Baird T. Spalding
|Baird T Spalding|
3 October 1872|
Cohocton, New York, United States
|Died||18 March 1953
Tempe, Arizona, U.S.
In 1924 Spalding published the first volume of Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East. It describes the travels to India and Tibet of a research party of eleven scientists in 1894. During their trip they claim to have made contact with "the Great Masters of the Himalayas", immortal beings with whom they lived and studied, gaining insight into their lives and spiritual message. This close contact enabled them to witness many of the spiritual principles evinced by these Great Masters translated into their everyday lives, which could be described as 'miracles'. Such examples are walking on water, or manifesting bread to feed the hungry party.
These books have remained consistently popular with spiritual seekers, those interested in the philosophy of the East and those who enjoy a good story because of their accessible nature and easy-to-follow format. However, despite most of the action taking place in India, the Great Masters make it clear that the greatest embodiment of the Enlightened state is that of the Christ (as personified by Jesus): “The Masters accept that Buddha represents the Way to Enlightenment, but they clearly set forth that Christ IS Enlightenment, or a state of consciousness for which we are all seeking - the Christ light of every individual; therefore, the light of every child born into the world.” (From the foreword, Volume I, Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East, DeVorss & Co.)
Spalding published three additional volumes before his death in 1953. Volumes 5 and 6 were published by DeVorss & Co posthumously from various articles that Spalding had written.
Although popular, Baird Spalding was an enigmatic figure and the authenticity of the events described in the Life and Teachings has never been confirmed. Spalding never produced any evidence of the claimed trip, and none of the other scientists were ever identified. Followers have argued that the high quality of the spiritual teachings contained therein are themselves evidence of contact with a higher power. Skeptics argue that Spalding did not visit India as claimed and his works belong to the magical autobiography genre.
Despite questions about Spalding's authenticity, his books have remained in print since his death and his stories have helped to popularize the concept of Ascended Masters which became a common meme in New Age and alternative religious movements during the twentieth century. During the 1920s, Spalding was a personal acquaintance of Guy Ballard, founder of the I AM activity, and similar themes to Spalding can be seen in Ascended Master groups such as the Church Universal and Triumphant and the writings of Elizabeth Clare Prophet. Spalding is named as an influence in the writings of New Age figures such as JZ Knight, Paul Baumann of the Methernitha sect and Father Divine.
Growth of the New Age movement during the 1970s resulted in a renewal of interest in Spalding, and several New Age figures have claimed tenuous connections to him after his death. American mystic Thane of Hawaii, founder of the Prosperos group, claimed in 1974 to have ghost-written several of Spalding's later books and accompanied him on his 1935 India tour. Pseudonymous author Nguyen Phong released the novel Journey to the East in 1987 which he claimed to be a Vietnamese translation of a previously unknown 1924 prequel to Life and Teachings, in which Spalding is joined in India by a group of prestigious mystics and academics, including Paul Brunton and Stanford Professor Walter Evans-Wentz.
- Melton, J. Gordon (1984). Biographical Dictionary of American Cult and Sect Leaders. p. 273.