By Eve Thompson, Mount Shasta Area Newspapers
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Consider the tale of the 18 year old Yreka boy whose writing influenced movie star-mystic Shirley MacLaine, science fiction author Robert Heinlein, and religious leader of the I Am movement, Guy Ballard.
For over a century, A Dweller on Two Planets has been considered, as Emilie Frank noted, the “most important book relating to the Mt. Shasta legend-cycle.”
By his own account, Frederick Spencer Oliver was an average student in school. He claimed, “I wanted to study, but lacked will power and concentration.” His teachers, in fact, called him “lackadaisical and even lazy.”
Nonetheless, Oliver said Phylos the Thibetan selected him to be his channel and to record his incarnations in Atlantis and on Mt. Shasta during California’s gold rush days.
Perhaps it was because his lineage, according to the 1952 edition of the book, “was traced by a Master Mind throughout one hundred and thirty-five thousand years of human history.”
Oliver claimed Phylos began sharing spiritual messages with him when he was 17 years old. He became preoccupied with the talks, initially keeping them secret from his parents. However, his father became so worried about his son’s behavior that he planned to have him treated for “approaching imbecility.” At that point, Oliver shared his experiences, eventually repeating Phylos’s accounts to a Yreka Theosophical circle.
In 1884, at 18, Oliver started writing Phylos’s channeled stories down.
“Sometimes I was awakened at night and wrote by lamplight or in total darkness. Phylos dictated, and it was as if he had the manuscript already prepared.” In 1886, Oliver completed the book, A Dweller on Two Planets with Phylos the Thibetan the author.
The 442 page, 25 chapter manuscript is divided into three books. Book One describes Phylos’s 11,160 B.C. Atlantean incarnations. A 1905 Out West review commented, “It is perfectly evident that no one who was not on Atlantis… could have been personally cognizant of the facts related.”
Book Two recounts Phylos’s gold rush incarnation as Walter Pierson, including details about Pierson’s journey to Venus and his mystical experience on Mt. Shasta. This section is widely acknowledged as the reason the mountain became a mecca for those seeking spiritual enlightenment.
Book Three explores the concept of karma.
Throughout the book, Phylos chronicles the rise and fall of Atlantis and shares many Atlantean inventions and scientific concepts. The wireless telegraph, voice-operated typewriters, mass transit, anti-gravity, x-rays, and airships (now believed to be the origin of UFO myths) are a few of the concepts mentioned.
“Dweller” was first published in 1905 after Oliver’s death. “His mother, Mary Elizabeth Manley-Oliver, had the manuscript published quite possibly to make a living,” said Dennis Freeman, former COS Library Director who continues to add research material to the college’s Mt. Shasta Collection.
“It’s a perennially popular book with many editions, influencing many lives,” Freeman noted. Shirley MacLaine said the book jumped out of a bookshelf into her hands in a New Age bookstore in Hong Kong. It’s been used as the source material for many new age belief systems, including the Lemurian Fellowship.”
“All of Mt. Shasta’s myths date back to a common source,” noted Mt. Shasta cultural historian and bibliographer Bill Miesse, an expert on Mt. Shasta myths.
“Almost all those myths go back to Phylos; the book has influenced many of the spiritual leaders who have lived in Mt. Shasta.”
“I wonder why this story continues to have such an impact,” Freeman reflected. “I think it’s because there have always been spiritual seekers wanting to find meaning in life and answer the big life questions.”
Frederick Spencer Oliver continued to write after finishing Dweller. Records in the Mt. Shasta collection indicate he wrote at least 40 short stories and eventually became a newspaper writer.
His second book, “An Earth Dweller’s Return, “which he claims was channeled for Phylos, includes multiple references to Lemuria. However, the channeled Dweller remains his most popular and influential work.
Those hungry for more details about Oliver’s life, his writings, and A Dweller on Two Planets’ influence can explore the two and a half inch file Freeman has compiled and review Miesse’s annotated bibliography available in the COS library collection. The file includes photographs, news clippings, letters written by Oliver, his descendants, and friends.
“We even have a first edition of the manuscript,” Freeman smiled.
The library has Oliver’s books, video recordings, and several books inspired by the manuscript.
Oliver was often asked if he believed in the book’s information.
He replied, “Unhesitatingly yes. I’ve come to know its truth over the years.”
In 1899, the San Francisco Daily Morning Call described Oliver as “the author of a new work which promises to create a literary sensation.” It has done that.