William Walker Atkinson was a man of many talents and pursuits, but he is well known for his contributions to the New Thought movement. As an author, he played an important role in pioneering this 19th century philosophical movement both in his native United States and beyond.
William Walker Atkinson was born December 5th, 1862, in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents, William and Emma Atkinson, were reportedly both Baltimore natives as well. His father worked as a grocer and most likely provided the junior William with his first job at 15 years old.Atkinson had high aspirations, especially for a young boy of that time in Baltimore. In 1882, he began pursuing a business career – a pursuit that would carry on throughout his life. He was admitted as an attorney to the Bar of Pennsylvania in 1894, the beginning of a very successful career in law.
Unfortunately for Atkinson, the pressures and stress from his new and prosperous career took its toll on the man. Over time, he began to experience a mental and physical breakdown, ultimately leading to financial disaster. These trying changes came roughly around the time that he married Margret Foster Black, his first and only wife.
In hopes of regaining control over his life and health, Atkinson began an active search for healing in the late 1880s. It was during this time that he discovered the New Thought movement, which, according to accounts by Atkinson himself, provided the answers he’d been seeking.
After changing his life through the application of New Thought principles, he began writing articles about the truths that he felt he’d discovered. In the early 1890s, this new drive compelled Atkinson to move to Chicago, a major center for New Thought at the time. Once in the city, he became responsible for publishing the magazines Suggestion (1900–1901), New Thought (1901–1905) and Advanced Thought (1906–1916) – roles that made Atkinson instrumental in the promotion of the movement. It was during this time that he likely penned his first book, Thought Force In Business And Everyday Life.
Throughout these endeavors, Atkinson pursued his legal career, and in 1903, he was admitted to the Bar of Illinois. Still, he continued to write and serve as editor (at this point in time, for New Thought magazine), building a very large readership. While still working at this publication, Atkinson took an interest in Hinduism. He arranged a meeting with Baba Bharata, a student of the late Yogi Ramacharaka and a fan of Atkinson’s writings. The two shared a mutual respect that led to future collaboration as he began co-authoring books. This journey led to one of William Walker Atkinson’s several pseudonyms, as he began publishing said books under the name Yogi Ramacharaka in 1903. Over the course of his writing career, Atkinson used several pseudonyms including Theodore Sheldon, Theron Q.Dumont, Swami Panchadasi, and The Three Initiates, presumably to separate his legal career from his life as a writer.
William Walker Atkinson died in California on November 22, 1932. He remains one of the most well-respected and accomplished pioneers of the New Thought movement.