The interview that follows was given by Mr. Harris in 1971 to Mr. Robert Wright, who has conducted a number of valuable interviews for the San Diego Historical Society, and who also devotes much of his time in support of the restoration and showing of the Star of India. One notable change that has taken place since the date of the interview is that the site of the Point Loma community has passed from the possession of United States International University to Point Loma College.
“My name is Iverson L. Harris. I was Iverson Junior until my father passed on in 1921. I was born in Macon, Georgia, on August 30,1890.”
“When did you get involved with the Theosophical Institute?”
“My father was President of the Macon branch of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society, which at that time conducted what is called a Lotus Circle, or Theosophical Sunday School; and in the official weekly magazine of the Society dated December 25, 1897, there is a report of a speech in the Lotus Circle that Iverson Harris, Jr. made at the special jubilee session of the Society when Mrs. Mayer, who was international leader or directress of the Lotus Circles, arrived in Macon. They had a special entertainment for her. She later became Mrs. A. G. Spalding.14 That’s the first public record of my connection with the Theosophical Society.”
“Did you really take to it? Was it something that already had a hold on your life- that type of thing?”
“I think there is no doubt about that. It was almost destined; because in 1899 there was the first Congress of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society held on Point Loma, even before the headquarters was moved there. My father was a Cabinet officer in the Society. Sitting at breakfast in Macon one day with my mother, my sister and myself, he asked, ‘Which of you would like to go to the Congress with me?’ Well, my mother was not at all interested in Theosophy at that time, and my sister was going to high school and didn’t want to leave her friends; so I piped up and said, ‘Dad, sure, I’d like to go.’ He said, ‘Why do you want to go?’ I said, ‘Well, in my geography book there are beautiful pictures of California oranges and I’d like to go to the country where there are plenty of California oranges.”‘
“Then I attended the Congress at Point Loma with my father. It lasted about a week in April 1899—April 9 on for about a week. Of course, I was just a child and didn’t understand all of the high metaphysics, but everybody made much of me as a kid. My father was very prominent in the work.
“Every night during the Congress, Madame Tingley put on a presentation at the temporary grandstand erected on the top of the hill—put on the Greek drama of ‘The Eumenides.’ Of course, it takes a rather highly educated person, even as an adult, to follow the dialogue of one of Aeschylus’ great dramas. I used to go to sleep in the lap of the doctor’s wife there and I asked her to please wake me up when Athena and the white horses came in. That’s the only thing I remember about ‘The Eumenides’ at that time. Later on we gave it several times at Point Loma and I had a better understanding of it; but Athena and the white horses—they were the one thing I wanted to see when she came in in her chariot with the white horses.”
“This Congress was held at Point Loma?”
“At Point Loma. On what later became the headquarters grounds.”
“And the Institute was already there? The buildings and so forth?”
“Only Dr. Wood’s 15 sanitorium at that time. He had built the sanitorium a year or so before and that’s where all of the delegates stayed. It was turned into a hotel for that occasion. It was so crowded I remember I slept in a room with five gentlemen from Georgia. At that time the water supply was very limited. The little pumping station pumped water in wooden pipes up the hill; and about every morning the able-bodied men would have to go out to the reservoir and pump the water by hand up to the storage tank in the top floor of what was then the Point Loma House.”
“Where was the water pumped from?”
“From San Diego to a little pumping station on what is now Catalina Boulevard. It’s still there—four or five times bigger now—and I imagine today it works regularly to supply water; but at that time it would pump two or three times a week and quit, when there was water in the reservoir.”
“I thought maybe there was fresh water out on the Point, and they pumped water from a well?”
“No, it was a reservoir, part of the San Diego water supply. At that time the pipes were wooden bound with metal cords and half the pipes were split open and only a fraction of the water supply ever reached our reservoir at the top of the hill. But that of course was in pioneer days and things are much more satisfactory now.
“You said 1899?”
“1899, yes. Dr. Wood’s Sanitorium I think was built between 1897 and 1898; so it was already erected when the Congress was called in 1899.”
“The main buildings then were already there?”
“No, just that main building and a few little tents around it. That was the only main building then. In 1900 Madame Tingley moved the headquarters of the Society from New York to Point Loma. In 1900 she built the beautiful—hat was then called the Aryan Memorial Temple and other buildings.16Group homes for the children in the school began to be erected quite readily. The school was started in 1900 and I was one of the first five pupils. The other four were Mr. and Mrs. Walter Hanson’s daughters, also from Macon, Georgia. Mr. Hanson and my father had been very active together in starting Theosophical work in Georgia. As I said, his four daughters and I were the first five children in the school. Very shortly thereafter Madame Tingley brought quite a number of Cuban children to the school. She had done relief work in Cuba after the Spanish-American War, starting with a temporary hospital at Montauk Point on Long Island in New York, where she and her helpers took care of the soldiers who came back from Cuba. They were very ill, because the medical equipment of our Army at that time was very, very poor. More of them died from malaria than died from Spanish wounds. Well, the work that she and her helpers carried on at Montauk Point attracted the attention of General Joseph Wheeler and President McKinley, and McKinley supplied a transport from the U.S. Navy, the transport S.S. Berlin that took Madame Tingley and her staff of physicians and nurses to Santiago de Cuba at the close of the war to help with relief work there. She was warmly welcomed by the Mayor of Santiago, Senor Emilio Bacardi, who sponsored her work in every way. Later his two daughters became students at the Raja Yoga School at Point Loma. In fact, I carry on a correspondence today with his daughter. Lucia. She is now living with her husband in Monte Carlo, Monaco. She is my closest correspondent. But that began way back in 1906, as I recall. Senor Bacardf collected quite a number of Cuban children, most of them destitute, and Madame Tingley sponsored bringing them to Point Loma for educating, clothing and feeding, so that in all exactly 100 Cubans were educated at Point Loma. I say 100—actually 10 of them came from Panama or Mexico—but fully 90 Cuban children came to Point Loma to be educated. mostly, at the beginning anyway, at the expense of the Society. Later, more affluent people, pleased with the education the children were getting, sent their own children and paid for their board and tuition; but I would say at least 75% of the Cuban children were given free board, lodging and education on the same basis as the people who paid full tuition. Just the day before yesterday I received a letter from another of the Cuban students, Senora Octavia Franco de Boudet, who is now a refugee in Miami, speaking most enthusiastically of the influence that Madame Tingley and the Society had had on her life and the lives of her children and her grandchildren. And in yesterday’s mail, a letter from two other refugees from Cuba, Enrique Columbie and his wife, Emilia. I just opened the letter this morning. They are living now in Los Angeles and are full of appreciation for what Point Loma did for them.”
“Are there people in San Diego now who were students of the Society?”
“Oh yes. Yes, indeed. Take Emmett Small living over at 3727 Charles Street on Point Loma. He was brought to Point Loma by his mother when he was about two years old. He was educated and grew up there and has been active in the work ever since. He is now the editor of our new publication called the Eclectic Theosophist and he is the Vice-President and Secretary of our newly formed educational and religious non-profit organization called Point Loma Publications, Inc. His lovely wife was born at Point Loma in 1918. They raised a fine family of two daughters, who are now teachers, and a son who is attending Mesa College here.”
“Is there anybody else?”
“There is Gordon Plummer, my brother-in-law, who is very active in the San Diego Scientific Society here and just last year he published a book called The Mathematics of the Cosmic Mind, which is having a fine sale, beautifully illustrated with his own symbolic designs. He is excellent in science and in mathematics, especially astronomy, and is one of the best lecturers on Theosophy in the whole country. His wife had been a married lady; she wasn’t at Point Loma. He was born at Point Loma, as a matter of fact. His father, and my wife’s father, was Colonel Fred G. Plummer, who was the chief geographer of the U.S. Forest Service. He and his wife were both dedicated Theosophists. He continued his work at the Forest Service in Washington, associated with Gifford Pinchot, and Gordon and his twin sister, Gertrude, were born at Point Loma in 1904. Gertrude lives in Los Angeles and his older sister, Marian, who painted the picture of my wife, is still active out here in Mission Beach. She married an English artist by the name of Leonard Lester, who passed on. She has her studio in Mission Beach. Her name is Marian Lester.”
“I wanted to ask you—I don’t know much about the Theosophical Society itself. What is the basis of it? What is it all about anyway?”
“If I were a good Methodist, I should know what a good Methodist is, but that’s a tall question. We maintain that the Theosophical Movement (as distinct from the Theosophical Society) has been in existence from all time; that it is the fountain-source from which all great religions have sprung. Madame Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine states in the preface that the teachings which she presents are not hers; paraphrasing Montaigne, she says, ‘I have here made only a nosegay of culled flowers, and have brought nothing of my own but the string that ties them.’ We find a similar line of spiritual teaching and metaphysical explanation of Cosmogenesis and Anthropogenesis going through all the great, religions. 17 These go back to the Upanishads and the Vedas, and to the teachings of the Buddha in India and of Confucius and Lao-tse in China and of Sankaracharya again of India, and Zoroaster and to a lesser degree the teachings of Mohammed; and of course we come to the basic Christian doctrines 18 I am not talking about any of the dogmas that have come up since. I mean the actual teachings of Christ and of the Gnostics 19 from whom many of these teachings are derived, and also the high spiritual teachings of the Egyptian religion, and of Socrates and Pythagoras and Plato, and Giordano Bruno; 20 that coming all down the line there are certain basic fundamental, ethical and metaphysical teachings that run through them all. As Madame Blavatsky puts it, Theosophy is the string that ties them together and shows the underlying basic principles of all of them. Now, she says in the Key to Theosophy that the Theosophical Society is the continuation of the work of the Theosophical system formed in Alexandria by Ammonius Saccas and his followers, Porphyry and Plotinus and the great Alexandrian Neo-Platonists; 21 and then in the Theosophical Movement running through the Middle Ages there were Paracelsus and Jacob Boehme and other great mystics of his time 22 Coming down to the present Theosophical Society as it is at the present time, it was founded in New York City in 1875 by Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Colonel Henry S. Olcott, William Q. Judge, and others. Madame Blavatsky herself was a high-born Russian lady, granddaughter of the Princess Dolgorouky. She was endowed from childhood with rather unusual intellectual and spiritual gifts. In 1875 she gathered around her a few other sympathetic minds and spirits and formed the Theosophical Society. The Point Loma Society is one of the main offsprings of that organization founded in 1875 in New York.”
