Philip Deslippe on the Life and Work of William Walker Atkinson

Philip Deslippe joins us in podcast episode 113 to discuss William Walker Atkinson (1862 – 1932), a New Thought luminary who authored many influential texts in the early twentieth century, including The Kybalion. As part of his research on Atkinson, Philip edited and wrote the introduction for The Kybalion: The Definitive Edition, published by Tarcher/Penguin in 2011.

The Kybalion - The Definitve Edition

Philip begins our interview describing his great interest in, and extensive research of William Walker Atkinson. We discuss Atkinson’s life and the dire circumstances that led to his becoming passionate about practical philosophies for self-improvement. Philip describes how Atkinson went missing for weeks, only to re-emerge as an ever more prolific writer on metaphysics, eastern philosophy, occultism, and New Thought.

William Walker Atkinson

Even before The Kybalion, Walker’s work is notable as he wrote under a number of pseudonyms. For example, as Yogi Ramacharaka, “Atkinson’s writings … marked some of the first full-length books in English to seriously address the subject of yoga as a practice to engage in, even if they partially filtered that practice through physical culture, Theosophy, and New Thought.” As Magus Incognito he delivered The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians, as Theron Q. Dumont he wrote several books on mental science and healing, and his Arcane Teachings was written anonymously. Philip also convincingly contends that Atkinson was the sole author of The Kybalion, writing as Three Initiates.

Kybalion ad 1907

Because of Atkinson’s former career as an attorney and his aptitude for the vocation, it seems a natural extension that his most influential works would present philosophies that continuously reiterate the concept of LAW.

Kybalion class ad 1967

“It speaks to the strength, flexibility, and longevity of The Kybalion that it could inspire everyone from modern pagans to Christian positive thinkers, from small secret societies to pop-culture phenomena. The Kybalion had directly or indirectly left its mark on the way millions of people viewed money, spirituality, the mind, success, and the nature of the universe itself. As is the fate of many occult and esoteric works, The Kybalion was never given the respect that it deserved, and the man who wrote it did not receive the acknowledgement that he was due. Perhaps in recognizing his authorship and the legacy of his most influential work, the monument that The Kybalion has deserved is this very edition.” – Philip Deslippe, from the Introduction to The Kybalion: The Definitive Edition

Regardless of your feelings about Philip’s assertion of Atkinson’s authorship of The Kybalion, Deslippe’s work is tremendously valuable both as a historical study and a treatment of the text which affords it the respect it deserves. The twisted tale of The Kybalion is full of enough mystery to preclude tales of ancient origins and hidden masters, as attractive as they might be. Likewise, a serious study of the life and work of William Walker Atkinson shows a man who cultivated a certain mystique, but at his core, he was intensely prolific, passionate, and his work touched the lives of innumerable spiritual aspirants.

In the Occult of Personality Membership Section, Philip and I discuss the controversy surrounding the theories of The Kybalion‘s authorship and the reaction to Deslippe’s revelation of Atkinson as the sole author.

Philip Deslippe

The Kybalion: The Definitive Edition by William Walker Atkinson, writing as Three Initiates, edited and introduced by Philip Deslippe

William Walker Atkinson” Wikipedia entry

The Kybalion with Philip Deslippe” – The Infinite and Beyond, podcast episode 23

intro music by HipGnosis and Paul Avgerinos

outro music – “Cosmonaut of Three” by Orchid


{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Mike D. January 26, 2012, 2:55 PM

    Alright! This is gonna be a good one. I just finished reading the Kybalion for the first time a few weeks ago, and listened to Philip on another podcast called infinite and beyond. He was a really good speaker on that show and I’m sure he is even better on Occult of Personality!

  • John January 26, 2012, 4:44 PM

    I think it’s fantastic that Philip is bringing such a great author to light in 2012. I am a huge fan of W.W.Atkinson and appreciate what he is doing. Thank you Philip!

  • Mike D. January 27, 2012, 11:57 AM

    That was a great show. I can’t wait for the Membership show with Philip.

    • Greg January 27, 2012, 12:07 PM

      Thanks Mike! The next part should be available tonight.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this episode with Philip. I’ve been looking forward to it since he first contacted me about his research. I’m also anticipating his upcoming biography on Atkinson, especially his analysis of Yogi Ramacharaka’s pranayama techniques and reputed effects by those who practiced them…

      As always, thanks for listening and your feedback! And thanks again to Philip for a great interview.

  • John January 27, 2012, 9:27 PM

    I have listened to this podcast several times and wanted to thank for creating it… The Biography is going to be Amazing! I will buy 3 copies myself…

    • gkaminsky January 28, 2012, 12:01 PM

      John – You’re most welcome! Thank you for listening and taking the time to comment.

