Wisdom of the Gods
Mr. Judge’s Explanation of Theosophy
Independent, Stockton, California, October 9, 1891
Several hundred of the most intelligent people in the city gathered in Turn-Verein hall last night to listen to William Q. Judge’s lecture about Theosophy. To accommodate all who attended additional benches had to be put in the hall, and this caused noise which delayed the beginning of the address after Mr. Judge was introduced by Fred M. West. It did not disconcert or flurry him, though, he being a very calm man. He speaks easily and clearly, and has no mannerisms to distract attention from the meaning of what he says. He will lecture again tonight and will probably have even a larger audience than last night. Questions which anybody chooses to ask concerning Theosophy will be answered by him tonight. He went to the hall immediately on arriving on the train last night.
Mr. Judge said that he could not in the hour or so which his lecture was to occupy give more than a sketch of Theosophy, since it embraces the history of mankind. He could not even go through the list of its literature, which exists among all peoples, which had existed long before the Theosophical Society was founded, sixteen years ago, and in which writings of Paracelsus and even of the early Christian fathers are included.
WHAT IT IS NOT.
He first proposed to tell what Theosophy is not so as to remove misconceptions. It is not materialism. In India the people began to look upon our civilization with admiration. Our civilization is not necessarily the best. We have not yet begun to make it what it should be. But when the people of the far East heard how strong the Western nations were and how rich they were in money, they wished to emulate our prosperity and material civilization. They associated this civilization with the doctrines of Huxley and others that man is but a mass of molecules without a soul. The spread of such materialism was a dangerous thing and to counteract it Theosophy was once more brought forward by those who founded the Theosophical Society.
“Theosophy is not Buddhism,” said Mr. Judge. “The religion of Buddha is not a bad one. There is little difference theoretically between it and Christianity. Theosophy only takes from Buddhism that which is true. Brahmanism is the religion of India. If anybody has given you the idea that Buddhism is, the idea is a mistake. I have been there and know. The Brahmanical books are the four Vedas. The Hindus say these books were revealed from God just as the Christians say the books of the Bible were. The Vedas gave rise to the caste system. Only the Brahmans were privileged to read them. In them is the same doctrine about man having an immortal soul and about his duties as in the books of other religions. That part of Brahmanism is Theosophy in my opinion, but Theosophy is not Brahmanism. Buddhism is a pure religion theoretically. It includes over half the human race in its fold. In Buddhism and in Brahmanism there is truth, and in all other religions there is truth, and it is that truth which is Theosophy.
“It has been stated in the newspapers in San Francisco, New York, London and everywhere else except in India that Theosophy is nothing more than spiritualism. By spiritualists in this connection people who are spiritual are not meant, but those who go to seances and who believe in and want to practice conversation with the dead. The Theosophical Society has never authorized a seance. Its aim is to discourage such practices. Theosophy takes the facts which spiritualists base their conclusions on but explains them in a different way. We think spiritualism is an insidious form of materialism though spiritualists may not be aware of the fact. It is materialism just as is the description of heaven as having streets paved with gold and being hung with gates of jasper. These things could not exist in heaven. The things which spiritualists say occur we admit do happen, but we do not admit the conclusions. There are in spiritualism facts which are useful in determining the destiny of man. When mesmerism was first broached the scientists and the Academy of France denied that there could be such a thing. Now they admit there is but they call it by another name, hypnotism. If they called it mesmerism they would be confessing that they erred before.
“Theosophy is not Blavatskyism. Madame Blavatsky was an old friend of mine whom I greatly respected. She is dead. That is, her body is dead, for Theosophy teaches that the spirit does not die. All she ever asked of her many friends was that they live with the highest altruistic aims. They follow her teachings as well as they can, for they are not perfect. No human being is.
“Theosophy is not Christianity nor is it against Christianity. In my opinion today there is no Christianity in practice, though there is a good deal in theory. There is churchianity, and the Christian religion is divided into sects, but if Christianity is what Jesus taught there is none of it. Jesus said that if a man ask you for your coat give him also your cloak, meaning thereby that you should give him money or what you can, and that if a man strike you on one cheek turn to him the other. How many do so?
CRITICISM OF CHRISTIANITY.
