The many names of Baird T Spalding – Part 1

Previous articles on Baird T Spalding’s date of birth have shed light on some of the many stories surrounding him. Now that his place and date of birth are established, it is possible to examine other claims made for Spalding. One of the most interesting areas of research is the different names he assumed over the years, and the claims made for his ancestry.

The Department of State recently released Spalding’s 1935 passport application and an affidavit of birth signed by his brother. As discussed in my earlier blog post on Spalding’s biography, Baird was an American, born Oct 3rd 1872 in Cohocton,  New York. The passport application reveals a fascinating new twist.  Spalding was born with the name Bayard Spaulding, and the adoption of the nom de plume Baird T Spalding occurred decades later.

Despite initial skepticism that Bayard Spaulding was really New Age author Baird T Spalding, there is no doubt that this is the passport application of our subject. The application was filed in September 1935, just before Spalding left for his famous India Tour. Spalding’s photograph is attached, as well as his address at the time in San Francisco. His planned departure for India on the SS President Hoover on Oct 4th confirms it beyond a doubt.

baird spalding passport

By the 1890’s, Spalding had left New York for the gold fields of the Yukon and was going by the name William Spaulding. In 1899, Spalding was arrested in Dawson City, and a Canadian consul record lists him as William Spaulding, but notes incorrectly that he is a British subject. This may be the origin of the stories that Spalding was of British descent, discussed previously on this blog. In 1906, Spalding was working in Montana under his birth name Bayard T Spaulding, now with the added middle initial.

The first use of the surname Spalding by which the public would come to know him appears on the 21st of October 1910 in a rural Californian newspaper article from the Lassen Advocate, in which Spalding is claimed to be a professor from Columbia University.

B.T. Spalding a professor in the Columbia University, is in Susanville gathering data concerning soil and crop conditions in this section and will remain several weeks.

The trip to Susanville is meaningful in more ways than one. Close to California’s legendary Mount Shasta, Susanville was the home of Spalding’s future wife, Stella Stiles. They were married in October of the following year, and from this point Spalding continues to use the name Baird T Spalding almost exclusively.

There is no evidence that Spalding ever legally changed his name, and it is difficult to determine the logic behind which name he used. In addition to Baird Spalding and William Spalding,  David Bruton’s biography claims that he also used the name Baird T Grey.

After 1906, my research has only located a single instance of Spalding using his original birth name, and that is his 1935 passport application discussed above. Close examination of the hand written sections shows that Baird still signed his name as Spalding. On a birth affidavit signed by his brother Hiram Spaulding, the additional ‘u’ in Spaulding appears to have been added afterwards. Ironically Baird’s surname was often spelled by third parties as Spaulding even when he was using the Spalding variant, and it appears this mistake was made by Spalding himself as he had been using that name for decades.

hiram spaulding affidavit

Life and Teaching Volume 6,  published by DeVorss in 1996,  relates the following tale from Dr Neva Dell Hunter about Spalding’s family involvement with India.

Baird T. Spalding was in reality Baird T. Spalding III. His father was Baird Spalding  II and his grandfather, to whom he was very close, was Baird Spalding the first. Baird III always spoke of him as “Grandpappy” and it seems he really had been born in India.

A similar story appears in David Bruton’s 1954 biography Baird T Spalding As I Knew Him, although the details are slightly changed.

John Spalding, grandfather of Baird T Spalding, lived the greater part of his life in India. He was a devout follower of the Hindu teachings.

These two stories have become the foundation of much of the apocryphal information around Spalding,  implying that Spalding had a family connection to India, and that the voyage to India that led to Life and Teachings was inspired by the travels of his father or grandfather.

In the second part of this series on Baird T Spalding’s life, we’ll examine Spalding’s family history in detail and examine the truth of these stories.


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14 Responses to “The many names of Baird T Spalding – Part 1”

  1. AJ says:

    thanks for updating us on your research – well done! i was a member of a religious group (some would call it a cult) for some years which took Spalding VERY seriously. i was given assurances by our guru that Spalding was legitimate, based on her psychic contacts. what you have uncovered here clearly shows a pattern of deception by Spalding that was lifelong, and leads any intelligent person to question his books closely.

    i found a similar pattern of deception by my own guru, who turned out to have ‘feet of clay’. it is clear to me now that the motive of such people is not always spiritual enlightenment.

    truth matters. to quote Kierkegaard, a human being cannot find truth separate from the subjective experience of their own existence. intention also matters. facts stated by a liar are not the same as those stated by a person who intends to be truthful. my guru had mixed intentions and i caught her in several lies. her channeling of a specific master turned out to be a simple show which took me in for many years. how ironic that your research would confirm a lesson that it took me many years to learn. thanks again, and please keep researching!

