Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2003.
Some Past History
[Reprinted from The Canadian Theosophist, June 15, 1946.]
The "Promise" Myth
The magazine Theosophy in noting an article by Carey McWilliams in the March Atlantic dealing with "prominent religious exhibitionists" in Southern California, undertakes to correct some of the statements made, and incidentally adds to the notoriety of Ernest Temple Hargrove, who was probably successful in veiling his past when he obtained and burned the letters and papers of Claude Falls Wright after that gentleman was drowned in Central America. Here is what Theosophy has to say: -
The Point Loma adventure of the Theosophical Movement and Aimee Semple McPherson's Four Square Gospel enterprise receive lengthy treatment. Although repeating in general the attacks made by General Harrison Gray Otis in the Los Angeles Times against Point Loma cultists and Mrs. Tingley, Mr. McWilliams is careful to state that Mrs. Tingley later "collected a handsome judgment" for libel. As a matter of fact, the charge that "gross immoralities were practised" at Point Loma would be repudiated by friend and enemy alike. In the account of the origins of the Point Loma colony, however, a serious misstatement occurs. The writer says that in New York, Mrs. Katherine Tingley "came to know the theosophist William Quan Judge, over whom she soon acquired an extraordinary influence." Mrs. Tingley did acquire an "extraordinary influence" over some theosophists, but certainly not over Mr. Judge, nor was her influence, over those others much in evidence until after Judge's death in March, 1896. Mr. McWilliams writes:
"Much talk began to be heard in theosophical circles about the emergence of a mysterious disciple, referred to by Judge as the `Promise,' the `Veiled Mahatma,' the `Light of the Lodge,' and the `Purple Mother.' "
There was such talk, but only after Mr. Judge's passing, and the sources of this flamboyant "mysticism" are fully identified in the volume, The Theosophical Movement, Chapter xxxv, pages 653-88. E.T. Hargrove, a prominent member of the T.S. in A., was the principal sponsor of Mrs. Tingley as the new "Leader" and "Head," announcing in a circular that Mr. Judge knew of her fitness as his "successor" and had indicated a great future for "Promise," now identified as Mrs. Tingley by Hargrove and others. Certain "private papers" of Mr. Judge, said to bear out this claim, were never produced, and less than two years after his fulsome praise of Mrs. Tingley, Mr. Hargrove himself repudiated her leadership without qualification and went off with other dissident members to hold a runaway convention. There is absolutely no evidence of any sort that Mr. Judge thought of Mrs. Tingley or anyone else as his "successor," nor that the mysterious talk of "Promise" was anything more than a frantic fabrication of foolish students who felt they must have some figure-head for a "leader." Indeed, Hargrove, after his disaffection, wrote to Mrs. Tingley on Jan. 30, 1898:
"Now, my dear friend, you have made an awful mess of it - that is the simple truth. You were run in as O(uter) H(ead) as the only person in sight who was ready to hand at the time . . . you were sort of neutral centre around which we could congregate . . ."
Hargrove regretfully admits having used his "personal influence" to get people to accept Mrs. Tingley as "Outer Head," explaining that "enthusiasm and anxiety to see all go well carried some of us too far." Her "rare mediumistic and psychic gifts" were given as the reason for this enthusiasm, causing the sponsors of Mrs. Tingley to suppose, as Hargrove says, that she was a "disciple of the Lodge." There is evidence that E. August Neresheimer and Claude Falls Wright had both been consulting her as possessed of "occult powers" before Mr. Judge's death, accepting communications through her as "mesages from the Masters." One such message, received by Mr. Neresheimer in 1895, contained the injunction, "Under no circumstances must Mr. Judge know of this" - a proviso so entirely out of keeping with the law of the Guru-parampara chain that it alone should have been sufficient warning of the questionable nature of the communication.
"A Gross and Palpable Fraud"
Hargrove, Neresheimer and the others had all too quickly forgotten the oft-repeated principle of occultism that there is no "apostolic succession." Judge himself said, when asked by an anxious student where guidance could be found after his death, "Go to the pages of the Path Magazine. Study what I have written there, and you will know what I would do." H.P. Blavatsky had declared in Isis Unveiled: "The present volumes have been written to small purpose if they have not shown . . that . . . the apostolic succession is a gross and palpable fraud," and Mr. Judge wrote in Lucifer for March, 1892: "Madame Blavatsky has no `successor,' could have none, never contemplated, selected or notified one." Are we to suppose that he then violated the rule of the Lodge by appointing one for himself? As evidence that he did not, there is this statement by Mr. Neresheirner, from an affidavit in February, 1932:
"Among all the papers and other documents left by Mr. Judge, we found nothing whatever in his handwriting bearing on the future conduct of the society after his death. Nor did we find anything in his writing naming Mrs. Tingley or anyone else, either directly or indirectly, as his successor in the affairs of the Theosophical Society in America, or any directions of any kind to be followed in the event of his death
Record Now Clear
As Mr. Neresheimer was the executor of Mr. Judge's will, and personally opened and examined the contents of Mr. Judge's desk and his safe-deposit box, his word in this matter is the best evidence available. As he, also, had been one of those who persuaded the membership of the Society to accept Mrs. Tingley as the new "Leader" and "Outer Head," during the months following Mr. Judge's death, his statement under oath is of peculiar importance to Theosophical history. To his credit, it may be said that at the end of his life, if not in the crucial hour of trial, Mr. Neresheimer was true to the principles of the philosophy he had learned from Mr. Judge and H.P.B., and that he established for the record the fact that, like H.P.B., William Q. Judge had "no `successor,' could have none, never contemplated, selected or notified one." It is unfortunately true that Hargrove and his handful of associates did indeed go "too far" - so far that the myth of Mrs. Tingley's "extraordinary influence" over Mr. Judge still exists to be seriously repeated as a fact in a contemporary study of religious phenomena.
- Theosophy for April, 1946.
Return to Table of Contents of H.N. Stoke's
"William Q. Judge and Katherine Tingley" series of articles