A Life's Gift

By Lillian Burke

As if she were in our presence, we can hear Katherine Tingley speaking clearly and simply about the wisdom of the heart (The Wisdom of the Heart: Katherine Tingley Speaks, compiled and edited by W. Emmett Small, Point Loma Publications, 1978; see also Theosophy: The Path of the Mystic by Katherine Tingley, Theosophical University Press, 1977.). As she does, theosophy is alive with beauty and practicality. Over and over she proclaims that each human being is a divine spark of the universal Divinity. Spiritual qualities, or what we can call a higher self, reside within the inmost part of our being waiting to unfold. Therein lies the wisdom of the heart, the understanding of universal truths. How can we know the wisdom? It cannot be learned from books or from the words of others. It can be learned by the paradoxical state of looking deeper into ourselves, yet forgetting ourselves in service to others. "Feel, Know, and Do!" Katherine Tingley challenges. The heart will touch the mind which will lead us to right actions. In so doing we will act unselfishly and thus benefit mankind. We will be acting in accordance with the laws of nature and stretching to meet our own higher self.

As Katherine Tingley shares her life with us, she shares the meaning of theosophy. She was born in 1847 and spent her early years on the banks of the Merrimac in Massachusetts. She recalls for us early memories of the Civil War and its horrors. She tells of her later work with prisoners, drunkards, the sick and starving. All these experiences but strengthened her childhood dream of establishing a system of education to prevent human misery. It was at this time she met William Q. Judge who introduced her to theosophy. She became a theosophist because she saw within the teachings a hope for all mankind. To her, theosophy was the "highest law of conduct, which is the enacted expression of divine love or compassion." As leader of the Theosophical Society for thirty-three years (1896-1929) she put her beliefs into practice and worked for education and world peace.

To help us find our own way, Katherine Tingley offers practical suggestions for daily living. We can take on the little beginning tasks of great endeavors; keep the brain-mind as a servant so that it does not become a tormentor of the soul; develop self-discipline and orderly habits that set the soul free and conserve our energy. We can use our imagination and the power of silence to overcome difficult times. We can conduct our thoughts upon waking and retiring to make each day one of fulfillment and peace.

So that we may come to a better understanding of ourselves, Katherine Tingley describes her concept of Deity. She explains reincarnation, karma, death, and rebirth. She tells why she believes music and drama have an essential place in education; she stresses the importance of the home in developing humane individuals. We are given glimpses into her travels to Egypt. The story she tells of her visit to the Sphinx is especially stirring and beautiful. As she gazed at that majestic edifice, a soundless voice was saying: "If thou wouldst know the mysteries of Soul, of life and death, thou must look within. Thou hast the key. Thou art the Eternal Sphinx!"

Having shared the wisdom of her own heart, Katherine Tingley has left us with a magnificent gift. That gift can be used as a springboard to look deeper, ever deeper within ourselves to find the wisdom. Then in the silence of our being we will see the "Unseen," hear the "Unspoken," and know the "Unknowable."

(From Sunrise magazine, March 1979. Copyright © 1979 by Theosophical University Press.)

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