  2. todd says:

    Thanks for your feedback. I’m fairly sure I am familiar with the guru you are referring to as she has been a consistent supporter of Spalding. I plan to write a little on her later.

    The second part of this article will be posted shortly, and there is much more to come.

  3. Rand Noel says:

    Interesting Material here But I would like to add some anecdotal evidence from two first hand accounts regarding Spalding’s actually ever going to India.
    Spalding as any person who has studied anything about him knows he was in the mining Business. In 1967 I had occasion to meet one Carla Griggs in North Hollywood CA. She was in her late 80’s then but was involved with two separate and coincidental personal friends of mine about two subjects. I had dealings with the “Science of Mind Magazine: at the time and had close relations with DeVorss Publishing as they published much of the material from the Church of Religious Science and the Church of Divine Science.(I am a writer myself) Secondly my roommate at the time was involved with Gold mining in Utah and Southern California, Mrs. Griggs Husband (Already deceased when I met her) was involved with my friends Gold mining Speculations as well as one Baird T Spalding. My roommate was The Late Rev Dr. David Howe, of the First Church of Religious Science in Las Vegas were I made my home. Both Dr, Howe and Mrs. Griggs assured me that all the volumes that Devorss Published for Spalding was information garnered from Spalding about relatives who had lived in India and he himself never went there and Lived with the people the books purport to say he did. That’s not ot say he Never went to India, but it is to say that the Stories are fictionalized accounts of second, third and fourth hand information and sensationalized by Mr. DeVorss in order to sell books on the Metaphysical, and ‘New Thought’ Movement popular at the time.

  4. todd says:

    Thanks for your comment Rand – that’s very interesting information. It matches with my research, except that I am confident Spalding did not have any relatives who lived in or visited India. You are correct when you pinpoint the New Thought material as influential. I believe the genesis of the Spalding stories was a small New Thought group Spalding joined with his wife in the early 1920’s in San Francisco. It’s not widely known but his stories were first published in serial form in their magazine in the early 1920’s, and Spalding’s wife worked as an editor for another well known occult author at the time. I suspect that the ‘relatives’ angle was created later to address some critical newspaper coverage Spalding received in the 1930’s in which Spalding admitted to some followers he had never traveled to India as described in the books.

    In the last two months I’ve made contact with some Spaulding family members in NY and TX which has confirmed much of the research and provided some additional angles.

    I’m interested in any material about Spalding’s mining investments. I’ve spoken to one person who was involved with them in the 1940’s. Please contact me if you’d like to discuss further.

  5. Diana Simpao says:

    Hello. Found your site+ am so delighted. When I was little,the original,brown books of Mr.Spalding were a resource of great inspiration . Searched for yrs,finally found Devors pub. Was saddened when hearing reports that they were only beautiful stories. Stories that have so inspired me to be truly like Jesus. Am not too computer literate.Please excuse me for any mistakes. Christ of God,All One. Diana

  6. Hannnie says:

    Dear Todd,

    Did you already check the “author spotlight-Baird T Spalding” on the website of DeVorss? See

    Maybe it will contribute to your research.


  7. jay says:

    Variant spellings of a person’s name by others and even themselves was common in the past. That proves nothing. I have relatives who spell their last name different than I do even today. Some say he went, some say he did not, truth is it doesn’t matter. Some say Jesus lived, some say he is a myth. You can’t prove it either way. You either like his books or you don’t. To claim he was a charlatan is beyond your’s or anyone else’s authority. His writing has inspired millions. Perhaps you should try reading them again with an open mind and not be so critical as to their authenticity. If not, then live and let live. I’ll not even start in on Soren Kierkegaard. Had to explain Fear and Trembling/Sickness unto Death to my prof many years ago. The simple truth is that we should treat others as we would want to be treated. Read some Kant.

