Theosophy and Some of the Vital Problems of the Day

By Katherine Tingley

Address Number Two -- January 17, 1915
Search for the Paths. But, O Disciple, be of clean heart before thou startest on thy journey. Before thou takest thy first step, learn to discern the real from the false, the everfleeting from the everlasting. Learn above all to separate Head-learning from Soul-wisdom, the "Eye" from the "Heart" doctrine. -- H. P. BLAVATSKY in The Voice of the Silence.



The announcement that Katherine Tingley would give her second lecture on the subject of "Theosophy and Some of the Vital Problems of the Day" drew a crowd that again taxed the seating capacity of the Isis Theater; and a number, unable to obtain seats, went away disappointed. The audience was made up largely of visitors to the city of San Diego who had come to the Panama-California Exposition, and winter guests at the hotels, from different parts of the United States. The music of the evening was rendered by the Raja-Yoga Girls' International Chorus.

Mme. Tingley's appearance on the stage was greeted, as usual, with a storm of applause; and she held her audience, throughout the long address, in the most rapt attention. At the beginning of her address, by way of introduction, Mme. Tingley stated that she had received more letters of inquiry during the last week than during almost any week previous to that time; and that in spite of the assistance of a large corps of secretaries, she had found it absolutely impossible to answer all as directly as she wished, and consequently, in her talk, she would touch upon some of the questions asked her.

Mme. Tingley referred briefly to the strenuous efforts of her predecessors H. P. Blavatsky, William Q. Judge, and the members of the Theosophical Society in the early days from 1875 on, to establish the organization upon that firm basis of common sense and altruistic living, which the theosophical teachings demand. In a few words she also gave a glimpse of the persecution which Mme. Blavatsky had endured, in which the members of the Society had shared, because of Mme. Blavatsky's presuming to come to the Western world and daring to offer "new" thoughts and "new" ideas, which were as old as the ages, for the liberation of man.

Mme. Tingley further gave a brief history of the differences which arose in the Society, which culminated in the action of the annual Convention of the original Theosophical Society, held at Boston in 1895, when, by a vote of 191 delegates to 10, William Q. Judge was elected President for life, and all connection with those who had shown themselves to be a disturbing element in the Society was severed and repudiated. This vote, which was still further increased by similar action being taken by members in England, Holland, Sweden, Germany, Australia, India, and other countries, represented a majority of the active members throughout the world.

Mme. Tingley further said that although the original Society had thus been freed from the disintegrating factors above referred to, yet these were still using the name and some of the teachings of Theosophy, seeking to blend the latter with fantastic doctrines of their own which many old students of Mme. Blavatsky considered unreliable, unwholesome and unprofitable. Mme. Tingley spoke very impersonally of such people, and said there was no question but that there were people in those so-called Theosophical Societies who believed they were receiving the pure teachings of Theosophy; and that it was this fact which forced her, unpleasant as it was, to make this introductory explanation, and to show why there were, on the part of some, such confused ideas regarding the Theosophical Society, its teachings, and Leaders.

She further stated that it was painful to see, in this Twentieth Century, especially in America, so many gullible people, who chose to seek all sorts of weird, fantastic theories and studies, in preference to the sane and practical views of life presented by genuine Theosophy.

The Theosophical Leader urged her listeners to read the theosophical literature published by the Society which she represented, viz., the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society (International Headquarters, Point Loma, California), as one could easily find in this way the full history of the original Society which makes clear the practical truths of the Wisdom-Religion.

The following is the stenographic report of Mme. Tingley's second lecture.

The Theosophical Conception of Deity

My effort tonight will be to lift the veil a little, if possible, and I shall try to carry you in thought to a broader conception of Deity -- the absolute, the supreme, nay, more, the omnipresent Divine Essence in everything visible and invisible. He who is inspired by this broad conception of the Supreme, of Deity, would soon find himself outgrowing the old limitations of the belief in a personal God. He would begin to realize that there are invisible laws so close at hand, touching all life, that if man could only understand them, he could rise in his strength and become, without struggle, without strenuous effort, without fear or suffering, free from the bondage and thraldom of the old theological ideas that have been taught to us during recent ages. I often wonder if the progressive minds of the age realize the strong psychological power of the old dogmas, which seem to be teeming in our very blood. Truly, we are the progeny of the ignorance of the past, and we have much to learn ere we can lift the burdens from our fellow men.

