Frequently asked questions

Because the pendulum of Spalding’s personality swung across such a wide arc which contained contradictions, falsities, deception, kindness, gentleness, selfishness, generosity, anger, hatred and love for his fellowman (as well as combinations of these), it is very difficult to present a comprehensive picture of him. The shortest, and probably the most effective, description of him is that he was fantastic – and fabulous.

David Bruton

Who was Baird T Spalding?

Baird Thomas Spalding is the nom de plume of Bayard Spaulding*, an American writer born in 1872 in Cohocton, New York. Spalding self-published Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East in 1924 which told of a fantastic research expedition to India and Tibet in the 1890′s that witnessed masters who could perform miraculous feats, imparting simple spiritual truths in a format which appealed to Western audiences.

Spalding’s first book was republished by DeVorss & Co and became a runaway hit, selling many thousands of copies and leading Spalding on lecture tours across America. Spalding continue to write three more volumes of Life and Teaching, and led a small group of followers to India in 1935. He died in 1953 in Arizona at the age of 80.

Spalding’s books and his publisher say he was born in the 1850′s in England, and his father/grandfather was from India. What’s your source for saying otherwise?

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.

Spalding had no family connection to India, but he did have a lifelong penchant for tall tales. The biography and timeline provided in the books and on the DeVorss & Co website is primarily based on those tales and is mostly fictional, just like Spalding’s nom de plume.

Are the books fiction or non-fiction? Did Spalding actually go to India in 1894?

Many readers are disappointed when they learn that Spalding did not go to India in 1894, and there was no research expedition as described in Life and Teaching. Spalding was only 22 years old in 1894, and he spent most of the 1890′s in the Yukon mining for gold. Spalding’s first visit to India was in 1935 at the behest of his publisher, after the release of Life and Teaching Volume 3.

Presenting fictional material of a spiritual nature in the style of scientific expeditions to distant lands and discoveries of rare documents was a popular genre around the turn of the century (see Nicholas Notovitch and Edmund Bordeaux Szekely for similar examples). Life and Teaching is a work of fiction in the genre of magical autobiography.

Spalding was a fascinating man who freely mixed fact and fiction in his life, telling stories that varied from one telling to the next. Many of the incredible stories surrounding Spalding were told in a way that helped people to comprehend the spiritual content of his books.

Can I get a map of Spalding’s travels through India, or the names of his companions? What about the location or photographs of the Temple Of Silence, the Healing Temple, or the Temple Of The Great Tau?

Unfortunately, since Spalding did not travel to India as described in Life and Teaching, there is no map, photographs or further information available. Astute readers may notice the books lack any detailed information about locations or people that is typical of scientific expeditions. The journey, researchers and the temples existed only in Spalding’s imagination.

Spalding’s books and his publisher say he studied at Berkeley, Stanford, Columbia and the University of Heidelberg. Is that true?

Spalding did make those claims, but there are no records of him studying at Berkeley, Stanford or Columbia according to University registrars. Since Spalding did not travel to Germany, it is highly unlikely he studied at the University of Heidelberg.

Where did the spiritual content of the books come from?

Much of the content of Life and Teaching was inspired by the New Thought movement. Spalding was a member of a New Thought group in San Francisco during the early 1920′s when he wrote Life and Teaching Volume One and the first chapters of the book were published in the groups magazine. His wife Stella Spalding was an intelligent, University educated woman who helped Spalding greatly when writing the books. Spalding’s publisher Doug DeVorss was raised  in the Unity Church, a New Thought group, and it is likely he had input on the later volumes of Life and Teaching.

Spalding was a wealthy man, wasn’t he? Didn’t he own several gold mines?

Spalding was mechanically inclined, and worked as a mining engineer in Alaska, Montana and California for much of his early life. Although he was involved in several mining ventures, none were particularly successful and at least two of them ended up bankrupt or in legal troubles. It appears that his primary income from the 1930′s until his death in 1953 was income from book sales. He died with few assets to his name.

What about Spalding’s relationships with famous scientists and artists like Einstein, Tesla, Charles Proteus Steinmetz and Cecil B DeMille?

Most of the people named have been covered extensively by biographers, and there are historical archives of their correspondence and diaries. Spalding isn’t mentioned in them, or the connections are extremely tenuous. Many of these claims can again be chalked up to Spalding’s penchant for tall tales.

Did Spalding write any other books?

No. Life and Teaching Volumes 1-4 were his only works. Volumes 5 and 6 were published posthumously by DeVorss from articles Spalding wrote for Mind Magazine and from collected notes of the India Tour in 1935.

The Vietnamese book Journey to the East (Hanh Trinh Ve Phuong Dong) by Nguyen Phong which claims to be a translation of a Spalding book written in 1924 is a work of fiction written in the 1970′s by the pseudonymous Nguyen Phong.

