David E. Dudley, MD

The person most likely responsible for the beginning of correspondence between Hurrychund Chintamon and the Theosophical Society was a fellow Freemason who had visited Bombay in 1877 and relocated there to live two years later.
Olcott’s Old Diary Leaves describes a visitor who recognized Bombay Arya Samaj leader Moolji Thackersey in a photograph on the wall of the New York apartment the Colonel shared with Madame Blavatsky. “One evening in the year 1877 an American traveller, who had recently been in India, called…he did know Moolji Thackersey and had recently met him in Bombay.” (Old Diary Leaves, Vol. 2, p. 395) The only candidate “American traveller” suggested to date, James Peebles, is much less likely than a heretofore overlooked colleague of Olcott.

Olcott’s anecdote about the American traveler does fit the itinerary of one man who was Theosophist, Freemason, and Bombay resident, not Peebles as has been previously suggested. Peebles left his New Jersey home for his second around the world tour in late 1876, and did not return until early 1878. The person described by Olcott in the anecdote about an 1877 visitor was almost surely David E. Dudley, M.D., born 6 May 1822 in Alton, New Hampshire, son of Daniel and Martha Morrison Dudley. He was listed as a medical student at Columbia College in New York in 1860s directories, and married Adaline Lucinda Broaders in Manhattan on December 4, 1869. Dudley’s medical career took him around the world as seen in the birthplaces of his three daughters: Adelina born 1876 in Egypt, Bubie born 1878 in New York, and Indea born 1881 in Bombay. In addition to pursuing an international medical career, Dudley was an emissary on behalf of the Order of the Eastern Star. In Robert Macoy’s Correspondence Report for 1877 we find that Dudley was Deputy Grand Patron of the Order, given a commission by Brother Andres Cassard, “with ample authority to confer the degree on worthy and qualified persons, and establish chapters in Egypt, China, Japan, Philippine Islands, Singapore, Calcutta, Bombay, and several of the chief towns of the island of Java.” (Engle, History of the Order of the Eastern Star, p. 31) Albert Rawson wrote a letter to The Spiritualist, published in London on 5 April 1878, defending Blavatsky from criticism. He wrote that at the time Dudley was residing in Manila: “others of my acquaintance have met Mme. Blavatsky in the far east; others have heard of her residence there; for instance, the celebrated physician and surgeon, David E. Dudley, M.D., of Manila, Philippine Islands, who spent some time in this city recently and is now on his way to return to his Eastern home.” (Personal Memoirs of H.P. Blavatsky, p. 172)

In Olcott’s memoirs he noted April 15, 1878 as the date when “we began to talk with Sotheran, General T., and one or two other high Masons about constituting our Society into a Masonic body with a Ritual and degrees;…We did not abandon the idea until long after removing to Bombay.” (Old Diary Leaves, Vol. 1, pp. 468-469.) Dudley’s Masonic affiliation and international travel in the 1870s would identify him as a likely candidate for “one or two other high Masons” proposing an Indian-based TS as a fringe Masonic group.

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