Published by Blavatsky Study Center.  Online Edition copyright 2003.


Covina Explains

by Charles J. Ryan

  [Reprinted from The Canadian Thesophist, Sept. 15, 1946.]


As The Canadian Theosophist has reproduced the article in Theosophy for April on Carey McWilliams' slanders of Katharine Tingley and Point Loma students, I beg leave to make a few remarks which may throw a different light on some of the statements in Theosophy which indicate that the writer is very badly misinformed.  I refer particularly to the statements about `succession', such as "There is absolutely no evidence of any sort that Mr. Judge thought 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 that they must have some figurehead for a `leader'."  Then E.T. Hargrove is quoted as saying that Mrs. Tingley was run in as "the only person in sight who was ready to hand at that time . . . a sort of neutral centre round which we could congregate . . ", and the old fable is revived that occultism is opposed to the principle of "apostolic succession."  We are also told that "Certain `private papers' of Mr. Judge, said to bear out this claim;  were never produced."

We had all hoped that the rotting remains of these old and exploded charges had long ago received a decent burial, but it seems that eternal vigilance is the only price of safety and if a false rumor is given a fair start Truth has great difficulty in overtaking it.

I may say here that I have had the privilege of being a working member of the Theosophical Society ever since the beginning of the so-called "Judge Case" in 1894 in which I took an active part in Mr. Judge's defence.

Among this mix-up which must be straightened out for future reference we may all agree that on one occasion during a newspaper controversy in 1892 Mr. Judge did write that H.P.B. never contemplated or notified a successor, but as it can be shown that H.P.B. actually contemplated a successor on several occasions it seems probable that he was carried away for the moment by his righteous indignation aroused by the preposterous claims of a certain H.B. Foulkes to have been nominated by H.P.B. to succeed her in the Esoteric School of Theosophy!  He was striking hard blows and in the heat of battle he may not have meticulously weighed his words;   or momentarily had forgotten certain facts.   Poor Mr. Foulkes seems to have thought that his feeble psychic or mediumistic attainments warranted his demand, but W.Q. Judge boldly declared that H.P.B.'s status was sui generis, unique, a word that rightly applies to her magnificent intellectual and spiritual endowments, her control of the higher potencies in Nature and her absolute consecration to the Masters and their Cause, all and more combined in one individual.

Whatever the explanation may be, we have positive record that H.P. Blavatsky had long contemplated and searched for a successor sufficiently qualified to "keep the link unbroken," the link she spoke of with her last breath, apparently, referring to the need for wise guidance during the period before the great effort toward the end of the twentieth century.

Col. Olcott says in his Old Diary Leaves, i, 462, that H.P. Blavatsky often spoke to him about possible successors, and there is one passage in a letter from him to Miss Francesca Arundale dated "9.2.85 Adyar" which proves that an occult successor, apparently Damodar, was envisaged.  He writes: 

"Again our Master snatched her from the jaws of death . . . Damodar goes to Tibet for development;   and if she should die before his return I am to be the temporary link between the Masters and the T.S.  These are his orders but I shall be a sorry substitute.  However let us hope that I may not be called upon for that but that they will keep her alive until her successor can be sent."  (The Theosophist, September 1932, p. 732. Italics mine.)

Rather earlier than this, according to H.P.B. and W.Q.J., Mrs. Laura Holloway almost 'made the grade.'  She was part author of Man, Fragments of Forgotten History which the Master desired to see published in spite of some errors (see The Mahatma Letters, p. 361).  She was a remarkable woman and an intimate friend of Mr. Judge.   In a letter from Mr. Judge to Col. Olcott written from Paris in April 1884 when the former was helping H.P.B. with The Secret Doctrine, he says there is a possibility of getting "a magnificent co-adjutor, if not a successor to H.P.B. and one who has trained scientific methods of literary work, as well as psychical abilities of the kind that make H.P.B. so remarkable".

Furthermore, he thinks that the Masters would let H.P.B. have her desire and "vanish" if the person mentioned would do, and says that while someone was extolling that lady "H.P.B. leaned back and said `O my God, if I shall only find in her a SUCCESSOR, how gladly I Will PEG OUT'." (The Theosophist, November 1931)   However, Mrs. Holloway was not found to be properly qualified, for reasons given in The Mahatma Letters, pp. 359-61.

