Modern Thelemic Magick & Culture

Modern Thelemic Magick & Culture

Modern Thelemic Magick & Culture

The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians
A Lost Classic by Magus Incognito

by William Walker Atkinson

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Weiser Books (November 1, 2012)
Language: English
Reviewed by Frater U.I.F.

The New Thought Movement of the early 20th century was centered on the teachings of Emma Curtis Hopkins. Many spiritual concepts that are common currency today such as the Law of Attraction, God as a universal life force, harmony between all religions, positive thinking and creative visualization all became well-known through Hopkins' Christian Science Theological Seminary in Chicago. Among her followers was a Maryland-born lawyer named William Walker Atkinson whose career reboot as a minister of New Thought occurred after a nervous breakdown and financial collapse. It was New Thought that led him not only back to emotional health, but down the mystic paths of mentalism, divination, psychic phenomena, astral travel, life extension, yoga and many other occult practices.

In 1903 he began pumping out the books, more than one hundred by the time of his death, many of which are still in print. Like his contemporary, Aleister Crowley, he embarked on an ambitious publishing effort which included the Journal of New Thought and the Yogi Publishing Society of Chicago. The later stamped out titles by such newly minted teachers as Yogi Ramacharaka, Swami Bhakta Vishita, Theron Q. Dumont and the ambiguously named "The Three Initiates." This stable of authors enjoyed lucrative sales and provided Atkinson with a steady income. There is only one odd twist to the story: the authors did not exist. They were all pen names for William Walker Atkinson himself.

Clint Marsh, in collaboration with Weiser books, has done some respectful reprints of Atkinson’s work. The most recent is the Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians, which Marsh considers "a lost classic." the book was originally published under the pseudonym of Magus Incognito, perhaps Atkinson’s most outlandish nom de plume. It is an odd book in that Atkinson quotes his other books extensively while citing himself as "a well-known author" or "a leading writer." To be fair, he also includes many quotes from such diverse sources as E.D. Walker, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walter Scott. Although these authors are quite reputable and worth reading, they hardly constitute de! nitive voices of the Rosicrucian movement.

Magus Incognito presents himself as a Rosicrucian initiate willing to reveal the teachings of his fraternity, although he stresses that he must not break his oaths by revealing all. The book covers a good deal of theosophy, new age thought, descriptions of root races and cosmic evolution, much of it smelling more like Madam Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine than anything from the early 1600s. This book is not a scholarly tome on the Jacobean fraternal movement, nor is it a convincing retelling of its teachings. But it is a spiritually inspiring summary of New thought beliefs. If one wishes to learn about the historic Rosicrucians, it is probably best to seek out the Rosicrucian Enlightenment by Frances Yates which tells us much of what is certain about the origins of the movement.

There is also a volume of inspirational instruction called the Kybalion by the three Initiates, but beware: it was not written by Fraters Moe, Larry and Curly but by William Walker Atkinson himself.