Percival, Harold Waldwin (1868–1953)
Harold W. Percival, Theosophist and founder of the Word
Foundation, was born April 15, 1868, at his parents’ plantation
near Bridgetown, Barbados, in the British West Indies. He
lived on Barbados until his father’s death when Harold was ten;
he then moved with his mother to Boston and later New York
City. As a youth he rejected the Christianity of his parents, and
once in New York he discovered Theosophy and in 1892
joined the American Theosophical Society under the leadership
of William Q. Judge. Four years later Judge died, and the
society experienced a period of disruption in large part by
members who rejected the leadership of Katherine Tingley,
whom Judge wished to succeed him. Percival was among the
members in New York City who left to found the independent
Theosophical Society of New York. Percival founded the Theosophical
Publishing Company of New York and emerged as a
major writer, publisher, and distributor of theosophical literature.
In 1904 Percival launched the Word, which became the official
journal of the Theosophical Society of New York. He wrote
several books, including The Zodiac (1906), Karma The Law of
Life (1910), and Hell and Heaven, on Earth and After Death (1911).
Increasingly during his years with the Theosophical Society
of New York, Percival worked on creating his own synthesis of
knowledge. The beginning point of his thought was a personal
mystical experience that had occurred in 1893. He described
what happened to him as becoming ‘‘conscious of Consciousness.’’
It was an experience he had a number of times over the
years. As early as 1902 he attempted to explain his experience
in terms of Theosophy, and by 1912 was outlining a book that
would contain his developing synthesis. He dictated the massive
volume to a colleague, Benoni B. Gattell. A first edition appeared
in 1932 as The Law of Thought. A completely rewritten
edition appeared in 1946 as Thinking and Destiny. He subsequently
published three books expanding upon topics in light
of his system Man and Woman and Child (1951), Masonry and Its
Symbols (1952), and Democracy Is Self-Government (1952).
Percival believed that the state of being conscious of Consciousness
allowed one to know about any subject simply by taking
thought of that subject. Thinking, he defined, is the ‘‘steady
holding of the Conscious Light within on the subject of the
thinking. Briefly stated, thinking is of four stages selecting the
subject; holding the Conscious Light on that subject; focusing
the Light; and the focus of the Light. When the Light is focused,
the subject is known.’’
In 1946 Percival founded the Word Publishing Company to
print and distribute his books. In 1950 he founded the Word
Foundation to perpetuate his teachings. The company and
foundation have continued in the years since Percival’s death
on March 6, 1953.
Percival, Harold W. Democracy Is Self-Government. New York
Word Publishing, 1952.
———. Man and Woman and Child. New York Word Publishing,
———. Masonry and Its Symbols. New York Word Publishing,
———. Thinking of Destiny. New York Word Publishing,