Faithists

Olivia Groff
Timothy Miller

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FAITHISTS TIMELINE

1828 (June 5):  John Ballou Newbrough was born outside of Springfield, Ohio.

1882:  The first edition of Oahspe was published.

1883 (November 24-26):  A convention was held in New York City, which brought together notable spiritualists interested in Oahspe and the formation of colonies.

1884 (October 4):  Land was purchased in Los Cruces, New Mexico for the Shalam colony by Andrew Howland.

1885 (December 28):  “The First Charter of Tae” was filed by Faithists of the Shalam colony.

1885-1890:  Shalam advertised for new Faithist converts through newspapers and almanacs.

1886 (March):  Five colonists were expelled from Shalam for not abiding by colony guidelines.

1887 (September 28):  John Ballou Newbrough and Frances Van De Water Sweet married.

1887-1900:  Approximately fifty orphans were brought to live at Shalam.

1891 (April 22):  Newbrough passed away.

1893 (June 25):  Frances Van De Water Sweet, Newbrough’s widow, and Howland married.

1907 (November 30):  Howland, Mrs. Newbrough-Howland, and the remaining four children moved to California and the Shalam colony doors were closed permanently.

1930s:  Wing Anderson and the Essenes of Kosmon established a colony in North Salt Lake, Utah.

Early 1940s:  Essenes of Kosmon moved their colony to Montrose, Colorado.

1950s:  Essences of Kosmon colony closed.

1953:  The Universal Faithists of Kosmon was incorporated in California.

1973:  The Oahspe Foundation was incorporated in Oregon.

1977:  The Universal Faithists of Kosmon was incorporated in Utah.

FOUNDER/GROUP HISTORY

John Ballou Newbrough [Image at right] was born on June 5, 1828 outside Springfield, Ohio and was named after the Universalist preacher John Ballou. Newbrough’s religious experiences were reported to have begun at an early age in the form of seeing spirits and receiving messages. His mother was a spiritualist, and thus was understanding of her son’s experiences. However, Newbrough’s father “had no patience with such nonsense” and flogged Newbrough for “the unholy habit of intercourse with the spirit world.” It is not clear what role these religious experiences played in Newbrough’s young adulthood (Stoes 1958:2).

Newbrough eventually graduated from Cincinnati Medical College, planning to be a physician. He decided to turn to dentistry and moved to New York City. Even during this time, Newbrough’s concern for others and distaste for injustice was evident. While in New York, he developed a formula for the manufacture of dental plates that he gave to the dental profession without a patent. Newbrough had decided to undertake this task because Goodyear Rubber Company was the holder of the exclusive patent for the formula for dental plates and, because of this, dentures were sold at a price too high for the poor. Newbrough was sued by Goodyear. The case was decided in his favor and dentures were made more affordable (Priestly 1988:6).

During the 1849 gold rush, Newbrough travelled to California. This venture was a success and led to a trip to the gold fields of Australia. This trip was also a financial success for Newbrough and a business partner he had met in California, John Turnbull. Newbrough married Turnbull’s sister, Rachel. He returned to dentistry and medicine in New York, and continued to do this work for the next two decades. The Newbroughs had three children, one of whom died in infancy. During this period, Newbrough became more troubled by the poverty and living conditions that he saw in New York City. He was particularly moved by the child mortality rate in New York City and took part in charity work to help alleviate suffering. K.D. Stoes, a friend of Justine Newbrough, stated that “the failure of the churches to meet Christian obligations” and “the amassing of idle property” led Newbrough to distance himself from these organizations (1958:5-6).

It is at this point in his biography that Newbrough’s spiritual experiences become emphasized. Beginning around 1870, Newbrough traveled to China, Japan, Egypt, and India under spirit control. He studied the religions of these places and found himself particularly drawn to ancient religious sources. His travels sparked a desire in him to foster the spiritual powers within himself. Newbrough became a member of a spiritualist colony in Jamestown, New York and a Trustee of the New York State Spiritualistic Society. Stoes recounts that “his hands would fly into tantrums, and would write messages in all directions, independent of his will.” Stoes also states: “At times a power would attack his tongue, eyes, and ears, and he would speak, see, and hear unaccountably” (1958:7).

