OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fifth Series (1893-96)
by Henry Steel Olcott
MORE DETAILS OF THE SECESSION
THIS timely action saved the situation, snatched the coveted prize from the Secessionists, and forced them outside the walls of our fortress, where they had only scope for guerilla tactics. The plot had been deliberately hatched and they seem to have expected to carry the whole Society with a rush, as they had the American Section. I do not wish to use any harsh terms, for I am convinced that, barring Judge and a few others, the mass of seceders were as s n ere in their beliefs as were the Confederates who took up arms against their Government. But they made certain fatal miscalculations, among which was the popular strength of Mrs. Besant. Judge probably thought himself more influential then she, and knew that she would never resort to the deceptive policy which he had used succesfully with her and some of her associates in the European Section; by trickery he would get the better of her, as he had in the matter of putting off her Indian visit, and compel her to keep silence if he could not neutralise her. Another
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mistake was in ignoring members of strong character, and not his followers, like Sinnett, George Wright of Chicago, Mead, Sturdy, Staples, Fullerton of New York, Oliver Firth, the leading men in the Indian and Australian Sections, the strong partisans of Mrs. Besant in Great Britain, like B. Keightley, and elsewhere, who would naturally stand by her in a comparison of characters and condemn him for his whole behaviour. Lastly, myself, plus the strength behind me, the strength of the Truth, Justice, and Integrity of our cause, the unshakable constitutional basis of the Society and, greatest of all, the Masters, whom I have so long known, so long served, and who have approved of my official management, even when our London people were boycotting me.
How the Secession scheme was pushed through the Boston Convention was reported to me by some of the loyal minority, among them Dr. La Pierre, of Minneapolis. We are indebted to them for their narratives, from which I am now compiling this story. My informants say that Mr. Judge made use of the power he had over the members of the E.S.T. (Eastern School of Theosophy), the confidential group of special disciples which H.P.B. formed and which, after her death was directed by Mrs. Besant and Judge. He had issued the manifesto referred to in “Old Diary Leaves” for August, 1903, [Chapter XIX] in which he farcically deposes his coadjutor, declares himself the only head of the School, in apostolic succession to H.P.B., and the only living agent of the Adepts. The Branches
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of this School in America were circularised by him and it was arranged that they should manage to be chosen as Delegates to the Boston Convention.
As I wish to be perfectly fair and impartial, I must say that Dr. Buck, in a letter to me of May, 1895, indignantly denied the truth of the charge that the machinery of the E.S.T. had been employed by Judge and his friends to control the Boston Convention. Still it cannot be denied that the E.S.T. circular, briefed for my chapter in the August Theosophist, [Chapter XIX] was issued by him as a secret document, for it says as much. Dr. Buck, moreover, sent me in another letter (of May 31st, a month after the Secession), a copy of his own Circular (undated) addressed to the “Members, Branches, and Sections of the Theosophical Society”. This is a notable document, as will appear from the following extract:
“There is a ready and efficient method of ending the bitter strife which has already made our Society a laughing-stock. That is, the separation of the Sections, the abolition of the offices of President and Vice-President, the giving of complete autonomy or ‘home rule’ to every Section. In other words, to be like Canada, self-governing in every particular, with its own laws, legislature and Governor, though still in the Empire. As the chief of those in opposition to Mr. Judge have done their best to drive both President and Vice-President out of office, they can find no reasonable ground for complaining of our deciding as above suggested and asking them to cooperate by
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voting in the same way. This will give the American Section the opportunity to stand by Mr. Judge and continue the work with him which has been so successful and satisfactory in the past. No duties whatever devolve upon the office of Vice-President until the death of the President, why should we wreck the movement for an empty name?
