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Katherine Tingley at Prison (1899)

Feb 01, 2007 03:35 AM
by proto37

Katherine Tingley at a Prison (1899)

      Conditions might be different at 
prisons now days, but this is some of the 
sort of thing Tingley and early 
Theosophists did on their "World 
Crusade" in the late 1890's.  (Many of the 
prominent members associated with 
Blavatsky became part of this group, and 
their writings can be found in "Universal 
Brotherhood" magazine, "The Path," etc. 
recently put online at TUP (including 


     On Tuesday morning, May 30, 
Katherine A. Tingley and her party visited 
the penitentiary, close to Salt Lake City, in 
pursuance of one of the objects of the 
International Brotherhood league, viz. - 
The helping of those in prison.  The party 
included Mrs. Cleather, Miss Atkinson, 
Messrs. F.M. Pierce, W.T. Hanson, I.L. 
Harris, H.T. Patterson, B. Crump, and three 
local members, Mrs. Ferguson and 
Messrs. Turton and Roberts.

       After the prelude to "Lohengrin" on the 
chapel organ, the Leader and Foundress 
of the League spoke in effect as follows:  
"We believe that every man is divine, and 
that you are no more condemned than any 
one else.  There are many in the world 
today who would be better for the 
discipline you are undergoing.  It may 
seem harsh to you at times, but if you are 
wise enough to use your opportunities 
here, avoiding in your thoughts all the 
gruesome and gloomy aspects of life, you 
will learn a great lesson.  Many of you are 
in your present difficulties simply because 
you have not understood yourselves.  I 
would give ten years of my life to have ten 
years here with you.  As you have rules 
here so I have to have them in my 
organization, not for those who keep them 
but for those who break them, and I have 
enormous sympathy with the officers of 
these institutions, because of the 
difficulties I have to deal with myself.  But if 
you can take the right attitude with them 
you will command their respect.  Don't 
think of your prison walls, but imagine you 
are in a hospital.  All of you have beautiful 
thoughts at times, and I believe that you 
have the possibilities of heroes in you if 
only the right note is struck in your hearts.  
Remember that all that is unpleasant in you 
belongs to your lower nature - the only 
Devil we believe in.  I suffer more than you 
do, in a sense, because I have to stand up 
before the world and endure attacks and 
misrepresentations, and I feel today that I 
would be glad to be in here for a time away 
from harsh and hard humanity.  Before we 
can hope for better times we must 
eliminate creeds and dogmas, such as the 
idea of being born in sin.  If you dwell all 
the time on this idea how are you ever 
going to rise out of your present 
conditions?  Two things cannot occupy the 
same place at the same time, hence the 
lower thoughts should be kept out by the 
higher.  Imagination is no fairy tale but a 
real power.  Keep on imagining you are 
noble, and good, and straight, and you will 
rise above your past and your lower nature.  
Forget the past.  I am sick and tired fo the 
'pity and compassion' attitude, and the 
long sermons on 'sin.'  Stand up like brave 
boys and do your duty, and you will make 
men respect you and break down the 
fetters of the past.  I have known men's 
lives changed in the twinkling of an eye by 
these ideas.  Realize the power of your 
thoughts, which can affect the minds of 
others for good or evil.  Some of the boys 
I helped at Montauk have gone home with 
these ideas in their hearts.  Some of them 
were true heroes and are now spreading 
the teachings of Universal Brotherhood.  
Now, no doubt many of you spend some 
time in thinking of the boys who are out;  
but do you ever think of the Cubans, the 
soldiers, and others, who starved and 
suffered, who were persecuted in the 
name of religion, and have no homes 
[[Spainish-Am. war]]?  Many who are now 
tramping around the country would benefit 
by the discipline you are under. 

    "Two years ago I spoke to a desperate 
character in Folsom prison for life.  He was 
a train wrecker and had killed many 
people.  He was a sad sight - one eye and 
one arm gone, besides other injuries.  
Through his one eye I saw his soul and I 
told him of the splendid energy he had 
misused, and I reminded him of his 
affection for his mother and for animals.  
He realized the truth of what I said and now 
he is a completely changed man;  he 
spreads these ideas among his comrades;  
and he now declares that he would not 
take his liberty if it were offered."

     Mr. I.L. Harris said there were many in 
the world who were a hundred times more 
in prison than those present, who suffered 
a great deal more, and saw no way to free 
themselves from their cursed fetters.

      Mr. F.M. Pierce said that the only 
difference between one man and another 
was the proportion of right and wrong that 
he did.  We are all in life's school, and he 
had come to be thankful for the hard 
knocks he had received.  How could we 
become good soldiers without discipline?  
We stand a little further along the road 
every day, until in time we can become a 
law unto ourselves and be joyous, happy 

      The meeting was necessarily brief and 
the men were most anxious to hear more.  
When the party went to the prison they 
were quite surprised to find an audience 
who were quite familiar with Theosophy 
owing to the work done by the local Lodge 
of Universal Brotherhood.

                       - One of the Party

  ("Universal Brotherhood" magazine, July, 1899, pp. 205-6)


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