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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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