Beginning in 1892 – the year after the death of H.P. Blavatsky – and up until his own departure from the body in 1896, William Quan Judge sometimes spoke of the Theosophical Movement as having a mission to usher in what he called a “new era of Western Occultism.”
For those readers who may be unfamiliar or only partly acquainted with the life, work, and vitally important role of Mr Judge, we advise the reading of the articles The Welcome Influence of William Q. Judge and Who was William Quan Judge? before going any further. It will be difficult for the remainder of this article to be properly appreciated and grasped in its significance unless the information presented in those two has already been absorbed.
In retrospect, his use of the term “Western Occultism” in this context seems to have been an unfortunate choice, as to the vast majority of people “Western Occultism” can mean anything from the esoteric system and philosophies of the Hermetic tradition to Rosicrucianism to Gnostic Christianity to Freemasonry to Alchemy to Platonism or Neo-Platonism to the Kabbalah and beyond. In other words, almost anything except the Eastern esotericism which defines Theosophy and the Theosophical Movement.
But this is not what he meant, as can be seen from the passages which follow. As he writes, “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 did not for one moment propose or suggest any alteration or dilution of the profoundly Eastern themed teachings of HPB and her Adept Teachers, often known as the Masters, nor did he attempt to introduce any “new” teachings of his own, but always remained faithful and true to the Message and Messenger of the Masters.
These remarks by Mr Judge largely came about as a necessary reaction to the ideas and activities being engaged in at that time by Annie Besant, who had fallen under the influence of an Orthodox Hindu Brahmin named G.N. Chakravarti, been officially received into the fold of orthodox Hinduism on a visit to India, begun to criticise and belittle HPB on a frequent basis, and started to distort and even suppress and reject HPB’s teachings in favour of the new and quite different teachings she was receiving from Chakravarti and his friends.
As the Master K.H. was to inform Besant in The Final Mahatma Letter of 1900, “You have been under deluding influences for quite some time.”
Under Chakravarti’s influence, the India and Indians of the present day were held aloft by Besant as being virtually perfect, divine, supremely spiritual, and to be looked up to and emulated by all. As well as starting to dress like an Indian, often being seen in a sari, she began adopting various Hindu customs and rituals, and encouraged other Theosophists to do the same. Seeing the madness and danger in all this, Mr Judge felt compelled to speak out, only to be met by Besant and Chakravarti with accusations of not properly understanding and appreciating the East and trying to cause disharmony and conflict within the Theosophical Movement.
Ever since the famous Swami Vivekananda moved to the USA in the 1890s, there has been a constant influx of Hindu gurus, yogis, and swamis, to the West, to the continual interest, appreciation, and even adoration of many Westerners. As we said at the end of the article titled East and West:
“It seems rather imprudent and lacking in discrimination that many Theosophists – even some who are devoted students of the original teachings of HPB, WQJ, and the Masters – are sometimes eager to closely associate themselves with some of the many Hindu Gurus and Yogis that come to the West or to seek teachings and important advice from Buddhist monks, whether Mahayana or Theravada.
“All of these people only promote exoteric and orthodox teachings. Their fundamental doctrines and views are in many cases entirely contradictory and incompatible with those of Theosophy. Theosophists can learn but little from such people and may even risk being dragged back into exotericism, literalism, and even anthropomorphism and idolatry, not to mention the possibility of being manipulated and conned by some of the less savoury amongst their ranks, as has happened to many. William Judge was attempting to warn the West against “the swami craze” as far back as the 1890s but his sage advice has apparently gone unheeded.
“The Eastern teachings presented in Theosophy may have some similarities with Eastern exotericism but they belong to pure Eastern esotericism and contain numerous aspects, details, and doctrines which cannot be found in any of the world’s religions, precisely because they had been deliberately kept secret and entirely esoteric until the Masters and Initiates of the Gupta Vidya (Secret Doctrine, Hidden Knowledge, Occult Science) permitted that they at last be given out to the world, through H.P. Blavatsky, who they called their “Direct Agent” and their “Brother”.”
Those who are not students of Theosophy cannot be blamed for becoming followers or devotees of various Indian and other Eastern teachers and religions. In most cases they have never even heard of Theosophy or, if they have, they have only come across the later and extremely distorted and altered versions of it, such as the teachings promulgated by the likes of C.W. Leadbeater and Alice Bailey, which they understandably find unappealing and rather suspect in nature.
