The Path of the Mystic: Art & Theosophy at Lomaland


In 1897, Katherine Tingley established her utopian cultural and communal experiment, the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society, on a chaparral-covered ridge on San Diego’s Point Loma peninsula. Under Tingley’s leadership, the community’s residents transformed this dusty, seaside plot of land—popularly known as Lomaland—into a lush, vibrant “White City” that became a center of learning, culture and social reform.

Tingley’s progressive Theosophical vision, which placed strong emphasis on cultural pursuits including music, dance, drama, literature and visual art, attracted artists from the United States and abroad. As the community developed, many artists came to live and work at Lomaland, including Marguerite Lemke Barton, Grace “Gay” Betts, Maurice Braun, Benjamin Gordon, Leonard Lester, Marian Plummer Lester, Reginald Willoughby Machell, and Edith White.

The establishment of the Theosophical Society in Point Loma marks an important period in San Diego’s art history and cultural development, as it fostered a developing art community in its earliest stages. The Path of the Mystic: Art and Theosophy at Lomaland features a selection of artworks, objects, photographs and archival documents from the San Diego History Center’s collections that bring to light the remarkable legacy of art and cultural production at Lomaland, and how Tingley’s utopian experiment profoundly shaped San Diego’s cultural landscape.