“I see. How would you translate this into everyday living? How can you apply this religion, if you want to call it that, to today, and how can you … ?”
“I would say that it is the basic fundamental solution to the problems that confront us everywhere. Our teachers have maintained that human selfishness is at the bottom of all our difficulties. One of the main purposes of Theosophy from the standpoint of individual living is to try to transform this personality of ours into impersonal service to our fellowmen by purifying our own physical living, our mental living, our spiritual aspirations, so that we learn by degrees more and more to unite ourselves with the God within us. As Christ said: ‘Know you not that ye are Gods and that the Spirit of God dwells within you?’ It is our effort to try to transmute these lower instincts of ours into unity with the God within us! That was the meaning of Raja Yoga: Yoga is the union of the personal man with the immortal individuality. It is a long, slow process, but is is an extremely joyous and satisfying process. Today, our Point Loma Publications, which we started to perpetuate the work, has in the press a book called Golden Preceptswritten by Dr. G. de Purucker. At 5:00 a.m. this morning I finished reading the last proofs of it. That expounds Theosophy in daily living and what each one of us can do to improve himself individually, with the ultimate motive of benefiting his fellowmen. We maintain that the basis of all our difficulties is personal and national selfishness. We have got to try to approach the universal, the altruistic spirit of the Buddhas and the Christs and the great spiritual leaders. We maintain that this cannot all be done in one lifetime. One of our basic doctrines (not that anyone must accept it, but I mean it is one of the doctrines that is accepted by most members of the Theosophical Society) is the doctrine of Reincarnation, that evolution consists in bringing out, unfolding and unwrapping what is within us. This cannot possibly be done to perfection in any one lifetime.
“Although membership in the Theosophical Society requires only the acceptance of the principles of Universal Brotherhood—there are no formulated articles of faith that anyone has to accept—another one of the basic doctrines of Theosophy is that of Karma, which is a Sanskrit word meaning, literally, action. We maintain that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. ‘Sow a thought and you reap an act; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.’ It is the destiny of the human race so to evolve what is within outward until in time, in ages to come, the race may evolve into something akin to the innate Godhood in each one of us.”
“I see—it sounds pretty wonderful. You have to practice it all your life in order to succeed.”
“None of us succeeds completely—but we succeed in degree. Those of us who have tried, falteringly of course, because we are human beings, and the God within us does not always manifest—every one of us has some touch of selfishness within us—we do find that to the degree that we have tried to live in the higher part of our natures, to that degree do we have inner joy and the capacity to share with our fellowmen our happiness and our spiritual vision, such as it is.
“We maintain that there is nothing so detrimental to human progress as ignorance, so we have tried to spread the Light of Truth as far as we can. The motto of the Theosophical Sociey has been almost from the very beginning, ‘There is no Religion Higher Than Truth.’ There must be continuous effort to find the Truth—not only material truth which scientists also try to find, and we are thoroughly in accord with whatever they do in the way of revealing truth. One can’t quarrel with truth. If it is true, it’s true. We seek also the moral, intellectual and spiritual truths that have been tried and not found wanting. That’s why we maintain that Theosophy when practiced is really a universal religion. Basically, the followers of any religion, if they stick to the fundamentals of the founders of those religions and the spiritual luminaries who brought them to mankind, will find that the differences among us vanish. We maintain that we are all basically spiritual brothers not in a sentimental sense, but actually that we all spring from the same universal source, that spiritually we have sought incarnation into material bodies in a long process of involution and evolution, so as to learn what lessons there are to learn here on this earth; and when we have learned these lessons on earth then perhaps we will be qualified to graduate into a higher school—a more spiritually advanced school. This is not just my view; this is not merely the doctrine of metaphysicians and poets and dreamers. You would hardly call Henry Ford a dreamer, for he was a rather practical man, and he accepted the doctrine of Reincarnation. You would hardly call Benjamin Franklin a dreamer and a poet, but he thoroughly accepted the doctrine of Karma and Reincarnation. His own epitaph, which he wrote himself, fully expounds the doctrine:
The Body of
Like the cover of an old book,
“I see. There isn’t any way to prove such a thing as Reincarnation, but this is what you could hope for?”
“You can’t prove it, but you find on study that it answers more problems than any other theory that has ever been advanced. Take any aspiring man—can any individual like you or me be satisfied that he has reached perfection, that there is nothing more that he wants to learn or do? No, but as Henry Ford pointed out, Reincarnation gives you an opportunity to carry on where you left off. We maintain that we pick up the threads of this life exactly where we left off in the last life, not as individual personalities, but what reincarnates and goes from life to life is the character that you build up during your past life. You inherit what you were. Just because you die, it doesn’t destroy everything. It destroys the physical body, which decays, of course; but there are spiritual and intellectual things that are just as real as the physical body. You can’t touch them, perhaps, but you know yourself that probably the greater part of your life is lived in your thought-world. What you think and what you feel are only incidentally connected with the body. In our estimation one of the great difficulties with much modern psychology is that it teaches half-truths and people are deceived by these half-truths, which they take for the whole truth. For example, take all the Freudian doctrines: it is much more difficult to counteract half-truths than an out-and-out lie. Now, much of what Freud teaches about the physical and sexual basis of everything there is a half-truth in it, but it is by no means the whole truth. Of course, any thinking man knows that the life that he leads in his mind and his aspirations in many respects is far more important than just what he puts into his body, what he feeds himself with. That’s a necessary vehicle, but it’s not the whole man. Contrary to the popular conception that man is a body that may have a soul, we maintain that man fundamentally is a soul, that is using a physical body for the experiences it can gain here on this earth. He is a soul—a spiritual entity that finds incarnation on this plane to learn what there is to be learned in this vale of experience.”
“Do you follow any mechanical practices like praying or have an altar, or anything like that?”
“Very little ritualism—only insofar as it may be symbolic, as some people need symbols in order to get into the atmosphere of aspiration. We maintain that the truest meditation is concentration on something worthwhile, and this begins with a serious interest in what you have to do. That’s the real meditation—thorough concentration of all your faculties on whatever is worthwhile doing or thinking about. That’s what we maintain is real meditation. Now it is often very advantageous and helpful to withdraw from the hurly-burly of our daily lives and set aside perhaps an hour or two every day and go into your own inner chambers. We don’t pray in public, but pray within our own inner chambers. We try to raise our consciousness above the activities and sometimes the difficulties and trials of everyday life, which we all have, and try to become more at one with our higher nature, which means the best that is within us. That is true meditation. We don’t disparage people who feel they must have a specific method of meditation. The danger of that is that one is too apt to focus one’s attention upon himself—upon his own development. It is much better to try to broaden instead of narrowing our sympathies, to try to raise ourselves so as to make ourselves better instruments and better servants of the highest and the divine, or whatever you want to call it, all the time remembering that we are part of the rest of the world and able to help our fellowmen through peace within ourselves. You’ve got to find it within yourself first or else you will have very little to give to other people. I think one has got to strive very hard to qualify himself in order to have something to give to his fellowmen.”
“I am curious about the number of people who believe the way you do. Has it grown since the 1890’s?”
“It has grown, but of course not so much as we would aspire to have it do. Regretfully, we have to admit that Theosophists have human limitations like everyone else, and personal difficulties, ambitions, desire to lead, and things of that kind have inhibited our growth. I regret to say, also, that there are quite a number of Theosophical adherents who have been misled into thinking that psychism or psychic development is a proof of spirituality, when it is no such thing. It is just a faculty little different from our ordinary mental and intellectual activities. So in the public mind, unfortunately, Theosophy has in many cases been confused with psychic ‘revelations,’ so to speak. As I have said publicly several times. we must not think just anybody’s pipedream is Theosophy, just because he happens to have certain psychic faculties. These are not by any means always spiritual—sometimes they are base, sometimes they are distillations or emanations of your own personal lower desires—these psychic experiences. The test is their universality. If you have something to give, is it of universal application? Will it be valid in the United States, and Russia, and Cuba, and China—anywhere? It must have universal appeal; it must be something that all mankind can participate in and accept as something stimulating and inspiring.”
“Our membership, I am sorry to say, is far less than it ought to be with the tremendous spiritual impetus that H.P.B. gave us, as did those who worked with her, and followed faithfully in her footsteps.”
“You don’t have any idea of the count?”
“Oh, it doesn’t run high. There are many more who accept the ideas than there are listed on the rosters of any of the societies. Many people accept the Theosophical ideas which are spreading everywhere, but many are very chary of any organization. They accept the doctrines and even talk about them, including some of our ablest scientists— Einstein and Dr. Milligan are said to have had The Secret Doctrine on their table all the time. But the societies are too often afflicted with people who want to be the President, or who want to shine, or things of that kind—human weaknesses.’,
“Everyone wants to be the chief?”
“Yes, that’s right. In other words, there are too many generals and too few privates! You know what I mean.”
“In other words, you can’t give me a count on, let’s say ten thousands, or-“
“Oh, I imagine in the organized groups that I know of, there are at least thirty thousand.”
“And that’s spread all over the world?”
“Oh yes, there are centers all over the world. However, I thoroughly accept Matthew Arnold’s statement in his essay on the function of criticism, if I can quote it:
The mass of mankind will never have any ardent zeal for seeing things as they are; very inadequate ideas will always satisfy them. On these inadequate ideas reposes, and must repose, the general practice of the world. That is as much as saying that whoever sets himself to see things as they are will find himself one of a very small circle, but it is only by this small circle resolutely doing its own work that adequate ideas will ever get current at all.”
“I want to ask you about the Institute itself out at Point Loma—the buildings that you remember and the photographs that you have in the albums and so forth. From what I have read—the Cornerstone was laid in 1897?”
“And you were involved in 1899?”
“Can you tell me what you remember of the buildings, who the architect or the contractor was, or the cost of any part of the physical part of the scene?”
