photo from Nepal by Marina & Enrique
[Update, May 13 - I believe now that these books are entirely fictional, and Spalding did not travel to India at the time described. To me, the message is authentic, as it is consistent with information from other sources.]
I’ve just re-read volume 1 from the set of 6 books, Life And Teaching Of The Masters Of The Far East, by Baird T Spalding, for the first time in 22 years, and was blown away by it.
Baird T Spalding was a geophysicist and mining engineer, born 1857, who travelled a lot doing geological surveys, and he and a party of fellow American scientists spent over 3 years traveling with immortal masters in India and thereabouts, from 1894.
I bought the set and read it in 1986 (in those days it was 5 books)—it was pretty standard reading for anyone interested in physical immortality. I enjoyed it, felt I understood it, lent the first volume to my breathwork buddy ‘D’, lost contact with ‘D’… and never got the book back!
Because the series has been invariably sold as a 5 (or 6) volume set, I felt less than enthusiastic about buying it again—I already owned the rest of the set. I have leafed through the other volumes occasionally over the years, but somehow couldn’t get into them. But then I discovered recently you can buy the separate volumes on Amazon—and Bingo, I am the proud owner of a new volume 1 with a different cover from the rest. And as I said, I have just read it and been blown away.
The books are kind of like a cross between a boys-own adventure and a spiritual guide. In volume 1, Spalding and his group are taken by three guides Emil, Jast and Neprow for treks around and through the Himalayas and its foothills, staying for short or longer periods in various villages and temples along the way. This book covers the first year of their travels.
They discover fairly early on that their guides could travel large distances in only a few minutes by disappearing and re-appearing somewhere else, and were creating their food out of thin air. In the course of the book they observe people walking on water, walking through fire, and rooms being kept warm and lit with no discernible power source. They also learn that their guides and their many friends, who they also meet, are immortal and mostly several hundred years old, while looking like healthy young people (except more interesting).
The guides and their friends are extremely warm, friendly and loving, and they go to great lengths to explain that they are regular humans who are doing things all humans are capable of doing.
Spalding and the books
Spalding kept handwritten notes of his travels, and friends asked him for copies, so he typed up what became volume 1, and carried these typed copies around to give people. In 1924 a woman printed 1000 copies to give to her friends, and within 60 days, orders for over 20,000 copies were placed.
After the success of volume 1, Spalding went ahead and wrote more of his materials up to become volumes 2 (1927) and 3 (1935), about his second and third years with the immortals. He was 70 in 1927.
After this Spalding wrote and spoke extensively about the teachings of the immortals. Volume 4 (1948) consists of some of his writings about these teachings, and volume 5 (1955) was published 2 years after his death in 1953, and contains material from lectures he gave in the last 2 years of his life.
Very little has been known about Spalding’s life—he apparently kept people’s focus well and truly on the message he conveyed. So it was very exciting for people who loved his books when someone went though “ten dusty cartons” in the publisher’s warehouse and found “unpublished Spalding manuscripts and papers, magazine articles, personal letters, photographs, and other biographical materials”, some of which have been compiled into volume 6, published in 1997. I’m quoting from the DeVorss website (the publisher).
The message in the books is very clear—we are immortal beings who have nothing to gain by dying, and everything to gain by reaching for full expression (my description). Of course, it is ironic that Spalding himself died, aged 95, as have quite a few other people who have spread the ideas of physical immortality.
Maybe these people saw a truth, but at the time they lived, humanity’s group mind had not evolved to the point where enough people love life so much they don’t want to leave, and are willing to heal themselves of anything, so that it becomes easy for everyone to slip into physical immortality. The immortals in these books have done it anyway.
Is it true?
Detractors of Spalding say all sorts of things about him—personally, I think that if information resonates as truth, or as useful, then it is true, or useful. Spalding’s story resonates as truth to me. He wrote at the start of one of his books: “In this I sincerely and with all respect remind the reader that the more receptive one is, the more one receives.”
The books and me (and you)
To me this series of books covers similar territory to other books I have been re-reading regularly over the years (The Door of Everything, Ken Carey’s books), but because I haven’t ever read this ‘Life and Teaching’ book again since the first time, I can see a huge difference in how I perceive it now to how I perceived it then.
I understood the message of the books back in 1986, and felt inspired by it, but I was too “buried” to really take it in. While I had so many “problems”, the information seemed nice and fun, but not immediately useful. I notice that I am far more alert and clear about it’s message now, and find it very relevant to me and the people around me, today.
I’d really recommend these books to anyone who has been even slightly intrigued about physical immortality—or volume 1, anyway! I think it explains the physical immortality outlook very well, and certainly more completely than I have on this blog. Much of it is couched in religious terms, which I find doesn’t interfere with the message, but some might.
Here’s a link so you can look at it (and some reviews) on Amazon: Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East, Vol. 1
And ‘D’, if you discover this post when you are Googling away looking to buy your missing volumes on the internet, do drop me an email (or leave a comment, wouldn’t that be funny!)
Speaking of comments, I’d love to hear what you think. You are welcome to leave a comment if you are not a blogger—if anyone who has read Spalding’s books is reading this, it would be great to hear your thoughts about them.