While involved in the Jamestown, New York colony and the New York State Spiritualistic Society, Newbrough also took part in evaluating the authenticity of mediums through numerous tests. It was clear that Newbrough was interested in the potential benefits of spirit communication. His interest was not in communication with deceased loved ones, but rather with notable thinkers of the past. In order to foster these communications, Newbrough felt he needed to focus on purification of the body and concentration of the mind. Newbrough had adopted a vegetarian diet years before, but at this point also eliminated milk, eggs, and root vegetables. He also believed that the best time for spiritual communication and guidance was early morning, and thus rose at dawn each morning (Stoes 1958:6-8).

These practices appear to have been successful for Newbrough, as he was spiritually directed to acquire a typewriter and communicated with angels, or “good spirits,” for two years. Newbrough stated:

One morning lines of light rested on my hands, extending downward like wires. Over my head were three pairs of hands fully materialized, while behind me an angel stood with hands on my shoulders. My fingers played over the typewriter with lightning speed.  I was forbidden to read what I had written, and I had reached such religious ecstasy that I obeyed reverently (Stoes 1958:8).

The result of fifty weeks of this mode of writing was Oahspe, a book of nearly 900 pages. [Image at right] A number of illustrations were also included through spiritual control, some of which Newbrough was instructed to copy from other books. Oahspe included material delivered from a number of prophets and religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, and Confucianism. This book, referred to as a “new Bible” provided teachings for those living in the modern world.

Once Oahspe was completed, Newbrough struggled to find the financial means to publish it. He had spent a good deal of the money he had earned during his gold expeditions on travel and charity work. This charity work included the purchase of an estate in Salsburg, Pennsylvania to house and aid alcoholics. His savings had also been depleted during the years he focused on his spiritual development instead of his medical practice. The solution came in the form of unsolicited donations. These included an anonymous gift of $2,000 that was sent through the mail and $3,000 given by the family member of a man who had been treated by Newbrough. With these donations, a press was purchased and Oahspe was printed (Stoes 1958:9).

After Oahspe’s publication, Newbrough gave talks in the United States and England. Small groups of converts began to appear. One notable convert was Andrew M. Howland. Howland, a Quaker, was heir to a lucrative business, which proved to be of great aid in the realization of some aspects of Oahspe. After reading Oahspe, Howland met with Newbrough and the two men began a friendship. Both men were particularly dedicated to actualizing the Children’s Land outlined in Oahspe (Stoes 1958:10).

In 1883, a meeting was held in New York City which brought together leading spiritualists and converts to the tenets of Oahspe. Converts referred to themselves as “Faithists of the seed of Abraham.” Those at the meeting were drawn by a desire to help others and decided to focus on building Shalam, the Children’s Land. Briefly, the goal of Shalam would be to create a community of children from which a better, more spiritually-minded race would develop. As told in Oahspe, the result would be the “resurrection of man through the world’s cast-a-way children.” Shalam would not only help those children who needed care and a home, but also would also lead to saving mankind from self-caused destruction.

In the summer of 1884, Newbrough and Howland set out to find the land prophesized by Oahspe. A number of locations from Virginia to Mexico were considered for the colony. With the help of spiritual intervention, the men were led to southern New Mexico near the Rio Grande. In Los Cruces, land was purchased on October 4, 1884 by Howland. By the end of that month, Newbrough and twenty Faithists had moved to Shalam. Among these early colonists were Mrs. Frances Van De Water, who would come to be seen as the “mother of Shalam,” and her eight-month-old daughter, Justine. The Shalam Faithists slept in tents until small adobe houses were constructed with the help of around 250 New Mexicans from the village of Dona Ana (Stoes 1958:16-18).

These New Mexican neighbors proved to be vital to the survival of early Shalam. They taught the Shalam Faithists about the crops of the area and the outdoor ovens popular in that area. Even with this assistance, the Shalam Faithists struggled in these early stages, with some dying in the first winter due to the harsh living conditions. There was limited access to food, brought to the area by the infrequent train service. When Howland moved to Shalam permanently in 1885, his focus became feeding the colony. Newbrough focused on building the fraternum where the cast-a-way babes would live (Howlind 1945:287-90).