Let us take this idea of Deity, the supreme, omnipresent, divine Essence in everything, visible and invisible. This conception inspires one to move out from the present limited environments of thought and to look at life from a new basis. It would be the first step to a better understanding of life and its mysteries.

Is it possible that any thinking man in this age can really believe in the theological teaching that Deity, the Supreme Power, is a personal, revengeful, and jealous God? Let us for a moment conceive of Deity from another standpoint -- theosophically -- Deity, the absolute, infinite, all-powerful, divine Essence permeating the life of everything that breathes, and expressing itself even in the flowers, in the song of the birds, in the wind and the waves, in all that nature presents to us. How mysterious and wonderful is nature! What a book of revelations it is for humanity to study! Yet how easy it is to learn from nature, if one wills. The classified sciences teach much; but the invisible forces lying behind the outer expressions of nature are identical with the invisible forces which work through ourselves, and from these we learn the inner truths.

Theosophy and the Bible

I often think of those who depend solely upon their Bible as containing the spiritual remedies for the sicknesses of the age. But why do they not study it from a new viewpoint -- from a theosophical viewpoint? Why do they not endeavor to gain that understanding which Jesus Christ spoke of, and which was promised to all who would seek the inner light -- not through the letter of the word, but through the Spirit -- in the symbology of that quasi-historical book? Study the life of the great Syrian from a theosophical standpoint; study the motives of that noble teacher of men, who showed in thought and act that he had attained some of the heights of perfectibility, and who thus gives us ample proof of the doctrine of reincarnation.

Theosophy teaches that it is not only the privilege but also the destiny of every man to live nobly and to work towards perfection; that since man is an integral part of the universal scheme of life, his holiest and highest aim lies in seeking the path of perfectibility and in finding the means to work in harmony with the immutable laws of life on lines of least resistance; and to this end he should study nature and its mysteries, that he may understand the mysteries of his own life, the secret grandeur of his innermost self.

Think of the promise that the Syrian initiate gave to the people of his own age, and indeed of all ages to come, when he said: "Greater things than these things shall ye do." He here accentuates the teachings of Theosophy, and he points out to you clearly that the salvation of man lies within himself. Jesus spoke in parables to the multitude, necessarily, but to his disciples, the members of his Inner School, he gave the profound but simple teachings of Theosophy, which is true Christianity.

Let us try to lift in our own lives the veil cloaking the mysteries of being and to move on with earnest endeavor; let us learn to know and to feel that divine quality in our natures which declares to us that there are no limitations to our growth nor to the heights that man can attain to, if he but will. And in this process of evolution, of inner awakening, let us go through life unafraid. Theosophy affords a heart-satisfying explanation of the chastening power of suffering -- of its causes, and of its place in man's evolution.

Our Present Duty

If true Christianity, in all its simplicity, beauty, and power, had been taught and had been lived in past ages, today we would see nobler manifestations of unity and higher ideals in human life. It is the real duty of the thinking people of the twentieth century to work constantly for these grander ends, inspired by unselfish motives, that they may open the way for better things for the coming generations, as well as for the benefit of our present humanity, especially for our children.

Who is satisfied with present conditions? How can one be satisfied? The unrest that we see everywhere, the despair and the doubt of the age, do not these demonstrate that we are held in mental slavery and even in moral bondage? Study the vital problems of the day, and then answer me. Many say: "We are willing and we are ready, but what can we do to make things better?" Yet alas! few take the trouble to seek the means which will lead to the solving of these problems. Few have the courage to face public opinion and the criticism or the disapproval of their neighbors and friends, and to take up the study of Theosophy which, as I have so often told you, offers a real key to the problems which confront us and supplies the remedies for our own moral and mental ills.

Is it not time that we begin to build a grander life for the future? We Americans call ourselves lovers of liberty, and we profess to be living in a land of enlightenment, in a land of liberty, in "free America"; yet confusion and suffering, distress and despair, new crimes and vices, meet us daily, and in such positive and aggressive fashion, that it is staggering to the most earnest and unselfish workers.