Some years later, H.P. Blavatsky was still looking for a successor.  Quoting from Countess Wachtmeister's H.P.B. and the Present Crisis in the Theosophical Society pamphlet, page 3, we read:  "H.P.B. always told me that her successor would be a woman, long before Annie Besant became a member of the T.S.  She made various attempts with different people, hoping to find one .. . ."  The Countess then speaks `of H.P.B.'s high estimate of Mrs. Besant and quotes her letter to W.Q. Judge in March 191, shortly before her death, wherein she writes "Judge, she is a most wonderful woman, my right hand, my successor, when I will be forced to leave you, my sole hope in England as you are my sole hope in America."  We all know that for a while Mrs. Besant was Co-Outer Head of the Esoteric School with Mr. Judge.  It is worth mentioning in view of controversial statements, that part of the letter from which the above sentence is quoted was published in slightly but significantly garbled form to suit a certain point of view, not Judge's, during the troubles in the T.S. in 1894 and later.  Mrs. Archibald Keightley showed me the original letter for comparison.

There can be no doubt that H.P.B. was definitely and with good occult reasons looking for a successor.  Even in The Secret Doctrine vol. i, we find her modestly saying "In Century the Twentieth some disciple more informed and far better fitted, may be sent by the Masters of Wisdom to give final and irrefutable proofs that there exists a Science called Gupta-Vidya . . ."   This may refer to the Leader who is expected toward the last quarter of the century.  Her published letters show her high estimate of the real W.Q.J., the Nirmanakaya, the one who was, as she said: "part of herself for eons," etc., terms such as she never used about anyone else, and that he was quite capable of filling the immediate vacancy in the E.S. with dignity and occult qualifications.  Of course neither he nor anyone else was "unique" in the special sense that H.P.B. was, but in one letter she writes that he must ultimately "take her place at Adyar" and that it would be no more difficult for him to work under the exoteric Presidency of Olcott than it was for her to do so.  (The Theosophical Forum, May 1930)  She was of course referring to the Direction of the E.S.T.

Then there is the testimony of a private and personal letter written just before her death to W.Q.J. from which I have quoted the sentence about successorship in England and America, and which he, in harmony with his scrupulous sense of honor and fair-dealing placed before the E.S. Council on May 27, 1891, the earliest possible date after H.P. Blavatsky's death.  It was this letter which largely if not entirely caused the Council to place Annie Besant and W.Q. Judge together as Co-Outer Heads or `successors.'  The Master approved of this decision and endorsed it by his brief message "Judge's Plan is right";  which was whole-heartedly accepted by Annie Besant, the entire Council and W.Q.J. himself.  Some weeks after, she frankly and generously acknowledged Mr. Judge's higher occult standing in a letter dated July 2 addressed to esotericists who did not want to accept her Co-Headship with him.  She wrote,

"If I could, I would say to you, my dear --- sign only to Mr. Judge.  I should be quite content, for indeed there is no reason why you should have any confidence in me.  Only as They have put us together, I have no power to stand aside."  (The Path, June 1895, p. 100).

That Mr. Judge fully accepted the principle and the fact of successorship is finally demonstrated by his proclamation in the famous November 3 Circular wherein he declares Master's Order that Annie Besant's Co-Headship is at an end and says: 

". . . I resume in the E.S.T. in full all the functions and powers given to me by H.P.B. . . . and that came by orderly succession after her passing from this life, and declare myself the sole Head of the E.S.T." (italics mine).

It would be farcical to imagine that when Mr. Judge wrote the italicized words he did not believe in the principle of occult succession!