If all these stories about Spalding aren’t true and his books were fiction, why bother with the research on this website?

Despite his love for tall tales, Spalding was a fascinating man, and the story of how he managed to enchant people with his books and lectures is one worth telling. Although he battled his own personal demons for many years, Spalding had a positive influence on many readers, and his books remaining in print nearly sixty years after his death is a testament to their appeal.

In the years since his death, and despite the lack of supporting evidence for his stories, Spalding has become an important influence on alternative religions and New Age thought in general. This website examines Spalding from a cultural, historical and anthropological point of view, celebrating the life of a man who achieved immortality in print far beyond his wildest dreams. In the spirit of the Native American trickster legends, Spalding challenges readers to think outside normal religious beliefs, with a sparkle in his eye that reminds you that truth is often far stranger than fiction.

*A note on names. For clarity, the website refers to Baird Spalding by that name, even though he was born as Bayard Spaulding. Members of his family are referred to with the Spaulding surname.

Last updated: January 2010

Share

70 Responses to “Frequently asked questions”

  1. I am a researcher. I have a massive collection that supports what Baird T. Spalding has offered to include many libraries with many thousand of ancient metal tablets that all predate the flood. They are in the Motherland of Adam. Would like to share this information with other researchers of the Master’s books. It all real. 1 801 652-5577

  2. todd says:

    Sounds interesting Duane. What can you tell us?

  3. todd says:

    As it happens Annette, it was my grandmothers interest in Castaneda, Lobsang Rampa and Spalding that caused me to read and research them in the first place. The books by Richard de Mille on Castaneda confirm your suspicions that don Juan was fictional, much like Spalding’s trip to India.

  4. David says:

    Truth is alway struth however it is delivered. As Shakespear said, a rose is just as sweet by any other name.You know when something is true, your soul responds with an everlasting and ever present move towards God. If Spalding mangaged to touch your soul in this way, then it must be truth. Once a parcel has been delivered, do you bother about how it go to you?

  5. lecturevie says:

    I once read the book of the life of the master. It influenced a lot my research. But at one point I was stopped. the main idea of the book strengthens a lot the Mind. Which doesn’t help to surrender to God at the ultimate point. I have to say that my ego was kin on researching totally on that way, beeing the superman that disposes in his hand the full power of god… but humility at one point calls at the door…

  6. Christian says:

    As the saying lecturevive … is true, if the truth comes to you, does it matter how you get there? Through the intensive enlightiment of Charles Berner and Silvano Brunelli, in Italy, I experienced different states of consciousness which I have exposed the individual absolute present in each of us. This immutable presence, a kind of center of gravity has reinforced in me the idea that the truth must always have to be sent a narrative coherence of the substance which was not present in the books of Spalding. Imagine the difference if Spalding had really made these trips and these masters had actually met and had really been a witness of all those miracles which would give enormous strength to the Divine Truth! A normal person interested for the first time to the books of Spalding would shy away immediately noticing the extreme inconsistency: Spalding speaks of Truth but tell of a journey that never made and an encounter with spiritual teachers who did not never had and which has never been witnessed.

  7. Joan says:

    I have all of the tour lessons in very good condition. Do they have any value?

  8. todd says:

    What year are they from Joan? They’ve been reprinted several times from the original magazine articles so I don’t think they are collectible.

  9. Jeanne Ryan says:

    Hello!

    I have a couple of questions re: Baird Spalding. I am not sure if this is the correct forum, so please let me know if my questions should be somewhere else on the website.

    A friend recently came across Volumes I and III of “Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East” by Baird T. Spalding. Both books are inscribed to Goldie Worthley and signed by Mr. Spalding. Pasted inside the back of Volume III are two newspaper clippings plus two brief handwritten letters by Mr. Spalding, also to Miss Worthley. One letter is on Seattle’s Hotel Mayflower letterhead stationery dated April 23, 1936. The other is on ship letterhead stationery (P. & O. S. N. Co.) written from the S.S. Naldera, Hong Kong, China, dated March 21, 1936. The content of both is basically when Mr. Spalding will be in Seattle again.

    Has anyone here heard of Miss Goldie Worthley before? And why was Mr. Spalding was in China in 1936? Was it a book tour or seminar (or was he doing research)?

    I did not know of Mr. Spalding before seeing these books and letters, so any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

  10. todd says:

    Hello Jeanne – thanks for writing. I am not familiar with Miss Goldie Worthley. There is a Goldie G Worthley (1885-1971) listed in the 1940 census, residing in Seattle. She is buried at Port Washington.

    In 1936 Baird was returning from the ill-fated India tour. He landed in Seattle on April 21 1936 according to immigration. I did not know he went via China in March however – that is new info. The last sighting of him prior to that was Calcutta in December 1935.

