To the Awakening Woman

Katherine Tingley

[Condensed from Theosophy: The Path of the Mystic, chapter 6]

The world is starving for the psychological touch of something higher from women, and that something higher can spring only from an inner devotional attitude of mind. Without devotion we cannot be real women. The devotional spirit opens a path to the soul. Men are waiting for it unconsciously, they are longing to see it manifest in women's lives, and when it is so manifest they feel it and respond to its appeal, even without a word being said. And our little children feel it also. In depending solely on the intellectual life woman is starving herself, her children, and her home, for she cannot convey to those who love her the heart-touch which their souls are calling for and should have.

Woman, by nature, is mystical; she lives more in the heart. Her emotional nature, however, becomes a source of weakness if not governed understandingly. Could she harness and control that, new doors would open in her life continually; she would journey on an ever-ascending path of experience and spiritual growth.

The greatest work that woman can do today is to become so feminine, so spiritual and strong, so grandly compassionate and helpful, that she will hold the whole human family in her keeping. She will make the home her altar, her kingdom; and from that altar, from that kingdom, shall be sent out the gospel of life to all people.

Katherine Tingley, 1906

I have no receipts for you, no sentimentality, no crutches for you to lean upon. There is but one issue here, and it is this: shall the spiritual or the temporal woman rule? And my aim is to evoke from within you your own divinity, that something which will give you the power to overcome all difficulties. Once you have evoked this unconquerable power, which is yourself in very truth, you will find that half the difficulties in your life will have disappeared, and that the other half can be met with a courage so royal, so superb, that you can actually transform them into helps and victories.

I cannot conceive how we are ever to adjust and redeem humanity, or how we are ever to make the home an ideal place of love and harmony, until women understand themselves. For only when in possession of this priceless knowledge — the knowledge of the self — is it possible for either man or woman to develop and perfect that symmetry which is the ideal.

Woman has been slowly losing her way along the ages, beyond question — though the same may be said of man. But the obscurations and stumbling blocks in woman's path have been many and great and have brought into her life an unrest that few men realize.

I believe that men know very little about the inner life of woman, for unless man is acquainted with himself, with his essential divinity and his possibilities, how can he judge? On the other hand, if woman is unacquainted with herself, and in her turn knows not her essential divinity, how can she understand life, or duty? How can she become the ideal woman that her heart is pleading with her to be?

False education and the errors of ages have surrounded woman with environments that are unnatural and unreal; and these in their turn have crippled her genius and forced her into a life that is not hers.

Woman must "know herself" for this is her true mission. She must unveil the mysteries of her being, and in the unveiling she will become transformed physically, mentally, and spiritually, elevated to a higher expression of womanhood. She will no longer be limited to a small mental life, for her soul would not bear it. Her aspirations will be so high, her ideals so much higher, and her knowledge so much greater, that she will broaden her views, her life, her sphere of usefulness. Thus we should have not only the ideal woman, but the international woman. One nation would not be enough for her. She would hold the whole world in her love.

If woman is to attain the dignity of ideal womanhood, she must cultivate her femininity. She was born a woman and she must be a woman, in the truest sense. Contrasts between man and woman exist, yet there is a balance — the heart-yearnings perhaps different in each, yet both reaching towards the same goal; their intellectual life somewhat different, developed under different conditions and environments, yet this too reaching towards the same consummation and achievement.

These contrasts hold within themselves, in the deep undercurrents of human life, a superb and glorious harmony. Woman in her true place, hand in hand with man in his, would bring about a new order of things — a new life, a resurrection of the spirit, a shining forth of the inner, higher, eternal qualities of the human soul.

Both men and women come from the same divine source; they are seeking the same goal, are part of the same universal life, are guided by the same universal laws of being. Outward aspects are different in each, and duties are different; but the hunger for truth is the same in both, the spiritual will the same.

The first thing a woman has to learn, when she studies the laws governing her life, is that there is a negative and a positive quality in human nature, and that negative women are always imposed upon. They are forever sacrificing their lives to no beneficial result, forever bearing children in disharmony, who must later suffer just as they have done. For there is no balance in their lives; there is no justice.

On the other hand, when a woman begins to live the higher life, and live it positively, forcefully and fully, the very atmosphere of her presence silences the meanest and most selfish efforts of her opposers.

You cannot make over the world in a moment, nor can you change woman's life in a moment. Realizing the mistakes that have been made all down the ages, therefore, let woman become acquainted with herself. Let her not become so anxious to succeed, however, that she loses her balance, and let her above all remember that the crucifixions in human life have often proved to be its blessings.

