OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fifth Series (1893-96)
by Henry Steel Olcott
CONVENTION LECTURES INAUGURATED
THE next palpable evidence of the spread of discontent among our members was the handing in, on the 12th of December, of the resignations of membership of Mr. S. V. Edge, and Mrs. R. Batchelor, of Ootacamund, the enthusiastic daughter of our dear and staunch old friend, Major-General Morgan. I must confess that both these resignations surprised me, for Mr. Edge had been peculiarly active as a worker both in London and Madras, and his retention of membership seemed about as certain as anyone’s could be; while Mrs. Batchelor had been an extremely affectionate friend and admirer of H. P. B. and towards myself quite filial in her attitude. It was at this time that Mrs. Elin White, formerly of Seattle, about whom I have spoken above, joined the staff at Adyar with the intention of settling down permanently to work.
The letters received by the foreign mail of 18th December showed plainly enough that a split in the Society was imminent, that it was dividing into the hostile camps of the pro- and anti-Judge parties. The amusing feature was that the leaders of both cajoled and petted me as though they needed my help.
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On the same day Mrs. Besant telegraphed from Colombo her forthcoming arrival, and on the 22nd we gave her a hearty welcome for herself and those in her company, Dr. Hubbe-Schleiden, Mr. J. C. Staples, and Mr. Bertram Keightley. Mrs. Besant had intended deferring her reply to the outrageous slanders of the Westminster Gazette based upon the documents improperly supplied to the editor by Mr. Old, but on second thought, determined not to put it off, as it was important that her reply to the malicious charges against herself should be published as soon as possible. She therefore devoted a day to the matter and took her manuscript to the office of the Madras Mail, in which paper it duly appeared. Delegates had already begun to arrive for the Convention and from this time on they came in shoals.
As the Indian National Congress was meeting at Madras that year as above noted, I had arranged with its leaders to begin the sessions of our Convention on Christmas Day, instead of on the 27th as usual. At 8 a.m. of that day, Mrs. Besant inaugurated the system of morning lectures on chosen subjects of general interest, which has since been so marked a feature of our annual gathering. Her subject was “The Self and Its Sheaths,” and how ably it was treated is known to the thousands who have read the pamphlet containing the verbatim report of the course of four lectures. An immense crowd had gathered, despite the early hour and the distance of our Headquarters from the heart of the town.
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The Convention proper assembled at noon when my Annual Address was read and a Resolution, supported by a magnificent speech, was offered by Mrs. Besant, and seconded by Mr. Keightley, requesting me to ask Mr. Judge to resign his office. As this document and that part of my Address referring to the case, present its features in a perfectly clear and dispassionate manner, thus enabling the reader to learn the truth, I think that I shall be doing a real service by rescuing them from the inevitable oblivion which would await them if left in pamphlet form, by making them part of this permanent record. I go on to say that petitions, remonstrances, and other communications about the case had come in so numerously as to make it appear that something definite and final must be done at once. The opinions of our members were classified thus:
“1. The American Section, with the exception of some individuals of the best class and some of lesser importance, stands solidly in his favor. I have even had it intimated that if Mr. Judge should be forced to resign, the Section will secede in a body, form an American Theosophical Society independently, and elect him President.
“2. The Dublin, Brixton, and some other European Lodges have passed votes of confidence; copies of a draft of Resolutions in his favor are circulating in France, Belgium, and Holland, and being sent me numerously signed; and I should not be surprised if a large number of excellent people in the European
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Section should unite with the Americans to form the new Section in the event of a split. The Bournemouth and some other British Lodges and a large number of English Theosophists call on him to explain or retire. German opinion is reported to me as being adverse to him. Spain is against him, France divided, Holland divided.
“3. Australasia, so far as I have any direct intimations, is on the side opposed to Mr. Judge.
“4. India has, to my knowledge, sent in no protest in his favor, although many members recognising his immense services and his tireless activity in official work, deprecate any hasty action based on ex parte newspaper charges. The Poona T.S., through its President, “demands his expulsion from the Society”. The above facts prove the existence of the strong antagonistic currents of feeling above noted.
“What courses are open to us and which should we choose? I offer the thoughts which occur to me with the hope that I may be judicially impartial, regardless of all personal feeling or bias.
