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Baird. T. Spalding

As so often happens in the fortunes of successful publishers, there was the eventual crossing of paths of "the" author and "the" publisher. DeVorss was the publisher; the author was Baird T. Spalding, who a few years before DeVorss' arrival in LA had arranged for a small, paperback printing of his two volumes entitled Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East - "a breakthrough in Western spirituality," according to a recent New Age newspaper account; "a landmark work in spiritual literature."

These words typify the praise that has been heaped upon the Life and Teaching books for three-quarters of a century. Doug DeVorss was quick to see in the slender volumes these same merits and the New Age in all its fullness: spiritual values and healing techniques transcending time, space, theology, and medicine - set against the exotic backdrop of an expedition to India in 1894 by Spalding, one of the most brilliant yet enigmatic seers of recent times.

Here was also a New Age publishing phenomenon of the kind we have become familiar with: starting from a private printing and word-of-mouth publicity, and ending up in worldwide translation, with millions of copies sold. DeVorss liked to tell the story:

I have been told by people who knew Mr. Spalding in Calcutta, India, in the early nineties that he decided to write out in longhand some of the accounts of his experiences in India. Some friends asked him to type it and let them have copies, and for many years he carried these typewritten accounts (of what later became Volume 1 of the now 6-volume set) with him. People would read them and pass them among themselves until, finally, a very prominent woman in Oakland, California, whose husband was the builder of the Oakland Municipal Railway, asked Mr. Spalding if he would have any objection to her having her printer, the California Press in San Francisco, print a thousand copies of this work in an inexpensive paper binding; she wanted to give every one of her friends a copy of that book. Mr. Spalding gave his consent and soon after this he left for England.

The books were printed and passed among her friends, as a gift. Within about 60 days, phenomenally as it seemed, more than 20,000 orders were received for copies of that book! When Mr. Spalding returned from England, of course he was astonished at the interest in his discoveries and experiences, so he permitted her to have the balance of the work published, which became know as Volume 2.

As for Baird Spalding, already 70 years old when his second volume came out in 1927, not very much is known. Shy, highly reclusive, and often away exploring mining properties in the desert Southwest, he would return every few years to the task of telling the story of his 1894 sojourn with the Masters. These had been encounters with spiritual guides who broke the molds of orthodoxy and tradition in Western spiritual philosophy, revealing an empowerment available to the individual for living life on nothing less than the Masters' own level.

Spalding and Doug DeVorss gradually embarked on a kind of partnership in which DeVorss bought up Volumes 1 and 2 and then urged Spalding to complete his story in a third volume. This was published in 1935 on the eve of Spalding's return trip to India in the company of 18 fellow-travelers and seekers.

Over the years to come Spalding continued writing material to help the readers understand his findings on a deeper level. There emerged Volumes 4,5, and eventually, 6 in 1997 compiled from previously unpublished material Doug DeVorss had stored away since the early 50's

Interestingly, DeVorss' top seller these many years later continues to be the six-volume boxed set, Life & Teaching of the Masters of the Far East. As described by The Bodhi Tree, a Los Angeles metaphysical bookstore:

"For generations, readers have been searching for more information about Baird T. Spalding and his masterwork. Now, something uncanny has happened. While arranging stock in the warehouse, a DeVorss employee came upon ten dusty cartons that were never suspected to contain anything more than old proofs, invoices, and correspondence relating to Baird Spalding's books.

"A DeVorss editor began sorting through the cartons. He found, to his surprise and amazement, unpublished Spalding manuscripts and papers, magazine articles, personal letters, photographs, and other biographical materials relating to the legendary figure . . . This extraordinary discovery of unsuspected writings, rare articles, letters and photographs is now available in Volume 6."

DeVorss & Company took a very dramatic turn in 1953 when word came of Spalding's death while prospecting in Arizona. Coping with the loss of his best-selling author, Doug DeVorss died suddenly in a dreadful accident.

In all those years, as we have seen, the company remained faithful to what DeVorss and Spalding had initiated. As early as the fateful year of 1953, Spalding's eulogist observed that "a New Age of spiritual understanding had been born" and credited Spalding with having "ushered in the New Age spiritual concept" with the first appearance of his books in the 1920's.