  • A. A. W. August 18, 2012, 1:59 PM

    A fascinating interview. Half way through right now, but the breadth of knowledge Mr. Deslippe has on Atkinson is remarkable. I will buy the biography when it is published. And read it.

    I had recently ordered a book from Amazon on the subject of Vril, out of curiosity and to satisfy an obsession with historically relevant works of occultism. Subsequently, I discovered it had been written by Atkinson who’d also written various other works I was already familiar with, such as The Kybalion. Then I found this interview. A happy coincidence!

    I’m not a subscriber, but from what I can gather, one of the Three Initiates may have been Mabel Collins who wrote Theosophical classic, Light on the Path. Whether or not, then Collins is in any case another figure from late 19th century / early 20th occultism very much worth investigating. Anyway…

    Brilliant! Thank you :)

    • gkaminsky August 18, 2012, 4:39 PM

      A.A.W. – Thanks for listening and taking the time to comment. I appreciate it!

      W.W.A. was a fascinating man. His volume of work was extraordinary and remains influential to this day. However, based on Deslippe’s research he was the sole author of The Kybalion. Collins’ Light on the Path is also a classic, and you’re correct – the back story on that book is worthy of investigation as well.

      Since you found this interview worthwhile, I hope you’ll listen to some others and, please, spread the word to those who may be interested. Thanks again!

  • anonym January 19, 2013, 12:35 PM

    How you can explain that the kybalion and the arcane books have many superficial similarities but also CONTRADICTIONS in some of their principal ideas?

    you want to know which are these contradictions?

  • Ava March 14, 2014, 3:28 PM

    The three initiates are not three people, they are the three simultaneous planes of life which the writer possesses as well as any organic being. The book is supposed to allow you connect with your own greatness so you can see how Tehuti saw. They are all required to express anything in this quantum domain.

    Remember Hermes is three times great. He is because he has initiated his three parts.

    • Greg Kaminsky March 16, 2014, 1:15 PM

      Ava – Thanks for your comment! I do appreciate your meaning, and of course, the Three Initiates could be interpreted as the mind of the thrice-greatest and in all probability that was the author’s intent.

      However (and this subject was discussed at length in the accompanying Occult of Personality Membership Section recording with Deslippe) a well-known and highly-regarded teacher, Paul Clark, has asserted that Ann Davies (the widow of the late, great Paul Foster Case) told him that the Three Initiates were Atkinson, Case, and Michael Whitty. The claims made by Dr. Clark or Davies (now deceased) are disputed.

      Lastly, AFAIK, Hermes was considered thrice-greatest for the following reason:

      “The Hermetic “sermons” (logoi) are written in dialogue form between Hermes, the informing Word, and a student. Tismegistos is in reality the Egyptian personification of the universal order (“cosmic logos”) as Gnostic Revealer: as one scholar notes, he was “the source of all knowledge previously known only to the gods” For the Christians, Christ the Logos was the Gnostic Revealer – the bestower of liberating knowledge and heavenly wisdom. The “word” manifests itself as a mediator between the eternal, heavenly principles and their temporal, earthly reflections… The Greek God Hermes, while an aspect of the Logos, does not in his stories and myths represent as exalted a figure as Hermes the Thrice-Great, who possesses, by far, a greater measure of cosmic wisdom. Evidently, the “Triple Hermes” should be identified with the fullness of the Apollonic Logos, for, by gematria, one-third of APOLLO (1061) is equivalent to HERMES (353) and a small fraction.” – David Fideler, “Thrice-Greatest Hermes: The Triple Logos” in Jesus Christ, Sun of God: Ancient Cosmology and Early Christian Symbolism, 2007. [emphasis is mine]

  • anonym March 2, 2015, 12:10 PM

    the theory of Deslippe is biased, he only consider the things that supports his hypothesis while at the same time he ignores the facts against his hypothesis (which are overwhelming)

    claiming that the author who wrote The Arcane Teachings is the same author who wrote The Kybalion is very inconsistent in some points, the 2 books not only strongly contradict each other in some core teachings but also they even directly insult each other

    here is a scientific research about it

    in the religious world, among religious scholars, experts etc tends to be much more lack of logic, biased theories etc than in the scientific world

    a book that Atkinson wrote in 1906 called “the art of logical thinking” would help these people

    • anonym March 2, 2015, 12:12 PM

      sorry, the book the art of logical thinking was wrote in 1909 not 1906

Leave a Comment

Copyright © 2006 - 2015 Occult of Personality. All Rights Reserved. Created by Blog Copyright.

Google Analytics Alternative