Practical Occultism by William Q. Judge

Theosophical University Press Online Edition

Letters from September 1886 - December 1887

Sept. 25 1886
Mrs. Helen L. Sumner:


In reply to yours of 23d instant in which you ask about joining the Aryan Theosophical Society of New York, I beg to say:

We have no desire to cause members to withdraw from other Branches, but rather wish to see all solidified in interest all over the country. It was for that reason that the A. T. S. started the Abridgments of Discussions, so as to afford to distant members the chance to communicate their thoughts, and also that they might feel united with other minds than their own. That is the only way we could hit on for meeting the needs of those who cannot attend meetings, and that is all non resident members would get in return for membership — excepting of course the unseen but strong help which arises from unconscious communion of mind. . . .

In answer to your question about the Path, I would say, that our intention is to carry it on. I do not remember stating anywhere that its continuance depends on the help accorded in the first year. . . .

It is very pleasant to have your praise of The Path. Its motive is solely to try and offer here some good doctrines and help to earnest souls.

The H. B. of L. did some good to earnest people but I long ago knew — although I never joined it — that the Hindu [Hermetic] Brotherhood of Luxor would not last.

If all theosophists will try to separate chaff from wheat, and rest on the idea that there is no separateness one from the other, and at the same time try for themselves and unceasingly try to aid on the spiritual progress of others, our cause cannot fail. Masters have written that we will prosper on moral and philosophical worth but never by phenomena.

Fraternally yours

Oct 8, 1886

Dear Sexton: —

Yours of 4th at hand.

Too rapidly you have concluded that no one read the true inner nature of the person you allude to, because without knowing what others thought — I had a very clear view of the said mediumistic condition. But the line between medium and non medium is very shadowy. Many persons who think they are not mediums are really so. All mediums are not bad. Many who suppose they are mediums are in fact not mediums. If I could be the medium of the progressed entities of Satwa-Yuga, I would willingly accept. Do not let us assume to judge any one absolutely. Mediums are sensitives upon a material plane.

As to the Secret Section, it does not depend wholly upon you or me who shall be admitted. It probably has grades in it. Its work is, not to give evidences or "certificates" to its members, but to aid by personal influence our fellow men and thus to spread real theosophical doctrine and life. So, it must follow, that personal ambitions and any sort of narrowness are not found within it. This being so, one would find some working in it by methods not ours; but no judgment should be passed thereupon.

There might be many working in this Section and yet we never actually know it, however much we might surmise. The real point is, that those who work in it try to have the right motives, no matter what their methods are, due to education and personal idiosyncrasy. For instance, you might know that I was in it with yourself, and I might know of others (and you too) but never tell each other unless by request. Or in other words, we must respect and hold inviolate each other's desire not to refer to the existence of our membership in the section by words, no matter how convincing the proof which in our actions would appear that we are in the section. I know one person who, if asked, might deny adherence to theosophical organizations but who really does a great deal for the cause of theosophy. All this is not jesuitry but reality. For nature, working toward reunion with the great All, manifests many varieties often at war with each other, yet all members of the great whole.

Very truly yours

Oct 19 1886

My dear Page:

I have yours containing call for convention of T. S. at Cincinnati on Oct 30th.

Your telegram was not answered as I had no answer. A little delay, after so much on your side does not count much.

As to what you call "gross perversion of language," I see that the words in the order are "as soon as may be convenient." The notice in Path was from a copy of the order made by another person who probably read it wrong. I never looked at the Path again about that. Anyway, under the circumstances "as soon as possible" is not different from "as convenient." Such is my opinion.

Then "gross perversion" thus used by you unqualifiedly means "wilful perversion." It might have been well for you to have asked me if it was "wilful." Then again the Path is not official and therefore what it says can be of no consequence to you or any one else who wishes to construe official orders.

I dont know what "feeling in parts of the U. S." you refer to. I know all about the feeling and just where it is located, and know that the aggregate of feeling is that time has been wasted and that the Society and the Cause has been brought into great disrepute, and that autocracy has been made the watchword of the movement. That must come to an end. It is ended.

I do not mean you: you know who I mean. And I have letters enough over signature to open your eyes if they are not open now.