“Firstly. The Constitution of the Society must be rigidly adhered to at whatsoever cost. Not to save or to expel one man or twenty, will I swerve a hair’s breadth from the strict letter of the law. In July last, both the General Council and Judicial Committee voted to quash the proceedings against the accused on a point which, although technical was nevertheless irrefutable. Whatever is now or may hereafter be done in this affair, therefore, must be constitutionally
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done. As we cannot legally try Mr. Judge, Vice-President, for alleged misdemeanors committed by W. Q. Judge, individual; and as the individual cannot be tried for his private opinions, we have to fall back upon the moral aspect of the case, and see how an individual accused of the immoral act of deception usually behaves. We have the familiar precedent of H. P. B. who, before leaving India—for the last time, as it proved—placed her resignation in my hands in order to relieve the Society from the burden of defending her against the charges of the Coulombs and the Missionaries. The Convention subsequently passed a vote of confidence, which I officially conveyed to her, and this restored her to her former status in the Society. State Cabinets invariably resign office upon the passage of a legislative vote of lack of confidence. This is the unwritten, sometimes the written, law of honor. Frequently, the resigning official offers himself for re-election or again accepts office, if so requested. From the fact that I had to over-rule the point made by him that he was not and had never been Vice-President de jure, I was led to believe that Mr. Judge was disposed to follow the same course as far as relinquishing that office was concerned. But, however that case may be, I should, if the case were mine, do as I have more than once before, both within and without the Theosophical Society, offer my resignation but be ready to resume office if my superiors or colleagues showed that I possessed their confidence, that there was a necessity for my so doing, and circumstances
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permitted. While the Society cannot compel Mr. Judge to resign and offer himself for re-election, and a very large body of our members advise him not to do so, he has it in his power to relieve the present strain by so doing and to thus enable the whole Society to say whether it still wishes to be represented by him before the world, or the contrary. Such a course would not affect his relations with the American Section or the Aryan T .S., those concerning only the Section and Branch, and having no Federal character, not coming under the purview of other Sections nor being open to their criticism. International action is only called for in Federal questions.”
I felt it my duty to draw the attention of the Convention to one aspect of the case which had a distinct and important bearing upon the question of Mr. Judge’s guilt or innocence: a view which would of necessity suggest itself to every practical student of occult science. I said:
“It is proper for me as a student of Practical Psychology of very long experience, to draw attention to the important fact that, even if the charges of forged writing and false messages brought against Mr. Judge were made good before a jury, under the exoteric rules of Evidence, still this might not be proof of guilty knowledge and intent. This must not be overlooked, for it bears distinctly upon the question of moral responsibility. Every student of Modern Spiritualism and Eastern Occultism knows that a medium, or psychic, if you prefer the word, is often irresistibly impelled by
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an extraneous force to do acts of turpitude of which he is incapable in his normal state of consciousness. Only a few days ago, I read in the learned Dr. Gibier’s ‘Analyse des Choses,’ a solemn statement of this fact accompanied with striking examples in his own practice. And the eminent Professor Bernheim also proved to me this dreadful fact by hypnotic experiments on patients in the Hôpital Civile, at Nancy. Equally well known is it that persons, otherwise accounted sane, are liable to hallucinations which make them sometimes mistake their own fancies for spiritual revelations and a vulgar earth-bound spirit for an exalted historical personage. All this moment, I have knowledge of at least seven different psychics in our Society who believe themselves to be in communication with the same Mahatmas and doing their work, who have each a knot of disciples or adherents about them, and whose supposed teachers give orders which conflict with each other’s! I cannot impugn the good faith of either of these sensitives, while, on the other hand, I cannot see my way to accepting any of their mandates in the absence of satisfactory proof of their genuineness. So I go on my way, doing my public duty as well as I can see it, and leaving to time the solving of all these mysteries. My objective intercourse with the Great Teachers ceased almost entirely on the death of H. P. B., while any subjective relations I may have with them is evidence only to myself and would carry no weight with third parties. I think this rule applies in all such cases, and no amount of mediumistic phenomena, or of clearest
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visions of physically unseen Teachers by psychics who have not passed through a long course of training in Raja Yoga, would convince me of my duty to accept blindly the mandates of even well-meaning advisers. All professed teachings of Mahatmas must be judged by their intrinsic merit; if they are wise they become no better by reason of their alleged high source; if foolish, their worthlessness is not nullified by ascribing to them the claim of authority.