“I was a child at that time and I wasn’t informed about such matters. I remember the buildings very well, of course. Madame Tingley did not do the actual architectural drawings, of course, but she gave the ideas to the professionals whom she had on her staff and in her membership to carry out her ideas. For instance, when Dr. Wood built his sanitorium there, it did not have the domes over it. There was an open patio in the center where his patients could sit in the sun, but when Madame Tingley took over in 1900 she had this beautiful big dome put on top of it. While she wasn’t a professional architect, she told her architects what she wanted and they made the necessary designs. It had those cupolas in each corner that you see in the drawing there. And then when it came to what became the Academy, she wanted the central patio covered with a dome. The Temple was built in 1900 and then these little octagonal bungalows for the different groups of boys and girls separated according to their ages, temperaments and needs. They had a central place in the middle where each group would meet for their homework study and classes and music practices; and then around on the outside were double-tiered bunks where the children slept at night. The next building that I recall being constructed was the Sunshine Home for young girls in their early teens—the 8th and 9th grades. Then one of the finest buildings which is still in existence over there was built by Mr. A. G. Spalding. He and his wife lived there. I think it was built in about 1901 and it is now the Administration Building for Cal-Western. Then North House was built with a tile roof farther down by the Athletic Field. That was used by a number of people of means who leased it. It was used as a guest house also.
“About 1914 Professor Daniel De Lange, who was the Founder-Director of the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music, resigned his place in Holland and came to Point Loma to help us. He built what was called Holland Crest, that’s between what was the Spalding residence and the North House.
“Going in the other direction toward the south was the Greek Theater which was built in 1901—that is, the arena and the seats. The Doric Stoa wasn’t put up until 1911. Then there was Madame Tingley’s headquarters building, where she had her offices and her official residence, and where dedicated people in many parts of the world contributed many valuable paintings and sculptures and ornaments. This made a very beautiful place that was enlarged from time to time. That was just north of the Greek Theater. It was used for a long time by Cal-Western, but I think that it has been allowed to deteriorate. Right next to Madame Tingley’s home was the oldest building on the place—even before Dr. Wood took over-called Pioneer Cottage. The Rev. S. J. Neill occupied that for a number of years. He came from New Zealand. In fact, he married Mrs. Harris and me in 1917. He was a Presbyterian Minister, a very learned and splendid man.
“Going further up towards what we called South Ranch, there was a fine press building that we had there, and also our carpentry department and our tailor shop and a literary bungalow where professors were engaged in a great deal of research work in checking all of the quotations in Madame Blavatsky’s book, Isis Unveiled.
“Then we had our orchards. When I went there in 1899 down in the southeast corner there was an earthen reservoir and a windmill.”
“There was a cornerstone laid perhaps it was in the Temple? Madame Tingley had put documents into it. What happened to these things?”
“Unfortunately, when we moved the headquarters in 1942 up to Covina, the cornerstone was dismantled and whatever of value was left in it was taken to Covina. It was never built on. It remained a cornerstone. The Temple that was planned was never built. What was left of the documents presumably were in Covina. Some of them had perished. They hadn’t been preserved properly.”
“What was the enrollment at the Institute itself? How many students were there at the peak?”
“I think over 500 at the peak.”
“And the tuition was paid by their parents or by scholarships?”
“Voluntary contributions by our own members.”
“Were they taught everyday things like mechanics? I know they were taught things like music and art, but were they taught mathematics, English?”
“Oh, yes, it was a regular school. We had eminent teachers from some of the best universities in Europe. Mathematics, Science; the doctors taught Physiology. We had two or three M.D.’s connected with the staff. A regular grammar and secondary high school course. The university was established in 1919.”
“Was this an accredited school, then?”
“It was accredited by the state, but never technically accredited by the other institutions. Our degrees were not accepted elsewhere, but I was the secretary of the University and I had official letters from UCLA and Berkeley, saying that our students had made such splendid records that they would accept the credentials of any of our students. I asked the Department of Education in Washington to accredit us, but they said they couldn’t do it because we didn’t have a big enough enrollment to be accredited as a university. The scholarship of our students was fully recognized, but we were not on what you could call the accredited lists.”
“You covered grades one through college?”
“Yes, right along. I don’t know why, but for some reason Madame Tingley never even sought accreditation. Her attitude seemed to be that we were giving our students the education, what did we care whether other people accepted us? But that was unfortunate, for some of the students when they graduated found their degrees were not accepted.
“I should say that I feel immensely grateful for the education that I have had. I was brought up in a cultured atmosphere of languages, art and music and high philosophy and I wouldn’t exchange that education for anything that the world has to offer. And some of those who have gone forth have found the same thing. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the technical recognition that the accredited schools had. Fundamentally, they had the education and the culture and the training which to them was invaluable. But it didn’t fit too well, I’ll admit, into the ordinary accreditation scheme.”
“You need this even to get a job sometime. There is a lot of value put on it.”
“That was unfortunate. Some of our people who were thoroughly qualified to teach Art or Music or just ordinary educational subjects had to supplement what they had gotten at Point Loma by some routine in an accredited institution before they could be accepted.”
“I am curious. Can you give me, in a capsule form, your association with the Society from the beginning? You said you went there when you were nine years old. Did you stay there or did you go back to Georgia?”
“My father settled at Point Loma. It’s a funny story and I don’t know whether you want to know it or not, but it’s a human incident. After the Congress was closed in 1899 my father went with Madame Tingley and a group of other Cabinet Officers for a lecture- tour throughout the United States and left me at Point Loma in the charge of Dr. Winkler and Dr. Van Pelt23 They took care of me. When the delegation from Macon returned home my mother was expecting her little boy to come back with the delegation from Macon. I wasn’t there. I was still out at Point Loma! So the only thing to do was for her and my sister to come out to Point Loma. So, we established our home there in 1900. But in the meantime I had been in the care of Dr. Winkler and Dr. Van Pelt—a little nine-year-old lad. I went to school for a year down at the little Roseville School. I think a dear lady by the name of Mrs. Collins conducted all of the eight grades in one big schoolhouse. I remember it was summertime and she coached me in Mathematics so I could go into the next higher grade—so I could go in with Roy Crippen and Paul Jennings. Their names are well-known here in San Diego, but they were schoolboys with me at that time.24 I remember how dear she was to help me along during the summer months so I could go on into the next higher grade.
“Then the Raja Yoga School was established in 1900. I transferred there and spent the rest of my life—yes, by my own choice, because it appealed to me—the idealism of it. The fine cultural background very much appealed to me. I learned first to play the mandolin and then the clarinet. I was the solo clarinetist for many years—went through the whole clarinet course. Played all the classical clarinet music first with the piano and then with the string quartet and finally with the symphony orchestra. We had a fine symphony orchestra.
“And, by the way, that’s one of the things that Katherine Tingley inaugurated that has spread all over the country now—school orchestras and bands. We were the first one that had them. She started that. Now every institution has a band and many have symphony orchestras, too. We had a wonderful symphony orchestra there and men like Walter Damrosch came and conducted it and spoke very highly of it. Percy Grainger came and played for it. Madame Nellie Melba came and sang for us.”
“I don’t think she was in sympathy with our work, maybe for religious principles, I don’t know. Anyhow, we knew of her and appreciated her fine singing. I don’t recall that she ever did anything to help us at Point Loma. Alfred Hertz, the Director of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, came down and conducted our orchestra at one time and was entertained by us. Walter Damrosch made the remark after he conducted for us, and then our international chorus got up and sang: ‘This is the first orchestra I have ever conducted where the players could sing as well as they played.’ We had a very fine chorus, too; we sang out at Balboa Park at the Panama-[California] Exposition. We used to furnish music down at Isis Theatre quite frequently25 I used to rejoice in the musical education we had. Then I think I told you that at 14 years of age Madame Tingley sent for me to take her dictation on the typewriter. She was dictating her first children’s story. After that I travelled with her from 1909 until almost 1929 as her travelling secretary. So my life was completely involved. And my wife’s. We both, of our own choice, in our middle teens I suppose, deliberately chose to dedicate our lives to that work, because it appealed to us as being the best channel and the only channel at that time open to us to give service to our fellowmen. We persisted right along, and after Madame Tingley died I became Dr. Purucker’s Financial Agent and I travelled with him as his aide. Shortly before he died he made me Chairman of the Cabinet. When we moved up to Covina I was the Chairman of the Cabinet for the next four years. Then a new regime came in and Mrs. Harris and I and a few others couldn’t accept some fantastic claims of spiritual guidance and so we became personae non gratae as far as the organization was concerned. But, we kept up our Theosophical work.”
“How were you paid? by Madame Tingley?”
“We weren’t paid except that our expenses were met. If we had a personal need we could put in a requisition for it. There were no salaries paid to anyone at Point Loma. It was all volunteer work.”
“How were you able to acquire your home? I don’t want to get too personal, I just wondered. It sounded like you gave so much.”
“We gave everything we had as long as we were associated with it. I don’t mind answering personally. In 1946 when Mrs. Harris and I and others became personae non gratae, I had to leave at 56 years of age and start at the bottom of the economic ladder start earning a living for Mrs. Harris and me. I managed to land a modest secretarial job with the coastline headquarters of the Santa Fe Railway in Los Angeles; I was with them for 10 years.. In the meantime a dear aunt back in Georgia had left in trust a certain estate for her nieces and nephews—she had no children of her own—I was one of the nephews; so in 1950 her trust estate was divided and I got a modest share of that. As luck and good Karma would have it, a good portion of that estate consisted of IBM stock and in the twenty years between 1950 and 1970 it multiplied twenty times. In 1970 it was worth 20 times what it was when I got it. I was very fortunate, indeed; and that enabled me to use bits of stock from time to time to pay for day and night nurses for Mrs. Harris, buy this house and to carry on the work that I am now doing. Also, last fall I organized the Point Loma Publications, Inc., chartered in January 1971 as a non-profit religious and educational organization. I was able to launch that by contributing 100 shares of IBM stock, which is what we are still working on. So that was my good fortune. There were other things, too. IBM pays very little dividends, but it split over and over again and its enormous value was in the capital gains it gave me. I received a small bequest from my mother also, but up to the time I left headquarters anything that came to me I turned in for the general good, to help out. But my aunt must have had more foresight than I did, because she put her bequest in trust, and I couldn’t have the principal until 1950, though I got some income from it. So that’s the good fortune that has come to me. I didn’t seek it, but I was very fortunate in having it. It enabled me to buy this home.”
“Did you and Mrs. Harris have any children?”
“No, we didn’t have any children.”
“Too bad, I think you would have made wonderful parents.”
“We tried to console ourselves that we had a lot of mind-born children, anyway.”
“I want to get to Madame Tingley herself Can you give me any biography on her? Where was she born? How did she get involved with the Society? When did she die, and where is she buried and so forth?”