On December 28, 1885, the Shalam Faithists filed a charter under the name “The First Church of Tae.” (Tae meant the spiritual man as embodied in Newbrough, their leader). Those who joined the Shalam colony were required to enter into the Holy Covenant, stating that he or she would not own anything exclusively that could be used by others. The guidelines for Shalam were clearly set out at the start. Anyone who entered into the Covenant agreed that she/he would not receive any sort of compensation for his/her contributions, but would receive food, shelter, and other necessities. Consistent with the diet Newbrough had adopted before receiving Oahspe, no meat, eggs, cheese, or milk would be consumed in Shalam, except for milk for children under the age of six. Additionally, able-bodied adults were to only have two meals a day. Alcohol, tobacco, and drugs weren’t allowed, unless prescribed by a physician. Perhaps most importantly, at least five orphans were to be adopted each year (Perry 1953:38; Priestley 1988:18-20).

Between 1885 and 1890, the Faithists of Shalam advertised the colony in an effort to attract new members, from both existing Faithists and new converts. The restrictions for membership were that one could not worship “any lord, god, or savior born of woman” and one “who desired to live by his wits” was to be excluded (Stoes 1958:20). The advertisements placed in newspaper and almanacs did bring in new members. However, as has been the case with other religious communities, not all members came to Shalam for sincere reasons. Some were drawn to Shalam by the promise of communal living, but they didn’t last for long once they realized the dedication required of them. Some arrived in Shalam who were dedicated to Faithist tenets and the cause of Shalam, but found life in the colony too difficult. Because of the extreme asceticism required by members, numbers never increased significantly (Stoes 1958:20).

During this time, Newbrough also underwent significant changes in his personal life. In 1886, he filed for a divorce from his wife, Rachel. The reasons provided were based on differences of habits and beliefs, going back at least a decade. The divorce was granted and filed on October 6, 1886. On September 28, 1887, Newbrough married Frances Van De Water Sweet, [Image at right] one of the first Shalam Faithists. She became the mother of Shalam, caring for the orphans, at times, with little help (Priestley 1988:20).

The Newbroughs opened a receiving home for orphans in New Orleans, and later others in Chicago, Kansas City, and Philadelphia. Mrs. Newbrough and a maid transported the first ten orphans, all less than six months old, from New Orleans to Shalam by train. Three of the first thirteen infants died. Between 1887 and 1900, around fifty orphans of all races were brought to Shalam. Faithists treated all children equally, adhering to the points set forth in Oahspe. All received Oahspian names, such as Hiatisi and Astraf, and no records of their birth or parentage were kept (Priestley 1988:25-26).

In 1890, the Home, which housed the orphans and their caretakers, was completed. Along with twenty bedrooms and a large nursery, the Home included a large playroom stocked with toys to occupy the children. The Newbroughs and other Shalam Faithists provided the best care they could for these orphans, with facilities that included ten small bathtubs, the first in the country. Children were educated in intellectual, vocational, and spiritual fields, with boys and girls receiving the same training. Children, and other colony members, attended services in the Temple of Tae where Newbrough would speak on the tenets of Oahspe (Stoes 1958:103-04).

Although dedicated to caring for the orphans and running Shalam, Newbrough continued to wake at dawn every morning. He would spend his mornings in a windowless building called the Studio, where he would paint portraits of great religious teachers through spiritual guidance. In the spring of 1891, influenza swept through Shalam, killing several members. When Mrs. Newbrough fell ill, Dr. Newbrough worked to care for her, as well as their daughter and the sick orphans, even though he was ill himself. Most of Shalam’s residents recovered, except for Newbrough. He developed pneumonia and passed away on April 22, 1891. It is said that at the time of his death, the residents of Shalam huddled together in fear of the strange noises and crashings which occurred. Howland was away at the time, preparing for the publication of the second edition of Oahspe. The Faithists of Shalam waited until Howland returned to perform the funeral rites for Newbrough, who was buried in the cemetery along with the adopted orphans (Howlind 1945:299-300).

After Newbrough’s death, Andrew Howland [Image at right] took responsibility for further developing Shalam, while Mrs. Newbrough continued to focus her energy in caring for the orphans. Howland employed New Mexican workers to assist in building an irrigation system and planting crops in an effort to make Shalam more self-supporting. Cows were brought in with the hopes of starting a lucrative milk and cheese business. Chickens were also purchased in the hopes that selling eggs would provide income for Shalam. Unfortunately, both of these ventures were unsuccessful. To make matters worse, livestock was frequently stolen from Shalam. Since Faithists did not believe in violence or the intervention of law in these matters, there was little they could do to stop this predation (Priestley 1988:39).

