Santa Cruz County History - Religion & Spirituality

Santa Cruz Spirituality: Ancient Wisdom (Ancient Wisdom family)
by Paul Tutwiler


  1. Theosophy
  2. Anthroposophy
  3. Various Ancient Wisdom

All Ancient Wisdom groups share the conviction that the great truths of the universe were written down by ancient sages, were lost for thousands of years, but were then found and are made available to a restricted number of us as initiates. The best known Ancient Wisdom groups are the Theosophical Society and the Rosicrucian Order, but there are others, as will be seen below.

Conceptually different from ancient wisdom, but closely allied with it in practice is Gnosticism. Basically, Gnosticism holds that salvation lies in posessing certain knowledge. Historically it is a broad term that applies mainly to a religious movement in the Eastern Mediterranean and in Western Asia around the early centuries of the Christian era. It usually involves a secret knowledge (Ancient Wisdom) that is transmitted by tradition and imparted to intitiated people who, by possessing this knowledge, partake of the divinity and arise out of the material world, which is seen to be essentially evil. Until recently, Gnosticism was best known as a Christian heresy, but 20th century discoveries of ancient Gnostic texts in Egypt have given scholars greater insight into a Gnosticism that was untouched by Christianity.

Three excellent studies of Gnosticism are:

  • Hans Jonas. The Gnostic Religion. Boston: Beacon Press, 1963.
  • Karen L King. What is Gnosticism? Harvard University Press, 2003.
  • Kurt Rudolph. Gnosis. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983.


The Theosophical Society of New York was founded in 1875 by Henry Steele Olcott and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a Russian who had traveled extensively, especially to India. Her notion of the immanence of God in all nature and Indian views on reincarnation and karma joined with specific, graphic descriptions of unseen world forces quickly spread among people who otherwise knew little of Asian spirituality.

The best known theosophical group in the United States, the dominant one, is the "Theosophical Society of America," which was, after Madame Blavatsky's death in 1891, headed by her follower Annie Besant. (Melton, Encyclopedia *970) A secondary Theosophical group in the United States, now called the "Theosophical Society," was formally established in 1895 by William Q. Judge. Judge died the next year, and Catherine Tingley became head of the group in 1896. (Melton, Encyclopedia *969)

» Theosophical Society of America. Santa Cruz, 1886-2010.

There was a small group of Theosophical Society members in Santa Cruz in 1886, and the Santa Cruz Daily Sentinel on November 18 of that year carried a lengthy front page article on Theosophical beliefs as explained by a Theosophist woman, resident of the city. The reporter added that he did not have time to visit a Scotts Valley man who was writing a work on Theosophy. He almost certainly was referring to Herman Vetterling, who was actually writing on Buddhism. For Vetterling see The Buddhist Ray in Miscellaneous Buddhist groups. The Buddhist Ray of October, 1890 reported that "The theosophists of this coast have just held a convention in this city. Several public lectures were delivered by delegates."

On May 20, 1893 the Santa Cruz Weekly Surf printed a lengthy article lamenting the death, two years previously, of Madame Blavatsky. After that there was a Theosophical presence in Santa Cruz at least through 1914, as the next entry shows, although, as the next entry also shows, there is a question about the particular form it took. Nevertheless, the Theosophical Society of America currently has a Study Group in Santa Cruz County. ( 2010) The head of the Study Group informed me in 2006 that it has been recognized by the Theosophical Society of America since 1997, and that associated with it since about 1998, but distinct from it, is the Theosophical Order of Service, a humanitarian organization founded in 1908 by Annie Besant. ( 2010 for general information on it)

» Theosophical Society. Santa Cruz, 1896.

In 1896 a Theosophical group in Santa Cruz met at the "Theosophical Headquarters, Pacific Avenue." This group, headed by Catherine Tingley, was engaged in a worldwide "Theosophical Crusade." It was accorded front page space in the Santa Cruz Surf of November 11.

Some of Tingley's followers later changed allegiance to Besant, and since I do not know how this affected Santa Cruz in particular, I can only add that the 1890 U. S. Census count of Theosophists in Santa Cruz County was 9, that one Theosophical family was reported in the local religious census of 1914, and that the 1926 U. S. Census count of Theosophists was 0. (Sources of these numbers are in the tables of Chapter 3 Tables)


Rudolf Steiner, an early leader of Theosophy in Germany, gradually diverged from it, particularly because he did not care for its Asian spirituality, which he thought downplayed the role of Christ, but also because he was more concerned with the potential of the human person precisely as human. He founded the Anthroposophical Society in 1912 and wrote extensively on theology, education, art, and land cultivation. His ideas form the basis for the Waldorf system of child education, for the "Christian Community," and for numerous study groups. The websites 2010 and 2010 have general information on Anthroposophy

» Santa Cruz Waldorf School. Bonny Doon, 1976-2010.