Why cant we push on this movement unselfishly, and not squabble over "recognition or help" or place or position.

If you have a grievance against me, as you have often said to others, why dont you give it straight to me and not to others. By all right I am the one to hear of it first and not by indirection.

As far as I know there are only 11 U. S. Branches and they are weak. The 2d N Y Branch had never met when July meeting was held nor has the Phil one yet. Besides the 2d N Y one and its organizers say they do not like the "common people" who are in the T. S. This may be a new kind of theosophy. But as the 2d N Y are under the impression that they hear weekly or monthly from an Adept of high degree who temporarily for the purpose occupies the senses of one present, they may feel justified in their sentiments. It is not for me to judge them.

I shall submit your printed notice to the A. T. S. at an early meeting.


Nov. 4 1886

Dear Aldrich

Bro Harte returned from Cincinnati — with his statement of what occurred but as I have no minutes nor copy nor have heard from Page, I do not know officially.

I had hoped to go, but at the last moment Mr. Olcott rushed off to Cuba and I had to remain. That is the sole reason why we sent Harte, for no other member had the spare time.

From his account I should suppose that a misunderstanding arose at first which happily was quieted as he says by your judicious intervention. Buck also misunderstood me, for he said to me he thought I had sent Harte for some reason other than above, whereas in fact the Branch sent him and for no other reason.

It appears the convention met and constituted itself, and thought it wise not to pass any other rules. Perhaps that will turn out to be just as well, except that it might have been more definite to have set a day for reassembling. I suggested to Harte that he propose for your consideration that in future representation in council should be by elected delegates and not by Pres'ts as a pres't might be not harmonious with the Branch, but that of course went over with the rest.

Today I have a letter from the California Branches expressing pleasure that there is now a Council as they say they felt neglected by never hearing from anybody and having neither Charters nor certificates of membership. This of course is small, but people have to be pleased I suppose with these things.

Buck wrote me some while ago that you might go to India, and I replied saying that all the Branches east would make you delegate for them. Did he tell you? Please let me know when (if) you are going so that I may get you the papers making you their delegate at the next convention.

By the way, talking of supposed neglect, do you know that up to this hour I have no information about the Indian convention. A notice was sent here, and I suppose was received by somebody but none of us have heard of it. Of those matters H. S. Olcott does not write me as he supposes I am duly at once informed here. Will you oblige me by some information on the point as I suppose you and Buck have seen or heard of the thing.

Referring again to the convention of Oct 29, I will say that I felt sure in advance that it would go on right no matter what was done, for I had some reliable information in advance which may be symbolized in this way:

A large strong steamship running aground in an icy bay. It stops. The captain and officers got off and went away up a road into the icy country. Meanwhile ship bound in the ice but unhurt. All the people did not go off of her.

One passenger went ashore to reconnoitre and met there a man who had some connection with the ship. They returned together and suddenly the ice parted, they started up the machinery and the ship steamed bravely out slowly at first and taking bearings and advice from old sailor at the point, and reached at last a goal.

The icy bay was Cincinnati and the ice was the coagulation which at first appeared but was dissipated by you. I do not yet quite know the dark man who returned on board with the passenger. I suspect you.

But whatever or whoever, I am as sure of the propriety of what was done and of the final success as I am of this sheet of paper, no matter who may leave the ship or how they go. I pity those who went for that land was horribly cold, bare and desolate.

As ever sincerely yours,

Nov 16, 1886
A. W. Barnard Esq

Dear Sir

I think you are about right in not expecting to "obtain much mystic power" from our Society. We do not profess to supply it. We are a body of earnest students, and try to the best of our power to live up to our professions, in which I fear many of us fail. Those professions are founded upon the morality which is common to every age and every religion (at least as far as lip service goes). But we make no external professions, and live as unobtrusively as we can, making our professions only in our own hearts, and wearing the "yellow robe" internally.

The fact is that many people in these times apply the commercial spirit to things spiritual. "I am ready to pay for powers, and for knowledge of the occult; you have the supply, then favor me with some of your wares." Of course I do not mean that anyone offers money, but they offer promises of a life's devotion etc.