“She was born in West Newbury, near Newburyport, Massachusetts on July 6, 1847. Her father was Captain James Westcott, who organized a regiment during the Civil War. Her mother was Susan Chase from a prominent New England family. Lady Susan they called her. She had two brothers that I know of. She was particularly drawn to her grandfather, by the way, who was the descendant of one of those who joined Roger Williams in the founding of Rhode Island26 The tendency of the family was towards liberal-mindedness right from the beginning. She was especially drawn to her grandfather, who was a close friend of John Greenleaf Whittier, and Whittier wrote a beautiful poem on the Laurels. That’s where she was born on the Merrimac. Her grandfather and Whittier were good friends. They both seemed to see in her as a child great promise of a future along cultural and spiritual lines. In fact, she tells the story that when she was a child she had this dream of what she called ,a Gold Land in the West where she would one day establish the city beautiful where people could come together in brotherhood and live together, nourishing all of the finer things of life. And story has it—this is just hearsay—I can’t possibly know—it’s just what Madame Tingley told us. She said that Whittier told her grandfather, ‘Let the child have her dreams, they may come true some day.’ Of her younger years very little is known, except that she was sent to a Catholic Convent in Montreal-Villa Sainte Marie it was called. Sometime around 1911 or 1912, I was with her and we visited the old convent where she went to school. It seems that at one time she had the desire, as I suppose many young women in convents do, to become a nun. But she said that an old priest who was in charge of the personnel at the convent told her, ‘Kitty Westcott, this is not for you. You have another destiny.’ That’s the story she tells.
“Then she went through a number of vicissitudes. She was married to a printer by the name of Cook, and adopted a child, Flossie, with him. Things didn’t work out right and I think they were divorced and then she married a Mr. Parent, who was an inspector with the railroads; and that didn’t work out.27 Finally, she married this scientist- inventor, Philo Tingley, and they had a beautiful home on the West End in New York. While she was married to him, she turned to charity work on the East Side. During the cloakmakers’ strike in the early ’90’s she was ladling out soup or directing the soup kitchen down on the East Side, in the cold winter weather, when William Q. Judge, who was one of the co-founders of the Theosophical Society, with Madame Blavatsky, saw her carrying on the work there. He evidently recognized that she had unusual executive ability and a humanitarian instinct. He called on her at her residence and became very much impressed with her spiritual outlook and her native spirituality. He became very ill with tuberculosis and she nursed him during his last illness down at some resort in Texas. When he died, the group in charge of Headquarters at 144 Madison Avenue, found among his papers several cryptic messages pointing out that Katherine Tingley was the one who could help carry on his work. So the Council turned to her and recognized her as the head of what was called the Esoteric Section—the inner group that carried on the teachings. There was some disagreement, some dissension, of course, since Madame Tingley was at that time not well known at all in Theosophical ranks, but she had very greatly impressed William Q. Judge, and he was recognized by all of them. He had built up a big Society in this country. Earlier, in 1895, before Madame Tingley was known at all, there had been a convention of the Theosophical Society in Boston and at that time what had been the American Section of the Theosophical Society disassociated itself entirely from what had been the Theosophical Society with headquarters at Adyar, because of the devotion of the American Section to Mr. Judge, who had been attacked by some of the Adyar representatives—accusing him of fraud and so forth.28 So at this meeting in Boston by a vote of 191 to 10, I believe, Judge was elected president for life of the Theosophical Society in America. After that Madame Tingley became known.
“In January 1898 Madame Tingley founded a new organization called the Universal Brotherhood. She sent for my father, who was a lawyer, and he came up from Macon, Georgia. He helped her draft the constitution of this new society called the Universal Brotherhood, inaugurated on January 13, 1898. Then in February of that same year there was a convention of the Theosophical Society in America at Chicago. I have a photo of that. It was thoroughly written up and at that time my father was made chairman of the committee on resolutions. The committee on resolutions met privately. This committee included most of the very active members at headquarters and different parts of this country. At the appropriate time’my father presented to the convention a resolution that the Theosophical Society in America should merge with the Universal Brotherhood organization and become the literary department thereof. There was immense enthusiasm, because with Judge’s backing and the backing of some of the headquarters’ staff, people at that time recognized that Katherine Tingley was a very unusual woman. They voted almost unanimously—not entirely unanimously but almost—they accepted her with acclaim as the Leader and Official Head of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society.
“The constitution which my father helped her to draft put almost autocratic power in her. Dr. Herbert Coryn of England said, when someone raised the question and said, ‘This is an autocracy,?’ Dr. Coryn said he preferred to have an autocracy with an adept as its head29 But it was not universally accepted. In other parts of the world many went with the Universal Brotherhood, and others stayed with the old Society. The basic outline of that I published last year in my book called Theosophy Under Fire, which gives the story of the organization of the Theosophical Society and the split into these two main branches. That’s how Katherine Tingley came into prominence, then. Even before that she led a crusade of American Theosophists around the world in 1896 and ended up in 1897 with the laying of the cornerstone at Point Loma.”
“Is it true that she heard about Point Loma from General Fremont?”
“The story as I learned it: she attended the Second Inauguration of General Grant. General Fremont was one of the guests there and the story as I heard it is that she told him of the dream she had had as a child of the white city she was going to establish in the golden land in the West. She described Point Loma to a certain degree in a general outline. General Fremont is quoted to have said: ‘Why, I know that place, I’ve been there. It’s Point Loma, that forms the Western shore of San Diego Bay.’ Well, of course, that was a tremendous confirmation to her of the dream she had been dreaming since she was a young girl.”
“That was before her association with the Theosophists?”
“Oh, yes, that was back in the time of General Grant’s Second Inauguration. Then when she became the leader of the Theosophical Society, she led this crusade of American Theosophists around the world. When she was in Geneva, she had sent a representative out to. buy a piece of property on Point Loma where she was going to establish what she then called the School for the Revival of the Lost Mysteries of Antiquity. And when she was in Geneva, she received a cable from her representative, a Mr. Rambo, saying that there was no property available for sale on Point Loma, it was all government property. Well, she was greatly distressed. But there was a very cultured, highly educated member of the Theosophical Society living in Geneva at that time, Gottfried de Purucker. His father was a clergyman in the Anglican American Church there at that time. He was quite a young man, but in his younger days he had been to San Diego. He came to call on her at her hotel in Geneva and she told him that she had just received this word from Mr. Rambo that there was no private property for sale on Point Loma. Mr. de Purucker said, ‘Your representative has been misled. It is true that the government owns the south end of Point Loma, but there is private property north of the government reservation.’ Having lived in San Diego, he proceeded to draw her a rough map, showing there was property available. So then she cabled back to Mr. Neresheimer in New York. ‘Tell Mr. Rambo to look again; there is property available.’ That map that Mr. de Purucker drew is still available at Covina. Then they bought the property and that’s where they laid the cornerstone when they arrived at Point Loma in February 1897.”
“At what address in Covina are these things?”
“They moved from Covina to Pasadena—their mailing address is Bin C, Pasadena. I haven’t been in touch with them since 1946. But I do know they still have that map on file, drawn in 1896, showing San Diego Bay and Point Loma.”
“When did Madame Tingley actually come to San Diego?”
“In 1900. Point Loma became her headquarters from then on.”
“She arrived after you did then?”
“Well, after I had settled there, but she had been there before. She had a lecture-tour throughout the United States and she went abroad again before she settled at Point Loma in the summer of 1900. That’s when she moved the headquarters from 144 Madison Avenue, New York, to Point Loma.”
“She lived therefrom then on until when?”
“From 1900 on—well, that was her permanent residence. She travelled a great deal, but she lived there from 1900 until she died in 1929. She actually died in Sweden on July 11, 1929. In May of that year she had undertaken another lecture-tour to Europe, and her chauffeur, late at night, drove into a stone embankment, an abutment of a bridge near Osnabruck, Germany, and she was severely injured, and she never recovered from that. They took her to her Swedish headquarters on the Island of Visingso, Sweden, and there she died on July 11, 1929.”
“Was she burned over there?”
“No, she was cremated and her ashes were brought back to Point Loma.”
“And where are they now?”
“Up at Pasadena as far as I know.”
“What was your first impression when you first met Madame Tingley? You were still young then, you were about ten years old.”
“Well, I just thought she was a very vivacious, lovable, middle-aged lady. I must tell you a story about that. You bring back memories to me. This story shows you that somehow or other I belonged to Point Loma, and the Theosophical Movement. After the Congress in 1899, the delegation from Macon, my father, Mr. Ross White, Mr. Walter Hanson, and others were assembled in her office in the southwest corner of the then Point Loma House, Dr. Woods’ Sanitorium. We all were there to tell her goodbye. I was dressed in my Little Lord Fauntleroy suit ready to go to the train to go back to Georgia. I was sitting on the floor playing with her little cocker-spaniel—Spots was his name—and they tell me (mind you, I don’t remember this}, that I looked up and said, ‘Mrs. Tingley, I know what you want, you want me to stay here.’ Eight years old at that time. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘Iverson, do you want to stay here?’ I said, ‘Mrs. Tingley, if you want me to stay, I’ll stay.’ So then she gave me an American flag and I led the procession to go to what was called the Colony. They were going to establish a little colony considerably north of the headquarters. The property later became owned by Talbot Mundy. Anyway, I led the procession over to the colony and that’s how I happened to stay at Point Loma. So when the delegation from Macon, as I told you, arrived back in Macon, mother’s little boy wasn’t there. And I was associated with the work at Point Loma from then on. First I had my education there. I was successful in my reading, spelling and typewriting, so Madame Tingley sent for me when I was fourteen, to take down her dictation of a story for her children’s magazine, ‘A Donkey Ride in Egypt’ for the Raja Yoga Messenger.”
“What were her physical characteristics how tall was she?”
“She was a short woman—short and plump—but she knew how to dress so that she had height. You have seen her pictures in the magazines. She knew how to give herself the appearance of being taller than she was. I’ll show you a picture that illustrates this. She had beautifully delicate hands and sparkling brown eyes. I don’t claim to read faces, but obviously hers indicated vivacity and life and vigor. She had a sense of humor and enjoyed a good story immensely. She had a rippling laugh, but she was also an executive. She had a strong hand. As the Cuban boys used to say, ‘She no go for foolly.”,
“I noticed in these photographs of her that she seemed to have sort of a shrewd face. You couldn’t put anything over on her.”