“The Sections being so widely separated, the present dissensions and strife will go on for years, and even then result in no settlement satisfactory to all parties. Some will believe Mr. Judge guilty, others will believe him persecuted and much abused. This was demonstrated in the effort made in London last July. Several thousand dollars were expended in travel from the remotest quarters of the globe, and three weeks’ time were employed in efforts for final adjustment. A conclusion was reached, the best possible under the circumstances, accepted unanimously without protest, and delegates including prosecutors and defendant departed their several ways. Yet here we have the whole matter again revived with accusations more bitter, denunciations more general, feeling intensified, and in the face of all this, other meetings and trials proposed. Under the circumstances, and with the history already made before us, this is utter folly.
“I do not ask any member or Branch of the T.S. to pass judgment on Mr. Judge or his accusers, for I am well aware that such judgment would be worthless without the possession of all the facts to the last analysis, including what part, if any, the Masters
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may have had in our affairs. But I do ask the Branches and members of the American Section to speedily put an end to strife in the only way now possible.
“The T.S. has grown so large, and is becoming so unwieldy that a separation of Sections even without our present trouble, would soon, in my judgment, become imperative. Let each Section retain the present organisation and name, but simply manage its own affairs. No executive or general officer can exercise jurisdiction all over the globe.
“The honorary title of President-Founder belongs alone to Colonel H.S. Olcott, and the American Section should in the future, as in the past, recognise this and bestow upon him all honorary considerations, fraternal regard, and the appreciation of his long and untiring services.1
“Instead of promoting strife among the Sections, the action proposed is the only possible way to secure harmony. We can then without official constraint, vie with each other, as individuals, Branches, and Sections, in all good words and work. We can affiliate as sections, on the same basis, and help each other then, as now, in that peace of brotherly emulation that is devoid of strife.
“I therefore urge the American Section to pass unanimously a vote of Secession, and declare their entire autonomy, and to proceed to organise this Section on
1Viz., send him about his business with a complimentary certificate and no means of support. But Judge to be “President for Life,” of his Section, and each other Section to be similarly fitted out.
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this basis, and make it effectual in the best sense for the promotion of the real brotherhood of man on the lines laid down by the Master and H.P.B.”
The reader who has followed me in my narrative will give its proper value to this circular, for it foreshadows the exact course which was followed by the seceders in the Boston Convention. It was circulated to the Branches (or to the Branch officers who could be relied upon to make good use of it, for officers of a certain influential Branch tell me that it never came to their knowledge before the Convention, but was kept from them by the recipients), in ample time to influence the selected delegates. In fact my former friend Dr. Buck in sending me the copy above quoted from, writes me (May 31st) that this was the campaign document which brought about the action in Boston. With benevolent candor he advises me—as did Judge, Patterson, Rambo, Neresheimer, and other of their leaders, to accept the action as a fait accompli, ratify the Secession and recommend the other Sections to do likewise: then we should have peace. Judge goes so far as to ask me in one of his letters, to declare that I knew him to have been in relations with the Masters and possessed of psychic powers. If I would do all this, it was intimated that I might count on pecuniary support for Headquarters as in the past. Truly a compliment to my lamb-like innocence! The real scheme in view was kept secret except from certain chosen leaders; the other delegates walked like sheep into the pen to be branded.
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On the evening of April 20th a private meeting was held at which Mr. Judge, Dr. and Mrs. Keightley, of London, Messers. Fussell, Claude Wright, Patterson, and the Presidents of Branches in the New England Theosophical Corporation (a federation) made up the programme for the Convention, drafted resolutions of Secession, a new form of Constitution and By-Laws, and called themselves a Committee on Resolutions. At another private meeting on the 27th of April, the day before the Convention, Dr. Buck, of Cincinnati, assisted, and also such of the “faithful” delegates as could be collected together. This illegal meeting ratified the proceedings of the previous meeting. When the Convention assembled Dr. Buck was, of course, elected Chairman and two other conspirators (as I must call them), Messrs. Wright and Fussell, Secretaries; a nominal Committee on Credentials passed upon the qualifications of Delegates! All the proxies of absent delegates were, naturally, held by the bodyguard of Judge. The delegate from the Ishwara T. S. voted for Secession, contrary to his instructions from the Branch. But, that did not matter since it was known in advance just how things were to be made to go. Letters from sympathisers in Europe provoked cheers for Judge, among them one said to have been unusually scurrilous against Mrs. Besant, from Dr. Franz Hartmann, which was so violent that, as alleged, Dr. Keightley suppressed part of it in the reading, and the demand for its publication by the loyal minority was, at the suggestion of Mr. Judge, overwhelmingly denied by the majority.
