A First-Hand Testimony From a
Direct Disciple of H.P. Blavatsky
Alice Leighton Cleather
Mrs. Alice L. Cleather (1854-1938) in two photos at different ages
As I have very definitely taken up the position that the Theosophical Society was finally disrupted in 1894-1895, I propose to review briefly the events which led up to this catastrophe; for such indeed it was, since “a house divided against itself cannot stand”.
At this distance of time it is generally supposed by the present generation that what is known as the Theosophical Society, of which Mrs. Besant is President, is identical with the “Theosophical Society or Universal Brotherhood” which was first fully organized by H. P. B., under the Masters’ direction at Benares in 1879 (see Chapter II). This would, of course, be true in the case of any ordinary association governed entirely by man-made regulations and considerations. But as is clearly shown in what I have already quoted concerning the causes of the failure of the T. S., the exoteric Society was a mere vehicle for a great moral Principle. It was that Principle for which we of the so-called “Judge faction” in England fought when Mrs. Besant violated in her Case against W. Q. Judge. In thus causing a “split” in the Society Mrs. Besant carried a majority of the European Section and most of the Indian, by the sheer force of her personality; that is to say, they believed what she said, instead of judging the whole question on the principle of Brotherhood. The bulk of the very large American Section, built up by Mr. Judge since 1884, naturally followed him and largely for the same reason.
Mrs. Besant claimed that the portion of the T. S. she carried with her was the parent body. Technically and exoterically she was right, because the President and the majority of the Executive in India and England supported her. But if we follow the principles so clearly outlined by H. P. B. in her wonderful Letter of 1890 to the Indians about the failure at Adyar in 1885, and again to the E. S. in England in 1888 about the continued failure of the T. S., it is obvious that the real body is not the exoteric organization, but is composed of those who believe in her Masters and endeavour to put their teachings into practice (see Chapters V. and VI.). This crisis was really as decisive a test of faith and principle as the one ten years previously at Adyar (see H. P. B.’s Letter, p. 43 of “H.P. Blavatsky, Her Life and Work for Humanity”).
A great point was made, at the time, that the “charges” against Mr. Judge involved the question of belief in the existence of the Masters and that this must not be fixed on the T. S. as a dogma. Yet H. P. B. makes that belief the essential feature in the success or failure of the T. S. in dealing with the crisis at Adyar. She said she remained in England because there and in America she had found many who had the courage to avow that belief. But only four years later (1894) we find the very same test applied and the same mistake made. The T. S. without the “ideal of the Masters” was a body without a soul.
Here a most important distinction has once more to be made. H. P. B. had been withdrawn; and, as I have shown, without their chosen Agent the Masters could no longer give their direct aid and guidance. Nay more, the Agent’s recall was the sign of the final failure of the T. S. as a body. Further, H. P. B. had left no specific directions for carrying on her occult function as Agent of the Masters and Outer Head of the E. S. The one most fitted for such a function was Mr. Judge whom, in 1888, she had described as “a chela of thirteen years standing”, and as the “Antaskarana” (bridge, or link) between the American thought and the Trans-Himalayan esoteric knowledge. But this, like her appointment of Mrs. Besant, in 1891, to be the “Recorder” of the I. G. [Inner Group of the Esoteric School] teachings, could obviously apply only during H. P. B.’s life-time. That she made no provision (official) in the event of her death was due to the very important fact that, as she wrote the Indians, the Masters could have kept her alive as long as they wished. There were still nine years to the end of the century, during which cyclic Law would permit the effort through her to be continued. Her death was, therefore, clearly no “accident”, but was determined by the failure of the E. S. and the I. G. Had they not failed – as India had failed six years earlier – H. P. B. would have been kept alive at least until “the last hour of the term”, viz. December 31st, 1899.
It is only after carefully considering and pondering over this matter for many years, and making a prolonged and careful study of everything H. P. B. wrote relating thereto, that I have come to the following absolutely clear and definite conclusion: While on the one hand, “belief in the ideal of the Masters” was declared by H. P. B. (letter of 1890) to be essential for the success of the T. S., on the other, I can find no warrant in anything she wrote, or said – in either E. S. or T. S. – for any assumption, after her death, that even the most advanced of her pupils was authorized or fitted to succeed her as the Agent and mouthpiece of the Masters. In other words, it is one thing to believe in Their existence and accept Their accredited and duly initiated Agent, H. P. B. – through whom that belief was gained – but it is quite another to assume that a Judge, an Annie Besant, or anyone else for that matter, was fitted either by training or by the possession of H. P. B.’s unique qualities, moral, psychic and physical, to take her place.
This assumption was, however, tacitly made by Mrs. Besant and Mr. Judge, supported by us – the E. S. Council – immediately after H. P. B.’s unexpected death. Mrs. Besant was then on her way back from a lecture tour in America, Mr. Judge was at once cabled for; and on their arrival in London a full meeting of the E. S. T. Council was held, on May 27th 1891. No directions for the carrying on of the School having been found among H. P. B.’s papers, the Council, after due deliberation, decided and recorded that “from henceforth with Annie Besant and William Q. Judge rest the full charge and management of the School.”