Now, My dear sir, the old rule still remains in force in things occult: that knowledge is only given to those who deserve it, and have proved by their life that they do deserve it. Only those who do the will of the Masters are reckoned as deserving their notice; aspirations, desires, promises go for nothing. What is that will? Well, it is simply to free your mind from vain and earthly desires, and to work at the work before you always lending a helping hand to others. Get rid of anger, of vanity, pride, resentfulness, ambition and really lose them, and you have then made the first step towards the understanding of the occult; with these feelings latent in the heart it is not possible to make one single step in magic.

You may acquire psychic power, and no doubt there are men in India and elsewhere who can help you in that direction, but it would be to your destruction eventually. They are the quacks of Occultism — beware of them. Their plane of work is the psychic, not the spiritual — the region of delusions, not that of truth.

As a society The Theosophical Society is exoteric. Its work is above board and open — namely to encourage its members in studying the ancient Doctrine and in "leading the life." The esoteric work does not appear, and cannot appear, because it is between the individual member and a source which reaches him only through his own inner consciousness.

Hence our Society is disappointing to those who expect to learn how to draw magic figures and pronounce magic words which will "raise the devil" or make water turn into wine. But for him who can see below the surface of things it is the first step in a brotherhood at whose head stand the adepts of the Himalayas.

Many men approach the subject of occultism in the way you seem to have done — with a wish to produce effects. They find that the only terms on which they will be taught (not by their fellow students) is to "lead the life," and that to have made the leading of the life habitual is the only preparation for the acquirement of occult powers, and by the time those powers come they are looking to something higher and they seem to them trivial, childish, only useful for making the ignorant stare or envy them — for "showing off" as children say.

Yours very truly
W. Q. JUDGE (by R. H.)

My dear Dr. Cones:

. . . . Referring to H P B. you will well understand my position when I tell you that as far back as 1874 she (and others) outlined to me this whole movement as it has gone on since, and I am very well satisfied, by many proofs, that the Karma of the T S. and of all Western members is indissolubly bound up with hers.

They little dream of the significance of this and go on heaping up more and more instead of lightening the load she has to bear.

I am very truly yours

April 5, 1887
F. A. Nims Esq

Dear Sir
By the suggestion of Col J C Bundy I write you. You will I hope excuse my writing upon paper belonging to another matter than that which is the subject of this; but the fact is that the general secys office of the T. S. here is slim in funds and all its work is done gratuitously by several persons.

The policy of the real movers of the Theosophical Society is (when people really listen and believe) to help all sincere students, and also to try to help theosophists. To that end Branches or groups are encouraged to be formed not as being exclusive, nor yet as being universal.

There are some members in Muskegon talking of a Branch, but if you desire to join the T. S. and to have your own group there can be no objection to it. Every group ought to work sincerely for the common good, and yet each is entitled to its own freedom and autonomy, and to manage its affairs, within theosophical lines, just as it sees fit.

What method do you wish to pursue? Are you and your friends desirous of pursuing occultism as such, or of studying philosophically, or as enthusiastic adherents of a cause whose aim is to raise as far as possible the race — to put it esoterically: "of lifting some of the heavy Karma of the world"? You need not if you are so minded reply to that query. In regard to tyros "going in" for occultism strictly, there are two things to ponder over — very old: "All hope is given up by those who enter here," and, "it is easy perhaps to rush into the centre of the conclave but what is the method of escaping?"

As to the latter I can only say with my present lights, that while one may enter the "circle of ascetics" forcibly and vehemently, no retrogression can be made except by an acquaintance with the orderly and fixed method. All of the foregoing relates to the query regarding occultism strictly so called and is not at all meant as discouragement. . . .

After hearing from you I can write further.

Believe me to be sir
Yours sincerely
Gen'l Secy T. S., U. S.

35 Broadway N.Y.
July 20 1887
Mrs. M. L. Brainard,

Dear Madame:

I have yours of 11th in regard to Dr. Phelon in which you give your private views and ask inquiries for private use; and I beg to say that this reply is also to be considered as expressing my personal opinions only and not in any sense as official.

In the first place let me say that I did not delegate Col. Ayme for the purpose referred to by you nor for any purpose. As he was in Chicago and disinterested, I asked him as a personal favor to let me know about the proposal regarding a new Branch of which I had heard. Any other proceedings he may have taken rest entirely with himself.

