Atkinson, William Walker (1862–1932)
Lawyer William Walker Atkinson was an important early exponent
of New Thought metaphysics and the occult, and,
under the name of Swami Ramacharaka, he was a pioneer advocate
of Hinduism and yoga. Atkinson was born December 5,
1862, in Baltimore, Maryland, and began his legal career after
he was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1894. His promising
future, however, began to dissolve as he found himself unable
to cope with the pressures of the job. Doctors were unable
to heal him, but in his search for health, he discovered the
mind cure movement and was soon healed.
He moved to Chicago around the turn of the century and
there continued his law practice but developed a second career
as a metaphysical teacher and writer. His first pamphlet, ‘‘The
As You Like It Library Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
Secret of the I AM,’’ was freely distributed for many years. In
1900 he became the editor of Suggestion, a New Thought periodical,
and about the same time met publisher and entrepreneur
Sydney Flowers. Flowers had created the Psychic Research
Company and the New Thought Publishing Company. In 1901
Atkinson became editor of Flowers’s monthly New Thought
magazine. He founded a Psychic Club and the Atkinson School
of Mental Science, both of which he headquartered in the same
building as Flowers’s organizations.
The period of association with Flowers proved fruitful for
both men. Through Flowers, Atkinson met publisher Elizabeth
Towne, for whom he did a large percentage of his writing over
the next decades. The first of his more than 50 books, ThoughtForce
In Business and Everyday Life, appeared in 1900. It was followed
by such prominent New Thought titles as The Law of New
Thought (1902), The Inner Consciousness (1908), How to Know
Human Nature Its Inner States and Outer Forms (1913), and The
New Thought Its History and Principles, or the Message of New
Thought (1915).
Soon after moving to Chicago, Atkinson became deeply involved
in Hinduism and saw in yogic philosophy a parallel to
his New Thought teachings. In 1903, under the pseudonym
Swami Ramacharaka, Atkinson issued his first Hindu text,
Fourteen Lessons in Yoga Philosophy and Oriental Occultism. It was
followed by the Advanced Course in Yogi Philosophy (1904), Hindu
Yogi Science of Breath (1904), Hatha Yoga (1905), Reincarnation
and the Law of Karma (1908), and eight more. As popular as the
New Thought books were, those books Atkinson wrote as
Swami Ramacharaka have proved more enduring. They have
remained in print to the present and have become important
texts introducing Westerners to Hindu thought and practice.
Atkinson remained active as a writer and editor into the
1920s. He wrote regularly for The Nautilus, Elizabeth Towne’s
monthly, and issued one set of books he cowrote with Edward
E. Beals in the early 1920s. In his later years he retired to California;
he died in Los Angeles on November 22, 1932.
Atkinson, William Walker. The Law of New Thought A Study
of Fundamental Principles and Their Application. Chicago Psychic
Research, 1902.
———. The New Thought Its History and Principles; or, the
Message of New Thought. Holyoke, Mass. Elizabeth Towne,
———. Thought Force In Business and Everyday Life. 1900.
18th ed. New York Sydney Flower, 1903.
Swami Ramacharaka [William Walker Atkinson]. Fourteen
Lessons in Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism. Chicago Yogi
Publication Society, 1903.
———. Reincarnation and the Law of Karma. Yogi Publication
Society, 1908.

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