“No, ‘she was a born boss,’ as George Bernard Shaw says in the introduction to his play, St. Joan. She was an organizer and a boss, and she had much about her that was inspirational. I would never call her a student or a profound scholar like her successor was. Dr. de Purucker was a wonderfully learned man and Madame Blavatsky was immensely learned and had an encyclopedic mind, but K.T., she just knew how to run things, and, to my mind, one of her greatest assets was that she knew how to inspire others to live a dedicated life and to serve and to be proud to do so. To my mind the most wonderful thing about Point Loma, outside of Katherine Tingley’s own creative and organizing ability, was the wonderful dedication of the people around her. Most of them asked for nothing but the opportunity to serve as best they could. Now that’s a fact. That was the unique quality of the Point Loma Institution. They were not there for what they could get, but for what they could give, and they did it too. People gave of their time and their money and their talents, and were proud to do something to carry on the work.
“Let me read you something. My wife has summarized this better than anyone I know. In one of her very last statements she summarized her conclusions about the Theosophical work at Point Loma. She participated actively for four decades: ‘A high sense of duty to the work behind which stood the Adept Founders, inspired, sustained and cemented the members into a living, almost tangible inner semi-spiritual organization. Their aspirations, their devotion and selfless dedication, knowing they were privileged to serve in a great cause for the benefit of humanity, lifted the whole membership to a sense of silent inner peace and joy, despite many outward personal human difficulties.”‘
“Now would you say that this was the case because of the religion or Madame Tingley herself?”
“Both. Most of the adults who came to Point Loma came because they were earnest, dedicated Theosophists. She had the power to bring them together and to hold them together and to elicit from them the best that was in each one. It was a combination of both. The teachings of Theosophy, as derived from Madame Blavatsky and Mr. Judge, were the foundation stones. She drew from the lodges all over the world some of the finest characters in each lodge. They recognized her as a spiritual leader and teacher and were happy to dedicate whatever they had to the building up of the institution which she had founded.”
“Madame Tingley didn’t consider herself a seeress or prophet like Helena Blavatsky?”
“Not in the same sense—she never put herself on a pedestal in any way; she just recognized that she was the head and she was going to conduct the thing in the best possible way. Her teachings were not along intellectual lines. What she did was to arouse in people this idea of unselfish dedication to a worthwhile cause and of aspiration to a more spiritual life. That was her mission, as I see it. She was not the type to sit down and write a learned book the way Madame Blavatsky did. Most of her books were actually compilations of choice bits taken from my shorthand reports of her extemporaneous utterances.”
“Meantime what happened to Mr. Tingley?”
“He died at Point Loma after she passed on. He was a self-effacing man, who recognized her ability and willingly and deliberately put himself in the background and let her go ahead and do her work. He was loyal to her—contributed to her. He visited Point Loma sometimes and she visited him when she was in New York. He was a scientific inventor and he did what he could to support her. I repeat, he was a self-effacing man. He didn’t want to stand in her way. He said, ‘She’s the teacher, she’s the leader; let her go her own way. I won’t bother her.’ A very fine gentleman.”
“Why was she called ‘The Purple Mother’?”
“That is so sickening—that title was foisted on her by sensational journalists, and she couldn’t suppress it. She never called herself the ‘Purple Mother.’ There is a certain basis of truth in it in this sense—the pet name for her that those closest to her called her in the early days was ‘Purple.’ It was just a name of affection. When she had all of these orphan children at Point Loma many of them looked upon her as a mother. Some journalist got hold of it, put the two together and called her ‘The Purple Mother,’ claiming that she designated herself as ‘The Purple Mother.’ And that stuck to her. Only last July I got a magazine someone sent me referring to her and saying she called herself the ‘Purple Mother’ and that she looked upon her little dog Spots as the reincarnation of the favorite of her husbands. To think of such rot as that persisting to this day, July 1971!”
“I read somewhere a long time ago—this is probably also wrong—but I read somewhere that she sued someone for breach of promise in a court action.”
“No, she didn’t sue—somebody sued her. Well, that’s one of the saddest stories I have to tell.”
[There was apparently a break in the interview at this point—Ed.]
“You were saying about a lawsuit.”
“That was called the Mohn case. A very unhappy situation! It did Madame Tingley and the Theosophical Movement a lot of harm. There’s no doubt about that. Well, Dr. Mohn and his wife, Irene Mohn, had come to Point Loma and lived for a number of years. To all appearances, Mrs. Mohn was just as interested and just as dedicated a helper as was Dr. Mohn, and I think she was at the time. Dr. Mohn had contributed financially rather generously to the work at Point Loma. But the time came when Mrs. Mohn was no longer happy with the marital arrangements and she was unhappy about her daughter by a previous marriage, Isabel Neill-Mohn. She became convinced that Madame Tingley was stealing her husband’s affections from her—not in any meretricious sense, but that he did not pay her the attention that he had previously done, or wasn’t as generous as he formerly was. So she sued Madame Tingley for alienation of affections.”
“What year was this?”
“1918, as I recall. The case went on through different courts. Mrs. Mohn won her suit in San Diego in the Superior Court. Then the Appellate Court reversed the decision on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence. Even Mrs. Mohn’s attorneys in her pleadings did not charge any meretricious relationship of any kind. But evidently Madame Tingley’s rather autocratic handling of the general situation at Point Loma and the situation with Dr. and Mrs. Mohn in particular, irritated her and she brought suit. She won her case locally, but was defeated in the Appellate Court. She appealed and the Supreme Court upheld her. That was a very unhappy situation. I don’t even like to think of it. It hurt not only Madame Tingley, but it hurt the Theosophical Movement. It’s one of the chapters in the history where the legal decision went against Katherine Tingley.”
“She had earlier sued General Harrison Gray Otis and the Los Angeles Times- Mirror Company for libel. She had won that suit way back in 1901.
“Then in September 1915, A. G. Spalding died while he was still living at Point Loma. He left the bulk of his estate to his widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Churchill Spalding. He didn’t leave a penny to Katherine Tingley, but Mr. Spalding’s heirs by a previous marriage brought suit to break his will, claiming that it was all part of a conspiracy on the part of Madame Tingley to get hold of the estate eventually. It was eventually settled out of court. Mrs. Spalding and Mr. Spalding’s son by a previous marriage and Mrs. Spalding’s son by a previous marriage got all the money and Katherine Tingley got nothing out of it but unfavorable publicity—not a thing. Mr. Spalding was a practical businessman and he knew what he was doing, but Mr. Barrett and other attorneys worked up a long story about Katherine Tingley and Mrs. Spalding conspiring to have Mr. Spalding leave all the money to her so that Mrs. Tingley and Point Loma would get it eventually. There was no proof of that, but they stirred up enough mud so that Mrs. Spalding was forced to compromise with Mr. Spalding’s other heirs and Katherine Tingley got nothing even after Mrs. Spalding died. K.T. got nothing out of it whatsoever except Mrs. Spalding’s old clothes and very unhappy publicity.”
“Mrs. Spalding was in favor of Katherine Tingley?”
“Oh, yes; she was dedicated and devoted away back before she married Mr. Spalding, in fact. She was the lady who visited the Macon Lodge in 1897, when I made my first public speech at seven years of age. She was then Elizabeth Churchill Mayer. She was the head of the children’s Lotus work throughout the world. She was quite a musician, and compiled the children’s Lotus Song Book, which we sang from for many years at Point Loma. There is still some very beautiful music in it.”
“Were there any other people out to get Madame Tingley I think mostly through jealousy?”
“Disappointed heirs mostly. I don’t know what your own religious affiliations are, but Orthodox religious groups were very much against her. She accepted the teachings of Christ the Sermon on the Mount, and the basic teachings of Christ, but she could not accept, any more than Madame Blavatsky could, the dogmas that had grown up in the Christian church since that time. Theosophy had never had a word against the teachings of Christ, but we cannot accept the priestcraft of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy nor the dogmas in the Protestant Church. Many of our Theosophical technical terms were borrowed from the ancient Sanskrit Vedas. Orthodox religionists felt that we were inevitably inimical to the Christian churches. Publicly, we made a great distinction right along between Churchianity and Christianity. Churchianity did what they could to destroy us very rigorously right along.”
“That brings up another question I’m going to ask about. San Diego at that time wasn’t large and it grew from 1900 on, and so forth. How did the citizens of San Diego feel about the Institute out here on Point Loma?”
“Well, when I came to San Diego in 1899, the city had a population of 17,000. It was a little jumping-off place then, and the clergymen more or less banded together to repudiate and to slander Theosophy and Point Loma and the whole Institution. They wielded a great deal of influence at that time. Katherine Tingley got possession of the old Isis Theater, which was previously the Fisher Opera House, the most beautiful theater in San Diego, and one of the finest on the Pacific Coast at that time. There was a debate between Theosophy and Christianity carried on for a number of weeks. I have a full report of it. It was Point Loma’s answer to charges made by the San Diego clergy at that time. That prejudice lasted quite a while. But the educational and cultural and really high minded public meetings that we conducted in San Diego every Sunday changed a large number of people’s attitudes. And many of the highest officials of San Diego like Mr. Hugh Baldwin, who was the head of the Board of Education, and different mayors and judges and others were openminded, and to a degree, sympathetic. We had quite a large local lodge in San Diego. Madame Tingley had enemies. There’s no doubt about that. A person of strong intellect and powerful organizing power or ability inevitably steps on people’s toes at times and some of them resented it very much. Some of the students at Point Loma resented the rather severe discipline. Of course, say what you will, she was a Puritan. Her standards as regards promiscuity and any association between the sexes would be considered very square today. But she was going to keep Point Loma above reproach in that regard and she did. I mean to say in our teens, we boys perhaps could meet the girls at a supervised social once a month, something of that kind, otherwise we had to admire them at a distance.”
“Were the classes segregated, then?”
“Most of them were. Not the little ones—the young children weren’t segregated. But the older boys were separated from the older girls in our classes, but not in our musical work. We all joined the same orchestra and chorus. The little children in their classes were all together. But when you got up to the dangerous teenagers, we were kept pretty much apart. No doubt about it; why try to hide it? Some resented it. So far as I personally am concerned, I have no cause to complain. I married the most beautiful girl on the hill and the most beautiful in character. We lived for 50 years most happily together, so certainly K.T.’s discipline and training didn’t hurt me, but it affected others differently. They didn’t respond in the same way.
“What capacity did your wife have with Madame Tingley then?”