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A resolution of the Ishwara Branch condemning Secession and signed by about 90 persons was thrown out.1 Then came the immaculate and constitutional Report of the pretended “Committee on Resolutions” and with it the psychological moment! When the clause providing for the election of Mr. Judge as Perpetual President of the “Theosophical Society of the
1Resolutions adopted by the Ishwara Branch of the T.S. at a Regular Meeting held Tuesday evening, March 19, 1895.
Whereas; In consequence of certain charges being brought against our Vice-President, Mr. W. Q. Judge, and that said charges have not been answered to the satisfaction of the majority of the members of the Theosophical Society, and
Whereas; These charges together with the pamphlet Isis Very Much Unveiled are of such serious nature as to disturb the unity of the T.S., and bring discredit on the true aims of the Society.
Be it therefore Resolved; That while the Ishwara Branch of the T.S. has always recognised the long and earnest work done for the Society by the Vice-President, Mr. Wm. Q. Judge, we feel that it is but right that he should free himself from this accusation of untruth now pending over him, even if such accusation did not contain the shadow of a probability, and especially as the motto of our Society is, “There is no Religion Higher Than Truth,” and
Be it further Resolved: That although the Ishwara Branch of the T.S. does not constitute itself a Court to decide whether or not Mr. Wm. Q. Judge is guilty, and furthermore, as we have the strongest hope that he will clear himself of the accusation now pending, therefore, we, the members of Ishwara Branch of the T.S. in Convention assembled, demand that Mr. Wm. Q. Judge delay no longer the call that has been made upon him by the European, Australasian, Indian, and the minority of the American Section, to immediately resign the Vice-Presidency of the Theosophical Society until such time as circumstances will make it possible to refute the charges made against him, and
Be it further Resolved: That these resolutions be presented to the American Section of the T.S. in Convention assembled, by our Delegate or his proxy, that the same be spread upon the minutes of this Branch and a copy thereof be sent to the President-Founder, H. S. Olcott.
(Signed by fifteen yeas and seven nays).
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Western Hemisphere” (sic) was read, the delegates, led by the managers, “shouted themselves hoarse”. The election was carried by 195 yeas to 10 nays. The meeting then went mad. Mr. Fullerton had previously made an eloquent speech, in which he showed most conclusively—says my correspondent’s report (of date, May 5th)—that there was “no occasion for the proposed Secession except to relieve Mr. Judge from replying to the charges against him. But his words fell upon deaf ears; the delegates were there for a purpose and they were bound to carry it through.” In conclusion, my friend suggests that I, as President, should issue a proclamation asking the members of the Society in the United States and Canada to unite and resume the form of the “American Section of the T.S.” I do not recollect when or where this important letter reached my hand, but it seems to have been sent through Mrs. Cooper-Oakley. Possibly I got it on landing at Marseilles, possibly at London on my return from Spain.
Of course, the loyal members of our Society throughout the United States took active steps to save the Section from wreck. Mr. George E. Wright, President of the Chicago Branch, proved a pillar of strength at the time and he was energetically supported and helped by Miss N. E. Weeks, the Branch Secretary. To them was largely due the prevention of the secession of their Branch, and the arousing of a hopeful feeling in other Branches. I find in my archives the following paper which goes to support this view:
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CENTRAL STATES COMMITTEE OF THE
“26 Van Buren St., Room 48
Chicago, June 1st, 1895.
“To H. S. Olcott, President of the Theosophical Society and Chairman of the Executive Council.
“The undersigned regularly organised and constituted Branches of the Theosophical Society, by their duly authorised officers do hereby make application to be officially recognised as the American Section of the Theosophical Society. In case this request is granted we desire to appoint Mr. Alexander Fullerton to act as General Secretary pro tem., of the American Section until the election of officers at the next regular Convention in April, 1896.”