Not knowing of genuine Theosophy, they have turned to what could possibly be described as the next best thing, namely the exoteric religious presentations of Hinduism and Buddhism. The Maha Chohan affirmed in his famous letter (click here to read it) that “Even exoteric Buddhism is the surest path to lead men to the one esoteric Truth.”
Mr Judge was always the first to agree with the old adage that “The Light comes from the East” but as we see here, he was eager to point out that the Light – i.e. the Light of spiritual Truth and genuine Knowledge and understanding – is not shining from the modern East. It shines from what we could call the mystic East, the ideal East, the esoteric East, the inner East, and not from today’s India or today’s anywhere. The vast majority of today’s Indians will readily admit that their great nation is sinking increasingly and seemingly hopelessly into deeper and deeper materialism and moral darkness and degradation, whilst the majority of the Hindu priests and religious teachers continue to hold the sincere and unsuspecting devotees in ignorance, superstition, and ritualistic idolatry.
As was once written by the Master K.H.: “India has been going down for thousands of years. She must take equally long for her regeneration. … It is always wiser to work and force the current of events than to wait for time – a habit which has demoralized the Hindus and degenerated the country.”
It is a matter of simple fact that many Theosophists – we mean those who are real students of HPB – understand, appreciate, love, and have better knowledge of the scriptures and religious philosophies of ancient India than many modern day Indians, even some of the most devout Hindus.
This is one reason why Mr Judge saw that it was destined to be the task of Theosophists, the majority of whom have always been in Western nations rather than India, to help restore India and the East in general to its former spiritual glory and greatness. Westerners who develop a really profound love and heartfelt affection for India, or indeed for any country, have most likely belonged to that nationality and nation in their most recent previous lifetime or some other preceding incarnation. It is only natural that they pick up from where they left off and try to help their brothers and sisters who are back in “the old country.”
But to also help the world, to help humanity at large, has always been the chief aim and intention of the Theosophical Movement.
For many decades now, Westerners have been introduced and exposed at large to Hatha Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, worship of anthropomorphic Hindu deities, singing and chanting of Sanskrit mantras, ancient rituals, and a whole load of self-proclaimed “Enlightened Teachers” from India. Is the West any better for it? Has the world been bettered by it? A relatively small number of people have been truly and lastingly helped and benefited by it but many have experienced all sorts of troubles and problems – physical, psychological, spiritual, and otherwise – from getting involved with these types of things which should not be recommended to anyone, least of all to unprepared and naïve Westerners who have no grounding in proper Eastern philosophy and cannot perceive the frequent dangers inherent in such practices and teachings.
And the world at large has continued unabated its downward march towards spiritual suicide and self-destruction.
Theosophy, although Eastern in nature and style, is specifically suited for the Western world; perfectly safe and purely beneficent. It is the “Western Occultism” spoken of by William Q. Judge and, once it is known and its true nature and teachings understood, the “New Era” he foresaw may finally begin to dawn without hindrance or obstacle. In so doing, much lasting help and benefit will be conferred upon both the West and the East.
FROM “LETTERS THAT HAVE HELPED ME”
“The Theosophical movement was begun as a work of the Brotherhood of which H.P.B. is a member, and in which the great Initiate, who was by her called Master, is one of the Chiefs.
“It was started among Western people by Western people, the two chief agents being H.P.B., a Russian, and H.S. Olcott, an American. The place where it was started was also Western – the City of New York. …
“The fact is significant that the Theosophical movement was thus, as said, begun in the Western world, in the country where the preparations for the new root race are going on, and where that new root is to appear. This was not to give precedence to any one race or country over another, or to reduce any race or country, but was and is according to the law of cycles, which is a part of evolution. In the eye of that great Law no country is first or last, new or old, high or low, but each at the right time is appropriate for whatever the work is that must be performed. Each country is bound up with all the others and must assist them.
“This movement has, among others, an object which should be borne in mind. It is the union of the West with the East, the revival in the East of those greatnesses which once were hers, the development in the West of that Occultism which is appropriate for it, so that it may, in its turn, hold out a helping hand to those of older blood who may have become fixed in one idea, or degraded in spirituality.