Outside of our own country we have further evidences of the unbrotherliness of the age, of thousands of men daily murdering thousands of others, bayoneting them, slaughtering them -- just across the water in one direction, and in another direction, only a few miles from us. And yet we sleep on, and we wonder, and we wait, and we lose sight of the deeper meaning of our duty to the world.

Believe me, my good friends, we, the American people, have sown tares along the years in our acts of omission and commission, and these seeds have grown quickly. They are now conditions of our national existence, which should have been uprooted in the beginning. Because we, as a people, have failed to do this, we are suffering, and the whole world suffers. But it is possible, through the knowledge which we have gained by our suffering, and through the application of the theosophical teachings, to build on lines of individual and national right action and unite in spirit for a readjustment of all affairs for the good of humankind.

The European War and its Causes

Think of the fevered minds that have been busy ever since the European conflict began, discussing the war-question, creating disturbing elements by taking sides with this country or that country, blaming this individual or that individual for the war, and in their blindness losing sight of the real causes which have led to this horrible slaughter. Believe me, if one studies these conditions from a theosophical, unprejudiced basis, from a just standpoint, he will see that for generation after generation the people of all countries -- none are to be excepted -- in spite of their aspirations and their efforts for the betterment of their kind, have, through their blindness, become very slaves of the flesh-pots of Egypt, devotees to the almighty dollar, worshipers of selfish power and of personal prominence; and in this selfishness, the great human family has become separated.

Though brotherhood is a fact in nature, yet we must admit that we see but little evidence of it in our twentieth century. It is a pathetic picture. What a commentary on the credulity of man to know that in each country, earnest, well-meaning, heart-broken people are praying to their God -- their theological God -- for victory for their respective countries, to be gained by the defeat of their brothers! What a reflection this is upon the minds of men! Oh, the pity of it! That man can conceive that the great, over-ruling, divine power of the universe would guide an army to battle, to bring victory to it and defeat to its opponents! Ah me! Let me have as my inspiration, as my guide, my theosophical Deity -- not the personal God, not the God of revenge, not the God who punishes, but the divine spirit of love and mercy and inspiration!

Let us be wise, and from a theosophical standpoint study the perplexing and appalling conditions now in Europe. Then we may realize that the seeds of selfishness, ignorance, brutality, that have been growing all along the way, for ages, have brought about the present terrific conflict; and unless we arise in determined purpose, and call a halt, we shall be taking part in that conflict, on inner planes, even though on the outward planes we seem to be absolutely separated from it.

It is high time that more of the advanced minds of the age, the broad-minded men and women who are working so unselfishly for the upliftment of the race, should make theosophy a practical power in their lives, that they might add new life and energy to their present understanding and strength; that they might arise in their power and take a new stand for man and for Deity. Is it then possible for man to resist the invitation to protest against the errors of our age? Is it possible for him to close his eyes to the need of such a protest? Let his motives be pure, strong, and unselfish; let him evoke the higher self, the Christos Spirit within; and then he, though a unit, can work magic for the advancement of man on the path of perfectibility, and inspire others to do likewise.

The Duality of Man's Nature

Now, the question is, does the aspirant draw the necessary distinction between the merely personal will of the brain-mind, and the impersonal spiritual will? How many are there today who have studied the duality of man's nature, and who realize that the spiritual will, that which urges man to live the noble and righteous life, belongs to the immortal part -- to the higher self; and that this higher self is ever seeking to impress the lower mind with the knowledge necessary to understand the wonderful mysteries of life? The spiritual will is, in essence, the divine urge; it is that superb power that we catch glimpses of occasionally from those whom the world calls great geniuses -- from our heroes and heroines, our writers and composers, our artists, inventors, and statesmen -- yes, occasionally we catch glimpses of the divine in man, and we pause, we are startled, we are inspired, we are lifted out beyond all our limitations for the moment; and we declare that something new has happened for the world's good.

