Alice Leighton Cleather and William Q. Judge

On this website we have several times spoken very positively of the English Theosophist Alice Leighton Cleather (1846-1938) and will continue to do so, for she was one of the twelve specially chosen members of H. P. Blavatsky’s “Inner Group” of esoteric students during HPB’s final years of life in London, and she was one of the most prominent defenders and promoters of HPB and her work and teachings during the time (1920s and 1930s) that these were being the most subverted, distorted, and suppressed, by high profile Theosophical leaders such as Annie Besant, C. W. Leadbeater, and Alice Bailey.

Cleather’s main books, written in collaboration with her friend Basil Crump – namely “H. P. Blavatsky – As I Knew Her,” “H. P. Blavatsky – Her Life and Work for Humanity,” “H. P. Blavatsky – A Great Betrayal,” and “The Pseudo-Occultism of Mrs. A. Bailey” – all served as both promotion of HPB and necessary criticism and warning about Besant, Leadbeater, Bailey, their highly Christianised and anti-Theosophical teachings, and “The Theosophical Society – Adyar” in general. She also established a relatively short lived “Blavatsky Association” in London during this time and was instrumental in the “Back to Blavatsky” movement that exerted a strong and beneficent influence across the whole of the Theosophical Movement.

However, she arrived nonetheless at a rather negative, critical, and misleading, opinion of William Q. Judge, several years after he had passed away. She was initially one of his most ardent supporters and when the original Theosophical Society split into two in 1895, she remained part of the new Judge-led Society headquartered in New York, USA (rather than the Olcott/Besant Society headquartered in Adyar, India) and was one of its most active workers in the United Kingdom.

But after following Katherine Tingley after Judge’s passing, and soon realising that Tingley was far from being a reliable or legitimate Theosophical leader, she left the Society and blamed Judge for having appointed Tingley as his “occult successor.” Yet there is to this day no clear evidence available of Mr. Judge ever having chosen or appointed Tingley or anyone else as his “Successor.” The whole thing was an invention concocted after his death and was even eventually admitted to be such by almost all the Theosophists who had initially presented Tingley as the “Successor.” This was clearly shown in the history book “The Theosophical Movement 1875-1950” by the United Lodge of Theosophists, the relevant passages from which are included in the article The Pasadena & Point Loma “Successorship” Claim Exposed on this site.

Worse than that, Cleather published some assertions about Judge which seriously misrepresent the facts about his character, actions, and status as an Occultist. We believe she was sincere in her errors and had no bad or questionable motives at all but had merely arrived at some rash and mistaken conclusions.

Below we publish these statements of hers (which have already been published online by some Theosophists who are known to have a strong antipathy towards Mr. Judge and the ULT) and have added some necessary comments by means of rebuttal.

Underneath this we provide and make public for the first time some excerpts from a letter written by Robert Crosbie (who founded the United Lodge of Theosophists in 1909) to Alice Leighton Cleather, challenging her about some of her remarks. In his letter Crosbie makes some very good points and it deserves careful and reflective reading. The letter is from the archives of the Parent Lodge of the ULT in Los Angeles, California, USA. We trust all this will prove helpful and informative for any students of Theosophy who may have become understandably concerned or confused after reading Cleather’s remarks about Mr. Judge. A small minority will continue to believe what she said regardless, simply because it fits in with what they would like to be true.

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Mrs. Cleather’s Criticisms of William Quan Judge

with important comments added in square brackets

Mrs. Katherine Tingley . . . [was] a professional psychic and trance medium in New York. . . .

[Although we are not supporters or defenders of Tingley, we are however not aware of any evidence that Tingley was actually working in the profession of psychic and medium.]

For those of us who followed Mr. Judge in 1895, later discovered that about the time of H.P.B.’s death or soon after (the exact date is not known to me), Mr. Judge came under the influence of this woman, who is possessed of considerable hypnotic and other dangerous powers.

