Theosophy: The Path of the Mystic

Katherine Tingley

First Edition copyright © 1922; Third & Revised Edition copyright © 1977 by Theosophical University Press (print version also available). Electronic version ISBN 1-55700-074-3. All rights reserved. This edition may be downloaded for off-line viewing without charge. No part of this publication may be reproduced for commercial or other use in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior permission of Theosophical University Press. For ease of searching, no diacritical marks appear in this electronic version of the text.



Who was Katherine Tingley? The truly faithful evaluation of a life is not easily come by, for who can know the inner motivation of another, the wellspring of aspiration that moves to thought and deed? That Katherine Tingley was a "lover of mankind," a philanthropist in the most profound meaning of the word, is without question, for her entire life was an outpouring of compassion for all who suffer.

Born in 1847 in Newbury, Massachusetts, close to the Merrimac she loved so well, Catharine Augusta Westcott was reared in an atmosphere of culture. But even as a child she was haunted by the poverty and misery of the immigrants who came to work the land, by the gaunt and hopeless faces of prisoners and, in her early teens, by the "vileness and terror of war." In 1861, shortly after the outbreak of hostilities between the States, her father's regiment was stationed in Virginia, and the conditions she and her brother witnessed day after day so affected the sensitive girl that one night she could stand it no longer and stole out with her old nurse to tend the wounds of the returning soldiers, giving what comfort she could.

A lonely child, she would spend long hours under the giant oaks and pines on the river's edge, dreaming dreams. Though her family loved her, they did not understand her — with the exception of her maternal grandfather, a mystic and Freemason. Always he Iistened, confident that one day she would realize her vision of building a "city" in the Golden West.

The years were to bring much personal sorrow, but this only deepened her sympathies for the downtrodden, and strengthened her determination to do something practical, something that would eradicate the causes of their appalling plight. As she had no explanation for the cruel inequities she met with at every turn, she worked all the harder to relieve what distress she could. In the early 1890s she organized a Women's Emergency Relief Association in New York and also, in one of the worst slum areas on the Eastside of the city, a Do-Good Mission.

One morning, when she had turned the Mission into a temporary relief station for feeding and clothing the families of destitute strikers, she noticed on the far edge of the crowd a gentleman observing her. When she tried to contact him, thinking that possibly he also was in need, he was gone. A day or so later, he presented his card at her home: William Q. Judge. They talked, and when he told her, "your work is Theosophy," she replied that the word meant little to her — "I only know that humanity needs broader views of life." She was cautious, as too many times she had been disappointed. But the teachings of reincarnation and karma, and that man is inherently divine and not "born in sin," had taken hold, and soon she knew that here was the hope and promise she had longed for; here was a philosophy which, if practiced, could lighten the burdens of "poor, storm-tossed humanity."

Katherine Tingley and William Q. Judge became co-workers, and upon his death in March, 1896, she succeeded him as head of the Theosophical Society. The next month at the Annual Convention of American theosophists held at Madison Square Garden, New York, her intent to establish an educational center that would restore a knowledge of the sacred mysteries of antiquity was revealed. By June, capacity crowds at Boston and New York learned of her world-tour to bring the message of theosophy to all classes: a message of hope, of another chance, of the dignity of every human being, and of brotherhood and peace. These were the themes she would reiterate in nearly every public lecture until her passing in Sweden thirty-three years later.

The Raja-Yoga School, Academy and College at Point Loma, California, was Katherine Tingley's most noted humanitarian achievement. This was the fulfillment of her long-held dream of children, almost from infancy, being taught music, drama, and the arts as an intrinsic part of character building. A life of service and sharing was regarded as the natural expression of the balanced individual.

In retrospect, while her school no longer exists, the ideals she projected with incredible genius live into the future — seeding the thought-consciousness of the world with the vision of a new type of civilization in which all the faculties, physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual, would develop in harmony.

Far-reaching and significant as Katherine Tingley's educational activities were, in Cuba, Britain, Sweden and America, they constituted only a portion of the responsibilities she carried as international leader of a worldwide Theosophical Society. Not least of these was the expansion of the printing and publishing facilities to meet the growing demand for theosophical books and magazines. To her, theosophy never became a "system of sterile thought," but remained always "a light, a teacher, a companion, ever calling to compassionate action, ever urging to higher things." This was the keynote of her life mission, as it is of the present volume.

Theosophy: The Path of the Mystic is the quintessence of the theosophic wisdom that Katherine Tingley imbodied in letters, private group sessions, in talks with prisoners, students and faculty, as well as in public lectures delivered all across America and throughout the world. The book is not a text; rather it is a mosaic of suggestions and hints for daily living, with the appeal always to the higher, altruistic side of the nature, never to the lower, personal self. In the words of the compiler, Grace Knoche (1871-1962), a long-time student under Katherine Tingley it is "for the seeker, the inquirer, the mystic; for those who have touched the great problem of sorrow and would gladly make their lives count in service to their fellows if they could only find the way."

Originally published in 1922, Theosophy: The Path of the Mystic was well received, and also appeared in several European languages, but for years it has been unavailable. It is now reissued with minimal editing in the conviction that the message of this great esotericist speaks directly to the soul, to the inward yearning of every man and woman for assurance that there is a compassionate purpose to life; that there is a path, and that all of us can find it in our everyday lives if we dare to bring forth the divinely human qualities that are innately ours.

Grace F. Knoche

Pasadena, California
July 6, 1977

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