No End and No Beginning
The Theosophic Doctrine of the Human Soul
A talk with Mr. Judge, one of the leaders of the New Religious Movement.
The Baltimore American, November 25, 1890
Mr. William Q. Judge of New York, one of the leaders of the Theosophical movement, which is now attracting so much attention in America and various quarters of the globe, was in Baltimore yesterday. Mr. Judge is a member of the New York Bar, and is the general secretary of the Theosophical Society in the United States and President of the New York branch. He lectured before the Washington branch of the Society Sunday night, and stopped here with some friends of the Baltimore branch on his way to New York. Mr. Judge is one of the original founders of the Society in this country, and has traveled a great deal in India, where the movement has obtained a considerable foothold. He talks entertainingly and intelligently of the movement and its objects.
“Theosophy,” he said, “is eternal truth, but the Theosophical Society is a movement which aims to carry out the original intention which was in the best minds of the men who drew up the Declaration of American Independence. That was an effort for our freedom—an example and incentive for the world—to have its effect in subsequent ages. The Theosophical Society is an attempt begun in America to shake off the shackles from the mind and heart; to make men free in soul as the American Constitution makes them free in body. Until this double freedom is obtained, the Constitution and the blood and labors of the friends of Washington will have been shed and prosecuted in vain.
“The Society was founded in New York city in 1875, just fifteen years ago. Its two great apostles, Mme. H. P. Blavatsky and Col. H. S. Olcott, moved the headquarters to India in 1878, for the purpose of taking advantage of the great store of metaphysical and occult learning there and to enlist the sympathy of the educated Hindu, so that we in the West should later on reap the benefit of the use of the great mass of almost buried knowledge now in India. There are about 180 branches of the Society there now. We have about twenty in Europe, some in Greece, in Africa—in fact, in all corners of the globe. In America there are forty-nine chartered branches in the great cities—over fifteen on the Pacific Coast, in Vicksburg, in New York, and all along the direct line west from New York to San Francisco. They are out in Iowa, in the wilds of Chicago, in sleepy Philadelphia and cultured Baltimore. Besides these branches, there are many members unattached to any local branch in all parts of the land. The ideas which the pioneers gave out in 1875 are now entrenched in literature, in the drama, in the minds of the curious and the student. Sydney Rosenfeld had a play running at Wallacks in New York, based on these ideas, called ‘The Stepping-Stone,’ only a few months ago, in which it is mentioned and used for a plot as well as he could do with his limited knowledge of it.
It Keeps the Hindus Busy.
“India is full of educated men, and they told me that the Society had succeeded in bringing together men of all their creeds and castes in the search for truth, and to carry out the object of the Society, which is universal brotherhood, and the British Government recognizes the Society as a strong factor in keeping the Hindus well occupied and tending to unite them in peaceful and fraternal bonds. Idolatry is not so common there as you may suppose. Interested missionaries endeavor to make it appear to you that the Hindus are all idolators, but the fact is that the Hindu has plenty of pure monotheism, and also enough philosophy to prevent its being an idolatrous or a Christian country. One of them said to me one day: ‘You had better tell your countrymen that there is no use to endeavor to substitute among the Hindus the worship of three Gods in one, with the worship of a virgin added, for the purity of the Hindu religion and philosophy. It is a waste of money, for our people will allow their children to be taught English by the missionary, but every evening will explain to the youth how pernicious it is to listen seriously to men who do not know how to engage in debate with learned Brahmans.’ Indeed, many an old Hindu told me that they thanked the Christian for teaching them a language useful for commerce, but did not care about a religion borrowed from their own.
No Beginning, No End.
“Our only slogan is, ‘There is no religion higher than truth.’ That is the ancient family motto of the great kings of Benares, the Hindu sacred city on the Ganges river. Our important doctrine is called Karma. That means action and the result of action. It means that as you sow so shall you reap. Every deed that you do and every thought that you have will one day come back to you for good or evil, in this life or another. We hold that the soul of man is immortal, and has, hence, always been immortal. As it has no end, so it never had a beginning. And, therefore, the theory of reincarnation must be admitted. We say that the soul comes up from the very deeps of matter, through the animals, into the form of man. Once a man, always a man. After that, the soul is reborn over and over again in human form on this earth. Today it is in a beggar’s body; next life on earth it may be in a king. The poor man today was the rich man of a preceding earth-life and the rich now was once a poor man. The poor but good man is now being punished, because in his former life of ease and wealth he misused his opportunity and oppressed his fellows. And so, too, any present rich but wicked man will make such bad Karma that in the next life here he will be poor and oppressed. So, then, the two doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation are twins. They go together and supplement each other. Karma may be called ‘the moral law of compensation.’ This accounts for the vicissitudes of life, and to explain why there are savages in the wilds and savages in the cities, and why some really good and worthy people are so often poor and miserable all their lives. It explains all the problems which confront the Christian minister, and which cannot be otherwise met.
They are not Spiritualists.
“If this is believed, then we see how to attribute justice to God. For if you say that those who will not believe in the church and in Jesus are damned, where are all the millions who lived millions of years before Jesus and never heard of him? If you say that perhaps Jesus appeared before and died before, then you admit reincarnation. We find warrant for these ideas in the Bible. Jesus said, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged,’ and, ‘As you measure, so it will be measured to you.’ If He meant all that, and I think so, then if you are saved from the measure and the judgments by belief in Him, what is the use of the judgment? Then Jesus asked, ‘Whom do men think I am?’ referring to ideas as to whom he was the reincarnation of. And when His disciples asked Him if a man was born blind for some act of his in a previous life, He did not deny the doctrine. Henry Ward Beecher’s brother wrote a book called the Conflict of the Ages many years ago to prove that reincarnation is an absolutely essential doctrine to complete the Christian scheme.
“Then there is the underlying doctrine of unity, which is expressed in the Hindu Scriptures in this way: ‘All spiritual beings are the same in kind, only differing in degree.’ Now, the Hindu word for man and spirit is the word purusha, so that men are spiritual beings, are all united. Thus, it is our race Karma that we have the Anglo-Saxon brutality and material tendencies, together with its great energy. The Hindu supplements this with his high metaphysical faculty and devotional spirit. By blending these we will eliminate the brute and make the perfect man of future ages. We have many highly scientific doctrines which are gaining ground, but are too abstruse for ordinary readers.
“We are not Spiritualists. We hold to spirit, for our religion may be called the religion of the soul; but we say that the soul of man is not a returning and communicating entity, except in a regularly born human being. Hence, we admit facts in Spiritualism, but deny conclusions. To admit that these facts prove the return of the dead would be the same as saying that the sounds issuing from the phonograph prove the speakers spirit to be present in the diaphragm, which is nonsense.
“It might interest you to know that from the general secretary’s office in New York 219,000 tracts have been sent out through the United States during the past two years.”