CHICAGO BRANCH W. J. Walters, Sec.
Geo. E. Wright, Pres. MUSKEGON BRANCH
Netta E. Weeks, Sec. F. A. Nims, Pres.
ISHWARA BRANCH S. E. Sherman, Sec.
J. W. B. La Pierre, Pres. PORT TOWNSEND
pro tem. BRANCH
Ruth P. Clawson, Sec. Robert Lyall, Pres.
pro tem. (Per Louise Thomas, in
BOISE BRANCH absence of Pres. and
Mrs. C. C. Wood, Vice- Vice-President)
Pres. Louise Thomas, Sec.
Mrs. E. E. Athey, Sec. NARADA BRANCH
GOLDEN GATE LODGE Ida S. Wright, Pres.
D. J. Lamoree, Pres. Arthur L. Knight, Sec.
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WILLAMETTE BRANCH INDRA BRANCH
Lewis A. Ward. Pres. John Healess, Pres.
E. Edwina Powell, Sec. Wm. J. Ward, Sec.
Dr. Mary Weeks Burnett, then as always one of the most active workers in our Society, was sent to London to represent in the Convention the loyal minority and to present the above document; but so much time was lost in circulating it for signatures that she had to come over without it, and Mr. Wright’s covering letter to myself was not posted until the 26th of June. Meanwhile, however, besides the nine signatory Branches, he had received notices of concurrence from those at Toledo, Toronto, Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, and Las Vegas (N.M.). Mr. Wright reports that he had turned over the record book and letter files of the Section to Mr. Fullerton, who would act as General Secretary. It was very gratifying to me to find that the Executive Notice from Zumarraga, Spain, covered the whole ground traced out in the important document above cited. The presence of Dr. Weeks Burnett at the Convention of the European Section, gave much pleasure to everybody; and she was made the bearer of fraternal and appreciative messages to Mr. Wright and the other loyalists whom she represented.
The new Charter for the American Section, promised in my Zumarraga Executive Notice, was issued by me at London on the 7th July, but ante-dated to the 28th of April, 1895—(vide Theosophist, August, 1895, p. xiv,
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Supplement) and sent to Mr. Fullerton as General Secretary ad int. Thus was the hiatus closed up and the re-chartered Section sent on its way.
Compared with the overwhelming majority of Secession, this was a very weak phalanx, but still a working and effective nucleus, as it was composed of men and women in deadly earnest—the truth of which has been proved by events. Little remains to recount. How we withstood the shock, how the Society has gone on strengthening and extending itself year by year, is matter of common knowledge. Poor Judge, with a fatal disease wearing away his life, enthroned in his seat of coveted power and elected “President for Life,” survived less than one year. He found himself eating but Dead Sea fruit—fair to look upon, ashes within. He did his best with the help of his chief stimulatress, Mrs. Tingley, to make his Society a strong rival of ours, issuing among others, persuasive circulars like the following:
“NOTICE TO MEMBERS-AT-LARGE
New York, May 4, 1895
“1. At the Ninth Annual Convention of the American Theosophical Societies (Branches) held in Boston, on the 28th and 29th of April, 1895, the COMPLETE AUTONOMY of the said Societies was declared and the title “The Theosophical Society in America,” adopted together with a Constitution. The Resolutions declaring such autonomy are as follows:
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“Whereas, the growth of the Theosophical Movement has been phenomenal in America, and its origin, aim, and method of work is unlike any movement of modern times, and,
“Whereas, the different forms of organisation through which the body known as ‘The Theosophical Society’ has passed since the year 1878 were solely the result of growth, and not the result of votes, and were thus adopted from time to time to suit the exigencies of the moment and have been merely de facto and not de jure, and,
“Whereas, on the other hand, the Confederated Branches in America were regularly organised in 1886-87, and,
“Whereas, we have outgrown the present form of organisation of the Theosophical Society, and,
“Whereas, the duties pertaining to the general offices of the said Theosophical Society have not been essential to the real work of any Section or to the Movement as a whole, its federal and general officers residing at remote distances from each other and being necessarily unfamiliar with the exact conditions and needs of Sections other than their own, and,
“Whereas, a federation of all Branches of the world is not essential to the real work of any Section or to the Theosophical Movement as a whole, and,
“Whereas, conditions contrary to the principle of Universal Brotherhood have arisen within the Theosophical Society which would prove fatal to the continued existence of said Movement; therefore be it
