Unity’s publications were
naturally confined to their organizational writings, service their
denominational needs, and targeting their own market. Doug DeVorss, from
his vantage point as head of sales, saw a bigger picture: not just Unity
books, but the books of other publishers who were discovering the growing
market for “metaphysical” books. And it would not be Kansas City any
more: the “capital” for this kind of interest was already on the map
and had been for some time: Los Angeles.
CITY, MO: We have
just learned that another Unity worker has decided to try life in the
golden state of California. Doug DeVorss will go to Los Angeles August 15
where he may open his own office for promoting the sale of Truth
publications . . . . . We have much for which to thank Doug, because his
patience and pep have made the sales department at Unity what it is today
– well-organized and efficient. Also, it is through his untiring efforts
that the magazines are on the news stands today.
Little did the young entrepreneur
DeVorss know that the journey he was soon to
embark upon would not
only confront him with the financial challenges of starting a new
business, but that he was doing this on the brink of perhaps the darkest
period in America’s economic history. “Truth publications” – not
unlike what we would call Body/Mind/Spirit publications – would find much use in
the years ahead.
Los Angeles in the 1920’s and
1930’s was, as always, a storybook place. DeVorss added to the color and
legend by creating a “Metaphysical Capital of the World” – his own
name for the new publishing and distribution enterprise he was launching.
His market awaited him with open arms: the tremendous interest in novel
religious teachings and philosophies that one could almost breathe in the
Southern California spiritual climate was at its peak. Bookshops and
department stores poured in their orders, adding to those from the book
outlets of the many churches and institutions.
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
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
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.
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
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 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 far afield 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 in a catalog from THE BODHI TREE, a Los Angeles metaphysical bookstore:
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.
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
Numerous other successful titles in this burgeoning field were also signed by DeVorss. Prominent among these: The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ; The Impersonal Life; and Quiet Talks with the Master.
During DeVorss’ lifetime, and
afterwards as his legacy, this genre of books would continue to
characterize the company’s publishing and distribution activities. Subsequent titles continue to uphold Doug DeVorss’s publishing focus
such as The Infinite
Dynamic Laws of Prosperity, Living the Science of
Your Mind Can Heal You.
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.
Since that time, the
publishing philosophy has 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.