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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Katherine Tingley was born on July 6, 1847, in Newbury, Massachusetts. In 1894, while working at her relief mission in New York City, she met William Q. Judge who introduced her to theosophy. Upon Judge's death in 1896 she succeeded him as head of the Theosophical Society. In 1900 she moved its international headquarters to Point Loma, California, where she founded the Raja-Yoga School, Academy, and College, and in 1919 Theosophical University. Her other major activities included prison reform, work for international peace, musical and dramatic productions, and the publication of theosophical books and magazines. Throughout her administration she lectured extensively in the United States and abroad until shortly before her death in 1929.
Too long have we been thrall to the "blinding and crippling tyranny of creeds and dogmas." It's time to step out of the shadow of fear and self-doubt and claim "the freedom to breathe the broad sweet air of life and find infinity within ourselves; . . . we are immortal, inheritors of all the good in the universe" (pp. 12-13). The Gods Await by Katherine Tingley is an urgent call to all of us to do just this. Wrung from the compassionate heart of one who worked tirelessly to restore dignity and hope to the disinherited of soul and of body, her plea is for recognition that every human being — no matter what his circumstances or how he may have stumbled and fallen — is of divine lineage, capable of untold possibilities of attainment if his finer impulses are encouraged and his baser instincts gentled and controlled.
The material here is drawn from extemporaneous talks to capacity audiences in Europe and America and to her students. An inspired speaker, Katherine Tingley challenged her listeners to heights of nobility they had never imagined they could achieve. Riffle the pages at random and you'll find glints of pure inspiration, practical wisdom, straight-from-the-shoulder commentary, understanding, largeness of vision and, running throughout, a profound identity with those who suffer.
An altruist by nature and by deed, in the early 1890s on New York City's East Side she set up soup kitchens and emergency relief missions, and later she established philanthropic organizations for orphaned children, unwed mothers, and destitute families. Years of ministering to the poor and disadvantaged found her increasingly disheartened by the enormity of the task to relieve the frightful burden of those trapped in circumstances over which they had no control. "I felt my heart almost at breaking-point to see so much keen misery and to know that all I could do was so wretchedly little, so ineffectual to lift them out of their present trouble and keep them secure against as bad or worse tomorrow or the next day" (pp. 63-4).
One day during the 1892-3 cloakmakers' strike in New York City William Q. Judge [Co-Founder of The Theosophical Society and General Secretary of its American Section.] called at her home. A silent witness to her relief efforts, he had intuited her longing for some satisfying explanation of the cruel injustices she daily encountered, for a philosophy not only broad and compassionate enough to allow for independent thinking but also practical enough to strike at causes rather than merely at effects. He told her of theosophy with its comprehensive worldview; that a spark of the Divine resides in the least as well as the greatest, in every life form of all of nature's kingdoms. This caught her interest, for to her nature was a sacred temple, every part a living god incarnate on earth for a divine purpose. She embraced the idea of reincarnation as a just and compassionate means of giving everyone a chance, not only to rebuild his character but also to right wrongs done to himself and against others; and of karma — as ye sow, so shall ye reap — as a universal law that acts on every plane, whether the god realms or the world of molecules and cells. As for the beleaguered of soul, everyone, no matter how degraded he may have become, has within him a divine spark and the god-given power to learn from his mistakes and change himself. We need no intercessor to save our soul: we are our own destroyer, our own savior.
With such a philosophy to live by, her outlook and life underwent a profound change. She joined The Theosophical Society and became closely associated with Judge. When he died in March 1896, Katherine Tingley succeeded him as the leading theosophical official. Within a few months she embarked upon a world tour, holding "brotherhood suppers" en route wherever possible; her moving account of her meeting with H. P. Blavatsky's teacher in India "placed a talisman in our hands" (p. 129). She took note of those whom she might later on invite to help her build not only an international center of theosophic light, but also the school for children she had long dreamed of. On her return to New York — via Point Loma, California, where she had purchased land for future use — she founded the International Brotherhood League to consolidate and expand her philanthropic activities, reorganized the Society under the name "Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society," all the while continuing rescue work where disaster had struck.
In 1900, with the removal of the Society's international headquarters from New York City to Point Loma, her childhood vision of a city in the Golden West slowly and steadily was realized. Here she would rear a citizenry in the atmosphere of the Mysteries of ancient Greece, where music, drama, and the arts would be an essential part of the scholastic curriculum and where high ethics would be instilled. To this center poets, writers, educators, businessmen, ministers, physicians, and skilled and unskilled workers were invited — they came as "students" to learn and to offer their devotion and talents to building a center of education for children and adults that would develop all the faculties, spiritual, mental, moral, and physical. Imbodying the noblest ideals of manhood and womanhood, the school, it was hoped, would herald the day when wars and their progeny of evils would be unthinkable, and peace and brotherhood universally practiced.
Chief among her philanthropies was prison work— the cause and cure of crime and the rehabilitation of inmates were an absorbing concern. From 1911 to 1929 The New Way, an eight-page folio-size magazine, was produced and circulated free "for prisoners and others whether behind the bars or not." Its editors gave theosophical ideas in a variety of forms, stressing individual responsibility and that regeneration was always possible, regardless how horrendous the crime, if one had the will and desire to change one's thinking and attitudes.
Probably no cause was closer to Katherine Tingley than peace, for without it there can be no stability; without stability, the home life and children suffer. Everything is interlinked. Her personal encounters at a very young age with the "vileness of war" and its heartless and maiming fallout, had left permanent scars on her sensitive nature. The horror and pain she witnessed among soldiers on both sides in the Civil War had transformed her into a fervent advocate of peace and brotherhood among all nations and races, reinforcing her conviction that children at an early age should learn of the beauty and promise of peace before they are tainted with the "glory" of battle. Notable among her peace efforts was a series of Peace Congresses and Parliaments from 1913 through the '20s.
Tingley's benevolent causes were legion, her way of making theosophy "immensely serviceable," wherever it was needed most: against vivisection and its devastating abuses; against the death penalty — not only to allow the prisoners on Death Row an opportunity to live and reshape their lives, but also because of its degrading and sometimes disastrous influence on humanity, even at times on the unborn; and against the prevailing war syndrome that every conflict of wills has in the end to be solved by violence. No detail was too small for her to check, no idea too grandiose for her to attempt to implement if the timing was right.
In 1926 when The Gods Await was first published, it was warmly received and translated into several languages, but within three years the author died and her books gradually went out of print. Today, six decades later, many are looking to Katherine Tingley for a practical presentation of basic theosophic ideas in clear, inspirational language, and for fresh leads in the areas of home life and education. To help meet the need, Theosophical University Press has issued a revised edition of The Gods Await as a companion volume to the author's first book, Theosophy: The Path of the Mystic (3rd edition 1977). The revision was done with perceptive skill by Sarah Belle Dougherty and TUP's editorial and printing staffs. Both books carry forward the salient message that we human beings are not sinners, doomed to failure, but beings of light, kin to the immortals, capable of royal conquests of the soul if we but dare to believe in our god-selves.
— GRACE F. KNOCHE
March 21, 1992
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