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  Sherman and Urantia
The Sherman Diaries
Harry J. Loose
Editor's Remarks
Pipeline to God
Gardner's 2008 Postscript
The ARA Messages
 

Martin Gardner's 2008 Postscript
to his 1995 book Urantia, The Great Cult Mystery

IN 1995 well-known author and skeptic Martin Gardner wrote a book exposing the Urantia revelation and its associated phenomena as a cult of the first order. While true believers will not agree with his conclusions, Gardner's detailed investigations into the history of the Urantia Book and its leading personalities have been an invaluable resource for future Urantia historians. It was through Gardner's  book that we learned that the existence of the diaries of the Shermans' five-year Urantia Forum experience, and that they would be available in 2000.

When Urantia, The Great Cult Mystery was reprinted in 2008, Gardner added a Postscript, exerpts of which are below:

More than a decade has gone by since this book was first published, and much has happened within the Urantia movement during those years. Among the many new books about the movement, I reluctantly limit my comments to the following eight.

Ernest Moyer, a dedicated Urantian, in 2000 published Birth of a Divine Revelation. His bitter attacks on me and on this book come close to libel. . . . Much of his history is taken from my book. . . .

* * *

Five marvelous paperbacks, issued by Square Circles Publishing, in Glendale California, have the general title of The Sherman Diaries. All five are compiled and skillfully edited by Saskia Praamsma and Matthew Block.

For anyone interested in the UB, skeptic or true believer, The Sherman Diaries are essential reading. Photographs on the front covers—four of Harold Sherman and his wife, Martha, and one of the building at 533 Diversey Parkway—are almost worth the books' prices. Inside the covers are rare photos of prominent Urantians.

Volume 1 is for me the most interesting because of its many letters to and from Harry Loose, and its glimpses of Wilfred Kellogg running like a frightened rabbit to avoid contacts with Sherman. The fourth volume, covering the years 1944 and 1945, reveals a raft of new plagiarized discoveries by the indomitable Block. (See pages 38, 51, 102, 142, 190, 213, 225, and 263.)

Loose's letters show him to be a man of monstrous ego. Throughout his strange friendship with Sherman, he plays the role of a guru possessing vast wisdom and psychic powers, a man secretly involved with the UB's origin, a man with esoteric knowledge that he can only partially pass on to Sherman. Loose also comes through in his correspondence as capable of outright lying, especially about the "bifurcation" that allowed him to make astral body visits to a mythical Catholic priest in South America. He obviously deceived Sherman about his out-of-body visit to Sherman's Hollywood apartment while he (Loose) was asleep miles away. In spite of his deep devotion to the UB, on page 157 he has high praise for Christian Science!

On page xiii of volume 1 the Kelloggs are quoted as saying that Loose was never present while the "instrument" was channeling. There is not the slightest evidence that Loose knew the sleeper's identity. Amusingly, the Kelloggs say they witnessed every channeling episode. Some Urantians take this to prove that Wilfred was not the channeler. But if he was, then of course he and his wife would be there when the channeler spoke in his sleep! There are great photos in volume 1 of Sherman and Martha, and their two beautiful daughters, Marcia and Mary. There are rare photos of Loose and even rarer pictures of Wilfred.

Volume 5 of The Sherman Diaries was published in 2008. It covers the years from 1946 to the publication of the UB in 1955. In spite of what Harold liked to call the "blow up," he and Martha continued to attend the Forum to hear papers read aloud, usually by Bill Sadler but occasionally by Wilfred Kellogg. Bill read them with such fervor and emotion that it often brought him to tears.

The papers covered in volume 5 are from the UB's section on the life of Jesus. Sherman found them markedly inferior to the earlier papers. Adjectives he used to describe them include fictitious, unnatural, hackneyed, uninspired, distasteful, offensive, inconsistent, and "peppered with clichés and timeworn phrases," they are a poorly written "hodgepodge" and "rotten to the core."

Sherman became convinced that Sadler himself revised the Jesus papers, perhaps even wrote portions of them. He constantly lashes Sadler for burning the original manuscripts, making it impossible for future scholars to learn how radically they were altered.

Throughout the diaries Sadler is portrayed as a self-centered, egotistical tyrant, quick to anger and ruthless in his control over Forum members. Most of them, Sherman tells us, were former or present mental patients of Sadler, fearful of crossing him in any way. He thinks Sadler deliberately delayed publication of the UB so he could maintain dominance over Forum members.

Volume 5 also covers Sherman's prolific output of popular novels, including science fiction novels such as The Green Man and The Green Man Returns, his many nonfiction uplift books, his plays, and his constant lecturing on such topics as how to stop smoking, the key to happiness, life after death, mysteries of the mind, and so on. The diaries record his firm belief that Earth is being observed by aliens in UFOs from other planets. Dr. Joseph B. Rhine and Harold's good friend Norman Vincent Peale weave in and out of the book, as well as Ray Palmer, the small hunchback who edited Amazing Stories and other pulp periodicals.

I was favorably impressed by two of Sherman's strong convictions. He opposed the notion, which runs through the Jesus papers, that entrance into heaven depends on a person's beliefs, not his or her deeds. As Martha writes (page 184), "Harold has made the point that no God with infinite justice would ever have so narrowed opportunities for survival of lowly human creatures as to have required that they believe to be saved."

