Published by Blavatsky Study Center.  Online Edition copyright 2003.


A Chapter of Theosophical History Clarified

by Iverson L. Harris

[Reprinted from The Eclectic Theosophist, Nov. 15, 1976, pp. 2-3.]


Following are the “additional notes” by Iverson L. Harris to “Some Reminiscences of William Q. Judge” by E.A. Neresheimer, referred to in our last issue under ‘Historical Material’. Though Mr. Neresheimer’s “Reminiscences” are not known to many today, yet they have been in type for some decades, and to readers of them during those years they will have presented an incomplete and in certain instances not fully accurate picture. To some, interested not so much in the history of the Theosophical Society as in the teachings and doctrines themselves, the whole matter will appear of minor or subsidiary importance; but to those historically minded, and especially to those who feel an inborn duty to defend those on whom misunderstanding has fallen, there is always urgency to place on record actual facts so that these speak for themselves and become part of a faithful record available to all.

These facts are now covered in the commentary which follows and are here printed as a practical means for their more public noting and their preservation. - EDS.


Serious students of Theosophical history usually have strong convictions - strong loyalties and sometimes even stronger prejudices, alas! This is understandable, but does not justify distortion of facts when these facts prove to be unpalatable and irreconcilable with attitudes taken and sometimes stubbornly maintained in the face of the established facts.

The World Centenary Congress of the Theosophical Society in New York in November 1975 took an historic step forward in its public - and apparently unanimous - recognition of the T.S. in New York in 1875, along with H. P. Blavatsky and Col. H. S. Olcott; and not only as such but as the master-architect and builder of the modern Theosophical Movement and best expounder of the Esoteric Philosophy in the U.S.A. in the Nineteenth Century. The timely publication of the first volume of Judge’s Collected Writings is irrefutable evidence of his outstanding stature.

The time is now ripe to brush away some of the distortions, misrepresentations and falsehoods frequently promulgated by earnest but prejudiced or misinformed ex parte writers concerning what happened to the Theosophical Society in America immediately following the death of Mr. Judge on March 21, 1896.

There has long been a wide cleavage between those who vigorously and ardently maintained that William Q. Judge ‘appointed’ Katherine Tingley as his esoteric ‘Successor’ and those who, on the other hand, have chosen to apply to the Buddhist guruparamparÔ of the Judge-Tingley ‘succession’ H.P.B.’s dictum that the ‘Apostolic Succession’ in the Roman Catholic Church was ‘a gross and palpable fraud.’

The final coup de grace to the bona fides of Katherine Tingley’s ‘successorship’ to William Q. Judge was loudly and publicly proclaimed by the anonymous writers of the United Lodge of Theosophists publications to have been in E. A. Neresheimer’s Some Reminiscences of William Q. Judge privately circulated and publicly quoted in the early 1930’s. On Page 17 of the typescript of this in many ways well-written, informative and generally authoritative account, Mr. Neresheimer writes:

“Mr. Judge’s ‘diary’ is in my possession and can be seen at any time by any responsible Theosophist. I desire to state that ‘the further messages and quotations from Mr. Judge’s diary’ of which Mr. Hargrove writes in the above pamphlet of April 3rd, 1896, are not in the book and never were, as any inspection will verify. Those alleged ‘messages and quotations’ attributed to Mr. Judge could only have been concocted by Mrs. Tingley, assisted by Mr. Hargrove and Mr. J. H. Fussell, who alone were closely associated with Katherine Tingley at Headquarters at that time, and who, with her, drafted all communications that then went out from Headquarters.”

The historical facts completely contradict the charge that the people named ‘concocted’ the notes, or memoranda, (sometimes miscalled the ‘diary’) in Mr. Judge’s own handwriting. These Mr. Neresheimer naturally did not find in the Judge Diary in his possession; they were written by Mr. Judge on fragments of paper, of which Mr. Neresheimer was fully cognizant at the time of Mr. Judge’s death, as borne out by statements made by him at the time. Later, on a visit to Point Loma, Mr. Neresheimer admitted in the presence of his wife and other witnesses that the fragments of ‘messages and quotations’ published by Mr. Fussell and Mr. Hargrove were actually in Mr. Judge’s handwriting.

