A public exhibition by San Diego History Center, titled “The Path of the Mystic: Art and Theosophy at Lomaland,” opened Oct. 18 and runs through April 19, 2020 in Balboa Park.
The exhibit features artwork, objects (including doors from Lomaland’s Temple of Peace), photographs and archival documents that bring to life Tingley’s unlikely Utopian experiment.
In 1897, the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society purchased 500 acres that bordered the northern edge of Point Loma’s military reservation. Dr. Lorin Wood’s sanitarium (a three-story wellness/hotel amenity) called Point Loma House, a few tents, and little else stood on this property.
Here, humanitarian visionary Madame Tingley, as she was called, intended to create an international community of free thinkers. It would be dedicated to the study of the arts, sciences, philosophical and religious traditions from around the globe, and the wisdom of the ages.
The theosophist establishment Tingley imagined, the School for the Revival of the Lost Mysteries of Antiquity, took root but changes would come. To her credit, the Raja Yoga Academy, renamed Raja Yoga College, became one of the more highly regarded educational institutions in the country.
Raja Yoga (an ancient term meaning “kingly union”) Academy began in the early 1900s with five students and 98 residents. By this time, Point Loma House had been transformed into Tingley’s Raja Yoga Academy, bearing several aquamarine-colored glass domes.
Interestingly, Madame Tingley “brought in quite a number of Cuban children,” according to Iverson L. Harris, one of those first students. Tingley, a social worker before migrating from New York, had made Cuban connections through relief work with soldiers after the Spanish-American War.
Within two years, the student population grew to 100 and by the 1920s, ranging from 300 to 600, representing 20 nationalities. There were also 100 or so students attending from San Diego, plus thousands of curiosity-seekers visiting Lomaland annually.
Iverson Harris, schoolboy in 1899, served as final administrator of Lomaland, and last to leave in June 1942.“The institution was wonderfully situated… one of the most beautiful in the world, and the only one like it.”
Further: “We went on the rocks financially after the Depression and Madame Tingley’s death in 1929. Her personal estate was appraised 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. We were in terrible straits… Taxes had gone up enormously. Then the coup de grace came in 1941 after Pearl Harbor. The military came over and put gun-emplacements on our western slope.”
Over the years, theosophists’ property switched hands several times. Today, Point Loma Nazarene University is a caretaker of remaining original structures: Cabrillo Hall, Tingley’s headquarters-residence building, and the 1901 Greek Amphitheater.
The university is publically accessible. Through the gate and to the right stands another Lomaland original: Mieras Hall, once the 1901 beautiful, domed residence built by baseball magnate and visionary Albert G. Spalding. Go see it for fun!
Katherine Tingley was driven by her belief that children should be educated properly; she held deep concern for alleviating suffering and promoting brotherhood. By hiring workers to erect her institution in 1900, she eased San Diego’s economic slump. Today, we recognize a grander scale of her moral code and worth.