“We got up,” says Harris, “at half past five and went out and did our exercises – even military drill. We went through the Manual of Arms – it’s somewhat incongruous, I know, but it was done for the discipline. Mr. Pierce, who moderated the boys, was a veteran of the Civil War, and an ardent supporter of the Grand Army of the Republic. He thought every boy ought to have that discipline and training. The girls, of course, had their own exercises. Then we’d go to breakfast at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. After that, we’d do all our own housework; we’d make our own beds and clean our own rooms. At about 9:00 a.m., we’d go to classes. When class was out we’d go to lunch, and then work in the garden. I tell you one thing, we were kept busy all the time. We’d work in the manual training department, or the print shop or at some other department. K.T. believed the best way to keep young people happy and out of mischief was to keep them busy.”
Besides the heavy workload, Raja Yoga students were constantly presented with slogans, mottos, and songs, all designed to convey the Tingley sense of ethics, duty, and service. In this way they were heartily encouraged to “kill out” their own “selfish desires” and “do what is needed.” In other words: obey, study, serve. “Do well the smallest duty,” teachers exhorted, “and when the day is done there will be no regrets, no time wasted – then joy will come.” “Life is joy” was the Tingley motto, and the children’s magazine (which they helped produce) bore this slogan on its cover: “Children of Light, as ye go forth into the world, seek to render noble service to all that lives.”
“We were brought up on that idea,” Harris recalls. “I tell you, some of us who tries to live the ‘spirit of Lomaland’ actually felt a little guilty when we asked for anything unnecessary for ourselves. It seemed contrary to the spirit in which we were brought up. That served us very well, although I don’t think it was very well appreciated…”
Indeed it was not. The Lomaland experience was a source of great resentment to some students, and a number dropped out of the Raja Yoga School and the community, often against their elders’ wishes. At one point, six young women, taking advantage of Katherine Tingley’s absence, staged a small revolt and left en masse. The rebellion was basically a response to the lifestyle, which many students – especially those in their late teens – thought was anachronistic. The uniforms and long dresses they wore might have been fine in 1900, but by 1920 – the Flapper era – they weren’t exactly at the height of fashion. Young women were not allowed to “bob” their hair and “modern” pastimes such as ballroom dancing were considered “too sensual.”
Zealous and somewhat domineering, Tingley had hoped to raise a generation of social reformers, a group of dedicated young people who would “carry the torch” of Universal Brotherhood and form the nucleus of a new civilization. That was the driving purpose behind the Raja Yoga educational system. And though Tingley attracted some of the brightest educators available (the Welsh poet Kenneth Morris among them) and went as far as to establish a Theosophical University, she never realized her dream. It didn’t work out, in large part, because Raja Yoga students, contrary to popular belief, were so exposed to “the outside world.” Most utopian communities seek to perpetuate themselves by isolating their youth and indoctrinating them. (The Hutterites, for instance, have had much success in this way.) But the reverse was true at Lomaland, where the brighter students often accompanied Tingely on her world travels.
Raja Yoga education did not bring about a new millennium – most of its graduates conformed to the prevailing social values once they left the community – but it did produce some exceptionally bright scholars (Judith Tyberg of the East-West Cultural Center in Los Angeles is one) and many more were impressed by the sense of ethics taught there.
“I think that to this day what distresses me more than anything else is how everybody is out for what he can get,” Harris muses. “I mean, competition… seems to be the motive power of the great majority of mankind. It would solve nearly all of our problems if people, as a whole, could practice what I call the spirit of Lomaland. Among the adults that came to Lomaland, the question was not ‘what can I get?’ but ‘what can I give?’ The spirit of Lomaland – it’s the one possible solution. And it’s impossible.”
If Tingley ultimately failed in her attempt to produce a generation of reformers, she was relentless in her own efforts to change the world. From campaigns against capital punishment to persistent efforts at prison reform, she hounded public officials and spread her message by any means available. But her crusade for peace was surely her most ambitious project; she was one of the most vocal anti-war activists of the early Twentieth Century.
“She spoke vigorously against war at all times,” says Harris. “She rededicated our Memorial Temple to peace to emphasize what we were working for. We had a permanent committee at Point Loma that worked to propagate the idea of peace and to protest against war. Our magazines were filled, month after month, with anti-war protests and pro-peace essays. I don’t know what else she could have done.”
She did plenty. In 1913, Tingley organized an International Peace Congress, which was held on a Swedish island where she owned property. The congress attracted hundreds of people – not just Theosophists, but statesmen and members of royal families from throughout Europe. Spurred on by this success, she held frequent gatherings at her Isis Theater in San Diego (once the Fisher Opera House on Fourth Avenue, downtown).
In 1914, the lomalanders began to prepare for a Parliament of Peace and Universal Brotherhood. It was to be held at Point Loma the following year, but war broke out in Europe and shattered the plan. With characteristic aplomb and zeal, Tingley responded by contacting President Wilson, all forty-eight state governors, and 500 mayors, asking all to set aside September 28, 1914 as the Sacred Peace Day for the Nations. Wilson set aside his own day, but San Diego’s mayor had already endorsed the Theosophists’ plan, part of which called for an enormous parade to pass up Broadway. San Diegans turned out by the hundreds.