Echoes of the Orient: The Writings of William Quan Judge

Echoes of the Orient: The Writings of William Quan Judge

compiled by Dara Eklund
Second edition. Pasadena, Calif.: Theosophical University Press, 2009. Two volumes, lxxx + 1209 pages, hardcover, $70.

When we recall the names of those prodigious talents whose life was cut short by untimely deaths, we are apt to have mixed feelings. While lamenting the premature loss of a sublime talent, we marvel at how much true genius can produce in a short span of time.

In 1896 the Theosophical world suffered such a loss with the death of William Quan Judge at the age of forty-four. The name of Judge may not be as well known as those of H. P. Blavatsky or Henry Steel Olcott, but it should be. Judge, along with Blavatsky and Olcott, was one of the original founders of the Theosophical Society in 1875. During his short lifespan he wrote fluidly on a broad spectrum of Theosophical topics. The two-volume set Echoes of the Orient brings together a wealth of material from his writings in various Theosophical journals and belongs in the library of any serious student of Theosophy.

Whereas many people find Blavatsky too difficult and Olcott somewhat prosaic, the writings of Judge are neither remote nor pedestrian. John Cooper's 1980 book review of the first edition of Echoes of the Orient, published in Theosophy in Australia, describes Judge's writing as "a simple, straightforward style, terse, and concerned to express what he believed were important truths." In another 1980 review, published in Sunrise, Will Thackara notes Judge's "exceptional ability to condense a powerful line of thinking into a single phrase, so that it acts as a seed in the reader's consciousness." Further praise was delivered by a contemporary of Judge, the Irish poet and mystic George Russell (AE), who described him as "a true adept in . . . sacred lore."

Volume one contains 168 articles from Judge's magazine, The Path, arranged chronologically and supplemented by his "Occult Tales." Volume two includes articles from The Irish Theosophist, Lucifer, and The Theosophist as well as Judge's "Hidden Hints in The Secret Doctrine," his lectures at the 1893 World Parliament of Religion, and replies to common questions put forth by Theosophical inquirers of the day. Improvements to the second edition include the correction of typographical errors, the updating of punctuation and foreign terms, an expanded index, and a larger font size for readability.

Perhaps the lesson to draw from the untimely passing of great souls is that there is little correlation between a productive life and a long life. Though the years allotted to William Quan Judge were few, his inspiring thoughts and words continue to echo through the corridors of time.

David P. Bruce

The reviewer is a long-time member of the Theosophical Society, for which he serves as director of education.