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“Resolved, First, that the American Section, consisting of Branches of the Theosophical Society in America, in Convention assembled, hereby assumes and declares its entire autonomy and that it shall be called from and after this date ‘The Theosophical Society in America,’
“Second, that the administration of its affairs shall be provided for, defined, and be under a Constitution and By-laws which shall in any case provide for the following;
“(a) A federation of Branches for the purpose of the formation of a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood without any distinctions whatever, this being its principal aim and object; its subsidiary objects being the study of ancient and modern religions, sciences, and philosophies; the declaration of the importance of such study; and the investigation of the unexplained laws of nature and the psychical powers latent in man,
“(b) That William Q. Judge shall be President for life, with power to nominate his successor; and a, Vice-President, Treasurer, and Executive Committee, elected yearly.
“(c) Autonomy for Branches in local affairs.
“(d) An yearly Convention with equitable representation.
“(e) Territorial Committees for propaganda, without power to legislate.
“(f) The declaration that every member has the right to believe or disbelieve in any religious system or philosophy consistent with Universal Brotherhood
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and declare such belief or disbelief, without affecting his standing as a member of this Society, each being required to show that tolerance for the opinion of others which he expects for his own.
“Resolved, that until the final adoption of a Constitution and By-laws the President is empowered to issue charters and diplomas for this Society.
“Resolved, that the Branches in America shall retain their present charters, the President being directed to endorse them as valid under the Constitution within a period to be defined.
“Resolved, that the books, records, lists, monies, funds, and property of every kind belonging to us as the American Section of the Theosophical Society be and hereby are turned over to and declared to belong to the Theosophical Society in America, their custodian to be William Q. Judge; but all members of the present federation not wishing to continue their membership under the new name shall on demand be entitled to their per capita share of the said monies and funds.
“Resolved, that until the said Constitution is written and adopted, the affairs of the Theosophical Society in America shall be administered under the Constitution of the American Section of the Theosophical Society, where that does not conflict with the above preamble and resolutions, and wherever such conflict occurs the said Constitution is hereby repealed, but all provisions relative to the Theosophical work and propaganda shall stand valid.
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“Resolved, that the Theosophical Society in America hereby recognises the long and efficient services rendered to the Theosophical Movement by Col. H. S. Olcott, and that to him belongs the unique and honorary title of President-Founder of the Theosophical Society, and that, as in the case of H. P. B. as corresponding Secretary, he can have no successor in that office.
“Resolved, that the permanent organisation of this Convention remains as, and is hereby declared to be, the permanent organisation of the first Annual Convention of the Theosophical Society in America.
“Resolved, that all Branches of the Theosophical Society in America that do not vote for the autonomy of this Society may ratify the action of this Convention within three months from this date and such ratification shall constitute such Branches members of said Society.
“2. You have the right to accept or reject the above noted action of the Convention, and in either case I beg to request that you will inform me of your decision. In case you accept, you will please send me, to the above address, your diploma, in order that it may be endorsed as valid and continued in this Society. I will return it at once. All this is necessary in order to make the records regular and complete.
“3. The Constitution and By-laws are being made up, and when printed will be ready for distribution. A verbatim report of the Convention will be issued as soon as possible.
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“4. Dues of members-at-large. These have been raised to $2 a year instead of $1 as heretofore.
“WILLIAM Q. JUDGE,
“President of T. S. in America.”
I think we may profitably close this chapter at this point and see if something pleasanter will not offer itself for our consideration next. Our ship has been struggling through a sort of Sargasso Sea of floating weeds, but there is clear water beyond.