These two, out of H. P. B.’s pupils, were selected by us in virtue of two appointments made by H. P. B. during her life-time: the one for Mr. Judge, made in 1888 – when the school was founded – being, a very important office; the other, a minor one – made on 1st April, 1891 – appointing Mrs. Besant “Chief Secretary of the Inner Group of the Esoteric Section and Recorder of the Teachings”. It is clear that, as these “Teachings” were given by H. P. B., Mrs. Besant’s appointment as “Recorder” automatically ceased, on the Teacher’s death. Both these appointments [1] obviously could refer to the holders of them only during H. P. B.’s life-time; and the grave error they made – the initial one – lay in their speaking of themselves as H. P. B.’s “agents and representatives after her departure”, in an “Address” issued by them, bearing date 27th May, 1891. In this they stated that the changes in the constitution of the “School” having been “made by the joint Councils of the E. S. T. [European and American]”, they considered it their “duty” to issue this Address, which they both signed as “Outer Heads”. Thus they definitely assumed H. P. B.’s office.
Neither I, nor any other member of the combined E. S. Councils realized at that time, not only that no-one could possibly succeed H. P. B. as the Outer Head of the E. S. T., but also that her death, totally unexpected – nine years before “the last hour of the term” – meant the withdrawal of the Masters also, because the Society They had founded through her had failed, as such (see “H.P. Blavatsky, Her Life and Work for Humanity”, p. 26). The assumption, by Mrs. Besant and Mr. Judge, of the office of Outer Head in succession to H. P. B. was, therefore, the beginning of all the subsequent trouble. This error was one made practically, and in the first instance, by Mr. Judge, for he took up the position, from the time he arrived in London, that he could communicate directly with the Masters; and all of us – including Mrs. Besant – so accepted him – owing to his credentials as a chela of so many years standing (already mentioned), and his high personal character.
It is at this point that reference must be made to Mrs. Katherine Tingley – at that time a professional psychic and trance medium in New York; 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. He had consulted her, in her capacity as a medium, which led eventually to her obtaining a complete hold over him, 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. 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. 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. [2] 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. [Esoteric School] 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, organized a spectacular “Crusade around the world,” and proclaimed herself the “Leader and Official Head” of the entire Judge T. S.
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. [3] 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. [4]
In view of the unimpeachable facts concerning Mr. Judge and Mrs. Tingley 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. 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.
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. 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, as I have shown throughout this book.[5] 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.
[1] The full text is given in my pamphlet “H. P. Blavatsky: A Great Betrayal”, in which I go more fully into this question. Mrs. Besant and Mr. Mead were Joint Secretaries of the I. G. before Mrs. Besant’s appointment. (ALC)
[2] 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. She was then the directing intelligence behind the scenes of all he did, culminating in the fatal division in the T. S. which was then decided on. On our return to New York he requested me to visit Mrs. Tingley and report to him everything she said. I was staying with miss Katherine 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. 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 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 in this Addendum. (ALC)
[3] It is regrettable that this paper, headed “By Master’s Direction,” is still accepted as such by many, including the group at Los Angeles, California. See their Magazine Theosophy, September, 1922, p. 250, et seq. (ALC)
[4] These old students are doing excellent work in publishing accurate reprints of H. P. B.’s books with all the references carefully checked, but none of her own writings tampered with. It is to be regretted that these reprints are prefaced by an account of the Theosophical Movement from Mrs. Tingley’s point of view, which is of course inaccurate and misleading. However, this is easily removed; therefore, I recommend them to students in preference to Mrs. Besant’s editions. My publishers inform me that there is a large and steadily increasing public demand for H. P. B.’s work, especially for The Secret Doctrine, but that they are unable to get supplies. The reason for this difficulty is that for years past Mrs. Besant has pushed her own and Mr. Leadbeater’s books in preference to H. P. B.’s. for the nature of their contents see my pamphlet “H. P. Blavatsky: A Great Betrayal”. (ALC)
[5] “This book”, id est., “H.P. Blavatsky, Her Life and Work for Humanity”. (CCA)
W. Q. Judge, A. Besant and Imaginary Contacts With Masters” was published as an independent text at the associated websites on 21 June 2021. It was reproduced from the book “H.P. Blavatsky, Her Life and Work for Humanity”, by Alice Leighton Cleather, which was published in 1922 – with 125 pages – by Thacker, Spink & Co., in Calcutta. See pages 117-124. The article is also published at the June 2021 edition of “The Aquarian Theosophist”, pp. 5-9.
Click to see other texts by Alice Leighton Cleather.
Helena Blavatsky (photo) wrote these words: “Deserve, then desire”.