But let us remember that theosophy teaches that the divine light is in every man; it is the Christos Spirit (to use the theosophical terminology); it is a part of that great spiritual essence that breathes through all nature, through all life. Yes, where there is life, there is divine power, no matter how you may view it. I beg that you read Theosophy, and through your own efforts lift the veil still higher, that you may better understand these mysteries of your being. May I ask you, can you feel that these simple theosophical ideas which I present are far-fetched, are speculative or impossible? Can you not, in contemplating the possibilities of spiritual advancement, feel the divine urge? Can you not reason and feel that these divine, these immutable laws which hold us in their keeping, are all-merciful, all-powerful, and are a part of the great, the universal life?

Think of what wonderful inspiration man can find in his desire for a higher development, and in the knowledge that he is dual in nature; that the lower, animal part, with the brain-mind, on the one hand, and the ego, the real man, the Christos Spirit on the other, are constantly battling for mastery. If we make a proper analysis of this presentation of the duality of man, we shall easily realize that the Christos Spirit, the immortal part, is ever urging one to a higher life; and that that within us which brings the unrest and the conflict and the despair is from the lower nature, which seeks to gain the ascendancy for the support of desire, selfishness, and lust.

Man must understand the meaning of the conflict within himself, the mysteries of his own life, before he can take a sane view of his true position in life; for if he begins to work out his own salvation, in the truest sense, unselfishly, he must include in thought and in will all his fellow men, and he must work with them, suffer with them, walk with them -- aye, even to the depths and to the heights. No man can know the needs of his brother, or can know how to apply the remedies for his weaknesses, until he has found out his own weaknesses and his own needs -- ignoring his wants. He cannot reach a point of discernment as to true values, whereby he can hold his lower self in abeyance, until he has the knowledge of the strength of his higher nature -- his spiritual will.

O ye men and women, study the divinity within you; analyze yourselves; recall, as far as memory will permit, the beginnings of your own weaknesses, doubts, and fears. Stand face to face with them; blame no one, remembering that whatever has come to you in this life that is regrettable, deplorable, and apparently unprofitable, is the result, as I have said before, of the seed sown in some preceding life, or in this life. Once that you can see the justice of the divine law working in you, then you will have the courage to go on and on forever.


If humanity at this time had attained to a higher understanding and to a more perfect living, we should not have the chaos and confusion, the suffering and the warfare, that are the burdens we carry today. Man would not be pitted against man, brother against brother. Unnameable, horrible, brutal crimes would not be permitted. If the true teachings of Christianity had been rightly interpreted in centuries past, we should today have a higher expression of manhood and womanhood, a more inspiring picture of society, and of national and international life -- a true civilization. We should also have a universal system of education, based on the philosophy and the science of living. It is because humanity still sleeps, still waits, Micawber-like, for something to "turn up," because it still is building on faith instead of on knowledge, that we are confronted with these heart-rending problems, which so often we cannot even control.

Strange as it may seem to you, humanity has inflicted these conditions upon itself; today it is reaping what it has sown in the past. This is the law of karma: "As ye sow, so must ye also reap." Humanity, on account of its wavering will and selfish acts in time past, is now reaping, individually and collectively, a nightmare of difficulties that grow more perplexing as the days go on.

Rise above the limitations of the belief in only one life, which rarely exceeds one hundred years. What an insult to our intelligence is this belief! To think that you, who are the highest expression of the Divine Law on earth, the immortal man, the soul; that you, who carry within yourselves the potentialities of gods; that you, with your heart-longings and aspirations, should be limited to one earth-life in which to reach perfection! Can you see justice in such a doctrine? Is it not more rational, more believable, that in the scheme of universal life it is your part to live, and to live again and again -- ever striving for perfection, ever learning and advancing through experience and suffering -- that you may ultimately reach that point of spiritual growth and perfection, of which the voice of your own soul would tell you, would you but listen, and which Jesus Christ and the earlier great teachers of antiquity taught?