The K-8 school, at 2190 Empire Grade, Santa Cruz 95060, tel. 425-0519, was established in 1976.( 2010)

A Waldorf High School was opened in temporary quarters at 111 Errett Circle, Santa Cruz [City] in fall, 2004, ( 2008), but, as announced in the SC Sentinel of June 28, 2009, the high school closed at the end of the 2008-2009 school year.

» Camphill Communities California. Community, Soquel, 1998-2010.

An Adult Residential Facility founded in 1998, and licensed by the State of California, this is one of numerous Camphill facilities. The original one was founded by Karl Koenig, MD in Scotland in 1939, "inspired by the anthroposophical work of Rudolf Steiner." The address of the local one is PO Box 221, Soquel 95073, tel. 476-7194. ( 2010)

» Imagination Troubador. Service org, Santa Cruz, 2001-2010.

This magazine existed from 2001 to 2007 and was published at 102 Moore St., Santa Cruz. ( 2006 and 2010) In 2006 the website also furnished a telephone number, 212-1947. It was a recognized Anthroposophical Initiative on the Anthroposophy website,, in 2007, but no longer in 2010.

» Lemon Tree Press. Service org, Santa Cruz, 2000-2010.

In existence from 2000 to 2008, (2000, 2008 White Pagesand 2010) the Lemon Tree Press is an Anthroposophical Initiative at PO Box 841, Santa Cruz 95061, tel. 457-2298. ( 2010)

Various Ancient Wisdom

» I am Sanctuary. Santa Cruz, 1938.

This organization was listed in the 1938 Yellow Pages at 112 Pacific Avenue.

Its unusual name indicates that it was a "sanctuary" of "I AM Religious Activity" (which is Encyclopedia 1003), founded by Guy Ballard on the basis of his contacts with "Ascended Masters".

» Santa Cruz School For Tarot and Qabalah. Soquel, 1975-2010.

Founded in 1975, the school it is reached at P. O. Box 1692, Soquel 95073, tel. 423-2227. Amber Jayanti is the Teacher and Spiritual Consultant. ( 2010) For information on tarot and Qabalah see "Kabbalah; divination and tarot; and Western mystery schools" in Chapter 5 Particulars.

» Mebasrim Fellowship. Santa Cruz, 1976-1980.

The Fellowship was founded in Santa Cruz in 1976 as an offshoot of the Church of Antioch, a Gnostic-mystical group headquartered in Mountain View. The Fellowship engaged in a jail ministry in Santa Cruz, and in 1980 it held a "Day of Solidarity with Jewish Congregations," but between then and 1987 it moved its headquarters to San Francisco. (Melton, Encyclopedia *990)

» Artisans of Light: A Western Mystery School. Santa Cruz, c1980-2010.

This institution "Offers Qabalah classes on Tarot and the Tree of Life as Sacred Keys to hidden Wisdom and Spiritual Growth." Classes are held Thursdays 7:30-9:00 p.m. at Viking Hall, 240 Plymouth St., SC. (The Connection Magazine, Santa Cruz, November, 2006) The address in the 2010 White Pages is P. O. Box 5304, Santa Cruz, tel. 425-1185. According to 2010 the address of the organization is 329 Pine St., Apt. 3.

Jacob Fuss's obituary in the SC Sentinel, April 22, 2005 states that "In 1979 he moved to Santa Cruz to be near his wife's family. In Santa Cruz he was a founding member of Artisans of Light."

For information on tarot and Qabalah see "Kabbalah; divination and tarot; and Western mystery schools" in Chapter 5 Particulars.

» Garden, The. Santa Cruz County, 2000-2010.

The Garden is a complex organization located at 3070 Prather Lane, Santa Cruz 95065, tel. 726-3192. ( 2010)

The Home Temple, in turn, is a legally non-profit organization which blends generally obscure spiritualities, including Theosophy and Christian Gnosticism, through the ministry of a priestly lineage descended from the Apostles, but not the same as the Roman Catholic lineage. Its founder, Lewis Keizer, was ordained by Herman Adam Spruit, Bishop and longtime leader of the Church of Antioch (mentioned above, under Mebasrim Fellowship). Functions of The Home Temple include 1) the Sanctuary of the Grail with Mass of the Holy Grail and Gnostic Communion, 2) ordination to the priesthood and the episcopate with preparation by a mail order course, 3) the Caduceus Institute of Homeopathy, 4) a diploma program in the Jagannath Institute of Vedic Astrology (Jyotish is the proper name for Vedic Astrology), and 5) the Dances of Universal Peace of the Heart Stream Sufi Community. The Garden has been in existence at least since 2000, but in 2004 the headquarters of the Home Temple were moved to a site in Aromas. The Gnostic Holy Communion has been advertised in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on, for instance, April 26, 2003, the Dances of Universal Peace have been advertised in the Connection Magazine of, for instance, August - September 7, 2005, and the rest of the information (and more) in this paragraph comes from the website 2008.

The Garden
The Garden
Image courtesy of P. Tutwiler.

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