Tingley, Katherine (Augusta Westcott) (1847-1929)

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Tingley, Katherine (Augusta Westcott) (1847-1929)

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., 1929.

. 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.