Oh, the magic of these words: "Man has another chance!" This the doctrine of reincarnation teaches, and it is ever ringing in my ears. I remember once on my return from a trip around the world that I was invited by the warden of Folsom Prison, in this state, to visit there and to talk to the prisoners. I spent many hours with the prisoners, and just as I was about to leave, my attention was called to three men who were in the death chamber and were to be hanged the following week. I felt at that moment bewildered, lost in the horror of the picture of the coming legal murder. Heretofore in all my years of work for the unfortunate inside and outside of prison, I had always had the strength to give some encouragement and help; but when this new task confronted me, I was dumbfounded. I realized, as I looked into the faces of these men, that there slept in their natures, in spite of their mistakes, those potential qualities that I have spoken of; and my soul whispered to me that much as they have erred, yet they have been deprived of that knowledge which might have evoked noble lives. I gazed at these men, for I was rebelling in silent protest against the law of our land, that legalized murder. But realizing that the moments were precious, and that my last words must tell for something uplifting in their lives, if I were to be satisfied with my day's work, I said to them: "Boys, you have another chance. The Divine Laws are more merciful than man's laws. Look up. Take courage, and meet the inevitable without fear."

Two of these men, with sullen and despairing faces, looked at me with indifference. They said they had their religion and were satisfied. But the expression on their faces -- the terror visible there -- was a contradiction to their statements. But the other, the one who had not premeditated murder, but who, under the impulse of intoxicating drinks and evil surrounding, had taken a life, smiled, put his hand to his heart, looked up and said: "Oh, thank you, thank you, Madam!" A few more words to this willing listener brought new hope to him, and he said he could meet the inevitable in a new way. From the reports I received from those who were in attendance at the legal murder, the "hanging of the man by the neck until he was dead," he carried the same new trust to the end. He had found another chance.

The Case of Ralph Fariss

I have in mind another case -- that of Ralph Fariss, a mere boy only a little over twenty-one years of age, who had been going on the downward path for some time and who at last found himself facing the death penalty in San Quentin prison for the murder of a conductor on the Southern Pacific Railway about a year ago. The report of our theosophical worker who has been helping the prisoners in San Quentin regularly for over fourteen years brought the case of Fariss to my attention; and although I have never met him, I found the opportunity to write to him regularly and to try to help him to meet his then present condition and that which would probably follow with a fortitude born of true courage -- the necessary result of a better understanding of the meaning of life -- of Theosophy.

When I first began to correspond with Fariss, it was plain to me that his education had been neglected, or rather, that he himself had neglected his education. He was very illiterate, but his letters showed a thoughtful mind, what I may call an aspiring nature; and from that time on, each letter showed improvement on all lines, even finally a marked ability to think out the serious problems of life and to apply them to his own particular case. Little by little his mind was reached with some of our optimistic theosophical teachings, and he gained hope; and from what I hear, he thereafter carried in all his association with the prisoners in "condemned row" and elsewhere, even to the death chamber and on to the end, a cheery and brotherly spirit.

The cause of this betterment was the new hope which was lifting him out of his chaotic state of mind and making him see himself as he had been and as he was, and which compelled him to look into the future with a larger trust. He too was told that he had another chance, and that the Higher Laws are more merciful than man's laws, and he trusted naturally. He began the noble work of self-conquest under the trying experiences of a dark cell in "condemned row." He was not told that he was a sinner; he was told to forget the past and to begin anew in thought and in best endeavor; he was told that he must take care of the real Fariss and bring this latter into action. He was made to feel the power of the words, "I am my brother's keeper." He accepted the doctrine of reincarnation, slowly but confidently; and it sustained him to the last.

He wrote to me that he was preparing for whatever might happen; that he was trying to gain strength, knowledge, and self-mastery, so that in case his sentence should be commuted to one of life imprisonment he might help those in prison with him and outside of his own four walls; he said that he hoped to prevent other boys from committing further crime, and to lead them to a better life. "Should that not be possible," he added, "and I have to go to the gallows, I will do it in a way that I hope will be of help to all those others who may be going on the downward path, and my last words will be a pleading to such as these, that they may learn before too late, the truth of the words, 'As ye sow, so must ye also reap!' "

In some of the newspapers I read unfair statements concerning the ending of this unfortunate youth's life. I have it from a reliable source -- my representative above referred to, who stayed with Fariss the night before in the death chamber and until his life ended that there was not a tremor or a bit of hesitancy about going to the scaffold, not even when the black cap was pulled over his head. But it is true that in the death chamber he rebelled at the shock that the execution would be to his mother, and at the injustice that he felt had been done him in depriving him of the right to a commutation of sentence to life imprisonment, when others within the last few months, who had committed desperate and premeditated crimes, had been reprieved and had had their sentence commuted.

