Newbrough, John Ballou (1828-1891)
Newbrough, John Ballou (1828-1891)
A New York dentist who was clairvoyant and clairaudient from childhood and who, through automatic writing (on a typewriter), produced "Oahspe" (1881), a channeled volume published as a new bible. He was born on June 5, 1828, near Springfield, Ohio, the son of a schoolteacher. He was educated in the local schoolhouse, and from the age of 16 continued to educate himself. He attended the Cincinnati Medical College and practiced both medicine and dentistry.
He migrated to California in 1849 and was fortunate in becoming a gold miner. Several years later, he married Rachel Turnbull, the sister of his partner John Turnbull. They moved to New York, where Newbrough resumed his dental and medical practice. He associated himself with the emerging Spiritualist movement, and became a trustee of the New York Spiritualist Association. Eventually his Spiritualist interests led to disagreements with his wife, and some years later they divorced.
His own psychic gifts were remarkable. He could paint in total darkness with both hands at once. It was claimed that, by closing his eyes, he could read printed pages of any book in any library, that he could bring back recollections of astral travels (or astral projections ), and that under control he could lift enormous weight, even a ton, without apparent effort. However, bored with the commonplace messages that dominated Spiritualist spirit contact, he was anxious to utilize the spirits' time for more metaphysical information.
Thus he initiated the events that culminated in his production of Oahspe: A Kosmon Bible in the Words of Jehovah and his Angel Ambassadors. He described these events in a letter dated January 21, 1883, to the editor of the Banner of Light:
"I was crying for the light of Heaven. I did not desire communication for friends or relatives or information about earthly things; I wished to learn something about the spirit world; what the angels did, how they travelled, and the general plan of the universe…. I was directed to get a typewriter which writes by keys, like a piano. This I did and I applied myself industriously to learn it, but with only indifferent success. For two years more the angels propounded to me questions relative to heaven and earth, which no mortal could answer very intelligently….
"One morning the light struck both hands on the back, and they went for the typewriter for some fifteen minutes very vigorously. I was told not to read what was printed, and I have worked myself into such a religious fear of losing this new power that I obeyed reverently. The next morning, also before sunrise the same power came and wrote (or printed rather) again. Again I laid the matter away very religiously, saying little about it to anybody. One morning I accidentally (seemed accidental to me) looked out of the window and beheld the line of light that rested on my hands extending heavenward like a telegraph wire towards the sky. Over my head were three pairs of hands, fully materialised; behind me stood another angel with her hands on my shoulders. My looking did not disturb the scene, my hands kept right on printing … printing. For 50 weeks this continued, every morning, half an hour or so before sunrise, and then it ceased, and I was told to read and publish the book 'Oahspe.' The peculiar drawings in Oahspe were made with pencil in the same way."
He claimed that "Oahspe" came from the higher heavens, and was "directed and looked over by God, the creator's chief representative in the heavens of this earth."
A group formed around Newbrough's revelations, and in 1883 they gave themselves the name "Faithists of the Seed of Abraham" (a term used in "Oahspe"). They moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, and established Sholam, a community to implement the "Oahspe" injunction to care for foundlings and orphans.
Newbrough married again, choosing a companion from the community. By 1891, a residential home had been completed, housing some 50 children, but in the following year an outbreak of influenza devastated the area, and Newbrough himself was struck down, dying that year. For a time, his associate Andrew M. Howland continued the community, but it soon disintegrated. However, Newbrough's very dispersed and decentralized followers continued under such names as the "Essenes of Kosmon" or "Universal Faithists" and are still active today. "Oahspe" is kept in print through the Universal Faithists of Kosmon (Box 664, Salt Lake City, UT 84110), and a journal, The Faithist Journal, is published at 2324 Suffock Ave., Kingman, AZ 86401.
Denton, Jim. Dr. Newbrough and Oahspe. Kingman, Ariz.: Faithist Journal, 1975.
——. The Oahspe Story. Kingman, Ariz.: Faithist Journal, 1975.
Miller, Timothy. American Communes, 1860-1960: A Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1990.
Stowes, K. D. The Land of Shalam: Children's Land. Evansville, Ind.: Frank Molinet Print Shop, n.d.