"Strong Enough to Stem the Tide"

By Monica Morris
Let me say one thing I know; only the feeling of true brotherhood, of true love towards humanity, aroused in the soul of some one strong enough to stem this tide, can carry us through. For love and trust are the only weapons that can overcome the real enemies against which the true lover of humanity must fight. If I, or you, go into this battle from pride, from self-will, from anything but the purest motive, we must fail. -- W. Q. Judge, Universal Brotherhood Path, Feb. 1900, p. 625

Katherine Tingley, the successor of William Quan Judge, proved to be the one strong enough to stem the tide that threatened the work of theosophy in the world. Her actions sprang from the foundations of universal brotherhood which is the One Life. Dear to her heart was the ancient mantram: "O my divinity, thou livest in the heart-life of all things." From this base she inspired others to works in art, music, science, research into many areas of thought, education, philanthropy, and humanitarianism. With love and trust she combated the horror of war, poverty, ignorance, injustice, and suffering. After taking leadership on the death of W. Q. Judge, she pointed out that the principles and teachings of theosophy must be put to work: the endeavor of the Theosophical Society is to aid humanity rather than encourage the self-interests of its members.

A new avenue of service opened up in July 1898 with the Spanish-American War. There had been sporadic revolts against Spanish rule in Cuba before 1855. After a period of temporary peace, war broke out again in 1868. It was to be one of the longest and bloodiest wars ever fought in the Americas. The Ten Years War, which brought death to more than 200,000 Cubans and Spaniards and widespread property damage, came as a result of Spain's failure to effect badly needed reforms in Cuba. The war ended in 1878 when Spain promised reforms -- promises soon forgotten. This and other causes led to the war-to-the-death that began in 1895. American involvement came with the sinking of the battleship "Maine" in Havana harbor in February 1898.

Theosophists responded to the war in various ways. Under the heading "Theosophical Activities," in the July 1898 Universal Brotherhood magazine, we learn:

Through the efforts of Mrs. W. S. Abbott of Tampa, Florida, copies of Universal Brotherhood and the New Century are on sale at the camp and many have also been given away and find much favor among the "Boys." Several hundred leaflets have also been sent for distribution.
Mme. de Santos, a member of the Aryan T.S., New York, at present visiting in Tampa, writes as follows: "There has been considerable interest among the soldiers and I hope good work for the cause of Brotherhood. One of the first companies of Volunteers to leave this port went equipped with Brotherhood literature. They sent a messenger for it the day before embarking on the transport." -- p. 240

In August 1898, the International Brotherhood League (IBL) established the Sisters of Compassion, a war relief corps, to set up an emergency hospital at Montauk Point, Long Island, for US soldiers returning from Cuba. In September a "War Relief Call" was issued by the IBL to further its last Object: "To relieve human suffering resulting from flood, famine, war and other calamities; to aid suffering humanity."

After ten months, Spain was forced out of Cuba and "relinquished" the island to the United States in trust for its inhabitants. The IBL then carried on an extensive relief work both in Cuba and among returning sick and wounded US soldiers. President McKinley authorized the use of government transportation to take Katherine Tingley, her physicians led by Dr. Herbert Coryn, and other workers to Cuba in February 1899, with large supplies of food, clothing, and medicines.

In the next few years several groups of Cuban children, many of them war orphans, were brought to Point Loma to be educated. In October 1902 a group of these children escorted by Headquarters staff member Dr. Gertrude van Pelt was detained at Ellis Island, New York, for five weeks on the grounds that the Point Loma community was not a fit place for them to live. After protests by theosophists, Immigration Commissioner Frank P. Sargent investigated Point Loma, exonerating KT and the Raja-Yoga School of all charges. The children received a public welcome by San Diego officials when they arrived there in December.

In 1906 a Raja-Yoga School was opened in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, staffed by theosophical volunteers. KT purchased property on San Juan Hill in 1907, and in November 1908 the cornerstone was laid there for the Cuban Theosophical Headquarters. In 1909, another Raja-Yoga School opened in Santa Clara, Cuba, serving almost ninety children. A third school was opened in Santiago del Cuba. KT also hoped to erect a Raja-Yoga Academy on San Juan Hill, but the steady drain of the Cuban work on Point Loma's finances, coupled with the decline in health of several volunteer teachers, forced her to close the Academies. Reacting to this decision, General Sobrado of Pinar del Rio wrote director Kurt Reineman that this "has affected me as if something great had gone from the Province, . . . I cannot resign myself to the thought that the Academy is to be closed, here where it is needed so badly and where it has been of such great benefit." On February 22, 1920, former students of the Raja-Yoga Schools in Santiago and Point Loma held a celebration to honor KT at San Juan, Cuba.

Raja Yoga students at Egyptian Gate and Peace Tree, San Juan Hill, Cuba, 1910

W. Q. Judge spoke truly when he said: "For love and trust are the only weapons that can overcome the real enemies against which the true lover of humanity must fight." Is this message and counsel any different from that which Jesus taught in his day?

  • (From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1998. Copyright © 1998 by Theosophical University Press.)

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