Now in regard to the principle of apostolic succession in general, which we are told once more was condemned by H.P.B. as a "gross and palpable fraud" it is regrettable that this old and unjustified mistake has been rehashed.  The statement was first made, I believe, in The Theosophical Movement in 1925 and discussed in The Canadian Theosophist and elsewhere about thirteen years ago when Mr. August E. Neresheimer charged certain persons with the production of fraudulent documents to sustain the claim that Katherine Tingley was W.Q. Judge's successor;  which charge I will discuss later.  It was shown that H.P.B.'s denunciation referred to the Roman Catholic claim to the apostolic succession alleged to have been transmitted from Simon Barjona to the present day by the laying on of hands;  and which is believed by the faithful to give priests supernatural authority to bind and loose sinners, etc., etc.  She calls this "a gross and palpable fraud" and "an imposition alike upon priest and penitent."  It does not bear any application outside the Roman Church.

In The Theosophical Movement, p. 362 and as subsequently used by writers who ought to have been more careful, the quotation from Isis Unveiled ii, 544, reads:  "The present volumes have been written to small purpose if they have not shown . . . that . . . apostolic succession is a gross and palpable fraud."  This is verbatim, including the dots.  By the omission of the small but very important word "the" before the words "apostolic succession" H.P.B.'s meaning was transformed to support the argument against any kind of succession and especially in the Theosophical Society.   However, it must be said in justice, that this time the Isis quotation is repeated, (in Theosophy for April) it has been given correctly, as "the apostolic succession", but of course the whole argument against apostolic succession in Theosophy or occultism is thereby vitiated!  We must look elsewhere to find H.P.B.'s attitude toward the succession of esoteric Teachers or Leaders.  This has been shown in part in the earlier pages of this letter, but I would add that not only does she discuss and approve of it but she mentions it as a normal proceeding.  In terrestrial and human evolution there are the Manus;  a succession of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas;  the 28 Vyasas, etc.  She specifically mentions succession among the Druses, and cites the transference of spiritual wisdom and leadership from Moses to Joshua on Mount Nebo, after which the former had to die, and there is also the giving of the mantle of Elijah to his successor Elisha.   Various references to the system occur in The Complete Works of H.P. Blavatsky, centenary edition. (Rider and Co.)  The Tibetan Lama system is one of rigid succession, and as, according to H.P.B., the Masters are in touch with the highest Lamas and have schools of chelaship in some of the gompas, they can hardly disapprove of it in occult training.

H.P.B. gives an interesting case of the general principle in Isis ii, 42, footnote, where she describes the tragic death of a Russian magician whose designated successor was forcibly prevented from reaching him in time.  Though this was not a case of white magic it serves to illustrate the ancient custom of occult successorship, carried on by the passing on of the mysterious "Word which is no word," for she writes that it can be traced "to the old Mysteries which had been for ages spread all over the globe."  Therefore though capable of being misused it is very high in its origin.  Frazer's Golden Bough contains a vast amount of information on the wide-world practice of the succession of Hierophants, though of course he only deals with the exoteric and folklore aspects.

In regard to the remarks in April Theosophy, against which I strongly protest, the statement that Mrs. Tingley was "run in as O (uter) H (ead) " as an emergency measure would be laughable, if it were not so mischievous.  Mr. Neresheimer's respected name is brought in to support this point of view, though he never held it.  Of course his affidavit as quoted is honest, though its terms did not hinder him from enthusiastically supporting Katherine Tingley and her work for at least thirty-two years!  But the writer in Theosophy has failed to observe or at least to inform the reader that Mr. Neresheimer was speaking only of the affairs of the Theosophical Society and makes no mention of the Esoteric School, whose Outer Headship is the point in question.  It is no doubt correct that no papers were seen by Mr. Neresheimer "naming Mrs. Tingley or anyone else, directly or indirectly, as his successor in the affairs of the Theosophical Society in America" as he declared on oath, but there were papers to show that Mr. Judge had been contemplating for many months an esoteric successor in the person of "Promise" (Mrs. Tingley) through whom he believed that H.P.B. would come and help.  Without having given an explicit nomination in writing, which we are told is not the best way in occultism, Mr. Judge left notes on this subject which are so plain and showed such confidence in Katherine Tingley that even had there been no other reasons for their action the Council could not reasonaby have done anything but accept her as the rightful successor in the E.S.T.  The convenient stop-gap "run in" excuse offered by E.T. Hargrove was declared much later on when it suited his purposes.