On June 25, 1893, Howland and the widowed Mrs. Newbrough married. There was speculation as to why the marriage occurred, for instance, as a means to protect the image of both parties amidst gossip. Whatever the reasons for the marriage were, Howland and Mrs. Newbrough-Howland were united in their goals for Shalam (Priestley 1988:39).

A short time after their marriage, Howland began to develop a colony named Levitica for families to live separately, just outside Shalam Colony. Twenty houses were built on a tract of land and interested families were brought in from Kansas City by train. Along with furnished homes, these families were given seeds and farming implements in the hope that they would provide for themselves by growing crops to be sold in El Paso. This venture was not successful and proved to be not much more than a monetary drain. The Levitica colonists quarreled and failed to produce crops to support themselves. After two years, Howland gave money to each family for personal expenses and sent them by train to any destination they desired (Stoes 1958:115-16).

Difficulties arose within the Shalam colony as well. Crops were ruined by floods, droughts, and animals. The markets of El Paso were not suited for the crops grown by the Shalam Faithists. Money had been depleted by the failed ventures of livestock and Levitica. Dedicated Shalam Faithists experienced growing resentment towards those who were seen as not contributing to the project. Children of Shalam had reached their teenage years and were beginning to rebel. This problem was exacerbated when the school had to be closed due to lack of funds for a teacher. This meant that the children of Shalam spent their time among outsiders and were exposed to the ways of the world outside of their protected lives at Shalam (Stoes 1958:116-18).

In 1901, the Temple of Tae collapsed. Some concluded that this was a message from the deceased Newbrough and had been destroyed in order to save it from the non-Faithists who might trespass and desecrate it. At this point, around twenty or thirty Faithists remained at Shalam. Over the next few years, members gradually left and outlying buildings on the property were left uninhabited. Eventually, despite the efforts of Howland and Mrs. Newbrough-Howland, Shalam had to close its doors. The twenty-four children under the age of fourteen who had grown up at Shalam went to institutions or found homes with families. Older children ventured out into the world to find jobs. On November 30, 1907, Howland, Mrs. Newbrough- Howland, Mrs. Newbrough-Howland’s daughter, and three other teenagers left Shalam for California (Priestley 1988:43-45).

Howland and Mrs. Newbrough-Howland returned to El Paso a few years later and remained there until their deaths (Howland in 1917 and Mrs. Newbrough Howland in 1922). Mrs. Newbrough-Howland’s daughter, Justine, worked for an El Paso newspaper for quite a few years under the name of Jone Howlind. She wrote a piece for the New Mexico Historical Review in 1945 entitled “Shalam: Facts Versus Fiction.” This article on Shalam and the Faithists openly combatted what she perceived to be falsehoods and gossip reported in other pieces published on the group, particularly one written by Julia Keleher (1944).

Despite the deaths of foundational members of the Faithists, Oahspe continued to draw in new converts to Faithism and numbers grew. Other groups of committed Faithists established communities over the years with varying degrees of success. In the early 1900s, a colony was established near Denver, reportedly attracting some of the former Shalam colonists. This colony was associated with a group calling itself the Faithist Brotherhood of the Light. Wing Anderson, a notable Faithist, and the group which called itself the Essenes of Kosmon formed a colony in North Salt Lake, Utah in the 1930s. The group moved to Montrose, Colorado in the early 1940s, closing that colony in the 1950s. Around this time, another colony was also developed in Arizona called Otis Acres (New Mexico State University Library website).

The aforementioned Wing Anderson, who was associated with the Essenes of Kosmon, not only was active in the formation of a colony, but also contributed to the dissemination of Faithist literature. In 1935, he purchased the original Oahspe plates, the copyright and twenty-seven thousand copies of the 1910 edition from Justine Newbrough, daughter of John Newbrough. Before the copyright expired in 1938, he printed copies of Oahspe through the Kosmon Press in Los Angeles (Priestley 1988:48-49). Anderson also published his own writings, including The Light of Kosmon: Being Seven Books Containing Essential Spiritual Wisdom from Oahspe, as well as other works of a prophetic nature.

