The Kybalion is one of an elect set of metaphysical books from a century ago that have remained in print and have had a continued readership. Subtitled “A Study of the Hermetic Philosophy of Ancient Egypt and Greece” by Three Initiates, it purported to come from “a compilation of certain Basic Hermetic Doctrines, which were passed on from teacher to student, which was known as the KYBALION.” The main part of the book served as a commentary on Seven Hermetic Principles that were enunciated.
In his Introduction to the “Definitive edition” of the book just published by Tharcher/Penguin, Philip Deslippe reveals the author to be William Walker Atkinson (1862-1932), a prolific writer living in Chicago at the beginning of the twentieth century. Atkinson is better remembered today for his series of yoga books published under the name of Yogi Ramacharaka. Deslippe concludes: “the source material for The Kybalion of 1908, despite all the myth and lore surrounding it within the introduction, appears to have never existed at all. The Kybalion expounds on a center that was either imagined or employed purely as a device. The only literary parallel to this would seem to be the Book of Dzyan, a supposed primeval work of cosmology, which the founder of Theosophy, Helena Blavatsky, claimed to have read and memorized in Tibetan Lamaseries. Her landmark 1888 work, The Secret Doctrine, can be considered a type of exegesis on the Book of Dzyan, although some scholars in her time considered it a more a reworking of texts already existent. William Walker Atkinson was clearly an admirer of Blavatsky, and Theosophic traces can be found in most of his works.”
Philip Deslippe’s interesting introduction gives further background on the man who also wrote as Theron Q. Dumont and Magnus Incognito.