Harold W. Percival
Regarding this unusual gentleman, Harold Waldwin Percival, we are not so concerned with his personality. Our interest lies in what he did and how he accomplished it. Percival himself preferred to remain inconspicuous, as he pointed out in the Author’s Foreword to Thinking and Destiny. It was because of this that he did not wish to write an autobiography or have a biography written. He wanted his writings to stand on their own merit. His intention was that the validity of his statements be tested according to the degree of Self-knowledge within the reader and not be influenced by Percival’s own personality.
Nevertheless, people do want to know something about an author of note, especially if they are greatly affected by his ideas. As Percival passed away in 1953, at the age of eighty-four, there is no one now living who knew him in his early life and only a few who know details of his later life. We have assembled those few facts that are known; however, this must not be considered a complete biography, but rather a brief sketch.
Harold Waldwin Percival was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, British West Indies, on April 15, 1868, on a plantation owned by his parents. He was the third of four children, none of whom survived him. His English parents, Elizabeth Ann Taylor and James Percival, were devout Christians. Yet much of what he heard as a very young child did not seem reasonable, and there were no satisfactory answers to his many questions. He felt that there must be those who knew, and at a very early age determined that he would find the “Wise Ones” and learn from them. As years passed, his concept of the “Wise Ones” changed, but his purpose to gain Self-knowledge remained.
When Harold Percival was ten years old, his father died and his mother moved to the United States, settling in Boston, and later in New York City. He looked after his mother for about thirteen years until her death in 1905. An avid reader, he was largely self-educated.
In New York City Percival became interested in Theosophy and joined the Theosophical Society in 1892. That society split into factions after the death of William Q. Judge in 1896. Percival later organized the Theosophical Society Independent, which met to study the writings of Madame Blavatsky and Eastern “scriptures.”
In 1893, and twice during the next fourteen years, Percival had the unique experience of being “conscious of Consciousness,” a potent spiritual and noetic enlightenment. He stated, “Being conscious of Consciousness reveals the ‘unknown’ to the one who has been so conscious. Then it will be the duty of that one to make known what he can of being conscious of Consciousness.” He stated that the value of that experience was that it enabled him to know about any subject by a mental process he called “real thinking.” Because these experiences revealed more than was contained in Theosophy, he wanted to write about them and share this knowledge with humanity.
From 1904 to 1917, Percival published a monthly magazine, The Word, which was dedicated to the brotherhood of humanity and had a worldwide circulation. Many eminent writers of the day contributed to the magazine and all of the issues contained an article by Percival as well. These early writings earned him a place in Who’s Who in America.
In 1908, and for a number of years, Percival and several friends owned and operated about five hundred acres of orchards, farmland, and a cannery in upstate New York. When the property was sold Percival kept about eighty acres on which there was a small house. This is where he resided during the summer months and devoted his time to the continual work on his manuscripts.
In 1912 he began to outline material for a book which would contain his complete system of thinking. Because his body had to be still while he thought, he dictated whenever assistance was available. In 1932 the first draft was completed; it was called The Law of Thought. He continued to work the manuscript over and over to clarify and edit it. He did not wish this to be a mystery book and was determined to clothe his work in accurately fitting words however long or great the effort. Its title was changed to Thinking and Destiny and finally printed in 1946.
This one-thousand-page masterpiece was produced over a period of thirty-four years. This book covers the subject of Man and his world in exhaustive detail. Subsequently, in 1951, he published Man and Woman and Child and in 1952, Masonry and Its Symbols and Democracy Is Self-Government. The three smaller books are based on Thinking and Destiny and deal with selected subjects of importance in greater detail.
In 1946, Percival, with two friends, formed The Word Publishing Co., which first published and distributed his books. During this period, Percival worked to prepare manuscripts for additional books, but he always made himself available to answer the many questions from correspondents.
The Word Foundation, Inc. was formed in 1950 to make known to the people of the world all books written by Harold W. Percival and to insure that his legacy to humanity would be perpetuated. Percival assigned the copyrights for all of his books to The Word Foundation, Inc.
On March 6, 1953, Percival passed away of natural causes in New York City a few weeks before his eighty-fifth birthday. His body was cremated, according to his wishes.
It has been stated that no one could meet Percival without feeling that they had met a truly remarkable human being. His works represent a towering accomplishment in addressing the true state, and potential, of the human. His contribution to humankind can have a far-reaching effect on our civilization and civilizations to come.