This book is an outgrowth of a series of articles originally published in The Progress Magazine under a pseudonym, in which I sought to account for the prevailing mental unrest regarding subjects of religious and philosophical import. These articles attracted much attention from careful students of the times, and there have been many requests for the republication thereof in book form under my own name. Accordingly, the publishers of the articles requested me to revise the several papers, and to add thereto such further matter as I might think proper. I have gone over the original articles, taking away a little here and adding much there. Several entirely new subjects have been considered and inserted in their proper places in the text. At least one third of the present book is entirely new, having been added to the revised form of the original articles. I have purposely quoted freely from good authorities, that the reader may have the benefit of the thought of a number of competent persons upon the various phases of the subject, in addition to what I have personally thought and written. I have sought merely to tell my story in a plain, simple manner, without any attempt at fine writing, literary excellence, or display of technical philosophical knowledge. My desire has been to place in the hands of the everyday busy man and woman a book from the pages of which they may gain a general knowledge of the causes of the modern mental unrest—an idea of what is going into this great melting pot of thought; what is happening there; and what is likely to be poured forth from it. To many, the numerous new “isms,” “ologies” and cults, are entirely new— something sprung full grown from the brains of their founders.
The absence of an elementary acquaintance with the history of philosophy, on the part of the average man and woman, has given to many new prophets and founders of cults an unmerited and unwarranted importance and authority. I trust that this book will enable some of those who have been perplexed and worried over these new (?) “isms,” and teachings, to learn the true sources of those startling conglomerations of metaphysics, philosophy and theology, and thus once more to regain their mental bearings. It is also my hope that some who have a tendency toward philosophical study may be inspired by this book to go to the proper sources of such knowledge—to the masters of this branch of thought—instead of sitting at the feet of the, too often, freakish, irresponsible, and bizarre founders and teachers of the pseudo schools and cults, who have been revamping the old teachings, dressing them in fantastic garb, and offering them (usually at a high rate of compensation) to those who have felt the hunger for wisdom and the thirst for information, but who lacked the knowledge of the places where these things could be had at first hand, pure and free from the adulterations of these self constituted middle men in the great market of Philosophy.
William Walker Atkinson.