“For a number of years Helen lived with her at headquarters, supervised the whole headquarters building. Then on two or three occasions, she accompanied Madame Tingley as a travelling companion in this country and abroad. I was her travelling secretary at that time. Helen was in charge of K.T.’s residence at Point Loma when she died in Sweden. She had the keys to the house and no one, except Dr. de Purucker, had access to the house. No one even lived there, and no one else had access to it. She just ran the whole “White House,” so to speak, at that time. Then, when Dr. de Purucker took over, he made her the Recording Secretary of the Theosophical Society, and she took care of all the records of the society. She was wonderful at that. She kept every bit of historical information she could lay her hands on, and kept it recorded too, even though it didn’t go through official channels. She just had an eye and a nose for things of historical value. You can see this by some of the many albums around here, which are largely her work.”
“You know, that’s interesting, because not too many people have this historical feeling. I have it a little bit myself, that’s why I do these interviews. This is what I wanted to ask you about these albums, would you consider these going to the Historical Society?”
“Well, they are not committed yet to anyone. Of course, we gave our whole library in 1965 to the University of California at San Diego. But we did not give these albums, they are not listed among the things we gave. Everything belongs to me now. I can do with it what I please.”
“Well, the reason why I suggested it is that the Historical Society is interested in the history of San Diego, city and county, and this is really part of it. Very much so. “
“It’s a gold mine, as a matter of fact. There is nothing like it existing anywhere in the world. It’s absolutely unique.”
“Well, that’s why I wondered if you had any plans along these lines. “30
“I’ve thought about it, but I haven’t made up my mind yet. I’ll tell you one thing, Mr. Wright, wherever we leave this, we want it to be permanently protected. We don’t want to put it in the hands of someone who, with prejudice against Theosophy, may throw it in the wastebasket later on. Do you see what I mean?”
“Right, the Historical Society doesn’t do that.”
“That’s one reason why we gave our library to the University of California. That’s a State Institution and our gift is duly recorded there. I don’t think that they would ever dare to do that. But we’ve known in the past where valuable Theosophical books and records have been given to an institution when the one in charge at that time was sympathetic and even enthusiastic about having them. Then he would be succeeded by someone else whose attitude was, ‘I don’t want anything to do with this Theosophical stuff, it’s heathenish and heretical anyway.’ He would then dump it into the wastebasket. Now, Mrs. Harris and I don’t want our material treated that way. Do you understand our point of view.?”
“After all the work that you have put into it, I could well understand that.”
“Now, Mr. John Davidson was associated with us for many years. When he was in charge of the San Diego History Center for many years we could trust him and be sure that Theosophical records would be cared for. Mr. Wilmer Shields is very sympathetic too, and I hope those that follow on, if we should turn over our material, will look upon it in a sense as a sacred trust, because there are years of devotion and study and hard work put into these albums. They don’t just grow on trees. They represent years of work.”
“I can certainly understand how you feel. Well, since you’ve answered all my questions to the fullest and beyond, can you think of anything that I haven’t asked or anything that you want to add about the Institute? I was interested in what it was like there. Was it always a happy campus?”
“Well, on the whole it was a remarkably contented and happy group. But it was made up of idealistic human beings, but human beings can never always live up to their ideals. We had difficulties and personal disappointments. Human weaknesses came up at times, but I don’t know of any place in this whole world where there were so many people who were thoroughly at peace with themselves and with their fellow men. I must show you one thing. Did you ever know ‘Yorick,’ the chief editorial writer for the San Diego Union?”
“Edwin H. Clough. Well, being a highly educated man, he quoted from world literature. He was most enthusiastic and appreciative of what he found at Point Loma. When he passed on in 1923, I compiled ‘A Nosegay of Yorick’s Editorials,’ mostly those that he had written about Point Loma and our public presentations. I’ve only one copy left. I can’t let you have it, but I can let you glance at it if you would like to. There was one of the outstanding minds in San Diego, highly educated, keenly observant, and most penetrating, who really appreciated Katherine Tingley and the work she was doing at Point Loma.”
“Let me look at it after the interview, because I’m running out of questions, and a little out of time. Could you give me an example of what it was like for a week at the Institute at its height? For instance, starting on Monday morning and going through Sunday evening, how was the time spent that you had? Did you eat in the cafeteria, breakfast on Monday morning, and then class? Did you march there? What was it like? ”
“Well, of course, it changed somewhat during the years. I mean it matured, as everything grows; it didn’t stay static all the time. I’ll start as children then. We would get up in the morning about 5:30 and we would go out and have calisthenics, physical drill. In those days, we even carried guns. We had military drill because the Secretary General of our Society at that time, Frank M. Pierce, was a Civil War veteran and thoroughly believed in military discipline. We had some of the discipline, we learned to march and so forth. We learned the manual of arms. That is, mainly the older boys. We would go out and do a gun drill. We had calisthenics. It was our physical setting-up time. The girls went out and drilled and had their calisthenic exercises, hoop-drill, etc. Then at about seven o’clock, we’d all march to breakfast in the community dining room where we all ate together. The parents, in those early days, at any rate, put their children in the Raja-Yoga School at a very early age, because they felt the school could do better for them than they could do themselves, and also it freed them to do the necessary work in the different departments. They didn’t have to do their own cooking. That lasted for a number of years. It didn’t always work out to the best, because sometimes the parents were not satisfied with being separated from their children and they thought they could do better. At any rate, that was the basic attitude for many years.
“Then all the children would clean their houses. We had no hired servants. The children would make their own beds and clean their houses. Then they would go to school from about nine to twelve, then have lunch together. Then in the afternoon, they’d have their music practice. We all learned to play some instrument. They’d have their art classes. They would go out to the athletic field and play tennis or baseball or exercise on the rings and swings. We’d have an early supper at about half-past five o’clock, and then in the evening we’d all do our homework. We had supervised homework, and we had to prepare our lessons well too. We had a thorough scholastic training and then we’d also have our orchestra and choral rehearsals. There would be individual music practices in the afternoon. In the evening besides our orchestra and choral rehearsals we sometimes had meetings in the Temple where we would listen to some fine cultural talks and on anniversary occasions, some of the old-timers would give stirring talks about the early days of Theosophy. But I must say that until Dr. de Purucker took over we had no technical training in Theosophy at all. Madame Tingley said that people must not send their children here and feel that they were going to be indoctrinated in a way that the parents might not approve. We were given a thorough cultural education, but only those who, when they reached an age when they wanted to, would have teaching in technical Theosophical doctrine.”
“Did you have Saturday and Sunday off?”
“We had Sunday off. But then, generally in the morning we’d have our Lotus Circle where Reverend Mr. Neill would come in and teach us about the Bible or Mr. Malpas would give us nature studies and things of that kind.31 But Sunday was the day that we visited our parents. Then Sunday evening there would generally be a meeting in the Temple or in the Rotunda of the Academy where we listened to talks by the older people or we had our club meetings.
“We had a fine boys’ club and a young men’s club, the William Quan Judge Club, named for William Quan Judge. I was the secretary of that. The motto of the club then was, ‘What then is the Royal Talisman, the panacea, finally? It is duty, selflessness.’ The girls had their H. P. Blavatsky Club.
“I forgot to say the older people, after breakfast, would all go to work in the different departments. We had the tailoring department, carpentry department, the painting department, and many of them worked in our splendid press. We had a wonderful press. Instead of the dirty, dingy rooms that most pressmen have to work in, we had wonderful windows looking over the broad Pacific. That’s where we had our linotype, and our monotype and our press machines. Our press work was very highly commended and praised by the Printers’ Association of California. At the International Exhibition of Graphic Arts in Leipzig, our publications won one of the first prizes. We had a wonderful German Bookbinder, Mr. John Koppitz. He taught a number of our people how to bind books as only a German craftsman could do it. Beautiful bookbinding, he did. First of all Mr. San Bonn managed our press; then after he left, Mr. William E. Gates, who later became a very well-known authority on the Mayan hieroglyphics and Mayan civilization and president of the Mayan Society.32 He managed our press for a number of years. Then a skilled printer and pressman from Australia, Mr. Ernest Dadd ran it almost until we moved up to Covina.
“So, there were those different departments. My wife, as a young woman, before she personally helped Madame Tingley, worked with other ladies in what was called the Woman’s Exchange and Mart. All of our uniforms and clothing were made at the tailoring shop for the men and at the Woman’s Exchange and Mart for the women. The children in the school all dressed in uniforms. They had their blue serge uniforms for everyday schooling and the boys had theirs. The men had olivaceous uniforms. Then for our public concerts we had beautiful white uniforms with RYS or RYC written on them. I have some pictures to show you how they looked.
“Then, of course, there were all the meals to be prepared. It was no small undertaking to prepare meals and serve 400 or 500 people three times a day.”
“There wasn’t anything special about the meals, they weren’t vegetarians or anything like that?”
“People had their choice. They could either have vegetarian if they wanted it or eat meat if they wanted to. There was no particular rule about it.
“I will tell you a little side-story about that, if you want to know it. When my mother came to Point Loma, she wasn’t particularly interested in Theosophy. She wanted to cooperate with my father. In Macon she had a colored servant to do the housework and cooking and she attended her ladies’ parties in the afternoon. She had never done any physical work of her own, she didn’t have to. We weren’t wealthy, but we were comfortably situated. At Point Loma in about 1902, I think it was, a Mrs. Pennell, who was running the kitchen which we called the refectory where all the meals were prepared and served, had to go to Texas to take care of an invalid son. Madame Tingley said to my mother, ‘Mrs. Harris, would you be willing to supervise the work in the refectory for two or three weeks until Mrs. Pennell returns?’ And mother said, ‘All right, I’ll be glad to do what I can to help.’ Instead of staying there for two or three weeks, she supervised the kitchen and the dining rooms for 29 years! Mrs. Pennell never did come back. Mother voluntarily ran the kitchen and the dining rooms, and was very much beloved by all those who helped her. They were all volunteer workers. Some of them were a little crotchety at times, but they all loved mother. To this day you can hear some of them talk about mother. ‘Mrs. Harris was always so fair and just and gentle with us all.’ So, I’m very proud of my mother as well as of my father. I sometimes tell my friends that the best thing I ever did in life was to choose my parents.”
“There must have been enormous costs out there. But since nobody received any pay “Well, of course, that eliminated enormous costs.”
“But was the cost met for clothing and food and physical things by a tithing by the members or how?”