“In conclusion, then, I beg you to realise that, after proving that a certain writing is forged and calculated to deceive, you must then prove that the writer was a free agent before you can fasten upon him the stigma of moral obliquity. To come back to the case in point, it being impossible for any third party to know what Mr. Judge may have believed with respect to the Mahatmic writings emanating from him, and what subjective facts he had to go upon, the proof cannot be said to be conclusive of his bad faith, however suspicious the available evidence may seem.
“The way out of the difficulty lies with him, and with him alone. If he should decide to neither give any satisfactory explanations nor to resign his Federal office, the consequence will undoubtedly be that a large number of our best people of the class of Mr. Herbert Burrows, will withdraw from the Society; while if he should, his numerous friends will stand by him all the more loyally throughout. I do not presume to judge, the case not being before me on its merits.
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“I must, however, express my profound regret that Mr. Judge should have circulated accusations of resort to Black Magic, against Mrs. Besant and Mr. Chakravarti; neither of whom have ever, so far as I have been able to judge in years of personal intercourse, done the least thing to deserve such a suspicion. As for Mrs. Besant, I can conscientiously affirm that in all my life I never met a more noble, unselfish, and upright woman, nor one whose heart was filled with greater love for mankind. The Theosophical Society owes her a debt it can never repay.”
After the reading of the usual official documents, Miscellaneous Business was then in order, and the Judge case being called, Mrs. Besant rose and addressed the Convention. She first conveyed the greetings of the European Section as its delegate, stated that she had tendered her resignation as President of the Blavatsky Lodge as soon as Mr. Judge’s insinuations to her disparagement had been put in circulation, so that the Lodge might be entirely relieved of responsibility for her actions if it chose, that she had been re-elected and was therefore free to serve as delegate of the Section and to offer the Resolution to which she was about to speak. Coming to the history of the case proper she recapitulated the facts already made known to my readers, and when the fact of the meeting of the Judicial Committee was arrived at in the narrative, said:
“Before that Committee objections were raised by Mr. Judge as to its jurisdiction. Let me say I had
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drawn up six charges to lay before the Committee. Under each of these charges I had drawn up the evidence on which the charge depended. I had made what would be called a brief; the charges were the indictments; and the evidence was practically the speech of the counsel stating what the charges were. My only deviation from the legal action was this—that I sent a complete copy of the whole statement that I proposed to make, to Mr. Judge; that, I knew was outside the legal duty, but I did it in order that the case might be met upon its merits, that he might know everything I was going to say, every document I was going to use, and every argument I was going to employ. Although it was irregular for me to do so, standing as I did, I thought that the Committee was to try a brother, and as we did not desire any sort of triumph or any kind of advantage but only absolute truth, every possible opportunity for explanation should be placed in Mr. Judge’s hands. I thought it right to send the whole of the documents to him, so that he knew every word that I should speak before the Committee.
“As I say, when the Committee met, Mr. Judge raised technical objections—one that was over-ruled, was that he was not legally Vice-President at all. That was one objection. The other objection was that, although he was Vice-President, the offence committed, if an offence, was not committed by him as Vice-President, but as a private member. You will observe that that was what in legal terminology is called a
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demurrer. He did not challenge the facts of the case, but he challenged the jurisdiction of the Court before which the indictment was to be laid: the objection was held to be a good objection, and I agreed with the finding. I think the objection was well taken, from a legal standpoint, and I hold that Mr. Judge had the right to take the legal objection if he preferred to rely on a demurrer rather than meet the case upon its merits. Every accused person has such a right in Courts of Law, and we are bound in dealing with members of our Society not to do anything which would be less generous, than the Court of Law would allow him, and not to deprive an accused brother of peculiar right of defence which he would have in the courts of his country and which he had a right to use before ourselves. Regarding that action of Mr. Judge’s part as fatal to his own dignity and reputation, I urged strongly upon him not to shelter himself under the technical plea. I could do nothing more than that. The technical plea was held, and I think rightly, to be a good plea. The Committee decided that it had no jurisdiction and therefore could not listen to the charges, much less of course to any evidence in the matter. According to my view—that is my own opinion—the Committee should have risen the very moment it had arrived at that decision. Having decided that it had no jurisdiction, its work was over, and it should have adjourned; but instead of that—very likely I may be wrong in my opinion--it thought it right to allow Mr. Judge to state what would have
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been his line of defence if the matter had been laid before the Committee. And on the statement of Mr. Judge that if he had defended himself it would have involved the question of Mahatmas, the Committee further decided that it should not have tried the charges.
