Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2003.
Mr. Crosbie's Revisionist Account
of His Association with Mrs. Tingley
by David Green
In his Autobiographical Note (written 1907 after he left the Point Loma Theosophical Society), Mr. Robert Crosbie wrote an account of his association with Mrs. Katherine Tingley. This account contains a number of erroneous and misleading statements. In Part I, I'll give some of Mr. Crosbie's own words. In Part II, I'll quote various excerpts from Mr. Crosbie's account and point out his misstatements by comparing with other writings including his own.
Mr. Crosbie's Revisionist Account
"Two or three of the New York members--notably E.T.Hargrove and E.A.Neresheimer--obtained possession of Mr. Judge's keys and went through his private papers; in these they found reference to a certain
"chela," whom Neresheimer determined to be Mrs. Tingley whom he had known for about a year, and whom he had brought to Judge's notice. The idea being in their minds that there must of necessity be an occult successor, and concurring in the opinion that Mrs. T. was indicated, they sent out a circular to the E.S. that Judge had appointed her as such. The minds of all, being in the receptive condition I have mentioned, accepted everything as stated by the few in New York. The attitude assumed by Mrs. T. soon began to estrange those members who were brought in close touch with her in New York, but those at a distance had no inkling of the true state of affairs and kept on in full confidence. Those who found that they had made a mistake in the first place in foisting Mrs. T. upon the organization were in too doubtful a position to attempt explanations; one of them only -- Mr. Neresheimer -- (who had introduced her to Judge) -- remaining her supporter...his support was sufficient to offset any withdrawal of the others in New York."
"Mrs. T. took advantage of the situation, and most plausibly and shrewdly strengthened her position for two years after her advent, then formed the "UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD" with herself as absolute dictator; carrying with her by far the greater number of the members throughout the country. A year later she went to Point Loma and established the institution there."
"As to my part in it--I was in Boston, and saw no reason to doubt the statements of those in N.Y. whom I believed to be sincere and of good training and judgment. I should have known by other means the true
state of affairs...when Judge passed out of life, I lost touch with him; doubtless I relied on him too much, and had not exercised my own intuition; from later events my comprehension is, that this loss of touch was purposely done in order that I might strengthen my weakness in that direction. I went to Point Loma at Mrs. T's urgent request to assist in the proposed work, and was there two years, helping to prepare the way for the expected developments, before I began to get back the touch I had lost. I am prone to excuse inconsistencies and deviations in others, so that although I had begun to doubt, and to see, it was more than a year afterwards I saw so clearly and unmistakably that I took occasion to tell Mrs. T. the facts as I saw them, and to state my intention to withdraw from all connection with her. She tried of course in every way to change my determination, but finding me unchangeable, she let me go, and as I afterwards heard, gave out that she had sent me away for 'bad conduct'--just what I do not know."
Commentary on Mr. Crosbie's 1907 Account
of his Association with Mrs. Tingley
Mr. Crosbie wrote----
"As to my part in it [the Tingley 1896-99 affair]--I was in Boston, and saw no reason to doubt the [positive] statements [about Mrs. Tingley] of those [T.S. members] in N.Y. whom I believed to be sincere and of good training and judgment. I should have known by other means the true state of affairs...."
"The attitude assumed by Mrs. T[ingley] soon began to estrange those members who were brought in close touch with her in New York, but those at a distance had no inkling of the true state of affairs and kept on in full confidence...."
The impression which Mr. Crosbie apparently wanted to convey in these two statements is that he was not in "close touch" with Mrs. Tingley in New York. Since he lived "at a distance" in Boston, Mr. Crosbie (so he contended) "had no inkling of the true state of affairs and kept on in full confidence [with Mrs. Tingley]."
There are several documents that negate Mr. Crosbie's revisionist account. These documents show that Mr. Crosbie personally knew Mrs. Tingley, worked closely with her, wrote warm, devoted & personal letters to her, and vigorously defended Mrs. Tingley in 1898 against the attacks of Mr. Hargrove, Mr. Spencer and Mr. Griscom, Jr. This evidence negates Mr. Crosbie's 1907 assertions of not "being in close touch" with Mrs. Tingley during the years 1896-1899.