“For many centuries this union has been worked towards and workers have been sent out through the West to lay the foundations. But not until 1875 could a wide public effort be made, and then the Theosophical Society came into existence because the times were ripe and the workers ready. …
“It is not the desire of the Brotherhood that those members of the Theosophical movement who have, under their rights, taken up a belief in the messengers and the message should become pilgrims to India. To arouse that thought was not the work nor the wish of H.P.B. Nor is it the desire of the Lodge to have members think that Eastern methods are to be followed, Eastern habits adopted, or the present East made the model or the goal. The West has its own work and its duty, its own life and development. Those it should perform, aspire to and follow, and not try to run to other fields where the duties of other men are to be performed. If the task of raising the spirituality of India, now degraded and almost suffocated, were easy, and if thus easily raised it could shine into and enlighten the whole world of the West, then, indeed, were the time wasted in beginning in the West, when a shorter and quicker way existed in the older land. But in fact it is more difficult to make an entry into the hearts and minds of people who, through much lapse of time in fixed metaphysical dogmatism, have built in the psychic and psycho-mental planes a hard impervious shell around themselves, than it is to make that entry with Westerners who, although they may be meat eaters, yet have no fixed opinions deep laid in a foundation of mysticism and buttressed with a pride inherited from the past.
“The new era of Western Occultism definitely began in 1875 with the efforts of that noble woman who abandoned the body of that day not long ago. 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. … It has, as its mission, largely entrusted to the hands of the Theosophical Society, to furnish to the West that which it can never get from the East; to push forward and raise high on the circular path of evolution now rolling West, the light that lighteth every man who cometh into the world – the light of the true Self, who is the one true Master for every human being; all other Masters are but servants of that true One; in it all real Lodges have their union.” (p. 73-75)
“Now, this is, as I said, an era. I called it that of Western Occultism, but you may give it any name you like. But it is Western.” (p. 95)
“NEW YORK, October 11th, 1892. – This is the era of Western Occultism. We are now to stand shoulder to shoulder in the U.S. to present it and enlarge it in view of coming cussedness – attacks which will be in the line of trying to impose solely Eastern disciples on us. The Masters are not Eastern nor Western, but universal.” (p. 109)
“It may be possible to usher in a new era of western occultism devoid of folly. We should all be ready for that, if it be possible.” (p. 122)
FROM “THE TRUTH ABOUT EAST AND WEST” (Article, April 1895)
“When we examine into what, if anything, India has done for the great East of which she is a part, we find that for hundreds of years she has done nothing whatever, and apparently has no intention of doing anything. Her dominant religion – Brahmanism – is crystallized and allows for no propaganda. Other nations may die in their sins, unless, perchance, they are fortunate enough to be born among the Brahmins for good conduct. …
“Let us refer to the published record which is in The Occult World, by Mr Sinnett, where K.H. says what I quote:
“I had come for a few days, but now find that I myself cannot endure for any length of time the stifling magnetism even of my own countrymen. [Italics mine. – J] I have seen some of our proud old Sikhs drunk and staggering over the marble pavement of their sacred temple. … I turn my face homeward tomorrow.” (pp. 120, 121)
“Imagine, then, that since we are all convinced that the degradation of India is largely due to the suffocation of her ancient spirituality. … But you know, as any man who has read history, that patriots may burst their hearts in vain if circumstances are against them. Sometimes it has happened that no human power, not even the force and fury of the loftiest patriotism, has been able to bend an iron destiny aside from its fixed course, and nations have gone out like torches dropped into water, in the engulfing blackness of ruin. Thus, we who have the sense of our country’s fall, though not the power to lift her up at once, cannot do as we would. …” (p. 126)
“The present tendency of education is to make them [Hindus] materialistic and root out spirituality. With a proper understanding of what their ancestors meant by their writings, education would become a blessing, whereas now it is often a curse.” (p. 136)
“(Declares himself a follower of Buddha, whom he calls “our great Patron.” – p. 153)
“He finds the magnetism of his countrymen too stifling to be borne; asserts that India is spiritually degraded; hints that her destiny is to go out “in the engulfing blackness of ruin,” unless she is raised up, which would arouse a doubt as to her ability to uplift any other nation. It also explains why she has not, for so many centuries, done anything to help other countries. He says the Hindus are getting materialistic – referring to those who take English education – and ends by declaring himself a follower of his Patron, Buddha. The Letter to some Brahmins, published in The Path, enforces the point about Buddhism, and also shows how dense is the surrounding aura of those Brahmins who are strictly orthodox, and how much easier it is for the Adepts to affect the Westerners than the Hindus. And if the wall around the educated Brahmin is impenetrable, how much more so is that surrounding the mass of ignorant, superstitious people who take their religion from the Brahmin! The spiritual degradation of India to which the Master referred is an indisputable fact. The great majority of Brahmins are theologically and metaphysically as fixed and dogmatic as the Romish Church; they also keep up idol-worship and a great number of degrading caste observances. The poor, uneducated, common people, forming the core of the Hindu population, are gentle, it is true, but they are ignorant and superstitious. Their superstitions are theological; the Brahmin fosters this. The other class, consisting of those who take up English, have lost faith and are, as the Masters wrote, materialized.
