Percival, Harold Waldwin (1868-1953)

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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, 1951.

. Masonry and Its Symbols. New York: Word Publishing, 1952.

. Thinking of Destiny. New York: Word Publishing, 1946.

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Percival, Harold Waldwin (1868-1953)

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