“Theosophy has no quarrel with true Christianity. If it exists, by all means let it flourish. The dogmas of the church were made up not by Jesus Christ but by interested priests after his death. Theosophy is opposed, as Luther was opposed, to churchianity. If you are a Christian, what sort are you? A Catholic? The Catholics include the large mass of Christians, theirs being the original Christian religion. Or do you belong to one of the other sects, of which there are over 320? The doctrine of Christians who belong to rival denominations is that all the others outside of a particular sect must be damned. That is not Christianity as Jesus would teach it, and we have no quarred with the real thing. We have been raised in Christianity. We have studied the spirit of the Bible and have not been carried away like Bob Ingersoll by the letter.
“The Theosophical Society is not Theosophy. It was organized in New York with the object of universal brotherhood and of investigating the hidden, recondite laws that govern humanity.
“Complete and perfect toleration is demanded in the Society, and this is so well observed that it has never given out a doctrine which the members must believe in. People with all sorts of religion and with no religion at all belong to it. It has broken down the caste distinctions of the Hindus and Buddhists who come within its pale, which nothing else could do. True universal brotherhood was something other people had thought of before we did, but universal brotherhood is not practiced, much as it is spoken about. Christianity was to have brought it about, but it has not succeeded. Nations are armed to the teeth against each other. Universal brotherhood is not something sentimental. We are actually united and feel each other’s thoughts and actions. The progress or the lack of progress of one community or one nation has its effect on every other in the world.
“Theosophy is derived from Greek words meaning the wisdom of the gods. The Christian Bible says that the gods created man. The word is in the plural. It does not mean a god of wood and stone, but natural forces, cause and effect, evolution, which has brought man into being as it has everything else. If you cannot believe that God is a being like yourself infinitely extended on the screen of space, but that all things are God, Theosophy means a knowledge of that.
“It is that which, if understood, will reunite religion and science. They were united when Egypt rose to the highest height of civilization. Madame Blavatsky believed that the same union and as glorious a civilization would be produced in America, where a new race is being formed and where all new things will come forth.
HYPNOTISM AND DREAMS.
“The phenomena of hypnotism and dreams show that man has an inner self, which has nothing to do with the outer body that we think is man. We hold that if this inner being, the soul, has a continuous existence during sleep, when the body is in a state of death, it always had and always will have existence. That it has a continuous existence is shown by the fact that our periods of sleep make no gap in the line of our lives. To find out truth men have to be born and born again in different bodies.
ONE SOUL IN MANY BODIES.
“Reincarnation in this world is necessary. If man has only one life to do it in, how can he improve the character of his soul, the real man? Half of it is spent in sleep and in the vegetation of childhood. One life will not suffice to let a man find out truth, or gain experience, or learn the knowledge that men have found. There is no way to do so except by reincarnation. If there is common sense in creation why is a person created with all the powers man has if they must be yielded up forever in a few years? Without reincarnation we cannot account for the inequalities of life. Henry Ward Beecher believed in reincarnation, for he said that those who lived and died before Jesus came must have been eternally damned if they could not come back and hear about it. The Christian fathers teach reincarnation by analogy.
“Karma is the doctrine of perfect justice — that no one can prevent a man from suffering or being rewarded for what he has done. Without the laws of reincarnation and Karma there is no escape from condemning the creator of the universe, and without them there is no sense in cosmos. What did I do to be born in a good family and to live amid pleasant surroundings when thousands upon thousands of other human beings were born in places of disease and crime at the same time and never had a day of enlightenment or contentment? You cannot say it was chance. If you say the Lord willed it, there is no use in talking to you. The real reason is that they made characters in previous lives which drew them there. Reincarnation explains why great minds are found in misshapen bodies and why men of fine physique are found with no brains at all.
“If you are satisfied you will not inquire into these things; but people are not satisfied. There is unrest in the world. Unless something like Theosophy is offered men will fall back to superstition or materialism. In Legislatures lawyers make laws and then devise means for other men to escape obeying them. If men knew and believed that they would have to suffer in the body from age to age until by evolution they had pushed forward to the highest plane, laws would be obeyed and laws would not be needed.
“Reincarnation is shown in the Bible, which says that Esau was hated and Jacob was loved before they were born. Jesus said that John the Baptist, was Elias, though Elias had died centuries before. How could the man in the Bible who was born blind be punished for something he did if he had not lived before?”
The lectures are given under the auspices of the local Theosophical Society. Admission was free, but a collection was taken to defray expenses, as the Society is small.