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The Origin of Oahspe

The below is taken from a clipping from an 1883 issue of Banner of Light, a weekly paper that was published between 1857 and 1907.

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“Oahspe”–The New Bible–How Produced.

To the Editor of the Banner of Light:

In compliance with your request that I furnish for publication a brief article in regard to the writing of OAHSPE, the New Bible, I cheerfully proceed to do so.

You have observed, no doubt, that in Oahspe no mention is made of the manner in which the book was written, nor by whom. Well, was it not plain to anybody acquainted with such matters, that any statement on my part would not be believed by persons unacquainted with spiritual manifestations? And had I said that I myself wrote it, my own acquaintances would have known better. Had I said that the angels wrote it through my hands, then I would have been denounced as a pretender. Again, if a book have merit, what matters it as to who wrote it? And if it have no merit, then certainly it does not matter whence it came. The time has been when the name of an author clothed his product with some sort of authority. I rejoice that that day is past: that man-worship is at an end, and that all books, including Bibles, are perused not as authorities, but as pastimes, to lead us nearer and nearer to the Everlasting Light. And if a man turn out a good book, I accord him little more credit than I would a ripe apple for being on the sunny side of the tree. But I rejoice most of all because our Heavenly Father, through his angels cooperating with our forefathers, provided us a government that protects our publishing our highest conceptions, regardless of creeds or dogmas. Why, today we have Protestant preachers in their pulpits denying the inspiration of the Old and New Testaments, and only in the slightest possible degree less than Thomas Paine. They begin to judge so-called, sacred books according to what they are, and not by a supposed authority. This is progress undoubtedly.

On reflecting on these things, it was concluded to publish the first edition of Oahspe without any reference to its authorship. No attempt has been made to conceal the method by which it was written, but most of the particulars have been told from time to time to inquiring friends.

Briefly, then, Oahspe was mechanically written through my hands by some other intelligence than my own. Many Spiritualists are acquainted with this automatic movement of the hands, independent of one’s own volition. There are thousands and thousands of persons who have this quality. It can also be educated, or rather, the susceptibility to external power can be increased. In my own case I discovered, a great many years ago, in sitting in circles to obtain spiritual manifestations, that my hands could not lie on the table without flying off into these “tantrums.” Often they would write messages, left or right, backward or forward, nor could I control them any other way than by withdrawing from the table. Sometimes, the power thus baffled would attack my tongue, or my eyes or my ears, and I talked and saw and heard differently from my normal state. Then I went to work in earnest to investigate Spiritualism, and I investigated over two hundred mediums, traveling hundreds and hundreds of miles for this purpose. Often I took them to my own house and experimented with them to my heart’s content. I found that nearly all of them were subject to this involuntary movement of the hands, or to entrancement. They told me it was angels controlling them. In course of time, about ten or fifteen years, I began to believe in Spiritualism. But I was not satisfied with the communications; I was craving for the light of heaven. I did not desire communications from friends or relatives, or information about earthly things; I wished to learn something about the spirit world; what the angels did, how they traveled, and the general plan of the universe. So after a while I took it into my head that wise and exalted angels would commune better with us if we purified ourselves physically and spiritually. Then I gave up eating flesh and fish, milk and butter, and took to rising before day, bathing twice a day, and occupying a small room alone, where I sat every morning half an hour before sunrise, recounting daily to my Creator my shortcomings in governing myself in thought and deed. In six years’ training I reduced myself from two hundred and fifty pounds down to one hundred and eighty; my rheumatism was all gone, and I had no more headaches. I became limber and sprightly. A new lease of life came to me.

Then a new condition of control came upon my hands; instead of the angels holding my hands, as formerly, they held their hands over my head (and they were clothed with sufficient materiality for me to see them), and a light fell upon my own hands as they lay on the table. In the meantime I had attained to hear audible angel voices near me. I was directed to get a type-writer, 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. I always look back on those two years as an enigma. Perhaps it was to show me that a man is but an ignoramus at best; perhaps I was waiting for constitutional growth to be good. Well, one morning the light struck both my hands on the back, and they went for the type-writer, for some fifteen minutes, very vigorously. I was told not to read what was printed, and I had 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 toward the sky. Over my head were three pairs of hands, fully materialized; behind me stood another angel, with her hands on my shoulders. My looking did not disturb the scene; my hands went right on, printing–printing.

For fifty 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. A few of the drawings I was told to copy from other books, such as Saturn, the Egyptian ceremonies, etc. But I had no money, for I had previously fulfilled the commandment of giving to the poor all I had, putting my faith in the Father, making myself a servant to him by doing all the good that I could unto others. In fact I had thrown myself into his keeping, to do his will, hoping to render some good that might help to raise the nations into a harmonious brotherhood. So when I was told to publish the book, and perceiving it would require several thousand dollars to do it, I kept constantly saying to Jehovih, “I know this is from thee, through thy angels, and I have faith thou wilt provide in due season.” Well, one day the postman delivered a small paper box to one of the members of my family, addressed to me. It contained fifteen hundred dollars in bills, with a note for its application to be for publishing the book. I never learned who sent the money. One thousand dollars more, in bills also, were sent to me by an Englishman, a stranger to me. Five hundred dollars, also in bills, were sent to me by an errand boy who disappeared before we knew what the box contained, and so I knew not from whom it came. There thus came in all over eleven thousand dollars to me to publish and engrave the book. Besides this a few of my own friends threw in a little afterward, so that I had in all upward of fourteen thousand dollars sent to me, enough to publish the first edition and to provide a splendid printing press, type and stereotype machinery besides. Neither did I ever ask anybody for one single dollar for the publication or engraving.

Now, during all the while I have pursued my avocation (dentistry), nor has this matter, nor my diet (vegetables, fruit, and farinaceous food), detracted any from my health or strength, although I have continued this discipline for upward of ten or more years. I am firmly convinced that there are hundreds of mediums who might attain to marvelous development if they would thus train themselves. A strict integrity to one’s highest light is essential to development. Self-abnegation and purity should be the motto and discipline of every one capable of angel communion. With this in their practice, we might have enough bibles in a little while to deluge the religious world. But since talking of one’s self is the greatest damage one can do to his own mediumship, I thus close.

Truly yours, J. B. Newbrough.

P.S.–Oahspe has gone into the churches, reaching a community that most other spiritual productions cannot enter. The first edition of three thousand copies is nearly all sold. To the clergy of New York and Brooklyn we have sold about one hundred and fifty copies, and given away about as many more.

New York, Jan. 21st, 1883. J. B. N.

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