(1) In 1898, Mr. Crosbie in a letter to Mrs. Tingley recounted his first personal encounter with her in these words---
"I remember that the day I first saw you, I recognized you as the O[outer] H[ead] without hint or instruction as such, and in spite of the fact that I was not looking for a woman's form in that connection. During that day you and I were the only ones in the E.S. room, and you came and sat down at the table at which I was working, and told me a great many things, saying that you did not know why you told me these things but that it was doubtless for some purpose. . . ."
This memorable day in Mr. Crosbie's life must have occurred prior to the public disclosure of Mrs. Tingley as the Outer Head of the Esoteric School. Preliminary study leads me to conclude that public disclosure of Mrs. Tingley's status occurred around May 17 or 18, 1896. (New York Tribune, May 18, 1896). Also disclosure of Mrs. Tingley's status as Outer Head was published in Theosophy magazine, June 1896, pp. 67-69.
(2) On June 7, 1896, Mrs. Tingley and the other members of her worldwide Crusade attended a meeting held in Boston at the Tremont Theatre. According to Theosophy magazine, July, 1896, p 127---
"Mr. Robert Crosbie, President of Boston T.S., presided at the meeting, and introduced as the first speaker Mr. A.H. Spencer. . . [Later after several other speakers had given their lectures,] Mrs. Tingley followed with a paper on the 'Blessings of Theosophy.' This was listened to with the utmost attention, and evoked great applause."
(3) The next year, on May 22, 1897, Mr. Crosbie and a few other E.S. members took pledges of "unquestioning loyalty, devotion and obedience" to Mrs. Tingley. Did Mr. Crosbie take such a momentous oath to a person about whom he knew so very little (as he later claimed)?
The pledge reads----
"I . . . recognizing the person called Purple [Mrs. Tingley] as being the agent of the Master I serve . . . do hereby unreservedly pledge myself, by my Higher Self, to unquestioning loyalty, devotion and obedience to her and to her support and defence as such agent, under any and all circumstances and conditions to the extent of my available means, utmost exertion, and with my life if need be. . . .
So Help me my Higher Self.
(Signed) Robert Crosbie
Witness my hand, this 22d day of May, Eighteen hundred and Ninety-seven."
(4) In Mr. Crosbie's later revisionist account, he wrote---
"Mrs. T[ingley] took advantage of the situation, and most plausibly and shrewdly strengthened her position for two years after her advent, then formed [in early 1898] the "UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD" with herself as absolute dictator; carrying with her by far the greater number of the members throughout the country."
Mr. Crosbie conveniently forgot to mention a number of important facts which would have thrown a different light on this portion of his 1907 account----
Dr Emmett A. Greenwalt in California Utopia: Point Loma: 1897-1942, 2nd revised ed. (1978) described an important meeting that occurred in connection with the new society "UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD."
"Upon hearing of a plot to challenge her control of the Society, Katherine Tingley decided not only to defeat her foes in the convention, but to make it impossible for such a situation to arise again. Her version of how she came to rewrite the Society's constitution is interesting. . . .
"In mid-January, 1898, about a month before the convention, she called in ten influential members who had shown no signs of wavering, and revealed the constitution in its entirety. It was received, as she had hoped, in a devotional spirit. 'Never shall I forget the solemnity of that night...,' wrote [Joseph H.] Fussell, one of the faithful [at the secret meeting]. 'Although the Constitution of the Universal Brotherhood may appear ironbound, yet all who know our Leader will realize that her one desire is to give freedom to all and to aid the progress of the work.' "
Who were the other nine "faithful" members attending this important and private meeting at Mrs. Tingley's home?
In his article on "Colonel Arthur L. Conger" in Theosophical History (Jan. 1998), Mr. Alan Donant revealed more names of the persons at this meeting---
"...On January 13, 1898, a constitution for a new theosophical organization was presented to a meeting of prominent Theosophists at the home of Katherine Tingley. The new organization was called The Universal Theosophical Brotherhood, which a month later was changed to the Universal Brotherhood. Among the signators were Basil Crump, E. August Neresheimer, Robert Crosbie, Joseph H. Fussell, and Arthur L. Conger, Jr. . . . . [From the original minutes of the January 13, 1898, meeting and the Resolutions, Preamble and Constitution of the Universal Brotherhood adopted at the Chicago Convention of February 18, 1898.]"