Besides publishing Faithist works and establishing colonies, Faithists of the early twentieth century continued to remain active through Faithist Lodges. The first Faithist Lodge was formed in New York City almost immediately after the publication of Oahspe. This lodge, and subsequent lodges, were established in order to bring people together who wished to study Oahspe and put its tenets into practice. Members met weekly and members became known as First, Second, or Third Degree members based on knowledge of the Rites of Emethachavah in the “Book of Saphah,” a book within Oahspe. Newbrough was active in both establishing and offering support to these lodges. There is evidence that numerous lodges were active along the East Coast, in the Midwest, and in Denver, Colorado during Newbrough’s time. Emphasizing the importance placed on Shalam and the goal of caring for the cast-a-way babes of the world, lodge members tithed, and the money was sent to Shalam, until its closure (Greer 2007:343).

After Newbrough’s death, Faithist Lodges continued to operate. Perhaps the most notable of the Faithist Lodges was in Denver, Colorado. This Lodge called itself the Brotherhood of Light, eventually changing its name to the Faithist Brotherhood of the Light in order to avoid confusion with another group with the same original name. This group purchased land and operated a colony, caring for orphans as the Shalam Faithists had done. The Faithist Brotherhood of the Light appears to have been fairly successful until the Great Depression and World War II, when its work seems to have come to a close (Greer 2007:343-46).

Although there have been, and continue to be, numerous Faithist groups, the most prominent today is the Universal Faithists of Kosmon. This group came into being in the late 1950s. Will Crosby of Prescott, Arizona was active in publishing an Oahspe newsletter and felt that an organization was needed. During Crosby’s time, steps were taken towards incorporation, but this was not achieved until after he had passed. In 1977, the Universal Faithists of Kosmon was incorporated in the state of Utah. This was followed by incorporation in Colorado and Nebraska as well. According to its website, the Universal Faithists of Kosmon, whose home facility is near Molina, Colorado, has a membership of approximately thirty-five people. Their goals include creating a communal living environment for themselves which will enable them to help “at-risk and vulnerable children to have a better life and existence” (Universal Faithists of Kosmon website). This group remains active through the internet, utilizing chat room and social media sites to communicate with fellow Faithists and those interested in learning about Oahspe.

Other notable Faithist groups and communities in the United States include Children Kansas, the Eloin community, Four Winds Village Peace Center, and The New York Kosmon Temple. Children Kansas was founded around 1973 or 1974 in Florence, Kansas by Rolf and Edie Penner, and lasted through the late 1970s (Miller 2015:76). Children Kansas participated in communal activities and described their spiritual beliefs as a “spectrum rang[ing] from Christianity to Yoga to esoteric, all on the positive side,” with an interest in Oashpian tenets (Communities 1978:35). The Eloin community began living communally in 1975 in a wilderness area outside of Ashland, Oregon. They consider themselves to be a “mystical order called the Order of the Tress” and have “roots in several spiritual teachings including the Oahspe” (Fellowship of Intentional Community website 2018). The Eloin community refrains from alcohol and tobacco use, follows a vegetarian diet, and is an off-grid ecovillage. As of 2018, Eloin reports seven adult members and two non-member residents (Fellowship of Intentional Community website 2018). Four Winds Village Peace Center is located in Tiger, Georgia with ten adult members reported in 1992 (Miller 2015:163). The New York Kosmon Temple is located in Brooklyn, New York. Recently adopting Faithism, the congregation studies Oashpe, believes in a benevolent creator, encourages a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, strives to enact humanitarian principles and promote harmony, advocates non-violence, and holds community activities, such as health and wellness workshops for the community.

DOCTRINES/BELIEFS

Faithist beliefs center on the work, Oahspe, channeled by John Newbrough over a two-year period. “Oahspe” is a symbolic word meaning Earth, Sky, Spirit. K.D. Stoes described Oahspe as “a revelation for the modern world—and emancipation from the dogmas, creeds, and cults that have long warped the spirit of man. It carries no twaddle of hero-worship to divert” (Stoes 1958:11). The tenets that are included are not thought of as new, but rather as information that has been revealed to numerous humans over the years. Oahspe records a sacred history of “the higher and lower heavens for the past 24,000 years, together with a synopsis of the cosmogony of the universe; the creation of the planets; the creation of man and unseen worlds; and the labors of gods and goddesses in the ethereal heavens” (Stoes 1958:11-12).

An important aspect of Oahspe is the breakdown of religious labels. People are not segregated into groups such as “Christian,” “Buddhist,” and “Muslim.” In fact, religious leaders of all sorts are highly regarded and thought to guide the spiritual lives of humans. In Oahspe, the Creator, or All Highest Light is named Jehovih. Again, Stoes’ summation:

Gods and goddesses abound in infinity; angels are begotten of both heaven and earth, but are to be seen no more of men. There are those spirits who desire no resurrections; and other spirits who have never left the earth and are bound to mortals (Stoes 1958:13-14).