[HPB passed away in May 1891; Tingley did not join the Theosophical Society until 13th October 1894. Tingley herself stated in her book “The Gods Await” that she and Judge first met “during a clockmakers’ strike in New York,” which was something that ran from August 1894 to February 1895; she spoke of the weather having been particularly cold when they met, which suggests they first met only very shortly before her joining the Society. No-one can claim that this was “about the time of H.P.B.’s death or soon after.” In a letter from Judge to a Mrs. H. Beane, dated 1st October 1894, he writes, “I have been requested by Mrs. Kate A. Tingley to send some elementary documents on Theosophy and a form of application for membership in the T.S., so I presume that you have had some conference with her upon the subject” . . . wording which hardly implies or suggests a close connection at that time, let alone him being “under the influence of this woman.”]

He had consulted her, in her capacity as a medium, [This claim does not fit any other known account of how Judge and Tingley first met; Cleather is the only person to have claimed – and without any evidence or proof – that Judge had consulted her as a medium; that has to be considered as a mistaken assumption on her part.] which led eventually to her obtaining a complete hold over him [There is no evidence to support this idea; it is an unverifiable assumption.], and also over Theosophical friends whom he introduced to her, and to their accepting her as a Chela of the Masters; one for whom Mr. Judge believed he had been told to seek.

[In 1889, HPB had added a postscript to a letter for Judge: “Has your new chela turned up yet?” There is no evidence that Judge believed that this question referred to Tingley, especially as Tingley did not join the Society until five years afterwards! It was only after Judge’s death that Tingley’s supporters proceeded to try to link HPB’s enigmatic query with Tingley.]

She gave him “messages” purporting to be from Them, but subsequently I discovered that most – if not all – of those which he gave out as having been received by him had come “through” Mrs. Tingley.

[Completely untrue; Judge began privately transmitting Mahatma Letters in 1891, as demonstrated in a few of his own articles published towards the end of his life; this is also proven in such recent and thoroughly researched books on the subject as “The Judge Case” and “Troubled Emissaries.” Cleather’s assertion does not stand up in light of any of the known facts.]

The whole history of this extraordinary delusion is a long and complicated one, some of it being contained in the E.S. documents in my possession. . . .

When I first met Mrs. Tingley she was known only to a few of Mr. Judge’s intimates, but even they did not know the nature of the influence she exercised over him. He introduced me to her at the Boston Convention of 1895, a year before his death, as a very special and mysterious person.

[That is possible, as history does seem to indicate that he had been trying to give her some private occult training in the last year and a quarter or so of his life and seems to have viewed her as having good potential; how she behaved after his death when unwisely given the highest possible leadership position can hardly be blamed on him though.]

She was then the directing intelligence behind the scenes of all he did [unfounded assertion with no evidence to support it], culminating in the fatal division in the T.S. which was then decided on.  On our return [from Boston] to New York he requested me to visit Mrs. Tingley and report to him everything she said. I was staying with Miss Katharine Hillard, the learned Theosophical writer, at the time, and she urged me not to go, telling me that Mrs. Tingley was a well-known public medium, and expressed surprise that Mr. Judge should consult a person of that description.

[Others, such as Claude Falls Wright, were also requested by Judge to visit Tingley. After Wright had gone to see her, Judge reportedly asked him, “Do you see in her the stuff that chelas are made of?” Such a question is ambiguous and has been viewed by some Theosophists as an attempt by Judge to subtly warn and test the discrimination of his colleagues and students. It is surprising that at the time they did not think of it in this light, and that Katharine Hillard would “express surprise that Mr. Judge should consult a person of that description” rather than piecing it together with all of Judge’s many published and clear criticisms and warnings about mediumship and thus draw some much more occultly logical conclusions.]

But my faith in Mr. Judge as an occultist who must know what he was doing, was then absolute; so I disregarded her warning and went. Mrs. Tingley then told me, among other things, that Mr. Judge was really the Master K.H.; and Mr. Judge did not discourage this idea when I gave him my report of the interview.

[It is possible Tingley said this but seems highly unlikely that Judge would have in any way tried to give credence to such a notion; after all, he had already by that time published in “The Path” magazine some letters he had received from the Master K.H. and would have been aware of how bizarre it would be for the Master K.H. to send Mahatma Letters to the Master K.H.! No matter what one might think of Judge, no-one can say that he was stupid or insane.]