“Then the Committee rose, and Mr. Burrows proposed that a Jury of Honor should be held. Mr. Judge refused a Jury of Honor, on the ground that his witnesses were in America and that it would take six months to get together his evidence. The only importance of that is as having bearing on the resolution of the Committee, which was passed by the Committee before this refusal was made: i.e., that it believed that Mr. Judge was ready to go on with the case, and therefore that he did not try to evade enquiry. The Committee said this on the statement of Mr. Judge, that he was ready to go on: when the Jury of Honor was proposed, and when it might have gone into the case, he withdrew the statement that he was ready to go on, and said that his witnesses were away and that it would take six months for him to collect the evidence. On the following day, in consequence of the strong pressure put upon Mr. Judge by his friends, he wrote and asked suddenly for a Committee. Such a Committee though, would never have been in any sense representative, and I felt the difficulty at once of refusing it or agreeing to appear before it—difficult to refuse because, however late in the day, Mr. Judge asked for it; and difficult to appear before it, because some of
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the best members had left the place; so that it would have been a Committee without authority and without dignity, and the whole matter would have been hurried through in a way not conducive to a proper investigation. Therefore, entirely on my own responsibility—here you have a perfect right to judge me if I was mistaken in the action I took on myself—I made a statement in which I declared my own firm belief that these letters were not genuine, that the writing was a simulated writing, and that it was done by Mr. Judge. I read that statement before a meeting of Convention delegates and Mr. Judge followed it, with a statement denying it, and then it was printed and sent out to the world.
“Now comes the point as to the articles that appeared in the Westminster Gazette. These articles. were based on documents supplied by Mr. Old, including the documents which I was prepared to lay before the Committee, as well as certain other documents which belonged to the Esoteric Section, which I should not have laid before the Committee. I was and am under a promise of secrecy regarding those documents, and under no possible conditions would I have broken the promise I made. But in addition to the evidence which was published in the Westminster Gazette, there was a considerable body of other evidence having an exceedingly strong bearing on the case; so in judging of the value of the statements of the Gazette, for the purpose of this movement, I take all the documents which deal with the exoteric and public matters.
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There were others in addition, which would have been laid before the Committee, had I been allowed to lay them. I now pass on to those proposals which I lay before you. Now it is said, and truly said, that the statements are ex parte statements; but while you admit that they are ex parte statements on the part of newspapers, you must remember that they are statements which would have been laid before a Committee where Mr. Judge would have been present—statements that he might have answered if he desired to answer them, and therefore they are not ex parte statements in the ordinary sense of the term. If statements are made when a person has had no opportunity of answering them, it is right to demand an answer and to form no opinion until the answer is made. If the statements have been placed in the hands of the accused person, and he then, knowing the statements and the evidence in support of them, elects to shelter himself under a technical demurrer in order to prevent an open trial in regard to the statements made, then he has no right to claim the advantage of sheltering himself under the plea of the statements being ex parte statements, when they come before the world in the form in which they now appear. Therefore I consider that that is not a legitimate plea, because the defence and answer might have been made, and ought to have been made, at the time.
“In addition to the statement of fraud against Mr. Judge, there are statements against me for condoning the fraud, and against Colonel Olcott and Mr.