“This is Master’s picture. It is also the actual picture. Now where is the wrong in knowing the fact, and in asserting that such an India of today, no matter how glorious it may have been 10,000 years ago, is not the teacher of the West. Rather is it that the West is to lead the reform and raise up the fallen country with all others. …
“The Theosophical movement was founded and flourishes in the West pre-eminently and under Western influence. It began in America, farthest West, started there by the Masters. A very pertinent question here is, why it was not begun in India if that country is the one of all we are to look to? Very evidently the beginning was made so far West because, as so often stated by H.P.B., the next new race is to appear in the Americas, where already preparations in nature for the event are going on. This means that the center, the top, the force of the cyclic wave of evolution is in the West – including Europe and America – and all the observable facts support the contention.
“This evolutionary wave is not a mere theoretical thing, but is a mass of revolving energy composed of human egos from all the ancient ages of the past. It cannot be stopped; it should not be hindered in any way. This is what makes the importance of the West. The Masters work scientifically, and not sentimentally or by hysterical impulse. Hence they take advantage of such a cyclic wave, well knowing that to have begun in the East would have been child’s play. They desired, one can see by viewing the history and the words from them of the last twenty years, the new and growing West to take from all the East whatever philosophy and metaphysics were needed; to assimilate them, to put them into practice; to change the whole social and economic order; and then react back, compulsorily, upon the East for its good and uplifting. …
“Now in the face of all these facts, and of many more which could be brought forward, where is the brotherliness, the Theosophy, the truth in starting against me a charge that I wish or try to set the East and West against each other? If in India are initiates – which H.P.B. often denied, if there is the highest spiritual wisdom, why so many Hindus trying to reform it; why so many Hindus at the feet of H.P.B. asking for truth and how to find the Master; why so many Hindus in the E.S.T. for the purpose of getting teaching from Westerners? The answers are easy. Let those who are not carried away by a mere name, who can calmly examine facts, see that the West is the advancing conqueror of human destiny; that the Eastern lands, both India and other places, are storehouses for the world, holding from the past treasures that the West alone can make avail of and teach the East how to use. Let sectional jealousy cease, and let us all be careful that we do not inject into the mental sphere of the Theosophical Society any ideas, arising from sentiment or from insufficient reflection, which might become a hindrance, however slight, to the evolutionary impulse, or which might tend concretely to limit the expansion of the great work begun by H.P.B. To create such a hindrance is an act, the gravity of which, though it may be not appreciated, is nevertheless very great.
“It is the destiny of the West to raise the East from its darkness, superstition, and ignorance, to save the world; it is its destiny to send Theosophical principles, literature, and teachers into even such a remote land as Tibet, whose language we as yet can scarcely learn.”
FROM “FORUM ANSWERS” (Series May 1895 – February 1896)
“Doubtless India is now the most ancient storehouse of Aryan philosophy which may be called theosophical … Beyond question also, the Hindus of today have more metaphysical acumen than we have. But the West is creeping up. And intellectual, metaphysical gifts are not spiritual gifts. We have all the intellect we need, active and latent. The Hindu of today is a talker, a hair-splitter, and when he has not been altered by contact with Western culture he is superstitious. Such we do not want as teachers. We will hail them as brothers and co-workers but not as our Magisters. But those Hindus who come here are not teachers. They have come here for some personal purpose and they teach no more nor better than is found in our own theosophical literature: their yoga is but half or quarter yoga, because if they knew it they would not teach a barbarian Westerner. What little yoga they teach is to be read at large in our books and translations.
