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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Atkins, Anita

(Sylvia Cranston) (1915-2000). Author, known by her pen name Sylvia Cranston or S. L. Cranston, who wrote books on reincarnation and a biography of Helena P. BLAVATSKY.

Anita Atkins was born on Dec. 12, 1915, and spent her childhood and youth living in the Grand Concourse, Bronx, New York. Her formal public academic education ended at High School at which time she then became a self-taught scholar.

Anita Atkins
                    Anita Atkins

Her parents both attended meetings at the United Lodge of Theosophists (ULT) in New York City, and Anita’s introduction to theosophy came from her father’s reports of those meetings. As she later remembered, her “soul soared” when she listened to her father tell about the ideas presented during the lectures. Because of her extreme shyness, it was many months before Anita could bring herself to attend her first public theosophical meeting, to which she was accompanied by her father. After that first meeting, however, the high school teenager attended every possible ULT meeting.

Never married, Anita Atkins devoted her life to service through her lectures for various public organizations and theosophical groups, teaching Theosophy School at The United Lodge of Theosophists in New York City, as well as participating in national and international radio and television interviews. She supported herself by working at the 5 & 10 cents store, the Eastern News Distribution Company and for Theosophy Company by managing the New York ULT until her retirement. As an author, Anita never used the royalties from her books personally, but instead financed donations of her books to libraries worldwide, to promote the ideas of theosophy as her way of serving humanity. Anita read every word that Helena P. Blavatsky wrote, not once but many times. One keynote that sounded as a call for Anita to serve the worldwide Theosophical Movement was HPB’s message to the fourth annual American Convention at the Palmer House Hotel, Chicago, Illinois, in 1890. HPB stated:

What I said last year remains true today, that is, that the Ethics of Theosophy are more important than any divulgement of psychic laws and facts. The latter relate wholly to the material and evanescent part of the septenary man, but the Ethics sink into and take hold of the real man ) the reincarnating Ego. We are outwardly creatures of but a day; within we are eternal. Learn, then, well the doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation, and teach, practice, promulgate that system of life and thought, which alone can save the coming races. Do not work merely for the Theosophical Society, but through it for Humanity.

Anita’s heart was pierced by that proclamation, and so at the age of sixteen she began compiling what great thinkers, writers, artists, psychologists, composers and philosophers have had to say throughout history on the subject of death and reincarnation. The idea came to Anita of collecting such quotations into an appendix for a future publication by Theosophy Company, Los Angeles. This appendix grew into a volume of its own, and Grace Clough of ULT in Los Angeles advised Anita to select a pen name and have her work published as a separate book by a New York publishing house. Mrs. Clough chose “Sylvia L. Cranston” as the nom de plume for Anita Atkins. Anita used it, or its variant “S. L. Cranston,” for the five books she wrote and had published. First came Reincarnation: An East-West Anthology in 1961, then Reincarnation in World Thought in 1967, and Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery in 1977, all compiled and edited with co-author, Joseph Head. The fourth book was Reincarnation: A New Horizon in Science, Religion and Society, written in collaboration with Carey Williams (pen name of Caren M. Elin) in 1984. All the Cranston books are in print today in many languages around the world.

Anita Atkins’ last book went in a different direction. HPB: The Extraordinary Life & Influence of Helena Blavatsky, Founder of The Modern Theosophical Movement was published in 1993, and a revised edition came out in 1994. Later editions were prepared by Caren Elin, Anita’s research assistant, who, together with Anita’s brother, A. Edgar Atkins, formed the Path Publishing House to keep the HPB biography in print. Anita wrote this volume while suffering with Parkinson’s Disease. She died on June 20, 2000. Anita Atkins’ lifelong wish was that the ideas of theosophy be used to benefit humanity through gentle acts of service. An additional wish was for all theosophical groups, organizations and independent individuals to work symbiotically for the greater Theosophical Movement and through it to benefit the global human family.

C.M.E.

 

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