The language of Oahspe includes Paneric (referring to the continent of Pan, thought to lie submerged between Japan and North America) words, as well as altered and created words. Some newer editions of Oahspe have been translated into a more recognizable modern English, eliminating some of the altered and Paneric words. The text is structured to reflect the activities of both heaven and earth, with a line on each page creating this division. The nearly 900-page text is divided into thirty-six books. Some are focused on historical accounts, others on scientific forces, and yet others on spiritual matters. In order to fully grasp contents of Oahspe, one must acknowledge the influence of spiritualism on both Newbrough and the text. Not only was this text transmitted through Newbrough after his years spent fostering his specific skills, but also within Oahspe “The Book of Discipline” outlines proper practices for developing spiritual abilities and extrasensory perception (Newbrough 1891).

While particular beliefs may vary, there are some markers of Faithist belief that are generally held in common amongst different Faithist groups. Being a Faithist is typically marked by adherence to the principles of Oahspe, belief in a creator, incorporation of knowledge from various religious traditions, an emphasis on humanitarian actions, a vegetarian lifestyle and avoidance of intoxicants in order to lead a pure life, and non-violence.

RITUALS/PRACTICES

The practices central to Faithists of the Shalam colony and contemporary Faithists have their origins in Oahspe. [Image at right] Perhaps most important is Oahspe’s critique of society (and existing religions) for failing to enact their stated ideals. It is not enough to speak of bringing peace or combating poverty; one must make efforts to do these things. In this sense, Oahspe could be considered, in part, “a blueprint for the good life here on earth and a sure entry into the higher and lower heavens” (Priestley 1988:13). The best example of this is the creation of the Shalam colony based on directions in Oahspe for the location.

At the time of the Shalam colony, Newbrough would conduct services in the Temple of Tae which would involve Newbrough discussing the content of Oahspe, sharing his prophecies, and at times, helping Faithists foster their spiritual connections. Due to the fact that there is not a centralized organization or authority, besides Oahspe, for contemporary Faithists, expectations for practices are not clearly laid out. However, one can glean from publications the activities deemed important by contemporary Faithists. As might be expected, certain practices taken up by the earliest Faithists are still followed by their contemporaries. For instance, the dietary guidelines against meat, eggs, and dairy for those over age six enacted in Shalam are still adhered to by some. Oahspe set these restrictions as remedies for illnesses. It was believed that this diet had both health and spiritual benefits, and modern nutritional findings do support many of these dietary guidelines. Additionally, Faithists appear to share a commitment to charity and take part as individuals in numerous charitable organizations.

In recent decades, the internet has come to play a significant role in the practices of Faithists. As groups tend to be small and members scattered across great distances, the internet has allowed for meetings to take place digitally. Along with active discussions of Oahspe and publications of both creative works and more academic reflections on the text, some Faithists join for online worship services.

ORGANIZATION/LEADERSHIP

From the earliest years after the publication of Oahspe, the Faithists were organized rather loosely under the guidance and leadership of John Newbrough. At the 1883 meeting of Faithists in New York City, Newbrough was elected to lead the Shalam colony. This leadership role encompassed both the practical matters of Shalam and the spiritual leadership of the First Church of Tae. As for the organization of Shalam, it was planned that a system of an Inner Council and an Outer Council with an elected chief over each would be enacted. Those residing in the Shalam colony were to make up the Inner Council. Those participating in the Lodges or Faithist activities would comprise the Outer Council. Although there was no formal constitution, those who joined the colony agreed to abide by the requirements of the Holy Covenant. Faithists who chose not to live at Shalam remained active in their dispersed groups, not needing direct communication with Newbrough to abide by Oahspian precepts (Priestley 1988:14-21).

Upon Newbrough’s passing, the leadership of Shalam fell to Howland, and, arguably, Mrs. Newbrough- Howland. Neither took up the role of spiritual leader, but both worked to keep Shalam viable and operating. Howland also developed Levitica, a short-lived community for Faithists who wanted to maintain a family lifestyle. Despite their best efforts, Howland and Mrs. Newbrough-Howland eventually had to dismantle Shalam and find suitable homes for the orphans (Stoes 1958:110-21). Despite the limited success of both Shalam and Levitica, which were both more centralized Faithist projects, communities of Faithist disciples continued to appear.