    It would be great to get a copy of those letters and clippings for my research on Spalding.

    Todd

  11. Jeanne Ryan says:

    Thanks for the info, Todd. I am fairly certain that the owner wants to offer them for sale on eBay. If that is the case, do you want to be contacted when they are listed? I appreciate your help. Interesting fellow, that Mr. Spalding.

  12. Jeanne Ryan says:

    Here’s that link to the Baird Spalding signed letters/books on eBay. Thanks, Todd, for suggesting that I post it here. I appreciate it!
    http://tinyurl.com/c2mxha8

  13. Xavier says:

    Well, indeed it’s definitely frustrating to learn that this story is “just” a fiction.

    What set myself thinking is the fact that all the speechs only refer to both Testaments and to Christ. Even people like the Dalaï-Lama, the Muni and Buddha himself, with a strong eastern background (that’s the least we can write), only referred to western/christian philosophies. Of course, these speeechs are well written but they are definitely variations around a common theme.

    I see now the Splading’s writings as a nice and entertaining illustration of the New Thought’s philosophy. The content interested me a lot but I have to admit that the deliberate confusion about the Spalding’s biography disappointed me; it looks like a contemptible marketing/proselyte operation.

    Now I’m wondering why I was so excited by this book ? I suppose because of a “honnest” and Freudian desire of immortality. The promise that there is something higher than this creeping life where the best is irremediably linked to the worst.

    Well the quest must go on I guess…

  14. Silvia Günther says:

    Hello Xavier,

    I could have written the same words as you…
    since more than 30 years I know Spaldings books, loved them, reread them, they have been
    my treasure and my bible.
    When I learned that he never travelled to India before and it should all be fiction it was incredibly disappointing and hurt me a lot.
    But still the effect is that my heart is opening and I can feel love and overflowing.
    So, o.k.
    Silvia

  15. Annette says:

    Hi Silvia — I’m interested in New Thought and came across Baird a few years ago. After learning that there’s more fiction than fact to his writings, I had to examine my disappointment and come to terms with my opinions. I think it’s unethical to mislead readers, and so I have no great respect for the man. Thing is, the hope and other good feelings his writing brings to people are already present in our souls, maybe waiting for the right catalyst. There are plenty of sincere writers who try to help people; I would turn to one of them for a jump-start at hope and happiness — not Spaulding.

  16. olam says:

    Hello to all, I , like all of you here have been searching for the truth a long time. In my travels I have encountered long tall tales as well as what I consider truths. I can say that after reading Spaldings work, there is much info in there that all of my body and being resonated with and some stuff I felt was dead wrong in its interpretation.
    In the end, I have come to understand that truth finds its way to our hearts in many paths. We are all creators and our imagination is our way to create from the heart. This being said, I know that some of what Mr Spalding created comes from his heart and so from the vast universe of truth.
    If you read with your heart and it rings warm and true, then realize that it comes from source…
    many blessings to all.

  17. om shante om says:

    I shared a summary of Spaldings books – this weekend – and only tonight realize the fiction.

    Others, above, say it well: olam, Silvia …

    Truth: there are multiple paths for each Creator – and while Spalding may have written his ‘tales’ purely for profit – I will continue to ‘seek’ and remain ‘open’ to what appears to be ‘written’ in my cellular structure – from the original OM ~ ?

  18. John says:

    I don’t know if the story is true or not, but after all those years of research, I really don’t care anymore. When you focus on the message, you understand that it must be directly inspired by the divine as it is highly spiritual. Spalding may only be the messenger, directly inspired or relating the message from someone else who has been directly inspired. It is not the good way to accept or reject the message only based on verification if this trip really happened and if the story is true or false. It’s just like enjoying the taste of a meal based on comments about the nature, envelop or justifications about the meal, not the real taste of the meal… When letting the message flow through your soul, your soul will let you know if the message is true or false, this is the real test…

    John

  19. Qumran Taj says:

    Like so many of you I fell head over heals in love with these books. Discovering they came from Baird’s imagination was deeply disappointing – AT FIRST. I myself became a spiritual teacher and mentor for many thousands of individuals in the years since I devoured ‘The Life and Times…’ series. I do not say this to boast or advertise myself. I mention it to relate how so-called “fiction” can have a truly profound power to heal, transform and guide people to discover truths hidden within that fiction. This is not said to excuse Spalding for putting out his tall tales as fact, but rather to tell you that I set out to prove many of the things I learned from his books for myself – and discovered truths hidden within his”lies.” Fiction is frequently the best possible vehicle to deliver lessons in reality.

  20. Qumran Taj says:

    Small correction: I referred to Baird’s series as “Life and Times…” It is, of course “Life and Teachings….” :-)

Leave a Reply

Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree Plugin