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Keightley for similar condonation. We are challenged to answer the accusation and I will deal with it in a moment. Let me say also that it is said that we had a conspiracy of silence. Against this there is this fact, that I was bound under a legal agreement of 1893, to be in Australia on the 1st September last for a lecturing engagement. I was therefore obliged to leave London, and I took the last ship which made me land in Australia the day before that on which my first lecture was to be delivered. By sitting up all night before I started for Australia, I managed by myself to direct a copy of this inquiry, with my statement that I believed that these forgeries had been made, to all the leading London papers. In addition to that, I sent to all these papers a statement which I had drawn up and submitted to certain well-known persons, with regard to the policy of concealing or evading truth, or considering that ordinary morality was not binding on anyone who stood as an occultist. I drew up that statement and took weighty names to sign it, because I considered the protest was necessary against the policy adopted by Mr. Judge, and I desire that all the members of the Society should know that the President-Founder, Mr. Sinnett, Mr. Keightley, Mr. Sturdy, myself, Dr. Westcott (who has a peculiar following in Europe) and Mr. Leadbeater (who is well known in Ceylon)—these people, who were known as eminent Theosophists, should be known to stand to absolute truth against any sort of paltering with it or evasion, against fraud of any kind; so that the Society might remain clear in
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the world’s face. I sent that also to the London papers, and I sent it with a private note from myself asking them to give full publicity. I placed all these documents in the hands of my friend Miss Willson, of the London headquarters, and asked her to deliver them by hand at the newspaper offices. The Westminster Gazette was one of the papers I wrote to asking for publicity. So I do not think there was much hushing up, as far as I was concerned. They say I “rushed” away. That is true, under the circumstances I told you. But Colonel Olcott was there for over a month after I had left. He was there till the end of August, he would have answered any question that was asked, and he is the highest official in the Society. The papers did not say one word about the whole thing. The Westminster Gazette kept absolute silence, and three months after these facts were sent it by myself, when I was in New Zealand and when it knew that I could not possibly answer it in less than another three months, it then brought out all the accusations, together with the accusations against myself for condoning fraud, and for endeavoring to hush the truth of the matter for advantages, monetary and otherwise, that were obtained by belonging to the Society, and for the sake of the general position which I hold as one of the leaders of the movement.
“A telegram came to New Zealand stating that an exposure had been made, and a little later another telegram saying that, in consequence of the exposure, Mr. Judge had expelled me from the Society. I was
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not able to answer them beyond saying there must be some mistake, not knowing what had really occurred, and the papers met me in Ceylon when I landed from Australia. I wrote at once to the Daily Chronicle to say that an answer would be sent as soon as I landed in England. But on reading the articles on my way to Madras, I saw no reason to delay the answer, and I wrote that answer without delay after I arrived here on Saturday evening, and took it yesterday down to the Madras Mail, where it will appear to-morrow. I went to, Reuter’s Agent and telegraphed to the Chronicle that the answer would come by the first English mail. That answer is now being printed as a pamphlet, to the number of 20,000 copies, and will be sent to every Branch of the Society, in order that the full facts may be laid before them in every part of the world. Now I say that to you, and you will see its bearing in a moment, on one of the proposals I make.
“There is in Europe a very strong feeling on this matter: I have received from the General Secretary of the Section a list of names eminent in the European Section, to whom have been sent out circulars asking those to whom they were sent to sign the circulars if they approved of Mr. Judge being called upon to make an explanation. Out of the eighty circulars sent, 65 answers have been returned. These 65 unanimously demand that explanation should be made. Out of these 65 signatories, 12 are signatures of Presidents of Lodges and Societies in Europe. In addition to that, there has been a kind of informal canvass which has
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been placed in my hands, in which twelve Lodges and Centres demand that Mr. Judge shall explain or resign. One of them demands that he be expelled and the rest only ask for explanation or resignation. There are then seven centres and branches which take a somewhat indefinite position. Three on his side; the others ‘counsel delay’; one looks to the Adyar Convention to discuss the matter, and does not wish to fan the flame. The President of one refuses to place the matter before his Lodge at all, and one expresses no opinion, content to leave action to Headquarters. A more definite expression than that it is not possible at present to obtain, because there has not been time for the General Secretary to get answers from all the Lodges. Mr. Mead wrote to me—I received his letter yesterday—stating what had so far been done and saying that he believed that an informal appeal had been sent to Colonel Olcott—and that is true—by Mr. Judge’s friends. No official notice had been sent to him, and the appeal had been circulated privately, so that he could only mention it as information for me, and not as the Secretary of the Section. I fully agree with what Colonel Olcott said. There is a strong feeling on both sides. Probably America is nearly unanimous in Mr. Judge’s support; there are exceptions, but very few. Probably Australia is equally unanimous against him, but you must discount that by the fact that I have been lecturing there and exerting personal influence—not against Mr. Judge, I did not mention his name, but gaining influence—and you
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should bear this in mind when you are weighing the evidence of feeling. This is not a quarrel over individual opinions.”
We have reached the limit of our space for this month, and I must here interrupt the thread of the narrative, which will be continued next month, but I wish to call the attention of the reader to the magnanimity and sweet charitableness shown by the speaker against whom such foul charges had been made by Mr. Judge.