Atkinson, William Walker (1862-1932)

views updated May 14 2018

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 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, Thought-Force: 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, 1915.

. 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.

Ramacharaka, Yogi (1862-1932)

views updated May 29 2018

Ramacharaka, Yogi (1862-1932)

Religious name of American writer/editor William Walker Atkinson. He was born on December 5, 1862, in Baltimore, Maryland. He went into business as a young man and was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1894 and the Illinois bar 1903. He underwent a profound change after experiencing a nervous breakdown. He found healing through New Thought metaphysics and moved to Chicago where he emerged as a major advocate of the new faith. In that cause he became associate editor of the magazine Suggestion (1900-05), co-editor with his colleague Sydney Flowers of New Thought (1901-5), and later edited Advanced Thought (Chicago, 1916-19). He founded the Atkinson School of Mental Science and authored a large number of popular books on New Thought, Self-Healing, Mind-Power, and psychic phenomena.

During this time he was also introduced to yoga exercises, and the whole of the yogi philosophy. In 1903 he began to write books on yoga using the pseudonym Yogi Ramacharaka. Through the next several decades thirteen titles appeared and Atkinson thus became one the earliest propagandists of and an important figure in the development of Hinduism in North America. His books on yoga and occultism were issued by the Yogi Publication Society, now located in Jacksonville, Florida, and continue to be reprinted. Atkinson died in California on November 22, 1932.


Melton, J. Gordon. Religious Leaders of America. Detroit: Gale Research, 1991.

Ramacharacka, Swami [William Walker Atkinson]. Advanced Course in Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism. Chicago: Yogi Publication Society, 1904.

. Hatha Yoga. Chicago: Yogi Publication Society, 1932.

. The Hindu-Yogi System of Breath. Chicago: Yogi Publication Society, 1904.

. Raja Yoga, or Mental Development. Chicago: Yogi Publication, 1905.

. The Spirit of the Upanishads; or, The Aphorisms of the Wise. Chicago: Yogi Publication Society, 1936.

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