- Tingley, Katherine
- (Augusta Westcott)(1847–1929)American Theosophical leaderKatherine Augusta Westcott served as the head of the American Theosophical Society after it broke with Annie Wood BESANT (1847–1933).Westcott was born in Newburyport, Massa-chusetts. Privately educated, she became inter-ested in social work and founded the Society of Mercy, a relief organization on New York City’s impoverished East Side.Through her social work, she met William Q. Judge (1851–96), cofounder of the Theosophi-cal Society. In 1891, another cofounder, Helena Petrovna BLAVATSKY (1831–91) died. Previously, she and the third co-founder, Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907), had moved to India, where each had absorbed elements of the Indian spiritual environment. Through the early 1890s, Judge challenged the role of Besant, a relatively new member of the society who emerged as head of its important Esoteric Section, in which Bla-vatsky had taught psychic development and occult practices.Judge’s challenge of Besant led the majority of the American section to break with the interna-tional society. Before he died in 1896 Judge desig-nated Tingley, whom he had seen as a capable and dedicated leader, as his successor. Tingley stepped into her role immediately and traveled the globe on a World Crusade for Theosophy. When she returned to America, she set up headquarters at Point Loma at San Diego, California, where she founded the School for the Revival of the Lost Mysteries of Antiquity.Tingley led the Theosophical Society in an interesting direction, mixing esoteric teach-ings with an experiment in communal living at Point Loma and developing a variety of outward-directed programs in the community. Among the more interesting programs was a relief work effort in Cuba that included taking a group of Cuban children to Point Loma.Theosophy is basically a Western esoteric teaching, but it resonated with Hinduism at a variety of points. Most notably, it shared an understanding of the individual as essentially a substantial soul that reincarnated in different bodies through time. The youth division of the school at Point Loma was designated the Raja Yoga College, a designation Tingley took from the SANSKRIT sense of “royal union.” She saw true edu-cation to consist in the harmonious development and balancing of all human faculties. As taught at the school, raja yoga was a system for developing psychic, intellectual, and spiritual powers and a union with one’s higher self (the inner divine source of all).The Tingley-led Theosophical Society opposed the emphasis placed on the role of Jiddu KRISH-NAMURTI (1895–1986). Besant’s designation of Krishnamurti as the vehicle of the World Savior in the 1920s attracted many new supporters to the international Theosophical Society, though most left when in 1929 Krishnamurti rejected his con-nection with Theosophy. Tingley’s organization was crippled by Tingley’s death in July 1929 in an automobile accident in Germany, and by the col-lapse of the stock market in October that year that plunged the world into an economic depression.Tingley led every activity at Point Loma, and during her life the society flourished, though her inability to delegate authority and her neglect of the organization’s other centers became evi-dent after her death. The society remained vital through the 1930s but lost the land at Point Loma during World War II. In the later half of the 20th century, the International Theosophical Society recovered the support of the majority of American Theosophists.Further reading: Bruce F. Campbell, A History of the Theosophical Movement (Berkeley: University of Cali-fornia Press, 1980); Emmet A. Greenwalt, California Utopia: Point Loma, 1897–1942 (San Diego: Point Loma, 1978); Katherine Tingley, Theosophy: The Path of the Mystic (Pasadena, Calif.: Theosophical University Press, 1977); ———, The Wine of Life (Point Loma, Calif.: Woman’s International Theosophical League, 1925); ———, The Wisdom of the Heart: Katherine Tingley Speaks. Compiled by Emmet Small (Point Loma, Calif.: Point Loma, 1978).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.