“The craze for present-day India is an eminently foolish one. If one will calmly examine the facts he will find the nation as a whole superstitious to the last degree; the few theosophists and Englishized ones being but as a drop in the ocean. It is not a united nation and cannot itself help the West. For centuries it has helped no one outside itself. As a whole – there are grand exceptions – the Brahmins keep up the superstition and proud isolation. We have the words of Master K.H. – an Indian – that India is spiritually degraded. Fakirs and wonder-workers and hypnotizers do not prove spirituality. It is the destiny of India to hold as a storehouse good things to come out later; the West, as newest, youngest, and hence least degraded spiritually, has to work and learn so as to help the East. …
“It is time to call a halt, and for theosophists to broaden their conception of what and where the East is, and to stop talking as if the sun in the morning shone only on India.”
FROM “THE CLOSING CYCLE” (Article, January 1895)
“We have entered on the dim beginning of a new era already. It is the era of Western Occultism and of special and definite treatment and exposition of theories hitherto generally considered. We have to do as Buddha told his disciples: preach, promulgate, expound, illustrate, and make clear in detail all the great things we have learned. That is our work, and not the bringing out of surprising things about clairvoyance and other astral matters, nor the blinding of the eye of the science by discoveries impossible for them but easy for the occultist. The Master’s plan has not altered. He gave it out long ago. It is to make the world at large better, to prepare a right soil for the growing out of the powers of the soul, which are dangerous if they spring up in our present selfish soil. It is not the Black Lodge that tries to keep back psychic development; it is the White Lodge. The Black would fain have all the psychic powers full flow now, because in our wicked, mean, hypocritical, and money-getting people they would soon wreck the race.”
FROM A LETTER FROM THE MAHATMA M.,
THE “LETTER TO SOME BRAHMINS” REFERRED TO ABOVE
“For ages we never corresponded with anyone, nor do we mean to. What has Benemadhab or any other of the many claimants done to have a right to such a claim? Nothing whatever. They join the Society, and though remaining as stubborn as ever in their old beliefs and superstitions, and having never given up caste or one single of their customs, they, in their selfish exclusiveness, expect to see and converse with us and have our help in all and everything. … unless a man is prepared to become a thorough theosophist i.e. to do as D. Mavalankar did, – give up entirely caste, his old superstitions and show himself a true reformer (especially in the case of child marriage) he will remain simply a member of the Society with no hope whatever of ever hearing from us. The Society, acting in this directly in accordance with our orders, forces no one to become a theosophist of the IId. Section. It is left with himself and at his choice. It is useless for a member to argue ‘I am one of a pure life, I am a teetotaller and an abstainer from meat and vice. All my aspirations are for good etc.’ and he, at the same time, building by his acts and deeds an impassable barrier on the road between himself and us. What have we, the disciples of the true Arhats, of esoteric Buddhism and of Sang-gyas [i.e. the Tibetan name for Buddha] to do with the Shasters and Orthodox Brahmanism? There are 100 of thousands of Fakirs, Sannyasis and Saddhus leading the most pure lives, and yet being as they are, on the path of error, never having had an opportunity to meet, see or even hear of us. Their forefathers have driven away the followers of the only true philosophy upon earth away from India and now, it is not for the latter to come to them but to them to come to us if they want us. Which of them is ready to become a Buddhist, a Nastika as they call us? None. Those who have believed and followed us have had their reward. Mr Sinnett and Hume are exceptions. Their beliefs are no barrier to us for they have none. They may have had influences around them, bad magnetic emanations the result of drink, Society and promiscuous physical associations (resulting even from shaking hands with impure men) but all this is physical and material impediments which with a little effort we could counteract and even clear away without much detriment to ourselves. Not so with the magnetism and invisible results proceeding from erroneous and sincere beliefs. Faith in the Gods and God, and other superstitions attracts millions of foreign influences, living entities and powerful agents around them, with which we would have to use more than ordinary exercise of power to drive them away. We do not choose to do so.”
