Atkins, Anita (Sylvia Cranston) (1915-2000)
Published: Wednesday, 26 May 2010 03:54
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 December 12, 1915, and spent her childhood and youth living in the Grand Concourse, Bronx, New York. Her formal academic education ended with high school, after which she became a self-taught scholar.
Her parents both attended meetings at the United Lodge of Theosophists in New York City, Anita's introduction to Theosophy coming 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 in 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 United Lodge 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 a five-and-ten-cents store, the Eastern News Distribution Company, and the Theosophy Company by managing the New York United Lodge 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 published, 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 (1890) American Convention at the Palmer House Hotel, Chicago, Illinois, in which 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 the Theosophy Company, Los Angeles. This appendix grew into a volume of its own, and Grace Clough of the United Lodge 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 all the books she wrote and published.
Anita's first three books were compiled and edited with a co-author, Joseph Head: Reincarnation: An East-West Anthology (1961), Reincarnation in World Thought (1967), and Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery (1977). Her fourth was written in collaboration with Carey Williams (pen name of Caren M. Elin): Reincarnation: A New Horizon in Science, Religion and Society (1984).
Anita Atkins's last book went in a different direction. HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky, Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement was published in 1993, with a revised edition 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 Blavatsky biography in print. Anita wrote this volume while suffering with Parkinson's disease, from which she died on June 20, 2000. All the Cranston books are in print today in many languages around the world.
Anita Atkins's 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.