As a general reply to your letter I might justly say (and put it also as a question) that none of us can claim a monopoly of theosophy nor of Branch work.

You say that "Most of your members belong outside of" Chicago. This would in itself show perhaps that it is not strictly doing Chicago work. But in my opinion the fact does not militate against the Branch.

§ 6 of Art. III of the Const. expressly states that the number of Branches in any town is unlimited. §8 says 5 or more persons may get a Charter. § 14 continues the T. S. general rules in force. In those you will find that express provision is made that people who desire to form a Branch having distinct leanings in whatever directions, composed of coreligionists or those of a similar cult, may form it and shall be allowed to do so. If you and I do not agree with Spiritualists or Catholics, we have no right to say that they shall not have a charter provided they subscribe to the 3 objects of the Society, or only to the first.

This is the very object we have in view, i.e.: to have as many differently constituted Branches as possible so that we may get into the sphere and influence of theosophy as many beings as possible. What right then have we to say to people that they cannot come in and cannot form Branches unless they believe just as we do, viz: in opposition to spiritualism? There is no such right.

For my part I have long regretted the fact that we had no spiritualist Branch. That is just what is wanted. For if we had some such, we might reach many who are now just ripe for Theosophy, and need only the explanations which Theosophy offers. The facts of spiritualism are there and cannot be evaded. But how are we to draw the lessons and explain the facts if we have no strength of membership in any of our Branches? The Spiritualists are now to my personal knowledge ready for our philosophy and we here in the west ought to use their facts. For 40 years they have experimented and agree that they have had no philosophy and need it. It seems that if a chance arises to interject the beneficial influences of Theosophy, it would be followed by good results.

As to Dr. Phelon, I can constitute myself no man's judge. I should never try to force my opinions into his mind, nor extract any other pledge from him than that which he has already given, viz: to support universal brotherhood and toleration. I am not greater than Masters, and they have long abided my ignorance and folly as well as the errors of many good supporters of their efforts. How then shall I judge Dr. Phelon or anybody else in small matters.

As to "shells" being Presidents of Branches, I cannot offer now any pertinent opinion inasmuch as the question has not arisen in practice. When it does it then will be the time to act on that.

There is a sentence in your letter I will quote. You say, referring to Brother Sexton — whom I have known a long time and highly respect — "I certainly hope he will not be compelled to use unpleasant decisive measures, through outside manipulation regarding an extra Branch which is not needed just now, as most of our members belong outside of the City," and would say — without laying upon any person the full force of the quotation, — that "unpleasant decisive outside manipulation" is not strictly in the line of Theosophy. Such management as that certainly does not meet with your own calm approval. If any one should apply for another Charter for Chicago the matter would be referred to the Executive Committee and that Com't, would, and shall, notify Mr. Sexton or whoever was in charge of the Chicago T. S. If any objections were made they would be heard before any decision pro or con was reached. In this matter of Charters and theosophical work "manipulation" ought to be farthest from all our actions. The only "manipulation" that we ought to indulge in is that sort which, acting upon ourselves, causes us to sink any and all personal considerations for the good of the general work.

Now I have written at great length and hope the subject has been covered. Please read my letter in the same calm spirit in which I write it, as I have no personal interest whatever in any of these matters.

Sincerely and fraternally yours

Dec 19, 1887
J. V. Dales Esq

Dear Sir

I have your letter, and am glad to reply to any one sent by Mme Blavatsky. But I am sorry I cannot meet your wishes. I know of no society that answers your description, although I may not rightly understand you. The Shakers certainly do not. They are a religio-spiritualistic community, with peculiar views on sexual relations. My own experience in Occultism and in trying to live the Higher Life has conclusively shown me that we are placed by Karma wherever we may be and that we cannot gain by trying to "alter mere surroundings," we thus only run away from the very test given us for the object in view.

Any man can make a [indecipherable] in his own heart and there retire. But if he insists on finding such communities, my opinion is that they do not exist, as organizations, outside of India. In the U. S. they are unknown. The T. S. is the only society really pursuing occultism here, and many of its advanced students have reached the conclusions outlined above. Command me further.

I am sincerely yours

January 1888 - March 1888