Sherman also had little respect for the doctrine of reincarnation. Here is how he put it in a letter on page 399:

I am convinced, as are you, that reincarnation is a myth; that other influences from higher realms cause humans to feel they are remembering a past life. I think, on occasion, that obsessions have taken place, where a discarnate entity has taken over the consciousness of an individual, causing people to think this personality really reincarnated. I have observed, however, that many humans are unthinkably accepting reincarnation. I cannot conceive of God, the Great Intelligence, punishing man by causing him to be born blind because he may have put out the eyes of a fellow human some hundreds of years ago . . . without giving this man a memory, so he could know why he was being punished. What is to be gained by punishment without a knowledge of why we are being penalized? If the father whips his child without telling the child why he is getting a beating, what good does it do the child? Certainly God is more intelligent than this. And there are too many dimensions beyond this life for man to continue his evolution—God does not need to cause his creatures, however lowly they may be, to return to the world they have left if survival is a fact, as I now believe it is.

Volume 5 ends with details about a project almost impossible to believe, yet a project that Sherman took with utmost seriousness. He had become a friend of a man named Wilbur Stafford. Stafford had convinced himself and Sherman that the UB was in essential harmony with three earlier major revelations: the writings of Swedenborg, a book by the "Seer of Poughkeepsie," and OAHSPE! . . .

 Stafford persuaded him that a book about the great revelations of Swedenborg and Davis, and OAHSPE, and possibly other major revelations, all shown to mesh with the revelations of the UB, would quickly become a sensational best seller. The two men, Sherman and Stafford, would be the book's authors, and the royalties would be split fifty-fifty. Sherman was enthusiastic about the project. Alas, this monumental volume never materialized because Stafford died after a stroke. Volume 5 of The Sherman Diaries includes a moving letter Sherman sent to Stafford's widow telling her what a great man her husband was.

* * *

J. T. Manning's Source Authors of the Urantia Book (Square Circles, 2003) is a 535-page book on UB plagiarism. I assume Manning is a true believer because he doesn't consider these many passages to be purloined. His book contains biographies of all the source authors as well as their photographs and opinions. There is no mention of Sherman or Loose or Wilfred, or my book, though Manning has dozens of favorable quotes from Moyer's eccentric history.

Now for a curious little mystery. Although the name of philosopher Charles Hartshorne, the University of Chicago's famous pantheist, is cited eleven times in Manning's book, no chapter in the book is devoted to him. This is in spite of the fact that on page 3 of the UB there is a long passage on seven ways to define "absolute perfection." The passage is taken almost word for word from Hartshorne's 1941 book, Man's Vision of God. (See pages 331-33 of my book for details.) It is a flagrant, shameful plagiarism that could have been the basis for legal action if Hartshorne had known about it and wanted to sue for copyright violation. Why Manning omitted this whopping theft from his book beats me!

* * *

Saskia Praamsma, co-editor of The Sherman Diaries, is a recent [sic] convert to Urantianism. In 2001 Square Circles issued her book How I Found the Urantia Book and How It Changed My Life. The volume is a compilation of 324 testimonies by persons who became converts.

Two testimonies are of special interest. Saskia tells how as a child she was raised by an agnostic mother who quarreled constantly with her father, a Jehovah's Witness. Her brother introduced her to the UB. After a failed marriage and several frustrating relationships, she began reading the UB. "Pieces of the jigsaw puzzle," she writes, "began to fit together into a detailed tapestry." It was "the happiest day of my life." She "wept tears of joy and relief."

On that day I turned my life around 180 degrees. All my attitudes and values were changed in one fell swoop. I read the book for three months straight, barely coming up for air. I learned where I came from, where I was going, and why I was here. What I had believed to be important was meaningless, and that's why happiness had eluded me. I discovered that there is no happiness apart from God. The stress and tension dropped away, the furrows in my brow relaxed, and I still hadn't read a word about Jesus—that came much later. In fact, I resisted reading about him until I had exhausted all the other papers. But when I finally did, I was ready to accept him and his teachings wholeheartedly. Since that day I have had peace of mind—the peace which passes all understanding.

Matthew Block's testimony is equally impressive. He tells how as a youth his mother's beliefs in psychic phenomena—she was fascinated by pyramid power—were passed on to him. At twelve he rejected his childhood Judaism, while retaining a firm belief in a personal God. Working as a "boy Friday" for an unnamed Philadelphia psychic, he attended a metaphysical class with his mother. The speaker displayed a UB and allowed Block to glance through it. At first the text repelled him. Later he bought a copy, and the more he read, the more he found it inspiring.

The book seemed to glow as it rested on my desk. But it took several months to integrate the book into my life and thoughts. The pull of astrology and psychic phenomena was still strong; I kept thinking of Jesus as a Leo and had trouble squaring Edgar Cayce's account of Jesus with the Urantia Book's. Nevertheless the Urantia philosophy beamed its way through the occult haze, and I gradually stopped thinking in terms of astrology and reincarnation.
In 1977, I decided to return to school, choosing a university in Chicago to be near the Urantia headquarters. Thus began a twenty-plus-year association with the Urantia movement, during which I worked as a volunteer and, later, a paid employee of Urantia Brotherhood (now called the Urantia Book Fellowship). Since 1992 I've been doing research into the sources of the Urantia Book, an endeavor that has immeasurably enriched my understanding of the whole Urantia Book phenomenon. But that's another story.

Now for a big surprise. I wonder how many Urantians today know that Block, since he wrote the above words, has become totally disenchanted with the UB. Like Saskia, he has turned 180 degrees, but in the opposite direction. The more plagiarisms he uncovered (the list is now in the hundreds), the more he became convinced that the UB is a fraud perpetrated by Sadler. He is writing a book about his latest research and his startling conclusions.

Block is now convinced that the UB is entirely the work of humans, especially the work of Sadler. Of course Sadler believed he had been chosen by the higher-ups to edit the material coming from the sleeping channeler and others, even to write some of the papers himself. Block's coming book is sure to be another bombshell. . . .


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