It was not until I had worked under Mrs. Tingley for some time that I was forced to come to the conclusions I have briefly stated. . . .

There can, however, be little doubt that she played a very large part through Mr. Judge, in the wrecking of the T.S., and that she had intended, and planned – probably, from the first – to obtain control of the American Section T.S., of which Mr. Judge was President when she first met him. She was completely successful, and on Mr. Judge’s death in 1896, took his place as Outer Head of the E.S.T. in America. At first she was announced as a mysterious “fellow-Chela” of Mr. Judge, a sort of Lohengrin who was to remain unknown for a year. But she speedily emerged from her obscurity, organised a spectacular “Crusade around the world,” and proclaimed herself the “Leader and Official Head” of the entire Judge T.S. . . .

On Mr. Judge’s death in 1896, I was among those English members cabled for to attend the convention of New York when Mrs. Tingley was introduced to the E.S.T. Council as Mr. Judge’s successor. She then asked me to accompany her on the tour round the world which passed through India in the winter of that year. Subsequently, in 1899, I and many others left Mrs. Tingley’s Society on discovering that she was departing as far from H.P.B.’s original teachings as, on her side, Mrs. Besant was. To neither of these organisations was I, therefore, able to belong. Neither of their leaders inspired me with any confidence, as both were introducing ideas completely foreign to those promulgated by H.P.B. while professing to carrying on her work.

[Again, we are not supporters or defenders of Tingley, but although Tingley shifted the main focus of her Society away from the actual teachings of Theosophy and on to practical charitable works, education of children, and the arts, any alterations she may have made to the original teachings as given by HPB were extremely minimal and it would be quite unfair to compare these with the many and huge divergences and alterations of teaching introduced by Besant in “The Theosophical Society – Adyar.” It was only after Tingley’s death that her organisation – “The Theosophical Society – Point Loma” as it became, later to split into what are now called “The Theosophical Society – Pasadena” and “The Theosophical Society – Point Loma” – introduced a number of very big changes and distortions to the teachings and this happened through G. de Purucker, who succeeded Tingley as that Society’s leader. Incidentally, it was because both the Adyar and Point Loma Societies had ceased to be reliable and faithful exponents of the original Theosophical teachings that the United Lodge of Theosophists was formed, Robert Crosbie having been a Point Loma member and initial supporter of Tingley at the same time as Cleather was.]

An important instrument, which neither of them scrupled to use for this purpose, was the Esoteric School, which, owing to the pledge of secrecy, could be, and was so used without the knowledge of the T.S. and outsiders. . . .

It was under Mrs. Tingley’s influence that Mr. Judge began, after H.P.B.’s death, the campaign in favour of Western Occultism which culminated in the announcement, in an E.S. paper (written by Mr. Judge, but dictated by Mrs. Tingley) deposing Mrs. Besant, that a school for the Revival of the Mysteries would be established in America. . . .

[Completely untrue; the facts of history show that Judge started using the phrase and referring to the concept of “A New Era of Western Occultism” as early as 1892, before he had ever met Tingley and more than two years before she joined the Society. Anyone who reads what he actually wrote on this subject – and we have compiled all his statements and explanations about it into the article William Q. Judge’s “New Era of Western Occultism” – can readily see that he was not at all promoting “Western Occultism” in the sense in which many people think of and use that term.  “This does not mean that the Western Occultism is to be something wholly different from and opposed to what so many know, or think they know, as Eastern Occultism,” he said. And he did not for one moment propose or suggest any alteration or dilution of the profoundly Eastern themed teachings of HPB and her Adept Teachers, nor did he attempt to introduce any “new” teachings of his own. But those who want to know more should carefully read that article.]

It was she herself [Mrs. Tingley] who told me, personally, that she dictated the famous E.S.T. Circular headed “By Master’s Direction,” and signed by Mr. Judge, deposing Mrs. Besant from her position as joint Outer Head. . . . Mr. Judge’s circular was a characteristic Tingley counterstroke, and anyone familiar with her language and methods (as I subsequently became) can easily recognise it throughout. Mr. Judge’s style was totally different and quite unmistakable. . . .