“Well, we had people of means who lived at Point Loma; they not only helped with the work, but they paid their own expenses too—rent and board. But, that was only a handful of people. There were a few well-to-do people who contributed generously. Then we made fairly good money from the sale of our books. Our printing press was very well managed. The parents, both those living at Point Loma and those living abroad (we had pupils from Sweden, and Holland and England and different parts of this country who were sent there to be educated) paid, if they could afford it, a rather generous yearly tuition for their children. So, the school—in later years when we had more paying pupils and there weren’t quite so many Cuban and other orphans there—the school was quite successful in meeting our expenses.
“But, it was all on a voluntary basis. The Institution itself was wonderfully situated. It was one of the most beautiful situations in this whole world. We went on the rocks financially after the Depression in 1929, and just to illustrate, when Madame Tingley died, her personal estate was appraised, as I recall, at some $378,000. But, before it was settled during the Depression, it had shrunk to $65,000 and that wasn’t nearly enough to pay off all her creditors. At the end, I was the administrator de bonis non. An older gentleman had been administrator until he died. Those figures show what we ran up against during the Depression. We were in terrible straits. We were land poor. We had this enormous estate and the taxes had gone up enormously. Just the year before the Depression, the County had appraisers come down from Los Angeles and appraise the property. They had the property appraised at something like five times what it had been before and the taxes increased accordingly.”
“I thought a recognized religious group or a church or something like this was tax free.”
“Only the Theosophical University proper at that time was tax free. The University wasn’t established until 1919. The University occupied only a part of the property—it was tax exempt. But the rest of the property wasn’t exempt because it wasn’t used exclusively for religious purposes. We had a private school there, and people lived there. We never had exemption for the bulk of the property. The taxes were enormous. That got us into a very serious financial difficulty. Finally, we had to dispose of all except the main buildings. We had to move some of the living quarters and the press and the shops down from South Ranch. We had to dispose of that property.
“Then the coup de grace came in 1941 after Pearl Harbor. The military people came over and put gun-emplacements on our Western slope. We were in a most vulnerable position. If the Japanese had known how unprepared the country was at that time they could easily have attacked the whole military establishment of San Diego. It was a big one too. There was Fort Rosecrans, there was the Naval Training Station, and the Naval Air Station and all the rest of the military establishment. Point Loma was right in line of gun-fire, so Dr. de Purucker said, ‘Well, there is a wonderful tradition back of Point Loma, but I can’t risk all our people being bombarded in this war.’ So, that was what finally determined us to move up to Covina. By that time, we had sold off enough of our estate, so that we could at least subsist and meet the taxes. We were still in debt, but we were not so badly in debt as we had been. We had gotten rid of a lot of the land and Mr. Howard Throckmorton from Los Angeles had come down and aided us a great deal. With the help of members throughout the world, he had assisted us in securing in trust, forty acres on which to carry on.33
“Incidentally, I was one of the first ones at Point Loma in 1899, and I was the last officer to leave in June 1942. I watched everything being transferred by the Heck Transfer Company up to Covina.
“Before you go, let me add that you have been asking about a really unique Institution in this whole world. There are institutions which parallel it and are like it in some respects, but there has only been one Point Loma Institution in this world and that was situated in San Diego. Let me tell you also that the Point Loma Institution put San Diego on the world map. Don’t forget that. San Diego was a jumping-off place in 1900. Even economically, it was Katherine Tingley’s erecting of those buildings at Point Loma in 1900 that took San Diego out of an economic slump. She employed a lot of men for building the Temple and Academy. William E. Smythe in his History of San Diego, (1907) who was not a Theosophist, gives Point Loma credit for having taken San Diego in those early days out of the doldrums.”34
“I know that there were a number of depressions in San Diego at different times. Oh, another small question, the means of transportation out there, did you use boats from the main town from down in San Diego, or…?..
“We used to cross over on the old launch, Fortuna, owned by Captain Oakley J. Hall. He used to run the launch across the bay. We’d walk down to the landing place at La Playa or Roseville. We had a carriage, a horse and carriage for those who did not feel equal to the walk. When we used to go to San Diego on Sunday nights, as members of our orchestra, we’d walk down to the launch and then to the San Diego by launch, then take then go to San Diego by launch, then take Theater. But, in the very early days before there was even the launch service, we used to have Kelley’s Livery Stable drive the tally- ho out to Point Loma and we’d all drive in the tally-ho down to San Diego. For individuals going down, we had a horse and buggy, to drive across to town. Do you know where the Naval Training Station is now, that was just mud-flats in those days, and at high tide sometimes we just couldn’t get across. It was flooded. Then, as I say, we crossed over the bay. Then, later on they ran a street-car out as far as Chatsworth. We’d go in on the street-car. Then the automobiles came in and the buses. I’ve gone all the way through from the one-horse shay up to the present time.”
“On the Isis Theater, I have talked to John Davidson about it.”
“He managed it for a number of years.”
“That was quite a thing in its day.”
“He’s a dear old man. Remarkably preserved. He’s nineth-three, I believe.”
“About that, and his mind is still very sharp.”
“Now, just before you go, I want to get that pamphlet by the chief editorial writer of The San Diego Union for you to glance at it. Later, if you think of other questions that you should have asked, I’ll be glad to give you another time.”
“Thank you very much. In looking through your scrapbooks, I saw a lot of pictures called Lomaland.’ What’s Lomaland?’
“Lomaland was the name that we early adopted as our name for the Theosophical Headquarters estate. Point Loma, of course, was its geographical name, but our whole estate came to be known as Lomaland. We liked the name very much. We called even our photo-engraving department, ‘The Lomaland Photo-Engraving Department.’ Nearly all of our pictures are so labelled. I believe in time even the County Recorder’s Office recorded our estate under the name of Lomaland. It was the official name of the estate. Point Loma was the place. Lomaland was confined entirely to the Theosophical Headquarters grounds.”
[This ended the original interview. Later, after Mr. Harris had listened to the tapes of the interview, Mr. Wright spoke with him a second time.-Ed.]
“Is there anything else you would like to add?”
[A discussion of former members of the Point Loma school follows-Ed.]
“Now, I should mention in connection with our musical work that in 1913, a. group of thirty of us, about twenty-three young people and the rest mature adults, accompanied Madame Tingley on a Theosophical tour of Europe. First of all, we attended the International Theosophical Peace Congress on the Island of Visingso in Lake Vettern, Sweden. We gave concerts in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Helsingborg and Malmo. Then we went on to Holland and took part in the Twentieth World Peace Congress at The Hague, where we were sponsored by Professor Daniel de Lange, who had been the Founder- Director of the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music and later came to Point Loma to help us in our musical work there. We gave concerts in Arnhem and Amsterdam, Holland. Our Raja-Yoga String Quartet went on down to Nurnberg, Germany, where they had a wonderful reception. They gave a concert and were acclaimed as equal to the best string quartet in Europe. I have complete records of all this.
“Incidentally, in about 1940, I was asked to write an account of my travels with Katherine Tingley, which was published. I have that on hand, giving a brief account of some of her lecture-tours, on which I accompanied her as her travelling secretary….
“Another feature about Madame Tingley’s early life, which I unintentionally omitted. Before she became identified with the Theosophical Movement, as quite a young woman, she lived in Alexandria, Virginia, and spent quite a little time nursing the wounded soldiers from the Civil War. That was some of her first humanitarian work.
“In mentioning some of the well-known Theosophists throughout history, besides Jakob Boehme, I should have mentioned Hypatia ‘ in Alexandria and certainly Paracelsus, the great physician of the middle Ages.35 They rank very highly among us as being great Theosophists of their time.”
“That’s a good addition to this tape. You’ve run me out of questions. I thank you again for this fine interview.”
September 29, 1972
4877 Gresham Street Pacific Beach
San Diego, California 92109
After being edited by me and recopied mainly by Mrs. Louise Savage, the foregoing pages are declared by me to be as accurate as my knowledge and memory can make them. Iverson L. Harris
NOTES 1. The most authoritative study of the Theosophical community is Emmett A. Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community in California, 1897-1942 (Berkeley, 1955), and it is the most important source for this Introduction.
2. Robert V. Hine, California Utopian Communities (New Haven, 1953), p. 54.
3. Charles S. Braden, These Also Believe: A Study of Modern American Cults and Minority Religious Movements (New York, 1960), p. 223.
4. Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community, p. 6. Other Theosophist writers have added to her output, but the most important contributions to Theosophical beliefs came from the pen of Madame Blavatsky. In 1877 she Published Isis Unveiled, a two volume compendium organized around the themes of “Science” and “Theology.” In 1888 she followed this with her most important work, The Secret Doctrine. Also in two volumes, it ranged even more widely over the teachings of the Ancients than her former work, and focused to a greater degree upon the religions of the Orient and the Near East. For an assessment of Theosophical writings see J. Stillson Judah, The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America(Philadelphia, 1967), pp. 99-119; Braden, These Also Believe, pp. 221-56; or Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community, pp. 3-8. A lucid presentation of Theosophist beliefs is contained in Lydia Ross and Charles J. Ryan, Theosophia: An Introduction, revised and edited by Helen Todd and W. Emmett Small (San Diego, 1974).
5. For an account of the schism in the Theosophist movement see Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community, pp. 8-11; or Iverson L. Harris,Theosophy Under Fire: A Miniature ‘Key to Theosophy’ (San Diego, 1970), passim.
6. Interview with Iverson L. Harris, May 14, 1974.
7. There is no satisfactory biography of Katherine Tingley, but most studies of the American Theosophical movement contain an account of her career. See, for instance, Hine, California’s Utopian Societies, pp. 34-35; or Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community, pp. 12-22.
8. The term “Raja Yoga” means “royal union,” and symbolized Madame Tingley’s belief in the importance of environmental influence in shaping an individual’s character. Classes in the Raja Yoga school were kept small, and students lived together in cottages under the supervision of resident teachers.
9. Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community, pp. 170-81.
10. The writings of Purucker number several volumes, and are largely taken from lectures he delivered to Theosophist audiences; for a summary of his scholarly activities see W. Emmett Small, “Dr. G. de Purucker: An Invitation and a Challenge,” The Eclectic Theosophist, XXI (March 15, 1974), 1-3. For an account of Purucker’s leadership see Judah, The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America, pp. 99- 119; or Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community, pp. 182-94.
