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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. Join us for that crucial conversation! Just go to occultofpersonality.net/membership and sign up if you haven’t already. It’s the best way to support the podcast while receiving access to more than a hundred exclusive interviews, lectures, meditations, and more!
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
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!
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!
That was a great show. I can’t wait for the Membership show with Philip.
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.
I have listened to this podcast several times and wanted to thank occultofpersonality.net for creating it… The Biography is going to be Amazing! I will buy 3 copies myself…
John – You’re most welcome! Thank you for listening and taking the time to comment.
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 🙂
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!
There are no coincidences.
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?
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.
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 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 https://atkinsonhypothesis.wordpress.com/
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
sorry, the book the art of logical thinking was wrote in 1909 not 1906
I’m looking forward to listening to this! I found my first Ramacharaka book at a library sale years ago (for 35 cents!) and got hooked on WWA. In the pre-internet days they were hard to search out, and after about a year, one bookseller got me the phone number of the Yogi Publication Society. When I called, the first question the woman at the other end asked me was “how did you get this number?” We chatted a bit and she confessed the publisher had changed hands several times, and even she didn’t know much of the original history.
Hi! Does anyone know how to contact the Yogi Publication Society nowadays? Maybe through a website, or an email adress?
Where are they located?