[It is quite possible that Tingley claimed this. But as Cleather went on to describe Tingley as a dishonest and deceptive person one might ask why she considered her as being honest and truthful in regard to this claim. But more importantly, “By Master’s Direction” is dated 4th November 1894 and, as already mentioned, Tingley had not even joined the Society until only three and a half weeks prior to that! She is also known to have not joined the E.S.T. – the Esoteric Section, also known as the Eastern School of Theosophy – until later on in November 1894. And having not even met Judge until around September of that year, is it really plausible that in less than two months he would be letting her dictate any of his decisions, let alone the most major, important, and significant ones, involving the Esoteric Section which she had not even yet joined? If Tingley’s own language and style turned out to be similar to that of Judge, it would seem more likely that she attempted after his death to copy his style. Anyone with access to “By Master’s Direction” can easily compare it with Judge’s style in his own articles and see that it is not “totally different” at all.]

It is regrettable that this paper, headed “By Master’s Direction,” is still accepted as such by many, including the [United Lodge of Theosophists] group at Los Angeles, California.  See their Magazine Theosophy, September, 1922, p. 250, et seq. . . .

It did not take some of us very long to discover that Mrs. Tingley knew very little about Theosophy and nothing whatever about Occultism.  We found that she was simply a clever opportunist, with a talent for organisation and showy activities on philanthropic and educational lines. She has established a successful colony at Point Loma, California; but all the work requiring a knowledge of H.P.B.’s Teachings is being done by students who acquired their knowledge under H.P.B. and who followed Mr. Judge in 1895. Most of them were E.S. members and one, Dr. Herbert Coryn, was a member of H.P.B.’s Inner Group. . . .

In view of the unimpeachable facts concerning Mr. Judge and Mrs. Tingley [Cleather’s “facts concerning Mr. Judge and Mrs. Tingley” are not “unimpeachable” at all; as we have shown, they are unverified and in some cases completely contradictory to known historical facts] it is to be deplored that there are groups of earnest Theosophists in America who endeavour to uphold the entirely indefensible theory that he was the occult equal of H.P.B. Some of them even go so far as to assert that he and she were sent out together by the Masters as Co-messengers! I need hardly add that this claim is not only impossible and untenable, but has no shadow of justification in fact

[In the United Lodge of Theosophists, the most ardently pro-Judge Theosophical group, it is never claimed that he was “the occult equal of H.P.B.” but it is indeed maintained that she and he were both Messengers from and Agents of the Masters and that he was an advanced Occultist and even, like HPB, inwardly a Nirmanakaya, i.e. an Adept following the Bodhisattva Ideal. Such a position has its roots not only in those, like Robert Crosbie, who had for years personally known and worked closely alongside Judge and witnessed his occult abilities and discovered his real and great nature, but also and most importantly in many recorded statements from HPB herself; she was the one who spoke the most highly and in the most positive and occultly significant terms about WQJ and what he really was inwardly; she was the one who declared that his inner being was a Nirmanakaya. These statements – many of which are unknown to even longtime Theosophists but which need to be known to all – can be found in the article Understanding The Importance of Mr. Judge.]

Mr. Judge began his occult career at the same time as Colonel Olcott, both becoming H.P.B.’s pledged pupils in 1874. Both men served well and faithfully during H.P.B.’s life-time, but as soon as she was withdrawn they both failed in different ways.

[Unfortunately true about Olcott – see Col. Olcott’s Disloyalty to H. P. Blavatsky – but not about Judge.]

In Mr. Judge’s case his considerable knowledge of occultism rendered his easy deception by an ordinary professional psychic, devoid of real occult knowledge, the more surprising for he was always warning students against the dangers of psychism.

[It would be very surprising if it were actually true but as we have sufficiently shown, it is not.]