One of the most important pieces of evidence, perhaps not familiar to the writer in Theosophy, was published in The Searchlight of May 1898, p. 30.  It was written by Mrs. Archibald Keightley ("Jasper Niemand") one of Mr. Judge's closest and most trusted friends, and also close friend and associate of E.T. Hargrove.  Many Theosophists thought she might well be Mr. Judge's successor.  Her statement is the best evidence of Katherine Tingley's standing, long before Mr. Judge's death, that could be desired.  She writes:  "It is well known to members of the Inner Council in America and Europe that the present Outer Head (Mrs. Tingley) has for two years past assisted Mr. Judge in the inner work of the school as his associate and equal.  Some of these Councillors were doing important work under her direction, and by the order of Mr. Judge, for some time before he passed away.  The present Outer Head had the entire confidence of Mr. Judge and has that of the Council.  The Council, composed of members in America and Europe, is in entire harmony on this point, and especially those members of it who were in close touch with H.P.B. during her lifetime . . . For myself, I may say that as early as June 1894 Mr. Judge told me of the standing of the present Outer Head of the School . . . Of his appointment of the present Outer Head there is absolutely no doubt;  and there is also no doubt of her entire ability to fill that appointment;  or of her right to it;  or that it came from and was directed by the Master."

There is not much about anyone being run in as a "neutral centre" in this solemn declaration of E.T. Hargrove's devoted friend!  It is hardly necessary to add more on this point, but I cannot help quoting a few words published by Hargrove himself and then leave the reader to decide on the credibility of that gentleman whose simple statement is so innocently swallowed by the poorly informed writer who tries to resuscitate the moldering errors of the past.  E.T. Hargrove writes in an editorial in Theosophy for 1896 pp. 67-68 (the name given to The Path by Mr. Judge just before his death).

"An attack appeared in a New York Newspaper whose reporter had been instructed, as he informed one of our number, `to tear Theosophy to pieces.'  This attack was directed against Mrs. Katherine A. Tingley, a member of the Theosophical Society in America, a personal friend of Mr. Judge's and Outer Head of the `E.S.T.', to which position she was appointed by Mr. Judge in papers left by him." (italics mine). 

E.T. Hargrove then goes on to pay a high tribute of respect and regard to Mrs. Tingley's past and present activities.  The editorial is signed E.T.H.

Now about the most unwarranted charge of all, i.e., that alleged "foolish students" - really some of the oldest and most responsible members in America - fabricated "the mysterious talk about `Promise', certain "messages and quotations" claimed to be in Mr. Judge's handwriting;  forged them in fact, in order to persuade the E.S. members that Mrs. Tingley was the right person to be recognized as Outer Head.  These papers were found among Mr. Judge's things after his death and have been associated with several diaries or notebooks that he kept.  These record books, with the exception of one that was handed to Mr. Neresheimer by Mrs. Tingley in 1928, are in the Covina archives.  The messages and quotations are not intrinsic parts of any of the diaries, but are written on separate loose sheets of paper, large and small, and all are also in the archives.  Mr. Neresheimer seemingly expected to find the writings on the pages of the diary he received from Mrs. Tingley, but not finding them he was much disturbed and unhappily jumped to the conclusion that there was something very wrong and that, in his own words, they "could only have been concocted by Mrs. Tingley assisted by Mr. Hargrove and Mr. J.H. Fussell."   Mr. Neresheimer's honorable reputation for fair dealing gained considerable vogue for this serious charge against two living men and one dead woman, and the whole question was thrashed out in The Canadian Theosophist for 1932-3.  Although you, Mr. Smythe, then as now Editor of this journal, took Mr. Neresheimer's part at the outset of the discussion, writing a condemnatory article in The Canadian Theosophist for May 1932 entitled "Mr. Judge's alleged Diary" and signed A.E.S.S., after hearing all the evidence you frankly and honorably withdrew the statements and in January 1933 wrote and published what you rightly hoped would be taken as an amende honorable.