11. The fortunes of the Theosophical Society after the move to Covina did not materially improve. The organization was forced to sell its properties there to the California Baptist Theological Seminary in 1950-51, and shifted its operations to three separate and smaller facilities in Pasadena. At the same time, the organization was fragmented by a struggle for leadership between James A. Long and William Hartley following the death of Arthur L. Conger in 1951. See Judah, The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America, pp. 116-17.
12. In addition to its importance in San Diego history, the Point Loma colony made significant contributions to the development of Theosophist views more generally, and there are still a number of Theosophist societies in the United States and elsewhere. In addition, such religious groups as the Rosicrucians and the I Am owe part of their inspiration to Theosophy. For an assessment of the impact of Theosophy upon other religious groups see Robert S. Ellwood, Jr., Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1973).
13. As late as January 12, 1941, Purucker refused to name a successor, and according to instructions he had previously issued, the Cabinet was to wait for at least three years following his death to see if a leader appeared, and, this failing, to select one themselves. See Aileen Brittain Shurlock,Biographical Sketch of Colonel Arthur Latham Conger, Fifth Leader of the Theosophical Society, Point Loma-Covina, 1872-1951, (Oakland, 1955), pp. 44-46.
14. Albert G. Spalding (1850-1915) was one of the country’s first famous professional baseball players, and became wealthy through the manufacture of sporting goods with the firm A. G. Spalding and Brothers. He moved to Point Loma and lived there until his death in 1915, and, as Mr. Harris reveals in his interview, the disposition of his estate brought Katherine Tingley into a dispute among his heirs.
15. Dr. Lorin Wood was a physician, and part of the Theosophist community. Following Katherine Tingley’s dedication of Point Loma in 1897, he built a large hotel-sanitarium, which was later used by the Raja Yoga school. Usually referred to as the Homestead, or as the Academy, it was one of the most imposing structures on Point Loma. Dr. Wood remained with the Theosophical Society through its move to Covina, and died in 1944.
16. The Aryan Memorial Temple, which was also called the Temple of Peace, was constructed in 1900, and was frequently praised as being the most beautiful building on Point Loma. It was circular in shape, with a series of arches for outer walls, and was finished in white to resemble stone. The building was capped by a huge dome of amethyst-colored glass, superimposed by a large, glass, pinnacled sphere. A similar dome of aquamarine glass was constructed atop the Homestead, and as both domes were customarily illuminated at night they furnished a spectacular view from the sea.
17. As the terms indicate, cosmogenesis refers to the creation of the universe, and anthropogenesis to the creation of mankind. These topics furnish the respective themes of the two volumes of Helena Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine.
18. Sankaracharya—literally, “blessed, spiritual teacher”—lived in India from 510 B.C. to 478 B.C., and was one of the greatest exponents of Vedantic philosophy, which was in turn regarded as an illuminated version of Vedic writings.
Zoroaster, who lived from 660 B.C. to 583 B.C., developed a monotheistic religion in ancient Persia which contained a number of similarities to Judaism and Christianity.
Vedism, a precursor of Hinduism in India, had its basis in four religious texts known as the Vedas, which were composed between 1500 B.C. and 900 B.C. The Upanishads were a series of philosophical works written later to supplement the teachings of the Vedas.
As becomes apparent from the interview with Mr. Harris, a wide ranging knowledge of world religions is essential to an understanding of Theosophical teachings, and a working knowledge of Sanskrit can be an added boon. For simple glossaries, however, see Judith Tyberg, Sanskrit Keys to the Wisdom-Religion (Point Loma, 1940); and Helena Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy (Point Loma, 1913), pp. 299-356.
19. Gnosticism was a religious movement which paralleled and was influenced by the development of Christianity, and, like Christianity, placed emphasis upon the struggle for individual salvation. Gnostics relied heavily upon revelation for divine wisdom, and accepted the exalted role of Christ. The movement died out, however, in the 4th and 5th centuries.
20. Giordano Bruno (c. 1548-1600), was a Dominican monk who broke with the Church and authored a number of books on science, religion, and logic that were critical of Catholicism. Imprisoned by the Inquisition in 1593, he was burned at the stake in 1600.
21. Ammonius Saccas (c. 160-242) a native of Alexandria, was apparently born of Christian parents, but broke with Christianity and formulated a philosophy known as Neo-Platonism. (Neo-Platonists were called by Madame Blavatsky “the Theosophists of the early centuries”; see The Key to Theosophy, p. 340.) Plotinus, originally from Egypt, was a student of Ammonius Saccas at Alexandria. He later moved to Rome and began a school for the teaching of Neo-Platonism, gaining a considerable following. One of his students was Porphyry (c. 233-304), who preserved much of the teachings of Plotinus by organizing and editing his lectures.
22. Paracelsus, or Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim (c. 1490-1541), was a German physician whose teachings in medicine were influenced by a Neo-Platonic philosophy, and he regarded the life of man as inseparable from the functioning of the universe. His teachings had an effect upon the later career and philosophy of Jacob Boehme (1575- 1624), a German mystic whose writings were much admired by Madame Blavatsky; see The Key to Theosophy, pp. 310-11; and The Secret Doctrine (Point Loma, 1925), II, 634.
23. Dr. Rose Winkler and Dr. Gertrude Van Pelt were both physicians who became permanent residents of Point Loma, and were still with the Theosophical Society when it moved to Covina.
24. The Roseville school was a public school located near San Diego Bay which Mr. Harris attended before the Raja Yoga school was founded at Point Loma in 1900. Neither Roy Crippen nor Paul Jennings was a member of the Theosophical Society, but both became prominent members of the San Diego community in later years.
25. The Fisher Opera House, located on Fourth Street between B and C Streets, was constructed in 1891, and had a capacity of 1400. It was purchased by Madame Tingley from John C. Fisher in 1902 at a cost of $70,000, and renamed the Isis Theater. For the story of the theater see Merle Clayton, “The Fisher Opera House,” San Diego Magazine, XXII (December, 1970), 80-83, 93, 108.
26. Emmett Greenwalt has also noted the close relationship between Madame Tingley and her grandfather, and the fact that she was fascinated by the esoteric nature of his Masonic teachings; see Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community, p. 12.
27. According to Greenwalt the marriage to Henry Cook lasted but two months, and this was followed by her marriage to George Parent in about 1880, some ten years later. There is thus some uncertainty about the adoption, for Greenwalt maintains that Mme. Tingley adopted three children during her second marriage; a boy and a girl that were Cook’s through his own second marriage, and a boy from an orphan home. Cook’s boy was returned shortly to his relatives, but Mme. Tingley kept the girl until about 1895. The orphan boy died, apparently from the effects of a head injury. Mme. Tingley’s marriage to Philo Tingley took place in 1888. See ibid., pp. 12-14.
28. In February, 1945, Mr. Harris had occasion to present a detailed explanation of the schism in the Theosophical movement as part of a deposition he made when a bequest to the Theosophical Society in the will of Mrs. Ann Porter was contested by other heirs. For this deposition see Theosophy Under Fire: A Miniature ‘Key to Theosophy.’
29. The term “Adept” means “great soul” or “great self,” and is synonymous with “Master,” or from Sanskrit, “Mahatman.” Madame Blavatsky described an Adept as “one who has reached the stage of initiation and become a Master in the science of Esoteric Philosophy;” see Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy, p. 299. Adepts recognized by Theosophists include Jesus, Buddha, Lao-tse, Confucius, Zoroaster, Plato, Pythagoras, and other; see Harris, Theosophy Under Fire, pp. 23-24.
30. In April, 1973, the Articles of Incorporation of Point Loma Publications, Inc., were amended to provide that upon the dissolution of the corporation the San Diego History Center would receive “the real property of Point Loma Publications, Inc., if any, its stocks, bank deposits and other liquid assets, and all its albums and other assets regarded by the said Historical Society as pertinent or relevant to the history of San Diego.” Interview with Iverson L. Harris, May 26, 1974.
31. Reverend S. J. Neill was a Presbyterian minister from New Zealand, and one of the first residents at Point Loma. Phillip A. Malpas came to Point Loma from England, and was a former Paymaster in the British navy.
32. William Gates was one of the most gifted scholars at the Point Loma community. His interests were in Mayan archeology, and he published a number of important works on this subject. He left Point Loma, however, and in 1924 became head of the Department of Middle American Research at Tulane University, later moving to Johns Hopkins University. He retained his Theosophical beliefs, however, and frequently visited Point Loma; see Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community, pp. 119-20.
33. Howard Throckmorton was not a Theosophist, but the negotiations he conducted were in the way of a friendly arrangement designed to preserve intact as much property as possible for the Point Loma community; see Ibid., pp. 191-92.
34. For Smythe’s treatment of the Point Loma community see his History of San Diego, 1542-1908 (San Diego, 1908), 11, 715-17.
35. Hypatia lived in Alexandria near the beginning of the 5th century, and was a proponent of the teachings of Plato and Plotinus. She was executed by action of Catholic Bishop St. Cyril; see Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, II, 53, 252-53.
DON JunÍpero SERRA AT POINT LOMA
By Kenneth Morris (1879-1937)
Sea blood-orange and ice-blue flame;
Reel and glitter of gemmed wave-tips;
Hoarse oracular far sea-lips
Crooning a secret rhyme God knows….
Change is not: there was still the same
Murmur and glow on the vast ellipse
When Don Junípero Serra came,
And Watched the south for the Spaniard ships
Here where the gay sea-dahlia blows;
And a rumor of far and beautiful fame
Shone through his eyes and ears, to eclipse
The weight of time and the loud world’s woes;
And for something’s sake that the waves proclaim,
Prophecy burned in him, heart and lips,
And the Spirit sang through the sunset’s rose….
And still that light, that wonder, glows;
And still no wavelet rippling dips
But is thrilled with strange bright news to acclaim,
Such mantic rhythm through the splendor flows….
(Dear Hill-shrine of the World-heart’s flame,
Did Don Junípero know? Who knows?)
Courtesy Iverson L. Harris
Dr. Dennis E. Berge has been a member of the faculty at San Diego State University since 1963, and is presently Chairman of the Department of History. He received his Ph.D. in History at the University of California at Berkeley in 1965 with a specialty in the History of the American West, and his teaching and research interests are in this field.
Dr. Dennis E. Berge has been a member of the faculty at San Diego State University since 1963, and is presently Chairman of the Department of History. He received his Ph.D. in History at the University of California at Berkeley in 1965 with a specialty in the History of the American West, and his teaching and research interests are in this field.