Tingley, Katherine (Augusta Westcott)
Prominent American Theosophist who founded a Theosophical
community at Point Loma, California. Tingley was
born on July 6, 1847, at Newburyport, Massachusetts, and was
educated at a public school in Newburyport and under a private
instructress. She took an early interest in social work before
becoming active in the fields of Spiritualism and later
Theosophy. In 1887, she formed the Society of Mercy (concerned
with emergency relief work on New York’s East Side).
At this time she became known as a Spiritualist medium.
Through her social work she met theosophist William Q.
Judge, who made a profound impression on her. With the
sponsorship of Judge, one of the co-founders of the Theosophical
Society, she quickly became an important figure in the
American branch.
After the death of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in 1891,
Judge led the majority of American Theosophists in a secession
from the international society then headed by Annie Besant
and Henry S. Olcott. Judge died in March 1896, and his independent
Theosophical Society in America stated that he had
nominated a successor, referred to in symbolic language as
‘‘The Purple Mother.’’ A month later, E. T. Hargrove, then
president of the Theosophical Society in America, confirmed
that ‘‘The Purple Mother’’ was Katherine Tingley.
Soon afterward, Tingley began a World Crusade for Theosophy,
during which she claimed to have encountered a theosophical
master in Darjeeling. Upon returning to the United
States, she founded the School for the Revival of the Lost Mysteries
of Antiquity, at Point Loma, California. She also founded
the Universal Brotherhood organization, and after taking
charge of the Theosophical Society, she merged it with the Universal
Brotherhood. Permanent headquarters were established
at Point Loma, San Diego, California, in 1900.
During the Spanish-American War, Katherine Tingley organized
the War Relief Corps and established an emergency hospital
on Long Island for soldiers wounded in Cuba. In 1899 the
International Brotherhood League, a department of the Theosophical
Society, undertook relief work in Cuba. Later, Tingley
visited Cuba and brought a group of children to Point Loma
for education. She was first obliged to prove the financial and
moral competence of the society to take charge of the children.
She was funded by the U.S. government to establish hospitals
in Cuba, and in 1925 was awarded the Medal of Honor of the
German Red Cross. In 1924 she established a summer school
for children at Visingsoe, Sweden, and in the following year,
she opened seven new Theosophical Centers in Europe.
Tingley was editor of Theosophical Path, published at Point
Loma, as well as other Theosophical magazines in Holland,
Germany, and Sweden. She also founded The New Way, a
monthly magazine for free distribution to prisoners in penitentiaries
and jails.
She died July 11, 1929, in Sweden, after an automobile accident
in Germany, and was succeeded at the Point Loma community
by Dr. Gottfried de Purucker. The community survived
until World War II when a combination of financial difficulties
and the strategic position of the community’s land on the Point
Loma peninsula led to its sale. The property is now the site of
a college.
Greenwalt, Emmett A. California Utopia Point Loma,
1897–1942. San Diego, 1978.
Tingley, Katherine. The Gods Await. Point Loma, Calif.,
———. Theosophy and Some of the Vital Problems of the Day.
N.p., 1915.
———. Theosophy, The Path of the Mystic. Point Loma, Calif.,
1922. Reprint, Pasadena, Calif. Theosophical University
Press, 1977.
———. The Voice of the Soul. Point Loma, Calif., 1928.
———. The Wine of Life. Point Loma, Calif. Woman’s International
Theosophical League, 1925.
———. The Wisdom of the Heart Katherine Tingley Speaks.
Compiled by W. Emmett Small. San Diego, 1978.

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