Council be requested to print and circulate the Minutes of the Proceedings.
A question being raised as to whether the charges should be included in the printed report,
Mr. Burrows moved and Mr. Sturdy seconded a resolution that if the Proceedings were printed at all the charges should be included; but on being put to the vote the resolution was not carried.
The Minutes having been read and confirmed, the Committee dissolved.
H. S. OLCOTT, P.T.S.,
President of the Council.