The details of the Judge ‘diary’ and the above-mentioned libelous charge and its refutation are set forth in The Theosophical Forum, Point Loma, Calif., Vol. IV, No. 5, January, 1933, and No. 7, March, 1933. Dr. H. N. Stokes’ O. E. Library Critic of Washington, D. C., issue of September, 1932 reproduces the actual language of seven of these ‘messages and quotations’ under the heading "The Judge ‘Occult Diary’. Vindication of Tingley, Fussell, Hargrove."

Dr. Stokes published further facts in this case in his issue of October, 1932 and March, 1933.

I have seen the originals of these ‘messages and quotations’ in Mr. Judge’s handwriting, and I showed photographic copies of them to Miss Margaret Thomas (an active U.L.T: member) at Oakley House, Bromley Common, Kent, England, while I was attached to Dr. de Purucker’s staff during the temporary transference thither of the International Headquarters of The Theosophical Society (Point Loma) in 1932-1933.

The anonymous author or authors of the U.L.T. History of the Theosophical Movement have persistently maintained that the statement that Katherine Tingley was ‘appointed’ by Mr. Judge as his esoteric ‘Successor’ is untenable and even fraudulent. But the Founder of the United Lodge, Robert Crosbie, fully aware of the documents on which the Esoteric Council at the Headquarters in New York accepted Katherine Tingley as having been pointed to (if not literally appointed) by W. Q. Judge to succeed him as Head of the Esoteric Section, for years thereafter was among the most outspoken in proclaiming the fact and the strength of Katherine Tingley’s successorship. Witness, for example, the long article titled “The Sifting Process” published in The Search Light Light Vol. I, April, 1898. over  the signature of Robert Crosbie. (Reprinted in The Theosophical Forum, Point Lam, Calif., Vol. III, Page 253, August 15, 1932, and in The O.E. Library Critic, March, 1933, Vol. XXII, No. 4). Why does the U.L.T. suppress the following from an address given by their Founder, Robert Crosbie, in the Fisher Opera House, San Diego, California, at a series of meetings in honor of William Q. Judge, on March 29th and April 1st, 1901 - five years after Judge’s death?:

“It should be noted that the Leaders of the Theosophical Movements did not become so by virtue of an election by vote - nor were they self-appointed. Mme. Blavatsky was the first leader, by the force of her wisdom and power of leadership, and all the true students of Theosophy accepted her as such. And when she appointed William Q. Judge as her successor, his leadership was accepted for the same reason - and so, too, with Katherine Tingley, who was appointed by William Q. Judge as his successor. And when she dies she will appoint her successor who will be followed by the faithful members - - And thus is preserved the line of teachers and the continuity of the Movement.”

A later change of attitude which led Mr. Crosbie to found the United Lodge of Theosophists, cannot alter the historic facts on which he based his judgment consistently and continuously for at least five years following Mr. Judge’s death.

One phase of this brief historical review closes with the following item which appeared in The Theosophical Forum (Point Loma), June, 1937:

“E.A. Neresheimer

The passing of our old and much loved Brother, E. A. Neresheimer, last April 16th, at his home in Santa Monica, California, in his ninety-first year, recalls his long years of membership in the T.S. and his devotion to Theosophy dating back to the time of H. P. Blavatsky and W. Q. Judge. As Dr. de Purucker said in a telegram of sympathy to Mrs. Neresheimer: ‘Nere’s memory for magnificent past work for us all in Society will remain ever green and cherished.’”

But what of the succession of spiritual leaders in the Point Loma Theosophical Society, so positively proclaimed by Robert Crosbie?

When Katherine Tingley died in 1929, her office as “Leader and Official Head” and Esoteric Teacher was assumed by Dr. G. de Purucker, not though any written appointment but by the ‘divine light’ of intellectual and spiritual qualification - recognized and tested by his predecessor through long years of discipline and confidence. In his case, in superlative degree can one apply the infallible rule given by Jesus: “By their fruits shall ye know them.”

For a more detailed - though -, for one who knows the facts, notably restrained - account of what happened to the Theosophical Society, following the death of Dr. de Purucker on September 27. 1942, see Charles J. Ryan’s H. P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement, Appendix IV, to the new special edition issued by Point Loma Publications, Inc. in 1975. This Appendix was reprinted in The Eclectic Theosophist Newsletter No. 29, July 15, 1975.


Return to Table of Contents of H.N. Stoke's
"William Q. Judge and Katherine Tingley" series of articles