Let the woman who finds herself unhappily married, or suffering from conditions brought about through marriage, remember that these things came about because she was not acquainted with herself. When the time for choice drew near, had she known how to accentuate in her life the positive quality, the power of intuition — the great spiritual factor in life — would have illumined her mind. It would have brought to her a knowledge not only of her weakness but also of her strength.

In studying themselves men and women should first of all study their nature in its duality — the play and interplay of the higher and the lower self. This step taken, they should then search out their greatest weaknesses, as revealed in the light of such study, and courageously begin to overcome them. This initiates a great process of purification, and with a devotional attitude of mind behind the self-analysis, a double work is going on: an inner work and an outer.

How many can analyze themselves, or bring about a living unity between themselves and their life? Far too many live in their puny prejudices and their wants. "What I want" is the mantram of civilization at the present day — so rarely "what I need" or "what civilization demands."

Even among very diverse types of people the same thing is often lacking in each, namely, the strong spiritual will. This should be the moving power in every human being, but in most men and women, through lack of understanding and of exercise, it is too weak to amount to a real force in directing the life. Until aroused to some understanding of the spiritual will and thus set upon the right track — which is that of self-directed evolution, spiritual self-reliance, in a word — we cannot know ourselves; nor can we realize who or what we are, or know what part we are to play in life. We cannot touch even the fringe of spiritual truth.

I believe that one of woman's greatest weaknesses is the fact that she does not discriminate, often, between true sympathy and false. And false sympathy is one of the greatest of all stumbling blocks in the soul's path — one's own path or that of another. To make this weak point strong, woman must study her nature in its duality, for without this knowledge one is often helpless to discriminate between the pull of the emotions, which disintegrate and exhaust, and the urge of true sympathy, which is supremely spiritual in its power.

Sympathy is always imaginative, bringing to us true pictures and true knowledge of the work of aid which lies before us. Sympathy makes human minds so plastic that words are hardly needed to find out the cause of another's trouble. Sympathy translates itself into action almost without the aid of human speech.

I hold that the injustice which is now so marked in human life is based on the misuse of these two words, "my rights." Absence of real unselfishness and of love for duty is so marked that duty as a fact and an ideal has not the place it should have in human hearts and minds.

I hold that if women were rightly placed today — or if they had rightly placed themselves, realizing their deeper potentialities, their divine possibilities, and their sacred mission — the world would not be so all awry. There would be real cooperation between women and men, a better understanding of each other's natures, and a new line of higher living for both. This must come about if the dream of world reconstruction is to be made a living fact.

But it is impossible and would be most unjust to say that woman is to be blamed, or that man must be. It is the unnatural conditions in general human life today that too often hem woman in and hold her down, causing unrest and consequent unhappiness. These conditions react upon man; the unrest thus created reacts in its turn upon woman, and the combined influence of their mutual unrest and doubt falls upon the children, the home — and the nation.

In endeavoring to urge upon women a profounder recognition of all that pertains to the unfolding of their higher natures, I hold that were a real effort to be made towards this end by men and women working together, the twentieth century would mark the beginning of a great spiritual uplift on absolutely new lines.

Woman has it within her power to become a pillar of spiritual strength, and the great rising temple of humanity is waiting in the silence of things for just the support that she is so qualifed to give. Shall she therefore step forth in the royal dignity of the higher self and take up the duty of the hour — or fail? She must do one or the other, for there is no possibility of standing still. Mighty currents of disintegration are sweeping into the heart-life of humanity at the present time, created by the prevailing spirit of unrest and in their turn creating more unrest, and those who will not enter the great divine currents of unselfishness and love will be swept down and away. Disintegration of character along most unexpected lines is one of the signs of the times. Yet the dawn of better things is near.

Keep the light burning in your hearts, and like watchers on the hills of peace you will see the first faint gleams of the new day ere you dream the day is at hand.

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

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    There is a greatness, an aristocracy in the soul of man. It will suffer the setting of no limit but such as it shares with the gods. Firstly it disdains a lowly home —an Ephesus, an Alexandria or other patch of earth, if there be such, yet more thickly populated and more architecturally blest. Its home's a realm whose frontiers encircle the universal and supreme. It's all yonder vault within which lie seas and lands, within which the air forms at once a link and a barrier between human and divine, in which countless sentinel luminaries are posted, moving sleeplessly upon their rounds.
    Secondly, it accepts no pinched dole of life. "All the years," it says, "are mine. No age is shut against great intellects, no time is impenetrable to thought. When the day comes which is to dissolve this compound of divine and human, I shall leave the body where I found it and give myself back to the gods. They're about me even now, but I'm laden and earth-bound." — Seneca, Letters to Lucilius