  8. Christian Hamnett says:

    To be honest I was very disappointed to find that the journeys described in the book of Spalding were invented out of whole cloth. In my many years of spiritual research I realized that telling the truth is important, but it’s important not to hurt the other. So if the one in front of me is not ready to receive the truth I’m telling you. But that is not the case of Spalding. That there is this spiritual energy is powerful no doubt, but the precipitous drop of humanity in the matter and this is a lie and me (us) so all involved to doubt ourselves, seekers of truth, of his existence. I KNOW THAT THERE IS POWER. But they are not able to produce it, to do it properly it grow in me. The fact that Spalding was a liar does not detract from the Fundamental Truth, but certainly not easy things to newcomers to the spiritual world, indeed many for these obvious ambiguity go away, giving strength to the skeptics who do not hesitate to destroy everything even when there is spiritual truth. We can not give reasons for the skeptics to destroy the spiritual world, we must tell the truth, always on these issues, otherwise humanity will remain at stake and there will be no spiritual growth. Spalding made ​​a mistake, forgive him, but I would never, ever written as a true journey that speaks of Spiritual Truth. Spalding had to speak clearly: the spiritual truths that I have written are True (contact your heart for that matter), but the travel and miracles are (too bad!) All fiction.

  9. […] Baird T Spalding’s family history has been published here, taken from authoritative sources such as passport records, the US census and Spaulding family obituaries and they are unequivocal. […]

  10. Joiell Mythos says:

    I had a couple of the “Life and Teachings” volumes with my books since the 60s. When first trying to read them, they meant absolutely nothing to me other than much redundancy. So, they sat on my bookshelves. Within the past three years, having again taken one off the shelf and read it, the meaning shone through, with depth and insight. I believe this is because my own spiritual search and experiences have opened my understanding, as well as the need for the continuous reminding to be present to my Self in order to make headway in my spiritual journey. I am writing this comment about the name changes. I personally have changed my name, adding a letter, or changing a whole set of letters, after examining the numerological impact of the letters, and the whole sum of the letters, on my life. I am a student of numerology. The universe is built on number data. I like to have every number (as represented by various letters of the alphabet) within my name. I would wager that being involved in esoteric teachings, Mr. Spaulding may have had the same sort of impetus… not sneaky nor suspect at all. My two cents.

  11. Liz says:

    Different spellings of names was very common in the past. My family’s name had at least 3 different spellings. And first names were also recorded differently. People had nicknames that they used. So please don’t use this to call him a liar. Drop this line of debunking because it seriously weakens your argument.

  12. S.Blackstone says:

    I just came across this thread on Baird T. Spalding, by happenstance (or fate, or….).
    I too read the Life and Teachings of the Masters series, probably 20 years ago. Recently, I saw them sitting on my bookshelf, and plucked up vol. 1 to scan…& fell into it.
    And what did I sense, a good inspirational book, one that I desired to read again. To pull from the book what I am questing for now, for which I did not harvest nor retain when I originally read it.

    I do get disheartened when I view or hear debates especially on the authenticity of historical details about individuals. Individuals that took the time to write what they feel maybe important to share with others, as they journey down their life path.

    Take what you need from the words & do not worry about the details. If it does not align with you leave it. Does being derogatory help you & others?

    In world of so many religions, faiths & beliefs, I feel that Baird T. Spalding wrote these books to help others lead a better life path. Even one person that personally benefits, can make a difference.


  13. Jonas says:

    I’m French, so forgive, my English, please. I read Spalding book, the one with pictures, in Paris, in 1972. It just blown my mind to the point that I wanted to make an expedition to meet these guys. But first I met Jacques Weiss, that traduced the book into French auder the name of Louis Colombelle. It happened that we became friends, and as I traveled, exchanded many letters and thougts. That person was the most honnest person I ever met, and, if Spalding was a fraud, Jacques didn’t knew it. He met him and but this doesn’t mean anything. I never did my trip to the far east…Spalding was inspiring, and one can say that, that’s all that counts. I reminds me of the story of Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, that was famous in his time with “the third eye” and many other books. That guy was a plumber, and never went nowhere. I heard then on radio a guy saying that he became an anthropologue() after readind these books. Anything here can inspire us. There is no truth, no lies, just a dream that we interpret. This is only my opinion, of course.

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