I Never Knew Katherine Tingley

By Eloise Hart

I never met Katherine Tingley, yet looking back I realize how deeply her influence has blessed my life. She had passed away several years before I learned about theosophy and the center she established at Point Loma. But what I heard drew me like a magnet to become part of the life and work there.

On arrival in 1936, I was given a room in the large Academy building three floors above its main entrance and overlooking extensive gardens and a central fountain, around which I often saw, early in the morning, little rabbits, quail, and squirrels playing hide and seek. From my balcony I watched the sun rise over San Diego Bay and the low hills beyond. This room, and others in which classes were held or students lived, surrounded a large, elegantly designed rotunda illumined by sunlight coming through its turquoise glass dome.

The various programs -- which I found deeply moving -- were, I was told, pale copies of the splendid affairs Katherine Tingley had put on for those she entertained. Many of her outdoor celebrations and plays were conducted down the road in the beautiful Greek Theater -- the first built in North America. During the years I was there, however, this theater was used chiefly for morning devotions: early risers gathered to listen and reflect upon readings from KT's writings, H. P. Blavatsky's The Voice of the Silence, G. de Purucker's Golden Precepts of Esotericism, and the Bhagavad-Gita.

On weekends, public and private meetings were held in the Temple of Peace -- a large vine-covered building whose interior was painted in pastel tints. Hand-carved screens and chairs as well as huge carved vases of flowers and greenery usually decorated the platform. I loved assisting in these arrangements. A hushed and almost holy atmosphere pervaded the room as the workers arranged the flowers and organists rehearsed their music.

This temple, atop an orange-red sandstone bluff, overlooked the Pacific, its waters deep blue by day, and at night dancing with the reflected light of a million stars. Built under KT's direction, the temple's amethyst glass dome topped with its golden flame, reflected sun- and moon-light and served as a landmark for sailors at sea.

Raja-Yoga Academy and Temple of Peace, International Theosophical Headquarters, Point Loma, California

While I attended university classes, in keeping with KT's ideal of a balanced education, I participated in a variety of cultural and mundane activities, such as helping in the laundry, sewing department, kitchen, offices, libraries, and assisting in the children's activities as teacher and housemother. During those years I learned about KT's advanced methods of education both academically and in the Lotus-Circle work. These methods helped when I became a director of the Lotus-Circles and later when my family moved to Arizona and I was involved in various aspects of children's school and Scout activities.

When I first moved to Lomaland, nearly all the folk there had been inspired by and served under Katherine Tingley, and their devotion to her was an almost tangible presence -- as well as their dedication to the direction her successor, G. de Purucker, was taking. It was a new cycle of teaching, one which KT had foreseen and prepared them for. Then too, they knew Dr. de Purucker, who had been her constant assistant and supporter. He once described her as "an esotericist through and through," and he spoke from experience. It was she who had inspired and encouraged his scholarship, his writings, and lectures which elucidated H. P. Blavatsky's teachings and those of her Teachers. Although it was his words that have filled my heart, answered my questions, and sustained me, it was the potency of Katherine Tingley's inspiration that has blessed my life. Her ideas about woman's role in marriage and in the home and community were the light that illumined my outlook, my life, my marriage, and my writing and theosophical endeavors.

To the youngest and oldest she gave a precious jewel: "Life is Joy." It is, indeed, and it's a joy to seek and find that joy -- which is always accompanied by beauty and love. Another of her phrases, "self-directed evolution," encourages even the most disheartened of us to take charge of our life in recognition of the fact that we alone are responsible for ourselves and our circumstances, that we have the power to make every day a blessed day.

Thoughts like these enrich one's life. They certainly have mine, and many others' whose souls have been touched by her words, her example, and her inspired work.

  • (From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1998. Copyright © 1998 by Theosophical University Press.)

  • Tingley Menu