Such failures only serve to illustrate the enormous difficulties that beset the chela’s path in the Kali Yuga, and the magnitude of Damodar’s achievement in winning through. As H.P.B. clearly indicated in her Letter of 1890, he was the one full success in the whole history of the T.S.; and he was an Aryan, not a Westerner. The loss of Mr. Judge’s occult judgment after his Teacher’s death was nowhere more clearly shown than in his unquestioned acceptance of Mrs. Tingley’s ignorant assertion that Western Occultism is the essence of all other systems; for H.P.B. consistently taught and demonstrated that in the East and not in the West is the fountain head. . . . This was one of the radical departures from H.P.B.’s teachings made at that time as much by Mr. Judge as by Mrs. Besant.

[To repeat the facts already mentioned: (1) Judge began writing very clearly about “A New Era of Western Occultism” in 1892, more than two years before he had even first met Tingley; (2) Judge explains unmistakably that in this context he is not talking about Western Occultism in the way that term is generally used but rather is saying that Theosophy as presented by HPB and the Masters is the form of Occultism that is best suited for the West and that Westerners should not start following Hindu or other Eastern “Guru” and “Yogi” figures; we again advise the reading of William Q. Judge’s “New Era of Western Occultism” for full explanations and clarifications; (3) Judge, just like HPB, always maintained “that in the East and not in the West is the fountain head” of the highest spiritual knowledge; his point was simply that as “the center, the top, the force of the cyclic wave of evolution is [now] in the West – including Europe and America” (and which student of HPB’s teachings can deny this, in light of what is taught about the coming Sixth Sub-Race and Root Race?) attention has to be put on providing the Western world with the Occultism that is best suited and fitted for it. We would challenge anyone to clearly demonstrate by textual comparison that Judge at any time made even a slight “departure from H.P.B.’s teachings” let alone any “radical” ones.]

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It will be recalled that in the above, Alice Cleather said that Mr. Judge introduced Katherine Tingley to her “at the Boston Convention of 1895, a year before his death, as a very special and mysterious person.” We commented that that may well have been what actually happened. However, it should be read and considered alongside the following, from Ernest Hargrove, an English Theosophist who was closer to Judge than Cleather had been and who knew him better as a person:

“For the benefit of those who think they know all about Mrs. Tingley, . . . and Judge as being “under her thumb”; . . . it is worth noting that she [i.e. Katherine Tingley] attended the Boston Convention; made a short speech; that Judge glared at her with deep displeasure while she spoke and after she resumed her seat; and that at the end of the session he called her to him and rebuked her so severely that she wept.” (“Theosophical Quarterly” July 1932)

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Robert Crosbie’s Letter to Alice Leighton Cleather

Dated Los Angeles, Cal, June 3rd 1915

My dear Mrs. Cleather: –

. . . As to Wm. Q. Judge. You think you know him and all about him and that you are perfectly competent to judge his status, yet your acquaintance with him was small and brief. How would your competency compare with one who knew him from 1886 until the day of his death; who was taught by him; who had demonstrated to him W.Q.J.’s possession of powers similar to those of H.P.B.; one who was shown in advance the schisms and the moving causes and persons in them during that period. You speak of the dual Headship of the E.S. as if it were due to W.Q.J.; it was not. He had to make the best of conditions as He found them and no one regretted more than He those conditions; he knew from the first that the dual headship was a makeshift; it was done to hold Annie straight if possible, together with the people who regarded her as next to H.P.B. The dual headship was due to the blindness and folly of the people in England who with all their opportunities had gained no discrimination; this applies with particular force to the Inner Group. If this sounds harsh, ask yourself if that Group remained united in thought, will and feeling; as a Group, where is it now?

