The Journal of San Diego History
Fall 1979, Volume 25, Number 4
Thomas L. Scharf, Editor

Book Reviews

Richard H. Peterson, Book Review Editor

The Wisdom of the Heart: Katherine Tingley Speaks.
Compiled and Edited by W. Emmett Small. Cover by Lomaland artist Leonard Lester. San Diego: Point Loma Publications, Inc. Portrait. Appendices. Chronology. 163 pages. $5.75 Paper.

Reviewed by Emmett E. Greenwalt, Professor of History, Emeritus, California State University, Los Angeles, author of California Utopia: Point Loma, 1897-1942 (1978).

This little volume is appropriately subtitled Katherine Tingley Speaks. Like the other five books bearing her name, it is largely a compilation of what she said, not what she wrote. An engaging exception in this collection is her letter from Egypt during her world Crusade of 1896. After some attention to the history and philosophy inspired by the ancient ruins, she enlivens her account by vivid descriptions of the Arabs that milled about them. People were ever her first interest.

If Katherine Tingley’s life were keynoted in one word, that word would be “crusade.” It began in her native New England before she discovered Theosophy, when she became involved in mission work among the poor. Theosophy, however, supplied the philosophy to justify the effort by its emphasis on brotherhood. It also gave her a Society with the means to finance her crusade and the cadre to carry it out.

She soon learned, however, that a considerable part of her energy had to be used to defend the Society. The controversial leadership of her predecessors. Blavatsky and Judge, together with those who challenged her own right to lead, was a legacy that she had to contend with the rest of her life.

Nevertheless, her remarkable energy was equal to the challenge, with plenty left over to carry out her various crusades against such woes of the age, as she saw them, as capital punishment, vivisection, and war. “Unbrotherliness,” she pointed out, “is the insanity of the age.”

On this fiftieth anniversary of her death, there are still San Diegans who remember her unique experiment on beautiful Point Loma where now sits the campus of Point Loma College (Nazarene). As she put it in this volume, “I wanted to evolve an institution that would take humanity in hand before it was worsted in the struggle of life.” So she concentrated most of the Society’s resources on the peninsula overlooking San Diego Bay and the Pacific, bringing into existence glass-domed structures housing her Raja Yoga School and Temple of Peace, surrounding them with orchards, beds of flowers, and winding paths.

Her devotional approach to education is stressed in this volume. As she remarked, “It is to bring out rather than to bring to the faculties of the child.” Music rated high on her list, especially symphonic, as inspiring harmony in the soul. Drama, too, particularly Greek and Shakespearean, filled her Greek Theater on the Point and her Isis Theater in San Diego for many years. “Practically every line in the Eumenides,” she said, “contains a profound truth of the ancient Mysteries.”

Like Emerson, she stressed the divinity within. A means of becoming aware of this she saw in the rituals of silence and meditation, foreshadowing a practice that of late has become almost popular. Fifty years and more ago, all residents of the Hill entered into it, even eating their meals in silence. As she put it, “The Soul knows. . . . It abides forever in the light, choiring with the stars and the silences of God.”

Today, the city of glass is gone, but the doctrines taught and practiced there bear examination by the historian, the educator, and the philosopher. For the mystic, however, this volume has the most to offer: karma, reincarnation, invocation of the divinity within, all are beautifully and clearly voiced again in The Wisdom of the Heart: Katherine Tingley Speaks.