I love getting questions here on the “bridge” as well as on my YouTube channel.  I always see valid questions as an opportunity to ponder the matter and go deeper with my thinking.   My desire is that my response may in some way be beneficial. 

Here I want to share my response to a question I received in regards to one of my YouTube Videos about author William Walker Atkinson. The video was entitled “The Kybalion, William Walker Atkinson and New Thought”. I hope you find this exchange of interest.

By the way, if you have a metaphysical question that you would like me to tackle, be sure to drop me a comment on one of my articles or videos or you can send me an email at mark@consciousbridge.com.

Question: I’m hoping you may be able to help me with what I believe to be a contradiction between the two books [Atkinson] wrote, The Kybalion and The Arcane Teachings. In The Kybalion, he attributes the Absolute and the Infinite to be one and the same, and then in The Arcane Teachings he clearly states that the All could never be the Infinite for all the reasons stated in the book. Any help with this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

First, I want to thank you for the thought provoking question and acknowledge your level of detail in reading and comparing the two books by Atkinson.  I am also appreciative of your seeing myself as possibly someone who can help you with the question. I hope that you find the following beneficial.

My initial thoughts upon reading your question related to the general degree to which any individual who teaches or writes on any subject can be found to be inconsistent from time to time.  I have found this to be especially true when one writes on such spiritual topics.  There are several reasons for this.

One is that the person’s level of awareness on the topic changes over time as they grow and evolve in their wisdom.  There are slight things in books I wrote 10 years ago that I would change if I were to publish them again.

Two is that many spiritual topics are using the limited nature of words to describe ineffable topics.  I have struggled myself many times trying to convey a description of such things as the vast interconnected oneness of the universe because any words I use simply don’t capture it fully.

Three is that sometimes spiritual authors may use the same word to mean different things in different contexts.  As a longtime student of spiritual teacher Ernest Holmes, I can say that his tendency to change the meaning of words given what he’s discussing can often lead to a sense that he is being inconsistent even when he’s not.

And, even beyond all these reasons, Atkinson has the additional “oddness” to his writings as he wrote under different pseudonyms for different topics and could have possibly sought to create different voices for each of the various spiritual teachers he chose to present himself as.  Although I don’t know this to be true, I can certain envision his use of certain words when he was writing as himself to differ from his usage when writing as say, Yogi Ramacharaka.  Although The Kybalion and The Arcane Teachings are both attributed to Atkinson, the first was published under the authorship of “Three Initiates” and the latter listed no author’s name originally.

Now having said all of that, I did go back and review passages from both books and I actually believe that they are saying the same thing although at first blush it appears that they are not.

At issue (in my opinion) may be our natural tendency to want to equate the words “the absolute”, “the infinite” and “the All”.  After all, here we are in the relative, finite realm of existence trying to make sense of the realms beyond us.

I know that sometimes even in my own talks and writings, I can sometimes use such words and others (Spirit, God, the “transcendent”, infinite intelligence, etc.) as synonyms in my desire to get across a basic point that our human relative existence is on one end of a scale where we see things in their multiplicity while the other end of the scale is the realization of our vast unity (the Absolute).  In trying to describe the “Absolute”, I can often in my zest to make this point equate the Absolute with terms that seem to equate it to Spirit Itself but technically that’s not totally accurate.  What we need to keep in mind is that beyond the “relative to Absolute scale” is the creative force that created the entire scale to begin with!

You may notice that in Lesson V of The Arcane Teachings, Atkinson stresses the point that these teachings are not “pantheism”.  Pantheism equates God with the universe (or multiverses).  There is nothing “beyond” God.  Although some folks define pantheism to equate God with the “material universe”, generally these folks have a limited perspective that the entire universe is only “matter” to begin with. I believe that Atkinson is using a broader interpretation of the word pantheism (used by many, including myself) to equate God as being the entire (material and non-material) universe.

So why is this material (pardon the pun)? Because Atkinson is stressing that although “The All” (or God) is embedded in everything in the entire material and non-material universe, “The All” also transcends that totality.  What he is describing is termed “panentheism”.  Ernest Holmes defined it this way: “This One manifests itself in and through all creation but is not absorbed by its creation.”

In that light, the entire scale from the relative realm of multiplicity “up through” the highest realm of the Absolute and the Infinite are “contained” within that universe.  God or The All are “in the universe” but also transcend it.  Hence, the Absolute and the Infinite are the “same” at the highest realms of the non-material universe, but The All is not the equivalent of the Infinite because The All transcends and includes everything (including the Absolute and the Infinite).

In a sense, this is similar to the Kaballah’s teachings of Ein Sof, the God that exists prior to any self manifestation into our spiritual universe but that who embedded itself into its creation, the sephirot. This is the multilayered tree of life where the highest level (“keter”) can be seen as related to the level of the “Absolute” while the lowest (“yesod”) relates to the base level of the material world.

Or, we might look at the teachings of Sri Aurobindo, the great Indian “integral” philosopher who drawing upon Vedic writings taught that the divine Brahman manifests as empirical reality through a divine play called “Lila”. Although Brahman is in all, it transcends the empirical reality.  Aurobindo wrote of a “Supermind” that lies above our mental level of “Mind” that serves as an intermediary power between the unmanifested Brahman and the manifested world of Brahman.

What we might consider, from Atkinson to the Kaballah to Aurobindo (and many others), is that the “creator” (by whatever name we use) embedded Itself into Its creation while also transcending it.  The creation is a kind of “hierarchy” that we travel spiritually from the material to the non-material as we remember our source in oneness or God.  As we approach the highest levels of the universe in our awareness, that is, the Absolute, we are recognizing our unity and oneness but even at these “highest levels of consciousness” The All or God still transcends us.

Now, I get it that all of this is somewhat of an esoteric point.  Here we are in the midst of our humanness and our sense of limitation and separation and if we can even make small steps towards feeling and knowing our underlying unity and oneness and living from that space, then we have made great strides on our spiritual journey.  The key is moving towards that awareness of the Divine in all and acting from that awareness.  Although God Itself may “transcend and include” the Absolute or the Infinite, our goal is in the direction of knowing the Absolute or the Infinite.  In so doing, we come the closest we can to “knowing God”.

In conclusion, I must add that there may very well be inconsistencies in Atkinson’s writing, that he might use certain words in different contexts to mean different things and so on.  And, I might add that as much as what I have outlined here that I believe to be true, as I always say in my classes, “I could be wrong”.  I am still growing and learning on my spiritual journey.  Thank you for the question.