So there is in my heart tonight a gladness, in spite of the horror I have at the picture of that unfortunate boy being hanged; and my gladness is that he closed his eyes in trust, believing in the compassion of the Divine Law, and realizing that though forgotten by his brothers and legally to be hanged, he had another chance.

If we believe in the mercy of the Universal Law, we must aim to be higher expressions of that Law; we must cultivate a larger tolerance for each other; we must arouse that real love that Jesus Christ spoke of, when he said, "Love ye one another"; we must awaken our consciences to such a degree that it will be absolutely impossible for us to wrong a brother in any sense, or to deprive him in any way of his rights. Public conscience and individual conscience need to be stimulated to quicker action. Therefore we cannot lose by having these unpleasant pictures before us. They will help to bring us to our senses and to realize what our duty to our fellows is, and that that duty is real.

Bear in mind that we have many prisons in our state, many more in the United States, and many, many more in different countries, and in them are human beings -- our brothers -- the victims of our past and present civilizations. They, our ancestors' progeny and perhaps our own, are shut out from the bright, free sunlight while our man-made laws demand "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." With but few exceptions, there is little spiritual light in our prisons today. The restrictions of our laws forbid it. There is little spiritual life in our prisons today for the same reason. There are tired, discouraged, weary souls waiting for a "lift," for that help which only we, the people of the present age, can give them. Let us bestir ourselves; let us help to fashion better and more humane laws; and without delay let us lend our aid to the abolishing of capital punishment -- legalized murder -- the only murder that is committed by "sound and disposing minds."

Governor George W. P. Hunt -- Humanitarian

There is a light shining in the young state of Arizona. It has penetrated to the State Prison at Florence. I have visited this place of real reformation. I have come face to face with the prisoners there, and I have read the humane and wise rules and regulations instituted by Governor Hunt of Arizona. There is new life and hope for those prisoners. They are treated like men and are having their chance. Governor Hunt is not a member of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society, and his work began long before I ever met him; but ethically he is a Theosophist in the truest sense of the word, for, as H. P. Blavatsky said, "Theosophist is, who Theosophy does." He is following in the steps of the teachers, dealing justice on every hand, indifferent to hostile criticism or political opposition.

In his determined stand against capital punishment in Arizona, and in spite of the fact that in the last elections, the people of the state did not abolish the death penalty, Governor Hunt has succeeded in committing the sentences of the larger number of the thirteen men awaiting hanging to life imprisonment, and the cases of the others are being re-heard. Now it is in the power of every governor in this land to follow in Governor Hunt's footsteps, and it is in the power of the people of every state in America to rise in protest and stand out in a new way for the abolishment of capital punishment. The horror of it, the psychological influence of it, are enough, if we had no other reasons -- but there is the absolute injustice of it. It is contrary to all the Higher Laws, and is unchristian and brutal.

Though I might not be ready to accept Governor Hunt's politics, I cannot praise him enough for his humane and noble efforts in prison reform and in abolishing the death penalty. I believe that he is the coming man of America, and I wish that after Arizona has had even larger benefits through his wisdom and efforts, he may be nominated as President of the United States. I should consider it an honor to work for such a man, and a great privilege; it is my firm belief that unless death overtakes this noble man, he will yet be President of the United States and affect this country for better conditions, as he has already affected his home state.


In conclusion let me say that the urge of my heart is to have humanity reach its heritage, to have it find its true place in the great scheme of eternal life, where man may know himself, and in knowing himself, will understand the Higher Law and be given the power to overcome, and thus advance on life's journey with courage and wisdom.

Let me assure you that Theosophy offers the key to all the problems of human life. Take it home to yourselves, apply it to your own needs, your own trials, your own sufferings, your discouragement, and your doubts. Let it become a beacon-light to yourselves, and let it shine forth and illuminate all mankind.


Man has no gifts save those won by his own efforts through countless incarnations. -- H. P. Blavatsky

Address No. 3