Mr. Donant's account discloses that Mr. Robert Crosbie was one of the prominent Theosophists invited to Katherine Tingley's home. Mr. Crosbie's attendance of this event shows his personal involvement with Mrs. Tingley as well as his intimate knowledge of Mrs. Tingley's plans and activities.
Some two weeks later, back in Boston, Mr. Crosbie wrote a most devoted letter to Mrs. Tingley---
24 MOUNT VERNON STREET
Feb. 2d 1898
Dear P [Purple, Mrs Tingley]:
I received your good long letter of Sunday, it was a good one indeed. . . .
I will arrange a "Friends in Counsel" for Boston, and have them get to work along the lines suggested and hope to start on Saturday. . . .
I remember that the day I first saw you, I recognized you as the O[outer] H[ead] without hint or instruction as such, and in spite of the fact that I was not looking for a woman's form in that connection. During that day you and I were the only ones in the E.S. room, and you came and sat down at the table at which I was working, and told me a great many things, saying that you did not know why you told me these things but that it was doubtless for some purpose. . . .
All is well here. We are steady, confident and patient, yet ready to act at the word.
With heart's love yours
The Chicago Convention of the Theosophical Society was held some sixteen days later (February 18, 1898). At this convention most of the members in attendance voted to adopt the new constitution. As Mr. Crosbie related in his revisionist account, Mrs. Tingley carried "with her by far the greater number of the members throughout the country." She certainly "carried" Mr. Crosbie who became one of her staunchest defenders in the months ahead. On the other hand, Mr. Hargrove, Mr. Spencer, Mr. Griscom, Jr. and a small minority "bolted" the convention. Finally they went to court contending that what had transpired at the convention was illegal.
In the April, 1898 (first) issue of The Searchlight, a pro-Tingley magazine, Mr. Crosbie defended Mrs. Tingley in an article "The Sifting Process". In the course of the article he attacked the motives of the "bolters" --- linking them to "the dark forces of disintegration." Mr. Crosbie's relevant words follow---
"The third great Leader, Katherine A. Tingley, established [February 1898] the organization called 'Universal Brotherhood,' or 'The Brotherhood of Humanity,'. . . .
It is not difficult to see what 'An Ark of Safety' the Universal Brotherhood is for the work, and to realize the wisdom of the Leader[Mrs. Tingley] in sounding the key-note, when it was not generally known that the dark forces of disintegration were so close to us, and which aroused us to action, and disclosed the imminent danger. . . .
Foolish are those who are attempting by legal technicalities to hinder the work. . . who never were workers in the true sense; for all who know the Leader [Mrs. Tingley] best, who have worked the closest to her, are the ones who are most energetic in carrying on the work at Headquarters, and the most unswerving in their allegiance to the Leader, and certainly their judgment is worthy of the most weighty consideration, for no others are so well qualified to judge.
Some names, like those of Messrs. Spencer and Griscom, Jr., have appeared in print so often in connection with the New York activities, that it might be supposed that they were workers of the Headquarters' staff, and being now connected with the disintegrating faction, it might appear that the staff was weakened by their disaffection, but they were not part of the staff, nor were they workers in the true sense, especially since the return of the Leader [Mrs. Tingley] from the Crusade [around the world]. . . . It seems necessary to call attention to this point, for the part taken by them in the attack upon our Leader, (for no matter how much it is disguised, that is the real issue), might lead members to suppose that they were very essential to the work, and person whose opinions might appear to be of more weight than they really are. . . ."
Compare these April 1898 statements with Mr. Crosbie's revisionist account concerning the parts played by Mr. Hargrove et al quoted at the beginning of this article.
Green, David. In 1896, Mr. Crosbie's Knowledge of Mrs. Tingley was not based on Second Hand Reports
Crosbie, Robert. Robert Crosbie on Katherine Tingley
Return to Table of Contents of H.N. Stoke's
"William Q. Judge and Katherine Tingley" series of articles