~ * ~
In conclusion we may quote from the article Theosophy and the Tibetan Book of the Dead: “Although Theosophists have deep and sincere sympathy and support for the Tibetan people in their sufferings and struggles against tyrannical injustice, we do not go along with the foolish but all too prevalent idea that everything that comes from Tibet is automatically good, true, and wonderful, just because of its Tibetan-ness. Similarly, although we emphasise and praise the spirituality, civilisation, and glorious cultural and religious heritage of India and her people, we are careful not to fall into the trap of “India worship” and are well aware that that great nation is currently in a very sad state of spiritual degradation and decline.”
HPB’s own words about the present day exoteric Hinduism and about the Brahmins – the orthodox Hindu priests and religious leaders – are worth considering here, in light of their clarity and force. In her article “Misconceptions” she wrote:
“At present the Brahmins are as ignorant of the occult sciences as the Buddhists of Ceylon! … In India, among the 150,000,000 Brahmins of every degree, one would not find 150 initiates, including the Yogis and Paramahamsas. … their temples have become cemeteries where lie the corpses of their once beautiful symbols and where reign supreme superstition and exploitation. If it were different, why would American Theosophists have gone to India? Why would have thousands of Brahmins entered The Theosophical Society eager to belong to a centre where they might encounter from time to time a true Mahatma of flesh and blood from the other side of the “great mountain”? … What do we Theosophists have to do with Brahmanism, except to combat its abuses, since The Theosophical Society was established in India nine years ago. … It is the loss of the keys to symbolism and to the laws of Manu which has produced all the errors and all the abuses that have infiltrated into Brahmanism. … what do we have in common with orthodox Brahmanism? … it should be clear at last that the Theosophists fight the Brahmanism of the pagodas, as they do all the superstitions, all the abuses, and all the injustices.”
In light of the lasting damage and destruction brought upon the Adyar Theosophical Society after HPB’s passing, through Chakravarti and the Brahmin influence which Annie Besant so misguidedly welcomed with open arms (see Col. Olcott’s Disloyalty to H.P. Blavatsky for further details and important explanation), these further words of HPB are very significant. If only they had been heeded!
“Brahmins … those at least who have remained ultra-orthodox and who fight every benevolent reform – persecute us and hate us as much as do the Christian clergy and the missionaries. We break their idols; they endeavour to smash our reputations … The brotherhood of the Theosophists throughout India are the only ones to see the haughty Englishman sitting down at the same table with equally arrogant Brahmins, mellowed and humanized by the example and the lessons of the Theosophists who serve the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, the descendants of those Rishis and Mahatmas which Brahmanism has always revered, though it has ceased to understand them. … it is not the “priesthood of India” that attempts to bring the Occident back to the ancient wisdom, but rather a few Occidentals from Europe-America who, led by their Karma to the happiness of knowing certain Adepts of the secret Himalayan Brotherhood, attempt, under the inspiration of these Masters, to lead the priesthood of India back to the primitive and divine esotericism.”
Just three weeks before she passed away in 1891, H.P. Blavatsky said to the Theosophists, “In your hands, brothers, is placed in trust the welfare of the coming century; and great as is the trust, so great is also the responsibility.” (See “Five Messages from H.P. Blavatsky to the American Theosophists”) If we failed to do the job properly in the 20th century, there is still time to do it in the 21st.
~ Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK ~
SOME RELATED ARTICLES: Who was William Quan Judge?, The Welcome Influence of William Q. Judge, The Final Mahatma Letter, Gandhi on Blavatsky and Theosophy, Col. Olcott’s Disloyalty to H.P. Blavatsky, Our Mother India, To those Theosophists who distrust “The Mahatma Letters”, The Masters and Madame Blavatsky, Words from The Masters about H.P. Blavatsky, Praise for H.P. Blavatsky and Theosophy, Responding to Lies about H.P. Blavatsky, What do we mean by Occult?, Damodar and the Hall of Initiation, Maji – The Yogini of Benares, Higher Kundalini and Lower Kundalini, 12 Things Theosophy Teaches, Theosophy: The Ancient Wisdom, The Closing Cycle, and Unity of the World’s Religions.