In addition to the charge of fabrication the writer in Theosophy repeats the statement that the "private papers" were never produced.  This is easily shown to be another misstatement, arising from ignorance we must suppose, for when Dr. G. de Purucker, former Leader of the Theosophical Society, Covina, established a temporary headquarters at Oakley House, Bromley, near London, from September 1932 to November 1933, he invited Miss M.A. Thomas, an active member of the United Lodge of Theosophists, to inspect the originals in Mr. Judge's handwriting of the disputed "messages and quotations."  She declared herself perfectly satisfied that they were genuine.   Dr. H.N. Stokes of the O.E. Library Critic took the matter up in his magazine and his complete and impartial analysis of the documents is to be found in a long series of issues in Vols. xxi to xxii (1932-34).  He was sent photographic copies of the disputed papers, and his verdict was emphatically against the possibility that they could be "fabrications", "concoctions", or anything but what they appear to be, Mr. Judge's private notes and instructions in support of Katherine Tingley's ("Promise" as he called her at that time) high occult standing, and of the confidence he felt in her.  So much for the misleading statement that the papers were never produced.  The writer in Theosophy would perhaps find the two series of letters and articles in The Canadian Theosophist and in the O. E. Critic instructive as well as interesting.

One more matter, important, and I shall have covered most of the ground.  It concerns what happened after the publication of Mr. Neresheimer's charge of "concoction", as already discussed.  In brief, Mr. and Mrs. Neresheimer were invited to Point Lorna in 1932 where, on August 25 and in the presence of responsible witnesses Captain John R. Beaver, Mr. Olaf Tyberg, and Mrs. Tyberg, (the latter a resident today at the Covina headquarters) Mr. J.H. Fussell showed them a number of the "messages and quotations" disputed by Mr. Neresheimer.  After careful examination Mr. Neresheimer, who knew Mr. Judge's handwriting very well, declared that he was perfectly satisfied that they were in his handwriting and perfectly genuine.  He also acknowledged the authenticity of the Judge Diaries or Record Books.

Mr. Neresheimer then undertook to publish a written statement endorsing the authenticity of the documents and withdrawing his charges which were evidently made under a strange misapprehension, but unfortunately this was never done.  Mr. Neresheimer died in 1937.  I was told that he thought it better to let sleeping dogs lie.  Unfortunately, however, they often wake up and try to bite, as in the present case, and so prevention is better than cure.

Feeling anxious about future possibilities, when Mrs. Neresheimer visited Covina not very long ago I asked her if she could do anything to set the question finally at rest, so that these unjustified charges would trouble us no longer.

In regard to the interview at Point Loma where Mrs. Neresheimer was present and about which her evidence - and Mrs. Tyberg's, they being the only living witnesses today - is of the first importance, Mrs. Neresheimer responded at once, and very kindly wrote me a letter stating that the facts of the interview at Point Loma had occurred as outlined above.   This letter is preserved in the Covina archives, wherein the long and animated correspondence between Mr. Fussell, Mr. Tyberg and Mr. Neresheimer that was exchanged after the production of the latter's Reminiscences of William Q. Judge containing the original charges is also in safe-keeping.

In the Reminiscences Mr. Neresheimer says that on March 22, 1896, the day after Mr. Judge laid aside his wornout frame, Mrs. Tingley told him that he had appeared twice in the night to her in distress because he could not impress his wishes on his former associates.  The Covina archives contain a letter from Mr. Neresheimer to Mrs. Alice L. Cleather dated March 31, 1891, advising her that the "Rajah" (his higher Nirmanakaya aspect which H.P.B. once called "Maharajah") had come through and given complete instructions as to the management of the Esoteric School and its control by Katherine Tingley as Outer Head;  and other directions about the T.S.  Mrs. Cleather was to be added to the Council.  These instructions, according to this letter, were very detailed and amply justify all that was done by the Council.  Mr. Neresheimer displays the greatest enthusiasm and delight that everything had turned out so well under occult direction.  Thirty-four years afterwards, when he wrote the ill-advised remarks in his Reminiscences which have caused such anxiety, he must have entirely forgotten what he wrote in the letter to Mrs. Cleather which has been quietly resting in the archives all the time.

Charles J. Ryan.
Covina, California.


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