Faithist organizations have remained relatively small in number and have operated in a largely independent manner from one another. Groups have been scattered across the United States and other countries including England, Japan, and Germany. One notable group of the mid-twentieth century was the Essenes of Kosmon, under Wing Anderson. Because there have never been specific creeds or a central leadership, a dedication to the precepts of Oahspe has been the guiding force of Faithist groups. The multiple Faithist organizations have had contact through their publications. Annual meetings that brought Faithists together were also held in the United States for a number of years. In recent years, the internet has come to play a significant role in the dissemination of Oahspian ideals, and chat rooms and social media sites have allowed opportunities for scattered Faithists to communicate.

ISSUES/CHALLENGES

One of the first challenges that had to be overcome by Newbrough was finding the means to publish Oahspe. Likely due to the name he had made for himself in relation to charitable work, money was donated to him, enabling Oahspe to be printed. The most notable challenge for the Faithists came with the attempt to actualize the land of Shalam, as presented in Oahspe. As has been the case with other utopian communities, the Shalam Faithists struggled with monetary issues and the burden of undedicated members. Oahspe set forth that the land of Shalam would be in “unoccupied country,” a place where others would not live, and be made into a place of “peace and plenty” (Priestley 1988:13).

The tasks of building and maintaining Shalam proved to be physically and financially draining. While many were dedicated to actualizing the Shalam of Oahspe and providing a home for cast-a-way children, some who came to Shalam did not share these goals and contributed to the difficulties the colony faced. Eventually these issues, as well as the passing of Newbrough, became too much, and Shalam was closed.  One of the perhaps unforeseeable problems faced by Faithists came with the closing of Shalam. Since no records had been kept about the parentage of the orphans, those who had once been the children of Shalam were unable to trace their roots once leaving. To add to this problem, when Shalam was forced to close, Howland and Mrs. Newbrough-Howland couldn’t afford to care for all of the orphans, and most of the Shalam children were displaced from the only family they had ever known (Stoes 1958:122-23).

One of the issues that the Faithists have continually confronted is that of distance between members. In the past few decades, yearly conferences and meetings helped to lessen this distance by bringing Faithists together, but they have not been as prevalent in recent years. The Shalam Colony and Oahspe Museum, which was located in Las Cruces, New Mexico, published a newsletter that included notifications of Faithist-related events. The museum was housed in a variety of settings before eventually closing and transferring some of the materials to other archival locations. Around the time of the closing of The Shalam Colony and Oahspe Musuem, publication of the newsletter ended.

Faithist groups have often been small and scattered, making communication between Faithist groups quite a task. However, the rise of the internet has allowed for more frequent, more easily accessible communication between members. While some groups have seen membership numbers dwindle over the years, due in large part to the deaths of older members, it appears that there is growing interest in Oahspe and Faithist groups aided by the increased access to the text and Faithist publications. The Universal Faithists of Kosmon are actively gathering materials from Faithist publications, communities, and historical societies in order to compile an archive that will be open for access to those who read Oahspe (Universal Faithists of Kosmon website).

IMAGES

Image #1: John Ballou Newbrough.
Image #2: The front cover of Oahspe.
Image #3:  Frances Van De Water Sweet.
Image #4: Andrew Howland.
Image #5: Shalam Colony.

REFERENCES

Anderson, Wing. 1940. Seven Years that Change the World: 1941-1948. Los Angeles, California: The Kosmon Press.

Anderson, Wing. 1939. The Light of Kosmon: Being Seven Books, Containing Essential Spiritual Wisdom from Oashpe. Los Angeles, California: The Kosmon Press.

“Children Kansas.” 1978. Communities 30:35 (January-February). Accessed from  https://religiousstudies.ku.edu/ on 23 February 2019.

“Eloin.” 2018. Fellowship for Intentional Community website. Accessed from https:/www.ic.org/directory/eloin on 24 February 2019.

Greer, Joan. 2007. “The Faithist Brotherhood of Light: The Beginning: The Faithist Lodge.” The Best of the Faithist Journal (2013). Accessed from https://issuu.com/robertbayer/docs/the_best_of_the_faithist_journal on 23 February 2019.

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Publication Date:
28 March 2019

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