You pass judgement on W.Q.J. because of Tingley. After travelling about this country in her behalf, giving Wagner recitals and interpretations, you came to see that she was impossible as a theosophic leader; and as you had accepted her because you believed the statements of E.T.H., Neresheimer, Griscomb, et al, that W.Q.J. had appointed Tingley as his occult successor, you felt constrained to question his wisdom. Were you right or wrong when in June 1896, over five years after the passing of H.P.B., you had published in “Theosophy” (Path) the article entitled “In England and America”? If you were right then, how grievously mistaken you are now according to what you lately wrote, namely, that H.P.B.’s statement in regard to W.Q.J. as a part of herself for aeons was true only as long as She lived; that that was withdrawn at her passing and W.Q.J. was left prey to such obsession as you state. Setting aside for the moment the statement that “Ingratitude is not one of our vices”, how could you or anyone conceive that one who had worked in season and out of season for the Movement for twenty years and had shown the wisdom that he did, should suddenly become the puppet of a designing woman. Read all his writings from 1891 to the time of his death and point out if you can where he failed in any respect. Show one scrap of evidence that he ever thought of a successor in an occult sense, or that he ever wrote the name of Tingley as such. E.T.H., Neresheimer and others in N.Y. are the ones who made the grievous error of mistaking some entries in W.Q.J.’s diary and succeeded in foisting upon the unsuspecting Society an “occult successor”. W.Q.J. was not to blame for their shortsightedness or their desire to have an occult successor. When H.P.B. passed, W.Q.J. was asked “Who will be H.P.B.’s successor”; his reply was “She was sui generis; she can have no successor”. H.P.B. never appointed a successor; neither did W.Q.J. These two were contemporaries in the Movement. We talk of Karma and occult laws; we should be able to apply them when we find two such personages appearing as Co-Founders in the world and remaining constant in their entente from beginning until the end, each true as steel to the other.

W.Q.J. was no more deceived or obsessed by Tingley than H.P.B. was by the Coulombs, Solovyoffs and others. All these were given their opportunity under Karma, as also were the prominent students and members of the Society. How these opportunities were lost, is a matter of history.

When H.P.B. was leaving her body she said: “Keep the link unbroken”. What link? She was the link between the Lodge and the Society. She wrote that W.Q.J. was the Antaskarana (the bridge or link) between the two Manas(es) – the American thought, and the Indian – or rather, the trans-Himalayan Esoteric knowledge.

The evidence is as plain as can be that the suggestion made in our editorial articles for the student to study Theosophy and the history of the T.S. from the view-point that H.P.B. and W.Q.J. were initiates is the best that can be given, and that if the course is followed each one so doing will see for himself and will get a survey of the field that will clear away all difficulties in comprehending the doubts, suspicions and mistaken moves of persons more or less prominent. And above all, it will make such an one a portion of the Link.

. . . We know you to be sincere and devoted, but we see that your position is not consonant with all the facts. Some of these facts we have presented to you in this communication; we trust you will give them full consideration and that you will ask for further information on any point which remains obscure; not that we have any desire to change your mind, but that you may be as fully conversant as possible with our basis of thought and action. We hold ourselves in readiness to give and receive instruction, and look upon you as one who stands in a similar position.

With best of success to you and to those whom you are teaching.

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In closing, it may be useful to explain, for those who might be unaware, that today there are four organisationally independent and international branches or streams of the Theosophical Movement: “The Theosophical Society – Adyar” which is the Olcott/Besant/Leadbeater one, and three which are descended from Mr. Judge’s breakaway Society, namely “The Theosophical Society – Pasadena,” “The Theosophical Society – Point Loma,” and the United Lodge of Theosophists. The Pasadena and Point Loma Societies (which could be described as the Tingley/Purucker ones) are nowadays very small and quite inactive. The Adyar Society is the big one and the most well known, whilst the ULT is the second largest and second most influential. It is the only one which presents, promotes, and publishes, solely the original, unaltered teachings. For further information please see The Four Branches of the Theosophical Movement and The United Lodge of Theosophists.

For more about William Judge, including his close connection with H. P. Blavatsky and the Masters, you may wish to read Who Was William Quan Judge?, William Q. Judge and The Masters of Wisdom, and Understanding The Importance of Mr. Judge. For some more positive information about Alice Leighton Cleather and her work, see the article Gelugpas, Tantra, and Theosophy: Resolving a Complex Puzzle, particularly section #7 under the sub-heading “The Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas.”

~ BlavatskyTheosophy.com ~